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Archive for May, 2007

Time of the Season: S3 of The Office

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 20, 2007

“I do not fear the unknown. I will meet my new challenges head-on, and I will succeed, and I will laugh in the faces of those who doubt me. It’s been a pleasure working with some of you, and I will not forget those of you soon. But remember, while today it is me, we all shall fall.”

Season three of the most reliable comedy on TV wrapped up with an hour-long finale last Thursday. On the whole, the season probably didn’t hit the highs of the Emmy-winning second season, but that was a pretty tough sell to begin with (it being one of the first TV seasons I actually figured had enough replay value to be worth buying). Especially with Scrubs getting preachier than U2 watching an M. Night Shyamalan movie and My Name is Earl running disturbingly low on jokes not along the lines of “Randy does something stupid [Laugh],” the third season did an admirable job of remaining the Thursday night comedy anchor, while 30 Rock was (hopefully) grooming itself for A-list status. Breakdown, go ahead and give it to me:

The Good:

  • Ed Helms as Andy Bernard. A worthy adversary to Dwight, a believable occasional-psycho and a hilarious rehabilitee, Bernard made the proceedings at the Stamford branch the highlights of the early episodes (“I’m going to kill you. IN REAL LIFE”) and added a much-needed spark to mid-season Dunder Mifflin. His performance in “The Return,” the season’s best episode, alone should merit him at least a nomination for the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Emmy.
  • The Jim-Karen-Pam triangle. Karen, played by the foxy superproducer offspring Rashida Jones, was also a worthy adversary for Pam, though the gloves didn’t really come off in their relationship until Pam revealed her feelings for Jim at the office’s retreat (“Y’know, Pam….she’s kind of a bitch”), and Jim having to choose between the two was a legitimately tough one. Props to the show’s producers for not taking the easy way out and villifying Karen–for a while she was just as irresistibly likeable as Pam, which is no small feat.
  • Possibly the best Dwight season thusfar. His feud with Andy, his quitting speech, his attempted coup to steal the company from Michael, his brief tenure at Staples…pretty much non-stop brilliance and hilarity throughout. What’s more, his business trip outings with Ryan and Jim were surprisingly revelatory–he showed himself to be a real character for once, as well as a surprisingly astute salesman. You got the feeling this season that Dwight could actually have been something of a success had he been placed in a less dysfunctional company.

The Bad:

  • Way, way too many “Michael offends minority and tries way too hard to compensate, embarrassing everyone” episodes. Black people, gay people, fat people…no one was safe from Michael’s unintentional humiliation. These episodes were pretty funny the first two seasons, and they’re still kind of funny now, but it’s getting to the point where it’s just too much. You can only watch so many episodes covering your hands with your eyes before the unwatchability just gets annoying.
  • Weird flip-flopping and ultimate dismissal of Roy’s character. Apparently losing Pam was so sobering that he switched his personality up entirely, becoming even more sensitive and nice guy-ish than Jim, but one mention from Pam that she kissed Jim before the end of their relationship and he flips back to psycho boyfriend mode. Then the next episode, he’s gone entirely. Kind of a wasted opportunity.

The Questionable:

  • Michael’s relationship with Jan (and the general weirding out of her character). At first Jan’s can’t-help-herself affair with Michael was hysterical in its inherent self-loathing and confusion, but then they turned her into a sex-fiend, near-dominatrix and semi-psychotic. Funny in parts, but generally it just made me feel bad for Melora Hardin.
  • The show realizing that Creed was probably its funniest minor character. Creed’s unfazed drugged-out weirdo schtick was hilarious the first two seasons, and most of the third as well, but the last few episodes just had too many “That’s our Creed!!” moments for comfort. Him emerging from the ocean at the office retreat with the skeleton of a fish he just caught and ate himself for no particular reason was distinctly nadir-ish.
  • Jim and Pam finally maybe getting together at the end of the season. It was inevitable (sort of impressive they held out this long, really) and could make for some sweet moments next season, but the golden rule of TV romantic comedy has always been that once the tension between the two romantic leads is dissolved, the show is soon to follow. Let’s hope it’s not the case either (and also that Jim’s leaving Karen doesn’t mean Rashida Jones is out of the picture for S4–it’d be a shame to lose her so soon).
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Posted in Time of the Season | 5 Comments »

