Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Constellations -- It's not Xmas, but here's a present anyways

Happy Halloween. It would seem logical to do a Halloween post today, but I already did a Halloween Mixtape for the Faint of Heart a few days ago. Chalk this anti-climaxicism (it's a word, but don't look it up) to mixture of lack of forethought and poor time management.

Fortunately, I've been waiting for the right time to write about The Constellations. Spoiler alert: that time is now.

The Constellations have been described as Southern Psychedelic Soul-Rock -- which is accurate, but it might not be too helpful until after you've heard them. Now, sometimes when I'm describing a band's musical style, I like to fall back on the ol' adage that "this band is really hard to categorize." Occasionally this is due to the fact that I truly can't articulate their sound, but often it also has to do with the fact that it's 1 AM on a Tuesday and I'm tired. Let me just say this: The Constellations' sound really is hard to classify. Even itunes agrees-- automatically inserting "unclassifiable" in their genre section. True story. Simply put, they probably don't sound like anything else you've ever heard.

According to their website, the band was formed when front-man, Elijah Jones, teamed up with Grammy-winning producer Ben H. Allen (Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley) to create their debut album, Southern Gothic. Now the band is running full steam with eight members, including a "clap squad." Tonight they are also wrapping up a month-long nationwide tour, in promotion of their album. If you haven't heard them on the radio or seen their album in stores yet, let's hope that you will soon. The band just signed a 4-record deal with Virgin Records.

Check out these tunes. They will be a great addition to your Halloween party mix tonight... and to your music library in general. If they ever come to your area, you need to check them out. They put on the sickest live show-- which my friends and I can't ever resist.

The Constellations - A Perfect Day
The Constellations - Felicia

Buy the album here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Roland Emmerich's Next Special Effects Bonanza

Director and disaster movie specialist Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 B.C.) is back. His newest project, 2012, comes out on November 13 and promises to offer us more of the same. The film will basically be about the end of the world, and the title refers to the Mayan belief that doomsday (and the end of their calendar) is December 21, 2012. One of this blogger's all-time favorite actors, John Cusack, will star. Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards, Saving Silverman, The Ex) will play his wife. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Love Actually, American Gangster, Children of Men) will play the scientific advisor to the President. Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, and Thandie Newton (Mission Impossible II, Crash, The Chronicles of Riddick) also star.

Viewers can expect some pretty bad dialogue, and pretty poor character development. But, in Emmerich's defense, those aren't the reasons that you go to an Emmerich film. He's not trying to win an Oscar. He's trying to entertain you. And we can bet that we'll get some pretty high class special effects of the world falling apart (and Cusack and company narrowly escaping doom). It should be some mindless fun for the whole family. Just don't expect anything Oscar worthy.

Here's the preview:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Law Abiding Citizen (Or Nonsensical Maniac)

Law Abiding Citizen is a pretty disappointing movie. It actually had the potential for the first 15 minutes or so to be a good, but it eventually unravels into a poorly written mess. The movie is billed as the story of Clyde Shelton (played by Gerard Butler of 300 fame) who lost his wife and daughter to murder getting revenge on those who did it and the people of the justice system (including the District Attorney Nick Rice, played by Jamie Foxx) that struck a deal to let one of the murderers out after only five years of jail. I went in expecting a story of righteousness similar to A Time to Kill, but the movie ends up being pretty far from it.

The problem is that Butler's Shelton ends up killing a ton of innocent people to prove his point, the flaws that he tries to point out in the justice system make no sense, and by the end of the movie, you really feel no pity for him at all anymore. That'd be fine if the movie was the story of some psycho killer like Silence of the Lambs, but that's not what it's meant to be. The movie also suffers from bad and cliched writing. A lot of parts don't make any sense, and Foxx's Rice is full of one liners that no real lawyer says except for in the movies (i. e., "It's not what's true. It's not what you can prove."). And the mayor, played by Viola Davis (Antwone Fisher, Syriana), really has nothing but over-the-top lines that will make you roll your eyes.

All this being said, the movie still has some entertainment value. Shelton comes up with some pretty crazy ways to kill people. And the movie keeps a nice quick pace. But it really had the potential to be much better than it was.

Bottom line: I wouldn't bother. (D)

Here's the preview:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Mixtape for the Faint of Heart

I'm not sure if this is ironic, paradoxical, or neither -- but when I was a kid I loved the beach but hated sand. This clearly doesn't make a whole lot of sense, considering that one of (if not the) distinguishing factor between a beach and, say, a river, lake, or pool... is sand.

