Check out the special 10th anniversary video that ABC put together for “LOST” this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Then, for cryin’ out loud, get on board with LOST 2014. Less than 50 days to go. We have to go back!
A Facebook prompt suggests: “Think of 15 albums, CDs, LPs (if you’re over 40) that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life. Dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the wazoo, literally socked you in the gut…” Here’s Jen’s list, and we’d love to read yours!
1. George Jones Salutes Hank Williams — George Jones
By the time I was eight, my father had worn out three copies of this album on cassette. As he drove me to school, he would roll the windows down, turn up the volume on the radio all the way up, and sing along to this album at the top of his voice. It was humiliating at the time, but now, whenever I hear George Jones, I smile.
2. West Side Story — Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
My parents bought me my first record player when I was nine. They bought me most of the top 10 singles of the time, which included such household names as Toni Basil and Men at Work. I also was allowed access to their record collection, which, for the most part, didn’t interest me. I formed an attachment to the soundtrack from ‘West Side Story”, though, because I loved to picture the dance numbers and the costumes and what the characters looked like. Eventually, I found myself listening to it more than anything else.
3. Metal Health — Quiet Riot
This was the first rock album I was allowed to buy. I really wanted “Shout At the Devil” by Motley Crue, but my mom got one look at the pentagram on the cover and vetoed that choice in short order. I think I bought this because I thought the bass player was cute. I soon began buying all of the cheesy, contrived hair metal that was trendy at the time. That would be all I listened to for a long time, but this was the album that started it all.
4. Master of Puppets — Metallica
My brother played the first three tracks of this album at the crack of dawn every single morning for months. I don’t like Metallica, really, but any song from this album reminds me of a time in my life when things were simple.
5. Led Zeppelin 2 — Led Zeppelin
I had no opinion on Led Zeppelin at all until one Sunday evening, when the local rock station played this entire album. The middle section of ‘Whole Lotta Love” scared the heck out of me, and still can. I bought “Led Zeppelin 2” and “Physical Graffiti” the next day, and then the rest of Zeppelin’s albums shortly after that, and became a huge fan. For me, “2” is their signature album.
6. Joshua Tree — U2
I found the video for “With or Without You” to be utterly beautiful and hypnotic. I would watch MTV just to see the video. I didn’t consider myself a U2 fan at the time, but I picked up the album anyway, and it snapped me out of a rut I had been in for a long time. This is still my favorite album by U2 and “With or Without You” can still transform my mood.
7. Starfish — The Church
I was a devoted reader of Sassy magazine. Sassy was a magazine for teenage girls that published between my junior year of high school and my freshman year of college. In one issue, they gave “Starfish” a glowing review, and I had some of my Burger King wages for the week left over, so I bought it, and loved every weird, haunting second of it. It introduced me to The Cure, The Smiths, and countless other English alternative bands.
8. Avalon — Roxy Music
While I was watching “120 Minutes”, absorbing all I could about my new favorite bands, I caught the video for “More Than This”. That song was so beautiful and Bryan Ferry’s voice was so sweet and pretty. He looked like James Bond, and there were saxophones and bells and it sounded like heaven.
9. Appetite For Destruction — Guns N Roses
This, on the other hand, sounded like some kind of deranged nightmare. It was violent and angry and loud, and I LOVED it. I found it hard to reconcile my love of The Cure with the rush I felt when I first heard “Welcome to the Jungle”. I hadn’t listened to metal in a while because I thought it was getting boring. This wasn’t like anything on the radio, much less like the mediocre pop metal I was used to. I still listen to this album on the certain rare occasion when I’m so cranky I can’t even stand being around myself, and it works every time.
10, Exodus — Bob Marley & the Wailers
Bob Marley was the soundtrack of a weekend at the University of Hawaii at Hilo in 1993. Wherever you went, you heard people playing “Exodus” or Marley’s greatest hits album “Legend” at varying degrees of way-too-loud. Like “Master of Puppets”, this album represents nostalgia for a certain period of time more than an actual love of the album itself. I do like it, but by the end of that year, I was so sick of Bob Marley. Now that I don’t hear him everyday, I can put this album on, close my eyes, and be in Hilo for a little while.
