…is phenomenal. “Blue Ruin” director Jeremy Saulnier cranks it out of the park again.
Full review will be posted on the Austin Movie blog Thursday. It opens Friday.
Until then: here is the poster.
And its obvious antecedent.
Love it, hate it, look forward to it or avoid it, April 16 is Record Store Day.
Here are 10 records that caught my eye, in no particular order.
There are, obviously, dozens more. Check it out for yourself.
What say you, Austin? What are you looking forward to?
The Julie Ruin — which features half of Bikini Kill (frontwoman Kathleen Hanna and bassist Kathi Wilcox) along with Kiki and Herb’s Kenny Mellman on keys, drummer Carmine Covelli and guitarist Sara Landeau — announced a new album Monday titled “Hit Reset,” out on July 8 on Hardly Art.
Their last album, “Run Fast,” appeared in 2013 on Dischord and the band played Fun Fun Fun that year.
“The Punk Singer,” an excellent documentary on Hanna, played SXSW in 2013 as well.
I will admit to being a little lukewarm on the last Julie Ruin album, but the new song, “I Decide,” is a blast, a catchy drone of New Wave pulse and Hanna’s sing-song. Hit reset, indeed.
So, I liked “The Force Awakens.” Was it satisfying? Sure. Was it better than the prequels? Yes. Did it have its flaws? Yes. It was, as a friend once put it about a Liz Phair album, “scrumptiously overratable.”
And I am on the record as having my wig pushed back by the possibilities delivered in the “Force Awakens” trailer.
The trailer for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” directed by Gareth Edwards (who directed the VERY mixed 2014 “Godzilla”) made me legitimately excited. True confessions: I am a 41-year-old man, and this trailer actually put me in a better mood this morning.
Let us count the ways:
The title: “Rogue One” is an absurdly awesome title. “The Phantom Menace” sounds like a 1940s movie serial, which is fine, but it is not cool. “The Force Awakens” is more of a plot point. “Rogue One” sounds like a post-hardcore band from 1994. It is sleek and vague. Not “Something’s Gotta Give” or “It’s Complicated” vague (peace to Nancy Meyers), but both enigmatic and badass. Is it the name of the mission? The heroine?
Here is the other half of the title: “A Star Wars Story.” Note the indefinite rather than definite article. This is a story not about the Skywalker family, but other folks in the Star Wars universe.
When Disney purchased Star Wars, it got rid of “the Expanded Universe,” all of the books, cartoons and comics (many, many, MANY comics) that had filled out the Star Wars universe, in some cases stretching back thousands of years, much of which had nothing to do with the Skywalkers. Some of them worked, some did not. All of that was scrapped.
This movie is the first post-Disney film step into creating a new expanded universe. (There have been books and comics that have contributed to a new canon.) And there is a bit of freedom there, a looseness that can happen. This isn’t THE Star Wars story, it is A Star Wars story, the kind that millions of kids made up with their action figures.
The plot: “Rogue One” is rumored to be the story of how the Rebels got the plans to the Death Star, rumors that seem confirmed by the trailer, which places the movie between “Revenge of the Sith” and “Star Wars: A New Hope”
We see Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly, who played the character in Episode II and really does look like Caroline Blakiston, who played her in “Return of the Jedi”) discussing with newly-minted rebel Jyn Erso (Oscar nominee Felicity Jones) a “major weapons test.”
The chatter: Mon Mothma: “On your own from the age of 15, reckless, aggressive, and undisciplined.”
The lead: Oh, yeah, that. In a sharp reminder that this is a movie from the 21st century, the main character, Jyn Erso, is a woman. Her boss is a woman. Does it solve the wage gap? No, but it’s nice to see. The movie also stars Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk and Jonathan Aris — which also reflects the 21st century.
The Empire, the Rebellion and nostalgia: The Empire is, in this film, as strong as we have ever seen it. The Rebellion isn’t quite off the ground, at least not in a Battle of Yavin kind of way. So we see stomtroopers with tanks and a few shots of Imperial Walkers storming what looks like Florida. We have not yet seen a Florida-planet.
We also see the planet-busting Superlaser being put into place on the Death Star and plenty of those weird, longish helmets the rebels used to wear.
Is “Rogue One” nostalgia-mining? Oh yes. But it is both more direct and cannier, I think, than much about “the Force Awakens.” The latter film borrowed heavily from the previous movies – shot selection, plotting, McGuffins, the whole bit — to remind viewers this is a cyclical story about a family.
But I am hoping “Rogue One,” not being about the Skywalkers, can break free of that narrative. This is still very much a Star Wars story. Indeed, we know how this story has to end: The plans have to be passed to Princess Leia, who then puts them into R2-D2. Whether it will end before that point or after it or during it remains to be seen. But there are many ways to get there and so far, “Rogue One” looks like it is the Star Wars movie that presses every possible button for both serious Star Wars nerds and casual fans.
What say you, folks?
It has been 48 years today since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. at 6:01 p.m. (a time of day U2 managed to get completely wrong in “Pride”).
As most schoolkids know (one would hope), King was in Memphis to support the sanitation worker’s strike. The night of April 3, he delivered his “Moutaintop” speech at the Mason Temple. There had been a bomb threat against his flight into Memphis, which prompted the following passage in the speech, generally considered one of the all-time greatest moments of American oratory:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. [applause] And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! [applause] And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”
He was dead less that 24 hours later.
The evening of April 4, Robert Kennedy, campaigning in Indiana, received word that King had died. Standing on a flatbed truck in Indianapolis, Kennedy told the assembled about King, delivering one of the other greatest moments in American oratory.
