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28Apr2010 1830: Disaster

Why do I do this to myself? 2012 is here from Netflix, part of my ongoing campaign to mock millennial fearmongering. It's not like I don't want to see The Hurt Locker, it's that everybody else on Netflix wanted to see it before me.

The latest Airbender trailer finally revealed how Shyamalan plans to ruin it. Since he didn't invent the setting or plot, and people expect kids to be crappy actors in the first place, he had to resort to post-processing 3D. Yes, just like Clash of the Titans. This is one instance where Fargo's lack of cinema competition comes in handy; we don't have the latest and greatest on every screen, so it's guaranteed Airbender will be playing in 2D somewhere.

I'm not going to link them because every single one is packed with spoilers, but advance reviews for Iron Man 2 are coming out and it sounds super-sweet. I was happy to hear that the improv approach was intact from the first film, and that Whiplash ends up an understated villain. I didn't need to hear any whip puns.

[Clorofila - "BabyRock" Rock] is exactly as advertised on the album cover: mellow rock that prominently features some sweet squeezebox. I don't know if this counts as the week's Spanish track -- there doesn't seem to be another one -- but the lyrics are all in English and chirp nothings about love while Mr. Accordion goes to town tastefully.

[Avi Buffalo - Remember Last Time] is choral indie pop. I have no idea how much of Avi Buffalo is miked up, but I have a feeling it's all of them. I didn't realize the song was 7.5 minutes long until it was too late. Don't make my mistake. This kind of meandering multivocal experiment works well in a three-minute New Pornographers or (cthulhu help me) Polyphonic Spree, but these Buffalos need to help the listener out a little and trim the dreamy breakdown.

I thought [Hot Chip - I Feel Better] was another iTunes Single returnee, but I don't seem to have him in my library. I wouldn't have deleted Mr. Chip; he crafts a fun kind of electronica that captures my attention whenever it hits Pandora. The video also starts with a glorious headfake. Rest assured that Hot Chip is not, in fact, a boy band. It is possible he's a glowing, floating, white Gandhi with a laser mouth.

[Murs & 9th Wonder - Fornever] is trying a little too hard with that title. Thor knows I love me some wordplay, but this is attached to a lackluster rap song. Wherefore art thou, G Funk era? I probably won't like a rap song between here and Weird Al's next album.

20Apr2010 1830: Gods of War

I hate to keep harping on this, but today on Monty's Behind the Curve I'd like to talk about why Darksiders is so much better than God of War 3. It's true that Darksiders steals most of the gameplay from Zelda; it's true that it splashes in bits of Portal, Panzer Dragoon, and even God of War. But it has refined each of those down to a shiny core that serves the ends of Darksiders. The portal gun can only activate certain well-marked points on a wall, so the designers didn't have to worry about breaking the design of every single dungeon in the game. The God of War quicktime kills are present, but are activated by a single button press so you can sit back and enjoy the event. The Panzer Dragoon section is mercifully short. And so on.

I feel the game is especially competent in two particular areas. First, all the dungeons are exquisite. They follow the same Zelda formula of a) get item and b) defeat boss with item, but they are constructed as well as anything Nintendo has put together and are rightfully the focus of the entire game. The newer Zeldas like to fill time between temples with sidequests and "first we must open the path" and "the entrance is hidden" and so on. Darksiders skips all this crap with a demon guru at the central hub, who quickly congratulates you on beating the last temple and straight-up gives you the item you need to get to the next temple. You get a waypoint on the map, a new ability, and the game lets you get right back to whupping ass. It strips away most -- but not all -- of the open-world elements that have bloated Zelda with miles of empty pasture and keeps only the most interesting setpieces. Even the large desert area is dealt with quickly, initially by jumping across scaffolding while fighting enemies and later with the horse.

Second, and most importantly, this game's style is amazing. Something this overwrought has no business being as timelessly cool as it is. This cutscene is a great example: we have a Horseman of the Apocalypse and an archangel batting around terms like "Nex Sacramentum" and the cheese factor is fairly low. And take note of what's happening with the camera angles there. They cover up the rough edge between two camera shots with a close-up of a character, they cross-fade between dialogue, and just generally bring in more cinematic tricks than any other game I've seen.

I came away from Darksiders incredibly impressed. Darksiders is the "Kronos Quartet" to God of War 3's "Linkin Park"; it has the quiet, understated menace to GoW3's misdirected rage. I'll leave you with one final spoily comparison: God of War 3's final cutscene vs Darksiders' final cutscene. Only one had me throwing up the horns and shouting "HELL YEAH!"

[Caribou - Odessa] is New Wave dance pop, somewhere between Tears for Fears and Daft Punk in concept and somewhere near the bottom in execution. I'm not sure why this didn't click with me -- there's barely any substance to be offended by. But it keeps up this minimal gauzy beat for over five minutes.

[Athlete - The Getaway] is our video. I don't want mine, so it can just be your video. Soft radio rock without the benefit of being released during my high school years. The visuals are just a standard Band In the City montage with silly light effects swooping around. Snore.

[Brooke White & Justin Gaston - If I Can Dream] feels weird. Brooke is obviously some sort of country singer, and Justin has a little bit of that in his voice as well. But they're backed with a soft jazz orchestra that isn't all that bad. Ultimately the song gets mired in its own saccharine dreaming, but it put up a good fight.

[The Band Perry - If I Die Young] completes our brace of "If I" songs. This is a very subdued kind of country, to the point that it almost sounds like a woman fronting Goo Goo Dolls. And why do songs always want a bed of roses? Those things are pointier than you like to remember.

14Apr2010 1830: Sequels, Remakes, and Adaptations

This article explains a lot about why the new Clash of the Titans sucked. Apparently we were supposed to get a version with plenty of meddling from the gods, with less angst, and with an actual reason to save Andromeda. Yet more evidence that meddling with reshoots does more harm to a movie than good.

