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The University of Hartford

A Head Full of Peach Salsa

By Kevin "Moondog" O'Toole

Yeah, I know, it's not much of a title for a music column, but you probably picked this guide up for free anyway, so quit yer complainin'. Besides, it gives me a reason to start using a ratings system (for all those who, like me, prefer a user friendly precis option in their media reviews):
^^^^^= Five chips- The salsa's great and the chips are eternally refreshed. Dunk at will and repeatedly. Own this.
^^^^ = Four chips- the chips are a wee tad staler than you would prefer. Enjoy the salsa, though, 'cause it's mighty tasty. You might want to own this.
^^^ = Three chips- Salsa's less than perfectly fresh and the chips are still stale. It adequately mimics the peach salsa experience, but that very special something is missing. Borrow this at least.
^^ = Two chips- it physically resembles chips and salsa, but it ain't it. Don't feel bad if you miss hearing this.
^ = One chip- it seems to resemble a foodstuff, but who knows what it is anymore? If you must, crane your neck briefly to take notice of this, as you would a car wreck on the highway.
_ = No chips- Better you eat cow chips than this. Avoid this and warn your friends to avoid this. Please.
All set? Good. Now for this issues reviews.

O.K., you'll have to forgive me. It's been about four months since I've had to write about music (shoot, I've just been playing it on Friday nights from midnight to three on the Call It Thing show, the Friday Gothic Blimp Works). So, now, here I am again, finally, to share a few tidbits of musical enthusiasm with you.
Things you may not have known, or thought you needed to know, about Ben Kweller:

1) He led the rock band Radish from 1993 till 1999.
2) In those six odd years, they released only one full length CD, and an EP.
3) In the last three years, he's released two full-lengths and an EP on his own.
4) He lived, for a time, in Guilford, CT, though he now lives in Brooklyn, NY
5) The latest such full-length is called Sha Sha (ATO, 2002, ^^^½), and it rocks quite nicely.

What can we gather from these facts? Well, we could guess that in those first six years with Radish, he was either biding his time, or learning his pop song craft. Take your pick. The title track, "How It Should Be (Sha Sha)" reminds me of the existential pop culture references of They Might Be Giants. "Wasted & Ready" is the kind of teenage love pop tune that anyone could rock to (with lines like "sex reminds her of eating spaghetti/ I am wasted, but I'm ready").
Kweller's music is quintessential indie pop-rock at its' best. His voice and lyrics are sincere, and he has that wit and that grasp of loud guitars and rocking beats that make this one irresistible and hard to lump in with, say Third Eye Blind or something. Put succinctly, it really doesn't suck.

Also taking up space in my CD player recently is the spacey, not wholly expected album from Wilco. After the wonderful "No Depression"-esque folk/rock ramblings of their Billy Bragg teamings (Mermaid Avenue Vols 1 and 2, covering lost songs of Woody Guthrie), as well as most of their previous work as part of Uncle Tupelo, you couldn't possibly have seen Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch, 2002, ^^^^½) coming. It's an odd, odd and loveable album off strange electronic noises and earnest singing and musicianship. The only stuff that's quite like it would be Flaming Lips, although tracks like "Kamera" remind me of Lou Barlow's Folk Implosion work, with its' acoustic easybeats and spare percussion
Static crackles though "Radio Cure," which talks about pop music as both a balm and a curse, in the tradition of Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" ("Cheer up, honey I hope you can/ There is something wrong with me/ My mind is filled with radio cures/ electronic surgical words" singer Jeff Tweedy drones here).
Ironically, I'm writing this column on Memorial Day as I'm listening to "The Ashes of American Flags," and I'm thinking about another Memorial Day, a couple of years back. I was watching early morning TV, and a local station was doing a remote with some Boy Scouts who were volunteering by handing out free coffee to motorists at a local rest stop off the highway. While they were there, the scouts began to decommission a flag on camera. Now, the reporter who was there with them did ask them to explain for the folks at home what they were doing, which the scoutleader did as the boys carefully removed the stripes, folded the flag…
… and burned it.
It's that other side of flag ownership that half the idiots who own big fat horking flags don't ask themselves about: how do you get rid of a flag, respectfully, once you're done with it?
Incidentally, what do you think happened at that TV station?
That's right. A bunch of idiots had a knee jerk reaction to the burning of a flag on television, and the anchors had to come back on the next break and re-explain (slowly this time) what the hell was going on before. The Scoutmaster was calmly explained again, too.
But imagine that. Boy Scouts burning the flag.
Getting back to Wilco, they utilize the image of burnt flags as an ironic post-patriotic statement about consumerism and societal decay ("I would like to salute/ the ashes of American Flags/ and all the fallen leaves/ filling up shopping bags"). The song ends with scary haunted sounding electronic noises, and a fragmenting fade out.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is pretty damn brilliant. It's so brilliant, it got them forced off their label, cost them a guitarist (Jay Bennett, who left during the recording of the album), and got held over for a year while the band looked for a new label, or, conversely, a new label looked for them. It's a little ironic that they landed on the Warner/ Elektra connected Nonesuch, then. Or maybe Warner's had a change of heart.
As well as the Flaming Lips, Wilco recalls the Grateful Dead with the country-ish groovepop of "I'm the Man Who Loves You," though the song features a very poppy horn break or two. Hmmm… Phishs, then?
Whatever, it's good risk-taking music that deserves a home in your collection.

