If you're a Neutral Milk Hotel fan, prepare to do backflips. If not, prepare to have your socks rocked off. After 15 years, NMH is reuniting for a brand new tour.
In case you didn't realize, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is the greatest album of all time. Jeff Mangum and his band Neutral Milk Hotel may not have the legendary fame of acts like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones. Nor is Over the Sea an album where all the stars aligned, like The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. But I'm telling you: it's the greatest. The. Greatest.
Adding to the allure of Mangum's 11-track poetic demonstration of alternative rock n' roll (which many believe is inspired by the life of Anne Frank) is the fact that Neutral Milk Hotel never followed it up. After Over the Sea arrived in 1998 the band went on tour and then… an extended hiatus. Since then, Mangum has been all but mum on the future of Neutral Milk Hotel, leaving fans to replay the wailing vocals, lines of horns and guitar, lo-fi recording of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea over and over and over again. Who knew MP3's could form grooves?
Now, in a true mysterious-rock-star move, Netural Milk Hotel is set to return for a tour of unspecified length — and there are already a few dates and locations locked for the reunion. Mangum, along with his broadly talented In the Aeroplane Over the Sea ensemble Jeremy Barnes, Scott Spillane, and Julian Koster, will hit the road this Fall with a portion of their tour proceeds going to the Children of the Blue Sky charity. Who is lucky enough to live in….
10-22 Athens, GA - 40 Watt Club10-23 Athens, GA - 40 Watt Club0-25 Asheville, NC - Thomas Wolfe Auditorium11-28 Taipei, Taiwan - Hostess Club Festival12-01 Tokyo, Japan - Hostess Club Festival
The Neutral Milk Hotel website promises more shows to follow, so start crossing those fingers. The update also includes this bit of contextless ruminating:
and of water course womb rume is a wandering the welkin woman whose fune caul is all umbilical cord code that comes equipped with read volve vît curtains that čun seel my văl én tich radio reason in remembrance of mademoiselle gabrielle and her wone tym pad lock of burd language as it borders on twin tolk the wolk king wall of woolpack pigeons pointing to the fly blind readers riddle and his rian boh
No, this isn't quite a In the Aeroplane Over the Sea follow-up. But as a defining album of rock music, the chance to see the original band reform to play it live may be more vital. Hearing "Oh Comely" recorded is necessary. Hearing Magnum preach the song in person feels essential.
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In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Last night, Snooki left the reality where she is a published author behind and entered into the reality where there are no height or weight restrictions in wrestling and appeared on WWE Raw. After sliding into the ring like she was Anne Hathaway in Get Smart, Snooks proceeded to knock her opponents off their feet and onto the floor, with what must have been a lot of New York Times Bestseller force because after a few minutes of rolling around in her clutches, they were squirming to get out of the ring completely. Once safe, the women realized it wasn't that bad and invited her to Wrestlemania. So you see Tom Wolfe? There's still hope for your very own crossover.
Stream Hodsell (Bonnie Root) is a bright down-to-earth girl transplanted to New York City from Vermont. While she’s waiting to hear back from Harvard Stream’s first sexual encounter with her high-society boyfriend (James Roday) leaves her -- well underwhelmed. And as coming of age stories go tales told by upper-class girlfriend Jenny (Gaby
Hoffman) -- who allegedly climaxes all the time -- spurs Stream to pursue the elusive "orgasm" for herself. Along the way she trades in her boyfriend for a quiet brooding type (Ryan Reynolds). The only thing unpredictable in this plot was finally figuring out what the title meant.
For a small teen film "Coming Soon" features many old-school talents whose performances lend the movie much-needed credibility: Mia Farrow as Stream’s flighty ex-hippie mother (who sports double the red hair as Carrot Top) Ryan O’Neal as her vain father Spalding Gray as a high school adviser and Peter Bogdanovich as Farrow’s new boyfriend. Yasmine Bleeth is hilarious in a brief role as O’Neal’s new young love. Root and Reynolds are quietly affecting in their fumbling love story but Hoffman’s spoiled rich girl completely rubs the wrong way.
Director Colette Burson delivers a few laughs in her directorial debut but the film can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be a sex farce or a romantic comedy. Some jokes work (Stream figures out she hasn’t climaxed yet when she accidentally goes too near Jenny’s jacuzzi jet stream) but Burson wears them out by running scenes too long.
Adding a little kick to the box office this weekend, New Line Cinema's Rush Hour 2, starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, raked in $66.8 million its first weekend of release.
