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INCOMING: The Marshall Plan

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story originally published in the pages of the Philadelphia Weekly back in May of 2002 on the eve of a celebration of Sun Ra Arkestra director Marshall Allen’s 79th birthday at the sadly-now-defunct Tritone nightclub. We are re-posting it here today in advance of the Arkestra’s performance at Union Transfer on Thursday June 13th in celebration of bandleader Marshall Allen’s 95th birthday, presented by Ars Nova Workshop.

meavatar2BY JONATHAN VALANIA When the 15-piece Sun Ra Arkestra takes to the bandstand at [Union Transfer on Thursday] they will be playing in honor of bandleader Marshall Allen’s birth [95] years ago. Actually, “birth” isn’t the right word. “My arrival day,” says Allen, correcting his interviewer, as he sits in his third-floor workroom at the Arkestra’s house on Morton Street. Being born is far too mundane an explanation for the origin of the man who is carrying on the tradition of Sun Ra, the avant-jazz group’s deceased leader, who in 1993 returned to the planet Saturn from whence, he insisted to the very end, he came.

One of the most colorful characters in the history of jazz, Sun Ra couched his compositions in arcane spiritual beliefs that combined Egyptology, numerology, Afrocentric myth, the Book of Revelations and interstellar travel to create a personal religion. Arkestra members were not just musicians; they were disciples committed to a monastic regimen of musical and philosophical study. After Ra left Earth, saxophonist John Gilmore took over leadership of the Arkestra, and when he died in 1995, the baton was passed to Allen. A noted alto saxophonist, Allen joined the Arkestra in 1958 after returning from studying at the National Conservatory in Paris.

In typical Sun Ra fashion, Allen’s audition was less than conventional. “[Ra] had me come down to the Marshall_Allenpractice room every day for three days and all he did was talk, talk, talk,” says Allen [pictured, right]. “He talked about outer space and going to the moon and Egypt and the Bible. It was like going to school. And then he finally tells me to come around to practice; I was in the band. I never even played my horn.” In 1968 Sun Ra brought the Arkestra to Philadelphia after residencies in New York and Chicago. “To save the planet, I had to go to the worst spot on Earth,” he once told an interviewer, “and that was Philadelphia, which was death’s headquarters.”

Allen’s explanation of the Arkestra’s migration to the City of Brotherly Love is a tad less dramatic. “My father owned this house and he wanted to give it to me, so I told him to give it to Sonny,” says Allen, referring to Ra, born Herman “Sonny” Blount. The house on Morton Street became a communal work and living space, where the Arkestra would practice every day and night of the week. It was an ascetic lifestyle. To join the Arkestra was more or less taking a vow of poverty. Booze and drugs were forbidden, as was the presence of women at rehearsals, with the exception of singers and dancers. “We lived it here,” says Allen. “‘I’m paying you to rehearse, not to gig,’ [Sun Ra] used to say. He would tell us that we were playing tomorrow’s music today.”

Indeed, the Arkestra was building an international reputation for mind-blowing musical spectacles that combined astral big-band swing with hard-bop dissonance, often veering into the outer limits of free jazz exploration. Prefiguring the psychedelic “happenings” of the ’60s by a decade, Arkestra performances featured cosmic costumes, interpretive female dancers, poetry readings, film projections and mind-altering light shows. Local jazzniks and hippie types got a taste of this during a series of trippy performances at the long-gone venue Gino’s Empty Foxhole, located in the basement of a church on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

“I first heard about Sun Ra when he was on the cover of Rolling Stone some time around 1969,” says John Diliberto, host of the nationally syndicated ambient music radio show Echoes, who at the time Sun-Ra-Space-Probewas a DJ on the then free-form WXPN and later assembled a radio documentary about Sun Ra. “So I went down and checked out those shows. There was a lot of tie-dyed shirts in the audience. I remember thinking, ‘Marshall is a brilliant player.’ He would attack his saxophone like his fingers were pneumatic hammers.'”

