April 28, 2009

Go-Go's Rock the Sunset Strip

We caught iconic pop culture girl group the Go-Go's at the House of Blues in Hollywood Saturday night, and the girls rocked it like they usually do whenever they're back in their hometown. Hard to believe its been 31 years since the band was formed but we have to say that time, for the most part, has been kind to the self-proclaimed "goddesses of rock." Guitarist Jane Weidlin and bassist Kathy Valentine look nearly ten years younger than their actual ages, and lead singer Belinda Carlisle looked more like the attractive 50-year old woman she is than the wax mannequin she appeared to be during her recent turn on Dancing With the Stars.

Speaking of DWTS, Belinda's dance partner on the show, Jonathan Roberts, made a guest appearance for the band's performance of "Cool Jerk", during which he jitterbug'd and twist'd with both Belinda and Jane. Other show highlights were spirited performances of The Sparks' and Jane Weidlin's "Cool Places"; "We Got the Beat", "How Much More", "Tonight", and "This Town" (four of the group's standbys); and the melancholy "Forget That Day" (from the Talk Show album) which the girls haven't performed live since 1984.


Another interesting tune in the set list was "Mad About You" (the group doesn't typically perform Belinda's solo material) and we were lucky enough to capture it on video:




More concert photos below.




















































April 24, 2009

Where's the Originality in Hollywood Film?

Hey, here’s a question… Is anyone in Hollywood doing anything original? When I take a look at the last six months worth of major studio releases, I have come back with the answer, “Not really.”

Let’s start by taking a look at the box office champs for the past two weeks, Fast and Furious and 17 Again, the recently released Race to Witch Mountain, Last House on the Left, Crank 2: High Voltage, and the upcoming Obsessed. Each one is simply a remake or retread of an earlier film.

In Fast and Furious, the stars of the original The Fast and The Furious (Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster) return to try and breathe new life into the tired franchise. I guess the three previous "Fast and Furious" movies (plus Redline) didn't sufficiently cover the world of illegal street racing.

17 Again stars Matthew Perry as a middle-aged schmoe who’s transformed into a teenage version of himself and then proceeds to attend the same high school as his kids. The film is just another in a long line of “body-switching”, “grown-up in a kid’s body”, “let’s have them go back to high school with their own kids” fantasy-comedies that include Freaky Friday (both the original version with Jodie Foster and the remake with Lindsay Lohan), Big, and the even more startlingly similar Like Father, Like Son (featuring Kirk Cameron and Dudley Moore as father and son who switch bodies) and Vice Versa (with Fred Savage and Judge Reinhold doing the same.) Oh, and by the way, in 1988, there was a movie starring George Burns, where he’s transformed into the body of his teenage grandson and then goes back to high school. That movie’s title?... 18 Again. Evidently, besides not caring to make a film with an original story, the producers of 17 Again were too lazy to even come up with a fresh title.

There’s more.

Race to Witch Mountain, features Dwayne (“The Rock”) Johnson in an updating of one of the more forgettable 70’s Disney flicks (what’s next, a new version of Gus, the field goal kicking mule?) while the new Last House on the Left tries to one-up Wes Craven’s suspense/horror classic.

In Crank 2, protagonist Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) returns, and this time instead of constantly having to keep his adrenaline level up (or else he’ll die), Chev has to keep his artificial heart electrically charged (or else… you guessed it, he’ll die.) Now we actually “got” the original Crank, loved its high concept premise (Speed but with a person instead of a bus) and we understood why it developed into something of a cult classic after its DVD release. And though it’s understandable why there would be a sequel, it doesn’t change the fact that the basic premise, plot devices, and action sequences in Crank 2 are too often scene for scene copies of the original.

This Friday we get Obsessed, which stars Ali Larter as a hot secretary who develops a “fatal attraction” towards her boss. I guess we’ll see it cause we liked 1993’s The Temp, starring Lara Flynn Boyle as a hot secretary who develops a… aww nevermind, you get it.

