Category Archives: Recommendations

Reviews, praise, or otherwise promoted.

Flickr Rules To The Power Of Two

I’ve waxed
ecstatic previously
about how much Flickr rules. It’s ridiculously simple to use, it has nice social software functionality, it’s syndicated up the wazoo, etc etc etc.

Tonight, as the saying goes, Flickr has passed rad and cruised straight into awesome.
Everyone who purchased pro accounts at some point in the past n months
(and there are a lot of us) just received:

– Double length pro accounts (mine won’t expire now until the end of 2006)
– Double the monthly upload capacity (1 GB -> 2 GB)
– Two free Pro accounts to give to friends.

Not only that, but people with free accounts have had their monthly upload capacity doubled as well, from 10 to 20 MB, and their storable photos doubles (100 => 200).

And not only that, but Pro accounts are now just $24.95 a year. Talk about a steal!

That’s some good stuff. Check out more on the FlickrBlog, including the best pictoral pun in ages.

Four Pack Of Mashups

I’m frequently scouring the net for the latest and greatest in mashups and bootlegs, and this week I’ve struck pure gold with four fantastic tracks. So, to share the love, here’s some recommendations:

WHO: [Boppledanger](http://shocker.club.fr/music.html)
WHAT: Requiem For An Usher
HOW: Usher’s *Yeah!* crossed with Clint Mansell’s *Summer Overture*. That’s right. The theme from *Requiem For A Dream*.
WHY: Sure, *Yeah!* had a nice hook of an instrumental before, but it’s 10x better as a power ballad.

WHO: [DJ Earworm](http://www.djearworm.com/)
WHAT: [Policy Of Sweet Dreams](http://www.djearworm.lunarpages.com/Policy_of_Sweet_Dreams_256.mp3)
HOW: Eurythmic’s *Sweet Dreams* blended into Depeche Mode’s *Policy Of Truth*
WHY: You take two great synthpop hits of the 80’s like this, and you have to wonder why you never realized why they fit together so well before.

WHO: [Party Ben](http://www.partyben.com/)
WHAT: [(Triple) Freak Me Out](http://www.partyben.com/PartyBen-ChicFranzieBoys.mp3)
HOW: It’s a three way dance: Chic’s *Good Times* plus The Beasties’ *Triple Trouble* plus Franz Ferdinand’s *Take Me Out*
WHY: *Good Times* is one of the classics of disco; the first song sampled into hip-hop (see: Rapper’s Delight). *Triple Trouble* is the most mashed Beasties song in the last year, and who can blame the scene: it’s a good old-school style Beasties rap. And *Take Me Out* needs no explanation. Ain’t no party like a Party Ben party.

WHO: [Lionel Vinyl](http://lionel.elektrobank.net/index.html)
WHAT: Danger! Hard Lola
HOW: Another threesome: Shapeshifter’s *Lola’s Theme* vs. Busta Rhymes’ *Dangerous* vs. Daft Punk’s *Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger*
WHY: Because this is the best one of the four. I am a sucker for Busta Rhymes in the proper context. I am an even bigger sucker for modern disco house. And I like Daft Punk just fine. This is seven minutes and thirty seconds of audio sex.

Oldboy

Katie and I had a chance to see a private pre-screening of [Old Boy](http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0364569/ “IMDB listing”) tonight, thanks to our lovely friends at [Gothamist](http://www.gothamist.com/).

Short synopsis before I get going: Oh Dae-Su, a man with a reputation for getting drunk and womanizing, is mysteriously imprisoned in a fake hotel room for 15 years, living on fried dumplings and TV only. After the 15 years are up, he finds himself awake on a roof. He is given fancy clothes, a cell, and money. But what his captor has waiting for him after his release – while Oh Dae-Su plots his revenge – may be far worse than his imprisonment.

I can’t remember the last time I came out of a movie feeling so emotionally drained – it’s like my soul got in a fight with the movie and lost.

The acting was fantastic for all the key characters, especially the two leads. Choi Min-sik, who plays Oh Dae-su, has *huge* range, and the acting muscle he shows in the last 20 minutes leaves me unable to even find one person in US cinema to compare him to. Yu Ji-Tae, playing his captor/tormentor, comes off as genuinely evil without descending into camp to get the point across.

Somewhere in here is the single best fight scene I’ve ever witnessed that wasn’t boosted by special effects. There’s also some well-timed black humor, more than sufficient character development, and more than enough twists and turns that you’ll get slack-jawed at least once. (And in the good-for-Dan department, there weren’t enough plot holes to make me deconstruct the whole thing after the fact.)

