Wednesday, February 29, 2012

First Impressions of Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” – Track #9 – “Rocky Ground” - Stream this wonderful Gospel-flavored tune at NPR

Photo Credit: Telegraph UK

To hype the March 6th release of his new album, Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen is releasing each of the record’s eleven tracks online, one per day, streaming for free at various music websites.  I’ll be giving you my first impressions – not reviews, mind you, as I’m not comfortable reviewing anything without hearing the full album – of each track as they are streamed.  Today, we enter the home stretch with track #9, the highly spiritual “Rocky Ground” – streaming for free today at NPR – which in my interpretation is the first piece of an extended, three-part finale to this incredible album.

Read my thoughts on “Rocky Ground” after the jump….

OSW Review: "Freaks and Geeks" - Episode 8 - "Girlfriends and Boyfriends" - 'Cause Freaks go all the way...


As explained in this post, I’m spending Wednesdays this Spring reviewing and analyzing a short-lived TV classic from 1999….Freaks and Geeks!  Today, we’re looking at Episode 8, “Girlfriends and Boyfriends,” a return to painful, funny, poignant form after last week’s unfortunate out-of-character hour.  (And like all my TV reviews, I expect the reader has seen the episode in question, so if you haven’t, go track down the DVDs and return here when you’ve caught up.  The review will be waiting patiently for you.)

Spoilers for Freaks and Geeks, Episode 8 – “Girlfriends and Boyfriends” – coming after the jump…

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Impressions of Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” – Track #8 – “You’ve Got It” - Listen online today at the Wall Street Journal!


To hype the March 6th release of his new album, Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen is releasing each of the record’s eleven tracks online, one per day, streaming for free at various music websites.  I’ll be giving you my first impressions – not reviews, mind you, as I’m not comfortable reviewing anything without hearing the full album – of each track as they are streamed.  Today, we’re looking at the eighth – and so far, most divisive – track, “You’ve Got It,” streaming for free all day today at the Wall Street Journal.  I love the song, but many are wondering how it belongs on this specific album.  Never fear - I have an incessantly detailed analytical response to explain it all!!!

Read my thoughts on “You’ve Got It” after the jump….

Monday, February 27, 2012

First Impressions of Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” – Track #7 – “Wrecking Ball” - Stream this new masterpiece online at Mashable.com

Bruce and Stevie playing at Giants Stadium, 2009

To hype the March 6th release of his new album, Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen is releasing each of the record’s eleven tracks online, one per day, streaming for free at various music websites.  I’ll be giving you my first impressions – not reviews, mind you, as I’m not comfortable reviewing anything without hearing the full album – of each track as they are streamed.  Today, we’re looking at the seventh and title track, “Wrecking Ball,” streaming online today at Mashable.com.  It’s been performed live for a few years now, but what does the studio version sound like, and how does it work in context on the album?    

Read my thoughts on “Wrecking Ball” after the jump….

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jonathan Lack's Live Blog of the 2012 Academy Awards - Join us for a night of casual cynicism and snark!


The time has come.  The time when viewers nationwide will sit in front of their TVs to watch a lot of beautiful people present a stream of predictable, boring awards.  For some reason, we put stock in this, and call it The Academy Awards.  Chances are you know my feelings on the Oscars as an institution at this point, but I'm not going to spoil their big day with a soapbox rant.  Tonight, I'm going to watch the Oscars and simply try to have fun with them, as most viewers do, and if you'd like some lightly critical snark to go along with your Academy Award activities this evening, then have your internet browser set to this very post at 5:30 PM Eastern/8:30 PM Pacific to follow along with my first ever LIVE BLOG of the 2012 Academy Awards!  As the telecast airs, you can read my up-to-the-minute commentary right here; I don't have any fancy live-blogging software, though, so just remember to refresh the page every few minutes to read my latest updates!

THE LIVE BLOG HAS ENDED.  Please continue after the jump to read the completed Live Blog of the Oscars.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Jonathan Lack's Official "2012 Academy Award Predictions!"


The whole idea behind “Oscar Pools” and predictions and contests confuses me.  The Oscars are ridiculously predictable.  They always have been.  Two years ago, I guessed all but two winners correctly.  It’s one of the reasons I hate the Oscars – they’re just boring when you know who’s going to win.  And 2012 is shaping up to be one of the most predictable years in Oscar history.  There’s no “race” this year.  All the big awards have already been determined, and the technical categories are still fairly easy calls.