Even many of the most highly publicized upcoming summer movies –- Terminator Salvation, Star Trek, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Angels and Demons, Night at the Museum 2, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Ice Age 3, and X Men Origins: Wolverine -- represent nothing new.

Additionally, nowadays the vast majority of prestige pictures -- serious fare including the recent Oscar nominees Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire, Revolutionary Road, The Reader, and Doubt, as well as the just released The Soloist -- are based on critically-acclaimed novels or other material.

So what’s my point? It seems that increasingly, Hollywood is growing more and more reluctant to make original films, opting instead for remakes, sequels, and movies based on books, toys or comic book characters.

I ask with exasperation -- Is no one writing directly for the screen anymore? Why don’t we see more original scripts reach the level of Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, and Crash (all Oscar winners for Best Original Screenplay)? Sadly, what seems to occur more often is that creative, edgy, imaginative screenplays are passed over in favor of what agents, movie executives, and other decision-makers consider more bankable properties. That’s why we get movie versions of popular books like Confessions of a Shopaholic and He’s Just Not That Into You, along with Hannah Montana movies, and endless installments in Tyler Perry’s Madea series. Unfortunately, it’s all just more of the same. The studios, and others holding the purse strings, would rather go over the same ground a second, third, or tenth time with something that is (or at one time was) proven, instead of taking a chance on something that’s fresh, funny or inventive. It’s a frustrating proposition for all the talented writers out there with inspired spec screenplays that aren’t getting produced, while scripts for a 20-years too late Land of the Lost movie and Final Destination: Death Trip 3D are quickly greenlighted.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there are still a lot of very good and original screenplays being produced these days. Interestingly, more and more, these stories are finding their way to HBO, Showtime, FX and other cable TV outlets. And while it seems that cable is becoming more edgy and willing to take chances on original material, Hollywood is becoming more and more risk averse. It’s a shame, because the industry is in desperate need of fresh ideas from new writers, and the big screen needs more pictures like last year’s In Bruges and Frozen River. And yes, it even needs more like I Love You Man, Sunshine Cleaners, and Hotel for Dogs, which, though they may not be great movies, at least get points for originality.

April 23, 2009

April 19, 2009

So What's New for The Playstation?

Now that the TV season is winding down and football and basketball are done (sorry, we’re not into baseball) we’ve turned more of my attention to our PS3 and video games. In our search for a little something to tide us over until NCAA 10 arrives in July, we came across two interesting titles: Wanted: Weapons of Fate and The Godfather II. Here’s our quick take on each:

Wanted: Weapons of Fate (based on the successful 2008 action movie)
Type: 3rd Person Shooter
Pros:
Slowing down time and curving bullets (just like in the movie) makes for a unique shooter experience.
Cons:
AI is not very good.
Repetitive gameplay.
No Angelina Jolie character (Guess she didn’t give permission to use her likeness.)

The Godfather II
Type: Action
Pros:
Grand Theft Auto-like gameplay.

Nice plotlines that are consistent and faithful to the films.
Takes many hours to complete.
Cons:

More than a few visual glitches that are really annoying
AI is wildly inconsistent
Winning strategies are too easy to figure out

Wanted: Weapons of Fate review at GameSpot
The Godfather II review at IGN

April 16, 2009

Shout Out to... Dara Torres!

Dara Torres is a 42 year old (as of yesterday) American swimmer, and the the only swimmer to compete (and medal) in five Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2008.) Last year, after eight years in retirement, she made an amazing comeback and won both the 50 and 100 meter freestyle at the US National Championships and at the Olympics in Beijing, Torres won three silver medals. She attributes her renewed success to her unique training regimen.

We have our doubts about whether or not Torres has used any type of performance enhancing drugs. As an athlete, you just don't get into the best shape of your life and put up personal best performances (record times at that) at the age of 40 naturally. (The list of over-30 athletes who've done this and made similar denials of wrongdoing, only to subsequently have evidence to the contrary begin to mount against them includes Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Lance Armstrong.) Still, Torres swears she's clean and has even volunteered to give blood samples.

