Saturday, October 31, 2009
For their number 9 choice for the decade's best film, At the Movies co-hosts Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott have chosen Gosford Park and 25th Hour, respectively. Once again, I'll side with Phillips, vastly preferring Robert Altman's character and actor-rich period piece over Spike Lee's overrated celebration of drug-dealing and pedophilia. Phillips has the best observation of the week when he concludes Lee shamelessly dragging the 9/11 events into his movie had nothing to do with the rest of the film and didn't fuse well. Interestingly, Lawyer forwarded me a well-written scathing view of Altman and his films. Columnist Richard Schickel is a respectable guy and has given great DVD commentary on Unforgiven and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I certainly think Altman (and especially Nashville) is overrated and Schickel's thesis is probably true (since I really haven't felt the urge to watch any of Altman's films in 5 years). But, as Schickel implied, his influence and trademarks are important and there are some great moments. Gosford Park is one of his very best (with The Player and M*A*S*H).
Friday, October 30, 2009
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This is It
A documentary created from unused footage of Michael Jackson preparing for a tour scheduled for last summer. It has the perfect ratio of nostalgia and sorrow for people looking to be uplifted. The reviews are pretty good, probably because even after all these years, the music's actually pretty good.
Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day
The sequel to the entertaining and preposterous 2000 film that found a cult on DVD. The vigilante MacManus brothers (Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) will no doubt settle another score. And writer-director Troy Duffy will throw in a little religion in an attempt for meaning.
I saw Napoleon Dynamite and liked it for what it was. Jared Hess's latest has a home-schooled teen's book being stolen by an opportunistic, famous fantasy novelist (played by Jemaine Clement). This quirky sense of humor might work for you - or not. Trailer is here.
House of the Devil
This premiered on HDNET movies on Wednesday (2 days ago) and is a pretty solid little film. Director Ti West takes his time with the story of a poor college student trying to make some extra money by baby-sitting, then getting caught up with a satanic cult. All the classic storytelling devices are there and the lonely, foreboding atmosphere is unnerving. Tom Noonan shows up as a satanist. The film takes place in the 80s and creates the era (and filmmaking style) perfectly. The violence goes overboard (of course), but if you like horror films, this is one of the best I've seen in awhile.
At some point I stumbled on to this song by Jackie Greene. Favorite line: "though i've let many women slip from my hands; i've let them all go, why? i don't know, it just made me feel like a man" And here is the rest of it.Continue reading this post
Thursday, October 29, 2009
My favorite Sinead song combines her beautiful voice and great, great lyrics. A must listen for 'girls that ache' Priest. Sinead is underrated. "These are dangerous days, to say what you feel is digging your own grave".Continue reading this post
Posted by Lawyer at 12:01 AM
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
1. Invictus - Clint Eastwood directs Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as a South African rugby star. A must-see, obviously, but looks like a mash-up of Chariots of Fire and The Shawshank Redemption(nice overhead shot of a prison with a MF voiceover).
2. The Green Zone - Matt Damon and Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) star and Paul Greengrass (Bourne, United 93) directs this film about Iraq that is written by Brian Helgeland (LA Confidential, Taking of Pelham 123). Great, energetic trailer that makes the film look like a cross between Body of Lies and a Bourne film - which I'm totally fine with.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
An unforgettable episode not only for every A+ second that Jerry Seinfeld was onscreen but also for a hilarious 1962 flashback scene where LD sings, asks "Are you looking forward to the sex later?", then gets beaten to death and has his blood splattered on a car windshield. It will also be remembered for LD's powerful urine stream causing splash-back of toilet water onto a picture of Jesus, which a couple of troubled Christians mistake for a miraculous tear . . .
The Seinfeld - David interactions (the banter, glances, exchanges) were absolutely perfect. An entire episode of them walking around with be worth watching. It's too bad Seinfeld has been keeping his enormous comedic talent mostly to himself all these years. But, like Johnny Carson, he went out on top and has stayed there in the collective consciousness. Some of Jerry's best lines this episodes include:
"What do you got Seabiscuit in there with you?" (upon hearing LD's medication induced forceful urine output)
"What's "real" got to do with what we do?" (an insightful aside that sums up their writing process)
"He lives in his own mind." (about Larry to Julia Louis-Dreyfus admitting they both don't understand LA)
"Trust your gut." (to an employee with a penchant for showing her flabby bare midriff)
But unfortunately, Seinfeld was not in every scene and the show took too many leaps of logic (the police pulling LD over for stealing deli napkins, for starters) that let him down. I love seeing Richard Lewis get mentally, physically, and emotionally abused though. And the police lineup pretty much nailed the hypocrisy of people who proclaim to be 100% color blind.
After some deliberation, I've decided to not be offended by the splash-back on Jesus. Most Christians are confident enough in their faith that showing a picture of him, or having him do outrageous things on South Park, or even dumping a crucifix in a jar filled with actual urine will not affect them at all. Nor will they riot in the streets. Nor will their faith crumble like a house of cards just by showing his likeness on a cartoon. I didn't like how the Christians were portrayed, but these were deeply disturbed individuals (either as a witness to violence or being completely unaware of their own image).
Jerry's scenes: A+
Flashback scene: A
Everything else: C+
Monday, October 26, 2009
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan - #
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - #
Monty Python: Almost the Truth - #
Night of the Creeps - #
Nothing Like the Holidays - #
Stan Helsing - #
Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure - #
Whatever Works - #
Z -(Criterion)-(Doc's Pick of the Week)
Only other Blu-ray release this week is
# - also on Blu-ray
David Carr has served as the "Carpetbagger" for the last 4 years, providing analysis of films and the awards season. Watching his Bagger videos and reading his columns and blogs on the subject has been my favorite part of the process - his wit, intelligence and insights were all first-rate. He is resigning that position to cover media (?) - his replacement may be fine, but he will be missed. Here's one of the Bagger's videos in tribute.Continue reading this post
Posted by Lawyer at 8:45 AM
Several months ago, I called Guns 'n' Roses the Simon Peter of Led Zeppelin's disciples which would make Def Leppard John, I guess. Or is it Matthew? "Armageddon It" was a misunderstood phrase by one of the band members which then built a song around it. That's as profound as the 80s hair bands ever got, but this song achieves some kind of pop perfection that Zeppelin never even tried. Especially the harmonious chorus, which begins after "Come get it from me." I really could watch that one-armed drummer all day.Continue reading this post
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Paranormal Activity went wide in its fifth week and finally got to #1. Only Gran Torino has taken that long to get to #1 this decade. It took a big part of the Saw VI audience which was of 50% from the prior entry. Hopefully they're gone for good.