But in the spirit of tradition, I’ve laid out all my Oscar Predictions, and I’ve explained my reasoning in case you want to use my methods to win a bet.  If you’re going to watch this silly show, you might as well win some money.

And if you’d like to hear more of my Oscar thoughts, come back to this website on Sunday night, February 26th for my LIVE BLOG of the telecast.  I’ll be there from moment one until the very end, giving you my thoughts on every moment of the ceremony.  A fun time will be had by…somebody, I’m sure.

Discover my official Oscar Predictions after the jump….

First Impressions of Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” – Track #6 – “This Depression” - Listen to the new song online at "The Key" website!

Photo courtesy of "The Key," courtesy of the artist
To hype the March 6th release of his new album, Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen is releasing each of the record’s eleven tracks online, one per day, streaming for free at various music websites.  I’ll be giving you my first impressions – not reviews, mind you, as I’m not comfortable reviewing anything without hearing the full album – of each track as they are streamed.  Today, we’re looking at Track #6, “This Depression,” streaming for free all day at Philly’s “The Key” website.  The song isn’t necessarily a classic on its own, but it’s definitely a crucial part of the album as a whole.  There won’t be any songs streaming this weekend, so this track-by-track analysis will resume on Monday.

Read my thoughts on “This Depression” after the jump….

Thursday, February 23, 2012

First Impressions of Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” – Track #5 – “Death to My Hometown” - Stream this "Irish-laced rock hymn" for free at Paste Magazine!

Courtesy Paste Magazine, hosts of today's song

To hype the March 6th release of his new album, Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen is releasing each of the record’s eleven tracks online, one per day, streaming for free at various music websites.  I’ll be giving you my first impressions – not reviews, mind you, as I’m not comfortable reviewing anything without hearing the full album – of each track as they are streamed.  Today, we’re looking at Track #5, “Death To My Hometown,” which is streaming online for free all day at Paste Magazine.  You’ll definitely want to give this one a listen.

Read my thoughts on “Death to My Hometown” after the jump….

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

OSW Review: "Freaks and Geeks" - Episode 7 - "Carded and Discarded" - You actually say the words 'Hot Dog?'


As explained in this post, I’m spending Wednesdays this Spring reviewing and analyzing a short-lived TV classic from 1999….Freaks and Geeks!  Today, we’re looking at Episode 7, “Carded and Discarded.”  Sometimes called the ‘second pilot,’ it’s the first and, hopefully, only flat episode of the series, so the first time in my Freaks and Geeks writing, I have negative things to say. 

Spoilers for Freaks and Geeks, Episode 7 – “Carded and Discarded” – after the jump…

First Impressions of Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” – Track #4 – “Jack of All Trades” - Listen Online for Free at...a foreign website?


To hype the March 6th release of his new album, Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen is releasing each of the record’s eleven tracks online, one per day, streaming for free at various music websites.  I’ll be giving you my first impressions – not reviews, mind you, as I’m not comfortable reviewing anything without hearing the full album – of each track as they are streamed.  Today, we’re looking at Track #4, “Jack of All Trades,” which is streaming for free all day exclusively at….a foreign website.  Hmm.  Nothing against them, I'm sure it's a great website, but....it's an interesting choice.  Anyway, it’s another great song, different than what’s come before, but a welcome change of pace.   

Read my thoughts on “Jack of All Trades” after the jump….

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

First Impressions of Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” – Track #3 – “Shackled and Drawn” - Stream the new song online at Rolling Stone!

Source: Rolling Stone

To hype the March 6th release of his new album, Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen is releasing each of the record’s eleven tracks online, one per day, streaming for free at various music websites.  I’ll be giving you my first impressions – not reviews, mind you, as I’m not comfortable reviewing anything without hearing the full album – of each track as they are streamed.  Today, we’re looking at Track #3, “Shackled and Drawn,” which is streaming for free exclusively at Rolling Stone.  I had some apprehensions about yesterday’s track, but none today…“Shackled and Drawn” is a new Springsteen classic, if you ask me. 

Read my thoughts on “Shackled and Drawn” after the jump….

Monday, February 20, 2012

First Impressions of Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” – Track #2 – “Easy Money” - Listen online today at Backstreets.com!


