27 July 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The guy who chooses to do everything right is usually the most boring. I mean, there's a reason Cyclops got such short shrift in the X-Men movies. He follows all the rules, he's got a stick up his ass, and he's too stand up of a guy to be exciting. Same with Superman. And comic book Captain America has similar issues. What's thrilling about a super patriotic soldier?

The movie wisely sidesteps the issue by giving us Steve Rogers as the ultimate plucky underdog. As jarring as it is to see Chris Evans' head stuck on a tiny body, the bits with a skinny Steve did make me emphathize with him -- he's doing godo things for us skinny guys. The film does a great job of showing us why Rogers was the man chosen to undergo the experimental procedure.

And once Evans gains pecs, abs, and shoulders, they send the Captain on a public relations tour that is a nice twist on the original backstory. The rest of the movie devolves into a basic "go after the bad guy" tale but the first three fourths was good enough to sate the Marvel appetite. Thor was a more entertaining film but as a fanboy, it's hard not to enjoy both.

Let's talk about Hayley Atwell, who is a Claire Danes lookalike, am I right? She's wonderful and I'd like her to make a return in the Avengers. I mean, in the comics Steve Rogers returns from his deep freeze to date Sharon Carter, the niece of Atwell's character (originally her sister), which is a bit weird. "I couldn't date your aunt so I'll just date you instead." Creepy!

23 July 2011

Buh Bye Borders

You know where I'm going this weekend right? To Borders to scoop up some discount books! Actually that probably won't happen because I'm traveling super light these days and try to cart around only three books at once -- that's my new rule. I'm looking hard into the Kindle versus Nook option and until I choose, I won't be buying any books yet.

With Borders closing down, the question turns to how Barnes & Noble is faring. This article talks about how Barnes & Noble has managed to survive by jumping into the eReader market and diversifying their in-store offerings to music, games, DVDs, and other non-book related items. Just the other day I was trying to find a chess set and thought immediately of B&N! Of course their chess set collection was limited and overpriced but hey, I tried.

Did you know that B&N was on the sellers' block last year, and that the only offer was for a measly billion dollars? They turned that down but the article cautions that with a loss of sixty million dollars during the third quarter, B&N might be wise to sell soon. Keep in mind Groupon is looking for a valuation of fifteen to thirty billion when they IPO. And Zynga is looking to be worth around twenty billion. Are Farmville and Mafia Wars really worth twenty times more than Barnes & Noble? The hoi polloi has voted, "yes!"

This all made me think if being charged to go into a bookstore would deter me. Most of the time I wander into a mega bookstore, it's to meet someone, browse, pick up a magazine, or read a few graphic novels. I rarely buy anything because it's simply cheaper online -- and my book budget and food budget come from the same low-yield honey pot. With so much real estate dedicated to stock that barely moves, how can these stores possibly stay afloat? In a related article, a reporter observed the number of people going in and out of a Tribeca B&N and tallied twenty four sales over one hour. A hundred and fifty people went in and only twenty five people bought something. Ouch.

How many people would have gone in if there was a five dollar cover, or a five dollar coupon that you had to spend on something? Currently, going to the bookstore is a free experience but this mirrors the entrenched attitude of reading articles online. Once a paywall goes up, how many people would actually subscribe? If, by presenting a monetary barrier to entry, the bookstore loses traffic but increases sales, that would seem like a viable option right? If only twenty five percent of customers actually buy a book at your store, does it matter if the other three quarters come in or not?

I love me some free bookstore time but if there was suddenly a fee to go inside, or a requirement to buy something, it wouldn't necessarily put me off. Heck, I've gone to way too many crappy things that require a two drink minimum, and that costs what, twenty bucks?

20 July 2011

And The Wheels Keep Turning

Listening to: The Blow, "Hey Boy."

How is it possible I've never talked about Aaron Cometbus before? I wish I was more into the zine scene but there's at least one that I'm a loyal fan of. I wandered into Cometbus' world a few years ago and have been buying and collecting his work whenever I see it. As any Cometbus reader already knows: Aaron is an amazing writer.

If I could create just one piece of work as great as any of his zines, I could retire from writing happily. I won't go into what makes Cometbus amazing but will link to some articles and interviews instead.
"Cometbus shifted course and became something unique that drastically altered the history of zines -- Cometbus switched the focus from documenting bands and music to documenting the stories and subconscious of the punk lifestyle. This change heralded in the Golden Age of zines, and not coincidentally, the Golden Age of Cometbus. In the early 90s as punk broke through into the mainstream with bands like Bikini Kill and Sonic Youth, fanzine culture came burbling to the surface along with it (Kathleen Hannah and Tobi Vail put out zines that are still being reproduced today. Thurston Moore used to write Cometbus to order zines).

Starting with Cometbus #24, the zine became a kind of serialized novel that documented the author’s itinerant lifestyle through the nationwide punk diaspora. During this period, Cometbus moved from town to town, living in each one for only a couple of months at a time. Long walks, lonely diners, and late nights working at the copy shop filled the pages. Tropes like punk love and too much coffee and long trips on the Greyhound bus reigned supreme."
-Cometbus #52: The Spirit of St. Louis; or How to Break Your Own Heart, A Tragedy in 24 Parts-

17 July 2011

Movie Three Pack

I saw Buzz Aldrin twice in the past week. Once in Transformers 3 and then again on a rerun of 30 Rock. Looking over his IMDB page, I guess I'm surprised I've never seen him before. For example, in 2009 he was at the MTV Movie Awards, in 2010 he was on Top Chef, etc. And here he is doing a Funny or Die video with Talib Kweli and Snoop Dog. It's good to be the second human on the moon I guess. With NASA having shut down their shuttle flights, it's probably a good time for other astronauts to start securing cameos in movies.

