November Travesties

Twelve is a little better, I guess. It still seems vaguely shameful though.

Africa - Toto
For The Girl - Fratellis
Sunglasses At Night - Corey Hart
Supermassive Black Hole - Muse
Testify - Rage Against The Machine
Too Drunk To Fuck - Dead Kennedys
Up On the Roof - Drifters
Use Me - Bill Withers
Valerie - Zutons
Vaseline - Stone Temple Pilots
Virtual Insanity - Jamiroquai
You've Got Another Thing Coming - Judas Priest

October Travesties

Nine? NINE????????

This won't do.

Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen
Cult of Personality - Living Color
Jealous Guy - John Lennon
Middle of the Road - Pretenders
Never Let Me Down Again - Depeche Mode
Night Moves - Bob Seger
Ole Black 'n' Blue Eyes - Fratellis
Panama - Van Halen
Punk Rock Girl - Dead Milkmen

Hallowe'en Party Tunes You Probably Don't Know But Should

So you've got your Monster Mash, your Thriller, your Werewolves of London, your Dead Man's Party, your Sabbath and Alice Cooper, your Buffy, Crow and Rocky Horror soundtracks... your Hallowe'en party playlist is all set, right?

Sure, if you're pedestrian and bourgeois.

Here are some suggestions for songs you (and your guests) may not know, but will fit right in for any Hallowe'en party. In no particular order:

1) 'til the Following Night - Screaming Lord Sutch

Really, any Screaming Lord Sutch song will do, since he was a weird dude who liked to dress up in a cape and pretty much only sing songs about things that go bump in the night, but this one has ridiculous Joe Meek scary sound effects over top of it, as well as a groovin' saxophone, and as such has become his signature tune. If you want something even more obscure, try Dracula's Daughter which is just too perfectly silly for words, from the lyrics (bonus points for the "meet the old bat" pun) right down to the guitar riff ripped off from the Hawaii Five-O theme.

2) Werewolf - Five Man Electrical Band

Yes, this was a single. You gotta love the way Mama is rooting for her son to maul her husband towards the end of the song.

3) Don't Shake Me Lucifer - Roky Erickson

Roky's another one where you could use almost any song in his solo catalogue for a Hallowe'en mix, but I'm partial to this one, which is actually damn catchy while being light on the monsters but heavy on the Satan.

4) Excitable Boy - Warren Zevon

Wait a minute, there's another Warren Zevon tune worth playing at Hallowe'en? Hellz yeah there is. Excitable Boy is part of a long line of party-time rock tunes about killers which stretches all the way back to the Beatles' Maxwell's Silver Hammer *. Oingo Boingo's Only a Lad is another standout in the subgenre, but for my money Warren's entry can't be beat, what with the jaunty piano, yackety sax and happy ooh-waa backup singers providing a deranged counterpoint to lyrics like "he took little Suzie to the junior prom / he raped her and killed her, then he took her home".

* this is not actually a link to the Beatles' version of the song, but something infinitely more horrific. You've been warned.

5) Dig It Up - Hoodoo Gurus

The song the Cramps wish they'd recorded. (Also, add some Cramps to the Hallowe'en mix if you haven't already, even if it's just Human Fly). Dig It Up is also the best song about necrophilia ever. EVER. This is not an opinion, it's proven scientific fact.

6) Bloodletting (The Vampire Song) - Concrete Blonde

I wasn't going to put this on the list because I thought it was too obvious, but then I noticed that it wasn't on any of the "Top XX Hallowe'en Songs" lists I looked at before writing this. For shame, internets!

7) Jolene - Queen Adreena

This is not what Dolly Parton had in mind when she wrote the song.

In Queen Adreena's hands Jolene isn't just some jezebel, but a dead lover come back to claim her man and drag him down to hell with her, or maybe an autumn-haired succubus roaming the moors looking for fresh blood. Whoever she is, she sounds like somebody I want to party with though.

8) like a flickering celluloid moonbeam on the view screen - Prince Charming

This whole album, Psychotropical Heatwave, is the album your mother warned you about. It's indescribable, some sort of jungley-dubby-bassy-apocalyptic hellride through your subconscious, where just when you think you have a handle on what's going on, bam! They hit you with a Peter and the Wolf sample. I haven't gotten down to NYC for Blackout yet, but if this album were Blackout's soundtrack it wouldn't surprise me one bit.

I picked this track in particular because it's rather subtly unsettling, and also has the shortest title.

September Travesties

Quiet month, what with the film fest and inevitable post-fest crash and all.

A Small Victory - Faith No More
Cult of Personality - Living Color
Every Breath You Take - Police
Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead
Golden Years - David Bowie
Killer Queen - Queen
King of Pain - Police
Pure Morning - Placebo
Street Fighting Man - Rolling Stones
Sunshine of Your Love - Cream
Superfly - Curtis Mayfield
Tie Your Mother Down - Queen
Time - Pink Floyd

TIFF Review: Coriolanus

Coriolanus (2011, directed by Ralph Fiennes)

Never let it be said that Ralph Fiennes half-asses anything.

For his directorial debut, Fiennes figured it wasn't enough to bring one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays to the big screen for the first time. Nope, that's not enough of a challenge. He also had to star in it, modernize it and stock it full of machine guns and media saturation, and go toe-to-toe with Vanessa Redgrave. Oh, and what the hell, let's prove to the world that Gerard Butler is a damn fine actor to boot.

If you don't know the play, there's probably a reason for that. It's not among Shakespeare's best: a Roman general is despised by the people for his heavy-handed methods of suppressing dissent but lionized for his victories against foreign enemies. When he returns in triumph and is put forward as consul, a couple of senators conspire against him and get him exiled, whereupon he joins up with his bitterest foe to take his revenge on the city and the people that rejected him. There's some dramatic meat on those bones, but what themes there are scuttling below the surface don't exactly carry the weight of a Lear or Hamlet.

At the same time though, picking a lesser-known play gives Fiennes as blank a slate as you can get for doing the Bard, and as an actor he takes full advantage. His Coriolanus is a military genius but politically tone-deaf, a pure bullet of a man who knows only one speed and one direction in which to live his life. As with all Shakespearean heroes his strengths and weaknesses are but two sides of the same coin, and both lead inexorably to his downfall.

The rest of the cast is hit and miss, although mostly hit. Redgrave is of course magnificent as Coriolanus' mother, Brian Cox is his typical gravelly self as his senatorial mentor, and Jekyll's James Nesbitt proves surprisingly adept as one of the schemers who turns the city against him. But the massive surprise is Butler as Aufidius, Coriolanus' sworn enemy and eventual patron. Making no attempt whatsoever to hide his Scottish accent, Butler dives into his role with a fury, matching Fiennes blow for blow and line for line in the early scenes and deftly planting the seeds for their eventual mutual respect and alliance. 300 may have made Butler a star, but this is the film that establishes him as an actor to be reckoned with.
Of the principal cast only Jessica Chastain comes up short, but to be fair she doesn't exactly have much to do as Coriolanus' wife.

Seriously though, if Butler doesn't do Macbeth sometime in the next 10 years or so where I can see it, I will never forgive him.