Flash-forward 15 years. This past week, when I tried to talk my friends into seeing Paranormal Activity (a new, apparently scary, movie) with me, I realized that they all seemed to love Halloween but hate scary things. Like a beach without sand, what is Halloween without a little fright? -- whether it's in the form of watching scary movies, going to haunted houses, telling ghost stories, dabbling with the ol' Ouija Board, or otherwise.

Since, however, there is clearly a contingent of people who would rather have babies dressed as pumpkins than teenagers dressed as zombies knocking on their doors this Halloween... I decided to make this Halloween Mixtape for the Faint of Heart.

Don't be fooled by their names, there's nothing scary about these tracks.

Ryan Adams - Halloween
Frightened Rabbit – Heads Will Roll
Fanfarlo - Ghosts
Elliott Smith – Son of Sam
Cloud Cult – The Ghost Inside Our House
Au Revoir Simone - Shadows
White Lies - Death
The Temper Trap – Science of Fear
Paloalto - Bones
Joe Dolce – Thriller (MJ Cover)

MP3: DOWNLOAD the entire Halloween Mixtape for the Faint of Heart Mixtape (click here).

All Time Top 5 (Movies for Real Men...and Their Women)

There's an old adage that real men aren't afraid to cry. I'm not sure I can totally back that theory. But I do completely back another -- real men aren't afraid of "chick flicks." Now I'm not saying that the average chick flick is as good as your average drama or comedy. But I will say that we men should try and be a little more objective when we watch them. There's nothing unmanly about watching (and enjoying) a love story. After all, tons of movies that men like are love stories -- isn't Braveheart, a very manly movie by any measure, really a love story when you think about it? And your significant other will definitely appreciate it if you're willing to sit through a chick flick without complaining. She might even be willing to sit through the next ridiculous Jason Statham movie you want to see. Better yet, you might just find that you actually liked the movie (if you aren't afraid to admit it). So be a man and watch a chick flick. Because real men aren't afraid of chick flicks. Nay, real men actually enjoy chick flicks (some of them anyway).

Here are the All Time Top 5 Movies for Real Mean... and Their Women:


Pride and Prejudice -- The least manly movie on the list. Get over the fact that you're watching the adaptation of a Jane Austen novel and enjoy it.


When Harry Met Sally -- One of the most famous chick flicks of all time is also one of the best. Aside from the movie's main story, you'll think the clips of older couples telling how they met and fell in love are pretty entertaining.


Jerry Maguire -- Make fun of it all you want for "you had me at hello." But it's a good movie (and any man will appreciate the large role that football plays in the film).


Love Actually -- One of bip-bip.'s good friends, Wyatt, actually watches this movie at least once a week. I'm not saying you should follow his lead, but give it a shot -- could easily have been number 1 on this list if it wasn't for...


Serendipity -- One of the most underrated movies (and that includes all movies, not just chick flicks) of all time. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, Nothing but the Truth -- and recently anointed "Sexiest Woman Alive" by Esquire) are phenomenal. Jeremy Piven (Ari from Entourage) is great in a supporting role. But writer Marc Klein's story (which is all about the interaction between love and fate) is where the real genius of the movie lies. You can't watch it without actually hoping John and Kate's characters end up together. Give it a shot. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This Week In Movies

There aren't too many movies coming out this week, but luckily those that are have at least the potential to be good. Here's this week's edition:

Movies I Want to See:

Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (Limited Release) -- It's the under-the-radar sequel to Boondock Saints, which actually has a huge cult following (and this blogger thought was really good). I'm sort of surprised this movie wasn't better promoted; hopefully it's not because the movie sucks.

Messenger (Limited Release) -- Ben Foster (Hostage, Alpha Dog, 3:10 to Yuma) takes a shot at being the leading man in this tale of a soldier assigned with casualty duty (telling families that their soldiers have died). Woody Harrelson also stars. You can check out the trailer here.

Movies I Would Go See:

Michael Jackson's This Is It -- I'm not really excited to see this, but it'd be an interesting watch I'm sure (for those unfamiliar, it's basically a documentary-type film of Michael preparing for his tour that would've happened this summer).

Movies I Would Never Go See:

None this week.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Electric Tickle Machine -- funny name, seriously good music. (B-)

A buddy of mine asked me to go see "Electric Tickle Machine" sometime mid-last week and, as you can imagine, I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting myself into. As it turns out, this New York band not only puts on quite a show, but they also put out a rock-solid debut album (entitled Blew It Again).

For starters, they have a pretty unique band composition that notably lacks a bassist. Yet, even without a bassist, the band doesn't suffer from overwhelming tremble and mid-range tones. Their synth-player, Ryan Renn, (who also maybe dabbles with samples?) amply fills the void. Half of the four-piece band was also committed to percussion, featuring Adam Kautz as their main drummer and percussion-specialist Clark Phillips. Phillips also served as informal pump-up-the-crowd man, with his dancing and free-flying tambourine. Sounds strange, but it was strangely effective.