1. Paranormal Activity: 22 mil / +12% / 62.5 mil
2. Saw VI: 14.8 mil / (-)
3. Where the Wild Things Are: 14.4 mil -56%/54 mil
4. Law Abiding Citizen: 12.7 mil / -40% / 40 mil
5. Couples Retreat: 11.1 mil / -36% / 78.2 mil
6. Astro Boy: 7 mil / (-)
7. The Stepfather: 6.5 mil / -44% / 20 mil
8. The Vampire's Assistant: 6.3 mil / (-)
9. Cloudy w/ Chance of M-Balls: 5.6 mil / -30% / 115 mil
10. Zombieland: 4.3 mil / -44% / 67.3 mil
11. Amelia: 4.0 mil / (-)
12. A Serious Man: 1.1 mil / +34% / 3.2 mil
13. Toy Story/Toy Story 2 (3D): 1.0 mil / -66% / 30.1 mil
Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott have begun a 10-week countdown of the best movies of the decade and have chosen Minority Report and Million Dollar Baby, respectively, at #10. I'm squarely in the Phillips camp on this one, feeling that MDB is perfectly OK for a while until the overwrought, cliched third act while Minority Report is on my own 10 Best of Decade list (I'm working on a top 100 post, but will probably have to go with 50). Phillips also gets huge props for taking it to MDB in the embedded video after the jump. Here's a link.Continue reading this post
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Director Paul Weitz once had a promising career fresh off About a Boy, which still holds up pretty darn well 7 years gone. Since then, things have been shaky for him (American Dreamz, In Good Company) and his brother Chris (The Golden Compass). I'm at least twice as old as I need to be to understand the resurgence of all the vampire crap in popular culture so I won't try. But it would appear John C. Reilly's career is on the way down.
Hilary Swank goes for a third Oscar as the most famous aviatrix ever. (Unless that diaper-wearing cross-country traveling astronaut counts.) Ewan McGregor and Richard Gere stand to be completely emasculated by Swank. Mira Nair has visual flair but the drama tends to fall flat. Like Swank's neck on a stool.
Nicolas Cage's second animated voice work in 3 months is obviously a cry for help. An intervention needs to occur. Kristen Bell and Charlize Theron also provide voices but that's hiding their strong suit(s). For the record, an inventor creates a robot to replace his dead son. The robot goes on to save the world. It's like A.I. meets the superhero genre. Lawyer's online tickets were purchased weeks ago.
I've never seen any of these, not even the first one. But I do remember Tobin Bell in Goodfellas (a Pittsburgh parole officer). And I do remember his remarkable year in 1993, when he played bad guys in The Firm, In the Line of Fire, and Malice. That was the good ol' days when "torture porn" was a mere dream of the most depraved and amoral members of society.
Continue reading this post
It's so obvious now, it's hard to see how I missed it, but in this article, director Mary Harron reveals that Christian Bale's universally acclaimed work in American Psycho was inspired by none other than Tom Cruise himself.
And here is the rest of it.
In theaters. Rated PG-13, 100 minutes. Trailer.
On paper, The Invention of Lying looks like it would be among my favorite movies of the year: written, directed and starring Ricky Gervais as Mark Bellison with a supporting cast including Tina Fey and Jason Bateman (not to mention cameos from Ed Norton, Stephen Merchant and Philip Seymour Hoffman). Similarly, the concept sounds very interesting on paper: Mark lives in a modern day version of our world except no one can lie - he invents lying and essentially becomes god because of it. On screen, however, the film is occasionally hilarious, consistently weird and mostly disappointing. Click below for more LYING:
The film begins 'pre-lies', showing Mark living in the pristine truthful world and suffering because as a short, snub nose, fat man honesty can be brutal. His date with the successful and attractive Anna McDoogles (Jennifer Garner) showcases some of the downsides of truthfulness. His job as a screenwriter (they only write about historical occurences) goes south, and in his desperation for money he somehow tells a lie to get some. When his mother is dying and sad, he lies (depending on your perspective) and tells her about a heaven like place that you go instead of a big nothingness (which is the assumption in the film). This leads to Mark becoming basically an oracle of god and he has to explain (ie, make up) everything relating to god and explain it to the whole world.
His main goal is to gain the love of Anna, but she's programmed to pay attention to looks and can't accept a less than perfect physical specimen even though they are otherwise a great match. Therein lies part of the problem with the film. Gervais has me on the lying and the occasionally hilarious truthiness (a nursing home is called "a sad place for hopeless old people" and when he goes in the receptionist greets him with "are you here to abandon an old person"), but goes way off topic by making the film about outer appearance - what does that have to do with not lying? The romance with Garner never works at all, despite great acting from Garner. There are some decent explorations of the good that can come of lying (he tells a suicidal Jonah Hill that 'everything's gonna be alright') and the bad as well. Priest will like the scenes where Mark is having to essentially create heaven and god and then explain it to everyone while they pepper him with questions - it is an interesting theological exercise.
It is hard for me to believe Gervais directed this because the story and characters are so bad. His work on The Office and Extras is extraordinary, so I don't know why the transition to film has been so bumpy. This one stinks, but has about a dozen really good laughs for Gervais fans. One side note is that after being exposed to Louis CK on Parks and Rec and in this movie, I now realize that his mannerisms and way of speaking are exactly like Doc's. I'm just saying.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Larry meets and flirts with Denise at a coffee shop and immediately invites her to a private violin concert. Then, it's revealed she's in a wheelchair. Larry loses the concert invite by (among other things) asking the white parents if their adopted Chinese daughter has a proclivity for chopsticks. He tries to break it off with Denise, but her situation gets him preferential treatment everywhere, so naturally, he decides to become her boyfriend . . .