Fiennes' casting instincts might be superb, but his directing skills are still fairly rough. The modernization is interesting, but this is not McKellan's Richard III. It allows Fiennes to stage some suitably chaotic war scenes, have pundits spit out couplets as sound bites and add some pretty good running gags (the Roman news network is called 'Fidelis'), but in the end Coriolanus and Aufidius still have a knife fight, and winning the job of consul still involves pressing the flesh in an open air market. It comes off not so much as a 'the more things change' commentary as it does the screenplay running out of ideas on how to update some of the scenes. Fiennes leans too heavily on some shots, as basically every speech of the slightest length (especially his own) in tight close-up, and a few too many people walk away from the camera, out of focus and into a pool of light.

None of the problems are major though. Coriolanus is a solid debut for Fiennes behind the camera, a coming out party for Butler as a Serious Actor, and a fairly ripping good yarn. Any one of those is reason enough to go see it.

TIFF Review: The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best

The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best (2011, directed Ryan O'Nan)

Alex isn't having the best week of his life. The douchey wannabe rocker he's stuck in a duo with cuts him loose after lecturing Alex on how his lonely indie-folk ballads aren't as autobiographical as his own sub-Ozzy-esque werewolf ditties. He gets fired from his job as a musical moose who sings at schools, after he beats up a special needs student. In self-defense, of course. Oh, and he's still obsessively carrying around the Dear John letter he just received from the love of his life.

What better time to form a new band with Jim, the deranged lunatic who punches him in the park, and go on a cross-country tour while jammed into the front seat of the lunatic's grandpa's barely functioning orange '80s VW Rabbit?

To say the movie is twee wouldn't be to do it justice. Alex's dark acoustic musings get mashed together with Jim's collection of toy instruments to form a sound described in the film as "the Shins meets Sesame Street." Naturally they're a hit (if you define 'hit' as 'barely making enough money to pay for gas and food') and quickly get joined by Cassidy, the tough-exteriored girl who's doing the booking on their first gig and decides on a whim to split Pennsylvania and become their manager. Whimsical shenanigans ensue as the duo spar from coast to coast and Alex and Cassidy start to fall for each other, until things inevitably splinter apart and then pull back together in a heartwarming, quirky finale.

If I sound like I'm shitting all over the movie, I don't mean to. It's relentlessly formula, sure, but there's nothing wrong with formula when it's well done, and Brooklyn Brothers has enough humor and charm to get through it's weaker moments. It also has an ace in the hole: a parade of cameos and supporting performances from a bizarre array of recognizable faces. Wilmer Valderrama, Christopher McDonald, Melissa Leo, and Andrew McCarthy as Alex's resolutely Christian older brother all lend their chops to the production and give it a little necessary pep.

Really, whether you can even tolerate the film or not depends on how well you can handle the music. If you can imagine Jonathan Coulton cutting an album entirely of his more 'serious' numbers, with Fischer-Price sponsoring the tour, you've got some idea of what to expect. If that has you clawing at your ears and running for the hills, give this one a miss. If that sounds kinda cute, then Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best is the film for you.

TIFF Review: You're Next

You're Next (2011, directed by Adam Wingard)

Some scenes are universal. A family gets together for their parents' anniversary, and immediately falls into old patterns. The two older brothers squabble over nothing, the baby girl beams at daddy, the youngest brother broods in the corner. Their various significant others watch on with varying degrees of concern and amusement at the whole scene while the folks try to maintain some semblance of peace during their big night. And then of course the inevitable crossbow blot shatters a window and catches somebody in the forehead...

Wait, what?

A home invasion film that both embraces and defies convention, You're Next is a more than worthy follow-up to Wingard's A Horrible Way To Die, another film that took some delight in not going where you might expect it to. Bloody as all hell, the film stacks up bodies like cord wood as the invaders discover that their victims aren't quite as hapless as they planned. It's also got a vicious sense of humor, which spills out in the form of some ridiculous lines of dialogue and the survivors' reliance of home defense techniques stolen directly from Macaulay Culkin's bag of tricks, albeit leaning more towards axes than cans of paint. And while AJ Bowen is his usual effortlessly awesome self, and Stuart Gordon's favorite scream queen Barbara Cramptom is tremendous as the family matriarch, it's Sharni Vinson as Bowen's Aussie girlfriend Erin who totally steals the show.

It's not a perfect film. Joe Swanberg, the weak acting link in Horrible Way To Die, is still a half beat out of synch in this one. And the opening sequence in which some inconvenient neighbors get offed tries to be a Scream-level table-setter but falls flat, mainly due to the fact we never really see the victims showing any fear or terror.

But once that crossbow bolts shatters the night, it's pretty much balls to the way straight to the finish line. If you're tired of pretentious, misanthropic twaddle like Funny Games messing up the good clean fun of the home invasion genre, You're Next is a hell of an antidote.

TIFF Review: Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse (2011, directed by Frederick Wiseman)

If you've seen a Wiseman doc before, you probably know what you're getting into. His style is verite and he does it extremely well, "simply" pointing a camera at his subjects and letting their lives provide any sort of narrative. There's very little that's truly simple about his films though. In lesser hands that form of documentary can be deadly dull, but Wiseman's ability to construct exquisite images, and find rhythms through the editing process, sets his work far above many of his peers.

Which is why Crazy Horse, in many ways, caught me by surprise. In portraying subjects already used to scrutiny, Wiseman made some interesting changes to his usual style, and I'm still not sure whether they were for the better.

If you don't know, the Crazy Horse is Paris' most revered burlesque venue, a club that for decades has been dedicated to the admiration of the feminine form. What that means is that the film is, shall we say, very casual about its use of nekkidness. There are reasonably hot naked and partially naked women on screen for probably a quarter or a third of the film's running time - women rehearsing routines, performing routines, or just hanging out backstage. For that reason alone, this is easily Wiseman's most "mainstream" film. To his credit though, the camera doesn't do any ogling. Wiseman, as always, is worried about the composition of his images and not in turning on his audience, but frankly the ladies of Crazy Horse don't need any help in that department anyway.

As performers though, most of the people in the film are used to being watched, and while there's no sense that anyone is performing per se their comfort level in front of the camera, and their awareness of it, is a sharp contrast to any of Wiseman's previous films that I've seen. He also, for lack of a better word, cheats. In something like Boxing Gym he makes no attempt to explain to the audience who his subjects are or what they are doing, and offers no summations. Meaning comes purely from observation. In Crazy Horse though he actually lets the staff of the Crazy Horse explain themselves by filming them being interviewed by other journalists. It's kind of a jarring intrusion, almost talking heads by proxy, and I'm not sure it should have been in the film. Media attention is surely part of their lives, but I have to think there could have been more organic ways to portray that fact.

That nitpick aside, Crazy Horse is for the most part pure spectacle. Many of the routines, even in rehearsal, and filmed in a fairly tight shot and surrounded by nothing but darkness, effortlessly giving the audience the illusion that are actually in the club and not watching a film about the club. There is a rope suspension routine near the end of the doc that might be the best primer on the appeal and eroticism of bondage play ever put to film. And when Wiseman does open things up, such as scenes where he cuts back and forth between a routine itself and other dancers watching the routine backstage and commenting on it, he brilliantly reveals the personal dynamics of the troupe, simultaneously supportive and competitive.