The weekend's gross gives the film the No. 4 opening in history, the No. 3 non-holiday opening, and the No. 1 action/comedy opening in history (edging out New Line's very own Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which earned $54.9 million its first weekend). The sequel doubled Rush Hour debut of $33 million in September 1998.
"It was a stunning opening," Steve Elzer, New Line's senior vice president of corporate communication, said Sunday. "And the promotional campaign for this film was phenomenal. These guys [Tucker and Chan] were everywhere promoting this thing. Late-night talk shows, Comedy Central. TNT did a great run of the first [Rush Hour]. [Tucker and Chan] even showed up on Regis and Kelly. We're very pleased."
Rush Hour 2, which transplants Chan and Tucker in Hong Kong this time around, showed on 4,524 screens in 3,118 theaters, pulling in $21,424 per theater. It is rated PG-13.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13-rated Planet of the Apes, which dominated the box office last week, dropped an astonishing 58 percent, but still earned a respectable $28.5 million. The film, starring Mark Wahlberg and Estella Warren--about a civilization of advanced apes--showed on 3,530 screens, making an average of $8,059 on each.
Bruce Snyder, president of 20th Century Fox distribution, said that Planet's decrease was somewhat inevitable.
"When everybody's in there the first week at the opening...well, you know," he said.
Nevertheless, Snyder said, the film surpassed the $100 million mark in its eighth day in release. So far, the film has earned an estimated $124.7 million.
Disney's The Princess Diaries, starring newcomer Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews, grossed a healthy $23.2 million in its first weekend of release. The G-rated film, about an unconventional 16-year-old who's offered the throne of a small European country, showed on 2,537 screens nationwide.
"Needless to say, we're very, very happy," said Elizabeth Wolfe of Disney/Buena Vista Pictures.
Wolf said the film's earnings were quite close to Princess' total cost.
The Princess Diaries was directed by Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman).
Universal's Jurassic Park III continued its slide down the box-office rankings, coming in at No. 4. The film, about a family stranded on an island of dinosaurs and the scientist (Sam Neill) who must guide them out, took in $12.1 million.
Jurassic Park III, which held the No. 2 position last week, was directed by Joe Johnston (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids). The film's estimated accumulation thus far is $146.7 million. It is rated PG-13.
The Julia Roberts and John Cusack comedy America's Sweethearts, released by Sony Pictures, earned $8.4 million in its third week of release, garnering the No. 5 position. About a movie star's (Catherine Zeta-Jones) sister who develops an attraction for her celebrity brother-in-law, the PG-13-rated film was co-written by Billy Crystal and directed by Joe Roth. It's estimated earnings have reached $75.1 million.
At No. 6, the perpetually delayed new thriller Original Sin, rated R, continued to disappoint, scraping in just $6.4 million in its debut weekend. Released by MGM, the film stars Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas as lovers caught in a dangerous spiral of mistaken identity. Sin was originally slated for a November 2000 debut and was bumped from February of this year.
Legally Blonde, also released MGM, grabbed the No. 7 spot in its fourth week of release, earning $6.1 million. Starring Reese Witherspoon as a lovesick--yet extremely trendy--young woman determined to earn her Harvard law degree, the film slipped three spots from its No. 4 finish last week, bringing its overall take to $71.6 million. Blonde is rated PG-13.
Paramount's The Score dropped three spots to No. 8 this weekend in its fourth week of release. The film, which has grossed a cumulative $57.3 million, stars Robert De Niro and Edward Norton as crooks attempting a heist that will afford one of the pair a lifelong retirement. Rated R, The Score was directed by Frank Oz (In & Out).
The Warner Bros. comedy Cats & Dogs scampered to the No. 9 spot--down from last weekend's No. 6 showing--earning $2.3 million in its fifth week in theaters. Rated PG, the film stars Jeff Goldblum and an army of felines and canines waging a high-tech war on one another. To date, Cats & Dogs has earned a respectable $86.8 million.
Eddie Murphy's Dr. Dolittle 2 rounded out the top 10 with a $2.1 million take, bringing its overall gross to $106 million. Twentieth Century Fox's comedy about a man who's known to communicate with animals fell from its No. 7 finish last week. The film is rated PG.
Elsewhere, director Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now Redux, which was released in very few theaters, took in a nice $96,000 its opening weekend. The film was shown only in IMAX theaters nationwide, but its earnings suggest fans are eager to see the 54 minutes of deleted footage that Coppola couldn't work into the original. Starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, the film is about a group of U.S. military officers ordered to eradicate a military outpost overseen by a deranged American colonel. The film is rated R.
The top 12 films this weekend grossed about $164 million, up 14 percent from last weekend.