March 2006

The Tomorrow Show: Punk and New Wave

by Tim Dodd on March 22, 2006

in Uncategorized

The new boom in TV shows on DVD has finally brought us rock and roll obsessives something of historical value and absolute rock kick-ass-ness: The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder: Punk & New Wave collection! Eight episodes of rock performances, interviews, and exploding cars by such masters as Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, The Jam, Public Image Limited, The Ramones, Patti Smith, Wendy O. Williams and The Plasmatics, and Joan Jett—what more could you want your ass to be kicked by? Oh, not punk enough for you? How ‘bout Iggy Pop giving a lecture on Apollonian art? How ‘bout John Lydon singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow?” How ‘bout The Ramones counting off a song in one tempo and blasting into it in a completely different tempo? Quit your crying and watch this amazing DVD set. That is, if you even have a DVD player, you gutter punk.

The Tomorrow Show
5 Stars

It’s about time that this trend in digging up the graves of rotting TV shows actually provides us with some corpses of historical and cultural value, right? Well, a little DVD release entitled The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder: Punk & New Wave may just be the answer to all you historically-minded music fans out there.

This set contains eight complete episodes of that late night talk show that ran on NBC after Johnny Carson from 1973 to 1982. These episodes span the years 1977 to 1981 and feature performances and/or interviews with Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Iggy Pop, Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics, Patti Smith, John Lydon & Keith Levine from Public Image Limited, The Jam, and the Ramones. Yup, this is some great shit.

The show, which was primarily of the two-people-sitting-in-chairs-and-talking- to-each-other variety, had musical guests from time to time and surprisingly featured some rather cutting edge performers. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your point of view), the show’s host seemed to be of a 1940’s mindset and often came off as a grandpa telling people like Iggy Pop that folks might like his tunes better if he turned down the volume a bit. While some may be annoyed by Tom’s behavior during these interviews, I think that it gives them a bit of an edge that might not have been there had the host been a lot hipper.

Now for the shows themselves:

First of all, I want to tell you how much I appreciate the interview with John Lydon being released on DVD. I’ve been a fan of PIL’s early stuff for quite a while now, and if any of you even know who they were, you’ll also know that seeing any video footage of them is almost as rare as finding a good Sting album. The only time I ever saw clips of this interview was on an MSNBC show a few years ago called “Now and Again”. The short clips they showed contained enough uncomfortable and memorable moments to make me lust after the thought of seeing the entire interview uncut.

Essentially, the interview goes like this: John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) and his smacked-out guitarist pal Keith Levine are pimping their band’s new album, Metal Box. I’m sure all interviewers at the time wanted to talk about was John’s old band, so he was ready for a fight. Tom Snyder, as always, proves to be a square from the get-go and becomes Johnny’s punching bag. Tom asks questions, John gives sarcastic and bullshitty answers. The tension mounts. Tom gets frustrated, John gets mean, and Keith looks like he’s about to nod off. John and Keith make it painfully apparent that they have no idea what they’re doing; they claim that they’re not a band but a company. But when Tom tries to find out just what their purpose is, the boys just get sarcastic and mean. No wonder nobody knows who PIL are these days. Whatever. The main thing is that this interview makes for some great, tense television.

The rest of the DVD set could have been Tom Snyder juggling potatoes and I would still have been satisfied by just owning the Lydon interview. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the rest of the shows were actually watchable, and in most cases pretty fascinating.

Perhaps the best thing on the set (other than my beloved PIL, of course) is the very first episode on disc 1, a show from October 11, 1977 featuring a roundtable discussion on this new type of music called “punk rock or new wave.” Who’s in on the discussion? Concert promoter Bill Graham (most famous for nurturing musical hippies such as the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane at his Fillmore venues), L.A. music critic Robert Hilburn (who, in his unhip sweater and dorky glasses, isn’t the most convincing champion of youth culture), and then-Runaways manager Kim Fowley (who, in his mod suit covered in buttons and with six pounds of rouge on his cheeks, is a fairly convincing champion of youth culture even though he looks like a poor-man’s Tim Curry).

