Monday, May 31, 2010

Dennis Hopper: 1936 - 2010

Dennis Hopper began his career in the 1950s, alongside such Hollywood upstarts as Nick Adams, James Dean and Jack Nicholson. (He had bit parts in two of Dean's films: Rebel Without a Cause and Giant.) He was twice nominated for an Oscar: in 1970 for Best Screenplay (Easy Rider) and in 1987 for Best Supporting Actor (Hoosiers). Hopper has had memorable roles in mainstream entertainment, such as the villain in the 1994 action flick Speed, and in art-house cinema, notably his frightening performance as Frank Booth in the 1986 neo-noir Blue Velvet. Over the course of his long career, Hopper worked within every genre and collaborated with some of the more noteworthy American - and international - directors of his time: Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now, Rumble Fish), Wim Wenders (The American Friend). Hopper's long career in television ranged from Bonanza and The Twilight Zone to such currently running series as 24 and Crash. His quirky charisma made him a natural for small, scene-stealing roles, and he had many of them. Such as that of Babalugats in Cool Hand Luke.

Follow the link for a look at his selected filmography.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Baseball season DVDs

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come."
- Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones), to Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), Field of Dreams
Image and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPicImage and video hosting by TinyPic
Baseball season is underway. Whether you root for the Cubs or the Sox or just consider yourself a fan of any and all things baseball, you're sure to enjoy something off this list of baseball DVDs. My all-time favorites are The Sandlot, A League of Their Own, and Field of Dreams. These movies combine baseball action along with unforgettable characters and great stories. I'll be writing up why I love The Sandlot in a post coming soon to a computer screen near you. Click for More to see the list!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lee DeWyze makes Illinois proud

It's DeWyze over Bowersox in the Midwest Match-Up; American Idol fans must be disappointed in the lack of airtime given to the contestants during the finale Wednesday night

If you've watched the news or read a newspaper you know that Mount Prospect native Lee DeWyze became the first singer from Illinois to win the title of American Idol last night. During the performance show on Tuesday Lee sang an encore of "The Boxer," "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. (selected for him by producer Simon Fuller), and "Beautiful Day" by U2, which will be released as a single. Crystal Bowersox, from Ohio, chose to sing "Me and Bobby McGee" as her repeat performance, while Fuller selected "Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles. Her potential single was "Up to the Mountain" by Patty Griffin. I was disappointed that Lee and Crystal were not allowed to sing any original songs, but what can you expect from a show that forces the contestants to sing (well, lip-sync) tired song medleys during results shows? I thought Crystal had a good chance of winning after she attacked all three of her songs. Even though Lee was not at his best, I still voted for him, thinking of the awesome concert he gave May 14 at Arlington Park. I have voted for Lee all season but after the show on Tuesday I knew I'd be happy if either singer won.

During last night's finale, host Ryan Seacrest reiterated how it was "Crystal and Lee's night" but it sure didn't feel that way for anyone watching. Celebrity guests had more time up on stage than Crystal, Lee, or any of the other contestants from this season. Usually we at least get to see the contestants repeat memorable performances from the course of the season, but that didn't happen. I would have loved to see an encore of Lee and Crystal singing "Falling Slowly."

The show did have its highlights. Crystal's duet with Alanis Morissette on "You Oughta Know" was cool, and I thought Casey's duet with Bret Michaels on "Every Rose Has its Thorn" worked well too. Those two performances demonstrate that duets between American Idol contestants and celebrities don't have to be awkward or forced (Kris Allen's duet with Keith Urban on last year's finale is another example). I enjoyed Crystal, Siobhan, Lacey, Paige, Katie, and Didi singing "Beautiful" and "Fighter" by Christina Aguilera (and being a Christina fan, I think her performance afterwards was awesome). I also loved seeing former winners (all except David Cook) and contestants (Blake Lewis! Jason Castro! Melinda Dolittle!) back on stage together as a tribute to judge Simon Cowell, who is done with the show.

At the end of the night, though, I was bothered by how the singers didn't get their chance to shine. I really felt that Lee was being punished or something for having to sing a medley of hits with the band Chicago. And, riddle me this: Hall and Oates. Michael McDonald. The Bee Gees. Huh? Don't the producers think American Idol fans would have preferred to hear a final solo performance from Siobhan, Michael, Andrew, Aaron, Didi, or Katie? And why did it suddenly turn into a Janet Jackson concert? I'm confused by how the judges tell the contestants all season long to be relevant and current and be true to themselves, and yet the finale is packed with artists you only hear on easy listening radio stations and the contestants suddenly become back-up singers.

I don't want to end on a negative note, so I'll focus on the strong friendship that Lee and Crystal formed during the show after both auditioning in Chicago last summer. You could tell that no matter who won they would be happy for each other, and after Lee's name was read he told Crystal he loved her and gave her a hug. Their duet during Songs of the Cinema week on "Falling Slowly," which they sang facing each other and each playing guitar, will probably be remembered for seasons of American Idol to come.

For actual singing from the season 9 American Idol contestants, you can catch the American Idol tour. Lee and the other singers in the Top 10 will stop in Chicago on Monday, August 30 at the United Center. Get tickets to the American Idol tour stop in Chicago: Starting last night after the finale they started a promotion on the site where you can buy $20 tickets for 24 hours. (The $20 tickets are on the 300 level.) I checked the availability and was still able to find seats on the 100 level, if you are interested in paying full price.

Albums We Love: Rubber Factory by the Black Keys

"The Black Keys play the kind of raw, sensual blues-rock that makes you want to hide your girlfriend and warn your mom."- Katie Hasty, Billboard Magazine.

 I am a recent convert to the Black Keys. For years, I avoided listening to them because they are frequently (and somewhat misleadingly) labeled as a blues-rock band, which conjures up images of Blues Traveler, John Mayer, the Doobie Brothers, and countless other acts that are really not my taste.  Thankfully, the Keys are less Blueshammer and more early Stones.  They have a gritty, sexy, primal sound that seems as rooted in 60s garage rock as it does Junior Kimbrough records.  All of their albums warrant a listen (or several), but Rubber Factory is a masterpiece as far as I'm concerned.

Rubber Factory got its name from the tire factory where it was recorded; the band hails from Akron, Ohio, former rubber capital of the world.  The album has a deliberately raw and unpolished sound; it feels as sweaty and smoky as a live show.  The Keys' sound is minimalistic and classic, but it's as powerful and well-crafted as bands that have layers and layers of sound. From the opening clamor of Patrick Carney's drums on "When the Lights Go Out" to the cool, Velvet Underground-y fuzz guitar on "Till I Get My Way," Rubber Factor is delightfully fun rock album.   "10 A.M. Automatic" is a catchy rock anthem on love turned sour; the video for the song, a parody on cable-access TV directed by David Cross, is pretty cool too. "Girl is on my Mind" is a simple rock lust song that wouldn't feel out of place on the Kinks Controversy.  My favorite track on the album is "The Lengths."  Dan Auerbach's slide steel guitar perfectly fits the mood of the song, which seems to be about the break up of a long-term relationship.  It's a haunting and quiet track on an otherwise noisy, rocking album.  The Key's cover of the relatively obscure Kink's song "Act Nice and Gentle" is another standout on the album.  No offense to Ray Davies, who is probably my favorite song-writer ever, but I enjoy this version much more than the original.  While the clean, poppy original is fine; the Keys' loose, country-tinged cover really brings the song to life. 