I Sez: Live Free or Die Hard Rating Criminal

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 19, 2007

Yippee-ki-yay, melon farmer

Against my better judgement, I was actually getting sort of excited for Live Free or Die Hard, the much-delayed fourth installment in the classic action franchise. Fourth movies in a series are usually a dicey proposition, to say the least, but hey, Rocky IV was my favorite of Stallone’s pics, and Die Hard is a much better series in general. Sure, it has Justin Long as the sidekick instead of Samuel L. Jackson or Reginald VelJohnson (whyyyyyyyy) but it also has Sheriff Timothy Olyphant as the villain and Heroes superbaddy Zachary Quinto as a fellow agent, and a pretty decent trailer to boot (CAR FLYING INTO HELICOPTER HOLY SHIT)

But now, all hope and excitement for the movie has been drained from me in one fell swoop. I’ve gone from standing in line on opening day to waiting for it to come out on video (or maybe even until it hits HBO). For alas, unlike the previous three Die Hard installments, Live Free carries with it a stigma that few, if any, classic tough guy movies can hope overcome: A PG-13 rating.

That’s right kids, a PG-13 rating. John McClane. Explosions. Global cyber-terrorism. Sneering Timothy Olyphant. WITH NOTHING MORE THAN PARENTAL GUIDANCE FOR KIDS UNDER 13 SUGGESTED. That means no (or at least, exceptionally little) “GERONIMO MOTHERFUCKER!,” no “NO FUCKING SHIT LADY, DO I SOUND LIKE I’M ORDERING A PIZZA?!?,” no “DON’T FUCK WITH ME OR I’LL SHOVE A LIGHTNING BOLT UP YOUR ASS!” and at the absolute most, only one “YIPPEE-KI-YAY, MOTHERFUCKER!”

What the fuck??? Has our world become so morally and artistically bankrupt that we now need to resort to the cesnorship of what is surely the Human Comedy of the modern action flick? What the hell comes next, a fourth Terminator with water guns and slingshots instead of automatics and bazookas? Glengarry Glen Ross 2 with the actors using their inside voices? 10 1/2 Weeks with lots of tasteful diamond-out cuts as the actors start to kiss? I can’t remember the last time I felt this violated as a filmgoer (well, since I actually sat through all three Lord of the Rings movies in the theaters, anyway).

Len Wiseman, your career may have somehow survived both Underworld movies, but this travesty you shall never eclipse.

Posted in I Sez | 3 Comments »

DVD O.D. : Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 18, 2007

“Are you talking to me or my ass?”

My brother often refers to things as “the Deep Purple of ______.” He uses the term to refer to an artist or work that, while rarely transcendent or terribly notable in its own right, functions as a precursor (and in many cases, direct inspiration) to many more rewarding, long-lasting artists or works. While admittedly a somewhat flawed analogue–I mean c’mon, “Smoke on the Water” and “Highway Star” will never be anything less than awe-inspiring–it’s still an easy and partly accurate way to refer to a rather frequently occuring phenomenon in pop culture history.

And as you’ve no doubt figured out by now, watching a 23-episode greatest hits DVD (as well as hours of special features) of The Larry Sanders Show has led me to conclude that Sanders is the Deep Purple of reality-derived comedy. It got tons of acclaim at the time–a couple of Emmys (Sanders as writer, Rip Torn as supporting actor), claims of being the 90s’ second best sitcom behind Seinfeld, and a relatively respectable six-year run. But though you can obviously see the early glimmers of an entire generation of TV comedy in these 23 episodes, few of the episodes hold up as legitimately wondrous television.

It is somewhat amazing how extreme and how obvious this show’s impact would be on the next decade of TV comedy though. There’s the big two, of course–Curb Your Enthusiasm (stand-ups playing fictionalized variations on their public personas, celebrities making cameos and themselves) and The Office (pseudo-documentary formatting, insecure, occasionally asshole-ish main character surrounded by callous yes-men and smarter people taking the piss out of him, extremely dry humor). But then there’s also Arrested Development (besides the similar humor, Jeffrey Tambor’s character is a proto-GOB, and oh yeah, he was on the show too), Entourage (same sense of star-fuckery and mix of fictional and non-fictional celebrities, as well as a showbizzy Jeremy Piven) and even a couple episodes of Seinfeld (mainly the Puffy Shirt episode where Jerry goes on Bryan Gumbel). Not to mention every show that would follow on HBO–the channel that Larry Sanders would help solidify as a commercially and artistically viable station.