Tom, of course, is still Mr. Grandpa, seeming more comfortable with Graham’s skepticism about this new musical form, and less comfortable with Fowley’s playing with flowers and giggling like he’s very, very high. Hilburn has some interesting things to say about “the kids needing music that speaks to them”, but Fowley actually steals the show with some of the most intelligent, well thought out comments about the whole thing. Of course, he says just as much stuff that’s complete gibberish, but I suppose that’s just the rusty roulette wheel of drugs in his head stopping on the unlucky numbers.

Things get even better when a very young Paul Weller of The Jam and an equally young Joan Jett of The Runaways show up and give their take on the kind of music they’re producing. Weller is full of bile and is almost completely unintelligible with thick Cockney, while Jett seems pretty meek and even kinda embarrassed about having to talk about rocking out. I’m surprised that Mr. Snyder didn’t offer them some ice cream considering that he treats them like they’re ten years old. Maybe he did during the commercial break. Anyway, this show is not only great from a historical perspective, but very entertaining and even a little nerve-racking.

The Elvis Costello performances are top-notch (and also from the time of my absolute favorite of his albums, Trust) and his interview is killer. He reveals himself to be a man of wit and great charm, which is a tiny bit surprising since he admittedly was coked out of his gourd during that period. I guess he’s a good actor as well.

The Iggy Pop interview is also insanely good. Tom is condescending as ever and it’s flying squarely over Iggy’s head. Ig’s all pumped up from just playing a song (jumping around and almost swallowing the microphone) and is acting kinda goofy and out of it. Then Tom asks him if he still pukes and cuts himself on stage. Iggy gets quiet, then a remarkable transformation occurs: Iggy suddenly turns very literate and intelligent and starts to give Tom a lecture on art. Tom is surprised by this and the conversation soon ends, with Mr. Snyder looking like a douche and Iggy looking like what he is: the fuckin’ king of rock and roll.

Then comes a show from later in the year with Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics, a group known for being so over the top that they were almost like cartoons. The band members are wearing prefab punk uniforms, they jump around and into the audience, and they blow shit up. Oh yeah, and their music really sucks. But the interview with Wendy is cool (she had a kinda bubbly and cute personality) and it is pretty amazing that they let them blow up a car in a TV studio. Oops, hope I didn’t give too much away.

Disc 2 has a pretty good interview with Patti Smith (but no performance), the aforementioned Lydon and Levine interview, a couple of performances by The Jam and a brief, but charming interview, and a performance and interview with The Ramones. The Ramones performances didn’t light my fire, but they are pretty decent. The interview is done by some chick who is filling in for Tom, and she proceeds to single-handedly widen the generation gap even further by constantly giving Joey a hard time for his haircut. COME ON. YOU DON’T FUCK WITH JOEY RAMONE. Anyway, it’s still amusing and entertaining.

Remember, these are the entire shows, so in addition to the musical content you get other stuff like interviews with Ricky Schroeder (very young and very annoying), Frank Capra (very old and very slow-talking), and a bunch of squares and weirdos whose names I can’t remember now. It does give context to the musical performances and is fascinating in its own right.

Overall, I would say that this DVD set is pretty kick ass. The packaging is alright, the menus are easy to operate, and there are no extras, but none are really needed. The content of the shows stands on its own.

Anybody with even a fleeting interest in late 70’s punky new wavey stuff should put off buying that new CD by whatever Joy Division ripoff band just peeked its head over the moldy indie shower curtain and spend the scratch on this DVD set. What these kids need today is a little education – and a little slap on the head when they reach for that She Wants Revenge CD.

A tale of tragedy and remarkable writing – that’s the life of Eugene O’Neill.  American Heritage presents a two-hour documentary film chronicling the life and career of the first great American playwright.

American Experience – Eugene O’Neill: A Documentary Film
4 Stars

“The individual life is made significant just by the struggle.”

The great American apostate playwright Eugene O’Neill wanted nothing more than to dig deep into the real life and produce a new kind of truth and realism on stage.  His works confronted the pain of everyday life and the torture and turmoil of the deeper questions concerning the human condition.  His life and career are chronicled on this new PBS documentary.

For the first half of the twentieth century Eugene O’Neill was American theater.  The most celebrated writer of his generation and widely regarded as America’s premier playwright O’Neill received four Pulitzer Prizes for Drama (in 1920 for “Beyond the Horizon”, in 1922 for “Anna Christie”, in 1928 for “Strange Interlude”, and posthumously in 1957 for the autobiographical “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”) as well as the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1936.  O’Neill’s harsh upbringing and early life brought forth a yearning for meaning and truth in his work.  O’Neill bucked the shallow entertainment for entertainment sake model so popular at the time and brought frank and honest realism to the stage.