The Keys are a staff favorite, Jason recently wrote up their rap-rock side project Blakroc.  One of the things that I appreciate about the band is that seem more like music geeks than rock gods.  However, Rubber Factory proves that two nerdy kids from Ohio can make an album with just as much swagger and sex as anything released by the Stones.

Find it in the Catalog!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hip-Hop Classics...Live!

According to Billboard, the acclaimed hip-hop crew Wu-Tang Clan will not only headline this summer's Rock the Bells Festival but will also perform their legendary 1993 debut album in its entirety. The hugely influential album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), is notable for its lyrical diversity, complex slang and allusion, and groundbreaking production by founding member RZA. The Wu-Tang Clan's sound has evolved considerably over the course of its five studio albums, but Enter the Wu-Tang is still considered a landmark in rap music and hip-hop culture. Several other seminal emcees are scheduled to perform live interpretations of their debut albums: KRS-One is set to perform the 1987 Boogie Down Productions album Criminal Minded, Rakim will perform his 1987 masterpiece Paid in Full, and consummate storyteller Slick Rick will perform 1988's The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. Other artists scheduled to perform at the festival include: Brother Ali, Clipse, DJ Muggs, Jedi Mind Tricks, and Murs. I'm hoping that a future headliner will be the Virginia Beach duo Clipse, performing their debut album Lord Willin'.

Paid in Full - Eric B. & Rakim
Find it in the catalog!

The Great Adventures of Slick Rick - Slick Rick
Find it in the catalog!

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) - Wu-Tang Clan
Find it in the catalog!

DVDs out May 25th

Dear John: A romance between a buff soldier (Channing Tatum) and a young college student (Amanda Seyfried). This is the fifth Nicholas Sparks novel to be adapted for the big-screen. For spoilers of this and other titles in the Nicholas Sparks canon, check out Heather's hilariously smarmy blog entry on the Reader's Block.
Find it in the catalog!

The Road: Viggo Mortensen stars as an unnamed father in this starkly harrowing post-apocalyptic drama. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy. Directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition).
Find it in the catalog!

Stagecoach: The Criterion Edition of John Ford's classic 1939 Western, starring John Wayne and Claire Trevor. Restored high-definition transfer and a host of bonus features, including a 1917 silent film by the director and a 1949 radio dramatization.
Find it in the catalog!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Midlake at Lincoln Hall, 5/23/10

 On Sunday, May 23rd, indie rockers Midlake played Lincoln Hall in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Lincoln Hall is a smaller, intimate music venue housed in a rehabbed movie theater.  It has easy parking and probably the best bathrooms ever comma concert venue category.  For Chicago History geeks, Lincoln Hall is located directly across from the Biograph Theatre,where John Dillinger was shot and killed. Opening acts included former Czars front-man John Grant and Grandaddy front-man Jason Lytle.

John Grant collaborated with Midlake on his solo album, The Queen of Denmark.  Midlake's flautist/ keyboardist Jesse Chandler even played with him for one of his songs.  Musically, he's a interesting choice for an opener.  Grant sounds like a mix between Ben Folds and Elton John; so he's pretty firmly indie pop.  He also has funny, light-hearted lyrics (a la Jens Lekman).  I'm not a huge fan of that style of music (except for Lekman), but he was an entertaining performer and has a great voice.   Jason Lytle's low key and wistful set was a more natural fit with Midlake's sound.

The show started out pretty empty, but gradually filled up throughout the evening.  By the time Midlake performed, the venue was surprisingly packed for a Sunday night concert.  Lucky for me, I was one of the few people who arrived for the first set, so I got to be pretty close to the stage.  Midlake started their set at around 10 PM and played for around an hour and half.  Midlake is usually quintet, but their touring band is a septet including four guitar players!  Front man Tim Smith has a reserved stage presence, which makes sense for someone who writes songs about wanting to escape to the forest.  Smith introduced the different band members and thanked the audience for coming, but besides that he kept pretty quiet.  Guitarist Eric Pulido, who resembles a bearded John Krasinski, was responsible for most of the onstage banter.  He is a genial and funny stage presence, even taking time out of the show to wish an audience member a happy birthday.    

Midlake played songs from two of their albums the Trials of Van Occupanther and the Courage of Others.  I am a big fan of both albums, but they are pretty different sonically; Trials has 70s Fleetwood Mac feel to it and Courage is more of a 60s folk mixed with prog rock sound.  It was interesting to see how the band incorporated the sounds from both the albums into a cohesive set.  Midlake definitely downplayed the synth riffs on Trials, going for a more bluesy country sound instead.  The prog rock side of Midlake definitely comes out in concert, extended jam sessions were done to several songs including the opening of "Roscoe", "Head Home" and the heart-breaking closer "Branches."  These sessions really demonstrated the technical abilities of the band and gave guitarist Max Townsley the chance to shine. Also, they rocked pretty hard. Other highlights include "In the Core of Nature" which was accompanied by two flutes and a recorder (a rare sight at a rock show) and a twangier and more upbeat version of "Fortune."  The small venue created a perfect atmosphere for Midlake's serious, delicate sound.

Previously on Midlake:
What We're Listening to: Courage of Others by Midlake.

Adam Scott: Jerk of My Dreams

 Not to be confused with the hunky golfer of the same name, Adam Scott is a character actor who has appeared in several movies and TV shows including Knocked Up, Leap Year, and The Aviator.  Scott is most frequently cast playing characters who aren't very nice guys.  Probably because Scott excels at playing hilariously smarmy characters like the coked-up baseball agent Pat Anderson on the TV series Eastbound and Down.  Scott is perhaps best known for his performance in Step Brothers, where he plays Will Ferrell's biological brother Derek.  Derek is annoyingly perfect in every way, but strangely hostile towards his screw-up brother Brennen (Ferrell).  One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is when Derek and his family sing along to "Sweet Child O' Mine" while driving in their car; there is a YouTube sensation of people re-enacting this scene.