Without all of these shows that followed, it’s entirely possible that Larry Sanders would still seem so mindblowing and funny, but the fact of that matter is that nearly all of these shows have far eclipsed the potential of even Sanders‘ very best episodes. Part of it has to do with the Sanders character himself, who now seems like a sort of relic of the time–nearly everything about the character is dated now, including his talk show (which, while very good at being a satirical example of an unfunny 90s talk show, is not often very funny in itself). Shandling as a comedian I find somewhat grating anyway–once again, he makes for a very good possible 90s talk show host, but I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

Not to say that there aren’t parts of Larry Sanders that hold up. The supporting cast is strong across the board, with special marks going to Jeffrey Tambor’s insecure, dim-witted sidekick Hank Kingsley, Rip Torn’s part-he-was-born-to-play TV superproducer, and a pre-Sherry Palmer Penny Johnson playing Larry’s devoted assistant Beverly (between her and Mary Lynn “Chloe” Rajskub’s role as the show’s booking agent, it’s a veritable 24 reunion in the later episodes). And the late night show stuff, if not always laugh out loud funny, is usually at least clever and occasionally insightful, especially the show’s deservedly Emmy-winning final episode, which plays as both the final episode of The Larry Sanders Show and The Larry Sanders Show (when Shandling/Sanders chokes up during the show’s final monologue, it’s an extremely touching moment–not to mention the bouts of sobbing Torn has throughout the episode).

The comparing and contrasting of this show with Seinfeld is somewhat inevitable–especially since on the DVD’s extra disc, Shandling even has an extended conversation about this with Seinfled himself. Shandling easily seems like the more insecure of the two–both about his show and himself–and it makes sense, as Seinfeld’s show was much less personal, and ultimately much more enduring. But it’s the insecurity (and ingenuity) of Shandling and Sanders that proved enormously important to countless classic shows to follow, while Seinfeld had a Pulp Fiction-like effect of merely inspiring a number of lesser knock-offs.

Of course, his hair was much, much, MUCH worse. So he does have that to be legitimitely embarrassed about.

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Charts on Fire: 05-17-07

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 17, 2007

The 2nd least explicable single to hit #1 this year, T-Pain and Young Joc’s “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” replaces Maroon 5 at the top spot this week, predictably bringing the winning streak of quality-ish #1s (“Give it To Me,” “Girlfriend,” “Makes Me Wonder”) decidedly to an end. People still really, really like vocoder I guess (meanwhile, he’s ruining it for the rest of us–I’ll never listen to Zapp & Roger the same way once this dude is done). It’s also notable for marking the second single this year to brag about having “money in the bank” in a non-sequitur lyric. Sort of interesting, I guess.

Bone Thugz n Harmony (f/ Akon), Huey and Pink are the gainers in the top ten this week, moving 9-6, 11-7 and 16-10 respectively (none thrill me much, though the Bone Thugz single at least evokes pleasant memories). Lower, Daughtry and Timberlake continue their slow climbs (19-13, 18-14), Fall Out Boy start to take off with “Thanks fr the Mmrs” (a fourth top ten single? 38-24), and DJ Khaled and Plain White T’s start to set pace (35-30, 41-37–hope to see both getting at least ten or so higher).

Three new ons to the top 50, besides Fergie coming back with “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (51-41). The first two are pretty exciting–a hot shot debut for 50 Cent’s comeback single “Straight to the Bank,” probably the best thing he’s done since “P.I.M.P.” (fake british laughing = always a plus, #32) and some long-overdue heat from Rihanna and Jay-Z’s “Umberlla” (possibly the best song on the subject since The Hollies’ “Bus Stop,” 52-44). The third is no slouch either, though–Lifehouse takes their shot at three-hit wonder status with their 00s equivalent of AM Gold, “First Time” (more reminiscent of “Hanging By a Moment” than “You and Me,” luckily, #48). Cool stuff, all around.

In the bottom half, we got a couple debuts from new Timbo protege Bobby Valentino with “Anonymous” (can the team-up produce the next “Icebox” or “My Love”? Not really feeling it yet, #52), as well as the long-awaited return from Ryde or Die chick Eve, with comeback single “Tambourine” (seems like a lifetime since she was conceivable as a popular artist, but this is still impressively hot, #72). R. Kelly and Usher’s “Same Girl” also peeks out its head for the first time at #79, hopefully a harbinger of a great chart run to come.