The highly politically incorrect subject matter shows just what a horrible person LD is, all the way down to his Blackberry. He definitely gets what he deserves when Rosie O'Donnell kicks his ass not once, but twice. This show is the best thing she's ever done. Ted Danson's scene was unnecessary, but it was nice to see the return of Leon and hear about the contacts on his Blackberry. My favorite moment was Susie inviting Jeff for a walk on the beach. Consistently humorous all around, with a great ending. B+
I found the version I've been listening to over and over, from last year. It is a compulsory listen. Transcendent solo starts at 3:40, my freak out point is 4:24. Great quality and cool camera work. All of the songs from that concert are worth your time.Continue reading this post
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
[This tour has already been reviewed twice on this site, once in Raleigh by guest reviewer Dentist (who was with me on Sunday night) and once by Lawyer in Dallas.]
I love U2 even when, occasionally, Bono with his messianic complex makes me role my eyes and drop my head when I admit it. That Bono was on display in Dallas ten days ago. Too much politicizing. Too much preaching. Too much messing up my favorite songs by talking about poverty, AIDS, Africa, Myanmar, Iran, and anything else that popped into his head. But the other Bono, the one that through sheer force of will keeps U2 relevant 30 years on, the one that can get 60,000 fans to their feet by crank starting the microphone stand before going into opener Breathe, a song at least half the crowd has never heard, that Bono was in the house on Sunday night, and that guy I love. That guy can tell me about AIDS and Africa, and Myanmar, and maybe even Iran, and I’ll listen. He’s earned the right.
But let me begin by giving credit where credit’s due: opening band the Black Eyed Peas were very, very entertaining. While I enjoyed the music of Muse more in Dallas the week before, the Peas are definitely the more entertaining of the two bands. The credit primarily goes to Fergie, who not only has serious pipes live, but throws herself into the production. Between her moving and shaking, the rest of the group, the backing band, and a host of dancers, the Black Eyed Peas proved they knew a thing or two about playing large venues. Their 45-minute set was a perfect opener for U2, pumping the crowd of 60,000 onto their feet through sheer exuberance before exiting the stage a few minutes past 8:00.
A word about the setting. The concert was on OU’s campus in Memorial Stadium. It was a cool evening, low-60’s to mid-50’s with a predictably stout breeze that reportedly chilled folks in the upper stands. This breeze mixed with the smoke machines and spotlights to lend an ethereal quality to the event not unlike an Irish moor, a fact not lost on Bono. Me and my cadre of ten (including occasional contributor Dentist) had General Admission tickets. It being a weekend day, we headed down to the stadium at 2:00, determined to get on the catwalk, which we did, directly in front of the band, with some of us on the rail and no one further than the second row.
At 8:50, as “the wave” circled the stadium, the lights dropped and Larry Mullens strode in with “Kingdom,” an unreleased U2 song that is rumored to appear on their next album Songs of Ascent, playing overhead. With a burst he launched into Breathe, quickly joined by The Edge and Adam Clayton then Bono, grabbing that microphone stand and yanking it down with all his might.
From the beginning, it was obvious the boys had come to play. Perhaps this was because it had been 26 years since they’d played Oklahoma City. Or maybe it was the tangible electricity in the crowd. Whatever, from the opening moments the crowd and the band were in sync. If it takes two to tango, both were ready. Bono poured energy and The Edge was assaulting his guitar, especially on the Achtung material-- Mysterious Ways, Until the End of the World, and Ultraviolet.
The set list was basically the same as Dallas, but with the addition of In a Little While, one of my favorites off All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and Unknown Caller, one of my least favorite off the new album. Still, even that song worked as an odd sing-a-long enabled by placing the lyrics on the massive screen.
If I have a complaint it’s that Where the Streets Have No Name should be in the main set, not in the first encore. Speaking of, that doesn’t even feel like an encore. It’s One going into Amazing Grace going into Streets. That set-up is chilling to a church boy like me (especially in the Bible belt, where Amazing Grace got maybe the best sing-a-long of the night), but it would be more powerful earlier.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint why this concert was so much better than Dallas, the most disappointing of the U2 shows I’ve seen. I think a lot of it has to do with the location. This 360 show was designed to be seen outdoors, not in a dome, and the massive stage seems perfect, not ridiculous, outside. A number of the goodies of that stage, most notably the massive mirror ball on top, can’t be used indoors. Plus, Bono preached about half as much at this show, which was nice. I’m all about the many causes Bono supports, but I’m not laying down my money to hear the news. I’m sure my location helped, at one point or another I was with five feet of all four of them. The additional two songs brought the length up to about what it should be, nearly 2 ½ hours. Whatever, by the second encore, with Ultraviolet and With or Without You, I was physically and emotionally drained and able to lay back and take it in, lost in the music and the emotion and fully content. It was the best concert experience of my life. Excellent.
Monday, October 19, 2009
In theatres, PG, 101 minutes
There’s a lot of love out there for this movie, and I get why. Start with a children’s book that everyone suddenly remembers (and remembers loving), mix in the hipster dream team of director Spike Jonze (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and writer Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), and add a sterling cast and visuals that consistently amaze, and it’s easy to get enraptured—with the trailer, at least.
Let’s start with what the movie isn’t. It’s not a kids’ movie, although kids may love it. This is the reverse of the book, which definitely is a kids’ book (that adults love). What this movie gets right: Childhood. It nails being a kid. Elevenish-year-old Max, played by a startling Max Records, is a volcanic mixture of joy, anger, frustration, fear, tenderness, and exhuberance. It’s a testament to Jonze, Eggers, and Records that you feel like you know Max’s big sister Claire even though she’s rarely on the screen. Claire has reached early adolescence and is no longer interested in the imaginary world of Max. But, of course, Max can’t understand this and wants her acceptance and friendship. Meanwhile, his single mother, the always great and sexier by the day Catherine Keener, is struggling in her job, trying to be a good mother to Max, and trying to date (Mark Ruffalo, great in little more than a cameo). Dad appears to be M.I.A. The situation is of a little boy whose world has been ripped out from under him, so he acts out—first destroying his sister’s room, then, when dressed in his wolf (I think) outfit, biting his mother—before running away from home to where the wild things are.