Perhaps my favorite moment in the film comes when the dancers are simply hanging out and watching an old video of Russian ballet bloopers. At no point does anyone say "I wanted to be a ballerina when I was growing up, and now I'm here instead". No one mourns wistfully about the road not taken. The girls are all having a good time, laughing at clumsy lifts and jetes that wind up entangled in the scenery, but it also makes perfectly clear that whatever you see them as, they all still see themselves as dancers. It's a lovely, subtle moment, and the bittersweet echo of Wiseman's previous film La Danse can't be mere happenstance.

If anyone sees this just to watch the hot naked burlesque chicks, I kind of pity them. It's an excellent film, period. You shouldn't need another justification to seek it out.

TIFF Review: Juan of the Dead

Juan of the Dead (2011, directed by Alejandro Brugues)

Shaun, Juan... I can hardly wait for Siobhan of the Dead, where beautiful Irish lasses fight zombies in slow motion to the haunting strains of Sinead O'Connor and Cranberries tunes. I suppose somebody's already working on Han of the Dead, where zombies invade a Comic-Con-like gathering of geeks. How about Von of the Dead, where a retired baseball player battles zombie Phillie fans?

Anyway, Juan of the Dead is an amusing little trifle. The titular Juan scratches out a living in Havana running whatever schemes he can to get by, and trying to make amends with his daughter Camila, recently returned from Spain. When folks start acting oddly and trying to eat people due to a batch of expired pharmaceuticals, Juan and his motley crew of friends try to exploit the situation by charging for their zom... excuse me, "dissident"-elimination services. The usual mayhem ensues, to a seductive salsa beat.

As zombie movies go, Juan of the Dead isn't up the level you'd expect from a North American feature. The make-up is no great shakes, the actors clearly have had no fight training whatsoever, and the film-making in general is a little rough. But what it lacks in polish it (almost) makes up in charm. The token political message (that the government denies anything is really wrong, and that the disturbances in the streets are being caused by Yankee-backed dissidents) makes for a good running joke, and the script is versed in the classics well enough to introduce a character who "kicks ass for the Lord" and then promptly gets accidentally offed, as well as the creation of a jury-rigged zombie-killing car that lacked only Raimi's hyperzooms to be a full-on Army of Darkness homage. A couple of the kills, particularly a truck-mounted harpoon that leads to the decapitation of a whole mob of zombies, are inventive too. It's also extremely cool to see a film like this actually shot in Havana in all its fading, run-down glory - I don't know how they got permission to shoot this, and don't want to know. The city is very nearly a zombie itself at this point, and an important character in the film in its own right.

The words that came to mind while watching Juan were things like "cute" and "endearing", even considering the presence of a comic relief sidekick who goes way beyond 'clumsily gross' and into 'why do they keep this useless disgusting pig around anyway?' territory. It's a fun, entertaining little time-waster.

Seriously though, Han of the Dead. If no one is making it right this second, I'm both deeply disappointed and calling dibs.

TIFF Review: Keyhole

Keyhole (2011, directed by Guy Maddin)

I love Guy Maddin. L-O-V-E love. A walk down Main Street love. An apple that's so sweet love. Maddin's highly specific, highly weird aesthetic is harmoniously sympatico with my own, and his fantasies have never failed to enchant and transport me.

Which is why this is one of the hardest reviews I've ever had to write, because Keyhole in a train wreck.

The plot is only a little more inscrutable than normal from Maddin. Ulysses Pick (played by a mostly somnambulant Jason Patric), a Prohibition-era gangster, has returned home with his mob after a long absence with the intention of reconciling with his wife Hyacinth, played by (of course) Isabella Rossellini. That's easier said than done though, as Ulysses' memories are fragmented, the house is haunted and every door is locked. As he makes his way laboriously through the house unlocking every door (both literal and figurative) his gang grows restless and odd dangers mount.

As a spin on the Odyssey, Keyhole contains all of Maddin's usual weirdness. What it doesn't contain is his usual humor or vitality. I don't know whether it was because he was shooting on DV instead of his beloved old-timey hand-cranked cameras, or because the script didn't really seem to know what to do with the source material, but the Maddin magic is almost completely lacking. The whole thing is just a sodden, turgid, dreary mess, and only occasional appearances by Udo Kier put any pep in its step at all. In previous films, Maddin would sense when things were getting too heavy and cut to a shot of people in ethnically stereotypical costumes sliding into a giant vat of beer, or toss in some ridiculous line about frisky reindeer, to remind you that his primary goal was still to entertain you. There are no giant vats of beer or frisky reindeer in Keyhole, and the moments that seem thrown in for that cathartic comic relief sink like a stone. There's even another Kid in the Hall in this one, but where Mark McKinney delivered a terrific performance in Saddest Music, Kevin McDonald is wasted here, barely getting three words in before becoming pure, and not terribly funny, physical shtick.

I wish I could point the finger at the score, which is just a heavy droning awful thing that never gives you a chance to swim to the surface, but I can't. The script isn't up to George Toles' usual standards, the editing is weak, the direction is unfocused... the whole thing is just a mess.

I'm praying this is just a blip, that it was just a troubled production on something that held Maddin back, and that he'll bounce back with his next film. The alternative explanation, that Maddin just entered the twilight of his career with a sickening thud, is too monstrously depressing to think about.

TIFF Review: God Bless America

God Bless America (2011, directed by Bobcat Goldthwait)

Holy crap.

I mean this in the best possible way... how the fuck did this movie get made?

Frank is a decent but down-on-his-luck schmuck, suffering from chronic migraines and the miserable mean-spiritedness of modern America. Divorced, fired from his job for sexual harassment after a misguided but well-meaning gesture, and diagnosed with a brain tumor, Frank considers suicide until he sees a little too much of his own daughter in Chloe, the horrifically bratty star of a reality TV show. Figuring he's got nothing to lose, he tracks down and kills the brat as a way to strike one final blow against the douchification of the country. When he's spotted by Roxy, the Alice Cooper-worshipping schoolmate of Chloe's who hates even more people than he does, the two set off on a road trip killing spree to rid the US of A of every A-hole they can find.

While God Bless America could easily be just an unofficial prequel to Mike Judge's sadly bowdlerized Idiocracy, there's a little more going on here than just lampooning the most vacuous depths of the pop culture scene. The nods to Taxi Driver and Network in the film don't show up by accident. The film isn't just making fun of stupidity, it's judging it, and then acting as a cathartic jury and executioner to boot. The really amazing thing about God Bless America, for me, is that it never went quite where I expected it to. Frank and Roxy's relationship never strays (much) beyond platonic, and there's no "they get idolized in the media as famous killers and become the thing they hate" denouement. There's even very little indication that Frank and Roxy are conflicted by their actions, or worried that murder might not be the best answer for people who are "uncivilized". (In that, the film couldn't be more true-blue American if it tried.)

Instead the movie spends its time getting to know Frank and Roxy, and giving the actors a chance to shine. Joey Murray, best-known as Freddy on Mad Men, is phenomenal as the harried schlub at the end of his rope, while Tara Lynne Barr isn't quite as good but still turns in a solid performance as the sweetly manic Roxy. Given that's it's her debut (her credits to this point are little more than a smattering of guest spots on shows like the Suite Life of Zack and Cody) it's a pretty terrific piece of work from someone who's still a teenager herself. The world needs more ingenues capable of being at least slightly deranged, right?