Regardless, Dara is on the cover of this month's
More magazine and her new book, Age is Just a Number: Achieve Your Dreams at Any Age was released last week.


April 12, 2009

10 Songs That Defined The 80s

Been watching VH1's 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders Of The 80s and found it a bit confusing. We really need to know VH1's criteria for determining a one-hit wonder because a lot of the artists listed actually charted with other singles. For instance, John Parr (#28 "St. Elmo's Fire") actually had a number one hit on the rock charts with "Naughty, Naughty". Quarterflash (#32 "Harden My Heart") also charted with "Take Me to Heart" and "Find Another Fool". And Twisted Sister (#21 "We're Not Gonna Take It") had another very famous charter with "I Wanna Rock".

Oh well, it was still a fun show and it got us thinking about 80s music and the songs that best defined the decade. So s
tep back now to the time of Pac-Man, Pee-Wee Herman and parachute pants. Of rubber bracelets, Rubik’s cube, and Reaganomics. The 80s gave us the Walkman, Dynasty and Air Jordans. (Of course we also got New Coke, Full House and those damn "Baby on Board" signs.) But what we mostly remember is the music. These songs weren’t necessarily the decade’s best, but they linger in our minds as the soundtrack from the era of legwarmers, really skinny ties, and really, really big hair.


“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” – Pat Benatar – 1980

Classic 70’s-style rock was proved to be still relevant by this, Pat Benatar’s breakthrough hit. With an unmistakable crunching guitar riff (courtesy of the vastly underrated Neil Geraldo), the record’s ballsy lyrics and in your face vocals helped establish Benatar as the decade’s top female rocker over contempoaries that included Joan Jett, Lita Ford, and Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson.





“Tainted Love” – Soft Cell – 1981

An unlikely hit built on the hypnotic fusion of synthesizer-generated pulsing beats and tinkling sound effects, along with the chorus from the Supremes “Where Did Our Love Go”. The record’s international success paved the way for the slew of synth-pop artists like Thomas Dolby, Thompson Twins, Eurythmics, and Howard Jones that would emerge later in the decade. “Tainted Love’s” electronic sound spurred the development of entirely new genres of music, including house, techno and electronica, and influenced the work of future artists like Paul Oakenfold and Moby.





“We Got the Beat” – The Go-Go’s – 1982

When you think of classic 80s groups, the Go-Go’s come immediately to mind. Still the most successful all-girl band in music history, the quintet from Los Angeles reached #2 on the charts with this, the second single from their debut album, Beauty and the Beat. The song’s new wave party vibe and bouncy arrangement retained the irreverence of a fading punk movement and at the same time, commanded you to get up and dance. The intro in particular—Gina Schock’s staccato drumming quickly joined by guitars and heavy bass—remains instantly recognizable. The fact that the song was used for the opening credits of the classic 80’s movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High has helped the song endure as one of the decade’s most memorable.





Tie - “Billie Jean”, ”Beat It” – Michael Jackson – 1983

Back in the early 80’s, before the excessive cosmetic surgeries, before the allegations of child molestation, and the babies dangled off of balconies, it was actually cool to like Michael Jackson. Though neither was the first single off the mega-album Thriller (“The Girl is Mine”, with Paul McCartney, was released in October of ‘82), “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” hit the charts within weeks of each other and kicked off the Michael Jackson phenomenon that lasted well into 1984. The records’ monumental success (a combined 10 weeks at #1) was due in part to MTV, who played the music videos almost non-stop. “Billie Jean’s” infectiously cool groove fit perfectly with Jackson’s pleading vocal, while “Beat It”, with its ferocious Eddie Van Halen guitar licks showed that the future King of Pop also had a heavy metal edge. Both songs were nominated for Record of the Year at the ‘84 Grammy Awards, but “Beat It” took the honor.