In spite of his propensity for playing jerks, I actually like Scott the best when he is playing straight man roles.  My favorite performance of his is as Henry Pollard from the TV series Party Down.  Henry is an out-of-work actor forced to get a job as bartender with a catering firm.  Like many real life actors, Henry first gained notoriety from a beer commercial, but unfortunately that role didn't lead to much else.  Much to Henry's chagrin, party guests often force him to say his catchphrase from the commercial, "Are we having fun yet?"  Henry and his coworker Casey (Lizzy Caplan) have one of most realistic romances on television, like a less idealistic Jim and Pam before they settled down into smug coupledom.  Recently, Scott has appeared on NBC's Parks and Recreation playing a state auditor named Ben Wyatt sent to Pawnee to deal with the budget crisis in the department.  Scott is signed on to be in more episodes of the show, and I for one couldn't be happier.  Ben seems poised as a love interest for the Parks department deputy director Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), and he's the most exciting prospect she's had yet- except, of course, for her soul mate Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman).  Scott is also appearing in meta-horror film Piranha 3-D out in theaters this summer. 

Watch Adam Scott in one of the DVDs available through the library:

Party Down (2010)*.
Find it in the Catalog!

The Vicious Kind (2010).
Find it in the Catalog!

Leap Year (2010).
Find it in the Catalog!

Eastbound and Down (Season 1, Episode 6) (2009)*.
Find it in the Catalog!

The Great Buck Howard (2009).  
Find it in the Catalog!

Step Brothers (2008)*
Find it in the Catalog!

Knocked Up (2007)*
Find it in the Catalog!

The Return (2006).
Find it in the Catalog!

The Matador (2006).  
Find it in the Catalog!

Monster-in-Law (2005).  
Find it in the Catalog! 

Veronica Mars (Episode: "Mars vs. Mars", Season 1, Episode 14) (2005)*
Find it in the Catalog!  

The Aviator (2005).
Find it in the Catalog!

*Highly Recommended.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lee is in final 2! Midwest Match-Up next week on Idol!

It's a Midwest Match-Up for the American Idol finale next week: Mount Prospect native Lee DeWyze vs. Ohio native Crystal Bowersox. In addition to be super-excited for Lee, I'm also happy that both singers are from the Midwest; many of the winners and runners-up in the show's history have been from the South. Not only are both contestants from the Midwest, but they are both singer-songwriters. Since Lee and Crystal write their own music, I wonder if hope the producers will allow them to sing original songs during the performance show on Tuesday. One sign of progress is that Crystal's song "Holy Toledo" played during footage from her hometown visit on last night's show. Please, do not saddle Lee and Crystal with another horrible song like last year's "No Boundaries," which Kris Allen and Adam Lambert had to endure singing before the song was never heard from again.

On Tuesday's show each contestant sang two songs and you could really tell how much Lee's hometown visit impacted him. He didn't appear nervous on stage and gave the best performances of the night, singing "Simple Man" and "Hallelujah." I think Lee's hometown (and homestate) support will continue to drive him when he takes the stage next Tuesday for the performance finale.

Mount Prospect is holding an American Idol Finale Watch Party on Wednesday in front of Village Hall from 5-10 PM. Before American Idol starts at 7 footage from Lee's previous performances on the show in addition to video from his recent hometown visit will air. Download the American Idol Finale Watch Party poster.

More Lee coverage:
Between paint sales, Mt. Prospect store is Lee DeWyze central
When Lee DeWyze was 'Hoodie Guy' at Potato Creek Johnny's

Get reprints of the Daily Herald:
Special Lee DeWyze section from Friday, May 14
Front page from Saturday, May 15 detailing Lee's hometown visit

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Freak the Gleek out!

Several CDs featuring songs performed on the TV show Glee are available now. The first part of the season (aka The Road to Sectionals) ended in December and Glee: The Music Volumes 1 and 2 include songs from those episodes. The second half of season 1 is currently airing; the CD Glee: The Music: The Power of Madonna has already been released to go along with an episode that featured solely Madonna songs. Glee, set in a high school in Lima, Ohio, is about the outcast members of the glee club, the teacher (Will Schuester, played by Matthew Morrison) who motivates them, and a cheerleading coach (Sue Sylvester, played by Jane Lynch) who stops at nothing to mock them. Awesome trivia fact: co-creator Ian Brennan developed the idea for the show (which initially was supposed to be a movie) based on his high school years at Prospect High School in the show choir (located in Mount Prospect, IL). Which high school did American Idol finalist Lee DeWyze also attend? Prospect!

On the show the actors cover a variety of song types, from current songs ("Gold Digger," "Smile" by Lily Allen, "My Life Would Suck Without You" by Kelly Clarkson) and guilty pleasure songs ("Crush" by Jennifer Paige or "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice, featured in a recent episode), to karaoke staples ("Alone" by Heart, "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond) and Broadway songs ("Mr. Cellopane" from Chicago). My favorites are those that include the entire glee club, like "Don't Stop Believin'," "Gold Digger," and "Somebody to Love." I think on the big group numbers the singers and varied arrangements really breathe new life into the songs. I also love anything sung by Matthew Morrison, even his rapping on "Gold Digger" and "Bust a Move." A big stand-out is his performance of the mash-up of "Don't Stand So Close To Me" by the Police and "Young Girl" by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.

Glee: The Music, Volume 1
Find it in the catalog!
17 songs; includes the Rhianna cover "Take a Bow," sung by Rachel (Lea Michelle), Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself," sung by Artie (Kevin McHale), Heart's "Alone" sung by April (Kristen Chenoweth) and Will, and "Defying Gravity," from Wicked, sung by Rachel and Kurt (Chris Colfer)

Highlights: Kanye West's "Gold Digger," Queen's "Somebody to Love" covered by the entire club, Finn (Corey Monteith) and Rachel leading the glee club on "Don't Stop Believin'"

Glee: The Music, Volume 2
Find it in the catalog!
17 songs; includes Finn singing "I'll Stand by You" by the Pretenders, Artie and Mercedes singing "Lean on Me" by Bill Withers, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) signing Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors"

Highlights: "Don't Stand So Close To Me / Young Girl" performed by Will, "Crush" performed by Rachel
Glee: The Music, The Power of Madonna
Find it in the catalog!
7 songs from the"Power of Madonna" episode which aired on April 20. My favorite is "4 Minutes," the Madonna-Justin Timberlake duet, which includes the McKinley marching band backing Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Kurt.

Other highlights include the guys singing "What It Feels Like For A Girl," Sue Sylvester's (Jane Lynch) "Vogue," and the group number "Like A Prayer."
Songs from the show are also available for download from iTunes. The Glee cast performs May 25 and 26 at the Rosemont Theatre!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

DVDs out May 18th

Extraordinary Measures: Inspired by the true story of a father's valiant attempt to find a cure for the disease that is slowly killing his two children. This tearjerker stars Brendan Fraser as the determined father and Harrison Ford as a brilliant scientist enlisted to help.
Find it in the catalog!