People who have been reading my blog for long enough know I don’t write a lot of movie reviews. I save the indivudual movie posts for one of two cases – a [really good movie](http://vjarmy.com/archives/2004/09/aim_for_the_hea.php), or a [really poor movie](http://vjarmy.com/archives/2003/09/the_occasional.php). Oldboy completely falls on the side of the good movies, and until further notice is my Favorite Movie Of 2005.

Check out [the trailer](http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/old_boy.html), and be sure to catch it when it opens in the immediate future.

Review: Spamalot

Last night, Katie and I joined my parents at the fourth NYC preview showing of Spamalot, “a new musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail'”, at the Shubert Theatre. This is my best attempt as a full-fledged review.

There are light spoilers below, so don’t read on if you want to be completely surprised when you see the show.


General Information

The story runs very much parallel to that of the movie, although with a fair number of changes. The introduction of the knights are consolidated into characters from other bits, thus streamlining the first act. There are a number of bits removed from the story just because it’d be difficult to cram it all in *and* add musical numbers – more on this later. Finally, as there is a large amount of riffing off musicals in general, there is a subplot involving…well, Broadway.

Tim Curry plays King Arthur; David Hyde Pierce takes on the role of Sir Robin and some ancillary characters; Hank Azaria (in his Broadway debut) plays Sir Lancelot, Tim the Enchanter, the primary Knight of Ni, and the French Taunter. There are five other primary cast members, most noticably the newly-added Lady Of The Lake, played by Sara Ramirez. There are sixteen ensemble members in a variety of roles. The only Python member actually used in the musical is John Cleese, who provides the voice of God (admittedly, not live).

The show runs just over two hours, including a fifteen minute intermission. Tickets are currently ranging from $35 (back of the upper balcony) to over $100 for orchestra.


Repeating Material – The Purist Problem

There are very few people who only merely like Monty Python. Most every fan can quote excessively from the shows and/or the movies. A large number of the purists will, by this point in their lives, know Holy Grail by heart and frequently bother their co-workers by quoting it at great lengths. I am a moderate purist, able to riff on most sketches and movies and even some of the CD material. I feel I have a good grounding in Python.

A lot of purists will be confused by this show, because a number of very famous bits from the movie have been cut out. Here’s a quick breakdown:

In The Musical: The Opening Credits (see next section), You’ve Just Got Two Coconuts, The Monks With Boards, Bring Out Your Dead, Dennis the Peasant, The Historian, Camelot, A Blessing From The Lord, The French Castle / Wooden Rabbit, Sir Robin and his Minstrels, The Black Knight, The Knights Who Say Ni, Prince Herbert, Tim The Enchanter/The Killer Rabbit

Not In The Musical: She’s A Witch, The Three Headed Knight, The Castle Anthrax, The Old Man In Scene 12, The Bridge Of Death, The Great Black Beast Of Aaauugh, The Castle Aaaagh

Note that a handful of those bits listed as still being in the musical have been modified from what you remember, especially Camelot and Prince Herbert, but also The Knights Who Say Ni, The French Castle, and much of Sir Robin’s material.

Of also questionable effect to the purists is that a number of portions of other Python bits have been inserted into the musical. There are a variety of references to The Parrot Sketch, Silly Elections, The Fish Slapping Dance, The Lumberjack Song, and plenty of others I’ve probably forgotten by now. And strangest of all, Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life makes not only an appearance but also gets a karaoke-sing-along reprise. (Having never really been a fan of the original song, I don’t think it’s a great choice here, but all the other references made me snicker at the least.

So the issue is this – if you are a hardcore Python nerd, you will likely hate this show, as many things you know and love have been changed or left on the cutting board floor. Your enjoyment of this show may hinge on one or two bits being exactly the way you remember them, or at least being in the show – please use the guide above and save yourself potential pain if you’re the sort of person I’ve been describing. Personally, I thought the changes were fine.

If you’re not familiar with Holy Grail or haven’t seen it in a while, there’s a good chance you will greatly enjoy the content of the show.

One final issue: There’s a lot of audience cheering in recognition of certain bits.


About Finland

This is a spoiler: There’s a great fakeout at the beginning where the cast misheard “England” as “Finland” and the opening scene is a full Finnish fish-slapping song (complete with appropriate dance), followed by some singing from Finland, Finland, Finland. There’s also a good four pages in the playbill written by Michael Palin about the show you’re seeing – “Dik Od Triaanenen Fol (Finns Ain’t What They Used To Be)”. In fact, there’s a lot of comedy scattered around the playbill – read it cover to cover.