I've discovered over the years that expectations play the largest part in enjoyment of a movie. If you set your sights high, your brain will keep analyzing things and asking, "is this good, is this good?" If you set your expectations low, you usually leave the theater satisfied with just getting out of the summer heat. Then again, for thirteen dollars a pop, a movie should really be spectacular to make it big screen worthy. Stuff like Transformers though, even though you know what's coming, has to be seen in the theater. For something like this, most viewers could care less what happens, and it's important to just have high gloss visuals and pounding sound. I left Transformers 3 perfectly satisfied with the experience.

The gads of money Michael Bay threw at special effects and set pieces amounted to $195 million, which sounds awfully low. Transformers 3 barely cracks the top twenty of most expensive movies ever made (right above the fourth Indiana Jones) but it sure looked like it could have been number one. While it won't win any Oscars, this Transformers was better than the last one -- and I really enjoyed the Patrick Dempsey turn as a bad guy. What could movie four possibly be about?

Bridesmaids was disappointing. After reading and hearing so much about how it was a milestone for feminism in Hollywood, I found the actual film to be not that funny. Then again, I don't really like this sort of humor and knew that going in. I just wanted to see it so I could comment afterwards and also to support Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks). While Bridesmaids may have been a triumph in some ways, I didn't find it to be that funny at all. Even the hype about Melissa McCarthy stealing the show was misplaced, and she'll still always be Sookie to me.

The last time I went to a midnight showing of Harry Potter, I waded into a herd of high schoolers by myself, stood in line to get my popcorn and Slurpee, and kicked back with the Order of the Phoenix feeling very old. For the Harry finale, I went with my cousin and her friend, somewhat recent high school graduates, and tried to feel a kinship to them as they lamented the end of their childhood. Nearly everyone in the theater grew up on Potter and the general feeling was one of excitement and sadness. When there was effusive clapping after an ad for the new Thundercats, I wondered how anyone in the audience even knew what Thundercats was.

Overall the movie was exactly as expected. I enjoyed Part 1 a lot more but it's impossible not to give Part 2 an A grade just based on the fact that it's the conclusion to the series. No missteps were made and there are a few thrilling scenes. While I really wish Harry would have stayed dead for longer than ten minutes, I guess it's hard to argue that he should remain alive. The whole dilemma of him being the last Horcrux kinds of loses tension when it turns out it was more like an extra-sticky temporary tattoo.

Anyway, there's enough Harry summaries and reviews on the Internet so I'll just leave you with this, The SummHarry by dedicated fan and talented artist Lucy Knisley. Who doesn't want that poster on their wall? Oh and this is my friend and her friends all dressed up, she's the owl.

12 July 2011

Is That Yo Chick?

Watching the Behind the Music episode for Missy Elliot while snarfing down my dinner, I was struck by how many huge hits she has. How can there not be a Best Of album for her? Actually there was one released in 2006, titled Respect M.E., but that was only available overseas. I decided I needed to rectify this oversight and make my own greatest hits for Misdemeanor. It took me an hour or two while I'm supposed to be writing but here it is for your listening pleasure.
Ultimate Missy Elliot
Track list - Zip file
26 songs, 1 hr 42 mins, 135.8 MB
I learned that a young Melissa Elliot was Milli Vanillied in the video for a hit Raven-Symone track that she produced and rapped on because she was too dark skinned and thick. That's so fucked up right?! Despite her ups and downs, Missy's talent shone through brightly each and every time. Thank goodness for Missy's off-kilter beats because we danced to just about everyone one of them in college. Listening to this playlist is like a time warp for me, as I recall the routines that were choreographed to various tracks. Holler!

And it's impossible to separate Missy's songs from her videos because they were so creative and different. My absolute favorite is a pretty plain one though, the Gossip Folks video with cameos by Ludacris and the cutest little Asian girl dancer ever. Clubs always have Prince and Michael Jackson nights. I say someone throws down a Missy, Timbaland, Ginuwine, Aaliyah, and Nelly Furtado night. I'd buy tickets now!

10 July 2011

Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011)

Listening to: DJ M-Rock's Best of Tribe mix.

If you're a Tribe fan, this film is above a must-see; what I'm curious is about what non-Tribe people will think of the movie. Without the emotional and historical connection to Q-Tip, Phife, and Ali, is there something that still resonates? My guess is "yes," because Michael Rapaport's assured direction takes the movie beyond a generic behind the music documentary. He highlights the impact ATCQ had on the hip hop scene while also capturing the relationship between their musical forebears, other artists, fans, and each other.

I tried to watch this on a rainy opening night but all three evening shows were sold out. Anticipating another huge crowd, I bought tickets early the next morning. Surprisingly, the ten o'clock showing was only half full. I guess watching a movie doesn't line up for most people's Saturday night plans. They all missed out.

Also, please go ahead and read Reena's post on ATCQ, which pretty much captures everything I have to say on the topic. Fate prevented us from watching the film together, which was a great tragedy. I did get to experience Beat, Rhymes, and Life with the friend who introduced me to Tribe, which was perfectly fitting.