One of the best & most violent "spaghetti westerns" ever made was director Sergio Corbucci's "Django" (1966). A mysterious stranger (Franco Nero) enters a practically dead town dragging a small casket along with him. Bracketing the town is mutual hatred between a gang of bandits and a group of red-hooded racists. Which side does the stranger pick? Check out our DVD, which offers both the English and Italian (with optional subtitles) soundtracks and see how this film influenced the likes of Quentin Tarantino (who's "borrowed" quite a few scenes from this film to use in his own) and Robert Rodriquez.
April 2007 Archives
Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny
Even if you only like Metal a little bit, you'll love Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny. Funnyman Jack Black and guitarist/sidekick Kyle Gass strap on their over-sized six stringers and rock out in this thoroughly hilarious re-telling of the origins of Tenacious D. Complete with cameos by Dave Grohl, Meatloaf, Ronnie James Dio, and Sasquatch, this movie was so chock full of metal that you might want to make sure your DVD Player has had its most recent tetanus shot before watching it. With killer riffs, epic battles between Wizards and Demons, and a drum solo by Satan himself, the only thing missing from this movie were a couple of songs off of the excellent soundtrack album that didn't make it into the film, including my personal favorite: "The Government Totally Sucks".
The Twilight Samurai
Seibei Iguchi is a low-ranking Samurai forced to perform piecework to supplement his paltry clan wage in order to support himself, his two daughters and his senile old mother after his wife succumbs to tuberculosis. As if life wasn't hard enough, Seibei takes it upon himself to defend a friend in a forbidden duel of honor versus the cruel ex-husband of his friend's sister, Tomoe, a woman whom Seibei himself would marry if only it didn't mean inflicting his own unfortunate circumstances upon her as well. News of Seibei's hither-unknown battle prowess gets out, and he soon finds himself faced with the task of dispatching a renegade--and extremely deadly--samurai of his own clan. Seibei is forced to choose between following his heart and performing his duty, a choice that comes with unexpected results.
Set during the last days of shogunate Japan, The Twilight Samurai is a moving tale of honor, love, class struggle and hardship during a time of great social upheaval.
Memories of T,
by Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet
If you have ever fallen prey to the angular charms of Thelonious Monk's supremely idiosyncratic body of work, I suspect you will enjoy this CD for similar reasons. For one thing, the disc comprises many of the more familiar tunes from the Monk canon; such as Rhythm-a-ning, Pannonica, Straight-No Chaser, Epistrophy and Bemsha Swing. But many contemporary jazz releases feature Monk cuts, which don't capture any of the Klee-like appeal of the originals. Where this release excels is in the arrangements, by trumpeter Dan Sickler, which mimic Monk's comping and soloing, even though there is no piano present. Individual lines, often recognizable quotes from the great man's own recordings, will be divided up between, say, saxophone, guitar and trumpet, with each instrument playing in sequence. The fact that this difficult feat is accomplished with such complete rhythmic assurance by the players reinforces the sense that Monk's spirit is being channeled. Finally, drummer, Ben Riley, a Monk cohort from four decades back, imparts his particularly kinetic time-keeping, so that the proceedings swing as hard as 1965's Live at the It Club (COMP DISC 781.65 MONK); which is saying something.
The Phantom of the Opera,
by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Did you ever get so mad that you wanted to drop a chandelier on someone's head? Then Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera is the musical for you. Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman lend their outstanding voices to the main characters in this darkly haunting, yet strangely beautiful original cast recording. The Phantom, a horribly disfigured musical genius who lives beneath a Paris Opera House, terrorizes all of its above ground inhabitants when he falls in love with Christine, a beautiful chorus girl with hidden potential.
The Studio Albums 1967-1968,
by The Bee Gees
Long before the Bee Gees became Lords of Disco in the late '70's they made delightful psychedelic pop albums. The smart folks at Reprise Records have collected their first three records and packaged them, along with a fact-filled book, into this fine box set.