The wild things, seamless mixtures of 8-foot puppets and CGI faces, are perfectly realized adaptations of the figures from the book. At first they try to eat Max, then they make him their king. Max is particularly close to James Gandolfini’s Carol, a creative, energetic, destructive monster that the others both recognize as intelligent and tire of dealing with. Each of the other monsters represent aspects of Max’s self or situation in life. The world of the wild things is wonderful and as mercurial as a boy’s imagination, with cliffs for climbing, oceans of water, sand dunes, forests, and massive forts of sticks. The camera work and visuals are breath-taking while never seeming over done. Like the book, Jonze portrays all this from the child’s perspective, with glaring inconsistencies noticed by no one and real danger around every corner. And, like the book, childhood isn’t glossed over as one long happy moment, but as a time of heart-breaking highs and lows, often juxtaposed in rapid succession.
As much as there was to love about this movie, and let me tell you as a boy who grew up with three sisters, I heavily identified with Max’s feelings of isolation and love-hatred for siblings, I didn’t love it. The middle section, as breath-taking as it was, feels ultimately like one long counseling session with no real resolution. Max eventually misses his family and goes back home, but he still doesn’t have a father, and he’s still a ball of emotions and feelings he can’t understand. There is no real breakthrough for him because, well, he’s eleven. I’ll give Eggers and Jonze props for not taking the easy way out and pretending like everything’s better at the end. Still, a pitch-perfect psychological exploration of childhood with no resolution can only be so entertaining. B, although may move to a B+. May work better for those with children. I’d be interested to hear Doctor or Lawyer’s thoughts.
On a side note, great to see Jonze back in action. His style is evident everywhere. The person I was with, unaware who Spike Jonze was, commented that the movie reminded her of Eternal Sunshine.
Blood: The Last Vampire - #
The Crew - #
Love N' Dancing - #
Monsoon Wedding - #
The Tournament - #
Transformers 2 - #
Wrong Turn 3 - #
The L Word - Final Season
Numb3rs - Fifth Season
Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Withnail & I
# - also on Blu-ray
Gerard Butler hosted and Shakira danced (and sang, I think), but the show opened with Dwayne "Tooth Fairy" Johnson reprising his role as "The Rock" Obama. This must be some kind of liberal's wet dream - getting Obama to use violence against adversaries. It wasn't funny and neither was the rest of the show, which alternated between jokes about homosexuality and popular movies (300, Braveheart, Beauty and the Beast). Kristen Wiig dropped a notch with an annoying secretary character and Seth Meyers smugged for the camera as usual. The only skit I really enjoyed was a BET singalong, "What Up With That", which featured Keenan Thompson breaking into song and a silent James Franco, inexplicably wasting his own time. The rest of the show wasted mine. Check out (or don't) the available clips here.
Just love Jason Sudeikis's terrible white-boy dancing. Andy Samberg was absent from the entire show and was sorely missed.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Triumph returned last Friday night at a dog boutique in LA. Pretty brutal, but appropriately so. Cory Booker, who was the subject of Street Fight, which Lawyer reviewed here, is now the Mayor of Newark and was Conan's first guest. They had a recent spat when Conan insulted Newark. Max Records (the star of Where the Wild Things Are) was the second guest and kinda insulted Conan. Conan's best episode in awhile. See the full episode here.Continue reading this post
Title/Gross/ %Change /Total
1. Where the Wild Things Are: 32.5 mil / (-)
2. Law Abiding Citizen: 21.3 mil / (-)
3. Paranormal Activity: 20.2 mil / +155% / 33.7 mil
4. Couples Retreat: 17.9 mil / (-48%) / 63.3 mil
5. Stepfather: 12.3 mil / (-)
6. Cloudy w/ Chance of M-balls: 8.1 mil/(-30%)/108 mil
7. Zombieland: 7.8 mil / -47% / 60.8 mil
8. Toy Story/TS2 (3D): 3.0 mil / -61% / 28.6 mil
9. Surrogates: 1.9 mil / -55% / 36.3 mil
10. The Invention of Lying: 1.9 mil / -43% / 15.5 mil
Where the Wild Things Are won the weekend easily and is also easily Spike Jonze's best grosser to date with Adaptation. and Being John Malkovich's total domestic grosses at 22.5 and 22.9 million, respectively. The most interesting stat of the weekend is Paranormal Activity (again) which is adding screens and bank like crazy. The film cost 11 thousand to make and right now, no one knows where it will land.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Arlington/Dallas - October 12, 2009
It seems like every Fall brings a weekend with a good concert and movie opening - this seemed to be it for me with a U2/Muse and the new Coen brothers movie arriving in Dallas the same weekend. Ah, the disappointment. The movie tanked (see below) and the U2 concert was, ultimately, a letdown. Opening band Muse, however, was great, and their odd mix of sounds (think Marilyn Manson, Filter, Depeche Mode and James all jumbled together) provided one of the best opening acts in recent memory. I can't wait to see them at their own show. U2 came on stage at 9:00 and quickly fumbled away that momentum with 2 weak songs (Breathe and Get on Your Boots) from their 'okay' recent album. Finally, the show kicked in with some stronger songs and the concert was great again.
Bono's voice was unbelievably strong and robust for a 50 year old man, and The Edge and Co. was tight and effortlessly perfect. It is hard to believe Bono's voice has stayed as strong as it has given the range of notes he has to hit in the band's catalogue. The band seemed engaged during the main part of the show, but Bono ruined it a little with all the celeb shout outs (Tony Romo, Tiger Woods, Jason Whitten) and Burmese political talk. My favorite song of the show was Until the End of The World - it played well in the massive stadium and the Edge played the searing guitar solo right in front of our vantage point on the bridge (more on that later). Other standouts were Sunday, Bloody Sunday (always perfect), Mysterious Ways and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.
The show was good until the second encore, when we got just hammered with the political stuff and a bizarre ending - it wasn't clear the show was over and they closed with Moment of Surrender, a fine song but maybe one of the worst closers in the whole catalogue. The show was just barely over 2 hours - also a disappointment as I figured 2.5 hours for sure. I'd do it all over again and the greatness of the middle of the concert was worth putting up with the weak bookends a great time.