Invictus: Clint Eastwood helms this political thriller, based on the book by John Carlin. Invictus is the story of South African President Nelson Mandela's support for his nation's rugby team. Morgan Freeman stars as Mandela, Matt Damon stars as the team's captain. Both actors earned Oscar nominations for their performances.
Find it in the catalog!

The Messenger: Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster give outstanding performances as officers in the U.S. Army's Casualty Notification Office. Harrelson was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actor category, but the entire supporting cast is uniformly excellent.
Find it in the catalog!

The Spy Next Door: Jackie Chan takes the lead in this family-friendly picture as a former CIA agent who attempts to win over his fiance's children. Co-Starring: Billy Ray Cyrus, George Lopez, and Amber Valletta. Expect 95 minutes of physical comedy and reaction shots.
Find it in the catalog!

Valentine's Day: A fuzzy romantic comedy starring roughly 1/3 of Hollywood's current roster of actors and actresses. Some of the parties involved: Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley Maclaine, Queen Latifah, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts. Pop singer Taylor Swift makes her big-screen debut as a comically energetic cheerleader; two of her songs are featured on the soundtrack. Directed by Garry Marshall.
Find it in the catalog!

Monday, May 17, 2010

What we're listening to: BlakRoc

BlakRoc - BlakRoc
Find it in the catalog!

The Black Keys are singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Pat Carney. Their sound is a gritty garage-rock hybrid of white-boy blues and earnest enthusiasm for the likes of Junior Kimbrough and Lightnin' Hopkins. Their string of outstanding records over the last decade has earned them a loyal following, but the BlakRoc project may seem like a curve-ball to even their loyalest of fans. BlakRoc is a collaboration between The Black Keys and a handful of preeminent rappers. Mos Def, RZA, Raekwon, Q-Tip, and others were enlisted to record rhymes over a bedrock of rhythmic Black Keys jams. If you're wary of another rap/rock crossover project, that reserve is more than justified. There have been very few successful pairings of these two broad genres, and quite a few notable failures, but the BlakRoc project succeeds on every level. The gritty precision of Auerbach's guitar and Carney's drums proves to be a perfect foil for these veteran emcees. There isn't a weak track on the record, but there are several highlights. "On the Vista" seems particularly noteworthy, as Mos Def makes a stronger argument for musical fusion on this two-and-a-half minute track than he managed on the entirety of his 2004 rap/rock album The New Danger. "Dollaz & Sense" is an opportunity to hear RZA (Abbott of the Wu-Tang Clan) alternate verses with Pharoahe Monch, which is a paring not to be missed. Perhaps the best example of the symbiotic sound these artists have created is the album's single. "Ain't Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)" features Jim Jones on the mic and Mos Def and Dan Auerbach harmonizing on the chorus. I challenge anyone to listen to this song and not sway along.

Previous albums by The Black Keys:

The Big Come Up (2002)

Thickfreakness (2003)

Rubber Factory (2004)

Chulahoma: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough (2006)

Magic Potion (2006)

Attack & Release (2008)

The forthcoming Black Keys album, titled Brothers, is due out May 18th.

What we're listening to: Astro Coast by Surfer Blood

It’s easy to hate West Palm Beach indie rockers Surfer Blood.  Their single “Swim” earned the band heaps of Internet buzz and critical praise before Astro Coast was ever even released. “Swim” made it on to Pitchfork’s list of the top 100 songs of 2009.  The band members are also really young, ages range from 20-24, and they look like a bunch of hipsters.  That being said, Astro Coast is a surprisingly good album that straight up rocks. Surfer Blood has a sound that can be loosely described as the Animal Collective meets early Weezer.  There is a lot of excellent, fuzzy guitar playing on this record that would make Brian Bell or Stephen Malkmus proud. Vocal harmonies and world music elements modernize the band's sound. However, this album manages somehow to avoid sounding like Vampire Weekend.  Some songs have a very different sound but still manage to fit on the album, like “Fast Jabroni” which could be on a soundtrack to a John Hughes' film or "Anchorage" which is reminiscent of  It's Never Been Like That-era Phoenix.  This is a fun, catchy, guitar-heavy indie rock album that will make an excellent soundtrack for the summer. 

Stand-out tracks:  The Animal Collective/ Beach Boys-inspired "Take it Easy" is probably my favorite on the album.  "Slow Jabroni" is also excellent, especially the last few minutes. 

Recommended for fans of: Built to Spill, the Feelies, Japandroids, No Age, Pavement, the Shins, Superdrag, Wavves, Blue-album/ Pinkerton era Weezer.

Find it in the Catalog.

Times Talks Live: Lost coming to select theaters Thursday

Times Talks Live: Lost, a live interview with the creators of Lost, will be broadcast from New York City to select movie theaters this Thursday, May 20 at 7 PM. New York Times entertainment editor Lorne Manly will interview Lost executive producer Carlton Cuse and co-creator/executive producer Damon Lindelof. Local movie theaters where you can catch this broadcast include AMC South Barrington 30, Century 16 Deer Park, Regal Showplace Stadium in Crystal Lake, and Century Stratford Square in Bloomingdale.

Lost fans, this is an awesome way to geek out in anticipation of the May 23 series finale!

Read the program overview at Fandango.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lee DeWyze at Arlington Park, 5/14/10

Yesterday American Idol contestant Lee DeWyze returned home to Mount Prospect and the Chicago-area for a day packed with interviews, appearances, and performances. The grand finale of the day was a mini-concert set to begin at 6:30 PM at Arlington Park. Tickets for the free concert were gone in 12 minutes on Wednesday night, after Lee was announced as making the Top 3, and all of the race day tickets were also snatched up. While I was disappointed I was not able to get any of the concert tickets online, I later found out that general admission tickets to the track were still available for $6. This was an awesome surprise yesterday morning when I read about the tickets the newspaper and I was able to buy a few before they also disappeared.

Race times were moved up to 1 PM to make time for the concert and many Lee fans filled the stands watching the races as they counted down till Lee's arrival. Around 7 PM we started to hear screaming in a corner of the stands; Lee was making his way through the crowd surrounded by bodyguards (he was preceded by a bagpipe player!). Before Lee sang he spoke to the crowd a little; he was very overwhelmed by all the fans who came out to see him. Mayor of Mount Prospect Irvana Wilks also said some words before giving him the key to the city and proclaiming May 14 to be Lee DeWyze Day.

Fans try to catch a glimpse of Lee DeWyze as he makes his way through the crowd at Arlington Park. He was 3 feet away from me, but I couldn't see anything!

