10/16/10

Zombie Gore a Bore in Shaun of the Dead


Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Directed by Edgar Wright

British, 99 mins, R (zombie gore, drool, guts, and violence)

*

I’m officially bored with zombies. I don’t want to read books about zombies and Jane Austen, don’t need any video games that allow me to put them out of commission, and sure as hell don’t want to see any more movies about them. In fact, I’d rather take a shovel to the head—apparently a good way to killing zombies—than sit through a second showing of Shaun of the Dead.


Against my better judgment, I allowed myself to be seduced into watching this lame “comedy.” I had been assured by numerous people that it was a “cult classic,” was “screamingly funny,” and a film “you’ve got to see.” When I looked it up I found out that it took in a mere $4 million at the box office. After seeing it I can assure you, gentle readers, that this has nothing to do with the fact that it’s an English film or that an independent studio made it. It has everything to do with the fact that it’s lame, shoddily made, and singularly devoid of either horror or humor. I know it's Halloween season and that this film looks tempting as a Netflix offering, but you be better off gorging yourself on candy corn than ingesting this bit of zombie porn.


Shaun is British comedian Simon Pegg, who co-wrote this mess. He plays a loser among losers—a guy in a dead end job who can’t even hold onto his vacuous girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). Shaun shares a flat with Ed (Nick Frost), a fat, unemployed, video-game-playing slob and the only man in London who’s a bigger loser than he. Shaun is so clueless, in fact, that it takes him an entire day to notice that most of London has turned into flesh-eating zombies. Hah, hah—that’s one of the funny jokes in the film. So too is Shaun’s effort to rescue Liz, his mother, his despicable father-in-law (Bill Nighy—the best thing in the film), and a small circle of friends by leading them to a supposed safe refuge in a down-market pub. Of course! Where else would you hole up until a zombie craze died down? As you would expect—and there’s nothing in this fill-in-the-clich├ęs-script that you wouldn’t expect—things go very wrong, though Shaun’s impulsive-but-decisive leadership helps him win the gal in the end.


Sorry if I’ve given too much away, but if I dissuade you from renting this film…well… let’s just say that Nobel Prizes have been given for less. The movie is Jim Carrey-like in its broad humor, Jackass-like in its crudity, and as cheesy as Borat. This is definitely not a film you “need” to see. It’s a yawner not a yowler, and it could only be considered a “classic” by those brain-damaged enough to qualify as zombies. As for the latter, enough already; zombies have been so overdone that it’s time to drop the “done” and just let zombies be “over.”

10/14/10

Shannon Heaton Flute Album Fits Many Moods


SHANNON HEATON
The Blue Dress

Eatsrecords 009
****

How do you like your Irish flute music? Cool and contemplative, or hot and jaunty? Something that makes you wistful, or something that makes you boogie? Tunes you can turn down low for tasteful background music, or ones you can crank and pretend you’re a competitive step dancer? Shannon Heaton’s got you covered. Her delightful twelve-track solo flute album puts one in mind of Matt Molloy projects for its blend of precision and passion. Like most “solo” projects, Heaton enlists some help—in her case, guests include husband Matt on stringed instruments and Maeve Gilchrist on harp—but she is indeed front and center in ways she’s generally not when performing as a duo or in an ensemble. She showcases her considerable wares on sets of reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, and airs. If you want to get a quick sense of the album’s many moods, cue tracks three and four. The first is the album’s eponymous tune—it’s the only waltz on the album is as delicate as lace. It’s followed by the bouncy “Dennis Watson’s” set of reels that command great breath control to keep pace with Paddy League’s crisp bodhran thumps. Listen for the skillful transition about 2:30 in and you’ll also appreciate Heaton’s craft. And if you think you know what polkas are all about, check out “99 High;” it sounds like Irish music entangled in a tango. This album is a pure delight. And, yes, there really is a blue dress, which she models on the cover in glorious contrast to her red mane. I know, an Irish-American woman with red hair—who could imagine?

Click here for a clip of Shannon and Matt Heaton in concert.