As good as they are though, the acting is more than matched by the direction. Goldthwait continues to improve by leaps and bounds as a director, and while his form of satire is a lot more visceral than, say, Chris Guest's, he's almost at the point where he can get honestly mentioned in the same breath. Bobcat's put himself on my list of directors whose next efforts I will watch, no questions asked.

From the opening dream sequence, in which a noisy baby gets shotgunned like a blood-filled skeet, to the final massacre at a live American Ido... err, Superstars taping, God Bless America is pure delightful fun, if your idea of pure delightful fun is watching small, shabby, emotionally-stunted fucktards getting slaughtered in large numbers.

TIFF Review: 50/50

50/50 (2011, directed by Jonathan Levine)

Dramedies so rarely work, it's a wonder they get made at all. The mix is a tough one to get right. If one element dominates the other seems forced, and if the two don't flow together organically the whole concoction comes out sour. It's like a bad mojito. Too much rum, or the wrong type of rum, and it becomes the kind of swill only a 15-year-old could pretend to love. Too little booze, and you might as well be drinking toothpaste-flavored water.

50/50 is a pretty smooth mojito, with a decent kick to it.

This is the part of the review where I describe the plot, so TalkBackers won't bitch about whether I actually saw the film or not and instead can bitch about spoilers. Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a nice normal Seattlite who does pieces on volcanos for public radio that no one much wants to listen to. Things are inching towards getting serious with his sexy artist girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), and everything seems blandly hunky-dory... until the back pain that's been bothering him turns out to be a rare, nasty form of cancer wrapped around his spinal column which leaves him with 50/50 odds of survival at best. As he gets rushed into chemo all his assumptions about his safe cozy life, and indeed his safe cozy self-image, are ripped apart and he's got to not only learn to survive, but learn to live.

If that sounds a bit trite it's because it very easily could have been. The plot too often opts for charcoal instead of pitch-black, and the direction from Levine doesn't take any risks (when Radiohead's High and Dry kicks in on the soundtrack after Adam finds out he's sick, I nearly groaned out loud. What, they couldn't get Nirvana's All Apologies?) But that provides a clean canvas on which an exceptionally talented cast can work. There aren't any scene-stealers here, because just about everyone is locked in from the get go: Anjelica Huston as the mom hiding her own pain beneath suffocating concern; Anna Kendrick as the novice therapist still trying to define her personal and professional boundaries; Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer (!) as Adam's fellow chemo patients... there are simply no weak links. No, not even Seth Rogan as the asshole best friend who sees Adam's cancer as a great way for them both to get laid. But good as they are, they're all just satellites in orbit around an incredibly grounded, funny, moving performance by Gordon-Levitt. In every single frame of film he's completely invested in his character, and the honesty in Adam's mounting frustration and fear and rage is what truly makes 50/50 work. It isn't an over-the-top histrionic performance (in other words, it isn't Oscar bait) but it is an exceptional one, and it's just another bit of proof that it's long past time Hollywood realizes that Gordon-Levitt belongs in the conversation when talking about the best actors of his generation.

50/50 isn't revolutionary, and it isn't as good as the modern reigning queen of the genre, Terms of Endearment (which it kind of foolishly name-drops). But it's a hell of a lot better than it could have been, and there are moments on both the comedy and drama sides that stick with you for a bit after the credits roll. There's not much more you could ask for from a moji... err, a dramedy.

TIFF Review: Killer Elite

Killer Elite (2011, directed by Gary McKendry)

The fact that a Jason Statham film is a Gala might be the funniest joke this festival has ever played on its audience.

Now don't get me wrong: Killer Elite is a perfectly respectable Jason Statham film. It's not a fluffy piece of cartoony silliness like Crank, and even has delusions of importance, but the thought of people getting dressed to the nines and heading to the opera house TIFF uses for their Gala screenings to watch Statham and Clive Owen kick each other's ass is just hilarious. (Mind you, this year's Gala lineup also features a U2 doc, a Gerard Butler film, a Luc Besson film, and Madonna's directorial debut, so maybe it isn't that out of place after all...)

Anyway, the plot: Statham is an ex-SEAL and independent contractor in the '80s who leaves the business after a crisis of conscience. He gets dragged back in when his mentor (Robert DeNiro) is held hostage after failing to complete a seemingly impossible job for an exiled sheik: kill the three SAS bastards who killed the sheik's three eldest sons during the Oman conflict, but make all the deaths look like accidents. As if the job wasn't hard enough, the sheik wants videotaped confessions from all three, and a group of ex-SAS bigshots called the Feather Men quickly get wind of Statham's assignment and set their attack dog Spike (played by Owen) loose to stop him.

If Killer Elite reminded me of anything it was Ronin, and not just because DeNiro's in both. Now, that's not the compliment it might be from some people. I think Ronin's horribly overrated in some circles, and cool car chases (OK, REALLY cool car chases) don't make up for things like the utterly pointless Sean Bean subplot in my book. Killer Elite's story is more streamlined than Ronin's, but it's got the same 'mercenaries on a mission in a morally ambiguous universe' vibe and the same bloated sense of self-importance.

But it's also got Statham, and that goes a long way. The guy just can't help being cool on screen, no matter what he's doing (which in this case is mostly killing guys, planning to kill guys, or flashing back to shagging his hot new girlfriend back in Australia.) And it's also got Owen, who's in Sin City mode here: all barely suppressed rage and with a ridiculous moustache to boot. Those two alone make the film worth watching, although Dominic Purcell turns in a great supporting turn as one of Statham's crew, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje pops in too as their, for lack of a better word, dispatcher.

The script is wonky in spots (I dare you not to cringe when one of the Feather Men explains where their name comes from. I double-dog-dare you) and given that the film (or rather, the book that provides its source material) ludicrously claims to be based on a true story, it's kind of amazing that it works at all, but it does work. It's a perfectly respectable actiony-thrillery-conspiracy thing.

Just don't expect anything more than that.

TIFF Review: The Raid

The Raid (2011, directed by Gareth Huw Evans)

When Ong Bak hit the scene a decade or so ago everyone flipped out over Tony Jaa and the awesome brutality of the muy thai fight scenes, but the film itself got a few fanboy sneers for not being the polished production you might expect out of the more established film industries of the east.

The Raid might end up having just as big an impact as Ong Bak did, but the fanboys are gonna have to find something else to complain about.

Telling the story of a botched police raid on the tenement stronghold of a Jakarta crime lord, The Raid featured basically everything you could possibly want in an action film. Simple yet propulsive plot? (It's basically a Die Hard riff). Check. Charismatic star? (Iko Uwais carries himself on-screen like the Indonesian Ryan Gosling, if Gosling could kill a man with his bare hands in under five seconds.) Check. Worthy opponents? (If Uwais is the Indonesian Gosling, Ray Sahetapy as Tama the crime lord might as well be the Indonesian Benicio del Toro. And the nastier of his two main henchmen gets played by the film's fight choreographer, Yayn Ruhian, and is simply called Mad Dog.) Great fight scenes? (Silat, the Indonesian house brand martial arts style on display here, comes across like muy thai's vicious cousin.) Check. Massive body count? (This isn't a 'tap and you fall down' martial arts movie. Even beyond all the machete action, automatic weapons fire, exploding refrigerators and close-range bullets to the temple, an awful lot of people get stabbed in the throat in The Raid.) Check check check asterisk asterisk holy shit exclamation point check.