“They had a light show to rival anything in San Francisco during the Summer of Love,” recalls Jerry Gordon, former co-owner of Third Street Jazz and Rock who now runs the Evidence record label, which has reissued a sizable chunk of the Sun Ra Arkestra’s some 500-title discography. “I remember one night they used what looked like strobe lights and industrial-strength fans that blew the bandmembers’ robes to create the illusion that they were flying through space. And then Sun Ra put this black scarf over his head and it looked like he stuck his head into a black hole.”

While Allen has done an admirable job of keeping the Arkestra an active and vital performance group–they just got back from a three-week tour of Europe–money is, as ever, in short supply. The Arkestra receives no royalties from Sun Ra’s back catalog–that money is split between Evidence and Ra’s estate.”Only time we make any money is when [Evidence] sends us five or six boxes of records to sell at shows,” says Allen. “I have written four albums worth of new music, but we just don’t have the bread to go into the studio.” The deed to the Arkestra house is held by Ra’s surviving family, who allows the band to continue to live and rehearse there in addition to granting them the right to perform under the Sun Ra Arkestra name. Most of the key players from the Arkestra’s golden age have passed on, but Allen is adamant that the group will continue after him. “It just carries on,” he says.

THE SUN RA ORCHESTRA + SOUNDS OF LIBERATION @ UNION TRANSFER 6/13

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LAURA JANE GRACE: The Hotel Song

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

From Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers‘ 2018 debut Bought To Rot (Bloodshot).

RELATED: ABOUT A GIRL: My Q&A W/ Laura Jane Grace

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WORTH REPEATING: That Way Lies Fascism

Monday, June 10th, 2019

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TALKING POINTS MEMO: The ideas this group is pushing basically go back to what is often called “Catholic integralism”. (Most of the players are Catholic, though Hawley comes from the Protestant side of this traditionalist grouping.) This is a form of anti-pluralist Catholic political ideology most associated with quasi-fascist governments in Spain and Portugal and political movements in France (Vichy being the example in power) and other European countries. The basic thrust is a political vision that prioritizes hierarchical social cohesion and has the government takes a leading role enforcing traditionalist cultural and social values and keeping conservative Christianity as the taproot of the state. Church and state are both on the same team and working, collaboratively, toward the same end. The pluralist vision of the state most of us are familiar with, in which it is a semi-neutral arbiter between lots of different visions of how people should live their lives, is anathema.

How this would all play out in an American context which is based on significantly different ideas about government is anyone’s guess. But the more immediate impetus and focus of these writers is a bit different. As others have noted, the idea is that the culture war and the related battle for an ethno-nationalist identity are simply too important, immediate and dire to have any time to worry about things like the rule of law or even democracy. Read through these different pieces and you’ll also get a strong feel for the priority of fighting, that these folks are driven by a desire to fight their liberal enemies on all fronts at all times and that this is the core of political action. This is heady and scary stuff. But reading through it you can see how Trump fits into the contemporary right.  MORE

RELATED: Is Donald Trump A Fascist?

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DEFENDER OF THE FAITH: The Gospel Of Rock N’ Roll According To The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn

Friday, June 7th, 2019

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Artwork by CRAIG HORKY

mecroppedsharp_1BY JONATHAN VALANIA When Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn was growing up in suburban Minneapolis in the shag-carpeted ’70s, there was nothing musical about the family Finn, nothing at all. Nobody played an instrument. Nobody played records on the stereo. They did not even sing show tunes on long car rides. But when he was eight years old Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham choked to death on his own vomit, and that’s when he discovered the all-consuming, spell-casting, mood-altering, prayer-answering, life-taking power of rock n’ roll.