Here is an excerpt:
“For those of you who are black – considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible – you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.
“We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization – black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.
“For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.
“But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: ‘Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
If you can read this and not collapse in despair at the quality of contemporary, national political rhetoric, you are are tougher than I am.
Does anyone remember the last time anyone saw Aaron Paul on a screen of some sort NOT looking tortured?
Paul wrote himself into the TV history books as Jesse Pinkman, Walter White’s emotionally wrung-out co-conspirator on “Breaking Bad.” In Austin filmmaker Kat Candler’s “Hellion,” Paul played a working-class Texas widower struggling to parent two boys after his wife’s death. He was even put upon as the prophet Joshua in the largely terrible “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” (Yes, that C was very, very generous.)
Now that I think about it, he was not all that tortured in “Big Love” as the ex-Mormon Scott Quittman, this square dude a) whose name was a tad on the nose and b) who ends up married to Sarah Henrickson. It’s a part miles away from Pinkman and, these days, nobody remembers he was on that show.
He remains tortured in “The Path,” Hulu’s new original series created by former “Friday Night Lights” writer Jessica Goldberg and executive produced by Jason Katims, also known for “Lights.” The first two episodes appeared March 30; a new one will follow every Wednesday for the next eight weeks.
A free-floating sense of doom hangs over “The Path” as Paul plays Eddie, a convert to a cultish religion called Meyerism, a mix of we’re-not-going-to-call-it-Scientology, some Native American mythos, a pinch of Mormonism and a whole lot of New Age.
Eddie is married to Sarah (Michelle Monaghan), a second-generation Meyerist. Her ex-boyfriend Cal (Hugh Dancy of “Hannibal” fame) runs the cult’s East Coast branch. We meet him first, jumping out of a Meyerist van lending a hand at the site of a natural disaster. It seems like the Meyerists were on-hand before FEMA, which alerts federal cult-watchers.
This is a bit of a protocol-break. Devout Meyerists live in a modern-day compound and try to stay under the radar. Cal, all trim hair and iron will, is ready to be more public. Cal claims to have direct communication to Steven Meyer, the Meyerism founder who is reportedly in Peru translating the final chapter of “The Latter,” the book by which Meyerists live their lives.
Meanwhile, Eddie has returned from a Peruvian retreat, which came complete with ayahuasca, a very tempting Minka Kelly and a vision that Meyerism may not be exactly all Eddie, a true believer, thinks it is. (Word to the show for putting Keir Dullea in a canny bit of stunt-casting.) Eddie starts acting weird, Sarah is getting nervous, Cal is a little jealous and all the kids at school think Eddie and Sarah’s teenage son is a virginal freak. (Maybe “Big Love” was a pretty good training ground for this show.)
Honestly, there isn’t much to “The Path” so far. Two episodes in, things are moving slowly but deliberately.
We see both Eddie and Sarah engage in practices that are certainly reminiscent of it-isn’t-Scientology. A crucial plot point, teased in the first episode, was revealed at the end of the second, a welcome development as I dreaded the idea that it would take all season for us to get there.
But I want to give “The Path” the benefit of the doubt, at least for a few more episodes. It was wise to open the series with Paul already doubting his faith — he has built his brand on characters who reluctantly go with the program (Pinkman) or have broken with it all together (Quittman).
Dancy, on the other hand, seems ready to tear into a part that is more Hannibal Lecter than Will Graham. Not that Dancy is going around eating people, not yet, but, much like Lecter, Dancy’s Cal is a man who believes utterly in his way of viewing the world. Whether Cal is doing it ironically or with perfect faith remains to be seen.
So, there will be a lot of different stuff going on in this blog:
All sorts of television – the great, the not-so-great and “Vinyl,” a show that should really be called
Movie things that don’t fit in the Austin Movie Blog (cool home video releases, what’s new in streaming, supplementary notes about movie reviews or maybe some of the angry trolling I got about this thing.)
Music things that aren’t quite right for the Austin Music Source (cool band I find on, say, Bandcamp, what I’ve been listening to, etc.)
Books things that might not be right for the Reader (including comics, comics and more comics).
Cultural detritus from around the Web. A place to discuss all that is new and interesting in culture, or old and interesting in culture, popular or otherwise.
And if I use the word thinkpiece, please feel free to send me a strongly worded note.
A word about the blog name:
I thought I was making a horrible pun that maybe three people would get, as in
a) this blog I would love for you, the reader, to in fact check out, and
b) it is the catchphrase, more or less, of one John Brannon, one of the greatest punk frontmen who ever lived and a man possessed of a truly singular vocal roar. He fronted Negative Approach, one of the three or four best first-gen American hardcore punk bands; Laughing Hyenas, a truly mighty indie rock force back when indie rock could mean everything from the Jesus Lizard to Heavenly to Yo La Tengo to Fugazi; and Easy Action, whose “Kool Aide” is one of my all-time favorite Brannon joints.
Anyway, this is what he looks like:
And this is the photo that made everyone familiar with both of us laugh out loud:
See? Dumb joke.
The problem, of course, is I completely and totally (and I mean this sincerely) forgot about the phrase’s association with these guys:
In fairness, that (admittedly Grammy-nominated and very popular) song is on “To the Five Boroughs,” which I do not recall as an album with which I spent a whole lot of time. That said, I understand why SEVERAL people have said, “Oh, like the Beastie Boys song?”
No, not like the Beastie Boys song. And definately not like the John Cougar Mellencamp song. Never, ever that. Ever.
In sum, welcome to Check It Out. Watch this space.