Just space enough to mention that Elvis Costello's When I Was Cruel (^^^^½) is brilliant, with great tunes like "When I Was Cruel No.2" (Elvis does Portishead), "Soul for Hire" (he muses about religious conflicts, with the line "God should be more than just a soul for hire") and the neo-Moroccan spy groove of "15 Petals." Just brilliant.
See you next time. Meanwhile…


First some thoughts by Kevin:
And They Called Him…Movie Boy!
Hello. I'm Kevin the movie boy now, and when I'm not busy laughing giddily as I sing along with the bad animated "And Now Our Feature Presentation" intros, or watching said presentations, I enjoy putting together a little show which you can hear every Sunday night from 8:30-9 pm. It's called Culture Dogs, and Sam Hatch and I are your hosts and guides through the worlds of theatrical movies and home video. As such, I've rubbed a little crystal ball I like to call the internet (especially the Internet Movie Database), and have divined wisdom from the automatic writings of the entertainment soothsayers of such magazines as Premiere, Independent Film and Video Monthly, Cineaste and (God help us) even Entertainment Weekly to bring you a list of things that may be worth your time to pay to see in first-run moviehouse distribution. I do offer this slight disclaimer, however: whenever I mention a film is "Limited" that means "limited release," which actually means "Despite the fact that there are now plenty of quality cinema outlets in the Greater Hartford metroplex (Don't laugh. We do too have a metroplex.), I wouldn't hold my breath." In such cases, though, I can safely advise a crossing of fingers…