What sets The Raid apart from the recent wave of muy thai films like Ong Bak, Tom-Yung-Goong and Chocolate though is the story-telling. Welsh transplant writer/director Gareth Evans does a fantastic job of showcasing the fight scenes while still keeping the film moving relentlessly forward. The quiet moments are few, far between and placed with precision, and the rest is thunderous bloody mayhem, with none of the set pieces feeling like they were shoe-horned in just because they looked cool. It's Evans, just as much as Uwais, who's the real breakaway star here, and he's established himself as a young action director who demands that you pay attention to whatever project he's taking aim at next.

If anything The Raid feels like a next step forward down the path Ong Bak opened up. Ten years ago, the idea that there even could be an 'undiscovered' cinematic martial art style was a mind-blower. The Raid can't blaze that trail twice, but it doesn't need to, and doesn't even try. Instead, The Raid just focuses on kicking your ass so hard you're shitting out of your nostrils for a week.

And really, isn't that what we all want from our action flicks?

2011 Fest Preview

A quick list of some of the coming films that have caught my eye at TIFF this year:

Midnight Madness:

God Bless America - Bobcat Goldthwait is back in the director's chair, returning to TIFF for the first time since Sleeping Dogs Lie. This one seems to be about a bottomed-out loser on a rampage, sounding a bit like Falling Down meets the Doom Generation.

The Incident - a rock band is trapped in an asylum where the inmates are running amok. It's from the French co-director of the White Stripes' Seven Nation Army video. It could suck, or it could be everything an Alejandro Aja film is supposed to be but isn't. Fingers crossed!

Kill List - Down Terrace director Ben Wheatley brings us something about hit men in over their heads. Could be interesting.

Livid - a full-on, balls-out Gothic haunted mansion film from the directors of a l'Interieur. I. AM. SO. FUCKING. THERE.

The Raid - an Indonesian martial arts film, with a plot that sounds like something out of Hong Kong in the '80s? Yes please.

You're Next - A Horrible Way To Die director Adam Wingard riffs on Straw Dogs. Works for me.


Arirang - Kim Ki-duk deconstructs a behind-the-scenes doc, or something. Don't know, don't care - it's been too long since I've seen a new film from him.

Comic-Con: Episode IV - A Fan's Hope - I kinda suspect Spurlock's Comic-Con doc will bite, but I'm basically obligated to see it.

Crazy Horse - Frederick Wiseman's latest subject? The legendary Paris cabaret Crazy Horse. Wheeeee!

Dark Girls - a doc that explores skin colour bias within African-Whateveran communities around the world.

I'm Carolyn Parker: The Good, The Mad & The Beautiful - Jonathan Demme's biodoc on New Orleans heroine Parker.

Into the Abyss - Herzog's doc about a Texas murder case and death row. Not, sadly, shot in 3D, but still a must-see.

The Last Gladiators - Alex Gibney's latest is about hockey goons, and Chris Nilan in particular.

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory - Berlinger and Sinofsky are back with part three in the saga of the West Memphis Three.

Paul Williams Still Alive - a semi-obsessed fan tries to figure out what the hell happened to Paul Williams, anyway?

Sarah Palin - You Betcha! - Nick Broomfield does his usual shtick, but with Palin in his crosshairs.

Pearl Jam Twenty - Cameron Crowe's Pearl Jam doc. What more needs to be said?

Yes, I'm deliberately leaving the U2 doc off the list...

Other Stuff:

A Dangerous Method - Cronenberg. Viggo. Michael Fassbender. Oh, and it's about the relationship between Freud and Jung, with keira Knightley playing Sabina Spielrein. If this isn't my favourite film of the fest, it'll be a shocking upset.

The Ides of March - Clooney directs Clooney, Gosling, Giamatti and Hoffman (Philip Seymour, not Dustin) in a political thriller about an Ohio primary.

The Lady - Luc Besson's Aung San Suu Kyi biopic, starring Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis. No clue whether that could actually work or not, but I'm just glad Thewlis is getting projects like this again, frankly.

Moneyball - I have zero faith this will be a good movie, but like the Spurlock I feel obligated to see it.

505/50 - I have no idea what this is about, but the cast includes Joseph Gorder-Levitt, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Anjelica Huston. Oh, and Seth Rogan, but no film is perfect.

Anonymous - more Thewlis! Sweet! On the bright side, it's a mystery about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays with Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Liz. On the other hand it's directed by... Roland Emmerich????

Coriolanus - Ralph Fiennes directs himself and Gerard Butler in a Roman revenge tale. Could potentially be bad-ass.

Dark Horse - Solondz's latest is a love story about a girl who tried being a grown-up and failed, and a guy who never tried. The cast includes Christopher Walken, Aasif Mandvi and Selma Blair as one of the leads. Your guess is as good as mine.

The Descendants - Alexander Payne's latest stars Clooney as a widower forced to pay attention to his kids for a change.

Drive - OK, if the Cronenberg isn't my fave of the fest, then this almost certainly will be. Pusher trilogy director Nicolas Winding Refn makes his Hollywood debut with a crime thriller about a professional getaway driver, starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, with Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman as the bad guys. Fuck yeah.

Friends With Kids - Kissing Jessica Stein co-writer and co-star Jennifer Westfeldt rounded up the following cast for her directorial debut, an ensemble relationship comedy: Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Megan Fox and Westfeldt's boytoy Jon Hamm.

Melancholia - von Trier's "psychological disaster film". Is it wrong of me to indulge in a little schadenfreude over what he probably put Kirsten Dunst through during the shooting? I've never even met her... she just seems like an actress who needs to go through the von Trier actress meat grinder.

Rampart - this sounds terrible and indulgent, like it should have been titled Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call Los Angeles, only starring Woody Harrelson. And yet the rest of the cast... Anne Heche and Cynthia Nixon as his ex-wives? Sigourney Weaver as the deputy DA? Ice Cube? Ned Beatty? Ben Foster? Robin Wright? I mean, it has to be a train wreck, but it could be an entertaining one.

Shame - Michael Fassebender and Carey Mulligan star in Steve McQueen's latest, about a dissolute bastard whose younger sister moves in with him. Yup, I'm sold.

Twixt - a writer on a book tour gets sucked into a murder mystery in a small town. Yawn. It stars Val Kilmer. Still yawn. It's directed by Sofia Coppola's dad. Oh, dear. This is going to be painful to watch, isn't it?

We Need To Talk About Kevin - apparently two films about parents dealing with the aftermath of their kids doing awful things wasn't enough last year, because here comes another one. Mind you, this one stars Tilda Swinton and is directed by Lynne Ramsay, so maybe one more isn't so bad.

July Travesties

21 songs... not bad, all things considered.