Now for the Cowboys Stadium/Stage/Crowd commentary. Priest made the journey to Dallas and joined me and Bride on the trip to Arlington. Let's be clear: Arlington sucks. I used the Cowboys Maps page to chart our course and it was clear that the Arlingotn Convention and Visitors Bureau didn't select our route - it takes us from Hwy 161 along Abrams, which features lots of manufacturing facilities, strip clubs (named peep n toms and dreamgirs) and lots of other gritty sights. We left at 4:15 and were parked very close to the stadium ($30) by 5:20, not bad. Then we had to walk about a half mile to get in the back of a quarter mile long line to get in. The lined moved pretty quick and we were in by 6:15 and scurried down the labrynthian hallway to get to our floor 'seats'.
After dropping $24 for a hot dog, 2 Dr. Peppers and Nachos, we began our 5 hours of standing about 20 feet from the circle portion of the stage. As Dentist discussed in his review, the stage setup was a 'claw' over the band with a fantastic video screen (featuring great camerawork, by the way), surrounded by a circular stage. The band commuted to the circular stage via moving bridge walkways that allowed them to come close to a big portion of the floor crowd. All in all, we had a good view and decently tolerable surrounding concertgoers. For me, the sound in the stadium was great- I have heard complaints about the upper decks. We did enjoy mocking the 40 year old 'criss criss' that came with his new wife, his 2 kids (aged 8 and 13 - and about 2 feet too short to see anything) and decided to go with a super Ed Hardy button up shirt that had me staring at a large skeletal hand with rose petals all night, not to mention the two skulls featured on the butt pockets of his jeans. His one earring and overconfident manner just topped it off.
We got in our car at 11:20pm and got home at 1:07am. Wow. We didn't get out of the parking lot until 12:10. All in all, a great and memorable (and looong) night.
In theaters. Rated R, 105 minutes. Trailer.
If you give a Coen brothers movie less than a B on this blog, you'd better be prepared to defend it. And, oh, I am. Its always a blessing to experience things with either Priest or Doctor (or both in the case of There Will Be Blood), so the prospect of watching the newest Coen film with Priest had me pumped. Trouble is, he and I were both giving it the stink eye from about 3 minutes in, and didn't let up the whole time. Devoid of sympathetic characters and chock full of unappealing scenes, writing, and concepts, the film is mostly like fingernails on a chalkboard. Click below for more on ASM:
Set in 1967, A Serious Man tells the story of Larry Gopnik, the pleasant and industrious patriarch of a middle class Jewish family in suburban Minnesota. He is a college professor and dutiful husband and father - the film tells of the unraveling of his life in a Job-like fashion. His hideous looking wife is leaving him for the icky and pretentious Sy Abelman. His son and daughter only nag him and ask him to tend to trivial matters (fixing the tv antenna to allow him to watch F Troop). He is conned by a South Korean student and his family and is also awaiting bad results from the doctor. His brother (who is constantly draining his cyst - gross) is a gambling loser with other problems.
Had the Coens given us any insight into his suffering or provided meaningful context for it, the film might've gone somewhere. Instead, as Larry seeks increasingly futile advice from Rabbis, the film seems to be saying that you can do things right, be a good guy, seek religion, and none of it will protect you. That's a pretty obvious theme. Their treatment of religion is pretty rough, showing it to be filled with incompetents and unable to provide consolation or assistance in this man's time of need. The only benefit shown is the traditions of the Jewish people.
Sprinkled throughout the film are interesting characters and funny moments. The attractive, nude-sunbathing neighbor presents Larry with temptation and interesting conversation, the other buzz-cut hunter neighbor does the same. The film begins with a bizarre set piece set in 19th century eastern Europe and shows the possible haunting of a Jewish family. The scene isn't funny, interesting, or meaningfully connected to the rest of the film (for a good example of a similar technique, see Inglourious Basterds). The last scene at the school is very interesting and I thought the film was about to redeem itself, but, alas, it just faded to black.
There are some interesting images in the film (thanks to Roger Deakins), but I did not find it memorable in any good way. A BIG disappointment.
Where the Wild Things Are
You've read the book, heard the hype, and seen the trailer. Spike Jonze's third film is finally here after a 7 year absence. Jonze is one of the most innovative directors around and his visual sense and musical choices look perfect. Not sure how much of a kid's movie it is (it's PG).
Law Abiding Citizen
After his family's murderer is let off with a light sentence due to a plea bargain, Gerard Butler tortures him, then begins to attack the DA (Jamie Foxx) who made the deal. The leads are great but the criminal-manipulating-the-judicial-system genre may be my least favorite. Still, as a dude, this is required viewing - just not anytime soon. Reviews are pretty bad, but the trailer is OK.
A college student returns home and finds out that his mom (Sela Ward) has a new boyfriend (Dylan Walsh) who he probably won't get along with. Domestic problems and psychological torture ensue. If it sounds like a remake, it is - and this one is watered down to PG-13. Zero interest.
A throwback to 70s blaxploitation films starring Michael Jai White and Arsenio Hall (!). Wasn't there already an Undercover Brother sequel? Reviews are OK. See the trailer to decide if it's for you. Limited release.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Season 7, Episode 4
This one was a rough sit through for a couple of reasons. When Larry is having trouble listening to Jeff's daughter butcher a song, so am I. When Larry insists on having his doctor's home phone number, well, I'm going to side with the doctor in thinking that it's inappropriate. (You want us to study for 10 years for no money and then be available 24-7-365 for thousands of people? And you don't want to pay us? Sign me up!) I loved seeing Philip Baker Hall, but I couldn't help but think about his classic Seinfeld character, Mr. Bookman. Christian Slater was also great with his love of caviar, but this reminded me of the Costanza-double dip Seinfeld episode . . .
Sherry Stringfield was the third guest star, and she was fine, but kinda strange with her attraction to LD. I didn't really buy Larry's date with her - what if Cheryl had seen him? The set-up with the hot towel didn't pay off well and the Slater pay off was weak. But a bad CYE episode is still better than most everything else on TV. There was bound to be a let-down after the Seinfeld reunion. B
Programming note: 30 Rock starts this upcoming Thursday.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Adoration - #
Drag Me to Hell - #
The Haunted Airman
Land of the Lost - #
The Proposal - #
Where the Day Takes You
Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Natural Born Killers
South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut - *
Stop Making Sense - *
# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I didn't really find anything very funny or interesting on this episode which was hosted by Drew Barrymore and had music by Regina Spektor. The Obama suck-up was back and they felt the need to attack Rush Limbaugh's prescription drug addiction which is what, 5 years old? Not sure. The characters of Gilly and Vinnie Vedecci by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, respectively, were the best parts, but have been done better before. Drew Barrymore was certainly game, but the writing let her down big-time. The fake online college commercial was OK. See the available clips here.