Michael Buble has the #1 album this week, and Nine Inch Nails have a song using the Schaffel beat burning up the modern rock charts. Besides that, life is more or less as it should be.

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OMGWTFLOL: Sugar Ray – “Rivers” (1997)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 16, 2007

The sincerist form of flattery

I always felt like Mark McGrath (and Sugar Ray on the whole) was a lot smarter than they wanted to let on. Never mind that Mr. McGrath turned out to be pop culture-savvy enough to both host Entertainment Tonight and clean up like no other contestant, celebrity or otherwise, ever has on Rock and Roll Jeopardy (why the fuck is this not on YouTube yet???). There was always a certain intelligence, a total mastery of craft in display in their best pop singles, if not necessarily in their mediocre alt-metal days.

Still, this is pretty impressive. I heard “Rivers” about a decade ago when I bought the soundtrack to Scream 2 (I think I was a big fan of Kottonmouth Kings’ “Suburban Life“or something). The only thing I really remembered about the song that particularly struck me at the time was how dumb the chorus was–“When it goes away / I’ll dig a hole,” repeated four times. I’m still not quite sure what it means, but at least now I get the general conceit of the song: the title isn’t referring to the general body of water.

“Rivers” is probably the best Weezer pastiche I’ve ever heard, probably even including the general discography of Ozma. Everything about it just screams early-period Weezer–the light, vaguely falsetto’d harmonies on the verses, the volume increase into the chorus, McGrath’s forceful but not particularly angry or aggressive intonation, the production on the guitars…it’s some ingenious shit.

And I guess it sort of makes sense, given that in terms of production, songcraft and geography (and geography-influenced attitude) the two bands aren’t that disparate. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to think that this song was released in 1997, right after Pinkerton had flopped in almost all respects and still a few years before the Great Weezer Revival would claim them one of the most important bands of their generation. It’s ballsy for the band to release such an obvious homage to a band that at that point probably had very low stock with just about everyone.

Should think about a joint tour sometime. McG could executive produce.

Posted in OMGWTFLOL | 1 Comment »

Time of the Season: MiniSeries / S1 of Battlestar Galactica (’03-’04)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 15, 2007

“God has a plan, Gaius. He has a plan for everything, and everyone.”

EW recently released a pretty decent list of the top 25 Sci-Fi moments (i.e. movies or TV shows) of the last 25 years. At #2, runner-up only to The Matrix, was the recent re-imagining of infamous late-70s sci-fi flop series Battlestar Galactica. I’d been hearing about the show fairly consistently for years now, but this put me over the top–I made it my first TV project of a sure-to-be-eventful summer of classic TV watching (besides, it starts with “B,” meaning I can go in alphabetical order)

Anyway, given that my recent article on the first and only season of Firefly reeived a record-breaking twenty comments within 24 hours of getting posted on a Joss Whedon board (most of them taking exception at me for criticizing Simon and River and spelling Zoe’s name wrong), and given that BSG’s fans are surely just as rabid, I’d like to add this disclaimer: Not all of my comments about Battlestar Galactica are glowingly positive, and they may or may not have some minor factual errors in them. Apologies if I do, but I’m low on time and it’d take all night to properly check this stuff.

Now, I’ll say this about BSG in general–I liked it. On the whole, it was a pretty enjoyable show–the premise (old-fashioned battleship, mostly kept for posterity, is suddenly forced to become the hub of the entire human race when all but the 50,000 people on the ship are killed in a war with man-made robots named Cylons) is as solid as anything I’ve seen in sci-fi recently, and doesn’t feel at all like a late-70s holdover. The characters–spunky top gun Starbuck, gruff but intelligent and charismatic military leader Capt. Adama, and the brilliant but weak-willed (and possibly insane) scientist Gaius Baltar–are strong fairly across the board, and the latter’s imaginary (?) verbal and physical tangoing with human-seeming Cylon Six make for the series’ most innovatie and memorable moments. And the visuals, while rarely stunning, are interesting and compelling enough to do the show’s geekier parts justice.

That said, I’m still not sure exactly why the show is getting such an unguardedly rapturous reception. The EW write-up of it for the sci-fi special said that BSG “[Proves] what sci-fi fans have known for decades: Science fiction is as legitimate a vehicle for human drama as any other genre.” I don’t disagree with that conclusion, necessarily, but I don’t understand why they think BSG works so well as evidence of this fact. To me, admittedly not much of an expert on the subject, it just seems like a highly above-average sci-fi show–one that, unlike even Firefly, I couldn’t possibly imagine seeing on any channel besides the Sci-Fi Channel.