The Cast

When I had originally heard the casting, I was strangely curious, as I couldn’t picture David Hyde Pierce fitting in with Tim Curry or Hank Azaria to mesh into a Python show. But as it turns out, the three of them are perfectly cast, and not because they’re all fine actors. The reason this show clicks so well is that each adapts into the roles of existing Python players seemlessly. Tim Curry perfectly captures the slightly arrogent royality that Graham Chapman played in the movie. David Hyde Pierce picked up the Eric Idle portions, and his mannerisms are spot on. Hank Azaria sort of draws a double duty, getting both Michael Palin and John Cleese’s parts, and as a guy with a huge range of voice talent, he swings through it all perfectly.

In fact, I’m going to throw an extra shout out to Hank Azaria, because for someone who’s entirely new to Broadway as of this show, he could’ve fooled anyone in the audience. He truly looked like this was old hat, and seemed to really be enjoying himself. He even threw in a “glaiven” at one point, much to the delight of the Simpsons fans. I will admit that occasionally the voices sounded a bit close to Moe, but that’s not the end of the world.

Azaria isn’t the only one in the cast who seemed to be enjoying himself – Tim Curry looked very close to breaking into laughter at least three times during the show, and David Hyde Pierce’s portions involved a heavy bout of hamming it up. So again, I have no quarrel with the three leads.

Another huge bout of respect goes to the one new part for the show – the Lady Of The Lake, played by Sara Ramirez. The woman has a simply amazing vocal range, great comedic timing, and fit in perfectly for her part. Cheers, huge cheers to Sara.

The ensemble cast all fit in well; the choreography was consistent, the voices were in key, and they flew from one scene to another without trouble.


The New Material

There are fifteen new songs for the show; one of them is a much revamped version of “Knights Of The Round Table”. There are also four reprises. A few of the songs are on the short side, but they all work well.
Three of the songs tie into a strong subplot that mocks the Broadway formula; “The Song That Goes Like This” mocks the Andrew Lloyd Webber-esqe sweeping balads that are staples of far too many musicals. Later, the Lady Of The Lake tells King Arthur that to find the grail, he’ll have to open a musical on Broadway. This is followed by the funniest number, “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway” has Sir Robin (DHP) singing to King Arthur about how there is no way they can succeed on Broadway without any Jews. The song spirals out of control with more and more Jewish imagery – jewish dancing girls give way to a jewish line dance which gives way to a giant lit-up Star of David that comes from the top of the stage. I’m not kidding. Finally, Lady Of The Lake makes her return in Act Two with “The Diva’s Lament”, where she loudly complains that she’s been offstage for far too long and inquires where her part went.

This subplot can be a little too inside-jokey at times (I don’t follow a lot of Broadway shows, so there were musical references I missed), but is routinely hilarious and doesn’t falter.

The Prince Herbert sequence has been radically changed with a massive twist which leads to a song and dance number; I refuse to spoil this. Trust me, if you see the show, the sudden change in direction of the scene will have you laughing pretty hard.


Summary

If you’re the sort of person who liked Avenue Q, who digs Python, or just enjoys some Broadway stylings that doesn’t take itself even close to seriously, go see Spamalot. It’s a good time for all.

How Would The Lone Ranger Handle This?

There’s something about October in New York City that seems to make it particularly likely there’s an event you want to go to. Last year, we hit Paul Van Dyk, Neal Stephenson, John Lithgow, and Jamie Oliver.

As a reminder: tomorrow continues the juggernaut of October 2004, as Ricky Gervais invades the holiest of museums, the Museum Of Television And Radio. There’ll be a screening of The Office (Christmas) Special, and then a “conversation” with Ricky directly thereafter. While I doubt the entire event is going to be quite on the insanity level of the Anchorman premiere, it should be a fantastic time.
Making it potentially even more fantastic is something that I may get to meet a blogger I admire very much right beforehand; I’ll save that for another post, though.

As usual with MTR functions, I’ve posted event details on upcoming.org, just in case you’re in NYC and interested and I haven’t talked your ear off about this already and you missed the last post about it. Expect a long-winded starstruck post tomorrow night!

I Heart The MTR

In my mailbox yesterday:

On the back:

Please Note: It has come to our attention that Ron Burgundy does not exist, but is in fact a character portrayed by one Will Ferrell, late of Saturday Night Live and the feature films Elf and Old School. Bill Kurtis does exist, however; the documentary producer, host, and news anchor will interview Mr. Ferrell, who will appear in character as Ron Burgundy.

