Monthly Archives: January 2011
Let me take you back. Back to the spring of 1991, when I was a 14 year old kid (not yet pimply faced) who was well on his way to becoming immersed in the world of rock. I was listening to Zeppelin and The Beatles and The Doors and Neil Young. I was growing my hair long in the back (badly) and learning how to play bass guitar (not as badly). It was around this time that my good friend at the time, one Corey Diamond (a massive Rush fan who introduced me to the brilliance of one Neil Peart), called me on Monday night (it feels like it was a Monday), suggesting we go down to the Toronto Skydome and see the band Yes. I declined, he was persistent, and I declined again, even though the tickets were a cheap $10.70.
“Sorry, man,” I said. “My mom won’t let me go to concerts on a weeknight. Anyway, I only know ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’.”
“You don’t know ‘Roundabout’?” he responded with a degree of shock.
And so I skipped out on the Union tour, which featured 8 reunited members of the band that defines progressive rock. It is hands down my biggest concert regret of all time. Within weeks of the show I started buying up albums by Yes at a rapid pace. I hoped that the tour would make a second trip back to Toronto during the summer leg, but it wasn’t to be. And while I’ve seen Yes each time they’ve returned to the city ever since (arenas and amphitheaters and theaters), I never got to see Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe, Squire, White, Rabin and Kaye all together.
Now it’s 20 years later and after countless underground purchases and endless dreams, a live record of the Union Tour has finally been officially released in a gorgeous 2DVD/2 CD collection. It features that Shoreline show I’ve bought twice already. It’s got the bootleg Denver show, too. It also has the very first show of the Union tour (a bootleg performance, captured on shaky multi-cameras and hugely historical). We’re talking about nearly 7 hours of video material, along with a soundtrack to Shoreline concert. Throw in some backstage passes and a replica of the original tour program and you’ve pretty much got as good a package I’d ever hope for.
With a young family and a goal to curtail my spending on the non-essentials, you may wonder why I’d spend about $56 on material I mainly already had. Truth is, I’ve waited for something official from Yes’ Union tour all these years. It’s all well and good to find and buy bootlegs, but this is an official release. That means the band approved of it and they’ll get royalties. It seems worth the money. And the packaging really is well done.
I can’t believe it’s been 20 true summers since I fell in love Yes. It feels like only yesterday that I was sitting in a friends basement with my imitation Rickenbacker bass, playing ‘The Fish’ over and over. Now I’m sitting with my 7 month old daughter on my lap, singing along to ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’. But it’s the music that sticks with you that matters the most. Yes has stuck with me. And while I don’t think the Union Live collection is for everyone, if you’ve had an interest or you were there to see it all happen, this set is a keeper. If you’re interested, you can pick up this limited edition set here. With roughly 3000 reportedly sold already, it’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one waiting for this.
And to my old friend Corey, thanks for introducing me to the magic of prog rock. I blame you.
The news just broke that Henry Cavill will be playing Clark Kent and Superman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming reboot. I’m sure you join me in saying…”Who is Henry Cavill?”
A British actor, Cavill is best known for appearing in Stardust. At least, that’s what Wikipedia says. I’ve never heard of him, but then again, none of us knew who Brandon Routh was either.
Good luck Henry!
No Strings Attached was the surprise box office champion at the box office last weekend, and this weekend it takes on two films from entirely different genres. Jason Statham stars in the action-thriller The Mechanic while Anthony Hopkins stars in the horror film The Rite. This will prove to be a tight battle at the box office as I think the number one film will be grossing less than $15 million this weekend. In limited release, cinephiles will want to check out the film Biutiful to see Javier Bardem’s Academy Award nominated performance. Here’s how I see the weekend breaking down:
Jason Statham returns to the type of films he does best (not the he ever left, but in his last film The Expendables, he was not the headliner on it) in The Mechanic. The film follows a mechanic (which means assassin) dealing with the death of his mentor (played by Donald Sutherland). His mentor’s son tracks him down and wants to be trained as a mechanic as well, so he can exact revenge on his father’s murderer. Reluctantly, Statham takes the son under his wing and teaches him how to kill people. The plot sounds like most Statham offerings, but when the man is headlining a film, he can command a pretty steady opening weekend gross. When coming up with my prediction, I just used the films of Jason Statham where he was the main actor and the film had a theatre count above 2,000. Here’s how those films did on their opening weekend:
2002 – The Transporter – $9.1 million opening weekend
2005 – Transporter 2 – $16.5 million opening weekend
2006 – Crank – $10.4 million opening weekend
2007 – War – $9.8 million opening weekend
2008 – Death Race – $12.6 million opening weekend
2008 – Transporter 3 – $12 million opening weekend
2009 – Crank: High Voltage – $6.9 million opening weekend
Average Opening Weekend – $11 million
Excitement around The Mechanic is about what you would expect for a January release, which means there’s not very much momentum for the film. The film is getting mixed reviews, as Rotten Tomatoes has The Mechanic listed at 51% positive. The producers hope that word-of-mouth will be strong to help it in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, that will not help its opening weekend. Opening in 2,703 theatres, I’m predicting that The Mechanic will open in 2nd place with a gross of $10.5 million.