All right, so maybe there’s some allegorical stuff in there supposed to tie in with modern day political and social issues (terrorism, importance of democracy, global paranoia, etc.) and that’s kind of noteworthy, but honestly, in this day and age, how could you make a show set on a warship and have it not seem like it’s a product and reflection of the times? And besides that, I don’t see what separates this show much from any other number of outer-space shows (including Firefly, which was in tone and content unlike any other show I’d ever seen, sci-fi or other). Sure, there’s some nifty future-speak and impressive new technology, as well as a compelling and feasible new-world scenario and some appropriately dramatic inner-crew subplots, but nothing I feel like I haven’t seen somewhere else before. (There are two exceptions to this, to be fair–Gaius and Six’s bizarre and fascinating sparring, and the story of the cyborg baby-to-be of the stranded Galactica pilots Helo and Boomer, a cylon)

It’s possible it gets better the more you know the characters in later seasons, and given that the first season ended on some fairly shocking cliffhangers, I hope I get back to watching the second season at some point. Butnow, though it may be the best sci-fi show currently on TV, as truly compelling, universally compelling dramatic television, I don’t really see it. Let me know why I’m wrong, I guess.

(Editors Note: I totally finished this article at 11:55 but due to continuous internet freezing, did not post until 12:05. I’m choosing not to count that against my once-a-day credo. Apologies.)

Posted in Time of the Season | 3 Comments »

100 Years, 100 Songs: #90. The Ventures – “Walk, Don’t Run”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 14, 2007

Walk walk walk walk, walk walk walk, but don’t ru-un, walk walk walk walk, walk walk walk, but don’t ever run…

For most people I imagine Surf Rock is still best associated with fun-in-the-sun type songs by The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and the Rivieras, among others–either that, or the sort of intense, in-your-face tracks by the Commanches and the Tornadoes that revitalized the genre on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. What I’m generally more about though, are the kind of surf rock songs that really get at the mystery of the ocean–songs that approximate the actual feeling of the beach. Maybe it’s just because I’ve never actually been surfing, and never have much fun in the sun myself, but that’s the shit I can better relate to.

Aside from maybe “Pipeline” by the Chantays, no song better personifies that strangeness of the deep dark blue better than The Ventures’ “Walk, Don’t Run“. A #2 hit in 1960–the age when songs without words still had significant commercial potential–“Walk, Don’t Run” just sounds like the beach to me, the waves of drums and bass crashing against the arid, sun-baked guitar riff. It doesn’t have the good time summertime vibes that most of the genre might be associated with, and frankly it’s shocking that a song this shadowy and off-kilter sounding could ever have been such a monster hit (though to be fair, this was the era that made a #1 out of “Telstar”). Needless to say, though, it’s aged much better than “Surf City” or “Surfin’ Safari” (or even the Surfaris’ immortal “Wipe Out”) ever could’ve hoped to.

Truth told, there’s really not that much to say about the greatness of “Walk, Don’t Run”. It’s an exceedingly simple song–just an intro, a main hook, a bridge and an outro, obviously with no lyrics to speak of, clocking in at just 2:06 total. But really it’s the little things that make this song so unique and memorable–the drum-roll intro, the way the song’s rhythm subtly breaks into a swingier pattern in the bridge, the tiny imperfections in the bass playing here and there, or the hazy guitar bend in the song’s final seconds. The whole thing feels weird and dark and inexplicable, and it makes me wish I was back in Hawaii (sadly, I did not discover The Ventures until years after my family vacationed there between my Junior and Senior year).

Something about it must’ve stuck in the consciousness of listeners of the time as well, as The Ventures sent it back to the top ten just four years later in the form of the re-recorded “Walk Don’t Run ’64” (one of the only songs to hit the top ten twice by the same artist in different versions). It’s a pretty cool new version–harsher and more skeletal than the relatively free-flowing original–but they’ll never top that original, as far as I’m concerned. It might not scream endless summer, but that just means that unlike some of the genre’s other classics, it’s actually listenable all year.

