A fairly mellow single from the Jack White solo project. I'm happier to hear this approach than the Dead Weather, which I never got into, although I do have to admit that this song is kind of a floater - not bad but not all that memorable. It is also somewhat of an interesting choice for a first single since there are no drums in the song. After a second listen, I have to admit that I'd probably prefer a White Stripes version with some of Meg's drums and Jack's driving electric guitar. (A nod to the ever interesting Spin daily e-mail for bringing this to my attention.)
OK, so I know I made Foxy Shazam this week's Tryout but since they've been one before (and because I keep forgetting to add this guy as one), this'll be a bonus Tryout. I have to thank my friend Ted for putting me onto Clark Jr., an immensely talented blues guitarist who has gotten his first taste of national exposure (I believe) from appearing on the soundtrack of the new Showtime show "House of Lies". With the 80's overproduced style seeming to be at it's peak, I'm hoping Clark Jr. can join bands like Fitz and the Tantrums in bringing back some real blues and soul and bring the focus back on talented musicians over overstylized production. (Although with a lot of people not knowing who Fitz and the Tantrums are and Clark Jr's youtube hits still not registering that high, it looks like the revolution might still be in its infant stages.)
Lost was a show about people trying survive while stranded on an island. While the show eventually evolved to be about much more than that, what drew people in to begin with was the relationship between the survivors and their real world struggles to survive, with the WTF? moments like the smoke monster hinting at something larger at work. This is the key fact that shows like The Event, FlashForward, and now Alcatraz have missed. The latest show from JJ Abrams is very much a variation on the Lost theme with flashbacks throughout the show and even the same act out strings crescendo but what it lacks is the real world drama and the focus on the struggles, not just against nature, but with human nature.
WIth the premise of people disappearing from Alcatraz fifty years ago and now reappearing, without having aged, the show is firmly planted in science fiction and the bottom line is that it's a lot harder to draw the masses to a science fiction show than it is a human drama. Still, that's hardly a death knell against a show but Alcatraz starts off behind the 8 ball and then buries itself underneath the weak interplay between the leads while the core of the show, the crime-solving procedural, is even weaker. With those elements not being strong enough to bring people back, all that's left in the bigger picture question of "Why is this happening?" and that answer is so obviously based in an other world and pretty much impossible for people to realistically even guess at at this point that there's not much to hold onto. Lost had so many theories because the first three seasons were mostly based in the real world (I believe the writers even claimed that everything could be explained via real world answers at that point) and people were trying to figure out how this all could be. WIth Alcatraz, there's no way to play along and, honestly, no reason to really want to. Yes, having some notorious criminals come back is bad but so far the baddies haven't been much worse than the people we see in every other crime show. And, as the show has shown already, the devil you knew 50 years ago is easier to figure out and apprehend than the devil you don't know. Despite the high concept premise, Alcatraz is just another crime procedural, just with a bigger (not not exactly pressing) picture looming over it.
That being said, the show isn't that bad, there's just nothing to hold onto right now. The main characters are weak, one dimensional archetypes, the cases aren't that great and the solutions have required some suspensions of disbelief. Also, I have no problem suspending my disbelief here and there but it's tough when a show seems to take itself so seriously. There's not much joy to be had despite Sam Neil chewing the scenery. Odder still, the bigger picture of how did this happen and why are the people coming back and who is behind it disappeared almost completely in the second episode. Lost lost its steam when the writers realized that it was a success and they had to start stringing out the drama so they could last as many seasons as possible. It seems like Alcatraz is already watering down their plot a bit with their eyes on this.
In the end, Alcatraz is the epitome of a show that you should probably wait until after the first season buzz to see whether you should get involved with it. Things could come together so you don't want to write it off but I also kind of doubt it's going to get that much better so you don't want to invest yourself weak in and weak out with the slim hope that they right the ship. I also think that if the show was on SyFy or a cable network, it would be better off. Lower expectations and the ability to breathe and throw in a breath of humor here and there would go a long way.
