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Weekly Mishmash: December 20-26

ew_alien3Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992), and Alien: Resurrection (1997). Housesitting for a neighbor, we discovered that he owned a copy of the 2004 Alien Quadrilogy DVD set. Since I had only seen the first Alien (odd, no?), we decided to gorge on the sequels for our Christmas holiday. Aliens was awesome, a textbook example of where to take a story to satisfying new horizons. I loved the casting, the very ’80s militaristic atmosphere, and the maternal theme that draws parallels between both Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and stowaway Newt and the fearsome Alien queen’s need to procreate. Good special effects, too. Alien 3, overall, was more of an interesting failure. It had lots of potential with David Fincher directing and an appropriately grungy atmosphere on a planet full of prisoners. Killing off many of the survivors from Aliens right away was an awful idea, however, and the film never lets up from that bungle. In the first two films, the aliens were interesting characters that operated like insects needing to propagate (it wasn’t their fault that those pesky humans just got in their way). With Alien 3, the threat comes from a single not very menacing alien who bites its victims’ heads off willy-nilly and a rogue egg that mysteriously appears out of nowhere. Woo hoo. Also, Fincher fills the climax with too many shots of winding corridors from the alien’s p.o.v. Bad as Alien 3 was, it was a bouquet of roses compared with Alien: Resurrection. This was a completely cynical and joyless studio-imposed sequel, despite having another interesting director on board in French Jean-Pierre Jeunet (who had previously helmed the wild Delicatessen and City of Lost Children). Jeunet’s trippy vision for the film bizarrely contrasts with Joss Whedon’s snarky, catch phrase heavy script — one of dozens of problems with this movie (don’t even get me started on Winona Ryder). Sigourney Weaver is always good, but in these last two sequels she seemed to be phoning it in. Apparently it wasn’t just Ripley who was getting tired of the aliens.
poster_bigshotThe Big Shot (1942). Along with One Fatal Hour (see Dec. 6-12), this was one of the films from TCM’s Humphrey Bogart film fest that I’d never heard of before. Bogie plays an affable crook who wants to complete one last armored car robbery despite the possibility of facing a lifelong jail sentence for the crime. He gets caught and goes to the slammer, then schemes with some fellow cons and his ex (thoroughly bland Irene Manning) to escape. Leading man aside, this is a thoroughly indistinguishable b-movie — which surprised me. I didn’t think Bogart was doing rote b-movies this late at Warner Bros. The script and direction are listless, and even the casting lacks the salty supporting players one usually associates with Warners (what I wouldn’t give to have Frank McHugh or Alan Hale goofing around here). On the plus side, the French poster for this film is simply gorgeous.
The Silver Seas — High Society. Boy howdy, these “best albums of the decade” lists popping up lately are making me feel old. Most of them contain the same few albums by artists that are either overrated or unlistenable. It’s not that I’m oblivious to new kinds of music, only that I prefer melodic pop and apparently the ’00s were a terrible decade for that particular genre. Luckily I did find one list, from David Medsker of esdmusic.com, that had better than average overlap with my own musical tastes. I downloaded the Silver Seas’ High Society at eMusic based on Medsker’s #9 ranking of this album, a decision that turned out to be a wise one. Although the album doesn’t break ground in any way, it’s a gem that sounds a bit like a lost country-pop LP from the ’70s (the fact that the singer sounds bizarrely like Jackson Browne doesn’t hurt). I’ve read that the main songwriter in this group used old TV show themes as his inspiration here. That makes a lot of sense, but the final product mostly sounds like the kind of expertly crafted, intelligent indie pop that ought to be the norm rather than the exception.
Talk To Me (2007). A recent biopic that had a lot of potential, but turned out kind of disappointing. Don Cheadle stars as Petey Greene, former criminal turned radio personality whose straight-talking style is just the thing for mobilizing Washington D.C.’s African American community in the late ’60s. Cheadle is excellent, and his dynamic presence is the main reason to watch. The film itself, however, is strangely structured with a needless third act. Taraji P. Henson is too overbearing as Geene’s girlfriend, and there were a lot of anachronistic touches here that bugged me. For example, not only do the filmmakers wrongly use the elegant “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” by Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations as an example of the kind of “square” music Greene was rebelling against, they also play it in a scene that takes place at a time well before the record came out in November 1968. A little more research was in order, guys.

One Thought on “Weekly Mishmash: December 20-26

  1. Happy to be of assistance with the Silver Seas. They have a new album coming out in April, and it’s really good, too.

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