Originally scheduled to sing only three songs, Lee ended up singing ten in total during his acoustic set on a small stage in front of the Winner's Circle. One of the first things Lee told the crowd was that he was going to sing more than three. He kicked off his set with Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody," which he said is a song he would like to perform on the show. He followed that with an original song. Next was Hinder's "Lips of an Angel," much to the delight of all the fans who sang along, which he performed during one of the semifinal rounds. Lee also sang "Walk Away" by Ben Harper before going into "The Boxer," one of his best performances on the show to date. At times he had trouble singing the lyrics because of how overcome he was with emotion (either that, or he forgot the words). Lee followed that with a cover of Dave Matthews Band "Crash Into Me," requested by his brother. He then went into another original song. Unfortunately I don't know the title, but he infused the lyrics with an intensity that I haven't seen him do on any song on American Idol. He really let loose while singing it. He introduced the next song, "Holiday in Spain" by Counting Crows, as being one of his favorites. At one point he jokingly began to sing Seal's "Kiss From a Rose," which he sang for this past week's songs of the movies theme and received negative feedback from the judges. Throughout his set Lee had fun with the crowd and even asked, "Am I smiling enough?" to reference a criticism he has received on the show about being too serious. Several times throughout the night he commented that he was told he had to leave, but he stayed up there to keep playing.
Lee started to sing "Hey, Jude" and then stopped to ask the audience to clap together during the song. After he got a few lines into the song with everyone clapping along Lee had to stop singing and moved to the side of the stage with his head in his hands because again became very emotional. He said that while he's been out in California he hadn't realized the extent of his support back home; over 41,000 people were in attendance at the concert last night. Lee ended the concert with a performance of "Stay," another of his original songs. Completing his set, he threw his guitar strap into the crowd, but even then he wasn't done; he came back on stage to wish everyone a good night.

I think the concert last night at Arlington Park was Lee at best. He was relaxed while singing and really let go, especially while singing his original songs. I loved his response to the crowd's support. He wanted to keep singing songs no matter what the American Idol handlers (or whoever they were) told him. I thought it was a possibility that he was going to have to be dragged off the stage! Lee told the crowd that when he goes back to California and performs at the next live show he will be thinking of everyone supporting him back home. I had an awesome time at the concert and definitely look forward to seeing the footage of Lee's hometown welcome on American Idol next week.

Images from Lee DeWyze Day (from the Daily Herald)

Do you want your own neon yellow "Vote 4 Lee" t-shirt or a blue "BELEEVE" shirt? Check out Where to buy Lee DeWyze merchandise for Mount Prospect businesses that sell Lee paraphernalia!

Friday, May 14, 2010

National Dance Like a Chicken Day

May 15 is National Dance Like a Chicken Day.  Celebrate the artistry of the chicken dance by watching it performed by masters, like the Bluth Family . Oldest (and Lucille's least favorite) son GOB is the Baryshnikov of the chicken dance, but each family member has their own unique style.  Check out their moves (and much more!) by watching an episode of Arrested Development.

Episodes featuring the dance include:

Season 1:
Staff Infection  (Episode 15).
Find it in the catalog!

Season 2
Amigos (Episode 3).
Switch Hitter (Episode 7).
Ready Aim, Marry Me (Episode 10).
Spring Breakout (Episode 15).
Find it in the catalog!

Season 3:
For British Eyes Only (Episode 2).
Find it in the catalog!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Iron Man 2: Justin Hammer Time

Call no.:
Find it in the catalog!
This was probably my most anticipated movie of the year so far.  Not only was I a fan of the original Iron Man, but I was excited to see two of my favorite actors- Sam Rockwell and Robert Downey Jr.- face off against each other in a movie.  In this second installment of the Iron Man series, billionaire playboy/ superhero Tony Stark finds himself facing a whole bunch of new obstacles.  After outing himself as Iron Man, Tony has become a major celebrity, but not all of the attention he is receiving is positive.  His rival defense contractor, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), and a sleazy senator (Gary Shandling) are putting pressure on him to turn over the Iron Man suits due to fears that other countries might replicate the equipment.  Meanwhile in Russia, disgruntled physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) begins working on his own pseudo-Iron Man suit so he can attack Tony.  It seems Howard Stark (Tony's dad, played by Mad Men's John Slattery) and Ivan's dad, Anton, had worked together previously and had a falling out.  Also, Tony discovers that the arc reactor acting as his heart is starting to poison him.  So many problems and all Tony wants to do is check out Pepper Potts' (Gwyneth Paltrow) hot new assistant Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson)!

The plot of Iron Man 2 is a little overstuffed and the action sequences are fun, but less exciting than the original.  However, the performances and funny dialogue make this an enjoyable film. Downey Jr. is excellent at playing charming jerks like Tony Stark, who has become even more self-indulgent and egotistical than in the first film. One of the elements that I really like about both movies is Tony's relationship with his assistant (now promoted to Stark Industries CEO) Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), which has a screwball romance vibe to it.  Pepper is an intelligent, capable, Kate Hepburn-esque woman and a good foil for Tony's bad boy ways.  Paltrow gives a charming performance as Pepper.  Mickey Rourke is dark and menacing as Ivan Vanko, a villian with a strange affinity for cockatoos.  Vanko is a sympathetic bad guy; his father and he have lived a tough life, possible due to some shady business on the part of Howard Stark. 

My absolute favorite performance, however, belongs to Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer.  Hammer is sort of an ersatz Tony Stark.  Like Tony, he is a well-dressed, narcissistic weapons dealer, but he's also a dorky and hapless guy with self-tanned hands.  None of the weapons made by Hammer Industries work particularly well.  Rockwell and Downey Jr. have a lot of similarities, including their ages, charisma, acting styles, and even height; so the rivalry between Stark and Hammer is very convincing.  Rockwell's Hammer is equal parts smarmy, nerdy and clueless.  Hammer is utterly convinced of his awesomeness, even in the face of his many shortcomings, making him one of the funniest characters in the film. The highpoint of the film for me is when Hammer dances across the stage at the Stark Expo.  It's worth seeing the movie for that scene alone.  Justin Hammer is definitely the most enjoyable adversary for Iron Man thus far in the series.  Iron Man 2 may not be quite as good as the original, but it's miles ahead of most action movies.

Before you watch the sequel, you might want to re-watch the first movie.
Find it in the catalog!

Date Night: Comedy Mashup

Date Night, currently in theaters, stars two of the most popular comic actors in America: Tina Fey and Steve Carell. These two funny people rub shoulders every Thursday night on NBC (Carell on the The Office, Fey on 30 Rock), but this is our first opportunity to see them share screen-time. Date Night casts the duo as a 40-something couple who are afraid to admit that their marriage is in a rut. When Carell suggests a night out on the town as a respite from their routine, things go drastically awry. The mistaken identity/suburbanites out of their element scenario has been done countless times, so plot-wise this is nothing you haven't seen before. (This script may well have been pitched as The Out-of-Towners meets The In-Laws.) The real draw here is the opportunity to see these two fine comic sensibilities play off each other, and the film succeeds on that level. Fey's notoriously wry wit is a great match for Carell's equally well known aptitude for charming idiocy. Ultimately, they bring a certain amount of tenderness to the relationship they're enacting. Keep an eye out for James Franco and Mila Kunis, who nearly steal the movie with their hilarious bickering. Directed by Shawn Levy (Just Married, Night at the Museum).