Foxy has been a Tryout before but I haven't really found any new music and the Shazam have just come out with a new album so they get the nod this week. As for the album, fans of the original Foxy Shazam sound are undoubtedly upset because the group has gone from being a post-metal band to an almost 100% glam band. Granted, I'm somewhat happy because I'm not a fan of the post-metal scream music but I do have to say that this album lacks the driving guitars and rock feel that made Foxy's last album so great. Also, the mix is far glossier, the horn often sounded like a synth rather than an actual brass instrument, and it just sounds a bit too polished for its own good (I Wanna Be Yours, especially, reminds me of the overproduced albums of Mike Doughty, a guy who always came off better on acoustic live recordings than in his actual albums). All of that being said, Foxy Shazam are still great at creating catchy choruses and besides the three great singles, there are a handful of other quality songs on this album. My current addiction is "Last Chance at Love". I couldn't find that song on youtube so here's the first single of the album (and still probably the best song on the album and more along the lines of Foxy's last album.)
Quick bit about the Fridea which, again, I'll probably try to write up tomorrow morning. This one is more of just an SNL sketch. We were talking at work and I made up a character of an actor who wishes he was a waiter. He moved to LA to be a waiter and hates that he can't find work so he takes all of these stupid acting gigs to pay his way while he tries to land a waiting gig. Right now, I'm picturing Ryan Reynolds as the actor, mostly because his choices of late leave a lot to make fun of. He'll probably be changing that with "Safe House" but I think he might have been passed by Chris Pine in terms of the Next Big Thing (although he still has the tabloid edge so he's more well known than Pine.) Granted, I think the next Chris in line (we've gone from Klein to Evans to Pine) is Chris Pratt. I thought he showed some promise in Moneyball and seems like the kind of guy who could crossover to the fish out of water action films or comedy. Pratt seems like the kind of guy you root for. But that's beside the point. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be posting up the short sketch for the Fridea.
Haywire is essentially Steven Soderbergh's attempt at making an martial arts movie. And while it has some solid moments and a plot that I'll admit left me a bit confused, it's really just an average genre movie that is probably best left as a rental. While the opening action scenes were, let's say, impactful, Soderbergh committed the cardinal actioner sin of having the best fights at the start of the movie. Yes, Carano has some nice moves in the later fights but they feel repetitive at best or simply lackluster in some cases.
As for Carano, she is most certainly sexy and makes the most out of biting her lip but she is clearly not an actress so while her skills as a fighter definitely boost the action scenes, her acting ability doesn't add much. Granted, she's not given much to do but she's kind of a blank slate, a human weapon who doesn't bring much personality to the table. You watch her because she kicks ass but you root for her only because, well, you're supposed to.
The score is interesting and very much in line with Soderbergh's usual music choices but I felt like the horns made the score too noticeable at times. I'm not sure if he was going for a Shaft vibe but there were a few times that I couldn't help but think of that film when the horns hit. So while I kind of liked the music, I felt like the score was distracting at times.
In the end, the film was a long way to go for a little payoff and if you've seen the ads and online marketing (featuring the fights between Carano and Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender) then you've seen the best parts of the film.
I don't know what's worse, the fact that the Fridea keeps ending up being the Saturdea or that I only have one post on the blog since my last Fridea. Anyway, this week's idea is something that I've been toying with for awhile but I've never locked down what exactly the show would be. The page I'm posting here was when it was going to be a short or movie about a guy deciding whether or not he should pop the question to his girlfriend (and the girlfriend wondering if she would say yes.) Whenever I go to write it though, it ends up becoming a bigger ensemble piece, usually with a single friend or two (who may or may not have hooked up with the girlfriend before she started dating his buddy) and a couple that is either unhappily married or separated (but wanting to figure out how to work it out because of their kids.)
In the end, I might just shoot this simple first page and try to figure out other quick hitters about relationships. Might be more realistic since I don't usually end up shooting anything. Anyway, here's the first page or the first microshort for "The Settlers".
And, yeah, I might have already posted this once but I couldn't remember and didn't feel like checking (and didn't have another Fridea to go with so here it is.)
