the first two Zip rentals

  • Deterrence (imdb | rotten tomatoes | buy it) was a movie I got off a list of underrated movies. I can honestly say I’d never underrated it as I’d never heard of it. It wasn’t bad, really; it looked like it could have been adapted from a play, as the whole thing took place on one set. It seemed like a Fail Safe-quality movie until the end, which let me down somewhat, but overall not a bad little movie. The most interesting thing was how prominently Uday Hussein figured in the movie, after being killed by the US last year.
  • Pieces Of April (imdb | rotten tomatoes | buy it) was excellent. Even my wife, who dislikes Katie Holmes a great deal, liked it. It’s really remarkable that, with practically no budget, they produced this little movie that’s SO much better than The Day After Tomorrow, which cost $125 million.

The day after The Day After Tomorrow

Yeah, so this is what the movie’s like:

  • first half. special effects: fantastic and plentiful. dialogue: bad, but infrequent.
  • second half. special effects: good, but infrequent. dialogue: horrid and plentiful.

You’re better off leaving halfway through and not have to endure some of the lines. Seriously, I thought some of the dialogue in Troy was bad, but jayzus. “Just tell her how you feel, Sam!” made me want to yarp my Pepsi all over the aisle seat.

rotten tomatoes | imdb

Or maybe not?

From Hollywood Reporter, by way of MeFi: IDP has beef with MTV over ‘Super Size Me’ ads

“MTV also denied IDP’s claim that the commercial was nixed out of concern for other fast-food advertisers. ‘The edits were not about conflicting with other advertisers,’ an MTV spokeswoman said. ‘It was about the content of the advertisements.’

The content MTV initially found objectionable in the ‘Super Size Me’ commercial was a shot of Spurlock vomiting after ingesting a hamburger and a reference that Spurlock makes about how the hamburger could ‘kill.'”

One more reason to never watch MTV

Once again, MTV has proven they don’t know shit about rock and roll. Super Size my ass, MTV.

from Yahoo!

‘Super Size Me’ Gets Downsized by MTV

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Film documentary “Super Size Me,” a critical look at the health impact of a fast-food only diet, has been downsized at cable network MTV which has refused to air advertisements for the film, its distributors said on Wednesday.

Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films said in a statement the cable TV channel targeted to young audiences has told them the ads are “disparaging to fast food restaurants.”

The distributors said MTV sister network VH1 was planning to use clips from the movie in a program called “Best Week Ever,” but the clips were pulled before the show aired.

An MTV spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment. MTV and VH1 are owned by media giant Viacom Inc, which depends on advertising for a major portion of revenues.

For “Super Size Me,” director Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but food from McDonald’s restaurants over 30-day period, and if asked whether he wanted the larger, “supersize” meal, he always said yes.

Over the month, he gains weight and his health declines. Documenting the impact are not only the cameras but also his doctors. Spurlock mixes in various facts and figures about food and dieting as he travels the United States talking to health and food experts in 20 cities.

In March, McDonald’s said it would eliminate its supersize menu options by year end. At that time, a company spokeswoman said the decision was unrelated to the movie.

“Super Size Me” has been a hit at box offices, and it earned Spurlock the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary director at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (news – web sites).

The film began playing in theaters about two weeks ago and rose to No. 10 on domestic theater box office charts this past week. It has grossed $2.9 million in ticket sales — a hit for a documentary — and last weekend scored a per screen average of $6,759, just behind No. 2 film “Troy” with $7,014.

The film expands to 165 screens from 148 for the upcoming Memorial Day Holiday weekend, which the MTV ads had been timed to promote, a spokesman for the distributors said.