Follow the jump for a look at their respective filmographies.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lee DeWyze celebrations planned for Friday

Last week the very enthusiastic and helpful Harry Connick Jr. guided (and composed for and accompanied) the Top 5 on American Idol as they sang Frank Sinatra songs. Lee DeWyze's "That's Life" stood out as the best performance of the night, and on Wednesday's results show he was the first contestant revealed to be safe. Tonight the Top 4 contestants (Lee, Crystal Bowersox, Michael Lynche, and Casey James) perform songs from the movies. The three contestants that make the cut on Wednesday night's results show will then travel to their hometowns for parades, interviews, and other celebrations. If Lee continues on, he will be in the Mount Prospect and Chicago area this Friday! Wednesday night tickets will become available for Lee's Friday concert at Arlington Park at For more information about the concert click here.

Mount Prospect is ready to welcome home Lee DeWyze. In the morning Lee will do TV and radio interviews before throwing out the first pitch at the Cubs game at 1:30. At 4:30 there will be a parade along Northwest Highway, followed by the Arlington Park concert at 6:30. Read the Daily Herald article If he makes the cut, Arlington Park will host Lee DeWyze party to read more about the celebrations planned for Friday.

And don't forget to VOTE VOTE VOTE tonight!

Get ready for 5 1/2 hours of Lost on May 23

Lost fans were already preparing for a two hour series finale on Sunday, May 23. Now that the show is done taping and has been edited, the last episode has been extended by an additional 30 minutes. Here is the Lost TV line-up for May 23:

6-8 PM: Lost: The Final Journey
8-10:30 PM: Series finale
11:05 PM-12:05 AM: Jimmy Kimmel Live!: Aloha to Lost

If you missed any of the episodes so far this season you can still catch up by watching the shows at ABC's Lost website.

Visit The Lost Archives on Jimmy Kimmel's website for interviews with cast members and other hilarious videos featuring Kimmel.

You'll also want to check out this week's Lost cover issue from Entertainment Weekly. The magazine put out ten collector's covers in addition to the group one shown on the left. The collector's covers each feature one cast member with the appropriate send-off ("We'll miss you, Sawyer"). The castaways with their own covers are Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Locke, Sayid, Jin, Sun, Claire, Hurley, and Ben. You can buy the collector's covers here, or buy a subscription and get the Jack, Sawyer, and Kate covers for free! I was happy to see that Sawyer was on my issue I received in the mail!

Related articles:
This week's cover: The end of 'Lost'
ABC expands 'Lost' finale by an extra half-hour!
'Lost' producer: finale has new sets, questions

Lost: What Should the Cast Do Next?

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Top 25 Hip-Hop Records

This is a personal and subjective list of the twenty-five hip-hop records that I hold in the highest esteem. These albums are not ranked. If I had to come up with some sort of qualitative ranking system, I know that Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and Illmatic would be near the top of the list. That's about as close as I can get to naming an all-time favorite rap record. I have ordered the albums chronologically, to give a sense of the art-form's progression; from the early party-centric crews (Sugarhill, Stetsasonic) to the aural and political revolution of Public Enemy, to the rise and ultimate mainstreaming of "gangsta" rap, and the ascendancy of the Wu-Tang Clan. Running through this roughly thirty year history is a lineage of left-field underground artists that, I would argue, are the truest creative legacy of the genre. I'm thinking of The Ultramagnetic MC's, De La Soul, and MF DOOM (the artist who probably comes closest to my ideal emcee). I have previously written about some of these albums and artists in greater depth. Feel free to check out my blog entries on MF DOOM, Raekwon's masterpiece Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, and Dälek's Gutter Tactics.

I want to emphasize that this list is entirely my own. There are innumerable "objective" lists of the Greatest Hip-Hop Records Ever, the majority of them placing Dr. Dre's The Chronic in a place of honor. My list does not include any records by Dr. Dre, Eminem, Ice-T, LL Cool J, N.W.A., and many other mainstays. These are not oversights, but preferences. Without in any way questioning their varying influence on the genre, those artists are not particularly interesting to me, and I see little point in duplicating the prevailing hierarchy. As for the reverse problem, many albums were left off my list for the sake of concision. Some albums I would like to have placed on my list include: Big Daddy Kane's Long Live the Kane, Gang Starr's Daily Operation, Little Brother's Get Back, the Mos Def & Talib Kweli collaboration Black Star, Slick Rick's The Great Adventure's of Slick Rick, and any of the five studio albums by A Tribe Called Quest. Follow the jump to view what did make my list.

DVDs out May 11th

Daybreakers: This sci-fi/horror thriller is set in a future world where vampires are the majority and humans are harvested as food. Ethan Hawke plays a scientist, and vampire, who must confront the eminent "food" shortage.
Find it in the catalog!

Edge of Darkness: Mel Gibson stars as a detective investigating the murder of his politically active daughter. Based on the BBC series of the same name. Co-starring the always reliable Ray Winstone.
Find it in the catalog!

Legion: A fantasy/thriller concerning fallen angels brandishing automatic weapons and generally running amok in Los Angeles. Starring: Paul Bettany, Tyrese Gibson, and Dennis Quaid.
Find it in the catalog!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Time Capsule Cinema: Gladiator

Gladiator opened in theaters on May 5, 2000, dominating the box office and going on to win many awards

"Today I saw a slave become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome." 

Directed by Ridley Scott, Gladiator is an awesome blend of battle scenes, storytelling, and actor performances. Russell Crowe plays Roman general Maximus Meridias (Richard Harris), who is picked by the dying Emperor Aurelius (Richard Harris) to be the heir and new emperor of Rome instead of his son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). Commodus rebels against this arrangement, murders his father, and sentences Maximus to die. Maximus escapes, only to return to his home in Spain to find that his wife and son have been murdered on Commodus' orders. Sold into slavery, Proximo (Oliver Reed, who died during filming) buys Maximus and trains him to be a gladiator. Proximo and the other gladiators do not know about Maximus' background as a general in the Roman Army; they refer to him as the Spaniard. The gladiators eventually end up returning to Rome, where Maximus fights in front of a crowd at the Colosseum that includes Commodus, now the Emperor. Impressed by Maximus (who hides his identity by wearing a mask), Commodus meets the gladiator, and demands that he give his name; Maximus reveals his background and maintains his loyalty to Emperor Aurelius. The Roman crowds in the Colosseum love Maximus, much to the vexation of Commodus. Driven by revenge, Maximus fights so that someday he will be able to kill Commodus and return power to the people of Rome. Gladiator went on to be nominated for 12 Oscars, winning statues for Best Picture, Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Sound, Costume Design, and Visual Effects.