This is going to be a pretty quick, rushed post but I haven't posted in a while and thought I couldn't wait to think this through much more (or waste the time to finish two of the shows that are going to be discussed here.)
To start off on a positive note, Justified had another stellar season premiere and looks to be on its way to another great year. Right now, it's probably my favorite show on television. They've mastered being pulpy but also being smart. The show has little subtleties that you might miss in the first viewing and it does a great job of creating memorable one-off characters. Just a top notch show that you should definitely check out (I believe the first season is available on Netflix.)
To keep going on an OK note, White Collar is also back, kicking off the second half of season 3. The first half ended on a cliffhanger so the mostly procedural show was wrapped pretty tightly around ending the early season arc. On the bright side, the story wrapped up so the show will be back to its lighter tone in the future. On the downside, I think the dramatic tone of this episode helped expose why most of these actors are not getting a lot of work off of this show. The episode called for a lot of emotions and most of the actors weren't able to pull them off. The lead suit didn't pull off fury very well, Tiffani Amber-Thiessen looked amazing as always but didn't show much in the way of chops, and lead Matt Bomar was the same note as always. Bomar is likable but seems like a guy who should settle into light TV fair.
Speaking of settling into light TV fair (or is it fare?), The Finder, from the creator of Bones, was almost too light for its own good. It plays like a USA show but a mix between the goofy Psych and the lighter but actiony stuff like Burn Notice or White Collar. The show was struggling to find its balance, which is normal for a lot of pilots, but I finally stopped watching when they explained that the lead character had some sort of brain damage that made him obsessed with finding things and that if he didn't find something, he might lose it. I know you want to build stakes but, I'm sorry, that's just stupid.
Also, while he seems like a decent guy, Geoff Stults seems best suited as the asshole ex or shitty date in a comedy movie or taking over Bradley Cooper roles in DVD sequels to The Hangover or Limitless or playing Nathan Fillion's dopey brother. I don't know. He's not bad but he just doesn't have it, no matter how many times he's cast in lead role. Does that mean he won't find success? Of course not, Alex O'Loughlin was a dud until Hawaii Five-O and, honestly, he's still just a pretty face but he's got a nice vehicle, a good supporting cast, and writers who churn out gems like this.
And as much as a pooped on The Finder, I could see it being a show that I might tune into again if it was on or I was hungover and wanted something light to check in on. The Firm on NBC, however, is dead on arrival. They should have changed the title to Watch The Firm or What's The Firm just so they could get the apt WTF initials. The opening of the show features a laughable chase scene (all its missing to be a straight comic piece is the slate for FILM CUT at "the end" of the chase) and the premise makes no sense whatsoever. Basically, the lead character from The Firm (the movie) has decided to leave witness protection and start up a practice in the Nation's capitol yet is somehow stunned when he finds that people are after him. Like the witness protection thing was just for him and his family. Anyway, below is the first four or so minutes of the show. You should check it out for fun.
Why did the guys stop chasing him? How did they lose him? Why did Mitch (Josh Lucas) think he lost them? No idea. Apparently the creator was peppered with these questions at a recent presser and, from the sounds of it, he didn't have any good answers.
Meanwhile, Josh Lucas has solidified himself as being the one man in the world that Jim Caviezal could tell to lighten up a bit. I remember watching the commentary for Sweet Home Alabama (yeah, I watched the commentary for that movie and it was good too!) and the director made jokes about how Lucas wanted to play every scene like he was Ralph Fiennes in a drama and the director would constantly tell him, "OK Ralph, how about we tone it down a bit." If ever there was an argument for marijauna, the career paths of Josh Lucas and Matthew McCoughnaghey (probably not spelled right, I know) is one. I do think that Lucas could play a solid villain (he might be perfect in Justified) so I think he should stop taking leads in crappy TV shows/movies and accept his career as a supporting player. I think he'll find himself with better roles and in better productions if he did.
Finally, there's Alcatraz. I haven't watched it. Nothing makes me less interested in watching a new show than the words "Two hours premiere" and when the name JJ Abrams is attached to it, then it makes me think that I'm going to spend a lot of time to get question for which I'll spend even more time to not get the answer. I'll probably get around to it eventually (unless reviews are terrible.)