Hornby

lifted from the NY Times, by way of mefi
Rock of Ages
By Nick Hornby
Published: May 21, 2004

It’s just before Christmas last year, and the Philadelphia rock ‘n’ roll band Marah is halfway through a typically ferocious, chaotic and inspirational set when the doors to the right of the stage burst open and a young man staggers in, carrying most of a drum kit. My friends and I have the best seats in the house, a couple of feet away from Marah’s frontmen, Serge and Dave Bielanko, but when the drummer arrives we have to move our table back to make room for him. He’s not Marah’s drummer (the band is temporarily without) but he’s a drummer, and he owns most of a drum kit, and his appearance allows the band to make an even more glorious and urgent racket than they had managed hitherto. The show ends triumphantly, as Marah shows tend to do, with Serge lying on the floor amid the feet of his public, wailing away on his harmonica.

This gig happens to be taking place in a pub called the Fiddler’s Elbow, in Kentish Town, north London, but doubtless scenes like it are being played out throughout the world: a bar band, a pickup drummer from an earlier gig, probably even the table-shifting. It’s just that three or four months earlier, Bruce Springsteen, a fan of the band, invited the Bielanko brothers to share the stage with him at Giants Stadium for an encore, and Marah will shortly release what would, in a world with ears, be one of 2004’s most-loved straight-ahead rock albums, “20,000 Streets Under the Sky.” These guys shouldn’t be playing in the Fiddler’s Elbow with a pickup drummer. And they shouldn’t be passing a hat around at the end of the gig, surely? How many people have passed around the hat in the same year that they appeared at Giants Stadium?

Thirty years ago, almost to the day, Jon Landau published his influential, exciting, career-changing, and subsequently much derided and parodied article about Bruce Springsteen in The Real Paper, an alternative weekly — the article that included the line “I saw rock ‘n’ roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” I had never read the rest of it until recently, and it remains a lovely piece of writing. It begins, heartbreakingly: “It’s four in the morning and raining. I’m 27 today, feeling old, listening to my records and remembering that things were different a decade ago.” I’m only guessing here, but I can imagine there are a number of you reading this who can remember what it was like to feel old at 27, and how it bears no resemblance to feeling old at 37, or 47. And you probably miss records almost as much as you miss being 27.

It’s hard not to think about one’s age and how it relates to rock music. I just turned 47, and with each passing year it becomes harder not to wonder whether I should be listening to something that is still thought of as more age appropriate — jazz, folk, classical, opera, funeral marches, the usual suspects. You’ve heard the arguments a million times: most rock music is made by the young, for the young, about being young, and if you’re not young and you still listen to it, then you should be ashamed of yourself. And finally I’ve worked out my response to all that: I mostly agree with the description, even though it’s crude, and makes no effort to address the recent, mainly excellent work of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, Mr. Springsteen et al. The conclusion, however, makes no sense to me any more.

Youth is a quality not unlike health: it’s found in greater abundance among the young, but we all need access to it. (And not all young people are lucky enough to be young. Think of those people at your college who wanted to be politicians or corporate lawyers, for example.) I’m not talking about the accouterments of youth: the unlined faces, the washboard stomachs, the hair. The young are welcome to all that — what would we do with it anyway? I’m talking about the energy, the wistful yearning, the inexplicable exhilaration, the sporadic sense of invincibility, the hope that stings like chlorine. When I was younger, rock music articulated these feelings, and now that I’m older it stimulates them, but either way, rock ‘n’ roll was and remains necessary because: who doesn’t need exhilaration and a sense of invincibility, even if it’s only now and again?

When I say that I have found these feelings harder and harder to detect these last few years, I understand that I run the risk of being seen as yet another nostalgic old codger complaining about the state of contemporary music. And though it’s true that I’m an old codger, and that I’m complaining about the state of contemporary music, I hope that I can wriggle out of the hole I’m digging for myself by moaning that, to me, contemporary rock music no longer sounds young — or at least, not young in that kind of joyous, uninhibited way. In some ways, it became way too grown-up and full of itself. You can find plenty that’s angry, or weird, or perverse, or melancholy and world-weary; but that loud, sometimes dumb celebration of being alive has got lost somewhere along the way. Of course we want to hear songs about Iraq, and child prostitution, and heroin addiction. And if bands see the need to use electric drills instead of guitars in order to give vent to their rage, well, bring it on. But is there any chance we could have the Righteous Brothers’ “Little Latin Lupe Lu” — or, better still, a modern-day equivalent — for an encore?

