By Kyle | December 9, 2008
Today I take a look at one of my favorite TV shows, “30 Rock,” and ask whether it’s the aughties antidote to the single-gal fantasy world of “Sex and the City.” “30 Rock” improved a great deal after season one so check out the season two DVD, which is full of terrific episodes including the Carrie Fisher one.
By Kyle | December 2, 2008
My piece on the 1982 Samuel Fuller racism drama “White Dog,” which was so controversial it was never officially released by Paramount in any form until today, is up. Criterion has produced another splendid DVD package to support it, featuring essays by New York critics J. Hoberman and Armond White.
By Kyle | November 19, 2008
Paul Newman’s first, worst movie, the eagerly unawaited “The Silver Chalice,” is finally premiering on DVD–now that Newman, who hated the movie, is safely dead.
By Kyle | October 14, 2008
I’m among the Beatle diehards who would pay to see (well, I haven’t paid to see a movie in years, but in theory) a documentary of Paul McCartney interviews backed by Beatles songs played on a theater-quality sound system. The new documentary “All Together Now,” which is about the production of the hugely expensive and hugely successful Vegas show “Love,” featuring Cirque De Soleil acro-ballet played out against remixes of Beatles songs engineered by George Martin and his song Giles, is only half about the Beatles, but that’s enough. (The documentary is playing in over 100 theaters nationwide on Oct. 20 preparatory to a DVD release, above left, the following day).
It has interviews with McCartney and Ringo Starr about their enthusiastic support for the project, as well as snippets from the “Love” show as it was being pieced together and portions of lots of Beatles songs (though not the title song). Put together, it’s quite an experience, particularly if you have a home theater or see it on the big screen.
Except for a particularly plaintive acoustic demo of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which the Martins backed with a rich new string section recording, all of the music played at the show is original Beatles recordings (I think), albeit broken up and reshuffled. (The soundtrack of the remixes, pictured above right, has been available for a while.) Hearing the Beatles in a new way is hard to do, but I think McCartney and Starr rightly feel that the material (“what a f–king great band we were,” says McCartney) can withstand a fresh look. Last year’s Beatle movie “Across the Universe,” which I enjoyed in part, didn’t use the original recordings but rather intermittently interesting covers.
Less enthusiastic about the “Love” show were, apparently, the two widows, Olivia Harrison and the woman who now calls herself Yoko Ono Lennon, as if to remind us why we care about her (if we do). Olivia is shown as a bit of a nag, possibly because the show didn’t lean heavily on Harrison’s songs (although there is a beautifully abstract number built around “Here Comes the Sun”). The ever-brittle Ms. Ono Lennon is shown protesting that “Come Together” “is not a sleazy song. It’s a song about coming together politically.” Well. It’s a little sleazy. Dhani Harrison, who resembles his father the way Art Garfunkel’s kid resembles him–I mean, he’s a human Xerox–makes an appearance but does not contribute any comments.
Ordinarily my interest in the flippity-flopping of French acrobats is limited, but when the Beatles are around, it’s a different story. I really want to see the “Love” show now; despite the presence of, for instance, a Sgt. Pepper character, the troupe largely went the fanciful, indirect, poem-of-movement route, and the visuals more than hold your interest. As does the sheer spectacle. The show cost, supposedly, $180 million, which would be many times the entire budget of all the Beatles recordings. McCartney marvels at the distance the songs have traveled since he scribbled them on scraps of paper. It’s that capacity for wonder that keeps him a vital artist well into his seventh decade; listen to his last two albums if you don’t believe me. “Some mornings I wake up,” he says, “and I think–I was in the Beatles?”
By Kyle | September 22, 2008
Having watched “Iron Man” a second time, I wish I’d given it three and a half stars instead of three in my original review. The second half isn’t as strong as the first (the reverse is true of “The Dark Knight”) and the climactic fight scene leaves me cold. How am I supposed to care about what is in essence a gigantic game of Rock ‘Em Sock Em Robots? The two Iron Man suits drain all the character out of the battle.
But the perfect first half, the interplay of Robert Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow and especially Downey’s deadpan irony make the film one of the year’s best. It’s available both as a single disc (right) and double disc. Question: do you ever watch the supplemental stuff on the DVD? I almost never do.
By Kyle | August 31, 2008
Over at my esteemed colleague Lou Lumenick’s blog there is an amusing item about the hammering “Burn After Reading,” the Coen Brothers comedy starring Clooney and Pitt, is taking from initial critics. Meanwhile, I’ve got the 10th anniversary edition of “The Big Lebowski” sitting right here. I didn’t much like it the first (only) time I saw it but I’m willing to reconsider it. Especially since I’m in Minnesota with nothing to do. The new edition has an entire disc full of eight new bonus features and is being sold in…a bowling ball (as above). Or you can buy just the 2-disc DVD (as below).
By Kyle | August 5, 2008
“Beach Boys and the Satan.” Sounds like an episode of “Scooby-Doo.”
By Kyle | July 30, 2008
Last year “Mad Men” was averaging a pathetic viewership of less than a million, most of them people who are old enough to actually remember the 1960 presidential election and thus (sadly) of no interest to advertisers. This year things are looking up: “Mad Men” is up to 2 million viewers, thanks to a torrent of awards and nominations, and it is now AMC’s signature show. AMC must be losing a lot of money in the deal, at least in the short term–with its smoky atmosphere and multiple sets and costumes and location shooting, the show can’t be cheap, although a scene set outdoors in the suburbs the other night looked like it was clearly set against a painting in the background–but with the Emmys and Golden Globes all over the show, there is no way it’s going to be canceled in the next couple of years.
By Kyle | June 30, 2008
It’s Xana-fun! On July 18 and 19, the IFC Center in downtown Manhattan is going to be showing “Xanadu,” only reformatted to turn it into a great big gay singalong! The addition of heavy drinking and college students (the screenings will be held in the heart of NYU country at midnight) makes this sound like a pretty essential event in the history of the republic. Cut-off shorts, tube socks and brightly colored headbands will be–must be!–worn. Press release below. Read the rest of this entry »
By Kyle | June 22, 2008
So says the New York Times’ Alex Witchel in a New York Times magazine piece. As is usual with these things, the writer can’t quite avoid hyperbole (there has to be an -est somewhere) or false statements. “Mad Men” is not a “hit show.” It was a failure both in ratings and especially in audience demographics, which have been skewing heavily toward people actually old enough to remember the 1960s, who are of no interest to advertisers. What it is is critically acclaimed. That counts for something but it’s got nothing to do with being a hit show. The show is almost certainly losing money.