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Latest Blog Posts
Kris inaugurated our Oscar Bait column, in which we muse on the awards potential of projects still in development or production, a few weeks ago with some thoughts on Tom Hanks's upcoming turn as Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks." Unfortunately, we've neglected to revisit the feature since -- as the season ramps up, after all, it's a challenge to see as far ahead as February, let alone to films that haven't even been made yet.
But when promising news dropped last week concerning the long-forestalled film adaptation of Lois Lowry's "The Giver," I pricked up my ears. Pre-production talk doesn't tend to grab my attention, but in this case I was willing to make an exception -- not least because I'd been talking with friends about my desire for "The Giver" to eventually reach the screen only two days before. (Sadly, this power to magick a project into being seems to be a one-time deal: I've casually been inserting Wong Kar-wai's abandoned Nicole Kidman collaboration "The Lady from Shanghai" into conversations for a whole week, but no dice.)
It's finally a happy Monday again on the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, as Dan and I cover a lot of stuff before we take Thanksgiving week off, including MTV's new docu-series "Catfish," HBO's Rolling Stones documentary "Crossfire Hurricane," catch-up sessions with "Go On," "Boardwalk Empire" and "Dexter," plus some mail before the weekly "Homeland" discussion.
When Louis C.K. announced late last year that he was going to self-distribute his latest stand-up comedy special, rather than partnering with HBO, Comedy Central, or any other traditional distributor, I wondered if this would usher in a new era of DIY comedy specials. The experiment for C.K. was a wild success (after early sales totaled $1 million, he donated $280,000 of it to charity), and other comics like Jim Gaffigan and Aziz Ansari followed with their own versions.
So I was surprised at first to see that C.K.'s current stand-up tour(*) would be turned into a special for HBO that will air sometime next year.
Sigur Ros have spent the better part of the last year revealing short films corresponding to each of the track off of their latest album "Valtari." As if something so ambitious cannot stand on its own, the Icelandic band is screening the 17 films on all seven continents -- including Antarctica -- and going on tour in North America and releasing an additional new EP of three songs.
They put their own ambition to ambitious shame.
The latest short film to be released from the album-film experiment is a movement-centered piece set to "Ekki Múkk”, “Valtari,” “Rembihnútur,” and “Varúð," featuring only a pair of dancers conversant in contortion, calling and responding through motion like a very intense mating call. Visually stunning, director Christian Larson's piece a great release after the pure tension of the tracks.
The screenings of it and other officially commissioned and fan-made videos for the "Valtari Mystery Film Experiment" will occur during the second week of December in some unorthodox venues like “hardware stores, hairdresser salons, and beyond," in dozens of cities worldwide based in Portugal to South Africa to Oklahoma to Japan.
One thing that's interesting about watching a film at a festival early in the year is paying attention to the way reviews trickle in over the rest of the year for the same film. At some festivals, it seems to be embraced, and at other festivals, it seems like no one's buying it, and it's hard to imagine why there's such a wide range of reactions to the same film in different places.
That's how it's been this year for me and Sean Baker's film "Starlet." The movie played at SXSW, which is where I saw it, and I was quite taken with it. I think it's got two great performances in it, and it tells a solid little story against an interesting backdrop. For some reason, though, there seem to be some critics who hate the movie. Aggressively hate it. That baffles me. Your mileage might vary in terms of how much you respond to the film's substantial-if-low-key charms, but I cannot fathom what would make someone hate the movie.
It’s a sad fact that boy bands, no matter how talented they are, generally have a shelf life only slightly longer than a carton of milk.
Yes, One Direction’s chart-topping “Up All Night” came out less than eight months ago, but the group is striking while the curling iron is hot by releasing a new album on Nov. 13. Can there be any doubt that the album will arrive at No. 1, carried to the high perch aloft the hearts of screaming fangirls?
The 13 songs that make up “Take Me Home” create a hermetically-sealed bubble that is only big enough for a tween/teenage girl, her favorite 1D member, and their all-encompassing love.
The tunes, tailor-made for the 2013 arena tour the quintet has already sold out, are slightly more sophisticated than the tracks on “Up All Night,” but to the band’s credit, they in no way attempt to leave behind the audience that made them so popular.
There’s a song factory working overtime that churns this stuff out and the overlords have names like Dr. Luke, Shellback and Ed Sheeran: in other words, 1D has the top pop crafters in the land coming up with these tunes. Regardless of the author, they all follow the same basic road map: The songs are sexy and slightly suggestive, but won’t send the younger set scurrying to their parents to ask for explanation. The boys are confident with just enough quivering vulnerability to appear completely unthreatening, like a pretty pony. Love is shiny and clean and never, ever messy with each potential dilemma neatly tied up within the confines of a 3-minute pop song. And, not to be overlooked, no matter what the situation, the girl is always in control and she has the final say.
There’s nothing original about any of the songs here, but they are so exceedingly well crafted and produced that they ovecome the mind-numbing similarity of the songs’ themes about love, love, love.
So adoring are their fans (as I write this, some of them have been camped out since Friday for One Direction’s Tuesday appearance on “Today”), that One Direction wisely sends a love letter directly to them with “Back For You.” Yes, they see YOU out in the audience, and even though they are leaving every night, know they are returning just for YOU.
