Monthly Archives: September 2010

24 posts

Movie Time Nostalgia, Part 2: North By Northwest Revisited

I got myself a videotape of Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest at a young age, and proceeded to watch the ever-living hell out of it. I can’t recall having seen what you might call a grown-up movie before that, and a lot of dramatic films that I love now might not have held my attention then. But North by Northwest really has got it all.

The Weekly Listicle Covers The Best Movie Cover Songs!

There may be an Academy Award for “Best Original Song,” but where’s the love for all the other songs that films so desperately depend on? It’s hard to believe now, but there was once a time when motion pictures weren’t chockablock with Top 40 pop hits. In the past 50 years or so this has become a common practice (some people blame Martin Scorsese, but I think even Scorsese would point a finger more emphatically at Kenneth Anger), and for every movie like The Bounty Hunter that demonstrates little concern for song choice or placement there are plenty of films and television series that put a lot of thought in selecting just the right song for the right moment. Maybe it’s on the nose, maybe it’s ironic, or maybe it’s just jarring and weird, but there’s a lot of mileage to be gained from using a familiar tune in an unfamiliar way.

Theatre Review: Blood and Gifts at the National Theatre, London

Pop music functions as a metonym for the cultural appropriations and misunderstandings which occur onstage. Is an intelligence asset who can be bought with Tina Turner records a hopeless simpleton, or simply asking for payment in the currency which will gain him most prestige amongst his fighters? Does a song’s meaning belong to the pampered stadium rockers who recorded it, or the man who died on the “dark desert highway” it describes? And did The Eagles accidentally write an epitaph for the various nations who have tried to conquer Afghanistan over the last few centuries?

Book Review: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

To label How to Live Safely as a human comedy is a bit of a stretch since many of the major characters are not human at all. These include TAMMY, a computer system with a “kind of sexy” curvilinear pixel configuration and low self-esteem, Phil, a software system copied from Microsoft Middle Manager 3.0 and Ed, a non-existent dog who is a “weird ontological entity that produces unconditional slobbery loyal affection.”

Movie Review: Devil

But instead of leaving the audience to enjoy the slow build of supernatural terror, the director chooses to bombard the film with explanatory voiceover about the legendary cunning of the devil. It is not merely superfluous, but detrimental. Since the audience knows immediately that all spooky activity occurring in the next 80 minutes will be the devil’s work, the story’s mystery content is severely diminished.

The Weekly Listicle: Claustro-MANIA!

Take some deep breaths, movie fans – we’re going in. This weekend’s new shocker, Devil, appears to feature a bunch of hapless folks trapped in a dark elevator with something quite nasty. Later this season, we will also be getting Buried, concerning a man negotiating for his life while buried […]

Video Game Review: Halo: Reach

It’s time to say goodbye to the Halo franchise because, if nothing else, Halo: Reach proves that even Bungie can run out of ideas. Halo: Reach has the most lackluster campaign so far in the First-Person Shooter series, a ho-hum series of skirmishes with no point, no characters of consequence, and of no real significance to the rest of the series.

Book Review: The Elephant’s Journey by Jose Saramago

Saramago’s ability to wring delightful dialogue out of his characters will charm just about anybody. The compassion and love for a flawed humanity he brings to his work is much too rare in a literary world and broader society that seem to devalue these qualities at a time when they are desperately needed.

Art Review: Charles Deas and 1840s America at the Denver Art Museum

Viewed in context with Deas’s other works, Prairie on Fire brings together a number of themes that ran through his all-too-brief career – his talent for narrative and action, often with gothic overtones, his projection of established American myths, dreams, and nightmares onto the newly opened spaces of the American West, and an intensity and ambiguity of feeling that may hint at his own troubled inner state.

Movie Review: Resident Evil: Afterlife

Resident Evil: Afterlife is releasing in 3D, and in this movie 3D works. Everything from throwing stars to bullets come flying out of the screen at the audience, and that’s what 3D should be: sheer spectacle. There’s absolutely nothing smart about Resident Evil: Afterlife, but it features tough female characters, utilizes great creature effects, and offers a good example of 3D technology.

Book Review: Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America by Erika Lee and Judy Yung

For those who fell in the “only” 7 percent category, the decision to deport them was often a death sentence. Several wrenching accounts of suicide are featured in the book, including that of a Chinese woman, waiting to be deported, who rammed a sharpened chopstick through her ear canal into her brain.