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Monthly Archives: February 2012

This week, singer-songwriter Regina Spektor released a new single off her up-coming called “All the Rowboats.” The track manages to sound like traditional Regina and cutting edge all at the same time. It begins with a dramatic electronia-esque fade in and a pounding drum machine beat. But then the recognizably elegant Regina Spektor piano comes in to ground the song. Overall, “All the Rowboats” is pretty dark. It feels like journey through a haunted art museum. Regina sings, “Masterpieces serving maximum sentences / It’s their own fault for being timeless.”

The track is the first taste of Regina’s new album entitled What We Saw from the Cheap Seats. No word yet on a release date. Until then, check out this live set from 2009, courtesy of NPR.

 

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Yesterday, Philadelphia/DC band Jukebox the Ghost announced via Twitter exciting news about their upcoming third studio album.

If you haven’t listened to Jukebox the Ghost yet, then you really need to start (think early Ben Folds Five engergy). In addition to the title and release date, Jukebox the Ghost also announced the tracklist. Check it out:

Jukebox the Ghost Safe Travels

01. Somebody
02. Oh, Emily
03. At Last
04. Say When
05. Don’t Let Me Fall Behind
06. Dead
07. Adulthood
08. Ghosts In Empty Houses
09. Devils On Our Side
10. All For Love
11. Man In The Moon
12. Everybody Knows
13. The Spiritual

I’ve been following the progress of the album very closely for months and enjoying the Twitter updates from band members. You can tell that they’re a group of musicians who doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

 

Finally, there is a reason to celebrate. This afternoon, it was announced by the show’s creator, Dan Harmon, that Community will return to NBC on Thursday, March 15th at 8 p.m. Things were looking grim when it was announced last fall that Community would be taking a hiatus. Thanks to the outpouring of support, the show is back… for now. This means that if we want the show to return for a fourth season, we need to actually watch it and improve the ratings. Watch The Big Bang Theory the next day on CBS.com or something. Sheldon isn’t going anywhere. Help save Greendale! #sixseasonsandamovie

 

Last night, the 54th annual Grammy Awards went exactly according to plan– singer Adele dominated the evening. The ceremony served as well-deserved recognition that 2011 belonged to soulful British queen. Adele was victorious in ever major category she was nominated in, including Best Pop Solo Performance, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and the highly coveted Album of the Year for her breakout hit 21. The accolades came as a surprise to no one because she honestly deserved them all. After her live performance of “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele was again honored with a thunderous standing ovation.

Another focal point of the evening was remembering the death of Whitney Houston. This year’s host, LL Cool J, began the evening with a prayer, stating, “We’ve had a death in our family.” (Cool J might seem like a strange choice for a host until you realize that he stars in NCIS: Los Angeles, a show which just so happens to air on CBS). Jennifer Hudson later paid tribute to Houston by performing her famous song “I Will Always Love You.”

Fortunately, the Grammys focus less on the actual awards and more on the live performances (who really needs to see famous people pat themselves on the back). Like every year, there were some outstanding displays of talent as well as some head-scratchers. Bruno Mars sang a high-energy rendition of “Runaway Baby” and Maroon 5 and Foster the People paid tribute to the Beach Boys. My personal favorite was the Foo Fighters playing “Walk,” although it would have been nice to see them actually play inside the Staples Center. Years from now, the most memorable performance will end up being Adele who brought the house down.

The stranger performances came from Chris Brown who danced on a mountain of light up blocks (and didn’t sing much) and the blue-haired Katy Perry who sang inside a glass cube (maybe it was a glass case of emotion). The trophy for weirdness goes to Nicki Minaj who put on a dramatic production involving lots of church imagery. It feels like anyone who tries to do the “weird” act just seems like they’re doing a Lady Gaga impression. Somehow when Gaga does goes for weird, it seems sincere, but when others try it seems fake.