Weekend total / % Change / Cumulative total
1. Couples Retreat: 35.3 mil / (-)
2. Zombieland: 15 mil / -39% / 47.8 mil
3. Cloudy w/ Chance of Meatballs: 12mil / -24% / 96mil
4. Toy Story/TS2 (3D): 7.7 mil / -39% / 22.7 mil
5. Paranormal Activity: 7.1 mil/ (+) / 8.3 mil
6. Surrogates: 4.1 mil / -43% / 32.6 mil
7. The Invention of Lying: 3.4 mil / -52% / 12.3 mil
8. Whip It: 2.8 mil / 40% / 8.8 mil
9. Capitalism: A Love Story: 2.7 mil / -39% / 9.1 mil
10. Fame: 2.6 mil / -45% / 20 mil
Vince and company won the weekend big, but a more interesting story is Paranormal Activity, which was only on 159 screens and had a per theater average of 10 times most of the other titles in the top 10. Couples Retreat opened on 3000.
In theaters. Rated PG, 127 minutes. Trailer.
Lightning rod director Michael Moore has delivered another entertaining and sporadically challenging documentary about his dim view of America's way of life. That he would overstate his case and make laughable accusations was a foregone conclusion, but I like films that make me think and challenge my conservative worldview. In some ways, Capitalism is Moore's most mature work because it presents a more cohesive statement of principles instead of focusing on a smaller issue like he has done before. Click below for more on CAPITALISM:
As someone that is fiscally and socially conservative, my life experience has also taught me to appreciate the 'beauty of grey'. I love Ayn Rand and embrace objectivism - but not 100% - I can enjoy both Atlas Shrugged and Michael Moore (but loathe Keith Olberman and Glenn Beck). That said, if you're liberal, you'll be saying amen most of the time and if you're a conservative you'll be laughing about half the time.
The film starts with a vintage warning that children and the faint of heart should leave the theater, a funny touch. Then more vintage video about how great America used to be and then even more vintage Roman and Jesus videos dubbed to have them saying ridiculous things. These segments work well and set us up for the inevitable video of someone being foreclosed by the big bad bank. Of course they haven't paid their mortgage, but don't worry about that, Moore just wants you to focus on the human drama of someone bein evicted. For me, a person that has performed foreclosures (only on the courthouse steps, not the throwing people out part), this was especially interesting because of Moore's one sided presentation of the matter.
The film then moves into a deconstruction of the Reagan era and deregulation, focusing on the themes of Roger & Me and the spending habits and priorities of Americans. There is a way too long segment on companies that buy life insurance policies on their employees - a little creepy, sure, but not really a big deal. He also mourns the loss of the way of life he had growing up (dad was an assembly line worker, mom didn't work, went to Catholic school and had plenty of money) and rightly pinpoints that the decimation of the German and Japanese economies in World War II laid the groundwork for the domination of the American auto industry in the 50's, 60's and 70's - but he doesn't acknowledge the massive role that globalization has in helping erode the middle class lifestyle in America. The best of this sequence is his conversations with his father at the site of the plant he used to work at.
The last part of the film is the best - he goes to Wall Street trying to get the money back from the bank bailout and make 'citizens arrests'. He also rightly rips any Congressman that voted for the bailout and correctly points the fingers at the Democrats for this legislation. The funniest line of the movie comes from an unknown Wall Street guy - as the 'fat cats' exit the building after work one day, Moore is trying to catch someone to 'give him advice'...the guy says "don't make any more movies" right away - genius. Moore includes a portion of the last of Franklin Roosevelt's State of the Union Address, which lays out a proposed second bill of rights (I have included the poignant if misguided portion of the Roosevelt speech at the bottom of this review). This succinctly states the liberal view of the USA and modern liberalism's goals - to which I say, great, I like seeing someone lay out what they are for (even though I don't agree with it).
All in all, the film is interesting, but only the weak minded or naive would be convinced by most of his arguments. His diatribes against the Wall Street bailout are dead on - if they get to keep the ridiculous profits that come from their work and risk, the American people shouldn't have to underwrite and bail out the investments if they don't work. I also appreciate his underscoring the erosion of a blue collar middle class - a sad occurence, but a reality in today's global economy. Worth seeing.
FDR - January, 1944
"It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens."
Saturday, October 10, 2009
In theaters. Rated PG-13, 107 minutes. Trailer.
No one is more fun to watch than Vince Vaughn. As Doc so eloquently put it, his motormouth is a national treasure - when his acting combines with great writing, it is magic. Trouble is, the Vince written, produced and starring Couples Retreat is too lazy to be good. The film feels like a super-extended version of the 'couples night' scene in The Breakup, and that works a lot of the time, but not enough to save the film. Click below for more COUPLES:
The film tracks 4 couples as they head to a island/marriage therapy destination. The first quarter of the film shows them in their natural element, and this portion of the film works well with Vaughn as the typical dad/husband and Bateman reprising his normal neurotic character. Bateman's marriage to Kristen Bell's character is on the rocks, and they found the island location and can get a great deal if all 4 couples go.
The rest of the film is set in Bora Bora, and shows the couples as they move through the couples skillbuilding (including funny therapy sessions with Ken Jeong and John Michael Higgins) and the ensuing arguments and uncomfortable situations. There are several funny sequences here, but they had been WORN OUT already by the trailers, so a big chunk of them were already stale. The film ends with outlandish plot points and decent resolutions for the 4 couples.
The big weakness of the film was the obviousness of a lot of the jokes like the speedo clad and inappropriate touching yoga instructor. Those scenes were kind of funny, but not really because it was so dumb and uninteresting. Same goes for the scenes with Jean Reno and most of the 'crazy' island folks. It is surprising to me that the writers (Favreau, Vaughn and another guy) couldn't work the fish out of water angle better.
