Friday, April 25, 2008

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm still re-reading Gilead. The main character and I both enjoy empty sanctuaries. He talks about wandering to his church before dawn just to watch the room light up with the first rays of the sun. I prefer how it looks in the evening when the sun is setting myself. But maybe I've just never tried it at dawn before, and don't have any basis for comparison. That's really all I have to write about that this week.

We watched Hot Fuzz this week, from the same guys who brought us
Shaun of the Dead. Simon Pegg stars as an overachieving London police officer who is transferred to a sleepy country village after his superiors decide that he's showing up the rest of the station. He's incredibly frustrated by his new assignment: his colleagues are lazy and would rather look the other way, and the town in general has seemingly deluded itself into thinking that nothing bad ever happens there, even when it does. The film is a tongue-in-cheek send-up of cop action movies much the same way Scream was of horror movies: at one point after Pegg defeats a big henchman, his partner asks him, "Did you say something smart afterwards?" Fuzz features the same quick camera shots and seamless transitions as Shaun, which are one of my favorite things about their movies. It's funny, clever, a little gory, and has Timothy Dalton in it. Thumbs up.

We also watched The Number 23 this week, starring Jim Carrey as a dogcatcher who starts reading a detective novel that he swears mirrors his own life. The story he reads also causes him to develop an obsession with the number 23: adding the numbers of famous dates, numerical codes with letters and names, how many pairs of shoes his wife owns (yeah...seriously). The plot payoff and the 23 stuff is based on a ridiculous amount of coincidence and contrivance and required more of a suspension of disbelief than I was willing to give. Besides that, Carrey does better at dramatic roles that have a bit of goofiness built in (
Man on the Moon, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). It seemed like he couldn't avoid bringing some goofiness to this one, whether the part called for it or not. It didn't help that the movie as a whole was pretty goofy, besides.

We also watched Sweeney Todd this week (hooray for paternity leave), the adapted musical starring Johnny Depp as a barber looking for revenge on a judge for wrongfully imprisoning him and trying to steal his family. This is a Tim Burton film, and that's easy enough to tell: dark, twisted characters set against dull grey backdrops. The music is by Stephen Sondheim, who is fully capable of setting a macabre mood of his own, even without Burton's help. Besides all that, we get Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Sacha Baron Cohen rounding out the cast, so we end up with this perfect storm of dreary, bloody, melodic insanity culminating in a message that revenge doesn't tend to work out for the best for anybody.

So this past week on Monday Night RAW, the WWE somehow managed to have all three presidential hopefuls send in taped messages for the fans, encouraging them to vote and somewhat awkwardly tying it into wrestling. We had Hillary ask everyone to call her "Hill-Rod" and assure Randy Orton that she wouldn't come after him for his title yet. We had Obama ask if you smell what Barack is cookin'. We had McCain say something about sending The Undertaker to Iraq to find bin Laden (once he gets to Iraq, he could start by looking in Pakistan). And then we had a fake Hillary wrestle a fake Obama, the very thought of which was so torturous that I left the room. It was a nice gesture for all three to address the fans, as the WWE has encouraged voter registration for years. But whenever they go for the impersonator-comedy stuff, it pretty much tends to suck.

A few weeks ago, I picked up Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Radio City Music Hall. I tend to stay away from full DMB live discs, and there have been a rash of them the past few years...what I'd really like is a new studio album. Don't get me wrong, live Dave is awesome and is his and the band's real M.O. (an M.O. we are scheduled to enjoy in late July). Anyway, I particularly love Dave's stuff with just Reynolds, where he plays stripped-down acoustic versions of his songs. Radio City is another fine outing from them, and this one includes "The Maker," one of my favorite covers.

Around the web, here's an amazing essay from RealLivePreacher about death and love.