Obviously, every legit band, almost by definition, also features a good guitarist and singer. Thomas Laplaige, who serves in both capacities for Electric Tickle Machine, rounds out their sound. His talent is also evident on Blew it Again, which was recorded just this year. As a record, Blew it Again is a rather short (under 28 minutes) album that sounds like an upbeat mix of garage, indie, and psychedelic rock. All and all, the band was able to put out an album that sounds both raw and cleanly produced.

Definitely check out these tunes ("Part of Me" and "Bones").

&ampamp;amp;amp;lt;a href=""&ampamp;amp;amp;gt;Part Of Me by Electric Tickle Machine&ampamp;amp;amp;lt;/a&ampamp;amp;amp;gt;

Like what you hear? Buy the album here.

Wes Anderson Like We've Never Seen Before

Wes Anderson is one of my favorite directors. I know that his work can be pretty polarizing, and most people either love him or hate him. But I think the guy's a genius. The Royal Tennenbaums is pretty high on my all-time movie list. And Rushmore, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Darjeeling Limited are all quality pieces of work. But his new movie, coming out November 25, is going to assuredly be something a little different.

Fantastic Mr. Fox will be Anderson's first animated (stop animation, actually) film. It's tough to know what to really expect from this film. No director I've ever liked so much has ever done anything animated, and I really wonder how different the film will be from the rest of his work. But, despite the guaranteed differences due to the film being animated, any Wes Anderson fan will be pretty excited about all the old Wes Anderson favorites joining the film for voice work: Bill Murray (Life Aquatic, Royal Tennenbaums, Darjeeling Limited), Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore, Darjeeling Limited), Owen Wilson (Darjeeling Limited, Royal Tennenbaums, Life Aquatic, Bottle Rocket), Anjelica Huston (Royal Tennenbaums, Life Aquatic, Darjeeling Limited), Adrien Brody (Darjeeling Limited), Willem Dafoe (Life Aquatic), and even Wes Anderson himself.

And if those names don't excite you, there are some really big names joining the usual Wes Anderson crew: George Clooney (who will play Mr. Fox), Meryl Streep (Mrs. Fox), and Michael Gambon (you know him better as Dumbledore from the Harry Potter movies). With one hell of a director and such a great voice cast, it should be interesting to see what the final product looks like.

Here's the preview:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What's new in popular music: U2 youtube concert tonight, new albums from The Killers and John Mayer

At bip-bip., we try to conserve most of our time and effort to covering bands that don't get air time on Ryan Seacrest's American's Top 40. Every now and then, however, there are newsworthy events.

For starters, if you are a U2 fan, Bono and company will be streaming an entire show TONIGHT (10/25/2009) on Youtube. The show will be streaming from the Rose Bowl in California -- in front a of sell-out crowd of 96,000. If this sounds up your alley, the show starts at 11:30 eastern (8:30 pacific).

Other news includes new albums from The Killers and John Mayer. The Killers' album should definitely be worthy of checking out-- as it is their first live album release (and DVD). The album, Live from the Royal Albert Hall, will have 17 songs (22 for the DVD), including pretty much all of their hits such as: Human, Somebody Told Me, Mr. Brightside, When You Were Young, etc... Mark your calendar for November 10, 2009.

Finally, on November 17, 2009 John Mayer will release his 4th studio effort-- entitled Battle Studies. While I'm sure there are many John Mayer haters out there, I think it will be well worth the $12 price tag. While I usually defer comments on cinematography to my fellow bip-bip. contributor, I think Mayer's new video for Who Says, his first single, is pretty smooth. Even though this album is purported to be more experimental in nature (he even gave a shoutout to passion pit on his blog), Who Says is completely standard John Mayer. Check it out.

Pre-order the albums here:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

USA v. World (Round 1): Regina Spektor v. Kate Nash

There are few things that I love more than watching the USA compete with other countries, in virtually any context. For the most part, all bias aside, we're pretty damn good at whatever we do. Our two most obvious strengths are (1) winning wars and (2) women's beach volleyball. Misty May and Kerri Walsh aren't the only Americans with talent though. With this in mind, bip-bip. will be featuring a "US v. World" segment that pits American artists against their foreign counterpart.

Round 1 is the classic showdown between Regina Spektor (USA) and Kate Nash (UK). I'm sure a few of you would be quick to point out that Spektor was born in Russia, not the U.S.... but come on. This is America-- literally a country of immigrants. Don't be that guy.

Personally, I think both of these artists have a lot in common. Both are female artists with a knack for unusual melodies, classical training in their craft, and excellent vocals. Both also have tons of edge. Ultimately, however, only one can be the victor. Give these tunes a listen.