The American Heritage documentary takes a look at the childhood involving his mother’s morphine addiction and attempted suicide, the deaths of his parents and brother in his early 20’s, and his mid-life battle with Parkinson’s disease; all of which shaped O’Neill life and style, and how that life led to such great works such as “The Iceman Cometh,” the dark allegory which showcases the life of illusion and lie that most people live their entire lives.  The documentary if filled with photographs from his lifetime and includes interviews and dramatic readings of his work.  It paints a troubled man, often unhappy and disillusioned, but one that strove for one purpose alone.  In O’Neill’s own words, “I want to be an artist or nothing.”  The film is filled with interviews and testimonials from those who knew and have performed his work and would agree that he was remarkably successful in his goal.

The documentary finishes with O’Neill’s last work – the autobiographical Long Day’s Journey Into Night.  The play focuses on the pain and troubles of his childhood during one day when all the family’s dirty secrets are laid bare.  His final work is the culmination of his life’s work – a brutally realistic an unapologetic look at the human condition that is bittersweet and deeply tragic.  Much like the man himself O’Neill’s plays show a complex view of the world that never goes for the easy answer but instead strives for a more true and honest view of the world.

This is a wonderful documentary and any fan of O’Neill, of theater, or of biographical films will want to check this out.  The filming and editing are first rate and the film spends as much time discussing the man as his work and how one relates to the other.  A great DVD to own and would also be good for educators (the official site includes more on O’Neill including a teacher’s guide and suggested further reading).  For those not ready to pay for the DVD the program (sans extras available only on the DVD) will be shown next Monday, March 27th on PBS.  Watch and enjoy.

Fourth Grade Sure Was Rough

by Alan Rapp on March 21, 2006

in Uncategorized

The Seventh Season of South Park gives us the wonders of Casa Bonita and the lame Hooters rip-off Raisins, the music of Faith + 1, and the return of the visitors.  The season also contains satires of the Metro-sexual fad, the tobacco industry, and the basis for the Mormon religion.  The boys take a trip over the rainbow to Canada, the town celebrates the 100th episode, and more celebrities hit the sleepy town including Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, Gene Hackman and Christopher Reeves.  While not the best season there’s still plenty here to enjoy.

South Park – Season Seven
3 & 1/2 Stars

While not up to the level of Season Five (“Cripple Fight,” “Scott Tenorman Must Die”, “The Super Best Friends”) or Season Six (“Simpsons Already Did It,” “Red Hot Catholic Love,” “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers,” and “Free Hat.”) this season does have its moments including allowing Cartman to be Cartman – in all his glory.

The series hits its stride when it does two things: satirizes something America (or the world) is taking too seriously and allows Cartman to be the evil little prick he is.  This season does a little of both. 

The set starts out with a remake of the visitor episode that involves a taco that craps ice-cream.  Swing, and a miss.  Then there’s the Christopher Reeve episode that includes cripple gangs, attacks Reeve for his support of stem cell research, and jokes about the issue by turning stem cell research into sucking fetus cells from their necks for super powers.  Wow, swing and a big miss for the show here as all good taste is thrown out the window and more than a little macabre now after Reeves death. Let’s just say the beginning of Seventh Season is pretty crappy.

Then comes Cartman trying to kill Kyle with a wiffle bat and then the 100th episode of the series “I’m A Little Bit Country” where the town argues over how the founding fathers would view the war in Iraq and now (finally) we’ve got it going.  Other really good episodes involve two Jennifer Lopez’s (the real one and the one on Cartman’s hand – guess which one Ben Affleck and the music studio prefer), Cartman doing whatever it takes to go to “Casa Bonita,” Cartman, Token, and Butters forming a Christian Rock group with songs like “Touch Me Jesus” and “Body of Christ” just to win a bet with Kyle (also includes a nice look at the “damage” Napster does to musicians), the retelling of Joseph Smith’s story – dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, and the show where the AARP invades the town.

