Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Music News: U2 360° Tour

U2 has updated the dates and cities included on their upcoming U2 360° tour, which opens in Barcelona on June 30. The tour site now lists 11 North American stadium shows following 23 European dates.

The first North American leg of the tour starts in Chicago, IL at Soldier Field on September 12. According to a news item on the band's website, "the shows in Chicago, Boston and New York were instantaneous sell-outs" when tickets went on sale yesterday morning. [U2 360° Tour Site]

Read our review of U2's most recent album, No Line on the Horizon, here.
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TV News: Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter

IFC (cable's Idependent Film Channel) is preparing to announce a TV movie based on Laurell K. Hamilton's popular Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter book series, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The made-for-TV movie would be IFC's first feature-length production. Glen Morgan (The X-Files, Final Destination) will handle the adaptation and serve as one of the project's executive producers. The Anita Blake series currently includes 16 books, with a 17th title due out this summer, and spawned a Marvel comic book series that started in 2006. [The Hollywood Reporter]
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Sad News: RIP Andy Hallett

Angel star Andy Hallett died Sunday night at LA's Cedars-Sinai Hospital, after a five-year battle with heart disease. He was 33 years old. Hallett played the singing green demon, Lorne, on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff. E! Online reports that a Cape Cod funeral service is likely to be held this weekend. [E! Online]

Watch Andy in a scene from the Angel season two premiere, Judgment, below:

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Glasvegas - Glasvegas

Glasvegas' eponymous debut album was released in fall 2008, but with a busy spring and summer ahead of them, a lot more people are about to learn about this band. They've just started a 16-date North American tour that wraps up with a plum spot on Coachella's Saturday line up, and this summer in the UK they'll be opening for U2 and Kings of Leon.

Even if you don't know about the band's Scottish origins, the moment the vocals on the opening track, "Flowers and Football Tops," start, you'll know that Glasvegas is European rock, not American. Lead singer James Allan has a brogue so thick you could cut it with a knife, but even when you lose the lyrics in his accent, it doesn't detract from the musicality of the songs. The album as a whole is angsty, but with enough lightness to be appealing and not just depressing.

Glasvegas includes quite a few strong tracks. "Geraldine" transitions seamlessly into "It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry," although both songs are enjoyable singles on their own. "Daddy's Gone" takes its place alongside Harry Chapin's "Cat's In the Cradle" and Everclear's "Father of Mine," although it may be the most cheerful-sounding song ever in which a son mourns his abandonment by his father. "Stabbed" opens memorably with Allan voicing the lyrics, "I'm gonna get stabbed," over the mournful strains of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. "S.A.D. Light" starts with a sweet mournfulness before the intensity ramps up on the chorus.

While I can easily listen over and over again to all of the tracks I've already mentioned, the one that's become my favorite is the playful-sounding "Go Square Go," which, when you listen to the lyrics, is actually about a frightened kid working himself up to face off with the schoolyard bully who's been terrorizing him. The chorus and the crescendoing "here we go" end of the song beg to be shouted out loud along with the band during a live performance. With any luck, quite a few people will be doing exactly that in '09.
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Morrissey at the Wellmont Theatre, NJ: 3/16/09

The first time I saw Morrissey was two years ago, during the third of five consecutive nights at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. My friend and I had pretty good spots, thanks to our general admission tickets, and we were so thrilled that we decided it wasn't necessary for us to see Morrissey again — unless The Smiths miraculously reformed.

But a few months ago, when we found out Morrissey was about to embark on a tour featuring significantly smaller venues, we decided we just had to see him one more time. After failing to snag highly-coveted tickets to him perform during a Saturday night show at the Bowery Ballroom, we wound up obtaining tickets for the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, NJ. While the venue isn't as intimate as Bowery is, the concert was well worth it.
The setlist itself wasn't anything particularly spectacular, but it did have its highlights. Morrissey kicked things off with The Smiths' classic, "This Charming Man," and then plowed through a set that included additional Smiths songs such as "How Soon is Now?" and "Ask," along with a handful of older solo material, songs from You Are the Quarry and his latest offering, Years of Refusal. Interestingly enough, he eschewed tracks from 2006's Ringleader of the Tormentors, an album I personally find middling at best.

While Morrissey himself was relatively low key during the show, keeping the theatrics to a minimum when he wasn't throwing the shirts he was wearing out into the audience, there were still plenty of opportunities to witness the type of spectacle one comes to expect at Morrissey concerts.