WINNER: Regina Spektor. Advantage home-team.

Despite both artists being loaded with talent, round 1 has to go to Spektor. First, Spektor, in my opinion, is capable of writing extremely insightful lyrics. Commenting on religion, as in Laughing With and Samson, or relationships, as in Two Birds, she is definitely an example of the consummate singer-songwriter.

Second, Spektor's fifth studio album, Far, was a rock-solid release... along with every other album she's ever touched. Nash has huge upside potential, but with only one album, Made of Bricks, we just don't have as much to judge her on.

Bottom line. Spektor helped paved the way for this genre, with Nash shaping its direction.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Could Mo'Nique Really Win an Oscar?

On November 6, LionsGate will release Precious. The movie promises to be worth a watch and almost definitely a tear-jerker. It tells the story of Clareece "Precious" Jones (played by newcomer Gabourey Sidibe). Precious's life is bad news: overweight, illiterate, a terrible relationship with her mother (played by Mo'Nique), and raped by her father multiple times (and impregnated twice). Things do not look good for her. But she eventually attends an alternative school in hopes of changing her life (and I'm guessing that it probably works).

The movie actually won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for best drama, and Mo'Nique won a Special Jury Prize. And, as EW and others are reporting, Mo'Nique (who plays Precious's mother) has been getting quite a bit of Oscar hype for her performance in the movie. We'll see what happens. But it's hard to imagine the same Mo'Nique from Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins and Beerfest actually winning an Oscar. Then again....

Sean Penn was the legendary Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High before he did Mystic River and Milk.

Jamie Foxx was Bunz in Booty Call before he did Ray.

Halle Berry was Nisi in B*A*P*S before Monster's Ball.

Hilary Swank was The Next Karate Kid before Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby.

And those are just a few examples. Maybe Mo'Nique does have a shot.

Anyway, here's the trailer:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This Week In Movies

This is a new segment that bip-bip. will be bringing you every week letting you know what movies are coming out every weekend and what we recommend you go see/avoid. It'll be mostly limited to higher profile films that readers of this blog might actually go see, but I'll occasionally throw in some of the "little guys." I have to admit that I mostly ignore what critics think of movies and really like to judge for myself (and I recommend that you all do the same), but I'll still go ahead and give you my thoughts on whatever movies are opening on a given week. Here's this week's edition:

Movies I Want to See:

Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning -- I already posted about this here.

Movies I Would Go See:

The Vampire's Assistant -- I don't know why I continue to believe in John C. Reilly, but I do...

Amelia -- Ever since Million Dollar Baby, I keep waiting for another good Hilary Swank movie. I don't have high hopes for this one either, but I'd give it a shot...

Astroboy -- I don't have kids, but if I did, I'd take 'em to see this. Otherwise you'll end up sitting through Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Movies I Would Never Go See:

Saw VI -- Memo to Hollywood: Please, please, please do not make Saw VII.

Stan Helsing -- I'm generally not a fan of crappy spoof movies (the exception that proves the rule is Not Another Teen Movie -- infinitely funnier than its peers).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Islands: What's not to love about drum machines, synths, and electric sitars? (B)

Maybe the third time really is the charm. Canadian indie-rockers Islands released their third album, Vapours, only a few weeks ago and it not only packs quite a punch, but it has also garnered widespread acclaim that it is their best album to date.

It's pretty much what you might expect from the band. Islands' drummer Jamie Thompson returned to work on this album, and the band apparently decided to keep the tracks shorter and tighter than their previous album (with the tracks typically clocking in around 3 minutes each). Like Portugal the Man, they are hard to pin down to one genre-- infusing aspects of rock, 80's synth, vampire weekend styled baroque-pop, dreamwave, and others into their creative sound. There's really only one way begin appreciating Islands. Take a listen. It won't take long.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Staring at Goats?

On November 6, Overture Films will release its adaptation of Jon Ronson's The Men Who Stare at Goats. Directed by Grant Heslov (writer of Good Night, and Good Luck), the movie packs some serious star power: Ewen McGregor will play Bob Wilton, a reporter who stumbles upon the story of Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a special forces operator involved in top secret military experiments (among these experiments, and where the story gets its title, is trying to kill goats through psychokinesis -- basically blowing them up with your mind). Wilton tags along with Cassady until they discover the founder of the unit, Bill Django, played by Jeff Bridges, has been kidnapped by a rebel group led by a former member of the unit, Larry Hopper (played by Kevin Spacey).

With such a strong cast, I've got to admit I'm pretty excited to see how funny this movie is. It'll be interesting to see how well Clooney, Bridges, and Spacey can pull off lunatics believing they have psychokinetic powers . My guess is that we won't be disappointed.