Africa - Toto
All Apologies - Nirvana
And If Venice Is Sinking - Spirit of the West
Animal Nitrate - Suede
Boys Are Back In Town - Thin Lizzy
Broken Wings - Mister Mister
Burden In My Hand - Soundgarden
Caravan - Van Morrison
China Grove - Doobie Brothers
Dance Dance - Fall Out Boy
Down In the Tube Station At Midnight - Jam
Fell In love With a Girl - White Stripes
Freak On a Leash - Korn
Groove Me - King Floyd
Heart of the Matter - Don Henley
Jump - Van Halen (w/live band)
Let's Go Crazy - Prince
Mr. Brownstone - Guns 'n' Roses
Panama - Van Halen
Sister Christian - Night Ranger
Situation - Yaz

My AICN Archive


Beasts of the Southern Wild
Dredd 3D
The Master
Seven Psychopaths
Tai Chi 0
Rust and Bone
No One Lives
Cloud Atlas
The Hunt
The Lesser Blessed


Source Code
God Bless America
Juan of the Dead
Crazy Horse
The Raid
Killer Elite
You're Next
Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best


John Carpenter's The Ward
Legend of the Fist
13 Assassins
The Runaways
Let Me In
Griff the Invisible
Passion Play
Black Swan
I'm Still Here
Score: A Hockey Musical


The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Jennifer's Body
An Education
Survival of the Dead
Bitch Slap
The Road


The Brothers Bloom
Cooper's Camera
Detroit Metal City
Under the Tree
The Good, The Bad and The Weird
Every Little Step


The Brave One
Mother of Tears
They Wait
Across the Universe
Lou Reed's Berlin
Diary of the Dead
Sukiyaki Western Django


Black Sheep
Pan's Labyrinth
Jade Warrior
Romance & Cigarettes
Why We Fight
A History of Violence
Banlieue 13


Walk the Line
What Is It?
Brothers of the Head
The Well
With Blood On My Hands: Pusher 2
I'm the Angel of Death: Pusher 3
The Quiet
The Proposition
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic


The House of Flying Daggers
The Machinist
Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate
Spider Forest
Casuistry: The Art of Killing a Cat
Silver City
The Writer of O
Saint Ralph
Ghost In the Shell II: Innocence
Letters To Ali
Kung Fu Hustle
Tell Them Who You Are
Dead Birds
A Hole In My Heart
I Heart Huckabees
The Overture
9 Songs
Gunner Palace
A Dirty Shame
Les revenants


Bright Future
The Singing Detective
The Cooler
Ju-on: The Grudge
The Saddest Music In the World
Lost In Translation
How To Get The Man's Foot Outta Your Ass
Haute Tension
Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran
Alexandra's Project
Mayor of the Sunset Strip
I Love Your Work


Bubba Ho-Tep
Bowling For Columbine
Laurel Canyon
Spirited Away
Cuban Rafters
Bad Guy
The Trials of Henry Kissinger
Winged Migration
Love Liza
Shaolin Soccer
Royal Bonbon
The Eye
City of God
The Good Thief


American Astronaut
Ichi the Killer
Buffalo Soldier
Bang Rajan
Devil's Backbone
You Really Got Me
Rare Birds
Dogtown and Z-Boys
Prozac Nation
Full-Time Killer
Mr. In-Between
Bunuel and King Soloman's Table
How's Your News?
Je rentre a la maison
All About Lily Chou-Chou
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Waking Life
L'emploi du temps
Trouble Every Day
Hell House
The Grey Zone


Scary Movie
The Mechanism
City of Lost Souls
Wild Zero
The Long Holiday
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Gaea Girls
Shadow of the Vampire
The Irrefutable Truth About Demons
Two Thousand and None
Sexy Beast
Requiem For a Dream
Silent Partner
Scarlet Diva
American Nightmare
Storm Riders
A la verticale de l’ete
Best In Show
Goddess of 1967
Almost Famous
Time and Tide
What About Me: The Rise of the Nihilist Spasm Band
Me, Myself and Irene
Better Than Sex


Princess Mononoke
George Lucas In Love
Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris
Born To Lose: The Last Rock and Roll Movie
Les amants criminals
Yesterday Children
American Movie
Augustin, roi du kung-fu
The Humiliated
Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes
Ride With the Devil
Freeway II: Confessions of a Trick Baby
History Is Made At Night
Bloody Angels
The Item
Third World Cop
Excitement of the Do-Re-Mi-Fa Girl
Bullets Over Summer
julien donkey-boy
8 1/2 Women
Big Brass Ring

June Travesties

Another quiet month, just 18 songs. Officially song #500 since I started tracking was Dirty Deeds, which has a whole story behind it. If only I had a blog or something in which to tell it...

Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen
Cruella de Ville - Replacements (kind of)
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap - AC/DC
Divorce Song - Liz Phair
Drugs Don't Work - Verve
Epic - Faith No More
Fascination Street - Cure
Get Down On It - Kool & the Gang
Good Times Bad Times - Led Zepplin
High and Dry - Radiohead
I Can Dream About You - Dan Hartman
Mayor of Simpleton - XTC
Respect - Erasure
Run-around - Blues Traveler
She's Not There - Zombies
Situation - Yaz
Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand
Wild Horses - Rolling Stones

May Travesties

25 songs, and up to 497 different songs sung. Number 500 will be coming any day now...

#1 Crush - Garbage
867-5309 - Tommy Tutone
Aenema - Tool
Angel of Harlem - U2
Animal - Neon Trees
Baby Please Don't Go - Them
California Love - 2Pac
Crying - Roy Orbison
Dragula - Rob Zombie
Everlong - Foo Fighters
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic - Police
Give It Away - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Groovin' - Rascals
In the End - Linkin Park
In the Ghetto - Elvis Presley
Jealous Guy - John Lennon
Jump - Van Halen
Panama - Van Halen
Sledgehammer - Peter Gabriel
Sweet Transvestite - from Rocky Horror Picture Show
Tears of a Clown - Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
Today - Smashing Pumpkins
Waterfalls - TLC
Welcome Back Kotter - John Sebastian
Whole of the Moon - Waterboys

April Travesties

Only 18 songs... shameful. I am up to 485 different titles sung though. #500 should come in June or July.

Animal - Neon Trees
Buffalo Stance - Neneh Cherry
Don't Stop Me Now - Queen
Good Times Bad Times - Led Zeppelin
High School Confidential - Rough Trade
History Repeating - Propellerheads w/Shirley Bassey
Hit 'Em Up Style - Blu Cantrell
Howlin' For You - Black Keys
Let My Love Open the Door - Pete Townsend
Rosalita - Bruce Springsteen
Sledgehammer - Peter Gabriel
Soul Man - Sam & Dave
Stop - Spice Girls
Superfly - Curtis Mayfield
Tainted Love - Soft Cell
The Dead Heart - Midnight Oil
The Living Years - Mike & the Mechanics
We Can Work It Out - Beatles

#abckaraoke Update

So far...

A: Alphaville - Forever Young
B: Blue Rodeo - Try
C: Chicago - Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is
D: Doobie Brothers - China Grove
E: Emotions - Best Of My Love
F: Foreigner - Double Vision
G: Guns 'n' Roses - Mr. Brownstone
H: Howard Jones - New Song
I: Isley Brothers - Who's That Lady
K: K's Choice - Not An Addict
M: Mike & the Mechanics - The Living Years
N: Neon Trees - Animal
P: Propellerheads w/Shirley Bassey - History Repeating

Given the ones I've missed so far, I'm tempted to just do Jenny From the Block to cover all three letters.