Now this is exciting: you all probably know by now that Bruce Springsteen is my favorite musician, and to hype the March 6th release of his new album, “Wrecking Ball,” the Boss is releasing each of the record’s eleven tracks online, one per day, streaming for free at various music websites.  We’ve already heard the first track, “We Take Care of Our Own,” as it was the album’s lead single.  You can read my thoughts on that song by clicking here.  Today, the wonderful Springsteen fansite Backstreets.com is hosting a stream of Track #2 – Easy Money, which you can listen to by clicking on this link.  Don’t go find the track on YouTube, don’t search for it in a torrent engine…go to Backstreets and listen to the track legally. 

After the jump, I’ll give you my first impressions on “Easy Money” – not a review, mind you, since I’m not hearing the song in context of the full album – but just my impressions, and I’ll do the same for the next nine days as we continue to hear “Wrecking Ball,” one piece at a time, around the interwebs.  Come back tomorrow for my thoughts on Track #3, “Shackled and Drawn,” which will be hosted by Rolling Stone’s website. 

Read my thoughts on “Easy Money” after the jump….

The Monday Musings #4 - A Week of Quentin Tarantino at CU Boulder gets me thinking about the wonders of 35mm film


I'm reviving a weekly feature I abandoned a long time ago - "The Monday Musings" - because I had some rambling thoughts on an issue near and dear to my heart - the downfall of 35mm film - that I wanted to share.  Don't take this as an indication that the "Monday Musings" is back, because in all likelihood...it isn't.  

But for now, enjoy the article, which answers the longstanding question of who my favorite director is, talks a little bit about the great film culture at the University of Colorado, and has some pretty pictures.  

Read my thinly-veiled love letter to 35mm film after the jump....

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Review: "The Secret World of Arrietty" is another heartfelt masterpiece from Studio Ghibli

Film Rating: A

“The Secret World of Arrietty” is an unspeakably beautiful little film, one that connects with the heart and mind on every possible level.  Having watched the films of Studio Ghibli since I was little, I should no longer be this astonished by the house that Miyazaki built, but I cannot help myself; they are the best at what they do, and each film they release is a revelation.  “Arrietty” is based on Mary Norton’s classic novel “The Borrowers,” but writer Hayao Miyazaki and director Hiromasa Yonebayashi make the material their own, infusing it with unparalleled visual creativity, wonderfully endearing characters, and a poignant, underlying sense of melancholy that speaks to a special, intangible place in the hearts of every viewer.  For children or for grown-ups, it is the best film playing in theatres this weekend, and I doubt it will be surpassed for some time.  Continue reading after the jump...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

OSW Review: "Freaks and Geeks" - Episode 6 - "I'm With the Band" - This is mission control, requesting permission to rock out...


As explained in this post, I’m spending Wednesdays this Spring reviewing and analyzing a short-lived TV classic from 1999….Freaks and Geeks!  Today, we’re looking at Episode 6, “I’m With the Band,” an amazing showcase for the incredible talents of Mr. Jason Segel.  (Like all my TV reviews, I expect the reader has seen the episode in question, so if you haven’t, go track down the DVDs and return here when you’ve caught up.  The review will be waiting patiently for you.)

Long, incessantly analytic Spoilers for Freaks and Geeks, Episode 6 – “I’m With the Band” – coming after the jump…

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day on the "Monthly Stuff" Podcast - Our Most HATED Movies of All Time!


To celebrate Valentine’s Day, here’s our best – and absolute angriest – podcast so far. 

Sean Chapman and I have talked about doing a “Worst Movies” podcast before, but we held off until now, and the choice was wise, because our discussion turned out to be a engaging, witty, cathartic, and pleasingly angry marathon session of repressed cinematic memories, one that is undoubtedly a fitting thematic complement to Valentine’s Day.  In particular, Sean ends the podcast with the best segment we’ve ever done, a 25-minute epic rant on the worst film he, or any other human, has ever had to sit through.  If you only listen to one part of the podcast, make it the last 25 minutes.



We also devoted some time at the beginning of the show to a BRAND NEW segment, a “Monthly Round-Up” of sorts, where we talk about recent news and developments in the news of movie, comics, and other generally geeky pursuits.  We discuss the brand new “Amazing Spider-Man” trailer, the “Avengers” Super-Bowl spot, the new DC Comics logo, and DC’s upcoming “Before Watchmen” series.  It’s another lively discussion, so don’t miss out! 