Fans hung onto to every word, holding their arms out and singing along to old and new material alike. And when Morrissey came out at the end to deliver an encore of "First of the Gang to Die," fans began crowdsurfing en masse in a desperate (and sometimes successful) attempt to try touching Morrissey's hand before he left the stage. Those last few moments were exhilaratingly intense, even for those of us who weren't trying to reach the stage, a perfect reminder of why Morrissey concerts tend to draw such a dedicated following.

This Charming Man, Billy Budd, Black Cloud, How Soon is Now, Irish Blood English Heart, Let Me Kiss You, I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris, Ask, How Could Anyone Possibly Know How I Feel, The Loop, Death of a Disco Dancer, Something is Squeezing My Skull, Seasick Yet Still Docked, Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself, Best Friend on the Payroll, Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed, Sorry Doesn't Help, I Keep Mine Hidden, The World is Full of Crashing Bores, I'm OK By Myself

First of the Gang to Die
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

U2 - No Line on the Horizon

The last U2 album I fell in love with at first listen was 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind. For me, reaction-wise No Line on the Horizon is closer to their last album, 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb -- I liked the album after the first listen, but I can tell that I'll fall in love with it slowly as I discover something new to appreciate and enjoy each time I listen to it.

Though public response has been lukewarm, I liked "Get On Your Boots" right off the bat. It's a get-happy bit of spun sugar on an otherwise soulful album. Other early favorites include the almost seven-and-a-half-minute-long "Moment of Surrender," which pairs mellow instrumentals with Bono's passionate vocals. My one complaint about this track is that the lyrics "I was punching in the numbers/at the ATM machine," while relatable, may rank right up there with George Michael's "guilty feet have got no rhythm" on the Why Would You Include a Phrase Like *That* In a Song list.

Another track that immediately caught my ear and that I could see being a second single off the album is "Stand Up Comedy." The song has an upbeat, anthemic feel and driving guitar line that sounds like the U2 most people expect. It's definitely less challenging and experimental than the cut "FEZ-Being Born," which starts out with over a minute of ambient-style music with repeated echos of the "let me in the sound" cry from "Get On Your Boots," along with other melodic vocalizations. Listeners definitely feel the presence of album co-producer Brian Eno in this song.

While it's an album that takes a little longer to fall in love with, U2 takes chances in No Line on the Horizon, continuing to experiment with new sounds and influences while putting together lyrics that are smart, unique and never fail to produce an emotional response. And somehow the experimentation doesn't feel like the band is pushing at their boundaries for vanity's sake -- trying something new just because they've been around for 30+ years so they can. Perhaps it's the moody earnestness of the album, but in No Line it feels like U2 is experimenting because these musicians are still looking for ways to grow, improve and make their music more.
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Monday, March 16, 2009

Movie News: MacGyver

New Line has begun development on a MacGyver feature film. Series creator Lee Zlotoff, Rafaella De Laurentiis (daughter of Dino De Laurentiis) and Martha De Laurentiis (wife of Dino De Laurentiis) will produce. The original MacGyver TV series aired from 1985-92 and starred Richard Dean Anderson as the title character, who used his science and engineering knowledge to ingeniously cobble together everyday objects to escape from dangerous situations. Anderson, who is also known for his eight-year leading role on Stargate SG-1, has revisited the MacGyver character in recent years in MasterCard commercials and the recent "MacGruber" sketches on Saturday Night Live. [The Hollywood Reporter]

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Alien Trespass @ WonderCon 2009

Not all of the films presented at WonderCon on Saturday were big blockbusters. The set up for the Alien Trespass panel and movie was familiar, but different from any I've experienced in person. Our intro was memorable -- a reel setting up Alien Trespass as a "real" 1950s sci-fi movie that starred some beloved actors from that era.

According to the reel we watched, Alien Trespass was never released due to a bitter contract dispute. The film was locked away in the studio vaults and eventually forgotten about. Film aficiandos thought it was lost forever until it was discovered by a pair of hapless construction workers not long ago.

Familiar faces such as Robert Patrick, Dan Lauria and Eric McCormack talked about how thrilled they were that the "classic" sci-fi flick their "long-gone relatives" had starred in had been unearthed. In Eric McCormack's case, the star of Alien Trespass was his "grandfather," M. Eric McCormack, lovingly dubbed "Merick" by his fans in the '50s.