11. Hapa — Hapa
Hapa was the first Hawaii-produced album I bought. It was the debut album of a Maui-based duo. It contained renditions of traditional Hawaiian songs, as well as originals. It introduced me to the big, beautiful world of Hawaiian music. I find new Hawaiian artists that I love all the time, but Hapa were the first and I still love this album as much as I did then.
12. Ten — Pearl Jam
I had heard “Alive” on the radio but didn’t know who it was by. I went back to Florida to visit my parents during Christmas break one year and found the cassette of this album in my stereo. I guess my brother must have left it. I was thrilled to hear “Alive”, but I thought the rest of the album was so much better. After a steady diet of Bob Marley and Hawaiian music, “Ten” felt fresh and unique and different.
13. Aja — Steely Dan
I worked at Tower Records for two years after college. One of my bosses played this album at least once a week. I didn’t appreciate Steely Dan before hearing “Aja”. I considered them kind of old-timey and boring. Without fail, though, someone would come up and ask about “Aja” every time my boss played it, and more often than not, they’d come back with a copy of it in their hands.
14. Revolver — The Beatles
Somehow, I managed to live thirty years without really hearing this album. I mean, I ‘d heard it, but not really paid attention to it. This album is so far ahead of its time, people are still trying to figure it out.
15. Once — Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
I saw “Once” on DVD one night shortly after Thanksgiving in 2007. It was instantly one of my favorite movies of that year. I picked up the soundtrack a few days later and it played on a constant loop in my car until after Christmas. I just love everything about it. I love the title song, “Fallen From the Sky” and “Falling Slowly”, which eventually won an Oscar.
Over a year since the last podcast, the Popspotting feed crackles to life with a surprise Listener Edition submission from our good friends Anna (@echobase77) and Wendy (@bunnieslrnow). They’re fellow podcasters from the golden age of “LOST,” and today share their “feel good picks.” With Jen quickly recovering from what will hopefully be her last procedure, this show was a very welcome treat.
- The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
- William Shakespeare’s Star Wars (Verily, A New Hope) By Ian Doescher
- What’s Up Doc?
Starring Ryan O’Neal, Barbara Streisand and Madeline Kahn, Directed By Peter Bogdanovich, 1972, Rated G
- China’s Lost Girls
National Geographic, with Lisa Ling, 2005, 43 min
- The Odd Couple
Starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall ( 5 Seasons, 114 episodes on 20 DVDs. 1970-75/color/45 hrs., 36 min/NR/fullscreen) Can also be purchased in individual seasons.
- The Pretender
Starring Michael T Weiss, Andrea Parker, Patrick Bauchau, Jon Gries. Available on DVD via Amazon; 4 seasons and two cliff-hanging made-for-TV movies
- Dear Mr. Watterson (Original Score) by We Were Pirates, from the upcoming documentary about Bill Watterson, creator of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes and the impact of his work even after his retirement from being a syndicated cartoonist in 1995. On this page, the score can be purchase through links to itunes, Amazon.com/mp3s or bandcamp
- Copeland: Recommended songs – When You Thought You’d Never Stand Out, You Have My Attention, The Grey Man, Pin Your Wings, There Cannot Be a Close Second
- Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars (and don’t forget to eat cookies straight from the freezer!)
- Chocolate Syrup Brownies (Seen in Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook, pg 90, Published by Wilton House, 1992)
1 egg 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup packed light brown sugar Dash of salt
3/4 cup Hershey’s Syrup 1/2 ( 1 stick) of butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts , optional
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch square baking pan. In small mixer bowl, beat egg; add brown sugar and syrup, beating until well blended. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add to egg mixture, beating until blended. Fold in butter and nuts. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from the sides of pan. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares. Yield: 16 brownies
Pacific Rim may be the only true summer blockbuster of 2013.