OK, technically it's Saturday morning but I didn't come up with my Friday Idea (a new post concept - I come up with a new film/trailer/short idea every week and post it on Friday) until yesterday. It was inspired in part by Eat, Pray, Love, the trailer for Friends with Kids, and the various other movies that mistake self-improvement with self-involvement. The types of movies in which someone needs to fix their lives so they decide that the best possible thing to do would be something completely irrational and stupid. While I think that the film might be able to work as a spoof movie or a Farrelly Brothers type comedy, right now all I'm doing is writing up a fake trailer for it.
I'm thinking about actually shooting something for it (since I should shoot SOMETHING; all these years in Hollywood and I've never actually produced any of my shit) so we'll see if this actually becomes a real fake trailer. Then again, it might be one of those things that I read in a couple of days and think, "Why did I think this was funny?"
So here it is, the first draft of the script for the fake trailer of "Let's Do Something Stupid".
Early on in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Jeremy Renner's character questions what Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt was thinking when he lit a flare under water, put it under a dead body, and floated the body off to distract the shooters. In what should have been a throwaway line but became a two minute conversation, Renner wonders why Cruise would ever think something like that would work. Why would anyone ever light a flare underwater when they were trying to get away from multiple gunmen spraying the river with bullets? What did ol' Ethan Hunt think that the shooters were thinking? Hunt's response was something to the effect of "I didn't assume they were thinking."
That explanation pretty much sums up what the people involved in making this movie pretty much thought about the audience as well. Now don't get me wrong, the movie was fun, wisely stayed away from having too many character building talky scenes that (in most action movies) grind the proceedings to a halt, and it had two really great action sequences. But make no mistake, this movie is stupid. Nothing really makes sense. When things go wrong, the MI team just goes and does something that makes even less sense to squeak out of it. The villains are paper thin. We're told the bad guy is crazy and, well, that's it.
Part of me wondered why this film got so much love whereas a similarly ridiculous film like Fast Five was poo-pooed by the critics for being so dumb. I think the main reason is that the situations in MI:4 were improbable and somewhat silly whereas the action scenes in Fast Five were quite simply physically impossible. Still, I have to say that I enjoyed Fast Five more than MI:4 (although, to be fair, my expectations were FAR higher for Ghost Protocol because of the reviews and the word of mouth.)
In the end, Mission Impossible got points because it was a passable action flick floating in a sea of below average movies. If it wasn't for my high expectations, it probably would be battling for my #2 action movie in 2011, behind X-Men: First Class and alongside similarly average "Captain America", the upstart that I hope more people discover on DVD "Attack the Block", and "Fast Five".
And while I feel like this movie is a rental, I have to say that the best parts of the movie just won't be the same if you don't see them in IMAX. Especially if you get unnerved by heights, the Dubai scene is pretty stellar. But, in the end, don't expect more than what would amount to a less campy but equally silly Roger Moore era Bond flick.
For the first Tryout of 2012, I'd like to present a friend of the Honk - Johnny Render. So support indie music and give Johnny a listen. To find out more about him, just check out the website and for all of those Dallas Cowboys fans out there, Johnny has a song for you.
One reason that I still use ITunes over Spotify to listen to the songs that I already own is that Spotify doesn't seem to have the play count feature that ITunes has. And every year, I like to see what songs I ended up listening to the most.
To get a few more bands on this year's list, I'm going to start off by counting Sleeper Agent's "Celebrasion" as my album of the year since the songs from that album would take up six of the top 10 spots. If you haven't checked them out, Sleeper Agent is a nice pop rock band. The #1 song of the year was Shuga Cane, although I will confess to listening to it a number of times to figure out where the chorus came from (it's pretty similar to a part in The Rolling Stones's "Rocks Off".)