Up until this point he’d thought of rock n’ roll as nothing more than the interstitial music between the zany capers and wacky hijinks on The Monkees and The Krofft Superstar Hour. But judging by the trail of tears running down the apple-hued cheeks of his babysitter — a pretty neighborhood teen he had a secret crush on — this was an Important Cultural Moment, right up there with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination. His babysitter made him listen to Led Zeppelin A-Z that day and there would be no turning back. One day, he vowed with God as his witness, he would make pretty girls cry when he died. This remains a work in progress.

_________

It’s 3 PM on a yet another colder-than-a-witch’s-tit January afternoon in the Greenpoint neighborhood in Brooklyn, in the Year Of Our Lord 2014 craig-finn-A.D. The Hold Steady frontman is nursing a seltzer and lime at a back table at Lake Street bar, an old man dive short on old men and long on beardo Brooklandians getting a head start on tonight. Finn asked to meet here because he knows the owner — Hold Steady drummer Bobby Drake, who is presently re-stocking the bar in preparation for the coming happy hour onslaught — and, as the song goes, the drinks are cheap and they leave you alone.

He’s a little bummed at the moment. His friend Oscar Isaac didn’t even get nominated for his indelible portrayal of thwarted folk singer Llewyn Davis in the latest Coen Brothers film. “I think he got screwed,” says Finn emphatically. “He was mind blowing.”

The first thing you notice about Craig Finn when you get up close and personal is the kind, clear eyes hidden behind his trademark Clark Kent spectacles. Soft-spoken and courteous, dressed in a blue v-neck sweater over a crisp white oxford, his hairline making a slow northward retreat, Craig Finn looks more like the guy who would do your taxes than the fierce, suds-fueled, battle-hardened, 21st century defender of the rock n’ roll faith of his press clips. He knows this, of course. He gets it all the time. And he made his peace with it a long time ago. But that doesn’t mean that, deep down, it doesn’t still sting a little. Matador records honcho Gerard Cosloy famously dismissed The Hold Steady as “later-period Soul Asylum fronted by Charles Nelson Reilly.”

“I remember when that came out I was like ‘If I read that, I’d probably want to go see that band’,” he says when I ask him if he cares to respond. “Honestly, though, I was also disappointed because it wasn’t meant to be complementary and the dude’s label has put out some of my favorite bands. But you’ve got to let some of this roll.”

Finn is too nice of a guy to return fire so I’ll do it for him. Craig Finn — who, come to think of it, doesn’t really look all that different than Gerard Cosloy — has something that the Cos, for all his vast reserves of hipness and uncanny knack for recognizing what comes next before everyone else, will never have: the gift of the common touch. Like the Boss, from whom he is clearly descended, Finn’s never pulled a shift on the line, he doesn’t play beer league softball with the boys on Saturday afternoons, his hands are soft and he votes straight Democrat, hell he read Infinite Jest. Twice. But, like The Boss, he has an unshakeable belief in the transcendental power of a shit-hot bar band to set the working man free on a Friday night, if only until last call, and is more than willing, night after night, to shed the requisite blood, sweat and beers it takes to git ‘er done.

So word to Mr. Cosloy: Next time they ask you about Charlemagne, be polite and say something vague.
(more…)

GEEK SQUAD: The New X-Men Movie Reviewed

Friday, June 7th, 2019

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the-geek-300x300BY RICHARD SUPLEE GEEK SPACE CORRESPONDENT Dark Phoenix could be the last X-Men movie, in which case the franchise ends not with a bang but a whimper. The plot is a bit of a hot mess.  Right away the X-Men jump into space to rescue some stranded astronauts and Jean Grey (Game of Throne’s Sophie Turner) is bombarded with a mysterious red energy known as the Phoenix Force that supercharges her powers. Predictably, she is also tempted to the dark side by the power. The rest of the film is just the X-Men trying to either save or kill Jean Grey after she accidentally murdered the X-Men leader Mystique (Jennifer Lawerence) and a few cops. And then some aliens (led by Jessica Chastain’s character Vuk) who have been tracking the Phoenix Force show up for a smackdown from the X-Men. And yes, it’s just as confusing onscreen as it is on paper.