Man of Steel was stylish but disappointing; Star Trek: Into Darkness was better than the 2009 entry in the franchise, but had a weak third act. And Iron Man 3 was just a mess. I didn’t have high hopes that I would see any big-budget extravaganza with great performances and a great story any time in the near future, let alone this year.
I was so wrong. Pacific Rim is a huge film. It is a feat of special effects. It has endless action and breathtaking set pieces. It’s also a thoughtful, well-constructed homage to Godzilla and 50’s monster movies. Director Guillermo Del Toro has created a colorful, complex world in this film. The effects are remarkable, but the film is also funny and charming.
The film takes place in the near future. The human race is battling the kaiju, a race of trans-dimensional reptilian monsters, with giant armed robots. The pilots of the giant robots are regarded as celebrities for a time, but soon fall out of favor. When we meet Raleigh, he is retired from fighting… but obviously things are going to change.
This is all explained in an opening voiceover that is relatively brief. We are dropped in the middle of the action. There is very little exposition. Even lines of dialogue that are a bit anvilicious or cheesy are delivered with such earnestness, I still ate it all up.
And while much of the action consists of giant masses of pixels crashing into each other, it’s designed and choreographed well enough to follow. Some computer generated battle scenes are about as coherent as watching nuts and bolts in a washing machine. Pacific Rim manages to convey real force and presence, and I might even have fallen for a jump scare or two.
The biggest selling point of the movie for me is the cast. Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) plays Raleigh Becket, a hero from the wars humanity has waged against the kaiju. Becket’s superior officer is played by Idris Elba, of The Wire and Luther. Neither actor is particularly well-known; they are both best known for their TV work.
In fact, this is a film with no huge stars. The most recognizable face in the movie is that of frequent Del Toro collaborator Ron Perlman (also of Sons of Anarchy). The cast is full of ‘Those Guys’ — people who are in movies and TV all the time, in small roles. But I was a fan of most of them, and wasn’t disappointed.
Elba, in particular, excels at walking the perfect line between regal and ridiculous, commanding respect even as we chuckle at some of his lines. Perlman and Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses) provide a lot of laughs as well, as do some of Del Toro’s visual tricks. Perlman’s role isn’t particularly big, but it’s impressive.
Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) is the sole female castmember. Her character arc is predictable, as are the arcs of many of the supporting cast. The story sometimes falls into monster-movie cliche, but the ride is so much fun that it doesn’t matter.
I was skeptical going into the movie. I was confident that Elba and Hunnam would elevate the material, but I was afraid of seeing another iteration of Transformers. Instead, I was delighted, occasionally jolted, and thoroughly entertained.
Ryan came out of the film declaring it “spectacularly preposterous,” and for better or worse, that works. And if that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed.
Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), the heroes and protagonists of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy, are roughly the same ages as Ryan and I. We’ve grown up with them, and that may color how we view “Before Midnight” and its predecessors. I fell in love with these characters, and couldn’t wait to experience the next chapter in their lives.
In this latest film, we join Jesse and Celine nine years after the events in “Before Sunset,” and again, many things have changed for the two of them in the intervening time. We drop in toward the end of a vacation in Greece, and the pair are immediately familiar and intimate, and as viewers we feel as if they’re just old friends of ours, catching up.
Without a doubt, “Before Midnight” is best experienced with minimal spoilers, but even the trailers have told us quite a bit. I will say that what we witness is both expected, and a little sad. And for this go ’round, it appears that there is no “deadline” to meet, and thus no innate dramatic tension.
Yet, by the closing moments, everything is at stake, and for those of us in a similar stage in our lives, we can relate to the stakes all too well.
“Before Midnight” is the most honest, most realistic film about a long-term relationship that I’ve seen in a long time. It’s deliberately paced and beautifully shot, invoking the best parts of the New Hollywood films of the ’60s and ’70s. It is its own film, yet it certainly nods in small ways to “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset.”