The #2 song is "Stay Too Long" from Plan B's rap/soul opera. The whole album covers a pop star's rise to fame, night in which he hooks up with a girl who says he raped her, and his dealing with being sent to prison for the false charge. It's an interesting album with a few great songs, including the #9 song on the list, "She Said". I prefer "Stay Too Long" but in the UK, She Said was the big hit (and has 16 million YouTube plays to "Stay Too Long"'s 3 million.
#3 and #8 came from Kyla La Grange. She doesn't have an album out yet but she's consistently dropping quality songs onto her website or on YouTube.
#4 is a late mover. I saw the Cold War Kids and while they were solid in concert, they didn't have much stage presence which made it a rather lackluster concert. Still, I hadn't heard much of their newest album which made up most of the evening's set list. One songs that jumped out at me and that I played over and over afterwards was "Bulldozer".
#5 and #6 come from my favorite live band Foxy Shazam. "Bye Bye Symphony" is a great song about getting over your troubles and putting the sad songs behind you. It also has one of my favorite choruses, "Life is a bitch, but she's totally doable." #6, on the other hand, is from their upcoming album and is about black women's asses. (And yes, the video for it (if it is even the official video) is not safe for work.)
#7 comes from college crowd faves Walk the Moon. I'm not sure they'll ever break out of the university crowd but I'm a big fan of their big song "Anna Sun", although I prefer this acoustic version to the actual single.
#10 was the new group Various Cruelties and their "Neon Truth". A very catchy song although I think that their shot at breaking in the US might be their new single, "The Great Unknown." The single came out on January 1st but I can't seem to buy it on ITunes or Amazon in the ol' US of A. Hopefully, that will change soon and these guys will put out their full length LP.
As for the rest of the top 25, it rounds out like this:
11. Laws of Gravity by Rubik
12. Drunk by Stray Dog
13. Civilian by Wye Oak
14. Greyhounds in the Slips by The Joy Formidable
15. Animal by Neon Trees
16. Been Better by Kyla La Grange
17. Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn by Mono*
18. Pure As Snow by Mono*
*Both of these songs are off their live album Holy Ground: Live with The Wordless Music Orchestra. If there's one band I wish would come to the US, I think it would be this Japanese post-rock trio along with the Wordless Music Orchestra. This is my go-to band for music to write to.
19. Almost Home by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (from The Social Network Soundtrack)
20. Royal Blue by Cold War Kids
21. First Breath After Coma by Explosions in the Sky
22. Cradle by The Joy Formidable
23. No Kind Words by The Maccabees
24. Last Known Surroundings by Explosions in the Sky
25. River of Deceit by Mad Season
I'm kind of surprised that it's mostly new stuff but I guess those are the songs I listen to over and over for a while whereas my older stuff I'll give a handful to a dozen listens to over the year.
With football almost over, I thought I'd start the new year by trying to watch a movie every Sunday morning. This was prompted mainly by the fact that the much ballyhooed movie "Kill List" was On Demand and I wanted to check it out. Sadly, I only made it halfway through before I decided to go back to bed and when I got up later and finished the movie, it was almost like I was still dreaming. I don't know if you can even call it a twist because it was pretty pointless and almost haphazard. The final twist is so obvious that even if you were invested in the film, it would still just fall flat.
If someone had told me that "Kill List" was a student project from a kid who loved "Drive" and "Wicker Man" but thought that stuff like plot and believable characters got in the way, I would have believed it. Many reviewers who liked the film tend to say that the beginning is a character study but the lead character is so helter skelter that it's kind of ridiculous. It's similar to Young Adult in a way that the main character is such a cartoon that it's hard to invest in it. But then part of me thinks that I'm not supposed to and that the film was a kind of dark comedy. If I had gone in thinking it was almost a spoof of dark thrillers, I might have liked it better but not by much.
This is the kind of film that Nic Cage would make in America and critics would hate it.
If for some reason, you feel like you just HAVE to see this film, I'd wait for it to hit Netflix Streaming. No need to waste 10 bucks on top of the 90 minutes the film runs. Honestly, I'd be pretty surprised if something trumped this for the bottom spot of 2012. It would definitely have outdone Scream 4 for the bottom of 2011.