Ultimately the film feels like a rush job. I can’t help but wonder if director Simon Kinberg tried to finish the film before Disney bought Fox Entertainment (which had licensed the X-Men characters from Marvel back before Marvel started making movies) and opted to reboot the franchise with new actors. It will be a shame if Disney recasts these actors the same way they recasted Spider-Man when he was added into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each X-Man actor feels perfect for their role. And fans have been begging to see these characters on the big screen since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the mutant team in 1963.

In fact, the acting is the strongest aspect of the film. Whenever Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Mystique, Jean Grey or any of the other X-Men are on screen delivering lines the movie comes alive. But the superb acting plays second fiddle to a subpar plot that just compounds the inevitable confusion of movie fans that may be unfamiliar with the comics.  Dark Phoenix is not a bad movie per se, it’s just an underwhelming one. The breathless plot drags the audience from one special effects crammed fight scene to the next but the film doesn’t make you give a damn about the characters or the fight. It is hard to understand what the heroes and villains are fighting for.

DARK PHOENIX NOW PLAYING IN AREA THEATERS

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REVIEW: Black Mirror Season 5

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

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FRESH AIR: When CBS All Access unveiled its new version of The Twilight Zone earlier this year, the general consensus was that the initial episodes in the new series had fallen short of Rod Serling’s original version. Not only were they unworthy of The Twilight Zone of old, but they also weren’t nearly as good, or as smart, as a show that had begun in England in 2011, Black Mirror.

Watching Black Mirror‘s three brand-new installments on Netflix makes it clear that the series, in our current TV universe, claims and holds the fantasy anthology series crown. Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones head the team behind this show, which uses the technology of today — and the possible technology of tomorrow — to frame, inform or drive its stories.

Brooker wrote all three of these new episodes, and their scope is as wide as their impact is deep. One story is about a pop star whose personality is marketed in an Alexa-style computer figurine. Another is about a driver for an Uber-type company who blames a social media company for his personal tragedy. And a third — the most haunting and daring of the three — is about two buddies who try out a new, virtual reality version of a favorite hand-to-hand combat video game they played some 10 years earlier. MORE

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CINEMA: God Of Thunder

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

ROLLING STONE: “Setting out across a 1975 America exhausted politically, economically and socially, a busload of musicians—assembled by Bob Dylan—hits the road in search of new creative horizons. The resulting tour, the Rolling Thunder Revue, would reveal a Dylan rarely seen: playful, mask-wearing, intense, expansive, rejuvenated,” Netflix said of the film. “Masterfully capturing both an icon and a nation in transition, director Martin Scorsese tells the tale using footage that was abandoned for decades, now gorgeously restored, taking viewers into the heart of a freewheeling, electrifying musical gamble. Inspired by Dylan’s own restless spirit, Scorsese performs some breathtaking sleight of hand, summoning nostalgic fantasists, boxers, magicians, starlets and testifiers of all stripes, and exploding the boundaries of what makes a conventional documentary.” Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story also features some of the tour’s participants, including Joan Baez, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Sam Shepard and Allen Ginsberg. MORE

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Win Tix 2 Freakonomics Radio Live @ Kimmel Ctr

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

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Photo by AUDREY BERNSTEIN

Freakonomics Radio, one of the ten most popular podcasts in the country, is hosting a live show at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia on June 6th and we have a pair of tickets to give away to some lucky Phawker reader. What’s that you say? “What is this *makes sarcastic air quotes* freakin’ nomix thing you speak of?” Oh brother, where art thou?!? Time to get your freak on. Here’s a brief history of time as it applies to Freakonomics from their web site:

It began when New York journalist and author Stephen J. Dubner [pictured] went to Chicago to write about award-winning economist Steven D. Levitt for The New York Times Magazine. Dubner had been reluctant to take the assignment (he was in the middle of writing a book about the psychology of money). Levitt was reluctant to be shadowed by a journalist (but his mother loved the Times Magazine, so he gave in). The article came out, and led to an unexpected partnership. Levitt and Dubner wrote Freakonomics, a book about cheating teachers, bizarre baby names, self-dealing Realtors, and crack-selling mama’s boys. They figured it would sell about 80 copies. Instead, it took up long-term residency on the Times best-seller list, and went on to sell more than 5 million copies in 40 languages. Then they wrote SuperFreakonomics. It too became a worldwide best-seller. Together, the books have sold 7 million copies worldwide. A lot of other stuff happened, too. A blog. A documentary film. Jon Stewart and Beauty and the Geek! Lectures. A pair of pants. A radio show. Not bad for a partnership born of such profound reluctance.

OK, now that we’re all up to speed, let’s get you into a pair of tickets to see the show. To qualify to win them, you must be signed up for our mailing list (see right, below the masthead), trust us you want to do this. You get first dibs on concert ticket giveaways, breaking news alerts and other assorted be-the-first-on-your-block type shit. After you sign up, send us an email at PHAWKER66@GMAIL.COM saying as much (or that you were already signed up) along with the correct answer to the following Freakonomics trivia question: Before he became a famous author/journalist, Freakonomics Radio host Stephen J. Dubner was an indie rocker, what was the name of the band [pictured below] he played in during the mid-80’s? Hint: they were signed to Arista for a hot minute and the drummer was local-paperboy-made-good Jon Wurster of Superchunk/Mountain Goats/Bob Mould/Psychotic Norman fame. Put the magic words SUPERFREAK in the subject line. Please include your full name as it appears on your photo ID along with a mobile number for confirmation. (This information will not be retained, sold or shared.) Good luck and godspeed!

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FREAKONOMICS LIVE @ THE KIMMEL CENTER THURSDAY JUNE 6TH

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CINEMA: The Bitch Is Back

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

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ROCKET MAN (Directed by Dexter Fletcher, 121 minutes, USA, 2019)

meAVATAR2BY JONATHAN VALANIA Captain Fantastic — aka Sir Elton Hercules John, aka Reginald “Reggie” Kenneth Dwight, aka the co-architect of so many of the golden age of FM megahits that scored the bleary, barbituated Satyricon of the early-mid ‘70s (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Your Song,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Bennie And The Jets,” “Last Night Somebody Saved My Life” and the titular “Rocket Man” to name but a few) was not always so fantastic. Born bespectacled, effete and fragile, with a thick thatch of hair stamped with a 20-year expiration date, not to mention a titanic boatload of innate musical talent, to shit parents (war-damaged, hopelessly mismatched, and utterly incapable of giving or receiving love), Sir Elton came of age as a gay man at a time when homosexuality was still a criminal offense in England, so it is no wonder he had so much to unpack in rehab once the drugs stopped working.

All of which is both the madness and the method of Rocket Man, the just-out Elton John biopic directed by Dexter Fletcher, who was called in to finish Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer was fired for being difficult and creepy, or vice versa. Both films follow the same narrative arc — meteoric rise, drug-fueled race to the bottom and triumphant-but-slight return to glory — with the primary difference being that all the same-sex, drug-taking and debauchery that was scrubbed from Freddie Mercury’s biopic is unflinchingly displayed in Elton John’s. Rocket Man is told in impressionistic recall by fortysomething Elton during group therapy, where he arrives at the film’s onset in a halo of blinding white light dressed as the devil himself, having finally hit bottom and gone AWOL from a sold out show at Madison Square Gardens.