While Crowe previously drew attention and acclaim for his roles in L.A. Confidential and The Insider, Gladiator cemented his status as a bankable leading man. Gladiator was also the beginning of a movie-making partnership between director Scott and Crowe. Since Gladiator the two have worked together on A Good Year, American Gangster, and Body of Lies. Their most recent collaboration, Robin Hood, opens in theaters on Friday.

At Dundee Library we have a three-disc and two-disc set of Gladiator, and you can put either item on hold:
Find it in the catalog!

Friday, May 7, 2010

What we're listening to: Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits by Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera rose to fame in the summer of 1999 when her hit "Genie in a Bottle" joined other pop songs' domination of radio. In 2000 she won the Grammy for Best New Artist and since then has taken more creative control over her albums and worked with a variety of collaborators. The songs on this greatest hits CD are arranged by album, in the order they were released as singles. As you listen to the CD you hear the changes occurring to Christina's sound. You hear the pop songstress the record company was trying to mold her into on songs like "What a Girl Wants" and Come on Over Baby" from Christina Aguilera (1999). Then you hear Christina let loose ("Dirrty," "Fighter") while still reserving an emotional side to belt out ballads ("Beautiful") on songs from Stripped (2002), an album that found Christina battling demons and also finding her voice as a songwriter. As the CD advances to songs from the double album Back to Basics (2006), you hear a mature, retro-soul vibe on "Ain't No Other Man" and "Candy Man," where I think Christina is absolutely in her element. Two new songs written by Christina and Linda Perry, "Keeps Gettin' Better" and "Dynamite," and new re-recorded versions of previously released singles ("Genie 2.0" and "You Are What You Are [Beautiful]") are also included. Christina melds "Genie in a Bottle" with 1980s electronica on "Genie 2.0," phrasing the lyrics so they are filled with both longing and seduction: "I feel like I've been locked up tight a century of lonely nights / Just waiting / Waiting for someone." I have seen Christina change up her hits in concert, and I am glad she put a couple new versions on an album. As a fan of Christina's for over a decade (yes, I watched her on The Mickey Mouse Club), I already have the singles on this compilation but I still think the CD is worth picking up.

Find it in the catalog!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tom Waits: Selected Highlights, Pt. 1

You can make a pretty strong argument for Tom Waits as one of the superlative lyrical craftsmen in popular music. Along with Bob Dylan, and no more than a handful of other preeminent songwriters, Waits has mined earlier musical forms for inspiration while creating a distinctive lyrical style. No less distinctive is his voice; a whiskey-soaked instrument that can go from a bark to whisper. For some listeners, this voice is a deal-breaker. Admirers of intelligent, literate music who just can't get past the Tom Waits wheeze are encouraged to check out John Hammond's collection of Tom Waits covers, Wicked Grin.

What follows is an overview of songs that emphasize particular strengths of Tom Waits songwriting. They also happen to be personal favorites of mine. Tom Waits has been recording since the early 1970s, so his catalog is pretty extensive. You can expect a follow-up to this selection of highlights.

June Cleaver Gone Bad: The Dark Side of Mothers in Cinema

Unless your mom has a very dark sense of humor, you shouldn't actually get any of these movies for her on Mother's Day (or ever).  There are plenty different kinds of movies out there about mothers, not just tearjerkers (Steel Magnolias), "chick flicks" (Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood), or light comedies (Because I Said So).  Some of the most personal, strangest, and best movies about mothers are ones about moms that are less than perfect, overbearing, or downright evil. Enjoy the dark side of motherhood and check out one of these movies:

Brand Upon the Brain! (2006).  Director Guy Maddin makes wonderfully strange and surreal movies that resemble early German Expressionist cinema.  Brand Upon the Brain is a movie about a house painter named Guy, who returns to his childhood home on a mysterious Canadian island at his dying mother's request.  While he is there, he remembers his repressed childhood at the lighthouse orphanage run by his controlling mother where all the orphans have the same mysterious scar.  When teen detective Wendy visits the island, a young Guy is love struck.  Later on Wendy, disguised as her brother Chase, investigates Guy's parents' activities at the orphanage.
Find it in the catalog!

Choke (2008).  Anjelica Huston plays Ida Mancini, Victor's (Sam Rockwell) beloved free-spirit mom, who suffers from Alzheimer's.  Ida wasn't exactly a stable mother; she would tell Victor about her unusual conspiracy theories and move from the family place to place. She also hid the identity of Victor's father from him. 
Find it in the catalog!

Mommie Dearest (1981).  About the actress Joan Crawford, this is one of the best known bad mother movies.  Joan is a neurotic and controlling mother, who throws increasingly strange tantrums and eventually disinherits her children.
Find it in the catalog!

Psycho (1960). A mother so overbearing, she can control her son from beyond the grave!
Find it in the catalog!

Squid and the Whale (2005).  Joan Berkman (Laura Linney) isn't really so much a bad mother, though she does date her son's hunky but dimwitted tennis instructor (William Baldwin).  She is more unappreciated and complicated, but initially her son Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) sees her as a villain.  This is a semi-autobiographical movie for writer-director Noah Baumbach, about a teenager dealing with his parents' divorce. 
Find it in the catalog!

Volver (2006).  The mother, Irene (Carmen Maura), isn't really evil here either.  However, she is a ghost who has issues with one of the daughters, Raimunda (Penelope Cruz).  Both Raimunda and Irene have dark secrets. 
Find it in the catalog!

Wild at Heart (1990).  This is a surrealist road movie by director David Lynch.  Mariette (Diane Ladd) does not approve of her daughter Lula's boyfriend, Sailor (Nicholas Cage), so she hires a hit man to kill him.  Sailor kills the hit man in self-defense, but is then sent to prison.  After his release, Lula and Sailor rekindle their romance and hit the road, where they are chased in part by a private detective and hit man hired by Mariette.
Find it in the catalog!

Willard (2003).  A shy, awkward young man (Crispin Glover) lives with his crabby old mother in a mansion and is treated poorly at work.  Despite his mother's disapproval, Willard begins a friendship with some rats and discovers he can communicate with them.  When his mother dies, he uses the rats to get revenge on his enemies.
Find it in the catalog!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More American Idol; or, Being a brief update on Lee DeWyze

Mount Prospect native Lee DeWyze continues his trek on American Idol tonight when the Top 5 perform Frank Sinatra songs with Harry Connick Jr as the mentor. In the previous four weeks of the competition Lee has always been one of top performers each night. For Beatles week he sang "Hey Jude," where he was joined by a bagpipe player for the last part of the song. The bagpiper player threw the judges off and was definitely a surprise, but it also made him stand out. During Elvis week he performed "A Little Less Conversation." Paul Simon's "The Boxer" was his pick during the inspirational songs week (in support of Idols Give Back), which all the judges said was his best performance ("Treat Her Like a Lady" remains my favorite performance of his or any contestant from this season). Last week the Top 6 sang from the Shania Twain songbook in what was probably the best overall performance night of the season. Lee took on "You're Still The One," and although I think he started out shaky, I really enjoyed how he updated the song. Crystal Bowersox and Lee are the only contestants who have never been in the bottom three on results night. If Lee makes it to the Top 3 some sort of parade-concert-celebration will be held in Mount Prospect! Right now I don't see anyone taking Lee's spot in the Top 3. I think it will be Lee and Crystal in the finale.