March Travesties

33 songs. Quiet month due to stupid (i.e. what everyone else considers normal) work hours and stupid illness.

Up to 477 different songs sung in the database. I may have to start a pool on when I crack 500.

Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen (w/live band)
California Uber Alles - Dead Kennedys (w/live band)
Everlong - Foo Fighters (w/live band)
Feel Like Making Love - Bad Company
Good Times Bad Times - Led Zepplin (w/live band)
High School Confidential - Rough Trade
I Will Follow - U2
If You Could Read My Mind - Gordon Lightfoot
In The End - Linkin Park (duet w/Johnny Priceless)
Intervention - Arcade Fire
Johnny Come Home - Fine Young Cannibals
Kick Out the Jams - MC5 (w/live band)
London Calling - Clash (w/live band)
Lookin' Out My Back Door - CCR
Missing You - John Waite
Morning Glory - Oasis
Mr. Brownstone - Guns n Roses
New Song - Howard Jones
Not An Addict - K's Choice
Old Man - Neil Young
One - U2
Panama - Van Halen (w/live band)
Personal Jesus - Depeche Mode
Rock n Roll Suicide - David Bowie
Say It Ain't So - Weezer (w/live band)
See You Again - Miley Cyrus
Street Spirit - Radiohead
The Middle - Jimmy Eat World
This Diamond Ring - Gary Lewis & the Playboys
Waterfalls - TLC
Who's That Lady - Isley Brothers
Won't Get Fooled Again - Who (duet w/Rhea, w/live band)
You Sexy Thing - Hot Chocolate

I'm a Terrible Person

I fell out of sequence at #abckaraoke.

I was a week behind - still had to do my J song, even though it was K week - but by the time I got to Tequila Sunrise last night it was slammed, and I knew I would only be able to sing once, and I really wanted to try Not An Addict, and I was a bit tipsy...

Fail. Massive, massive fail.

Review: Source Code

Source Code (2011, directed by Duncan Jones)

We're two films into his career, and it's pretty clear what turns Duncan Jones' crank. Like Moon before it, Source Code uses science fiction trappings to explore humanity's free will and survival instinct. And like Moon, Jones isn't afraid to apply DJ sensibilities to filmmaking, mashing up genres and sampling from the classics to try and create something that is still unmistakably his own.

Unlike Moon, though, Source Code struggles to escape the gravity of those influences, and Jones' voice at times gets lost in the noise. It's hardly what you'd call a sophomore slump - Source Code is entertaining enough, with some interesting ideas and a couple of great supporting performances - but it's not career-defining either. (At least, I hope not).

If Jones gets anything perfectly right, it's the opening minutes of the film. The precredits sequence is flat out great. Over a score that sounds like it's cribbed from a top-notch 70s paranoid political thriller you've never seen, Jones intercuts between swooping aerial shots of Chicago and a commuter train hurtling towards the city. The music, the pacing of the shots, all scream one thing: something capital-b Bad is going to happen.

After that, Jones tosses the audience straight into the deep end of the plot. Jake Gyllenhaal wakes up on the train and finds himself sitting across from a woman (Michelle Monaghan) he doesn't know. In fact he doesn't even know how he got on the train - last thing he remembers, he was piloting a chopper in Afghanistan. The reflection he sees in the window isn't his face, and Monaghan keeps calling him by someone else's name. He's disoriented, angry, very nearly in a blind panic, and then boom.

No, literally, boom. The train blows up, killing everyone aboard. And then after blowing up, Gyllenhaal finds himself back in uniform, locked in a strange capsule with no memory of how he got there either while a different woman on a monitor grills him on the details of what he just saw...

From there, things settle down into a rhythm. Gyllenhaal is part of a covert anti-terrorism initiative trying to thwart the next attack by the train bomber. Through the magic of quantum physics, he's able to re-live the last 8 minutes of the life of one of the train's passengers over and over (and over and over) again, to try and find clues pointing to the identity of the terrorist. As he does so though, and despite being told repeatedly by his superiors that the people upon the train are already dead and that there's nothing he can do for them, Gyllenhaal starts to care about his fellow passengers (especially, of course, the pretty one sitting across from him) and tries to save them as well as complete his mission.

If that sounds like a Frankenstein's monster sewn together from equal parts 12 Monkeys and Groundhog Day, well, that's because it is. But there's a spark created by the collision of those two concepts that propels the film, and the script gives enough credit to the audience's intelligence that it never bogs itself down with exposition, although a large degree of credit for that needs to go to the always awesome Jeffrey Wright. He plays the scientist in charge of the project with a preening intellect that is simply astounding to watch. His one attempt to explain to Gyllenhaal how the project works lasts all of about thirty seconds and simultaneously gives you just enough information to suspend your disbelief while also making it clear how tired he is of dumbing down his genius for lesser minds. It's phenomenal, as is the rest of his performance. Why Wright isn't a bigger star is one of the great mysteries of modern Hollywood.

The other standout performance is Vera Farmiga as the face on the monitor, Gyllenhaal's liaison with the project HQ. Like Gyllenhaal, she finds herself trapped between her orders and basic human decency, but unlike Gyllenhaal her dilemma is a lot less theoretical. She takes what might have been a very jarring transition from ruthless model of military efficiency to bleeding heart, and makes it seem natural and inevitable. It's not a showy performance, but it's a very, very good one.

As for the leads? Well... Monaghan's sweet-natured cutie role is certainly necessary to get you as invested as Gyllenhaal in the fate of the passengers, but it doesn't give her a whole lot to do other than smile and occasionally scrunch up her brow in confusion. And good ole Jake, bless his heart, just doesn't have the over-the-top personality of a Willis or a Cage to really ever become a full-blown Everyman action hero, but in a role like this which is lighter on action and heavier on emoting, he's entirely adequate.

There's one other thing that makes Source Code slightly more than the sum of its parts, and that's its metaphysical underpinnings. Speaking as someone with a great love for pop culture bastardizations of quantum physics, this movie handles the whole 'multiple universes' concept as well as any big Hollywood production I've ever seen. Every time Gyllenhaal goes 'back' to those eight minutes, his choices create a new universe branching out from the old one. Since they all end in the train blowing up anyway (thus collapsing the wave, if you're following this and your eyes didn't glaze over a couple of sentences ago) Wright dismisses any of Gyllenhaal's concerns as nonsense. There's only one 'real' universe, and it's the one Wright is standing in. But as Gyllenhaal keeps pushing the envelope on what he can get done and get away with in those eight minutes, he becomes more and more certain that these universes aren't just shadows of probability, and are just as real as the world he's being sent from. The payoff on it all is really quite well done, even if it does raise some curious moral questions.

In short, Source Code is a fairly well-shot (one unfortunate CGI shot aside), reasonably clever movie with a couple of really good performances. Just so long as you aren't expecting to have your mind blown, it's worth checking out.

ABC Karaoke Update

A: Alphaville - Forever Young
B: Blue Rodeo - Try
C: Chicago - Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is
D: Doobie Brothers - China Grove
E: Emotions - Best Of My Love
F: Foreigner - Double Vision
G: Guns 'n' Roses - Mr. Brownstone
H: Howard Jones - New Song

Trying Best of My Love was a nightmarishly bad idea, for the record. I kicked serious ass on the GNR though. It all balances out.