"Beat It"





"True” – Spandau Ballet – 1983

Two things made this jazzy, lounge-flavored ballad a pop hit: Tony Hadley’s rich, ultra-smooth voice and the breathy and extremely catchy “Ha-ha-ha-haaaa-ha” chorus. By embracing the music video format earlier than their American counterparts, a number of English bands gained popularity via heavy exposure on MTV. This led to a second British invasion headed by groups like Duran Duran, Human League, and Culture Club. Spandau Ballet was perhaps the most stylish and soul-influenced of these acts. “True” shunned traditional British pop in favor of a more sophisticated R&B sound. Featuring Hadley’s lush vocals set amongst mellow saxophone and piano arrangements, “True” broke Spandau Ballet big in the US and was the cool ballad that set the mood for romantic nights and last dances at high school proms. The record has since been sampled on hits by both PM Dawn (“Set Adrift on Memory Bliss”) and Nelly (“N Dey Say”).





“Every Breath You Take” – The Police – 1983

In a decade dominated by synthesizers, drum machines, and dance beats, The Police scored the song of the decade and helped established themselves as the number one rock band in the world with this haunting number about obsessive love. Unique in its simplicity, both lyrically and in its stripped down arrangement (just drums, bass, and a little guitar during the bridge) most still ignore the sinister undertones of the song’s lyrics and simply appreciate it for its understated brilliance and Sting’s mournful yet seductive croon. Played on pop, rock, adult contemporary and jazz stations alike, the record enjoyed something of a second life in the late 90’s when it was shamefully ripped off by Puff Daddy for his song “Missing You”.





“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper – 1984

Not even Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” captured the care-free frivolousness and optimistic spirit of the decade more exuberantly than Cyndi Lauper’s debut smash. Appearing on the pop scene from humble beginnings as the frontwoman for the New York-based rock group Blue Angel, Lauper successfully changed her image, and used this record to reinvent herself as a zany, cartoonish, solo artist with a “don’t-take-me-or-anything-else-too-seriously” attitude. Released as a single in the spring of 84, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” served as the party anthem of the summer, a call for female self-expression, and even inspired a 1985 movie of the same name.





“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” – Band Aid – 1984

USA for Africa’s charity single “We Are the World” got all the hype and awards, but the Bob Geldof-led Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” came first and had a bit more sincerity and earnestness than the American record. After watching a BBC documentary on famine in Ethiopia, Geldof organized the most popular British artists of the time (including David Bowie, Phil Collins, U2, George Michael, Culture Club, and Bananarama) into a supergroup, then cut and mixed the track in one night. The record became the best-selling single in UK history, raising millions for famine relief and inspiring Geldof to organize the Live Aid shows, the biggest rock concerts of all time. Just as important, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” instilled a sense of responsibility in musicians, celebrities and the public that survive to this day. Other charity singles and fund-raising concerts (Artists Against Apartheid’s “Sun City”, Farm Aid) soon followed, helping to give a social conscience to a decade remembered more for its selfish, indulgent attitudes.





“Walk This Way” – Run-DMC (with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith) – 1986

One of the breakthrough moments in music history in that it was the first rap record (not counting Blondie’s experiment with the genre on 1980s “Rapture”) to enjoy crossover success. Run-DMC had foreshadowed “Walk This Way’s” rock/rap fusion with their singles "Rock Box" and “King of Rock”, built around the blistering guitar work of Eddie Martinez. But the group’s cover of “Walk This Way” (which had originally charted some ten years earlier) had more mainstream appeal due to the participation of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. The pairing not only helped jumpstart the careers of the fading 70’s rockers, it broadened the group’s fan base. In a larger scheme, rap, which had been an exclusively black genre to that point, suddenly found an audience with suburban white kids who quickly began discovering and supporting other rap artists. As the first successful rock/hip-hop collaboration, “Walk This Way” legitimized rap and all that it encompassed, setting the stage for likes of Public Enemy/Anthrax, Eminem/Dido, Eve/Gwen Stefani, and countless others. The success of “Walk This Way” also made Run-DMC the first rap act to get airplay on MTV, further helping to erase prejudices towards musical styles.