Among the movies coming your way this month is The Powerpuff Girls (July 3rd). O.K., granted, this is Cartoon Network product. But, well, I happen to think that it's one of the most interesting exponents of what they call "kidvid" since Ren and Stimpy (although, as John K. fans should attest, that dog and cat were never "kidvid"). This movie will tell the full "origin" story of these kindergarten crimefighters, featuring a showdown with their enemy Mojo Jojo and his army of super monkeys. Personally, I believe it will at least be worth matinee prices. Oh, but those noisy kids…
But then again, what else were you going to watch July 4th weekend? Men in Black 2? Well, I guess you could probably do worse. Tommy Lee Jones rejoins Will Smith for more alien head-busting and mind-erasing. Hopefully, they can keep up the wit on at least the level of this film's predecessor. If we're lucky, maybe it will be Barry Sonnenfeld returning even to the quality of (dare we hope?) Get Shorty. Ah, well.
Also that weekend is the Lil' Bow Wow movie Like Mike. Since the cast list doesn't seem to mention the presence of the less animated star of Space Jam, perhaps this movie should be titled Yeah, We Like Mike, but We Couldn't Afford Him. Count on attempts at family-friendly hijinks from this one, and not much more.
Also that weekend in limited release is a comedy, The War Effort. Quoth the imdb: "a documentary film crew follows the lives of several knee-jerk patriots as they enter a radio contest during the early days of the War on Terrorism." Hmm. Unknown cast. Unknown writer and director. Looks like an interesting indie. Smells like an interesting indie. Tastes like an interesting indie. Good thing we didn't step… never mind
It's a post-dragon apocalypse world in the next Matthew McConaughey movie, Reign of Fire (July 12th), when reawakened dragons wreak havoc on modern-day London, and the survivors seek out ways to destroy the beasts. Normally, I wouldn't consider a Matthew McConaughey movie anything to look forward to, but the cast also includes Christian Bale (American Psycho, Empire of the Sun), and the few stills I've seen hold out promise of, minimum, a halfway-competent "popcorn" movie.
On the same date, Tom Hanks stars in the next film from the Oscar winning Sam Mendes (American Beauty). It's The Road to Perdition, another potentially fine movie based on a graphic novel. In fact, it's based on a graphic novel, which is based on a Japanese Manga (comic book), Kazuo Koike and Kojima's Lone Wolf and Cub. To further complicate matters, Lone Wolf and Cub (a.k.a. Wolf and Baby Carriage) was itself a popular series of Japanese films. Doubtless, though, those films did not feature the likes of Paul Newman, Jude Law (A.I. Artificial Intelligence), Anthony LaPaglia (Lantana), Stanley Tucci (The Big Night) or Jennifer Jason Leigh. The story is about a hit man who seeks vengeance after his wife and son are murdered.
And also on that date… wait for it… Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course! Hey, if the Powerpuff Girls could break out of basic cable and onto the big screen, well, then… this will probably really suck.
Also on July 12th in, Lord help us, limited release are:
Riri Shushu no subete or, possibly, All About Lily Chou-Chou. ( I haven't seen any official title yet for this Japanese import about a young schoolboy driven to murder) and Ma femme est une actrice or My Wife Is an Actress, a French romantic comedy.
July 14th will bring Full Serve, a little indie film (probably in limited release) by first-time director Suzanne O'Keeffe. It's the coming-of-age story of a gas station attendant.
On July 19th, it's Arachnophobia revisited, with the giant spider film Eight Legged Freaks. It features David Arquette, Kari Wuhrer and Scarlett Johannsen, only the last of which should provoke any honest interest in this "Why didn't it go straight to video?" wonder. In fact, skip this and go rent Ghost World. Expand yer mind already.
At the same time, Jack Ryan gets back into a Russian Submarine… only not quite. Harrison Ford stars in K19-The Widowmaker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days, Near Dark). It's the "true story" of the first Russian nuclear sub, and its' crew's attempts to avoid Chernobyl-like disaster area.
Also that weekend, an E.B. White character gets sequelized. No, Charlotte doesn't get mutated in that giant spider movie. I'm speaking about Stuart Little 2, with the full cast returning in this "road movie" as Stuart the anthropomorphized mouse and Snowball the cat (voiced again by Michael J. Fox and Nathan Lane, respectively) set out to help a friend.
Also, that other children's book favorite Michael Myers returns in Halloween: Resurrection. Oops. Did I say "children's book favorite?" I meant "clapped out old slasher movie concept villain who led a full enough life in the scary original, so put it to freakin' bed already!"
On the 26th, another Mike Myers returns, possibly stretching his sequel abilities, too. There is, however, hope in the case of Austin Powers in Goldmember, that this franchise has some silly, funny life in it. Mr. Myers, Zoolander and Undercover Brother are knocking.
Also, Disney's The Country Bears opens, for those of you who have been waiting for that long planned feature based on a very old Disneyland attraction. Look for cameos from Don Henley, Elton John and Queen Latifah. Or, better yet, chump your toddler off on an appropriately responsible sitter while you go looking for the nearest showing of About A Boy, which will hopefully still be playing by then.
Or, possibly look up the limited release of Never Again, a boomer romantic comedy starring Jill Clayburgh and Jeffrey Tambor (Hank Kingsley of HBO's old hit The Larry Sanders Show). The romance starts when the two meet in a gay bar. The cast also features Michael McKean (Best In Show), and (gasp!) SANDY DUNCAN!
Pardon me, I think I just swallowed a Triscuitä.
Also on that date, in limited release (although with assurances that it will end up in Hartford), is Yimou Zhang's Happy Times, from the Chinese director of Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern and The Road Home. It's a romantic comedy set in modern urban China.
Also in limited release, will be The Kid Stays In the Picture, the documentary about the strange Hollywood legend of producer/actor Robert Evans (Chinatown, Urban Cowboy and so much else). It's based on his autobiography. Sleazy? Yeah, probably.


