Thursday, February 12, 2009
Ladies, when vacationing in Paris this summer, there are a few basic things one ought to know in order to prevent any mishaps from occurring.
Tip one: After exiting the plane, proceed directly to the next available cab at your disposal. Try not to stop, or take pictures, or flirt with charming strangers that you meet along the way.
Tip two: If you must flirt, try not to let said charming strangers know that you’re travelling the countryside by your lonesome.
And tip three: Under no circumstances, whatsoever, should you allow said charming strangers to follow you to your fancy new digs in the city and get your apartment number. I know it’s tempting, but trust me. It could potentially lead to something dangerous.
Of course, if your dad happens to be a former CIA operative cooling his heels back in Los Angeles, none of these rules really apply to you. In the event that you break them, get abducted, and get sold into an international sex ring that specializes in addicting its girls to heroin before sending them out to work the streets, you’re still okay. Your dad will be around to save you.
Or so one hopes, anyway.
Liam Neeson, he of the flinty glares and stoic disposition, proves hell hath no fury like a father scorned in the new action thriller, “Taken.”
Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, a retired CIA man whose life has simmered down considerably since his days as a self-described “preventer.” By the time we catch up with Mr. Mills, he’s already deeply entrenched in the daily grind of normal life. He gets up, pulls the occasional concert security detail, and paces his apartment, waiting anxiously for his 17-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) to return his phone calls.
The downside of being a jet-setting secret service man for so many years is that he missed out on her childhood. Now hoping to make up for lost time, he’s moved to Los Angeles, where she currently resides with her mother (a frosty Famke Janssen) and rich stepfather (Xander Berkeley).
But alas, for all his good intentions, nothing seems to give. He buys her a spanking new karaoke set (the kind she probably wanted back when she was 10), and her new dad buys her a pony. He gets her lessons with an exclusive vocal coach, and she announces that she’s about to go on all-expenses paid trip around Europe, starting in grand ole Paris.
Talk about tough breaks. But unbeknownst to Mills, his luck is about to change.
When Kim and a friend (Katie Cassidy) are taken captive in Paris by a group of Albanian sex ring wranglers, it falls on Mills to track down their whereabouts. He may not be able to buy his little girl a pony, but he sure can kick the snot out of any eastern European punks who get in his way.
Because it’s February, it may be easy to mistake “Taken” for another of those freezer-burned throwaways typical of Hollywood around this time. Big mistake. While it isn’t exactly high art, “Taken” is a far better film than the company it keeps.
Foremost, “Taken” seems to master the basic recipe for action movie success, engaging with just the right amount of pulp to offset its other, more brutal tones. And after all, what’s a good action movie without a side of pulp?
Director Pierre Morel (“District B13”) wields a swift hand over the film’s action sequences. The scenes are smartly staged and cleaned edited - enviable attributes in today’s action world.
“Taken” was filmed largely on French soil, and this has a trickle-down effect on the film at large. Producer Luc Besson helps endow “Taken” with the elements of cinema du look – a school of cinema thought to emerge in France in the 1980s that placed emphasis on glossy spectacles over storytelling. In America, we’d call that the Michael Bay school of thought.
Besson is an avowed follower of cinema du look. His past credits include “Subway” (that’s the high end part) and the “Transporter” series (the decidedly low end). Somewhere, actor Jason Statham is shaking his fists in the air, angry at being left out of this most recent endeavor.
Along with Robert Mark Kamen, Besson helped write the script for “Taken.” While occasionally guilty of a few missteps, such as moralizing – for instance, Kim, virtuous and true, is dealt a kind fate in the sex ring while her skanky pal winds up in the worst of circumstances – the script is largely by-the-numbers. A few taut scenes, such as the abduction of the girls, excel based on the merits of the film’s cast.
However, once you get a look at Kim’s intended, ah, beau – a rotund, bulbous-headed sheik with a taste for virginal young beauties – you get the sense that the script is not without a sense of humor.
Above and away, Neeson is the star of the show. Whether posing as a corrupt cop haggling with gangsters over his price cut, or as a John haggling with a hooker over the services included in her fee, his steely intensity never wavers. He fights, he snarls, he shoots up innocent civilians to get his point across in the middle of heated confrontations; he’s Dirty Harry Callahan with a larger mission to see through.
As he anticipates the moves of his enemies and coolly tortures those he gets in his clutches, one thing seems clear. If this is what retired CIA operatives are capable of, one shudders to think what Mr. Mills was like in the prime of his career.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Well we all knew Lil Wayne loved his guitar. Turns out he loves rock music, too. Enough to make his follow-up to the Grammy winning Tha Carter III, "The Rebirth" (out April 7th) a full-on rock disc. Reportedly the disc was produced with such heavyweights and Dr. Dre and Timbaland and for those who can't wait until April to hear this bizarre musical turn from one of music's biggest acts, the prospective first single, "Prom Queen" is still on Youtube.
The song has earned mixed reviews from hip-hop sites like Urban review who say, "Prom Queen is very hard rock material. There is almost no aspect of hip-hop on it except for Lil' Wayne, and he ruins that with a little vo-co use."
to hear it for yourself,
Lil Wayne- "Prom Queen" The Rebirth
Sunday, February 8, 2009
The Arts & Living Section Presents
Pete Rizzo & Ian Nelson
After attempting to levy predictions by himself, Pete Rizzo sought out noted music expert and his fellow podcasting colleague Arts & Living Asst. Editor Ian Nelson.
The following are their predictions for the 2009 Grammy's derived after the two arts aficionados long hours of tough debating, for the much coveted arts bragging rights.