Enjoy!
TIME CHART:

Intro: 0:00 – 0:02
Movie Trailers, Comic Books, etc: 0:02 – 0:36
Our Most Hated Movies: 0:36 – 2:30
Sean’s Epic Rant on his most hated movie: 2:30 – 2:55

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" in 3D offers an appallingly ugly theatrical re-release

Film Rating: C–
3D Theatrical Presentation Rating: D

By now, there’s really no point in performing a critical appraisal of “The Phantom Menace.”  I could spend plenty of time listing all the things that bog it down, like the dull premise involving taxation, treaties, and blockades, or Jake Lloyd’s horrific ‘performance’ as Anakin, or the wonky, disjointed way in which the story progresses, or what minute significance the plot holds in the overall Star Wars saga, or the large number of wooden performances, or Jake Lloyd, or the terrible, rote dialogue, or the numbing overuse of CGI, or Jake Lloyd, or the staggering amount of camp characters, or the twenty-odd minute time-suck known as the “pod-race,” or Jake Lloyd, or….well, you get the picture.  We’re all intimately familiar with the film’s flaws by now, and you either like it or you don’t.  I wrote an extensive analysis of the film when it was released on Blu-Ray if you’d like to read more about the film itself, but that’s not going to be the focus of today’s article.

Instead, I’d like to discuss the film’s presentation for its theatrical 3D re-release, which is, in a word, appalling.  One of the few things “Phantom Menace” had going for it was its visuals, but the version audiences are seeing in theatres this weekend is one of the ugliest film images I have ever seen.  Even if “The Phantom Menace” is your favorite movie of all time, I can’t in good conscience recommend spending money on the battered, diluted, washed-out digital print Lucasfilm has created for this re-release.  The 3D itself is actually the least of the presentation’s problems.  For more detail, continue reading after the jump…

Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: "A Separation" is a timeless masterpiece about the emotions that guide us and tear us apart

Film Rating: A+

The opening scene of Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” is one long, still take, framed from the eyes of a judge as he listens to a divorcing couple, Simin and Nader.  Simin wishes to take her family and leave Iran, so that she may craft a better life for her daughter, Termeh, but Nader wants to stay so he can look after his ailing father, and is unwilling to give up custody of Termeh.  Simin has therefore filed for divorce, and in this one extended take, we watch as their eloquent arguments dissolve into a bitter, passionate, and above all, desperate verbal quarrel.  The camera is placed at the judge’s eye-line to put us in his mindset: we see two people, both correct in some ways, ignorant in others, but bursting with entirely valid emotions, and we are asked to come to a simple and fair conclusion.  Such an outcome is impossible, yet we are tasked with providing a solution. 

It is a hopeless, painful, and blindingly poignant introduction.  By framing the shot the way he does, Farhadi is, in essence, teaching us how to watch his movie.  For the rest of the film, we shall continue to observe good people struggling under morally and emotionally complex situations, situations where a million questions are asked and no answers can possibly be given.  Farhadi inhabits his film with wonderful characters, all of them as layered and nuanced as any human being alive today, yet from this first scene, I found myself sympathizing most strongly with the faceless judge and his colleagues, those troubled people tasked with boiling down the infinite complexities of the human condition into a simple binary resolution.  The viewer, at least, can walk away with ambiguity, debating and pondering the proceedings without having to make any decisions, but the judge gets no such solace. 

The world of cinema, meanwhile, gets a new masterpiece.  “A Separation” will, I believe, be cherished, discussed, and debated for as long as this art form remains relevant.  Continue reading after the jump...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Re-Reading J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" - Chapter Four: Over Hill and Under Hill – There is nothing like looking if you want to find something…


This December, director Peter Jackson is finally returning to Middle Earth with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and to celebrate, I’m revisiting J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved classic novel, “The Hobbit,” for the first time since second grade, and I’m inviting you, my readers, to follow along with me!  Every Tuesday and Thursday, I will be covering a new Chapter.  Today, we continue with Chapter Four: Over Hill and Under Hill.  I’ll give you some general impressions, a brief summary of the action, and then a long laundry-list of various specific thoughts about the story, the characters, Tolkien himself, and the upcoming film. 

Before we get started, I have a request: since the trailer for Jackson’s movie was mostly restricted to the first three chapters of the book, I’m running out of pictures.  I’ve included some images of my leather-bound copy of the novel today, but for the future, do any of my readers have suggestions for various images I could include?  What kinds of images would you like to see?  Would anybody like to paint a dramatic oil portrait of Bilbo Baggins?  If you have any ideas, sound off in the comments!