Jam packed month, that August…
Anthony Garriga Jr.'s first feature hits theaters on the 1st. I Soldati or The Soldiers actually seems to be an American crime dramedy about an increasingly reluctant hit man, and his friend and fellow assassin who's assigned to kill him. Small cast. Unknown writer director. Hmm… I smell indie again, and probably limited release at that.
The major release of the following weekend (August 2nd) will probably be M. Night Shyamalan Signs starring Mel Gibson as a reverend in Bucks County, PA who finds huge crop circles on his farm, and finds his faith tested as he investigates the mystery behind them. This film also features Joaquin Phoenix (brother of the late River), Rory Culkin (brother of Macaulay) and Abagail Breslin (probably no relation to Jimmy, but you never know…).
The other major release… what's that? Oh, I'm sorry, I mistook it for one. It's understandable. It happens every once in a while with Dana Carvey movies. The Master of Disguise opens on that same date.
Four other movies open on August 2nd in limited release:
A Song for Martin or En Sång för Martin, is the latest from Danish director Bille August (I wonder how they decided on that release date), known to audiences here mainly for 1997's Smilla's Sense of Snow and 1998's Les Miserables. This is a romantic drama about an older couple (one is a composer) who deal with, among other things, his onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Children On Their Birthdays is the first directorial effort from the writer of the play Children of a Lesser God and the screenplay of the 1992 Patrick Swayze movie City of Joy. The screenplay is based on a short story by Truman Capote, and tells the story of a con artist and a teenage love triangle in 1947 small town Alabama.
Full Frontal is the latest from Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean's 11) and it stars Julia Roberts. So why, you may ask, the limited release treatment here? Well, it turns out it was shot in just 18 days and Soderbergh (via Premiere magazine) describes it as "the mutant child of Scenes from a Marriage and Day for Night- shot like an episode of Cops." A description of something like a guerilla filmmaking style followed (no craft service, your wardrobe is whatever you show up in that day, uninterrupted takes, etc.). Sounds like quite the change from that rat pack remake thang he just did. The story takes place in the film industry, dealing with seven characters who interact at different times. The cast also includes Blair Underwood (City of Angels and L.A. Law), David Hyde Pierce (Frasier), Catherine Keener (hopefully stepping out of the muck that was Death To Smoochy), David Duchovny, Brad Pitt (as "Himself") and Nicky Katt (Insomnia and Boston Public) as "Hitler" (not himself).
Igby Goes Down is the directorial debut of actor Burr Steers, who also writes this tale about a misfit 17-year old who copes with his mother's cancer and his father's insanity by pursuing older women. Sounds like it's something up in that kind of Harold and Maude vein. There's good buzz building for this movie, and the cast features Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum, Jared Harris, Amanda Peet (Changing Lanes) Bill Pullman and Susan Sarandon. Kieran Culkin appears as Igby, with his brother Rory playing his younger self. AUGUST IS… THE REVENGE OF THE CULKINS! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!
August 7th will see the release of Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams. Fans of director Robert Rodriguez's earlier Tarantino-in-spirit work Desperado and From Dusk Til Dawn had better get used to it. It's the 21st century and that stuff is so, like, non-toyetic. The principles (Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) return in another family friendly spy adventure, with other cast of interest to those above 8 years of age in the audience: Steve Buscemi (hey, after helping out his former fellow firefighters and other folks after September 11th, doesn't he deserve a nice family friendly role?), Cheech Marin, Bill Paxton, Mike Judge (Creator of Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill) and Ricardo Montalban as… yes… the Grandpa. What? You were expecting maybe James Edward Olmos?
In limited release that day (again, in Hartford, who knows when? Not I.) is the latest from Miguel Arteta and Mike White, the creators of 2000's Chuck and Buck. Jennifer Aniston (Star of the video for The Rembrandts' I'll Be There fro You (Theme from 'Friends') and Jake Gyllenhaal (The wonderfully dark (duh) Donnie Darko) star in The Good Girl. This comedy is about a young married woman's affair, and is the second movie to come out this month to have made the Internet Movie Database refer to Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye (the first was Igby Goes Down). This fact alone has me interested. Doesn't it you? If not, consider that Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, director of 'O') also joins the cast.
August 9th is another li'l blockbuster summer weekend with the release of XXX though it probably will not be rated NC-17. Vin Diesel stars as "an extreme sports athlete" recruited by our fine government as a secret agent in order to avoid prison for bungee jumping off of a car he drove over a bridge, or some such. Gee. Those kids getting hassled by cops for skateboarding on the sidewalk will be green with envy. Especially since this movie also features Italian "hottie" Asia Argento (daughter of Italian Eurohorror legend, director Dario Argento) and everybody's action movie good luck charm and all around cool actor Samuel L. Jackson. Unfortunately, he'll be leaving his purple lightsaber at home.