If you're a big American Idol fan like me, check out these Lee DeWyze articles from the Daily Herald and American Idol photo galleries from

Newspaper stories written about Lee DeWyze:
Area citizens can show their support for 'Idol's' Lee DeWyze
Mt. Prospect is proud of Lee ... but is it ready for this?
DeWyze almost ditched 'American Idol' audition
Mount Prospect native's 'Idol' contract means death of band
Lee tees are all the rage at Prospect High School

More on American Idol from awesome Entertainment Weekly writer and obsessive AI fan Michael Slezak:
The 20 Best Performances Ever
13 Most Awkward Mentor Moments
20 Songs We'd Ban from the Show Forever!
American Idol Grads: Your Next Favorite Song?
Catching up with 13 Former Contestants!

(sorry for the poor quality graphic. My Vote 4 Lee t-shirt was a little wrinkled when I took a picture of it before I left the house this morning!)

DVDs out May 4th

Leap Year: This romantic comedy stars Amy Adams as a woman on a mission; she is determined to travel to Dublin, Ireland and propose to her boyfriend (Adam Scott). Along the way, she makes the acquaintance of Matthew Goode. Love triangle? Indeed. The setup seems fairly predictable, but Adam Scott can be counted on to give a first-rate performance as a pompous jerk.
Find it in the catalog!

Nine: A big-screen adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical of the same name. Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood, and perhaps half a dozen of the greatest onscreen performances of the past twenty years) stars as Guido Contini, a successful director experiencing something like a mid-life crisis. His angst is both aided and compounded by his relationships with the various women in his life, including: Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Fergie, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, and Sophia Loren. Reviews were mixed, but, again, Daniel Day-Lewis.
Find it in the catalog!

Tooth Fairy: Dwayne Johnson stars as a hockey player somehow transmogrified into the mythical tooth fairy. Yes, you read that right. Co-starring: Julie Andrews, Billy Crystal, and Ashley Judd. Rated PG.
Find it in the catalog!

Monday, May 3, 2010

What we're listening to: Bitte Orca by the Dirty Projectors

This album by Brooklyn-based art rockers the Dirty Projectors topped my list of albums released last year. I have been a fan of the Dirty Projectors for a while, but always found their albums to be somewhat hit and miss. The band's mastermind Dave Longstreth is a classically trained musician and enjoys playing around with different sounds and concepts. Previous albums by the band include the Don Henley-themed the Getty Address and Rise Above a re-imagining of the classic Black Flag album Damaged. Longstreth's sonic inventiveness doesn't always translate into an enjoyable listening experience, but his best work is transcendent. Bitte Orca is the Dirty Projectors' finest and most accessible album. It's a thoroughly enjoyable pop album enhanced by the band's clever experimentation.

The album spans several different genres from R and B/ pop(the Wings of Desire-inspired "Stillness is the Move") to psychedelic rock ("Useful Chamber") to pop balladry ("No Intention"), but Longstreth puts distinctive spins on each of the styles. The Dirty Projectors definitely have an offbeat sound that I would describe as melodically spastic. Dave Longstreth has an eccentric voice- a warbly falsetto reminiscent of Arthur Russell or Jeff Buckley. Band mates Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian have more conventional and skilled voices. Both girls are given opportunities to shine on this record. Amber proves herself to be the indie rock equivalent of Beyonce on "Stillness is the Move," while Angel's soft, smoky vocals stand out on the Nico-esque folk ballad "Two Doves." Bitte Orca has a layered, glitch-y, art rock sound with world music influences that will appeal to music geeks. However, you don't have to work at Championship Vinyl to enjoy this album. Regular listeners will enjoy Bitte Orca's catchy pop hooks and rocking guitar work.

Stand out tracks: The entire six song run from "Temecula Sunrise" to "No Intentions" is amazing, especially the rock epic and semi-title track, "Useful Chamber."

Recommended for fans of: Talking Heads, Yeasayer, the Microphones, Vampire Weekend, and Animal Collective.

Find it in the catalog!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ode to a cult classic

"It's such a fine line between stupid and clever."
-- David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean)

This Is Spinal Tap
, starring Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner is comedic genius. This 1984 film was the first to display the ad-lib talents of Christopher Guest & Co. The film is done in a documentary style (aka "mockumentary") with Rob Reiner in the role of filmmaker interviewing and following his subjects: British hard-rock band Spinal Tap on their latest tour. If you enjoy ironic comedy and have a healthy appreciation for rock n' roll, this one's for you. If you also know your rock n' roll history, you'll be especially rewarded . . .

McKean plays singer/guitarist David St. Hubbins. He's definitely the leader and his appearance is similar to Robert Plant (I don't know if this was intentional or not, but there are a lot of intentional references to actual rock bands, including Led Zeppelin).

Guest plays guitarist Nigel Tufnel. He's the most clueless of the bunch, but possibly the most talented musician (check out his hilarious piano solo). He and David have a close relationship, which becomes strained when David allows his girlfriend, Jeanine, in on band decisions. This is most obviously a reference to the Lennon-McCartney-Ono triangle. Some of the scenes with Jeanine are classic: "Dubly," anyone?

Shearer plays Derek Smalls. As the bassist, as is often the case in real bands, he is an after-thought. He's not the coolest one or the one getting all of the girls. He's just there.

Reiner, as I mentioned before, plays the filmmaker and interviewer of the mockumentary, Marty DiBergi. He is basically the counter-point to the ridiculousness that pervades the other characters. His observations and opinions are there for the viewer.

The movie turns the sincere into the absurd quickly, which can be acreditted to the fact that most of this movie was ad-libbed by the actors. Some of the physical comedy in this movie could rival current comedies such as 40 Year-Old Virgin. The characters are earnest, but in denial about their sad situation. Listen carefully to the dialogue and lyrics, read everything (t-shirts, signs), and pay attention for sight gags. The movie is layered: re-watching multiple times will reveal things you didn't notice the time before.

Bonus: you can play a game of spot-the-world-famous actor/actress (Billy Crystal, Anjelica Houston, Ed Begley Jr., Dana Carvey, and more have bit parts or cameos).

On a scale from 1 to 10, it's an 11.

Find it in the catalog!