Sir Elton is played by Taron Egerton, a British actor with near-zero stateside name recognition, but given how thoroughly he crushes it that will soon change. Although he looks like what would come out of the the other side if George Costanza and Chris Pratt jumped into a teleporter together, and doesn’t really sound like Elton John even when he’s singing the shit out of his song book, Egerton channels the man in all his glittery tragicomic flamboyance and gets to a higher truth about Captain Fantastic that transcends the overrated virtues of twin-like resemblance and note-perfect mimicry. It’s a stellar performance every bit as Oscar-worthy as Rami Malek’s Freddie. Still, the great love story at the center of the film is the chaste but no less procreative lifelong songwriting partnership of Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell, who looks like Big Star-era Alex Chilton for much of the film). Bernie wrote the poetry and Elton set it into motion on a gorgeous bed of heartbreaking piano chords and bittersweet voicings.

In his recollections of the early days, we see tender-aged, pre-name change Reggie (played ably by Matthew Illesley as boy Reggie and later by Kit Connor as teen Reggie) sight-reading Mozart by flashlight under the covers after lights out and conducting an imaginary orchestra from his bed, winning a scholarship from the Royal Academy of Music on the strength of his preternatural piano chops, hammering out pompadour’d ‘50s rock in smoky pubs and backing up visiting American soul stirrers. Bluffing his way through an audition with Liberty Records, he lands a record deal that by random luck pairs him with the equally unknown and untested Taupin. But soon enough the hits start coming as Reggie changes his name to Elton John, finds his footing as a performer and comes to grips, privately at least, with his sexuality.

Once he becomes famous — and the film switches to a montage of massive arena concerts overlaid with swirling newspaper headlines that inform us, among other things, that at the height of his fame 4% of all the albums sold worldwide are Elton John albums —  Elton proceeds to drink, smoke, snort and fuck anything and everything that moves. Famous on the outside but crying on the inside, the Elton train eventually jumps the tracks after a long, slow druggy decline, bringing the film full circle as the resulting human wreckage rolls to a stop on the doorstep of an undisclosed rehab literally wearing devil horns. In short order, Elton gets sober, reclaims his career and lives more or less happily ever after.

Screenwriter Lee Hall (Billy Elliot, War Horse) assembles Elton’s life not as a straight line but a zig-zagging mosaic of thrilling vignettes, ripe for all those big surrealistic choreographed production numbers where characters suddenly break into song and somehow, against all odds, it works. Big time. In fact, Rocket Man is at its best when it goes big — and it always goes big. More rock opera than PBS Frontline, the movie plays fast and loose with history’s timestamp in the pursuit of more satisfying storytelling, which is the beauty of the much-maligned biopic genre given that absolutely everyone’s life is a sad, slow walk from greatness to enfeeblement. Boring! The power and the glory of Rocket Man — which is to say the fun of it all — stems from the fact that it isn’t Ken Burns or Errol Morris telling you Sir Elton’s life, it’s Andrew Lloyd Webber.

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BON IVER: Hey, Ma

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

JUST ANNOUNCED: Bon Iver @ Wells Fargo Center on October 10th with Feist. Tickets go on sale HERE Friday June 7th @ noon.

PREVIOUSLY: The live band is a tight five piece — two drummers, two guitarists (counting Vernon) and a bassist — capable of rendering the densely idiosyncratic sonics of the last two albums with razor-sharp precision and note-perfect fidelity complimented by a magnificently choreographed light show and the Met’s perfect sound forever. They look less like a band than starship technicians manning their work stations within the elaborate H.R. Giger-esque Rube Goldberg contraption that is the stage set. Vernon, rocking a head band and big, blocky old school earphones, is still in full possession of the most heartbreakingly beautiful falsetto to emanate from a hairy guy in blue jeans and flannel since Neil Young woke up in a burned-out building with a full moon in his eyes. That is, when he’s not atomizing his dulcet tone into bewildering fractals of sound with a Auto-Tune and sundry alchemical sonic gadgetry. MORE

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CLIMATE SCIENCE DENIAL: A Measured Response

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Brilliant.

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CINEMA: Destroy All Monsters!