Also on that date, Blood Work, Clint Eastwood's latest in front of and behind the camera (as director) appears. It's his 23rd feature directorial effort. Has it been that many? Here, he plays an old, tired and retired FBI director who gets involved in the case of a disappearance that may involve a long sought after serial killer who eluded his grasp during his career. With Clint playing retirees called back into action in a number of his recent movies (most recently Space Cowboys), is he likely to retire from making movies anytime soon? If he can manage at least the quality of Bird or In the Line of Fire again, I hope not. We're pullin' for you, Mistah Eastwood…
And also on that date, A Guy Thing drags in. Seems Jason Lee (memorable in the slightly underrated Big Trouble as Puggee) has cheated on his fiancée at his bachelor party (or at least, he thinks he has) with Julia Stiles (The Bourne Identity, 'O', and Save the Last Dance). He struggles to cover it up one week before his wedding. Amusing antics ensue. If I pay to see this, I may merely sue.
Also that date: Pandora's Box. Only one notable detail from IMDb: It stars Michael Jai White (Spawn, Exit Wounds). This tells me some action may be involved. Huh? Doncha think…?
These four limited releases start August 9th as well:
The "wacky" American comedy, The Château stars Paul Rudd (Wet Hot American Summer, A&E's The Great Gatsby) and Romany Malco (star of that VH1 MC Hammer biopic). They play two brothers (one's adopted) who discover they have inherited a French château, and a house full of servants who speak English as well as they speak French. Wacky antics en… ah, skip it.
24 Hour Party People may be more worth the time. This British import is an attempt to tell the story of the Manchester music scene from the late seventies through the early nineties (no, this has nothing to do with the Sam Goody's at Buckland Hills). The story of Tony Wilson, man behind British pop institutions like the Hacienda Club and Factory Records, as told here, has many parallels to the American Studio 54 story. But chiefly figuring in this movie according to the buzz: balls, drugs and trendiness enough to choke ten horses. We should hope for (and get) music/ appearances by James, Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays and more. Starring as Tony Wilson is Steve Coogan (The Parole Officer, the voice of Bob on the animated series Bob & Margaret).
Graham Greene plays a Native American with a drinking problem, brother to Eric Schweig in Skins, a drama set on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation from the director of 1998's Smoke Signals.
And, finally that weekend, Iranian import Raye makhfi aka Secret Ballot. It's a comedy about a female voting agent sent to the middle of nowhere to collect votes on the day of the national elections. Sort of like Florida with less retirees, more sand and more burkhas.
No Dogs Allowed will probably be in limited release a few days later on August 12th. It's a crime/comedy/ adventure involving bookies, hippies and a Faberge egg from first time director Joseph Osborn.
August 15th brings the horror thriller No Tomorrow, from director Matt Irvine.
Surfing into theatres on the 16th will be Blue Crush, a film about female surfers from director John Stockwell (Crazy/Beautiful, Cheaters), with Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez in her continuing quest to find herself cast in a movie as worthy of attention as Girlfight seemed to be.
Also, in The Tuxedo, Jackie Chan plays a chauffer who must take a murdered agent's place, using the spy's Bond-like tuxedo to fight the bad guys. Whether you pay to see it first run or wait for video, one thing remains unavoidable: it's JACKIE CHAN! I mean, come on, the man's only been kicking butt in about a hundred movies for about forty years now! Stephen Seagal couldn't act even when he started roughly twenty years ago, let alone do all his own stunts! THIS IS ACTION! If you pay money to see things like XXX or any others of that ilk this summer, on video or in theaters, then you should be ashamed of yourself if you don't at least try this movie! Go on! Forget waiting for video! Jackie Chan needs your help to pay for his health insurance or eventual retirement (it's gotta happen sometime…)!
O.K. Settle.
To continue, we finally get to see the long delayed Eddie Murphy vehicle, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, and, if we're unlucky, we may get to see why it was long delayed. Murphy is the titular Nash, an outer space nightclub owner struggling to keep his little business out of the hands of the space mafia. As I'm sure he and the producers fought to keep this one out of the clutches of the direct-to-video mafia.
Andrew Niccol, the director and writer of Gattaca brings us Simone on that date. It's a drama about the perils of digitally created stardom, and it stars Al Pacino (very good earlier this summer in Insomnia, so maybe he's on a roll again) and Catherine Keener (co-starring this time), and features Jay Mohr (also in Nash) and Jason Schwartzman (seen earlier this year in CQ, another movie about directing movies and crossing the lines of fantasy and reality).
Drei Sterne aka Mostly Martha opens on the same date, in (you guessed it) limited release. It's a German romantic comedy from first time director Sandra Nettelbeck. Likewise in limited release on August 16th is Swimfan. It's a horror/ thriller about a high school swimmer who has a one night stand with dire consequences. It stars Jesse Bradford (Clockstoppers) and Erika Christensen (notable as Michael Douglas's daughter in Stephen Soderbergh's Traffic).