This six-CD set of the Gibbs' first three international albums in stereo and mono mixes, non-LP singles, alternate versions and copious outtakes may seem like overkill for a band remembered for its AM-radio anthems, but Bee Gees 1st, Horizontal and Idea are startlingly filler-free. The excellence of these songs match their inspired titles; on the first record alone they give us such gems as "Cucumber Castle" and "Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy of Arts" One of the standouts of "Horizontal, the bands second record is "Lemons Never Forge."
The first reaction of the uninitiated is to comment on how much these songs sound like the Beatles. This is only partially true. While there is plenty of classic '60's pop on these records they also (and this is especially true for disc 3, which contains the "Idea" LP) mined a territory that was much more orchestral and baroque than their predecessors.
by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & the Trinity
This album, originally released as a double-LP in 1969, brought about my abiding love for the Hammond organ. It also introduced me to one of the most thrilling vocalists of the 60's: Julie ("Jools", or "The Face") Driscoll. Stylistically, Street Noise is an amalgam of rock, jazz, folk blues and gospel, which maintains continuity from track to track, despite its eclecticism. Comprising equal parts original songs and cover versions, the album is that rarest, for me, of commodities--a record where I like every song. And it's a double album, no less. Furthermore, I had disdained some of the original versions of the covers chosen as either un-hip ("Flesh Failures: Let the Sunshine in" and "I've Got Life" from Hair), or just plain annoying ("Light My Fire"). But not so on Street Noise. In fact, here you'll find the only version of the oft recorded LMF that doesn't make me cringe, thanks to Jools's goose bump-inducing vocal and Brian Auger's subtle and atmospheric organ embellishments. Elsewhere, the band absolutely burns on original instrumentals such as "Ellis Island" and "Tropic of Capricorn", prominently featuring their co-leader's keyboard virtuosity. On Richie Haven's "Indian Rope Man", Jools and Brian vie for the spotlight; each outdoing the other on this incendiary track. Throughout the album, wherever Driscoll sings, she will compel your attention; whether on up tempo numbers or the gentle "Vauxhall to Lambeth Bridge" or her dramatic rendition of the traditional song, "When I was a Young Girl". My only caveat concerning the album is an occasional shrillness on her part, but this shouldn't deter you from checking out this remarkable but relatively unknown release.
Tropicalia: e' proibida proibir,
(Soul Jazz Records)
Tropicalia was a musical and cultural movement in Brazil that lasted a little more than a year (1968), and ended primarily due to the imprisonment and subsequent deportation to England two its main protaganists, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.
Tropicalia mixed American and British psychedelic rock and pop with Brazilian roots and European avant-garde and experimental music to create a new sound that was both distinctly Brazilian and truly international. Ideologically they mixed high art with mass culture and mocked the military dictatorship under which they were living at the time.
This disc is a great introduction to the movement's music. Every track is a winner and my guess this will leave you wanting to hear more from the artists featured here, which include the fantastic Os Mutantes and Tom Ze.
People Gonna Talk,
by James Hunter
When I first heard "No Smoke Without Fire", from People Gonna Talk, I was turning up the volume trying to figure out who I was listening to...was it Sam Cooke? The sax and guitar sound said classic 50's/ 60's soul to me. By the time I got to "Talking 'Bout My Love" ---I was a fan. This is the 2006 release from British R&B soul artist James Hunter. People Gonna Talk earned a 2006 Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year. But I know I'm not the only one loving this sound. Van Morrison says "James is one of the best voices...in British R'n'B and Soul. Check him out."
Beside You In Time,
by Nine Inch Nails
Filmed during the winter 2005/2006 tour in support of their 2005 album With Teeth, Beside You In Time features a 19-song set-list shot in high definition video with Dolby 5.1 & DTS surround-sound and plenty of extras. The performances are tight and energetic, suitably representative of the tour (and the band's modus operandi) as a whole, and the main set-list offers a satisfactory balance between old favorites and new material. In addition to the main performance, extras include 5 additional songs shot during the 2006 summer amphitheater leg of the tour, rehearsal footage, music videos for "The Hand That Feeds" and "Only", a tour image gallery, and a discography of the band's entire catalog.