Then again there’s also the episode attacking the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy popularity that’s quite good until it degenerates into crazy-wacko-funland-time that includes a plot to takeover the human race by the crab people.  Along the same lines is the episode involving the takeover of the town by the Native Americans (including a plan to give the town blankets infected with SARS).  Yeesh.

Season Seven is kind of a mixed bag.  In the end the whole season doesn’t quite work but there are enough individual episodes to keep you entertained throughout the set.  Still, when it’s funny it’s damn funny and well worth picking up.  Fans of the show won’t be disappointed to add this to their collection.

This Week

by Alan Rapp on March 20, 2006

in Film News & Trailers

So what’s out there this week.  Well today we’ll take a look at the films scheduled to be released this week including Spike Lee’s latest with Denzel Washington, yet another low budget horror movie and Larry the Cable Guy gets his own flick .  Read on…

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Here’s what’s scheduled to hit theaters this week.  Want to know more, just click on the title for film info including a full cast list.  Want a closer look, just click on the poster to watch the trailer.

Inside Man

Spike Lee makes a generic thriller?  The film pits criminal Clive Owen battling wits with cop Denzel Washington.  A botched heist leads to a hostage situation stand-off.  Seems like a rather odd choice for Lee going where many have gone before.  Still with Washington, Owen, Jodie Foster and RazorFine favorite Chiwetel Ejiofor this one’s got some definite star power (sadly though last year’s Flightplan did too).  Written by first timer Russel Gewitz.  Can Lee breathe life into such a well-worn tale?

Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector

The one-joke redneck blue collar comedian gets his own film playing a health inspector(?) teamed up with a rookie partner (Iris Bahr) trying to uncover the cause of food poisoning at all the top restaraunts while wooing (can a cable guy woo?) a waitress (Megyn Price).  Can he Get ‘er done?  Does anyone care?  Written by the team of Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer who gave us Max Keeble’s Big Move (yeah, I don’t remember it either).  For Arrested Development fans both David Cross and Tony Hale are credited with small parts in the film.

Stay Alive

Yet another horror flick stuck into the winter season.  This one is about teens who play an online video game known as “Stay Alive.”  As they play those who end up dying in the game start dying in real life (if you can refer to anything as retarded as this as real).  Of course they keep playing deciding the only way to survive is to beat the game and the evil Blood Countess.  Yeah.  Written and directed by William Brent Bell (Sparkle and Charm) and starring a cast of nameless teen actor monster food that you’d expect from a flick like this.

American Gun (opens Wednesday in limited release)

Intertwining tales of “how the proliferation of guns in America dramatically affect and shape the very day lives of its citizens.”  The stories include a gun shop owner (Donald Sutherland) and his granddaughter (Linda Cardellini), a single mother (Marcia Gay Harden) with a troubled son (Christopher Marquette), a high school principal (Forest Whitaker) and an A-student (Arlen Escarpeta).  Written and directed by first-timer Aric Avelino.  Early comparisons to recent Academy Award Winner Crash and early reviews have been just as divisive. 

l’enfant (Los Angeles and New York only)

Blegian film in French and presented with Enlish subtitles about theives and new parents living off the bounty from their heists and decide to auction of the child as a new way to make some easy money.  Written and directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne the film won the Golden Palm at Cannes but the film is getting a very narrow US release (Los Angeles and New York only).  We’ll have to see how it does and if it can survive long enough to make the art house circuit across the country.

Lonesome Jim (New York only)

Steve Buscemi (yes, that Steve Buscemi) steps behind the camera for this one to direct the story of Jim (Casey Affleck) a down on his luck twenty-eight year-old who leaves New York and moves back home to Indiana to live with his dysfunctional family and begins a relationship with a local woman (Liv Tyler) and her son.  Sounds like it could be a little too sappy, but Buscemi’s odd touches might make this worth seeing (for example the cast list includes a character named Evil).  As a side note Tyler sure seems to love those Affleck boys (she played the love interest to Ben in both Armageddon and Jersey Girl).

The Winners Are

by December Lambeth on March 19, 2006

in Uncategorized

Razorfine wants to thank you all for entering our contest. We reached our hand into the drawing bag and came out with Kevin Mayse and Courtney. Please shoot December an email with your address so we can get your prizes out.

Be sure to check back often, you never know when there maybe another contest.

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