Here's the trailer:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Margot & the Nuclear So and So's -- because you don't always want to dance (B+)

Let's be honest. There's a reason that radio stations play Lady Gaga over Morrissey at a rate of about 10,000 to 1. People would rather listen to upbeat, albeit lyrically lacking songs, than be reminded, quite poetically, about how awful their lives are. This is one of the reasons remixes and mashups even exist. Take a song we already like, inject it with a harder bassline and more persistent drum-kick... and we can make it something we love even more.

Sometimes, however, I feel like relaxing a bit... and I wouldn't be surprised if you do too. If you find yourself in this latter sort of mood, give Margot & the Nuclear So and So's a listen. They have been likened to Arcade Fire and The Decemberists... but I think these comparisons are largely flawed.

Unlike Arcade Fire's occasional grandeur, Margot's music sounds extremely stripped down, even where it is relatively complex and layered. Richard Edwards, Margot's lead vocalist, is also much less crass than the Decemberist's Colin Meloy. While Meloy reminds me more of Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum vocally, Edwards is more reminiscent of a mix between Death Cab's Ben Gibbard and Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst (in my opinion).

Here are a couple tracks from the band's 2008 album Not Animal -- which are songs preferred by their record label Epic. The band also released Animal! -- only available on vinyl -- which included the tracks the band preferred.

Enjoy these tunes.

Once (More) Upon a Time...

I already posted about Where the Wild Things Are here so I'll try and keep this as short as I can. The movie was not really what I expected, but I don't think that was such a bad thing. Spike Jonze (Adaptation and the newly released short film starring Kanye West that goes from annoying to very strange in about 10 minutes, We Were Once A Fairy Tale) definitely made a darker and more adult adaptation of the book than I expected. But it is also oddly hypnotizing. You can definitely find yourself lost in the beauty of the film's scenery and cinematography at various times throughout the film. And don't be surprised if you sort of start to watch the movie as if you were looking out through Max's (played by youngster Max Records) eyes. The majority of the story does, after all, take place in Max's imagination.

Like I said, Spike Jonze's version of the book is a little bit different than what I would have written. One of the subplots (involving a couple of random white owls) could particularly have been left out of the movie. But, ultimately, Jonze does an admirable job of a very difficult task -- creating a 90+ minute movie based on a 10 sentence story. He gives the beasts names and different personalities (each very different and representative of the different parts of Max's psyche). He creates a relatively simple story revolving around Max convincing the wild things that he is an all-powerful king and his failed attempts to make them happy. And, for all the simplicity of the movie, Jonze still manages to create a story full of emotions that is capable of reaching audience members of all ages.

Among the film's stars, a couple of performances jumped out at me. James Galdolfini is the voice for the "main" wild thing (or at least the one that plays the biggest part in the movie), Carol, representing the much more impulsive and violent of the beasts, and there really could not have been a better choice for the role. But I think the best voice work of the movie came from Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) as KW, the more motherly and caring of the beasts. She ultimately comes to be Max's protector during the movie's climax, and her voice really does have a soothing quality to it that would make almost anyone feel safe when hearing it.

Last, Karen O and the Kids deserve some recognition for the wonderful original soundtrack they created for this movie. It fits beautifully with the movie and is probably the best that I can remember since Eddie Veder's masterpiece from Into the Wild. Anyway, check it out here.

Bottom line: Don't go expecting a little kid's story. The movie is emotionally charged and both visually and audially beautiful. But you might be a little disappointed with the simplicity of the story itself. I'd still say it's worth seeing. (B-)

Here's the preview again:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A nice dish of Coldplay and Jay-Z mashups.

As most people already know, Jay-Z and Coldplay's Chris Martin have a widely acknowledged friendship that apparently transcends the stark differences in their musical styles. They have collaborated on Coldplay's Prospekt's March, which was their strong follow-up EP to Viva La Vida. Likewise, Chris Martin has contributed to Jay-Z's Kingdom Come.

After hearing some of the collaborative work by the two artists, two DJ/Mixtapers, Mike Boogie and Terry Urban (with the help of fellow producers), decided to cut an entire mixtape that mashed-up Jay-Z's vocals with Martin's music. Hence, Viva La Hova was born. Even though the DJs did not get the artists' blessings beforehand, both Jay-Z and Chris Martin have given it praise.

Since the weather (at least by me) has turned from mild to cold this past weekend, it is only appropriate I post a few tracks from an album, which Mike Boogie has described as "darkly organic fall -music." While the album uses several lesser known tracks from both artists, here are a few that you should recognize.