And as far as performances go, Hawke and Delpy are indistinguishable from Jesse and Celine. To me, they are Jesse and Celine, a sense only strengthened with their performances here… if they even are performances. Delpy and Hawke co-wrote the screenplay with Linklater, and there are gems and needles of truth that must certainly come from real life.
In this third outing, we actually meet and get to know a few other characters, and they are just important to this film as Jesse and Celine. They seem to represent the two at different stages of their relationship, past and future. The conversations between these characters are just as honest as the ones this film series is known for.
When the credits roll, there’s a hesitation. And I think eeryone who sees this film will have a different own opinion about what happens next. That, perhaps, is the trademark question that haunts every “Before” film. But for the first time in this trilogy, I’m okay with not knowing what happens next. I think the final scene tells me everything I need to know about these characters. It’s a beautiful wrap-up to a great trilogy.
But if “Before Noon” turns up in 2022, I won’t complain.
“Superman Returns” (2006) was awful. Brandon Routh as Clark Kent was pretty but bland, Kate Bosworth was boring, and Kevin Spacey chewed more scenery than Al Pacino has in his entire career. The action was forgettable and the plot drove itself into the most mind-boggling places.
If any comic-book character deserves a modern-day reboot, it’s Superman. But that film was not it.
It left such a bad taste in my mouth that when word started to spread about yet another reboot, I was skeptical. I was even more skeptical when Russell Crowe was cast as Jor-El. It could be good, I thought, or it could be an overwrought later-day Marlon Brando-style mess. The trailers looked promising, if not moody and dark.
“Man of Steel” is moody and dark, but in the best way possible. At least for the first half. The look and tone of Man of Steel is gritty and thoughtful. In a darker, more mature reboot, less is more.
Minor spoilers ahead!
Fortunately, no time is wasted in this movie. We spend very little time watching Clark Kent grow up. We are told of his powers in one short flashback. When we meet Clark as an adult (played by Henry Cavill of Stardust)m he is hiding out and probably hasn’t saved any lives in years. This Clark is just as confused as Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight, and he’s compelling.
We are introduced to Amy Adams’ Lois Lane early, and there’s very little meet-cute here. General Zod (the brilliant Michael Shannon from The Runaways, Take Shelter) comes on the scene right away. It’s going so well.
Then it gets sloppy.
It appears as if director Zack Snyder realized how big his budget was halfway through filming and got the urge to spend it all at once. The second half of the film is just a little too much. Too many things blowing up, too many fights, and about a half hour too much movie. While I understand Snyder’s urge to go all-out, I feel his approach was too heavy-handed.
Michael Shannon remains the best part of the movie, but everything else just falls apart. In the middle twenty minutes of the film, a few minor characters drag out some meaningless jargon and start referring to objects that have nothing to do with the plot. We watch a pivotal scene with someone who works with Lois Lane, to whom we have barely been introduced, and we are suddenly expect to believe that her survival is of great importance, despite not really knowing who she was five seconds before.
Ultimately, there’s the expected final battle royale in Smallville, trashing a conspicuously positioned IHOP, and then a Sears. Like the last act of “Star Trek Into Darkness,” untold devastation is wrought with nary a moment’s hesitation. And the culmination of the battle, the leverage that forces Superman to make his final move, is baffling considering the few minutes that came before.
The film’s denouement is an even bigger head-scratcher, but also an interesting twist to the long-established canon of Superman’s civilian life.
The spectacle is distracting and somewhat disappointing, but ultimately not enough to detract from the good parts of the film. The photography is beautiful, starting with how the actors are lit. Everyone looks beautiful, especially Kal-El’s mother Lara, played by Ayelet Zurer. Vancouver is always a great locale for beautiful, bleak scenery, and the American heartland has never looked lovelier than under the hands of director of photography Amir Mokri. And Crowe hasn’t been this charismatic in years.
The most pleasant surprise was Hans Zimmer’s score. I have never enjoyed a Zimmer score until now.
“Man of Steel” is not my favorite blockbuster of the summer so far, but it was surprisingly enjoyable. A little too much, but really, that’s what summer blockbusters are for.