Posted in 100 Years 100 Songs | Leave a Comment »

Eugoogly: Christopher Moltisanti

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 13, 2007

Spoiler Alert – Sopranos fans, time to tune out

Well, what Sopranos fans have waited five episodes for–17, really, if you count the relatively inactive first half of the season, which you probably should–has finally happened. Someone big has died. Not some minor lieutenant that no one actually cared about, not some previously secondary character whose increased presence in the latest episode suggests a disproportionate importance, and not even someone like Tony B or Jackie Jr. whose death was a long time coming. No, one of the show’s principal, core characters–one that we’ve been with since the beginning–has finally tapped out.

And if you’ve read this far, you should already know–as of tonight, Christopher Moltesanti sleeps with the asbestos.

It’s hard to actually find this terribly surprising–things have been going south for Christopher ever since Adriana was outed as a rat–or, if you want to really get to the source, ever since he was sworn in as a made guy. With his dissolution in the last episode, slipping off the wagon and peaceing his Law & Order scribe friend Tim Daly without anything really resembling provocation, it wasn’t hard to see Chrissy’s death as being too far off the horizon.

Still, props to David Chase and the Sops crew for handling Chris’s demise in such an unpredictable way. First off, unlike all the show’s other Big Deaths–Big Pussy, Ralphie Cifaretto, Tony B., Vito Spattafore–Chris tapped out barely five minutes into the episode, with virtually no build up. It starts with a now par-for-the-course tense car ride with Tony, soundtracked by the version of “Comfortably Numb” from the Departed soundtrack (which, superfans will remember, Tony was singing to himself last episode), after the two finish negotiating another hardass bargain with Phil Leotardo. Chris starts to struggle to breathe–likely a coke-related ailment–and the car begins to glide off the road, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision but causing the gar to swerve off the road and flip over about a dozen times.

Tony and Chris survive the accident, but Chris just barely–coughing up blood, he pleads with Tony to help him–not to get him medical help, but to help him avoid getting fingered as the driver, since as he tells Tony, he’d never pass a drug test. Tony, emotionally and physically battered by the incident, as well as harboring a long-standing grudge against Chris for the way he was portrayed in Cleaver, and now angered by Chris’s admission of his relapsing into drug use, makes a decision. He pinches Chris’s nose shut, forcing him to suffocate on his own blood.

It’s the start of what’s easily the most powerful episode of the entire season thusfar–such a good piece of television that it almost makes you forget what a huge, important, and for most of the series, beloved character has just left the Sopranoverse. Cnris represented the kind of everygangster that’s sadly lacking in most mob movies–the kind of guy that you feel you could just have easily seen selling used cars or working the docks as being a wiseguy. Christopher was always one of the show’s most relatable characters, since even after he was made, his character still felt like an outsider, one that was looked down upon by the old guard, and who harbored ambitions that stretched beyond the Mafia. This was never really the life for Chris, and that’s why he always got the best odds in Soprano Death Pools–one way or another, we knew Chris was eventually gonna get out.

But really, Chris was just generally a likeable guy. Sure, he did shit that in the real world would be unforgivable–killing a waiter who insulted him for tipping too low, shooting J.T. in the head for refusing to indulge his drunk ranting, and of course, feeding Adrianna to the wolves after she revealed to him that she had flipped, being some of the more despicable items on his rap sheet. But more than any other character on the show, Chris always seemed human–whether he was punching people out in his acting class after getting some unwanted emotions stirred up, or pouting like a wounded puppy after getting rejected by the wannabe sophisticate he had a brief fling with, Chrissy always acted like a person. Tony groomed him to inherit the throne at first, but that was never a good idea–Chris was too impulsively emotional to be a #1, something Tony didn’t realize until it was too late.

So what effect is his death going to have on the last three episodes of The Sopranos? Well, for one thing, any illusions any viewer could possibly have at this point in the show of Tony being at heart a good person have been demolished beyond a doubt. As he dreams a therapy session with Melfi where he’s actually honest for once, and tells her what a relief it is now that Chris is dead, we know the man has effectively sold away whatever parts of his soul he still might have had control over. Oddly Tone chooses this opportunity to take a spiritual vision quest with one of Chris’s old peyote-enthusiast goomahs in Vegas, causing him to announce “I DID IT!!” (some people heard this as “I GET IT!!” and maybe they’re right–not sure which is more interesting) to the Grand Canyon.