My J is already set in stone - John Lennon, Jealous Guy (which I sang playing Rock Band and pretty much nailed.) I'm torn on my I though, between two songs I've long wanted to try. Iron Maiden's Run To the Hills is the obvious choice, but even after the Emotions train wreck part of me still thinks I could semi-pull off Who's That Lady by the Isley Brothers.

February Travesties

30 songs. Not bad for a short month, especially considering that I started back in to the 9-5 office grind and wasn't able to stay out late as often.

Have to add them to the DB later, but I should be over 460 different songs sung.

Band On The Run - Paul McCartney & Wings
Behind Closed Doors - Charlie Rich
Best of My Love - Emotions
Dear God - XTC
Don't Pay the Ferryman - Chris DeBergh
Double Vision - Foreigner
Dreams - Fleetwood Mac (duet w/Erin)
Every Rose Has Its Thorn - Poison
Feel Like Making Love - Bad Company
Games People Play - Alan Parsons Project
Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac
Good Times Bad Times - Led Zepplin
High School Confidential - Rough Trade
I'm On Fire - Bruce Springsteen
In the Meantime - Spacehog
Iris - Goo Goo Dolls
Karma Police - Radiohead
Little Red Corvette - Prince
Love Lies Bleeding - Elton John
Mac the Knife - Bobby Darin
Maggie May - Rod Stewart
Mr. Brownstone - Guns 'n' Roses
New Song - Howard Jones
One - U2
Rebellion (Lies) - Arcade Fire
Save It For Later - English Beat
She Came In Through the Bathroom Window - Beatles
Sister Christian - Night Ranger
Song For the Dumped - Ben Folds Five
The Drugs Don't Work - Verve

January Travesties

The new year kicked off with a karaoke explosion: 48 songs.

I'm now up to 453 different songs sung since I started keeping track.

#1 Crush - Garbage
Age of Aquarius / Let the Sun Shine In - 5th Dimension
Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty
Because the Night - Patti Smith
Blue Monday - New Order
Bulletproof - La Roux
Changes - David Bowie
China Grove - Doobie Brothers
Common People - Pulp
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground - White Stripes
Diamond Dogs - David Bowie
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is - Chicago
Down In the Tube Station At Midnight - Jam
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter - Pearl Jam
Fly At Night - Chilliwack
Forever Young - Alphaville
Heart-Shaped Box - Nirvana
Heartbreaker - Pat Benatar
Heat of the Moment - Asia
How Deep Is Your Love - Bee Gees
I Don't Like Mondays - Boomtown Rats
I'll Be Around - Spinners
I'll Never Tell - Once More With Feeling (duet w/Lauren)
In the End - Linkin Park (duet w/Johnny)
Isn't She Lovely - Stevie Wonder (duet w/Steve-O)
It's Only Make Believe - Conway Twitty
Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
Maneater - Hall and Oates
Midlife Crisis - Faith No More
Miss You - Rolling Stones
My Back Pages - Byrds
New Girl Now - Honeymoon Suite
Night They Drove Old Dixie Down - The Band
Old Man - Neil Young
Raspberry Beret - Prince
Rest In Peace - Once More With Feeling
Ride Like the Wind - Christopher Cross
Rio - Duran Duran
Say It Ain't So - Weezer
Shakin' All Over - Guess Who
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - Platters
Something To Sing About - Once More With Feeling (duet w/Lauren)
The Drugs Don't Work - Verve
The One Thing - INXS
This Boy's In Love - Presets
Time - Pink Floyd
Try - Blue Rodeo
Wild Horses - Rolling Stones

ABC Karaoke So Far

The tally so far at #abckaraoke:

A: Forever Young by Alphaville
B: Try by Blue Rodeo
C: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is - Chicago
D: China Grove - Doobie Brothers

Technically I haven't done the D song yet, but gimme a few hours.

Why Didn't I Notice This Before?

So I'm watching the Raptors-Grizzlies game, and at halftime they do a segment where Rod "Stupidest Man In Sports Broadcasting" Black quizzes Leo Rautins about Grizzlies history. When asked who the greatest player in franchise history was Rautins says, "Pau Gasol. Drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round in 2001 and then picked up in the Shareef Abdur-Rahim trade, blah blah blah"

Three questions later, Black asks him who the best draft pick in Grizzlies history was. "Gotta be Gasol, right?" Sigh.

At that moment it hit me. Rod Black must be the inspiration for Ron Burgundy.

Look at their names. Ron, Rod... colour starting with 'B', colour starting with 'B'.

They both established careers based on having the right look and a solid broadcasting voice despite being incredibly, stupendously thick.

They both say stupid things on air. Black's legendary for his penchant for tasting shoe leather. The classic Black moment came after the gold meal game at the '94 world junior hockey championships in which one Canadian player has promised to win gold for his (now-deceased) father. Black's question to him after the team lost: Do you feel like you let your father down since you only won silver?

And then there are the moustaches:

Keep in mind that Ferrell shot the first Austin Powers movie (starring hockey nut Mike Myers) in '97. If the subject of idiot broadcasters had come up, surely Myers would have mentioned Black. And Ferrell had smaller roles in a few other films (such as Dick and the Ladies Man) that shot in Canada between Austin Powers and Anchorman...

Can there be any doubt that Ron Burgundy is directly and explicitly based on Rod Black?

First New Music Find of 2011

Religious To Damn. If they remind me of anyone it would be a darker, gothier Gentle Creatures-era Tarnation, but who the heck remembers them but me?

Religious to Damn "Drifter" Music Video from Jason Akira Somma on Vimeo.

Debut album comes out in February. Hopefully a Toronto tour date will follow.

December Travesties

Greatest hits month saw me sing 31 tunes, but there are some glaring omissions. No Mack the Knife, no Little Red Corvette, no Common People, no Bowie at all... clearly I will have to hold the program over for a while yet.

Africa - Toto
All Apologies - Nirvana
All I Want Is You - U2
Always Something There To Remind Me - Naked Eyes
Animal Nitrate - Suede
Babe - Styx
Behind Blue Eyes - Who
Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen
Copperhead Road - Steve Earle
Dragula - Rob Zombie
Dream Weaver - Gary Wright
Everlong - Foo Fighters
Girl U Want - Devo
Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon - Neil Diamond
Girlfriend - Matthew Sweet
Hello It's Me - Todd Rundgren
I Got You - Split Enz
I Melt With You - Modern English
I Was Wrong - Social Distortion
In The End - Linkin Park (duet w/Johnny Priceless)
Interstate Love Song - Stone Temple Pilots
My Life - Billy Joel
Rebellion (Lies) - Arcade Fire
Solisbury Hill - Peter Gabriel
Sowing the Seeds of Love - Tears For Fears
Tainted Love - Soft Cell
The Bends - Radiohead
What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted - Jimmy Ruffin
While You See a Chance - Steve Winwood
Whistle For the Choir - Fratellis
White Room - Cream
Wild World - Cat Stevens

For The Record

Last song sung of 2010: Social Distortion's I Was Wrong

First song sung of 2011: STP's Interstate Love Song

Read into these things what you will.