Sunday, March 09, 2008

Summer of (M.) Night

Remember a couple months back when I waxed optimistic about what’s shaping up to be a great summer at the cineplex? Of course you don’t, but there’s another addition to the list, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. Setting aside the mild disappointment of The Village and the near-apocalyptic disappointment of Lady in the Water, M. Night’s work is still must-see in my book. I’m also setting aside concerns about apparent similarities to Stephen King’s Cell, which has already seen an alleged copycat in The Signal, a movie that hit limited release a few weeks back. Nevertheless, The Happening should have a strong lead in Mark Wahlberg. The somewhat obtuse trailer, complete with some au courant raving about the disappearing bees, can be seen here.

This is our revised essential summer viewing:

Speed RacerMay 9
Sex and the CityMay 30
The HappeningJune 13
The X-Files 2
July 25

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Rolling up the charts

Now that has been tracking my listening habits for a good while, I thought it would be fun to take a look at my rolling three-month chart to see what's been gaining steam in my iTunes of late (I've culled out a couple of Christmas tunes, just because). There's always something in my top charts that surprises me a bit, so here goes:

10 MGMT, "Time to Pretend (Radio Version)"
Probably my second favorite new song of the year thus far, this anthemic stomper quickly gets under the skin, as do its cheeky lyrics.

9 Will to Power, "Fly Bird"
Will to Power came back to mind last year when I drug out the old cassette single (cassingle) collection. I had their first eponymous album on cassette, but I never had the second album, Journey Home, which spawned the top 10 single "I'm Not in Love," a cover of the 10cc tune. The album is plentifully available from Amazon sellers for a penny, so I snagged a copy out of curiosity. It's fairly awful, but "Fly Bird," an empowerment ballad that bears some musical similarities to their big hit, "Baby I Love Your Way / Free Bird Medley (Free Baby)," soars to similar heights and is their one lost, shoulda-been hit.

8 Icehouse, "Crazy"
The opening wash of moody synths and guitar absolutely slays me — it is '80s perfection and a wonderful lean-in to a great pop song.

7 Goldfrapp, "A&E"
The song of the year thus far for 2008, it's lyrically fascinating. She's in a backless dress on a pastel ward, and I can't get enough of this folky electronica.

6 Goldfrapp, "Number 1"
I never bought Supernature but have gradually been downloading the tracks; this is the latest. The only artist to appear twice in the top 10 — she's my Saturday; she's my number 1.

5 Madonna, "Keep It Together (single remix)"
Following the lead of "Like a Prayer" and "Express Yourself," here's another single mix that easily one-ups the Like a Prayer album version.

4 Jermaine Stewart, "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off"
I didn't give this song a second thought back in the '80s, but it's really a great jam, even if it seems to owe a large debt in production style to Whitney Houston's "How Will I know." And the lyrics are funny-clever: Not a word from your lips / You just took for granted that I'd want to skinny dip.

3 Bryan Ferry, "New Town"
Ferry's "Kiss and Tell" is a classy pop single that just grazed the top 40 in 1987 when it was featured in the Bright Lights, Big City soundtrack and Ferry's Bete Noire album; "New Town" is a hypnotic selection from the latter.

2 Lindsey Buckingham, "Holiday Road"
This one is the result of one of my obsessive quests to obtain a hard-to-find track — in this case, Mavis Staples' "Christmas Vacation," the perfect slice of giddy, holiday pop that is the theme to the movie of the same name (best Christmas movie ever, too). It's extremely difficult to get, and I snagged it on the 10th anniversary Christmas Vacation soundtrack release, of which only 20,000 were pressed and sold only at the Six Flags theme park (don't ask me why). Bunches of them show up on eBay around Christmas. Among the bonuses on that disc are Buckingham's wonderful "Holiday Road" and "Dancin' Across the USA" (two more that aren't out for download) from the 1983 movie National Lampoon's Vacation, whose soundtrack may or may not have ever been released, depending on whom you believe.

1 The Killers, "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town"
Sawdust has been a bit overrated in some quarters — it's a really uneven listening experience — but this live take on the Kenny Rogers and the First Edition classic is a real treat. Some of the first albums I listened to were Rogers' The Gambler and one of his hits collections, and this affecting story-song was on the latter. You've painted up your lips and rolled and curled your tinted hair / Oh, Ruby are you contemplating going out somewhere? Vocalist Brandon Flowers pulls off a tricky one, and the band does a fine interpretation of the music.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Learning about The Bird and the Bee

Apart from Goldfrapp, my newest crush is The Bird and The Bee. I discovered them courtesy of iTunes, which offered the slightly curios duo's wispy, beautiful rendition of "The Carol of the Bells" as one if its free downloads in the run-up to Christmas. Their breezy, meticulously arranged electronic sound is peppered with retro influences and lifted by Inara George's voice flowing like silk in the breeze. Two EPs, Please Clap Your Hands and One Too Many Hearts, followed their first album, The Bird and The Bee. They are perhaps best known for the provocatively named "F*cking Boyfriend," a song title that belies their breezy, sunny pop disposition. My favorites are "So You Say," an irresistible, '60s-infused pop stomper from Please Clap Your Hands; "Again and Again," one of their most addictive, gentle melodies from The Bird and The Bee; and "Birthday," the danceable opener of One Too Many Hearts. Also fun is their sweet-sounding yet winking take on the Bee Gees ballad "How Deep Is Your Love;" their humor also shines in song titles such as "Polite Dance Song." The four-track EP One Too Many Hearts is officially out March 31, but it is already available for download at iTunes.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Scary: NBC preps 'Fear Itself' horror anthology

Let's hope this turns out better than TNT's Nightmares & Dreamscapes, which started strong and then tanked: NBC and Lions Gate are prepping Fear Itself, a 13-episode horror and suspense anthology to air on the impatient network at a date yet to be slated. The two have just announced the writing, directing and acting talent attached to the project, which was created by Mick Garris.

Among the biggest names are directors John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Darren Bousman (Saw II, III and IV [torture porn on network TV, anyone?]) and Brad Anderson (The Machinist). If those names leave you unimpressed, the list of actors, drawing heavily from TV shows such as Heroes, Boston Legal and Judging Amy, will have you nodding off. The writers, however, include folks behind worthy entertainments like 30 Days of Night and Wind Chill, among many others.

Here's a sampling of installments:

Eater // A rookie cop must spend her first night in the precinct watching over a serial killer dubbed "The Eater" (Stephen R. Hart, Shoot 'Em Up). When her fellow cops start acting bizarre, she quickly learns that no one is who they seem. Are they ever?

Spooked // While on a stake out in a haunted house, a private eye (Eric Roberts) is made to confront the demons of his past. Aren't they always?

Community // This one's directed by Mary Harron, who did American Psycho, so that's a promising start. When a young married couple finds the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood, their lives seem ... well ... perfect. But as the dark underbelly of their neighborhood creeps to the surface, they soon realize that their neighbors will go to any extreme — even murder — to make sure that they comply with their twisted sense of conformity. Brings to mind that great X-Files where Mulder and Scully pose as the married couple in a too-perfect suburban neighborhood, doesn't it?

Red Snow // When four criminals find themselves stranded in an old, snow-covered fort, they slowly discover both the fort and the seductive trio of sirens who reside there are filled with deadly secrets. Again, aren't they always?

New Year's Day // A young woman wakes up in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by horrifying zombies. Really, zombies? Again?

I'm a bit surprised to see NBC dipping into a horror anthology. Of course, if the series turns out to be any good, it will surely suffer the fate of Kidnapped and quarterlife and get yanked after one to four episodes.