My husband was a big ol’ Trekkie. Sitting right now in a cabinet in our home is a collection of commemorative Star Trek plates. He had a Starfleet uniform and drew schematics of his very own hypothetical Starfleet ship. He even recently made me watch Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan and its prequel of sorts, the episode entitled “Space Seed,” the twenty-second episode of the first season.
As a total Trek neophyte, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the episode of the series, but I enjoyed Wrath of Khan. I equally enjoyed the 2009 J.J. Abrams reboot. There were great performances; Karl Urban as Leonard “Bones” McCoy and Zachary Quinto as Spock stood out. I was even quite excited when Star Trek: Into Darkness was announced.
My brief encounter with the original series and the films served me well, as it turned out. Star Trek: Into Darkness is a throwback, in much the same way that last year’s Skyfall was an homage to the Bond films of yore. Abrams uses establishes subtle (and not so subtle) ties to the TV series. There is much in this movie for a hardcore Trekkie to love, but it’s easy for a newbie like me to get caught up in the story and the characters.
Quinto and Urban continue to be the most interesting actors in Abrams’ ensemble. Urban is hilarious, cranky, and charming as Bones. James T. Kirk, as played by Chris Pine, is a vapid pretty boy, but a serviceable actor. Zoe Saldana’s Uhura has very little to do. But the chemistry between them all elevates all of their performances into something special.
I am an Abrams fangirl. I will see anything he does (see the lamentable Cloverfield). However, I would like to have a word or two with him about the lens flare schtick. It’s become cliche to gripe about the lens flare in reviews, but sometimes cliches are cliches for good reason. Maybe anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
Abrams’ musical collaborator Michael Giacchino provides the score. Giacchino’s music for LOST is still my favorite work of his, for its wide range and eclectic style. There are some LOST-like moments of greatness in his score for Into Darkness.
The baddie-du-jour is John Harrison, played by Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch. He really is the highlight of the movie. Harrison is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in an overcoat. He’s a scary dude, but he’s pursuing his own twisted version of justice. Maybe I’m weird, but I actually was cheering for Harrison for a few minutes. Cumberbatch’s performance is captivating and chilling.
The first two-thirds of the film is wall-to-wall action and chaos. There is a point in the film when I realized that the story could almost go anywhere. Unfortunately, the loose ends are all tied up a little too neatly and the last ten minutes are rushed.
Abrams has so many irons in the fire recently, with a possible third film in the Star Trek franchise and the upcoming Star Wars sequels. I remain a fan.
Jen’s preview of”Cloud Atlas,” starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Huge Grant, directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, in theaters Oct. 26, 2012.
I read the 2004 novel “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell in four days. Spurred on by Ryan, who was reading with me, I devoured the book like I had no other title before it. We wanted to finish it before the screening of the feature film at the Hawaii International Film Festival.
I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. Sure, it was gimmicky, but it was also fascinating. Cloud Atlas is a collection of six short stories with common themes, all tied together. The narrators of the stories are from all over the world, in both the past and the future. Mitchell was able to deftly create six different, distinct voices.
I realized that a film adaptation of this novel would be very, very tricky to pull off. I had high hopes, though. The film is written and directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix Trilogy). I was somewhat confident in their collective ability to translate the novel into a coherent film.
They did pull it off. Mostly.
The writing team cut a few corners and made a few changes that made me scratch my head. They completely discarded the structure of the novel. I was able to follow along with the characters, but I can imagine how someone not familiar with the novel could be very confused. Some of the novel’s loose ends are tied up a little too neatly, and the filmmakers’ choice to use only a few actors for so many roles was maybe not a good one.
The film stars Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince), and Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe), among others. Halle Berry is Halle Berry, but I have to say, I am impressed with Tom Hanks. I never saw him as a serious actor before and considered him very overrated, especially in Forrest Gump, a role which still earns him praise. He sheds his movie star skin in this film and truly inhabits his characters. Hugo Weaving, of The Matrix Trilogy and the Lord of the Rings franchise, appears in drag in one story and is frightening every minute he is onscreen.