“Pour Some Sugar on Me” – Def Leppard – 1987

Five years had passed since Def Leppard’s 1983 hard rock classic, Pyromania, and by 1987, with an abundance of hair bands on the scene, many wondered if the group could equal their earlier success. Def Lep surprised everyone with their comeback album Hysteria, which featured a slicker, more radio-friendly sound. Though some felt the band “sold out”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” (one of six top 20 singles off Hysteria) was one of the decade’s most rousing and head-banging hits, blending traditional heavy metal elements, such as fierce guitars and bombastic drums, with a more melodic vocal delivery from lead singer Joe Elliot.




Honorable mentions:


“Money For Nothing” – Dire Straits
Biting satire on the plethora of disposable music the decade produced.

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tears for Fears
Featured in seemingly every movie between ‘85 and ‘87

“Walk Like an Egyptian” – The Bangles
You know you did it at least once.

“Don’t You Forget About Me” – Simple Minds
Theme song from “The Breakfast Club” and enduring anthem of teenage angst.

"Hungry Like the Wolf" - Duran Duran
"Doot-doot-doo-doot-doot-doo-doot-doot-doo-doot-doot-doo-doot-doot-doo!"

“Jump” – Van Halen
Eddie trades in his guitar for a synthesizer.

“Careless Whisper” – Wham!
We said, "Forget about George Michael, the other guy is the talented one." (We were wrong.)

“Relax” – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Frankie say this was perhaps the decade’s most memorable one-hit wonder.


April 8, 2009

How About a Threesome?

Do you know what you were doing 15 years ago?... I do... Watching this -- released 15 years ago today.



Threesome at imdb.com

April 6, 2009

Happy Anniversary Leaping Winged Horse

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Where the Boys Are 84, which was a remake of a popular 1960 beach comedy featuring Dolores Hart, Paula Prentiss, George Hamilton, Frank Gorshin (best known as The Riddler from TV’s Batman series) and Connie Francis, who also sung the hugely successful title track.

Where the Boys Are 84 had an equally eclectic cast that featured actress turned country singer Lisa Hartman, figure skater turned actress Lynn Holly Johnson, Lorna Luft (daughter of Judy Garland), Wendy Schaal (now the voice of Francine on American Dad), and Christopher MacDonald (“Shooter McGavin” from Happy Gilmour.) The film wasn’t nearly as successful as its predecessor but will forever have a place in cinema history as the very first theatrical release from Tri-Star Pictures.

TriStar was a joint film production and distribution company formed in 1982 by HBO, CBS, and Columbia Pictures. The company went on to produce and/or distribute a number of successful (Rambo, Glory, Sleepless in Seattle, My Best Friend’s Wedding) and not so successful (Meatballs 2, Night of the Creeps, Nothing in Common, Jawbreaker) films before it was eventually folded into Columbia (and later into its parent company Sony Pictures.) And though TriStar’s still around today, it’s a much smaller player than it used to be.


Here’s the original 1984 version of the famous Pegasus TriStar logo:





Where the Boys Are 84 at imdb.com

April 3, 2009

What the Hell Happened to Maxim?

We took a look at some of our old Maxim magazines and noticed that back when it was in its prime (around the late 90s, early 2000s) the magazine was substantially thicker (i.e., it had way more content) than it does now. The December 2000 issue with cover girl Tara Reid, for example, topped out at a whopping 292 pages, while a recent issue featuring Hilary Duff was a measly ninety-six. I know that in the magazine business, ad dollars are way down, and less ads means you need less content -- but 292 down to 96? That's a two-thirds reduction in pages.

We were on board early with Maxim (issue #3 with Carmen Electra on the cover) and we always liked its smartass, unapologetically sexist tone, as well its focus on the things that truly matter in life -- sex, sports, beer, gadgets, and of course, women. Here's some of our favorite photos from Maxims past:


















Cameron Diaz 2002
Caprice Bourret 1999

















Danneel Harris 2008
Paula Garces 2001

















Amanda Beard 2004
Diora Baird 2008


Maxim Online







 
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