All of this confusion will be resolved by the new film Anchorman, a comedy directed by Adam McKay and costarring Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Fred Willard, which will be screened in its entirety at this event. Anchorman, produced by Judd apatow (Freaks and Geeks) and Shauna Robertson, excutive produced by David O. Russell, and coproduced by David Householter, will be released nationwide on July 9.

We apologize for any inconvenience or emotional distress caused by the above.

Tickets for members were $20 – and given that includes seeing the movie before release, plus watching Ron Burgundy LIVE, I think that’s a fantastic deal. It’s also two days before the next Tinkle Show, which means that’s going to be a hell of a week.

QQQ

Last weekend was quite busy in terms of arts consumption. Having taken in one movie, one broadway show, and one concert – all excellent in their own ways – I felt stuffed and incapable of ingesting more culture into my already full content-hole. But behold, it’s all digested and now ready to come shooting back out of me in the form of reviews.

The movie? Quentin’s latest, Kill Bill Volume 2. After being mildly disappointed with the first, I came into the second with my expectations lower. This quickly became needless because the movie destroyed my notions of what QT could achieve and constructed new, loftier expectations for all future movies. The only bad thing I can find to say about this movie is that some of the scenes ran long. Outside of that, it was gravy. Particularly standout was Michael Madsen’s performance as Budd, both absofuckinglutely brilliant and nuianced. Go seee it now, and if you skipped the first part, rent (don’t buy) the DVD first so you aren’t lost.

The show? Avenue Q, which we were fortunate enough to see thanks to my parents. The phrase “Sesame Street On Crack” seemed apt after we left; it was brilliant and hilarious and still somehow touching. Standout songs include “What Do You Do With A BA In English / It Sucks To Be Me”, “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist”, and “Schadenfreude”. John Tartaglia and Stephanie D’Abruzzo were both excellent in every role they handled. If you ever come to the city on tourism and want to go to a show, this is the one to see.

The concert? The previously mentioned causing-the-shitting-of-bricks Quannum World Tour. Now, I’ll come right out and say this wasn’t as fantastic as I had hoped. The problems with the show were, in my eyes, represented in three seperate “artists”. DJ D-Sharp, while amusing at first, mugged too much and merely added annoyance to the show. The Lifesavas Movement, while decent, were in the end forgettable, and since they were out almost as much as anyone else, it deadened parts of the show. Finally, Gift Of Gab (on his own or as half of Blackalicious) is certainly a gifted rapper, but his delivery was crap live. There were times when he just didn’t seem to be paying attention to the beat and was just spitting the lyrics out as fast as possible.

So what saved the show? Obviously, part of it was DJ Shadow. Shadow’s set was nothing to write home about, as it was good but short. The primary reason he brought it all together for me is because he’s so goddamned focused. Even with 5 MCs and 2 other DJs sharing the stage, he’s got his head to the vinyl, very serious, never mugging for the crowd. He is the eye of the hurricane. (Also, his use of a dvd turntable – surely to be widespread by next year – was a huge bonus.)

But equally stunning was Lyrics Born. Not only did he have the crowd eating out of his hand most of the night, but his vocal range and talent is astounding. I’m going to actively seek out his solo cd because he is just incredible. Do yourself a favor – go to the Quannum website, flip through the records at the bottom of the page till you find the I Changed My Mind single, and play the album version. It’s one of the best hip-hop songs I’ve ever heard.

This weekend, Katie is back in Maryland, so I’m all alone for a few days. I’m planning on playing Beatmania to-de-excess, hitting up the MTR again to finish the programs from last week, and maybe getting some UT2k4 in. We will see.

Movie Review: Death Race 2000

(Note: In an effort to do more content, anything vagually interesting I
see/hear/play/go to will now get a review. I know you’re excited.)

Death Race 2000 (1975) stars David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. It
was made on a $300,000 budget. The concept is that in the year 2000,
there is a transcontinental race where points are awarded for the more
pedestrians you kill.

It sounds bad because it is. It was terrible. From the indescribable
soundtrack, to the cheesy lines (“A lot of people think you’re cute, but
I just think you’re a big baked potato.”), to the numerous continuity
errors, to the traps straight out of a Road Runner cartoon, this movie
is terrible.

It’s also the funniest movie I’ve seen in the past year. I almost pissed
myself with laughter. Big thumbs up for nothing more than its pure
cheesiness.

Hmm, I think it’s time to make a new logo…