It’s these kinds of canny moves that keep Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson, all of whom trade off on vocals, first and foremost in their fans’ hearts. The CD booklet even devotes a page to a dreamy close up of each of the individual members so fans can have a mini-poster of their favorite band member.
The album opens with first single “Live While We’re Young,” which starts with a Clash-like “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” type riff. It signals that our fellas are growing up. Like many of the songs on “Take Me Home,” the lyrics are open to naughty interpretation, such as taking photos that had better not be shared (get it?).
That segues into “Kiss You,” a bouncy, electronic infectious ditty that opens with “Oh, I just want to take you any way that you like...” But before things get too scary, we’re clearly reminded that it’s ok to stop at kissing.
There nothing a teen girl likes more than a slow song that promises undying love and One Direction’s five members are nothing if not attuned to their girls’ needs. On second single, “Little Things,” each member spins what he loves about his girl and how perfect she is, even if she still has to squeeze into her jeans or likes the sound of her own voice. While it’s meant to be a song to ensure that he loves her just the way she is, even if she can’t love herself, it comes across like a catalog of every fault a woman likes to wish her man never notices. But the band (well, the songwriters) deserves points for pushing the idea that her perceived imperfections are what make her so lovable.
Every song here feels like it could have been recorded by someone else: “C’mon, C’mon” features a Neon Trees’-like kick drum propulsion. Mid-tempo “Last First Kiss” feels like a Panic At The Disco outtake when it bursts into the chorus, although the message of “I want to be the first to take it all the way like this” is the stuff that makes girls hug their pillows a little tighter at night. Mid-tempo ballad “Over Again, co-written by Sheeran, has a Ryan Tedder/OneRepublic-like yearning to it.
The best tracks on “Take Me Home” include the militant drum stomp of uptempo “Heart Attack,” which features a fun, spirited vocal delivery by the boys, as well as the irrepressibly jaunty “I Would” (musically, it’s similar to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass”), which is bolstered by spritely whistles and hand claps. “Rock Me” opens similarly to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and stays with a mid-tempo, nearly hypnotic anthemic beat that will become a live staple, even with the unwieldy “R-O-C-K Me Again” part.
Teen girls love their secrets and 1D conspiratorially joins in with “They Don’t Know About Us,” a rhythmic ballad about young love that the older folks just don’t understand. “They don’t know about the things we do/they don’t know about the I love yous/ but i bet you if they only knew/ they would just be jealous of us.” No, they’d probably lock up their daughter, but the thought of an all-consuming love that no one else can penetrate is what One Direction promises better than Bieber, better than The Wanted, better than anyone out there right now.
The album ends with “Summer Love, ” a frankly gorgeous acoustic guitar-based ballad. The end of summer fills in metaphorically for our time with 1D coming to a close. It’s slow, luscious, and sweeping as it swells with strings, but never goes too far over the top. I’m so far out of the One Dimension demographic, I practically need a GPS to find it, but this one had me swooning.
Parting is such sweet sorrow, but don’t worry. As they promise on “Back For You,” they’re coming back.
Ingredients necessary for Kelly Clarkson’s “Catch My Breath” video? A white background, a beautiful black dress, some computer generated designs and a mighty strong fan.
The result? Clarkson’s most “Diva”-like video.
[More after the jump...]
Are you completely heartbroken that “The Twilight Saga’s” theatrical run is almost over? The soundtrack to “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” understands. The 14-track set will hand you crumpled fistfuls of tissues when it, itself, is not wearily sobbing in its jammies.
Barry Levinson did it right.
Feels like it's been a while since I've felt that way. I don't have any animosity towards Levinson for his various lesser films. I think he's always been a guy who seems like he worked with cool people and he did some really fun things and he made a few classics and he did some really slick commercial work and he's occasionally gone way off the rails, but I've always been interested. And I'll sit through "Sphere" if it means that same guy also makes "Tin Men." "Toys" doesn't bother me at all because "Diner" is in the world. He's one of those guys whose best work more than balances the sometimes wildly ambitious failures he is capable of.
I would have never thought "horror film" when thinking of Levinson, though. That doesn't seem to fit at all with the body of work he's been building, and I have a hard time reconciling his sensibility with the coldly effective tone of "The Bay," which is in limited theatrical release at the same time that you can see it at home on demand. Whichever way you watch it, it's effective and entertaining and has such a different voice than most horror movies that it should really surprise audiences.
The cults surrounding "Twilight" and "Star Wars" may not look very similar, but what they do share is a near-evangelical belief in the cultural significance of their respective franchises. I wouldn't want to get in a fight with either of them -- let alone between them -- yet that's what UK critic Mark Kermode has done... and he's on the side of the Twi-hards. With "Breaking Dawn: Part 2" hitting screens this week, he isn't afraid to admit that he's excited. Claiming that most critics' dismissal of the series marks them as "out of touch," he adds: "I've had a lot more fun watching and arguing about the Twilight movies than I ever had with the Star Wars saga, that lumbering, narratively hobbled space opera which, we now learn, is to return to our screens for yet more boring instalments in the not too distant future." Hey, I'm just the messenger. [The Guardian]
As we all know, Kenya is the latest crazymaker on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” and with NeNe prancing around bragging about her evolution from screamy mean girl to evolved and mature woman (let’s say it all together: yeah, right), we need a fresh dose of bitchy to keep this show afloat. If everyone starts behaving themselves, it’s going to be about as much fun as watching cute cat videos without the cats.