In his introduction to the Modern Library edition of “David Copperfield,” the novelist David Gates talks about literature hitting “that high-low fork in the road, leading on the one hand toward `Ulysses’ and on the other toward `Gone With The Wind,’ ” and maybe rock music has experienced its own version. You can either chase the Britney dollar, or choose the high-minded cult-rock route that leads to great reviews and commercial oblivion. I buy that arty stuff all the time, and a lot of it is great. But part of the point of it is that its creators don’t want to engage with the mainstream, or no longer think that it’s possible to do so, and as a consequence cult status is preordained rather than accidental. In this sense, the squeaks and bleeps scattered all over the lovely songs on the last Wilco album sound less like experimentation, and more like a despairing audio suicide note.

Maybe this split is inevitable in any medium where there is real money to be made: it has certainly happened in film, for example, and even literature was a form of pop culture, once upon a time. It takes big business a couple of decades to work out how best to exploit a cultural form; once that has happened, “that high-low fork in the road” is unavoidable, and the middle way begins to look impossibly daunting. It now requires more bravery than one would ever have thought necessary to try and march straight on, to choose neither the high road nor the low. Who has the nerve to pick up where Dickens or John Ford left off? In other words, who wants to make art that is committed and authentic and intelligent, but that sets out to include, rather than exclude? To do so would run the risk of seeming not only sincere and uncool — a stranger to all notions of postmodernism — but arrogant and vaultingly ambitious as well.

Marah may well be headed for commercial oblivion anyway, of course. “20,000 Streets Under the Sky” is their fourth album, and they’re by no means famous yet, as the passing of the hat in the Fiddler’s Elbow indicates. But what I love about them is that I can hear everything I ever loved about rock music in their recordings and in their live shows. Indeed, in the shows you can often hear their love for the rock canon uninflected — they play covers of the Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait,” or the Jam’s “In the City,” and they usually end with a riffed-up version of the O’Jays’ “Love Train.” They play an original called “The Catfisherman” with a great big Bo Diddley beat, and they quote the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” and the Who’s “Magic Bus.” And they do this not because they’re a bar band and people expect cover versions, but because they are unafraid of showing where their music comes from, and unafraid of the comparisons that will ensue — just as Bruce Springsteen (who really did play “Little Latin Lupe Lu” for an encore, sometimes) was unafraid.

It was this kind of celebration that Jon Landau had in mind when he said in his review that “I saw my rock ‘n’ roll past flash before my eyes.” For Mr. Landau, the overbearing self-importance of rock music of the late 60’s and early 70’s had left him feeling jaded; for me, it’s the overbearing self-consciousness of the 90’s. The Darkness know that we might laugh at them, so they laugh at themselves first; the White Stripes may be a blues band, but their need to exude cool is every bit as strong as their desire to emit heat, and the calculations have been made accordingly: there’s as much artfulness as there is art.

In truth, I don’t care whether the music sounds new or old: I just want it to have ambition and exuberance, a lack of self-consciousness, a recognition of the redemptive power of noise, an acknowledgment that emotional intelligence is sometimes best articulated through a great chord change, rather than a furrowed brow. Outkast’s brilliant “Hey Ya!,” a song that for a few brief months last year united races and critics and teenagers and nostalgic geezers, had all that and more; you could hear Prince in there, and the Beatles, and yet the song belonged absolutely in and to the here and now, or at least the there and then of 2003.

Both “Hey Ya!” and Marah’s new album are roots records, not in the sense that they were made by men with beards who play the fiddle and sing with a finger in an ear, but in the sense that they have recognizable influences — influences that are not only embedded in pop history, but that have been properly digested. In the suffocatingly airless contemporary pop-culture climate, you can usually trace influences back only as far as Radiohead, or Boyz II Men, or the Farrelly Brothers, and regurgitation rather than digestion would be the more accurate gastric metaphor.