And remember, this is supposed to be an interactive adventure; if you’re reading along with me as we travel through the book, you should have Chapter Five prepared for Tuesday!  Today, let’s dive into Chapter Four: Over Hill and Under Hill…

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

OSW Review: "Freaks and Geeks" - Episode 5 - "Tests and Breasts" - I just need to use the quadratic formula...


As explained in this post, I’m spending Wednesdays this Spring reviewing and analyzing a short-lived TV classic from 1999….Freaks and Geeks!  Today, we’re looking at Episode 5, “Tests and Breasts,” a landmark episode – and my favorite hour so far – of the series.  (And like all my TV reviews, I expect the reader has seen the episode in question, so if you haven’t, go track down the DVDs and return here when you’ve caught up.  The review will be waiting patiently for you.)

Spoilers for Freaks and Geeks, Episode 5 – “Tests and Breasts” – coming after the jump…

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Re-Reading J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" - Chapter Three: A Short Rest – Most Astonishing Wonderful!


This December, director Peter Jackson is finally returning to Middle Earth with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and to celebrate, I’m revisiting J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved classic novel, “The Hobbit,” for the first time since second grade, and I’m inviting you, my readers, to follow along with me!  Every Tuesday and Thursday, I will be covering a new Chapter.  Today, we continue with Chapter Three: A Short Rest.  I’ll give you some general impressions, a brief summary of the action, and then a long laundry-list of various specific thoughts about the story, the characters, Tolkien himself, and the upcoming film. 

Read along with me if you wish, and have Chapter Four prepared for Thursday!  Today, let’s dive into Chapter Three: A Short Rest…

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review: "Chronicle" is a powerfully intimate superhero story, despite its found-footage limitations

Film Rating: B+

Josh Trank’s “Chronicle” is a darn good movie, a superhero flick that is fresh, thought-provoking, and hard-hitting, much better than its February release date would imply. 

But does the film work because of its ‘found-footage’ style, or in spite of it?  This is a hard question to answer.  “Chronicle” legitimizes this increasingly popular aesthetic in some respects, but it also underlines some of the inherent flaws that have always prevented the handheld POV technique from becoming a mature cinematic medium.  Stylistic siblings like “The Blair Witch Project” and “Cloverfield” failed creatively for two key reasons: first, the POV conceit prevents us from getting invested in the people behind or in front of the camera, because character arcs are nearly impossible to build in such a restrictive format, and second, there are constant logical frustrations of the “Why on Earth is [Person X] filming this particular moment?” variety.  “Chronicle” overcomes one of these two hurdles; not only does it build strong, identifiable characters, it gives one of them a tremendously powerful arc.  That, coupled with the creative ways Trank uses the handheld camera to stage innovative, thrilling action sequences, cements “Chronicle” as the absolute best use of the found-footage format so far.  Unfortunately, the film still can’t overcome the inherent logical gaps that come from keeping the camera on at all times, and hours after seeing the film, I’m still unsure if the POV gimmick was truly necessary.  Continue reading after the jump...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Re-Reading J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" - Chapter Two: Roast Mutton - Hoot twice like a barn owl...


This December, director Peter Jackson is finally returning to Middle Earth with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and to celebrate, I’m revisiting J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved classic novel, “The Hobbit,” for the first time since second grade, and I’m inviting you, my readers, to follow along with me!  Every Tuesday and Thursday, I will be covering a new Chapter.  We set out on this journey two days ago, and today, we continue with Chapter Two: Roast Mutton.  I’ll give you some general impressions, a brief summary of the action, and then a long laundry-list of various specific thoughts about the story, the characters, Tolkien himself, and the upcoming film. 

Read along with me if you wish, and have Chapter Three prepared for Tuesday!  Today, let’s dive into Chapter Two – Roast Mutton….

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

OSW Review: "Freaks and Geeks" - Episode 4 - "Kim Kelly is My Friend" - The busty succubus from hell...


As explained in this post, I’m spending Wednesdays this Spring reviewing and analyzing a short-lived TV classic from 1999….Freaks and Geeks!  Today, we’re looking at Episode 4, “Kim Kelly is My Friend,” an episode so awkward that NBC refused to air it in the show’s original run back in 1999.  (And like all my TV reviews, I expect the reader has seen the episode in question, so if you haven’t, go track down the DVDs and return here when you’ve caught up.  The review will be waiting patiently for you.)

Spoilers for Freaks and Geeks, Episode 4 – “Kim Kelly is My Friend” – coming after the jump…