Thursday, September 08, 2011

DirecTV adds AMC-HD, finally

Early this year I switched from cable to satellite because I got a new HDTV, and Comcast's HD lineup is almost nonexistent in my hamlet. SD is fine on SD televisions, but it stinks on an HD set; I avoid it if possible. I tried Dish first, but the installer said there was no line of sight, so I ended up going with DirecTV. And the one sinking feeling I had about that came when I realized AMC was not offered in HD.

That's changing tomorrow morning  (Friday, Sept. 9), as AMC-HD launches on DirecTV. I'm stoked for two leading reasons:

One >> The annual marathon of Halloween movies lasting a week or two, 24 hours a day (minus infomercials, probably). This is good fun and excellent background fodder around Halloween. And if I decide to watch Jeepers Creepers 2 or Corridors of Blood, they'll look crisp and lovely.

Two >> The return of The Walking Dead, which is set for Oct. 16. Tired as the zombie subgenre is, this series works beautifully because it's character driven in a very Stephen King-miniseries kind of way. I'd love to see AMC continue to move in this direction and become the de facto horror network of choice.

Now, if only Direct would add BBC America, IFC, GSN, E!, Reelz, etc. in HD …

30-Day Song Challenge: A song you can dance to (day 9)

Banjos and fiddles set to a Eurodance beat — brilliant! I remember hearing Rednex' take on the traditional song "Cotton Eye Joe" (or "Cotton-Eyed Joe") on the radio a few times back in '95 alongside mid-90s chestnuts like Nicki French's dance cover of "Total Eclipse of the Heart." It's all executed with a wink and a nod, but some snooty folks who apparently don't like to have fun have seen fit to include this one on some worst songs lists (what is the point of such an exercise, other than to denigrate?). A couple of years ago I was taking photos at a summer festival in Iuka, Miss., and came across a local square dance group performing to this song, which I found a tad surprising and surreal.

30-Day Song Challenge: A song you know all the words to (day 8)

I could only think of one, and it might be a little bit of a cheat: "The Samurai in Autumn" by the Pet Shop Boys. I do, indeed, know all of the lyrics, which are thus:

It's not as easy as it was
Or as difficult as it could be
For the Samurai in autumn

And no more than that in this largely instrumental track. Certainly not difficult to remember, and I have always imagined that the lines are about the boys themselves in their late career period, when only the diehards care anymore (although, knowing Neil Tennant, it probably has to do with an historical figure).

I've always found this to be the highlight of their Release album (2002), which turned off the hardcore synthpop crowd with its "rock" aspirations. This peppy yet moody dance number, plopped midway through amongst dense, boring guitar slogs like "Birthday Boy" and "Love Is a Catastrophe," feels like PSB doing what they ought to be doing; it even evokes the brilliant experimental vibe of Relentless.

Monday, September 05, 2011

30-Day Song Challenge: A song that reminds you of a certain event (day 7)

Sean Kingston's "Fire Burning" was ubiquitous on the radio in the summer of 2009. I'm not his target audience, but this synthy, RedOne-produced jam is breezy fun. It became tied in my mind to shopping excursions for and the eventual purchase of a new car that summer after driving a 1989 Pontiac well beyond its reasonable years of use. Kingston set the dancefloor on fire as I drove to the dealership; while I did my test drive; and when I eventually drove home in a sexy new car. What I don't like is the lyrical use of "shawty;" it's time for that one to be retired.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Season of the Witch

1.5 out of 5

Despite a lot of bad reviews, I approached this Nicolas Cage vehicle with an open mind, because it's a horror movie and I have previously come to the defense of his similarly maligned The Wicker Man. The plot finds Cage and Ron Perlman, a pair of medieval swashbucklers, charged with transporting an alleged witchy woman on a long journey to meet her judgement. This is preceded by a series of battle sequences that show Cage and Perlman tiring of their bloody adventures while engaging in supremely hammy dialogue about things like who's buying the drinks tonight. The movie fails to do much with its villain; a sequence in which Cage's entourage tries to get her carriage across a decaying bridge is more entertaining than anything she conjures up. There's also a twist in play here, and it's not uninteresting, but it is the most blatantly obvious twist I've ever seen. I'm not one of those types who's always bragging that I had it figured out in the first 30 minutes, but I pretty much saw it coming right away. The movie climaxes with an action-filled throwdown, but the best I can say for all of this is that some of the scenes look terrific in 1080p. Note that the movie has no connection to George Romero's 1976 movie of the same name or Halloween III: Season of the Witch from 1982.