Mike Boogie and Terry Urban - Science is Ignorant
Mike Boogie and Terry Urban - The Reverse Fix

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Vincent Frank (aka Frankmusik)

Frankmusik's debut album Complete Me hit stores this past summer-- and even though he made a moderate splash over in the UK and Ireland, we haven't really felt the ripples here. Frankmusik, whose real name is Vincent Frank, is an electro-pop musician from England who has opened for such acts as Keane and Pet Shop Boys. If you had to compare to him to the two headliners he opened for, he's certainly more like Keane in terms of his smoother vocals (he uses much fewer vocal effects than Pet Shop Boys); but musically he clearly favors Pet Shop Boys, since he remains rooted in the electronica/electropop genre.

If you've been a reader of bip-bip, you might also remember that he has collaborated with Ellie Goulding. Here's one of his tracks off Complete Me. If you like his stuff, also be sure to check out his debut EP, Frankisum, which was released on Apparent Records in 2007.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Let's capitalize on that paycheck.

Assuming you aren't a billionaire who keeps his money in jars and lives in a cave, then you've probably noticed we are in the midst of, what those academic elites refer to as, an "economic recession." Being such, you might not be able to afford every new movie and album that hits the stores each Tuesday. Because we feel you're pain, I thought it might be useful to list a few older albums that you can grab for super-cheap.

Here is our handy guide:

Weekend Type: Straight-chilling, reading a good book, red wine
Buy: Ray LaMontagne Trouble
Cost: $6.98 on
Description: slow-paced acoustic feats of genius that leads to introspection

Weekend Type: Psuedo-chilling, having friends over, cheap beer
Buy: Belle & Sebastian The Life Pursuit
Cost: $5.76 on
Description: Mostly upbeat songs -- friends with an ear for music will appreciate belle and sebastian, friends without an ear will think its pleasant background music

Weekend Type: Not-chilling, going out with friends, liquor!
Buy: Girl Talk Feed the Animals
Cost: FREE on Girl Talk's myspace page (you can "donate 0.00")
Description: Mashups galore-- 60 minutes of continuous party music

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Marcel's Island Therapy

Couples Retreat is just ok. It's definitely not nearly as good as some of Vince Vaughn's other classics. But that's really an unfair standard. They can't all be Wedding Crashers. And you could do worse if you're looking for a comedy -- especially if you want it to be a date movie. Just be warned that you aren't going to laugh as much as you probably expect (and possibly not at all in the last 20 minutes or so).

It stars eight actors playing four couples: Vince Vaughn with Malin Akerman (The Heartbreak Kid, Watchmen), Jason Bateman (star of probably the funniest show-that-nobody-ever-watched Arrested Development) with Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Jon Favreau (who was so money he didn't even know it in Swingers with Vaughn) with Kristin Davis (Sex and the City), and Faizon Love (Elf, Idlewild) with Kali Hawk (basically unknown and really annoying in the movie as 20 year old trying to help Love get over his ex-wife). It is actually the first feature directed by Peter Billingsley (who you know as "Ralphie" from A Christmas Story). And Vaughn and Favreau wrote it. The title pretty much tells the plot of the movie -- the couples take a vacation to an all-inclusive resort, "Eden" to reignite the flames in their marriages. Hilarity ensues, etc., etc.

Despite the big names and beautiful women, the four couples themselves are really not that hilarious. And I found the staff on Eden delivered just as many laughs. Jean Reno (The Professional, Ronin) plays "Marcel," the owner of Eden. And he was probably my favorite character in the movie. John Michael Higgins (The Break Up, Best in Show) and Ken Jeong (Role Models, The Hangover) are also pretty good as therapists. Youngster Colin Baiocchi plays Vaughn and Akerman's youngest son and steals the show for much of the movie when the couples aren't on the island.

Bottom line: The movie reminds me a lot of Four Christmases. It's got some laughs, but you can't help but think that Vaughn and company could have done better. (C)

Here's the preview:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

All Time Top 5 (Movies for a Sunday Morning/Afternoon)

In honor of one of our favorite movies (that actually revolves around a music store), High Fidelity, we'll occasionally be bringing you what we like to call "All Time Top 5's." For those who haven't seen the movie, here's a sample. But you should really see the whole thing. And start making your own lists. Anyway, here's the first one of the bunch...

It's Sunday. You're struggling to wake up. Last night was a blast. But now you're paying for it. We've all been there. While a hangover is never a great time, having a good movie on to distract you can certainly make it easier to bear. What makes a movie great for such an occasion? First, it can't be too complicated. You want something straight forward that doesn't require you to pay constant attention out of fear of missing important plot twists (you don't want to try and keep up with Memento or something like it). After all, you might be tempted to shut your eyes for a minute or two. Second, you don't want something with any scenes that could make your stomach turn (think Ray Liota eating his own brain in Hannibal or the Ed Norton curb stomp in American History X). Third, you want something that'll make you feel a little better about any bad decisions you made the night before (for example, at least you didn't go streaking through the quad and then to the gymnasium). Fourth, you want something that is a flat-out good movie. Why waste your precious Sunday watching anything less?