Having had the privilege of attending five shows from this tour, I can say with confidence that this DVD captures the essence of a Nine Inch Nails live performance very well; it may not be quite as good as actually being there, but if you were unable to get tickets (or you are a new fan) then this really is the next best thing.
Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones,
by by Robert Greenfield
Chronicles the recording of the eponymous album at the Villa Nellcote in the South of France during the summer following the death of Rolling Stones' founding member Brian Jones. This very social scene is all sex, drugs and even some rock n roll. Foremost are the fascinating relationships between Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg. The author writes with the assumption that readers are intimate with the Stones' history and discography so much of the information may be arcane for most as it was for me. However, I was hooked into finding out more and gossiping with fans. If you like fast cars and steep cliffs, you will enjoy this ride.
The Year of Magical Thinking,
by Joan Didion
Her husband's death while their daughter was in the hospital in a coma started a year of disorientation for the author, who shares it with us in this enlightening and moving story. As a person accustomed to being able to manage all crises/problems, she found herself in a situation where "I had no answers. I had no prognosis. I did not know how this had happened." She gave away her husband's clothes, but saved a pair of shoes because he would need them when he came home. Later she realized that it took four months for her to move from grieving to mourning. "Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it." "Nor can we know ahead of the fact...the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself."
The Bookseller of Kabul,
by Asne Seierstad
This highly recommended book gives the reader great insight into the culture of Afghanistan both during and after the Taliban's rule. The central character is indeed a bookseller and is based on a real person who Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist, met while in Kabul in 2002. Given the name Sultan Khan by the author, the bookseller is not only a voracious reader, but dedicated to making books available for purchase in his country. His stubborn determination to survive as a bookseller under the stifling censorship of the Taliban fascinated Seierstad. Eventually Khan allowed Seierstad to live with his family and that experience becomes the subject of the book.
Participating in the daily life of Khan's family allowed Seierstad, and thus the reader, to experience Afghan life firsthand. Particular attention is given to the plight of women, both in Khan's family and in Afghan society. One example is when Seierstad dons a burka, stumbles around Kabul and vividly writes about the difficulties of navigating the streets under that covering.
The view of Afghan society presented in the books is multifaceted - the dictatorship of Khan, much like many other male heads of Afghani families, over his wife and children, the eventual introduction of Khan's second wife into his growing family structure and the emotional toll of having multi-wives in a family, and the increasingly growing pressures on the family as Afghanistan moves away from the controlling rule of the Taliban.
Seierstad's writing is clear, engrossing and compelling. Those readers who loved The Kite Runner will perhaps want to read this book. While that book had men as its main characters, women become central to The Bookseller of Kabul. By reading both books, one can get a more balanced view of Afghan society. Seierstad has written a great book, which is very readable, interesting and rewarding.
The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice,
by Philip Jenkins
The author, an Episcopalian, is worried about the unfairness and injustice of the anti-Catholicism that is rampant in America now; "it is virtually the only major institution with which such liberties are permitted." He clearly shows how "Catholics and Catholicism are at the receiving end of a great deal of startling vituperation in contemporary America, although generally, those responsible never think of themselves as bigots.." "Almost as troubling as the sheer abundance of anti-Catholic rhetoric is the failure to acknowledge it as a serious social problem. In the media, Catholicism is regarded as a perfectly legitimate target". He describes the history of anti-Catholicism in America and the forms it takes today, dealing with the current major and popular myths about Catholicism, and says "Demon figures are simply useful, if not essential." And he concludes "Anti-Catholic sentiment may simply be too deeply entrenched to eliminate in a decade or a lifetime, but this does not mean that it should simply be ignored. The greatest single achievement might be to acknowledge its existence and to treat is as a form of prejudice quite as pernicious as any other." An absorbing and disturbing book.