The set up and the deliberately low-tech, true-to-the-period scenes we saw definitely set the tone for what to expect from the film. As director R.W. Goodwin (The X-Files) told the audience, the film isn't a spoof of B sci-fi movies, it's a loving, winking homage to them.

What we saw of the film certainly looked fun, but the obstacle this film faces is a question of audience. Namely, who is the audience for a film like Alien Trespass? Is it the sci-fi fans who are looking forward to the effects-heavy Star Trek film? Is it the generation that grew up watching the original '50s sci-fi films? Is it the fans who've put flicks like Free Enterprise and Ringers: Lord of the Fans on the map?

According to the film's official website, Alien Trespass didn't show in theaters, but was screened at WonderCon and a Fangoria convention. But maybe that's for the best since its natural home feels like a DVD that you watch during a movie marathon with your best buds for a good hour-and-a-half of fun, retro entertainment.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Elijah Wood for 9 @ WonderCon 2009

Oh Elijah! Why?

You did a great job onstage introducing us to your upcoming, Tim Burton-produced, animated film, 9, but WHY WERE YOU ROCKING A '70s PORN STAR-LITE LOOK??

Don't give me an "ummm" Elijah. You're cute even when you're not toting around the uber-Ring o' Doom, so why are you doing this to us? Just tell us it's for a role and this look isn't a personal choice, it's an employment obligation.

Okay, okay -- I understand that this is hard to hear. But unclench your jaw Elijah. Let me hold a mirror up to you for a moment instead. See that fuzzy caterpillar walking across your upper lip? See those side-swept, kinda greasy-looking bangs? Is that really what you want when you're out promoting a new movie? Is that going to help your cause?

Oh, thank goodness. You finally understand and share our well-founded concerns.

It's okay Elijah. The panel's almost over so why don't you head out for a nice shave and a haircut and we'll forget this ever happened.

* * * * *

And since this blog is supposed to be about reviews, the footage for 9 looked good. The animation is beautifully done and has a disctinctive look since the story's set in a post-apocalyptic world and follows the adventures of living rag dolls (think Nightmare Before Christmas not Raggedy Ann).

The footage we saw featured a lot of exciting action sequences complete with explosions and scary-looking mechanical monsters. The voice cast is strong -- it includes Martin Landau, Jennifer Connelly and John C. Reilly. 9 is definitely not an animated film geared toward little kids and it looks like it will have plenty going on to keep an adult's attention. It caught my interest and I'm not a fan of the darker, gothic-feeling animated films.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Star Trek @ WonderCon 2009

The Star Trek movie panel was one of Saturday's highlights at this year's WonderCon. We knew that "a special guest" would be attending for the panel and it was pretty easy to guess that it would probably be J.J. Abrams. It was also pretty easy to guess that some of the cast members would probably be rounding out the panel -- it was just a question of who. After a really energetic intro, J.J. brought out his fellow exec producers/writers Roberto Orci and Bryan Burk and Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock). The fans, of course, were thrilled!

(Apologies for the less-than-stellar video quality -- all the people walking around wreaked havoc on my camera's light sensor during this panel.)

We got to see the brand new trailer for the movie and it was incredible. I wasn't the only one in the audience who got chills watching it. They imploded a planet in the trailer. Imploded a planet in a matter of seconds. They also showed Kirk on the losing end of a bar fight during a clearly misspent time in his youth before he joined Starfleet Academy. The trailer included the moment when Kirk first takes command of the Enterprise. Bones (aka: Dr. McCoy) says that there's no one qualified to take over the captain's role (the context seemed to be that the original Enterprise captain--Captain Christopher Pike, perhaps?-- had been killed during a battle). Kirk replies that yes, there is, and the next shot we see is him taking his place in the "big chair" for the first time.

[Edited to add that the trailer is online now at http://www.startrekmovie.com/]

If the new stars of the Trek franchise were overwhelmed or (not unreasonably) terrified by the thousands of devoted fans who came to see them at WonderCon, they did a great job of hiding those feelings. JJ and Chris were especially appreciative and respectful, with JJ buttering up the audience with a well-worded soundbyte about how he knows Trek fans are smart enough to understand that the movie has to appeal to both them and the uninitiated to successfully reboot the 40+ year old franchise. It might have been a good soundbyte to get out there, but it's also a smart one that makes sense.

More pics and video from the panel below--including JJ and Chris performing a live "Star Trek Rap!"

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