The pop music critic of The Guardian recently reviewed a British band that reminded him — pleasantly, I should add — of “the hammering drum machine and guitar of controversial 80’s trio Big Black and the murky noise of early Throbbing Gristle.” I have no doubt whatsoever that the band he was writing about (a band with a name too confrontational and cutting-edge to be repeated here) will prove to be one of the most significant cultural forces of the decade, nor that it will produce music that forces us to confront the evil and horror that resides within us all.

However, there is still a part of me that persists in thinking that rock music, and indeed all art, has an occasional role to play in the increasingly tricky art of making us glad we’re alive. I’m not sure that Throbbing Gristle and its descendants will ever pull that off, but the members of Marah do, often. I hope they won’t be passing around the hat by the end of this year, but if they are, please give generously.

The great satan joins the club

No sooner do I sign up for Zip when Blockbuster Expands All-You-Can-View Plan (from Yahoo)

Blockbuster Expands All-You-Can-View Plan
58 minutes ago
By DAVID KOENIG, AP Business Writer

DALLAS – Video-rental giant Blockbuster Inc. is going national with a monthly subscription plan that lets customers rent an unlimited number of movies and keep two or three at a time without running up late fees.

Blockbuster will charge $24.99 a month for customers to keep two movies out, and $29.99 to keep three titles.

The Dallas-based company calls the monthly subscription plan a Movie Pass and says the promotion will be available immediately in more than 5,000 stores nationwide. It tested the concept for 18 months in 1,150 stores.

“This is a different way of renting movies,” said Nick Shepherd, Blockbuster’s chief marketing officer. “We wanted to make sure we had it right from the consumer’s point of view and the economics point of view.”

Blockbuster customers, who must drive to the store to return movies and pick up new ones, have more-convenient options for movie-watching, such as pay-per-view on cable, mail-order rentals by companies such as Netflix Inc., and cheap DVDs for sale from the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Chief executive John Antioco said recently that the company hopes 10 percent of its customers sign up for the movie plan by the end of 2005.

Blockbuster is expected to add an online-reservation feature and mail-delivery to its plan later this year.

Analysts said the Movie Pass is designed to prevent more Blockbuster customers from defecting to Netflix, based in Los Gatos, Calif. About 2 million people have signed up for Netflix’s all-you-can-watch service — for $21.99 a month, they can get up to three DVDs at a time through the mail.

“This is a customer-retention program,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities Inc. said of Blockbuster. “They’ll lose fewer customers, and it will probably limit the growth of Netflix. Why would anyone sign up for Netflix if you can get the same service from Blockbuster?”

David C. Joyce, an analyst with Guzman & Co., praised Blockbuster’s move, even though he believes it could cannibalize sales to customers who already spend more than $25 a month on rentals and late fees.

“But it’s better to eat your own lunch than let somebody else do it,” Joyce said.

Giving customers a way to reduce late fees is a double-edged sword for Blockbuster. The fees have contributed greatly to Blockbuster’s revenue.

Blockbuster no longer discloses how much it makes from late fees, but it probably earns a much larger share of its revenue from the fees than do its competitors.

Blockbuster said the new subscription plan would cover all DVD and VHS titles in the stores.

Blockbuster shares gained 57 cents to close at $15.68 in trading Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange (news – web sites). Netflix shares rose 15 cents to $32.10 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

my laziness has just taken a quantum leap forward

I’ve just joined Zip, despite the fact that I live less than two blocks away from the best DVD rental place in all of Toronto. I joined mainly because said video store, in order to stay in business, has to keep their stock lean and therefore runs out of copies very quickly. The 3 nearby Rogers stores have practically no selection but the top ten new releases, and I refuse to rent from Blockbuster, so there we are. Plus, I love that I just create the list online and they send what’s there. Bitchin’.

Whatever happens, you’ll see my satisfaction (or lack thereof) posted here in no time.