Shutting out the Sun: How Japan has created its own lost generation,
by Michael Zielenziger
It seems like only a few years ago Japan was on the cusp of becoming the new global superpower. The nation today is in disarray. Journalist Zielenziger, who lived for ten years in the country working as a Tokyo bureau chief for Knight Ridder newspapers, went inside this largely closed culture and wrote
Shutting out the Sun: How Japan has created its own lost generation. His troubling book examines the clash between the older, entrenched, and younger, floundering generations. Japan's rigid education and work systems and the the unhealthy interlocking alliance between government and industry, helped to give rise over the past several decades to a class of young people known as hikikomori, who literally shut themselves up in their rooms. Through interviews with several of these "lost generation" figures, Zielenziger reveals how the pressures on Japanese youths have caused many to give up and totally retreat from society. Young women, too, are rejecting traditional roles in large numbers, choosing careers with foreign companies over having families. Shutting out the Sun is a piercing, and yes, depressing look at how a society's refusal to embrace change has been so detrimental to its younger generation and a nation's health.
The Lost: A Search of Six of the Six Million,
by Daniel Mendelsohn
What a terrifically moving and enthralling book Daniel Mendelsohn has written! Mendelsohn, age 47, grew up in a Jewish family of Polish descent, most of whom had successfully fled Poland before the German invasion. However, his grandfather's brother Shmiel and his family were lost in the Holocaust. Shmiel's ghost hovers over the family, in part because no one ever knew exactly what happened to him. As a child, Mendelsohn became entranced with the mystery of Shmiel and this fascination grew as he aged. As he writes, "if you're a person who grew up listening to elaborately detailed stories, it won't satisfy your hunger for the particulars of what happened to your relatives."
Mendelsohn sets off to find out what did happen to this family members and takes the reader on an incredible journey to, among other places, Australia, Israel, Denmark and the now-Ukrainian hometown of his family all in a search to learn what did indeed happen to his relatives. His writing is so descriptive and fascinating. Chance encounters with older Holocaust survivors lead, quite surprisingly, to valuable information about the fate of his relatives. Gristly details of the Holocaust document once again the horrors of that event. Yet, the overwhelming spirit of this book remains that of a loving and determined descendent of Shmiel's effort to learn decisively the fate of his grandfather's brother. It is a profoundly intensive experience to read The Lost and be at Mendolsohn's side as he does indeed discover the truth of what did happen to his family members. Needless to say, this remains a highly, and enthusiastically, recommended book.
It's Okay To Miss The Bed On The First Jump,
by John O'Hurley
John O'Hurley, best known for his appearances on Seinfeld and Dancing With the Stars, has written a very insightful book on dog behavior and its relation to human nature titled "It's Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump". He explains how we can learn from dogs, who seem to enjoy simple things and have a very simple philosophy of life. O'Hurley also believes they have distinct personalities, and he goes to great lengths to describe the dogs in his life. Whether you are a dog lover or not, you will enjoy this entertaining book. This is a quick and easy read, which deserves your attention.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter & Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
Dexter Morgan is probably the most over-qualified blood-spatter analyst working at the Miami-Dade police department, or anywhere for that matter, though none of his co-workers know his expertise stems from being a killer himself. But Dexter is different from other homicidal maniacs--aside from being "the best-dressed monster in Dade County" with boy-next-door good looks, disarming charm and a scalpel-sharp wit, Dexter has been imbued with a set of rules to guide his more lethal proclivities for the benefit of society while ensuring that he himself remains anonymously safe from the authorities. His foster father Harry Morgan, a homicide cop, recognized Dexter's urge to kill at a young age, and rather than commit him to a fate of institutionalized psychiatric probing and fumbling, he taught Dexter the finer points of criminal investigative technique, social interaction and impulse control, aka "Harry's Rules". The result? One well-kempt, well-behaved sociopath who only preys on other killers. Compared to many living in Miami, Dexter is a model citizen.
Written with deliciously dark humor amid dastardly dismemberments and vivid vivisections, Lindsay has created a character who fascinates and amuses us, giving new life to a genre that before now had been literally "done to death". When you're finished with Lindsay's first two novels in the Dexter series, there is a third to look forward to, due out later this summer, but if you need to assuage your fix for butchered "Barbie dolls" and "yodeling potatoes" in the meantime, you can also catch the hit television series on Showtime. Your own "Dark Passenger" is bound to be satisfied!