Alright. I've discussed how Catherine Keener needs to acquit herself of the shame of Death to Smoochy, and Ed Norton would if he wasn't the funniest (but not funny enough) part of that misbegotten film. If you must watch it, fast forward to his musical numbers. Skip everything else. Particularly Robin Williams' overly eager in service of a bad film performance. Mr. Williams, however, more than made up for that Smoochy hamming with his honestly dark and disturbing performance in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia which came out May 24th. On August 21st, we see more of what has been vaunted to be Robin Williams' darkest year, with his turn as an obsessive photo-lab employee who stalks a suburban family. Unlike Smoochy or Insomnia, this is in limited release, but the good news seems to be that it will come to Hartford, perhaps even on that date, as I've already begun to see the previews on local Cineplex screens. So, fear not, Hartford! Limited is not always a dirty word (though I think the anticipated success of Insomnia may have had something to do with the improved distribution. The cast, by the way, also features Gary Cole and Nick Searcy (I'm not sure these two have worked together since the excellent TV series American Gothic) and Hartford's (and ER's) own Eriq LaSalle, and is directed and written by video (and infrequent film) director Mark Romanek (known for such vids as Nine Inch Nails' Closer and The Perfect Drug, as well as a number of Madonna videos, among many others).
A few movies arrive on the next to last weekend in August. Drumline, from Fox 2000 Pictures, is the first feature from director Charles Stone III. It's about a Harlem street drummer recruited to play in a band at a Southern university. The cast features Nick Cannon, Zoe Saldana (the Britney Spears movie Crossroads and Bring It On) and Orlando Jones (Evolution, Mad TV, and, until recently, 7Up Ads).
On the 23rd as well, is They, a thriller about a graduate student in psychology who, after witnessing a horrific event, grows increasingly convinced that all the things she has feared from childhood may be coming to get her. The movie is directed by Robert Harmon, and stars Laura Regan, Marc Blucas (TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Dagmara Dominczyk (recently the object of the affections of this year's Count of Monte Cristo). All those names, however, are not as impressive as the fact that the movie is a production of Good Machine, which has been responsible for bringing us such little indie gems as In the Bedroom and Y Tu Mama Tambien.
Finally on the 23rd, is Serving Sara, the Matthew Perry/ Elizabeth Hurley romantic comedy directed by Reginald Hudlin (The Ladies Man, The Great White Hype, House Party). Perry must serve divorce papers to Hurley from her husband (BRUCE "BRISCOE COUNTY AND MOST RECENTLY SPIDER-MAN " CAMPBELL!!!) (Sorry. My enthusiasm there was for Bruce Campbell getting more reasonable profile work, not for this, at best, possibly inoffensive date movie).
The 26th brings Little Secrets. Few details. Small name director. Not particularly notable cast, apart from Vivica A. Fox. And when she's your only potential draw this late in the game, don't you think you've got trouble?
Looks like four limited release items are headed your way for August 30th:
Slap Her, She's French is the latest comedy starring Piper Perabo. It's about a French Foreign exchange student , newly arrived in Texas, and… wait… you saw Coyote Ugly? What about The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle? Oh. Skip it, then.
13 Moons is a new mystery-comedy from director Alexandre Rockwell (most notable for his segment of 1995's Four Rooms. Steve Buscemi plays Bananas the Clown, with a cast that also includes Peter Stormare (Fargo, Dancer in the Dark).
Mad Love (Juana la Loca in its' original Spanish) is a period romance set in Spain at the turn of the 16th century. The Spanish title refers to the mad queen (Juana) of Spain of the time, who was driven to that "loca" (crazy) state by the pressures of the monarchy and, allegedly, by her husband's affairs, the same husband that ultimately has her "committed" (in 16th century terms: recluded in a monastery).
Possession is the latest from director Neil LaBute (Nurse Betty, Your Friends and Neighbors and In the Company of Men). It's a romance starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart (with LaBute on all three of the above movies, most notably on Men), Jeremy Northam (Enigma, Gosford Park) and Jennifer Ehle (Sunshine). The story concerns itself with two romances, the first, a romance between two Victorian era poets, is being uncovered by the subjects of the second romantic storyline, two modern-day literary sleuths. Based on a novel by A.S. Byatt.
And finally in August, first time indie director Daniel Krauss brings us Ball of Wax. It's a thriller about a millionaire baseball player, who, getting bored with the old game, starts to invent a blood sport, and seeks to enlist his less than willing teammates in his deadly game. It comes from Go Pictures, and it sounds like the kind of Baseball movie Sam Raimi should have made. Not that sappy Kevin "Plank of Wood" Costner piece of crap (and thanks to Sam Hatch for the perfect nickname). And how about BRUCE CAMPBELL starring instead, huh? Who's laughing now, indeed…