The team struggles, I think, with tone. There are quite a few genuinely funny moments in the novel that just aren’t funny onscreen. One act involves a senior citizen (Broadbent) who is accidentally imprisoned in a retirement home and enlists some of his fellow residents in his escape. This part of the novel is quite funny, but feels dark and surreal onscreen. Another act takes place in the 1970’s, and feels much too modern. A little more attention to how the original stories feel could have made this film seem more than just an exercise in dress-up.
And the makeup required to turn some of the Caucasian actors into Asian characters is truly awful. Watching these actors in their makeup made me forget about the story entirely.
I appreciate what the filmmakers were going for. I truly do. The idea of the novel is that throughout one’s lives, he meets the same people over and over again, throughout history. Seeing the same small cast appear as different characters underscores that idea, but it’s not necessarily successful.
The film does succeed, though, in its epic scope and especially it’s brain-twisty-ness. It’s dense and confusing, in the best way possible. The lack of a structure allows the audience to make connections that they might not make with the novel. Scenes blend into each other, lines of dialogue highlight themes. It is an achievement in filmmaking.
“Looper” is so heavy; so violent; but still, so surprising and unique that a day after we saw it, I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
It stars Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an older and younger version, respectively, of the same character, an assassin in the midwest of the future.
One might wonder how the two actors approached this. I wondered when I first read about the film if Gordon-Levitt would be playing Bruce Willis, or the other way around, or if the two found some middle ground. Bruce Willis is playing the character he always plays, and it’s up to Gordon-Levitt to do an impersonation of Willis, which he does, very skillfully. I could have believed that Gordon-Levitt was the same person, simply through his acting.
Unfortunately, someone involved didn’t think that would be adequate and through the magic of prosthetics, attempted to transform him into Willis. Even with Gordon-Levitt’s ridiculous makeup, they look nothing alike, and indeed, he looks like a waxy robot.
A lot of small moments throughout this film felt so familiar. I felt as if I’d seen something before with a similar premise, or similar scenes, or something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. There were characters dressed like Neo; the time-travel element of the film recalled for me “Twelve Monkeys,” and we see a glimpse of Butch Coolidge, Willis’ character in “Pulp Fiction.” I felt like I was watching a Christopher Nolan film at times and Johnson seems to love lens flare as much as J.J. Abrams. This film is many pieces of cinema cobbled together into something that’s big and loud enough to bring in mainstream audiences.
My favorite performance in this film might be that of a child. He is so good, in fact, that I was convinced he was some sort of CG creation. He reminded me of the child actress in the film “The Fall.” The young boy’s story slowly, stealthily, becomes the focus of the story late in the film. The introduction of this storyline is a radical departure in tone from what I was expecting. In fact, it almost cut the film into two separate movies, in my view.
The score for the film was composed by Nathan Johnson. It’s effective, meaning that it’s noticeable at just the right times and never too loud or melodramatic. The cue that plays just before the credits roll is lovely and frames the ending of the film in a pleasantly unexpected way.
New Orleans and its suburbs stand in for Kansas, and I don’t know why it’s important that we believe the film takes place in Kansas. It just seems like a strange choice. The plot doesn’t hinge on us thinking we’re in Kansas. There is a certain suspension of disbelief necessary in watching sci-fi films. Isn’t it easier for the filmmaker to just suggest we’re in some unnamed Other Place, where time travel/aliens/spaceships are possible?
I will certainly benefit from a second viewing. “Looper” is a multi-layered, intelligent film that I think will spark discussion for some time to come.
Maggie Mack (@ilea02) is a long-time podcasting friend and Thanksgiving Popspotting guest from Northern Virginia. In this Listener Edition, she shares another podcast worth checking out: PodQuiz. PodQuiz is a weekly trivia quiz podcast. Each week there are twenty questions, some music as an interlude, followed by the answers.
Jen has been a fan of PodQuiz for years, and even shared it as a “Pith of Pop” pick back in 2006! It’s good to see he’s still going strong.