Best acceptance speech goes to Dave Grohl, the lead singer of the Foo Fighters for their award for Best Rock Performance. This award was extra special for the Foo Fighters because their albumWasting Light was recorded in Grohl’s garage using analog tape– basically, it was made without computers. During the speech, Grohl stressed the importance of authenticity and that making music is “not about being perfect.”

For me, the most pleasant surprise of the night was that Bon Iver won Best New Artist. I had a feeling he might not win because technically, Bon Iver a.k.a Justin Vernon has been around since 2007. Part of me was also hoping that the award would go to electronic artist Skrillex. In the span of only a year, Skrillex went from being unknown to widely popularizing dubstep.

At the end of the night, the stage was given to the biggest star in the room– Paul McCartney. As the performance fittingly concluded with the Beatle song “The End,” McCartney was joined on stage by Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh, and Bruce Springsteen.

I recently attended the midnight release of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D. I was very unsure as to what I should expect for this movie.  The two primary things I asked myself were: how would this movie be able to be converted into a 3D film worth watching more than ten years after its initial release, and what kind of turnout would I run into for the midnight showing? Now if anyone can remember back to when The Phantom Menace was first released, there were people camping out for weeks just to be the first ones to see it; it was one of the most hyped movie releases of all time. This time around…not so much. I arrived at the theater around 1030; 90 minutes prior to the start of the film so that I could find four seats together. When I got to the theater there was only one other small group waiting to see the movie and they looked too young to have been able to see the film the first time around.  The theater wound up being maybe half full once the movie started.

This is not so much a review of the movie itself as it has been out for so long and everyone has already formed their own opinions on it, but a review of the re-release in 3D and what we can expect for the 3D release of the remaining 5 Star Wars films.

The 3D for this movie was actually a lot better than I had expected it to be. The opening scroll is one of the most important parts of any Star Wars film and it was quite enhanced and pops right out at you. All of the text throughout the film is this way, including all of the subtitles used when another language is spoken. I found myself taking my glasses off and on from time to time to see what really was and was not enhanced. This was because it didn’t really feel like an obnoxious 3D movie you might see where it is hard to focus your eyes because of the poor quality of glasses or too much happening or whatever other reason. I can’t really stress this enough.  Most 3D movies I have seen in the theaters are very straining on my eyes and never focus as well as I want them to, this conversion seemed to flow very well for me.  The scenes just kind of popped and looked nicer and clearer and certain things really stood out much better like foreground characters(specifically CGI/holograms), special effects, and most importantly…lightsabers. The only time anything really was thrown at the audience was during the Droid Army-Gungan Battle when a blue ball is thrown towards you.

The highlight of the enhanced 3D film is the same as the highlight of the original movie: the epic(I do not use this word loosely) lightsaber fight between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. I cannot start to explain how excited I was for this part of the movie; I was ten years old all over again. The lightsabers were 3D while the characters looked slightly enhanced but weren’t popping out of the screen.  All of the subtle 3D additions seemed to somehow enhance these scenes. There was also one major change to this movie from the original 1999 release and this was Yoda being converted from a puppet to CGI. This change was included on the recent Complete Saga Blu-Ray release.  The change bothered me initially, but makes sense for the continuity of Episodes 2 and 3 using a non-puppet Yoda.

If you have not yet seen The Phantom Menace then by all means go and see it in 3D.  Qui-Gon Jinn played by Liam Neeson and Darth Maul by Ray Park remain two of my very favorite characters in the entire expanded Star Wars universe.  Despite it not being the best of the “Saga” it is still very enjoyable and begins to show the progression of many important characters and the very political demise of the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire.

The following is going to be extremely opinionated:  Seeing The Phantom Menace for the first time in a few years and listening to many Star Wars “fans” opinions on the prequel films made me somewhat unexcited for certain parts of the movie, i.e. Jar Jar Binks and podracing. After watching it again I cannot see why everyone is so down about the movie.  Jar Jar is obviously not Han Solo, so don’t expect him to be more than the silly comedic character he was intended for.  Not everything George Lucas makes is going to be The Empire Strikes Back or Raiders of the Lost Ark so don’t expect it to be and you won’t be disappointed. I for one cannot wait another year for Attack of the Clones 3D, but that’s mostly the fanboy in me.