Good thing, then, that Kick-Ass was filmed and in the can before any movie studio ever got its hands on it. I read through the comics a couple weeks ago and this movie is going to rule. But will it finally make Nicholas Cage a star?

Last weekend was spent not thinking about movies. I devoured the latest Dresden book, wherein Jim Butcher burns everything to the ground. The previous eleven books set up the same power creep that eventually killed the Anita Blake books for me, albeit at a slower pace. ("Wherein" and "albeit" in the same paragraph? Sexy.) Twelfth book? Scorched earth. Raharu informs me that the original outline called for twenty books, and this was meant to be book ten, putting it squarely in the middle of Empire Strikes Back territory.

I also finished off the last available Thursday Next book. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that this book uses time travel to destroy the possibility of time travel, while simultaneously(?) retconning and Mary-Sueing the four original books. It is a masterpiece. That cock Fforde isn't releasing the next one until next Spring, apparently because he thinks he is not my bitch.

Si*Se is back in the Free Singles pile with [Si*Se - Buscare]. She's filed away in my brain with Santigold, although they don't sound that much alike. This is a soft-spoken pop song with Latin rhythm, much like the previous [More Shine]. Ultimately this is going to occupy the same three-star tier her other work did; the language barrier is raised up high, but the song itself is compelling.

I get plenty of interior caps at work, so [NewWorldSon - There Is a Way] had better bring their A game and impress me wi--nope. Nope. This song is a mild and toothless choir-backed pop loser, right down to the building bridge and subsequent hushed verse. I can't quite recall its nearest neighbor in the pop pantheon, but trust me that you've heard this sort of thing too many times before.

[Kelis - Acapella] is the weekly video and oh shit it's techno. I don't mind listening to some dancy music every now and then, but the videos are usually a trap. So it is here: if you're looking for some new oon-ts oon-ts the song seems pretty good, but the video takes a trip through some pretty stupid costumes and doesn't appear to tell any sort of story. Kelis just isn't selling these visuals.

[Two Door Cinema Club - Something Good Can Work] is on the dancy side of indie pop, at least after the major labels turned "indie pop" into a genre rather than a contract distinction. Not bad at all, and helped immensely by it's breezy 2:43 runtime. If this song was four or five minutes long we'd all be mentally flipping channels.

08Apr2010 2230: Self Portrait

If I live my life right -- and I thank Steven Moffat for the inspiration -- hopefully one day my autobiography can be titled "The Time Traveler and the Hot Redhead".

07Apr2010 1830: Temporal Chicanery

WOOOOOO did you see the new episode of Doctor Who yet? The new Doctor seems like he'll work out, the new companion is a hot redhead, and...once again cell phones save the world. Dammit, Doctor Who. That's the one deus ex vodafone that really gets on my nerves. The very first ep of Sarah Jane Adventures leaned on that crutch, and basically I wish they'd stop turning cells into sonic screwdrivers when they need to get out of a jam.

Everything besides the phones was awesome, though. This is because Doctor Who has finally been handed over to Steven Moffat, the man who writes what we like to call "the good episodes". He might be the only person in their writing pen who remembers that the Doctor drives a fucking time machine around the universe. Most stories start with the TARDIS arriving at a spot, but then the story is experienced linearly from that spot, and after resolving the problem the Doctor leaves in his fucking time machine. Conversely, Moffat might be a bigger time travel nerd than I am, and he plays with that shit constantly. Whether he's leaving clues in DVDs throughout history (Blink), watching a girl grow into a woman (The Girl in the Fireplace, The Eleventh Hour), or exploring the Doctor's past wives (Forest of the Dead), Moffat doesn't like to stay put in one timeline. This season is already on course for amazing.

On the other hand, Clash of the Titans should have stayed safely buried in one time period. That time period being 1981. The original version is available for streaming RIGHT NOW, so there is no reason to watch the remake... especially in 3D. Let's look at the math here: the movie theater is going to charge you anywhere from $6-$10 for a matinee of the 2D version. Netflix's single-disc plan is $9 for a month. You could pay matinee prices to Netflix and be watching the good version within ten minutes, and have a month's access to all the other streaming; OR you could pay $9ish to watch Sam Worthington pretend to be in a God of War movie.

I trust you will make the right decision.

[Plants and Animals - The Mama Papa] skips past the hardest decision most indie bands have to make: "which animal will we name ourselves after?" Band of Horses? Bat for Lashes? Modest Mouse? Screw that, let's be all animal and vegetable matter ever. Otherwise the song is the usual indie rock. I think the vocalist sounds kind of like the Killers guy, but sped up to early-80s punk speed. Not the voice itself, it's the way he clips some of his words. Decent song.

[JLS - Everybody in Love] brings us this week's video, and for once it's not normalized down to a whisper. Which may be Apple's April Fools' joke, as this is a boy band. Boy band song, boy band dancing. According to the video every member has a special girl they like to be in love with, but I don't believe it. Straight guys do not wear a sweatervest over a bare chest. That's just a law of nature. It's not their fault, they didn't choose to wear a sweatervest by itself. Just don't lie to the fans.

[Julieta Venegas - Bien o Mal] is...Spanish polka folk? Like if Suzanne Vega hired a tuba and an oboe and a squeezebox to back her latest album. It's not a full-bore rolling out of barrels but you may feel an urge to wear suspenders.

[The Dead Weather - Die by the Drop] is...oh hey, another video! Some gothic shit happens while a pretty great rock song plays. Is this another one of Jack White's side projects? It sounds like that, or the Kills. You can tell I do these reviews without looking up anything, it probably is the girl from the Kills with Jack White.