Whether this cold-blooded act will cause Tony’s career downfall as well as his spiritual downfall is yet to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine the consequences being good. Not to mention the fact that Tony’s son by birth, A.J., has started to follow (somewhat unwillingly) in his father’s footsteps, standing an idle witness while his new frat buddies beat the shit out of a black cyclist for no real reason. With one son in the ground and another starting along the same path, Tony’s loyalty to the mob is going to be weaker than ever. Some fans’ theories that the series will end with Tony flipping in an attempt to salvage whatever is left of his family and himself are starting to ring pretty true.

But lest we get ahead of ourselves, let’s have a moment of silence for Chris–one of the show’s best characters, and indeed, one of the greatest supporting characters in modern dramatic television.

R.I.P. Christopher Moltisanti, 1968-2007

Posted in Eugoogly | 2 Comments »

Geek Out: First Seven Tracks of Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80s Announced

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 12, 2007

23 chances left to finally include some fucking Yngwie

At least twice a week since news about Guitar Hero: 80s Edition was announced last January, I’ve been Google Blog searching the words “Guitar Hero 80s” in the hopes of pulling news on the prospective tracklisting. Almost four months later, I’ve finally got my first taste–seven of the thirty tracks have been confirmed as avialable titles in the game, out of thirty total. It doesn’t make up for the fact that the release date was pushed from a definite-sounding June 13th to a much more irritatingly vague “Summer 2007,” but it’s a start. Here’s what I’m thinking about the titles announced (in alphabetical order).

  1. A Flock of Seagulls – “I Ran (So Far Away) This must be one of the Group 1 songs. Probably the least exciting song announced here–don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the Flock, but their hits are hardly remembered for their masterful fretwork, and though it’ll be cool to play the echoing opening riff at least, I don’t see this one standing up to repeat plays so much. Glad they’re at least trying to rep for some New Wave, though.
  2. Asia – “Heat of the Moment Sort of the same deal here. That opening five-note iff has deservingly become a classic, but between that and the solo-ish business at the end, there’s really not much six-string burning to speak of. Sure it’ll be a crowd pleaser regardless.
  3. Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy I could see this one being a lot of fun, actually. The twisty-turny New Wave-cum-rockabilly riff could provide “Tattooed Love Boys“-style GH thrills. Playing that super-fast muted guitar part that goes throughout the song would be especially awesome (HEY!)
  4. Dio – “Holy Diver This is definitely more along the lines of what the game should be about. Personally, I prefer “Rainbow in the Dark,” but that song’s more about the synth line anyway I suppose, and really any Dio is good Dio. Should become a Guitar Hero classic in relatively little time, shame it doesn’t have some more soloing though.
  5. Quiet Riot – “Metal Health (Bang Your Head) Yes, yes and fucking yes. This was definitely on my GH: 80s wishlist, one of the best hard rock songs of the decade easy. Besides that immortal riff (way, way better than anything in “Cum on Feel the Noize“), this one has a pretty nifty slinky bass line going throughout it as well, so it should be a solid co-op choice. If that mode’s still available on the new one.
  6. Ratt – “Round and Round” Another solid choice–you get the riff of Van Halen’s “Unchained” while still leaving VH free to hopefully have one of their better songs available in the game as well (“Hot for Teacher,” please?) More hair-metal one-hit wonders (or second tier genre efforts, at least) should hopefully provide one of the game’s musical cores.
  7. Twisted Sister – “I Wanna Rock Like “Metal Health,” another band’s second-biggest hit that makes for a much wiser choice than the biggest. The a capella “ROCK! ROCK!” chant-along part is gonna be fucking awesome in a room full of GH enthusiasts.

Still on the wishlist for the remaining 23:

  • AC/DC – “Back in Black”
  • Accept – “Balls to the Wall”
  • Aerosmith – “Love in an Elevator”
  • Anthrax – “Caught in a Mosh”
  • Big Country – “In a Big Country”
  • Billy Idol – “White Wedding”
  • Bon Jovi – “Wanted Dead or Alive”
  • The Cult – “Love Removal Machine”
  • Def Leppard – “Photograph”
  • Dinosaur Jr. – “Freak Scene”
  • The Fixx – “One Thing Leads to Another”
  • Golden Earring – “Twilight Zone”
  • Guns n Roses – “Mr. Brownstone”
  • Iron Maiden – “Wasted Years”
  • Journey – “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”
  • Judas Priest – “Hellion / Electric Eye”
  • Living Colour – “Cult of Personality”
  • Magazine – “Because You’re Frightened”
  • Yngwie Malmsteen – “Black Star”
  • Metallica – “Master of Puppets”
  • Megadeth – “Peace Sells”
  • Ozzy Osbourne – “Over the Mountain”
  • The Pixies – “Vamos”
  • The Plimsouls – “A Million Miles Away”
  • The Police – “Synchronicity II”
  • Prince – “Let’s Go Crazy”
  • Queensryche – “Eyes of a Stranger”
  • R.E.M. – ‘Radio Free Europe”
  • Rush – “Spirit of Radio”
  • Scorpions – “Rock You Like a Hurricane”
  • Skid Row – “Youth Gone Wild”
  • Slayer – “Angel of Death”
  • Sonic Youth – “Total Trash”
  • U2 – “I Will Follow”
  • W.A.S.P. – “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)”
  • X – “Los Angeles”