The Vince Vaughn/Malin Akerman couple is the best, most realized couple, and their life and relationship were enjoyable to watch for this parent/husband. There issues are real and their interactions and resolutions works the best. The biggest weakness of the film was the black couple - the guy is funny, but their relationship dynamics aren't interesting and he doesn't fit in - replace him with Paul Rudd or a Wilson brother or even Ron Livingston and this movie probably gets saved.
If you don't love Vaughn, this is a C+. Still a good time at the movies. It will finish #1 - the 9:30pm showing was sold out in Plano, and the Stonebriar 9:50pm showing was nearly sold out.
Friday, October 9, 2009
On DVD, Rated R for language.
Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner met in the 70s in Toronto and dreamed to make it big as rock stars. They had 15 minutes of fame in the early 80s at a concert in Tokyo, but unlike all the other bands that played there (including Whitesnake and Bon Jovi), fame and riches were elusive. Former Anvil roadie turned filmmaker Sacha Gervasi filmed Anvil between 2005-2007 during their last European tour (which feels exactly like This is Spinal Tap). He also spent time with family members and famous rock stars like Slash who are all complimentary of the band. I still don't know if Gervasi is truly still a fan or is exploiting them, but the film is certainly interesting, frustrating and memorable.
I've never liked metal rock even when some people did in the 80s. Anvil's most famous song, "Metal on Metal", is said to be influential on Metallica and others, but I'd never know since it all sounds like the same crap to me. Lips wearing bondage garb and playing a guitar with a dildo isn't unique or smart - it's pathetic, disgusting, and sad. In fact, the whole movie is sad - you feel sorry for these people who clearly and admittedly made bad choices with management and record labels. But they don't obviously have much talent or insight and the only thing they seem to be an expert at is self-delusion. It's shocking nobody mentions Spinal Tap since the comparisons are so obvious (including the drummer's name - you can't make this stuff up). Lips and Reiner even visit the real Stonehenge (but there are no dancing dwarfs like in This is Spinal Tap).There is lots of hilarious stuff in the movie, but the characters don't know it. My favorite line was after Lips's older sister gives him $10 K so he can record an album. His response: "Family's important sh!t, man." My second favorite line was after Lips accuses Reiner of having negative energy. Reiner's retort: "F@ck you! I'm positive!". The film tries to be one of those "triumph of the human spirit" films toward the end and the band should definitely be commended for following their dreams. But Gervasi seems to be implying that if you don't find all of this extraordinarily touching, then you're a jerk with real problem. Maybe I am, but family is not the only thing that's important. Talent, perspective, good parenting, and intelligence is all important sh!t, too (man). Probably a B for metal fans. C+
The unintentional laughs continue right up until the credits when Slash says that the bands that have stayed together the longest are (paraphrasing), "the Rolling Stones, The Who . . . and Anvil." !?!
Larry David on Hannah Montana - very funny.
Website for The Duke Silver Trio. From last night's Parks and Rec (also known as the best show on TV other than 30 Rock). Go to Hulu and watch the Beauty Pageant episode from last week. Greatness.
On DVD and Blu-ray. PG-13
Rian Johnson's Brick is easily one of the best "first" films of the decade. His writing is undeniably clear and clever and his direction almost matches it. With his second film, he gets bigger stars and a much bigger budget. But he also tries too hard with the cleverness, making the film unnecessarily complicated which limits the overall effect. Bloom and Stephen grew up orphans with many foster homes. They discovered how to con at a young age and when they become adults, the older Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and his cons become more elaborate and Bloom (Adrien Brody) wants to retire.
They have been joined by Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), who only speaks 3 English words and is an explosives expert. Stephen finds their final mark, the ridiculously wealthy Penelope (Rachel Weisz) who will have quite an effect on Bloom. Brody is more relaxed and likable than he has been in a long time and Ruffalo gives his usual perfect naturalistic performance. Kikuchi has a near-mime role and her reactions to situations are frequently humorous. Weisz is fine as the distracted, eager shut-in, but she's much better at playing smart characters in control (The Constant Gardner). For some, the real stars of the film will be the 1940s costumes and the European locations. Johnson has a terrific eye for color and framing and a great ear for dialogue, but he also has a considerable knowledge of film history - recent or classic.His use of Ricky Jay in the opening narration not only is appropriate for the con-man genre, but gives the other-worldy feel of Magnolia. Johnson also uses animated writing for the transitions that is straight out of Wes Anderson's playbook. His choice of music (both source and score) is perfect (my favorite being an opening credits use of The Faces' I'm Losing You). The cinematography is gorgeous and the visual effects (including many sunsets and sunrises) add to the overall rich feeling. It may be the most beautiful film of the year to look at, obviously more than Brick, which was intentionally drab and rainy. The Brothers Bloom is enjoyable throughout, but opts for a heavy ending which it doesn't really earn given the breezy atmosphere that precedes it. B+
Of interest, Johnson took the 3 main character's names from James Joyce's Ulysses.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Vince Vaughn's motor mouth is a national treasure, best seen in Swingers, Wedding Crashers, and Old School. Unlike those 3 movies, Couples Retreat has been defanged with a PG-13 rating which doesn't have to be bad, but probably is. 4 couples go to paradise on earth to improve their relationships. The trailer wasn't so bad but the reviews are not so good. Kristen Bell, Jon Favreau, and the ubiquitous Jason Bateman co-star.
Carey Mulligan is set to attend Oxford until she meets an older man (Peter Sarsgaard) which threatens her bright future. It's one of the better reviewed films of the year and some say the 24 year old Mulligan might actually take home the Best Actress Oscar. Trailer is here. Limited release.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Bride is complaining because I am watching Oasis perform Supersonic on a show called MTV Live for literally the 10th time, airing on the great Palladia HD channel (711 on Verizon Fios). This channel always has great music, it should be in your rotation. The Oasis concert from last year airs tomorrow, October 13, 22, and 24 (schedule here). It is 60 minutes and it is worth your time, if only to hear Noel's solo at the end of Supersonic.Continue reading this post
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Reunion
Season 7, Episode 3
Larry's ex-wife Cheryl has started acting again and to win her back, he agrees to arrange a Seinfeld reunion where she will star as George's ex-wife. The major Seinfeld players all showed up, but this was a Curb episode all the way with LD's misanthropy affecting everyone around him. The one-on-one scenes with the 4 Seinfeld cast members were terrific, especially Jason Alexander who seems none too pleased with the Seinfeld finale. Nor does he seem to realize that George Costanza was based on Larry David all along. Jerry threw all kinds of great improvised things at Larry and Michael Richards was beautifully aloof. The "waiter tipping" thing went on a bit long but the obsession with minutiae is one of the cornerstones of both Curb and Seinfeld. A-
By the way, LD was right, it's spelled "champing", but pronounced "chomping".