Here are the All Time Top 5 Movies for a Sunday Morning/Afternoon:


The Princess Bride -- That's right. Make fun all you want. But I'm guessing you wish you were watching it right now. And you can't pretend that you can't finish the following sentence: "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya..."


Office Space -- Even better if you're hungover on a Monday (your own personal "case of the Mondays").


Forrest Gump -- Try watching the whole movie and not feeling better by the time it's over. You can't do it.


Old School -- Think you partied hard last night? "Frank the Tank" begs to differ.
(Sidenote: I'd probably put more of the Will Farrell, Vince Vaughn, etc. comedies on my list if I didn't think it was poor form.)


The Big Lebowski -- The Dude abides. And so should you.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Down the Rabbit Hole...

In case you haven't heard (unlikely), Johnny Depp and Tim Burton are teaming up again to make their version of Alice in Wonderland (note that it's not going to be the same story as the cartoon version you probably saw as a kid -- the movie is actually a combination of the Lewis Carroll novels, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass). The movie doesn't come out for a while (set for March 5, 2010), but many are excited over the reunion. The two have come along way since they first teamed up almost 20 years ago in Edward Scissorhands (they would later reunite in Ed Wood in 1994). But while those two will get most of the hype, this blogger is much more excited to see the movie because of the rest of the cast. It's so deep and so talented (with an especially strong presence of British actors) that I'll not bother trying to mention them all. Do yourself a favor and check out the cast list on IMDb.

Here are a some highlights:

- Anne Hathaway (who, even with her Oscar nomination, is an underrated actress in this blogger's opinion) as The White Queen
- Michael Sheen (Frost from Frost/Nixon) as The White Rabbit
- Alan Rickman (Snape from the Harry Potter movies, but I liked him most as Metatron inDogma) as The Caterpillar
- Christopher Lee (Saruman from The Lord of the Rings and Count Dooku from Star Wars) as The Jabberwock
- Stephen Fry (who was terrific as Deitrich in V for Vendetta) as The Cheshire Cat
- Noah Taylor (Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, but I remember him best as Edmund Ventura a.k.a. "Tech Support" in Vanilla Sky) as The March Hare

It'll be interesting to see who (if anyone) steals the show.

Here's the trailer:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More Jams from Across the Pond... Thanks to Athlete and Erik Hassle

Admittedly, there hasn't been, and probably never will be, another band like the Beatles... but that doesn't mean that Europe has failed to provide a steady stream of good music. In fact, one of the hottest indie bands this year -- Phoenix -- hails from France. You can barely turn on the tv without hearing one of their songs serving as background music for some random commercial.

Yet, even though Phoenix has literally blown-up this year (ok, well not literally literally), I thought I'd post a few songs from other European bands you might not have heard from. First off, Athlete (pictured above) has put out several above-average albums. Their latest album, entitled Black Swan, is no exception. This album's first single, Superhuman Touch, topped the UK charts at #71... but it's worthy of climbing much higher.

Like Athlete, Erik Hassle is another London based musician-- even though he is originally from Sweden. His 2008 single, Hurtful, is quite a jam in its own right... but I'm even a bigger fan of the Penguin Prison Remix. Hope you enjoy it.

For some weird reason, our server is messed up, so I can't upload songs (temporarily)... so here are some youtube videos of the songs.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ong Bak Again

On October 23, Magnolia will release Ong Bak 2: The Beginning. For those who have seen Ong Bak and know about Tony Jaa, there's not much to say here. I'm sure we can expect more of the same unreal non-cgi stunts that made Ong Bak such a cool movie and turned Tony Jaa into a star. For those who haven't, do yourself a favor and buy/netflix Ongbak. Yes, all those stunts were actually done by Jaa.

Here's the preview:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The United States of Zombieland

Comedy/horror movie Zombieland is really good. I saw it expecting something along the lines of Shaun of the Dead, but what I saw was much better. Be warned that it's more than a little gory, but the movie boasts a great cast, great writing, and pretty good special effects (it really does a nice job of using slow motion -- I know that sounds weird, but trust me). It also finds a way to actually develop the characters like most comedies struggle to do. Put all this together and you've got the ultimate zombie flick and comedy combo.