10/12/10

Peter Rowan Legacy a Timeless Treasure


PETER ROWAN BLUEGRASS BAND

Legacy

Compass 7-45432

****

Peter Rowan is about as close as one can get to the origins of bluegrass. He showed up in Nashville in 1965 as a fresh-faced lad of 23 and became the lead vocalist in founder Bill Monroe’s band. He also apprenticed himself to Monroe, learned a few things abut flat-picking, and embarked on a career that did his mentor proud. Rowan’s also played folk music, some psychedelic electric guitar, Tex-Mex, and a few other things, but his stock-and-trade has always been Appalachian music, especially mountain gospel. Autumn is a good time to feel spiritual about the great outdoors and a person could do worse than to load Legacy on the old MP3 player, head for the colorful groves, and harmonize to “God’s Own Child” and “Let Me Walk Lord By Your Side.” Like all the best bluegrass, though, there’s lot of pain to balance the wholesomeness. “Jailer, Jailer” is a bad boy’s plea that we might as well “throw away the key” because reform ain’t in the offing, “The Family Demon” reminds us that not all families are the Waltons, and “Turn the Other Cheek” that there are some things forgiveness won’t solve. Rowan’s voice is dry as dust, but with emotive catches. A song like “So Good” could have easily fit in the repertoire of the Jerry Garcia’s Old and in the Wayd—an outfit with which Rowan logged some time. This is a fine, fine album and Rowan enlists topnotch talent to help him out: Jody Steicher, Keith Little, Paul Knight and guests as luminous as Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, and Tim O’Brien. Bow get yourself into the hills and contemplate your place in the Grand Order.

10/10/10

Don't Tell Me How I Must Vote

I'm voting for Jill and shame on you for trying to talk me out of it!

It was not a pleasant encounter. We were walking by the town courthouse today when we were accosted—right word—by someone we know who asked us if we intended to vote for the reelection of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Nope. We intend to vote for someone we like for a change—Green Party candidate Jill Stein. The questioner turned inquisitor and became livid and indignant. At one point she literally yelled at us, “This isn’t the primary anymore. You can’t vote for who you want. If you intend to vote for Jill Stein you should just go ahead and vote for [Republican candidate] Charlie Baker.” Phoenix walked away and I should have done likewise, but I couldn’t resist a parting shot: “I’d shoot myself before I voted for an idiot like Baker, but I’m done voting for Democrats I can’t stand. For once I intend to vote for the person who shares my values, and until more of us have the courage to do so, we’re not going to change society.”


The more I considered the encounter, the angrier it made me. Lets forget the specifics of Massachusetts politics and dissect this a different way. I “can’t” vote for the candidate I “want?” Excuse me! As Americans we have the right to debate politics, but when someone starts telling us how we must vote, that person has crossed more than a civility line. It is our fundamental right to exercise our franchise as we see fit. One may me engage me in disputation, but when this becomes coercion and harassment, my rights are being trampled. Frankly, this encounter destroyed even the slightest thought I entertained of voting for Patrick.


I have a thick skin and I’ll get over my anger. The Democratic Party might not. Encapsulated in the unpleasantry is a deeper problem: the Democratic strategy of late has been to define itself by way of negation. One should cast a vote for something and if all you have for me is “We’re not the Other Guy,” count me out. I’m a left progressive and the Democratic Party has systematically ignored me, my values, and my causes. What’s the Other Guy going to do to me that that the Dems haven’t already done? They remind me of the moocher who pretends to be your friend—at some point you get sick of him and never again invite him to your parties.


I’m also tired of people telling me that the people whose values I share can’t win so I must settle for the lesser of two evils. That’s gutless garbage. I’ve seen good people win who didn’t have a D or an R after their name. Check out what Burlington, Vermont did (and keeps on doing). It didn’t happen overnight, but it can only happen when we say “no” to those who betray us daily and seek to befriend us when it's convenient. I won’t speak for Phoenix, but I’m voting for Jill Stein. If the polls are correct, she’ll get about 4% of the vote. It’s very possible that Deval Patrick will lose by 2% or less. If that happens, I will feel not the slightest pang of guilt—he gave me no positive reason to vote for him.