Well, not everything, but a few things.
One import I'm looking forward to is The 51st State. It stars Samuel L. Jackson as Elmo McElroy, a kilt wearing master chemist who tries to score big with his new drug, but runs into trouble with the underworld and other characters. Notable also is Meat Loaf as "The Lizard" and director Ronnie Yu from Hong Kong (and director of the fantasy classic The Bride with White Hair). Reviews from Britain are a tad iffy, but I think it more promising than Changing Lanes, n'est ce pas?
Red Dragon is the anticipated remake of Manhunter, utilizing the novel's original title. It's the original Hannibal Lecter story, and, again Anthony Hopkins is likely to dive in with gusto as Lecter, but this time he's joined by a super-cast (Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson (Gosford Park), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Almost Famous, State and Main and Magnolia, among so many others), Harvey Keitel and… wait for it… ED NORTON! Yay! Everybody important may yet survive the Smoochy massacre (Danny DeVito's career whereabouts are, notably, M.I.A.).
Rabbit Proof Fence which I mentioned last issue, was moved back to October 11th. It's the drama about aboriginal girls escaping cross country in 1937 Australia, from director Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm). The cast features Kenneth Branagh.
And then of course comes November and December with more Quidditch and Hobbits and secret agents and Romulans and Joel Schumacher's Phone Booth and Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson reuniting…
Wait… O.K., Jackie Chan will be reuniting with Owen Wilson, not with Hobbits or Phone Booths or any of those other strange people. Just thought I'd clarify.
And now, Sammy Hatch will take you through sixty-two days' worth of Poor Tuesdays. Go ahead, Sam! Drop some BASS!
Oh, wait, I didn't mean fish, I meant… oh, never mind…