The story revolves around four main characters all trying to survive in a US that has been overrun with zombies. It stars Jessie Eisenberg, an actor who has had a fantastic year in this blogger's opinion with both Adventureland and Zombieland. Granted, he plays basically the same awkward-and-constantly-nervous-yet-somehow-still-cool character (think the character that Michael Cera always plays) in both movies, but they were exactly what the role called for, and neither would have been great movies without his performance. Eisenberg's "Columbus" (the characters all just call themselves by the towns they were born in) narrates the story, and his narration really adds to the film's humor. He starts the movie off on a high note by filling in audience members on some of the rules of his "Survival Guide to Zombieland." And these constantly come up throughout the movie. Trust me when I say you'll laugh more than once when a rule pops up.

Columbus teams up with zombie-slaying, twinkie-obsessed badass "Tallahassee," played by Woody Harrelson. I've never been a huge Harrelson fan (aside from his role as Roy Munson in Kingpin), but he's probably the funniest guy in the movie. The two eventually team up with two girls, "Wichita" and "Little Rock." Wichita, played by Emma Stone (Superbad, The Rocker), plays Columbus's love interest, and it's pretty funny when he finally gets the girl. And increasingly popular Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Definitely, Maybe, My Sister's Keeper) plays Little Rock.

Audience members are given a real treat when Bill Murray (reuniting with Harrelson after his turn as "Big Ern McCracken" in Kingpin) cameos as himself. It's not quite on the level of Matt Damon in Eurotrip or Val Kilmer in Entourage, but it's pretty damn good.

Bottom line: If you go to this movies this week, go see Zombieland; just good old fashioned family fun (for families where everyone is 17+). (B+)

Here's the preview:

Sidenote: I saw the preview for Saw VI before movie. Can we please stop making these?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tucker Max (Duke's Chosen Son)

Really? This sounded like a good idea? Don't get me wrong. Tucker Max has some funny stories. And the book that I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell was based off actually made me laugh out loud at certain points. But turning those stories into a movie may not have been a great idea. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, Tucker Max is a former Duke Law student (and grad sadly) who spent most of his time in school getting himself into absurd situations by drinking heavily, treating women like shit, and pretty much doing what he pleased. And then he decided to tell the world about it. He started a blog, wrote a book, and now has a movie out.

The problem is that his book is comprised of a lot of shorter (only a few pages or so) stories that, hilarious as they may be, lack enough material to make a movie about. And it's pretty obvious. The movie basically takes one of Max's stories, The Austin Road Trip, and stretches and adds to it in a feeble attempt to make a good story. A lot of it just seems forced, and I also thought the movie was poorly cast. Matt Czuchry just doesn't seem like he would ever actually be the true asshole that Tucker Max really is. And I've never been a fan of Jesse Bradford (Swimfan, Flags of our Fathers) who plays Drew (known as "Slingblade" in Max's stories). But it's really not fair to blame the cast though. I don't think any combination of actors could've made this a great movie.

Bottom line: Don't go expecting to see anything close to as funny as The Hangover. You'll be disappointed. Just read the stories on his blog. (D)

Here's the preview:

Concert Review: Ra Ra Riot's The Rhumb Line.... Live in ATL. (A-)

Continuing a great week of music for me, I was able to see Ra Ra Riot live a couple nights ago. I'll preface this by saying Ra Ra Riot has been a favorite band of mine since their album The Rhumb Line hit stores. The band's unique string driven sound, led by violinist Rebecca Zeller and cellist Alexandra Lawn, certainly sets this band apart from similar indie-acts. Frontman Wes Miles also brings a great voice to the table... which is why Discovery's LP has also been a recent favorite of mine as well.

The overall concert was awesome... but a couple aspects of their live show really stuck out to me. First, I realized that Rebecca Zeller and Wes Miles (both pictured above) essentially make the band great. The whole band, as a unit, is quite cohesive; but, after watching Ra Ra Riot live, it became utterly obvious that Rebecca's musicianship carried virtually every song. Not to sell the other band mates short... but Rebecca's violin part was, and is, literally what you hum to yourself when you're walking down the street. Listen to the album again and see if you don't agree.

Second, they executed their songs so perfectly that it sounded almost identical to the album... which was a little frustrating. I kept wanting some sort of solo, new riff, or any type of extended jam. For the most part, this never happened. The live versions were even timed almost identically to their album's counterpart. With this said, if you liked the album, you will definitely like the show. Their lack of innovation live (with the exception of a few new songs), however, kept them from being a truly great breakout live band.

Here are some live tunes -- these are chill versions though. They were much more upbeat when I saw them.
Ra Ra Riot - Each Year (Live at the Pop Machine)
Ra Ra Riot - Can You Tell (Live at the Pop Machine)

Buy The Rhumb Line here.

Special thanks to bipbip photographer A.S. for the pics.
(click them to get full size)