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

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GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (dir. by Michael Dougherty, 131 min.)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC It’s been five years since Godzilla reboot decimated the multiplexes. That film was an artier take on the monster film, directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Rogue One), that seemed to focus more on the human story than the giant lizard namesake that has spawned 30+ films. Since then there has been a refocus of the series, thanks of course to Marvel, to franchise up these monster films. This re-think was introduced in the follow up Kong: Skull Island, which setup not only one of cinema’s most beloved monsters, but also a mythology that hinted at Legendary, who produced these films, would be bringing Toho’s entire rogues gallery of monsters to this new cinematic universe. This was very exciting news to long-suffering Godzilla fans who have waited patiently to see these monsters unleashed onto a new generation.

Cribbing a page or two from Avengers: Infinity War, Godzilla: KOTM takes place five years after the events of the first film. The once shadowy Monarch organization has come to prominence as humanity’s monster liaison with the revelation that 17 of these apex predators known as Titans are hibernating around the planet. Or they were, until they were awakened by a sonar device called “the Orca” wielded by a group of eco-terrorists lead by Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance AKA Tywin Lannister from GOT) who want to rebalance the world by allowing the Titans to cleanse it. The film begins with Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), the Monarch scientist who developed the Orca — which can control the Titans through bioacoustics — getting kidnapped along with her daughter Madison(Millie Bobby Brown). Its then up to her estranged husband and former Monarch scientist Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) to navigate Kaiju battles around the world while bringing his fractured family back together. Blessedly, the first Titan the terrorists bring back is Godzilla’s infamous nemesis King Ghidorah, the three headed dragon also known as Monster Zero.

Godzilla: KOTM wisely ditches the arthouse pretense of the first reboot and delivers a rock’em sock’em old school Kaiju beat’em up. Unlike his predecessor, director Michael Dougherty (Krampus, Trick ‘r Treat) isn’t stingy with the goods either. Just minutes into the film, Godzilla is on screen in all his glory doing just what he does best, laying waste to anything that gets in his way. We soon learn that mankind once worshipped the Titans as gods, and some are benevolent (Godzilla, Mothra) and some are in league with lucifer himself (King Ghidorah). The film culminates in the brutal and breathtaking spectacle of team Godzilla taking on team Ghidorah.

Sure it’s campy and a bit goofy but it’s the right direction for these films and the right audience to target since Godzilla belongs to the monster kids, both young and old. There were moments watching Godzilla: KOTM when I was once again a bedazzled 10 year-old kid watching Godzilla fight King Ghidorah for the very first time, cheering on the good guys, hoping Godzilla triumphs again. It says a lot that a film can still inspire that kind of awestruck reaction from a 40 something film geek who sometimes thinks he has seen it all, but this movie managed to do just that, time after time. Loud, over the top and utterly unrelenting, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the WrestleMania of kaiju films and makes no apologies for it.

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Win Tix To See The National + Courtney Barnett

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

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Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER

If Joy Division had a horn section and beards and grew up in Cincinnati in the ’80s instead of Manchester in the ’70s, they would have been called The National and Ian Curtis would still be dead. Speaking of which, we have a pair of tix to see The National perform on June 11th at the Mann Center with very special guest Courtney Barnett! To qualify to win them, you must be signed up for our mailing list (see right, below the masthead), trust us you want to do this. You get first dibs on concert ticket giveaways, breaking news alerts and other assorted be-the-first-on-your-block type shit. After you sign up, send us an email at PHAWKER66@GMAIL.COM saying as much (or that you were already signed up) along with the correct answer to the following National trivia question: What is the name of the band that many of The National guys were in before The National? Hint: they released just ONE album called Ruther 3429. Please include your full name as it appears on your photo ID along with a mobile number for confirmation. Good luck and godspeed!

THE NATIONAL + COURTNEY BARNETT @ THE MANN CENTER TUE. JUNE 11TH

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