Thoughts by Sam:

Digital Versatile Discs. Say it with me folks. Digital. Versatile. Discs. Sounds nifty, but what's so darned versatile about 'em? Well, with slight modifications they make great earrings, beverage coasters, pizza cutters or ninja throwing stars. Or you can just randomly stuff them in a DVD player and see what shows up on your television. I tend to choose the latter, but do as your conscience sees fit. By now your conscience has forced you to buy, rent or avoid all of my picks from the last issue. "But that's not enough! I need more!", I hear you shout from the rooftops. You want information about new and upcoming releases and you want it right now? Okay, I relent…
Fret not, for the numerous Poor Tuesdays scattered throughout the July/August season will be bringing much silvery goodness to boys and girls alike. July 2nd kicks off with a director's cut of the 70's film version of 1776, Klaus Kinski in Castle of Blood (oooh, scary!), Nickelodeon's CGI spectacle Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Czech film Kolya and Jack Black in the controversial comedy Shallow Hal. Buena Vista is also set to roll out a ton of double-packs of previously released discs.
Nothing floats your boat yet? July 9th is the date for the new documentary The Harryhausen Chronicles, detailing the life and work of the brilliant stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen. Anchor Bay brings us The Herzog/Kinski Collection, a six disc boxed set of all five films ("Aguirre, The Wrath of God", "Nosferatu the Vampyre", "Woyzeck", "Fitzcarraldo" and "Cobra Verde") that director Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski collaborated on. There's also a feature length documentary entitled My Best Fiend, detailing their work together. On a more mainstream front, there's Bruce Willis in Hart's War and Gary Sinise's much-maligned sci-fi effort Impostor. The Criterion Collection will also be releasing The Royal Tenenbaums, the quirky, 'star-studded' dysfunctional family piece from director Wes Anderson. The 2-Disc set is loaded with featurettes, deleted scenes/outtakes and running commentary from Wes himself.
July 16th brings us Jean-Pierre Jeunet's newest spectacle Amelie, with no features announced at press time. Ooh, I've always wanted to type the phrase 'at press time' before! Just in time to tie-in with the new Austin Powers flick, shelves will be graced with the likes of James Coburn's spy films In Like Flint and Our Man Flint. If that's not enough, the 1966 version of Modesty Blaise is on tap as well. Aside from Robin and Marian, To Die For and Val Kilmer in Top Secret!, the big deal for yours truly is Criterion's release of Akira Kurosawa's Red Beard. This is the film that destroyed Akira's long-running collaboration with Toshiro Mifune, but remains compelling work despite the tensions behind the scenes.
A week later on July 22nd you can rent or purchase copies of season two of M*A*S*H*, Ralph Macchio vs. Steve Vai in Crossroads (Kevin's note: What, no Britney Spears?!?), Steve Odekirk's martial arts spoof Kung Pow!: Enter the Fist and Guy Pearce in the newest Hollywood remake of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. Not much, but the July 30th releases include euro horror maestro Lucio Fulci's Cat in the Brain, Kevin 'Plank of Wood' Costner's spiritual piece Dragonfly and Milla Jovovich kicking undead booty in the film adaptation of the video game Resident Evil. And in case you missed the televised event Dinotopia, a special edition is on the way. Finishing up the week is a pair of very cool releases from A&E - the first being a 2-disc set of the classic Gerry Anderson TV show UFO. The other, a huge 'Mega Set' collecting every current release of Mr. Anderson's supermarionette adventure show Thunderbirds. Exploding spaceships - hurrah!
There's still a plethora of unannounced titles coming in August -- but some known discs of interest at press time (I typed it again) are August 6th's season two box set of The Simpsons, Malcom McDowell's Jack The Ripper classic Time After Time, Wolfen, Super Troopers and a new cut of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. And if the disc locks up in your player, don't forget to shake your fist at the sky, quiver and scream 'Khaaaaaaan! Khaaaaan!' at the top of your lungs. Or not. But don't forget about Peter Jackson's blockbuster adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The video future of this title is interesting - the theatrical version arrives on the 6th, but a variety of multi-disc releases lurk at the end of the year. A director's cut DVD with forty minutes of added footage is primed and ready to coincide with the theatrical release of the second film in the series. "2 Discs on August Sixth and many more for Christmas, 1 studio grinning wide as countless fans go cashless!'
Then there's August 20th with a Gremlins special edition, folk singer Harry Chapin's Rockpalast Live disc and the 80's John Hughes comedies Pretty In Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful. August 27th brings this column to a close with the two disc Schoolhouse Rock! Special Edition (containing all forty-six shorts and one new song) and the long-awaited season 3 boxed set of HBO's mob hit (geddit?) The Sopranos. Normally the Sopranos discs hit shelves in November, so poor, cable-bereft souls like myself should rejoice at the three month break we've been given!
Hopefully there's something amidst this huge aluminum pile that you'll enjoy spinning. If not, then keep rewatching that copy of Darrin's Dance Grooves and get those hot moves down! I'm still working on his new poppin' and lockin' routine. So until next time… 'Ain't no lie… bye bye bye!'

P.S. from Kevin:
One last reminder: we're there every Sunday night (occasionally with other folks), talking about movies and videos and TV and such, from 8:30 -9 pm on Culture Dogs. Given the fact that this extensive article's facts may have changed by the time this guide arrives in your mailbox, you should consider our show a reliable source of updates. Or at least reasonably so.
Take care.

Copyright©WWUH: July/August Program Guide, 2002

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