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Time of the Season: S3 of the Wire (2004)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 11, 2007

“Yeah, right. We natural po-lice.

See now, this is why I’m loving TV so much right now. For so long it was such a relatively artless medium (though probably not as much as some thought), that it feels like the possibilities are endless now that people are starting to take the medium seriously. Only a few movies of recent years have really thrilled me in their scope and imagination, by contrast, the excitement of legitimately great television is new, shocking and fairly awesome.

Season three of The Wire is better than the first two seasons. As you know if you’ve been keeping up with recent blog entries of mine on the subject, this is no small feat–really at this point in my watching, The Sopranos seems sort of easy, facile and even kind of sloppy by comparison. Keeping up this level of artistry over the course of three seasons without getting repetitive or just running out of things to say is an unbelievable accomplishment, but the show manages to do it without drawing unnecessary attention to its greatness–you’re able to conclude that this is a Great Show without it spelling it out for you.

So then, the dock workers of season two are gone completely, leaving the main thread of the first season–McNulty and his unit’s investigation of Avon (who’s now out on parole) and Stringer, as well as the dealers’ attempts to fend off competition from zealous up-and-comer Marlo Stanfield and his crew, and the conflict between the two brothers. Going along the one-institution-a-season thread of 1 and 2 though, the show also introduces a new plot line with idealistic but tough Baltimore coucnilman Tommy Carcetti, and his plan to oust the mayor in the next Maryland election. And there’s even a third main plot, with the soon-to-retire Major Bunny Colvin’s decision that he was mad as hell at the Baltimore murder rate and wasn’t going to take it anymore, setting up a drug-safe zone in Baltimore (labeled “Hamsterdam” by the hoppers) where the dealers could deal without police reprisal if they refrained from killing each other while doing so.

There’s a whole lot happening this season, but as usual, the most interesting parts of the show come courtesy of Stringer and Avon. Even before his release from prison, it was clear Avon and Stringer were about to get into some serious issues–between Stringer’s being responsible for Avon’s cousin D’Angelo getting got, his undermining Avon’s authority by teaming up with Proposition Joe behind his back, and his new aspirations to legitimate businessman status, he had clearly outgrown second-in-command status. And once Avon got out and made it clear he has no plans to leave his gangster ways behind, you knew it was only a matter of time before the differences between the two men turned one on the other. Easy to see coming, sure, but no less tragic to see these two once-brothers in a race to sell the other one out, and the inevitable arc of Avon and Stringer’s dilemma provides the season’s greatest drama.

The show’s new foray into politics still makes for some great stuff as well, however. The political world had always been visible in the show’s backdrop, with orders coming down from Mayor Royce and filtering through asshole captains Burrell and Rawls down to the grunts in Baltimore homicide, but now the shady deals, backstabbing and buck-passing are brought to the forefront. It isn’t narratively groundbreaking stuff, necessarily (guess what? Politicans are corrupt, etc.) but it doesn’t really need to be–Carcetti is a pretty compelling stick-in-the-mud figure, and it’ll be exciting to see the actual race against Royce in the next season.

And the Hamsterdam plot is the season’s secret weapon. Playing out the scenario that every decent police probably imagines in his head at least once: “What if I actually tried to make a difference?” The Wire shows Maj. Colvin bending the rules of his administration to the breaking point in order to really get things done. Even though the morality is decidedly sketchy, it’s fairly touching after two years of seasoned cops begrudgingly accepting what they’re given to see a plot written around someone who still believes, and it’s heartbreaking as all hell to see him ultimately fail to see his vision out. The Wire is by nature a cold show, but in some of Colvin’s scenes, it also displays greater heart than most modern dramas could ever be capable of.

Television. I have such hopes for it.

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