What can be said about a silent film. Perhaps nothing at all.

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist is unlike any film I have ever seen. Aside from the musical score, there is no sound– no footsteps, no gunshots, no laughing, and no words. But that’s the point. It’s a silent film about silent films. In the film, we meet our title artist George Valentin, played by Jean Dujardin. George is a silent film actor and at the top of his game (think 1920’s George Clooney). Because of a chance encounter, George falls in love with up-and-coming actress Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo. This sets off a chain of events which result in the ruin of his career.

On the surface, The Artist might seem like a novelty tribute to a simpler time, but this movie deals with themes and ideas that are universal and timeless. The film asks the question, “How do we stay relevant in an ever-changing world?” Interestingly, Hazanavicius chooses an outdated medium (the silent film) to tell the story of how the silent film became an outdated medium. Basically, the “talkies” were invented and Hollywood changed forever.

George Valentin’s tragic flaw is that he is too proud to adapt to a changing industry. He refuses to take part in talkies. As a result, Peppy Miller becomes the famous star of the talkies and pushes George out of the spotlight. The Artist makes us examine the instability of fame and youth vs. old age.

To those movie goers who are afraid of subtitles– don’t worry. Watching The Artist isn’t like going to see a foreign film or reading a novel. Very little of the film’s dialogue is presented in text. The real magic of this movie is the fact that we can understand exactly what’s happening based on the amazingly expressive performances. The audience doesn’t need verbal explanations to understand exactly what’s taking place. Jean Dujardin can say more with a smile than most actors can say in a thousand words.  Without this actor’s incredible performance (and awesome mustache), the film’s title would seem ill-suited. He truly carries this movie.

When considering the subject matter of both The Artist and Hugo, it makes sense that both films amassed numerous Academy Award nominations (10 for The Artist and 11 for Hugo). Both movies take a look back at the history of motion pictures and pay tribute to the magic of cinema. I’m guessing the Academy eats that up.

Overall, I highly recommend seeing this film. If you’re the kind of person who gets bored easily, then it may not be for you– or if quiet movie theaters makes you uncomfortable. But, if you really love movies as well as the history of movies, then go see The Artist. Plus there’s a cute dog. What else do you need?

Aside from the game itself, the most interesting and most talked about part of the Super Bowl is usually the commercials. I felt like this year’s batch of ads were mostly based on rehashed ideas. Yes marketing geniuses, we get it. Beer makes everything better, Dorritos make you crazy, polar bears really like Coke, and GoDaddy is really vague about what they do. Same old stories. The only commercial that I found to be truly creative was done by Audi. The featured a vampire driving to a party, but when he gets there, the super bright LED headlights end up killing all of his vampire buddies. The commercial did a good job of commenting on how everyone is sick of the Twilight/True Blood vampire bandwagon.

When I’m watching Super Bowl commercials, I always look for movie trailers.  Movie studios usually pick Super Bowl Sunday to unveil teasers for the year’s most anticipated movies. I was hoping for another sneak peak at The Dark Knight Rises, but we weren’t so lucky. Instead we were given gems like Battleship and John Carter. Two epic trailers for two mediocre-looking movies. One is a Transformers rip-off and the other is an Avatar rip-off, two movies I am in no rush to see again. Also, I probably won’t see The Lorax, but I can appreciate a trailer that features a Vampire Weekend song.

For me, the only Super Bowl commercial worth viewing again is latest trailer for The Avengers. As beautiful as the original 30-second trailer was, the good people at Marvel also released an extended 60-second version.  The teaser shows us the Avengers fully assembled, yet still only gives us brief hints of what the Hulk will look like. I also love the exchange between Tony Stark and Loki at the end. Counting down the days until May 4.