Among the wide field of nominees include Coldplay, Lil Wayne, Robert Plant & Allison Krauss competing for the gold statues.
Stay tuned for the follow-up podcast to the Grammy's where the chips shall be counted and the true winner shall be discerned.
Record of the Year
Pete M.I.A: PAPER PLANES
Ian Coldplay: VIVA LA VIDA
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Pete Colplay: VIVA LA VIDA
Ian Lil Wayne: The Carter III
SONG OF THE YEAR
Pete Sara Barielles: Love Song
Ian Coldplay: Viva La Vida
BEST NEW ARTIST
Pete Jonas Brothers
Ian Jonas Brothers
BEST FEMAL POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE
Pete Adele: "Chasing Pavements"
Ian Kay Perry "I Kissed a Girl"
MALE POP VOCAL
Pete John Mayer “Say”
Ian Paul McCartney "That was Me"
Best Pop Duo or GROUP
Pete Gnarls Barkley "Going On"
Ian Colplay "Viva La Vida
Best Pop Collaboration
Pete Robert Plant "Raising Sand"
Ian Madonna "4 Minutes"
Best Pop Vocal Performance
Pete The Eagles "Long Road from Eden"
Ian Duffy "Rockferry"
Best Dance Recording
Pete Rihanna "Disturbia"
Ian Hot Chip "Ready for the Floor"
Best Dance Album
Pete Daft Punk Alive 2007
Ian Robyn Robyn
Best Solo Rock Performance
Pete Bruce Springsteen "Girls in their Summer Clothes"
Ian Eddie Vedder "Rise"
Best Rock DUO or GROUP Performance
Pete Radiohead "House of Cards"
Ian Radiohead "House of Cards"
BEST HARD ROCK ALBUM
Pete Motley Crue Saints of Los Angeles
Ian Disturbed Inside the Fire
Best Metal Performance
Pete Metallica "My Apocalypse"
Ian Metallica "My Apocalypse"
Best Rock Instrumental
Pete NIN "Ghosts 1-34"
Ian ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA "Peaches en Regalia"
Best Rock Song
Pete Death Cab for Cutie "I Will Possess Your Heart"
Ian Coldplay "Violet Hill"
Best Rock Album
Pete Kings of Leon "Only By the Night"
Ian Coldplay "Viva La Vida"
Best Alternative Album
Pete Radiohead In Rainbows
Ian Radiohead In Rainbows
Best R&B Album
Pete Boys II Men
Ian Al Green
Best Rap Solo Performance
Pete Snoop Dogg "Sexual Eruption"
Ian Lil Wayne "A Mili"
Best Performance by Rap Duo
Pete Jay Z (Swagga Like Us)
Ian Big Boi (Royal Flush)
Best Rap Sung
Pete- Green Light (John Legend & Andre 3000)
Ian- American Boy (Estelle w. Kanye)
Best Rap Song
Pete Lil Wayne "Lollipop"
Ian Lil Wayne "Lollipop"
Best Rap Album
Pete Jay-Z "American Gangster"
IAN LIL WAYNE "Tha Carter III"
Best Tropical Latin Album
Pete- Jose Feliciano Senor Bachata
IAN- Cuba: Un viage musical
Thursday, February 5, 2009
With no more football left to turn to after the big game, one can always find solace in this weekend's replacement, The Grammys. This Sunday, February 8th the biggest names in music will all compete for miniature golden statues handed out by an anonymous panel of secretive old men with poor music taste.
Grammy bashing aside, this years event at least promises some big name live acts. Among them highly similar rock acts (U2, Radiohead, Coldplay), living legends (BB King, Buddy Guy, Paul McCartney) as well as a host of country stars (Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney) tween acts The Jonas Brothers and Grammy lapdogs Dave Grohl and John Mayer.
To make things more interesting, MIA recently announced that she will be playing live at the Grammys on the due date of her baby, as reported by NME. Which presumably then sent advertisers salivating over the prospect of the event spiraling into a televised live birth to shake up ratings.
So as for the Grammy Predictions, each day this week I will be levying picks for the winners for four categories, so here goes.
BEST NEW ARTIST
The Jonas Brothers
Prediction: How could this not go to the Jonas Brothers? It follows the old rule of he who performs for the grammys gets showered by awards.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Alison Krauss & Robert Plant, Raising Sand
Coldplay, Viva La Vida
Ne-Yo, Year Of The Gentleman
Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
Radiohead, In Rainbows
Prediction: This should go to Radiohead, but my guess is you'll see their terrible second rate imitators Coldplay walk home with the gold for their bland, all-encompassing everyman-ness. What you think they're gonna let Lil Wayne walk out with a trophy? Not on your life.
BEST ALTERNATIVE ALBUM
Beck, Modern Guilt
Death Cab For Cutie, Narrow Stairs
Gnarls Barkley, The Odd Couple
My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges
Radiohead, In Rainbows
If Radiohead doesnt get best album, they get this one. I personally love all these records (even DCFC's wasn't bad). Fingers crossed for MMJ and Gnarls Barkley.
BEST COUNTRY COLLABORATION WITH VOCALS
Kenny Chesney & George Strait, "Shiftwork"
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, "Killing The Blues"
George Strait & Patty Loveless, "House Of Cash"
Sugarland, Jake Owen, & Little Big Town, "Life In A Northern Town"
Trisha Yearwood & Keith Urban, "Let The Wind Chase You"
I'm not going to pretend I know anything about country. So I'll use my gut feeling, served GWB well right?
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, the titan of hard rock doing folk songs with a bluegrass goddess? That's what wins Grammys.
tune in tomorrow for more first rate predictions. I love to say I told you so.