With No One As Witness, by Elizabeth George
With No One As Witness is lucky number 13 in the series of books written by Elizabeth George as she has written yet another readable and entertaining murder mystery. An American living in England, George has mastered the art of writing a mystery set in London as if she was native born. The regular Scotland Yard detectives Geroge has written about in previous books, Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers, are joined by the newly-promoted detective Winston Nkata as they try to find a brutal serial killer who is preying on young boys. While the first clues lead to Colossus, an organization dedicated to helping "at-risk" youths, Lynley, Havers, Nkata and other team members comb various London neighborhoods for the killer. Extra pressure is put on Havers to do well as part of her attempt to rehabilitate her professional reputation. George creates a great plot with many twists and turns while her characters come vividly alive during the chase to solve these murders. A twist is thrown in at the end which made this reviewer want to read George's next book featuring these characters. In all, a highly recommended book!
by Cormac McCarthy
I had never really bought in to that adage about how great literature can transform lives...until I read The Road. I mean, many re-readings of Martin Amis's novels have served to reinforce my cynical worldview but, that's different. "The Road", in its quiet beauty has changed the way I look at (and live in) the world. Maybe it is only temporary but no other book has quite had the impact on me that this one has. A man and his son make their way through a post-apocalyptic United States. They are hungry, scared and tired but also very determined to survive. There are not many folks left and the ones who are will kill you for your shoes. McCarthy is sketchy with the details on what has exactly transpired but, it's not really important. What's important is the man's love for his son and what he will do in order to protect him and keep him safe. In lesser hands a story like this would be nothing more than a corny Mad Max-ish adventure story but, McCarthy suffuses the story with so much underlying humanity and love that it is nearly impossible to stop reading. Believe me, there were times when I could barely get myself to pick this book back up, there are some very difficult moments, The hardship these two endure are almost too much to take. But...I always went back and, I couldn't stop reading once I came upon the final 50 pages. What happens in the end is both too sad and too happy for my words to do justice. Mr. McCarthy has written his masterpiece.
The Possibility of an Island,
by Michel Houellebecq
The Possibility of an Island, by enfant terrible of contemporary French literature, Michel Houellebecq, revisits themes of religious cults, love, lust and genetic engineering with the same challenging insights as his previous books. Set in both the present and future, the narrative is a recounting of present and subsequent lives of Daniels. The original Daniel, a comedian who achieves fame and fortune through his misanthropic exploitation of social ills, falls in with a cult that promises immortality through cloning. Human suffering is eventually eradicated resulting in an angst free existence not worth living and nostalgia for the heartache experienced by Daniel 1.
Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Book, by Deirdre Dolan
Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Book, (2006) by Deirdre Dolan is a must read for anyone who likes irreverent humor and would like to get "caught up" on the HBO series about the trials and tribulations of Larry David. (Larry David was the co-creator of Seinfeld). David is neurotic and believes everyone is out to get him. He gets himself caught in awkward situations which he only makes worse! The book recaps the entire 5 year series on HBO with episode summaries, some dialogue, cast lists, and interesting tidbits from fellow cast members. There are several interviews with Larry David, as well as family and friends. Dolan includes an interesting feature called "What they were thinking" to explain what the writers were trying to do with a certain scene. This book is unique and interesting - much like the series. I recommend it highly.
by Joe Hill
Another star has joined the horror genre. He walked into the arena under his own writing power, but he is the son of Stephen King. "Heart-Shaped Box" by Joe Hill is vaguely reminiscent of early Stephen King novels and it is very good. Over the hill rock star Judas Coyne has a fascination with macabre collectibles and he decides to buy a ghost on an internet auction site. The ghost arrives attached to a vintage suit wrapped in a black heart-shaped box. Judas thinks the acquisition is enough but finds the suit belonged to Craddock McDermott, the step-father of one of his former groupies who committed suicide after Judas dismissed her from his life. Judas and his current girlfriend Georgia come face to face with the ghost as well as their own dark and troubled pasts. Warner Brothers has already bought the film rights, so read the book first.