Favorite line: "I'm going to hate myself more than normally."
Entourage: Give a Little Bit
Season 6, Episode 12
Almost everyone gets what they want. Drama is offered his own TV series. Eric and Sloan get engaged. And Ari gets to buy his old boss's agency and fire lots of people. The best scene was easily Ari shooting newly fired people with a paint ball gun (including the guy who represents John and Kate + 8 - who totally deserved it). It's the kind of inspired craziness that much of the season was missing. The season was entertaining but toothless and played it way too safe to be very memorable. Matt Damon had a decent guest star appearance in this episode, playing against his nice-guy persona to shake Vince down for a big check to help a kids charity. A post-credits scene with Damon yelling at Vince (calling him a c-sucker, then crying) was followed by a black-screen dedication to a recently deceased relative of show creator Doug Ellin ("In loving memory"). The whiplash change in sentiment was unintentionally hilarious.
Paintball scene: A
Anvil: The Story of Anvil
Imagine That - #
My Life in Ruins - #
The Thaw - #
Trick 'r Treat - #
Year One - #
Ally McBeal - Complete Series
Bones: 4th Season - #
National Parks - America's Best Idea - #,*
Mary Tyler Moore Show - 5th Season
Medium - 5th Season
Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases
Charlie Brown Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Miracle on 34th Street
The Number 23
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - *
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
# - Also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved
Monday, October 5, 2009
In Winstom-Salem, William, a depressed man (Red West) hires Solo, a taxi driver (Souleymane Sy Savane), to take him to the movies regularly. He has even bigger plans on a specific date later in the month when he will pay one thousand dollars for transportation - no questions asked. Solo is OK with the money, but eventually begins to care about William and intervene in his life. Meanwhile, Solo is struggling to keep his pregnant wife happy. What starts as a low-budget, adequately acted and written film about unlikely friends eventually finds greatness in the last few scenes . . .
Ramin Bahrani is of Iranian descent, but was born in North Carolina. He's been hailed as the next great American director by no less than Roger Ebert, so needless to say, expectations were fairly high. I'm not sure he's much different than any other new talent out there - certainly not the sudden impact of a Tarantino or the Andersons (with Reservoir Dogs, Bottle Rocket, and Hard Eight). But there's a subtle beauty to this simple story, honestly told. It feels like a European or Middle Eastern art film, more dependent on the stuff under the surface and held back than an American one filled with characters that talk a lot but don't say anything. Here, characters communicate with their eyes better than their words.If you're patient and get through the meandering early parts, the ending will sneak up on you. It will probably have a bigger impact if you've never been on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway or to Blowing Rock. The claustrophobic taxi cabs and crappy apartments that fill most of the film give way to one of the most beautiful locations in America. The outdoor beauty perfectly symbolizes William's catharsis and Solo's acceptance and peace. Bahrani definitely captures what it feels like in the Blue Ridge mountains both in the visuals and sound design (wind). The last shot of the film is the most memorable segment of the highway. While the actors eventually drew me in, I can't really say I wan to sit through the first 75 minutes again. I will be checking out the last 15 when it hits cable. B
Sunday, October 4, 2009
[Guest Review - Dentist] Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
Oct. 3, 2009
For all the talk of constantly re-inventing themselves, it’s not so much that U2 have accomplished that on their latest world tour, billed the 360◦ Tour, as much as they’ve created a quasi-Popmart v 2.0 setup. Take out the self-aggrandizing, over-the-top irony of Popmart, throw in a little more intimacy via a “circle in the round” type stage and you get the picture. U2’s most recent stop was in Raleigh, a city that the band surprisingly had never played, due to a last minute cancellation of a scheduled show on 5/29/97 on the PopMart tour because of a malfunction of the LED screen. Having seen the band a total of nine times over the last 12 years and four different tours, I can tell you that it was worth the wait. Click below for more:
I had a field ticket for this show, which meant I took the beating of a 5 + hour wait to secure my spot, but it also meant that I had a prime view of the stage, the “claw” and Bono and his mates. First off, the claw is better than advertised—a true visual beauty in enormity and simplicity, it is one of the coolest things you’ll ever see at a rock show. U2 entered the stage to David Bowie’s Space Oddity, an appropriate backdrop to the “spaceship-like” stage, and immediately launched into a blistering version of Breathe, a song that, like many, really takes shape in the live setting. Right from the start it was apparent that the band was really feeling it, Bono engaging the crowd of 60,000 with almost a child-like hysteria and excitement. It was one of those special nights where the stars seem to align and all is right with the world, if only for a couple of hours.
The new material REALLY sounds good live, in particular the title track and Magnificent. In a Little While was soundchecked earlier in the afternoon and made a welcomed appearance for only the second time on the tour. One of the coolest things of the night happened during Sunday Bloody Sunday when Bono grabbed a sign a fan was holding that said: “People Get Ready—C Am F”. Bono didn’t give him a guitar cameo, but rather tossed his mic to the fan to sing a verse of the song—very cool. My biggest surprise moment of the night was hearing the unbelievably good remix version of I’ll Go Crazy….Highlights also include: The Unforgettable Fire, Streets (always good) and Ultraviolet, my favorite from the evening (for the record, I would pay good money to hear U2 play Achtung Baby from start to finish). I’m still unsure about ending the show with Moment of Surrender, but it works okay I guess—would much rather have Bad or 40.
I feel like the older I get, I’m as much of a U2 apologist as I am enthusiast and at times, the band does little to help with my defense of them. However, in the live setting I will put U2 up against anybody else out there. Period. They still are able to connect with their fans in a way that is unrivaled. Do what you can to see them on this tour and experience what I’m talking about. You will not be disappointed and you’ll have a new benchmark to measure every show henceforth. Why did I ever doubt them?
FWIW: Those of you who will see Muse open the show are in for a real treat. Why are these guys not headlining somewhere?