The Rite stars Anthony Hopkins as a priest who specializes in exorcisms. The plot of the film focuses on a young seminary student who goes to Rome to study exorcisms. The young student thinks that the devil is not responsible for making people act the way they do, but has his beliefs seriously challenged when he studies exorcisms with Hopkins character and they take on a case that might be too much for either of them. When I was making my prediction for the film, I used two criteria. The first was to look at horror films the past couple of years that came out in January. The second was to look at recent films that Anthony Hopkins has headlined and were in major release, which turned out to be only one film as Hopkins has really only done supporting roles this past decade in major films. Here’s how those films did on their opening weekend:
2007 – Fracture – $11 million opening weekend
2009 – The Unborn – $19.8 million opening weekend
2009 – The Uninvited – $10.3 million opening weekend
2010 – Legion – $17.5 million opening weekend
Average Opening Weekend – $14.65 million
I think the gross is a little high because even though it is a horror film and the trailers for the film are scary, I don’t think that audiences have much interest in The Rite. I also don’t think that Anthony Hopkins, as good and respected an actor as he is, can open a film anymore. The Rite is not being well received by critics, with Rotten Tomatoes listing the film at 17% positive as of this writing. I don’t think the reviews will matter much as audiences will look at this film as being dumped on them in the dreary months of January. Opening in 2,985 theatres, I’m predicting that The Rite will open in 4th place and gross $9.5 million.
With The Mechanic and The Rite entering the top five, I’m predicting that The Dilemma and True Grit will be leaving the top five. Here is how I see the rest of the films breaking down:
No Strings Attached had a very strong opening weekend, and this weekend there is absolutely no reason why it should not continue to do well. The new releases target men and this is the highest profile title for women. Natalie Portman is red hot right now (thanks to Black Swan and her Oscar nomination for Best Actress), so the January release date turned out to be perfect for No Strings Attached. I’m predicting a drop of 41% giving No Strings Attached a gross of $11.6 million and a surprising 1st place finish for a second week in a row.
The Green Hornet will be in a little trouble this weekend with the two new releases being geared towards men (this applies more to The Mechanic since that’s an action film, but The Rite is a horror which men also will also turn out for). The Green Hornet should post a decent hold being the only recent release that is in 3-D. I’m predicting a drop of 44% for The Green Hornet giving it a gross of $9.9 million and a 3rd place finish.
The King’s Speech will build on the momentum from this week’s Oscar nominations, as it was the film that had the most nominations with 12. I’m predicting that The King’s Speech will drop 10% from last weekend, giving the film a gross of $7 million and a 5th place finish.
True Grit should post another strong hold, especially after all the Oscar nominations it got this week. I’m predicting a drop of 22% giving True Grit a gross of $5.7 million and a 6th place finish.
The Dilemma will continue to suffer now that No Strings Attached is the comedy that people want to see. I’m predicting a drop of 45% giving the film a gross of $5.5 million and a 7th place finish.
Black Swan will be another film that benefits from the Oscar nominations it received earlier in the week. I’m predicting a drop of 18%, which gives the film a gross of $4.8 million and an 8th place finish.
<bThe Fighter will continue my trend of films that post strong holds thanks to Oscar nominations. If there is any category that has a lock on an award, it is this film for Best Supporting Actor. It would be a massive upset if Christian Bale did not win that award. I’m predicting a drop of 25% from last weekend giving The Fighter a gross of $3 million and a 9th place finish.
Little will make the top ten for the final time this weekend, as it will be nearing the end of its run. I’m predicting that Little Fockers will fall 36% giving it a gross of $2.8 million and a 10th place finish.
In limited release:
Biutiful – This film stars Javier Bardem in an Academy Award nominated performance and is directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (he is best known for directing Babel). The film follows a man from the underworld of Barcelona dealing with life, love, family and loss. Biutiful is being released in 57 theatres and has a 78% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
From Prada to Nada– This film is modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s classic “Sense and Sensibility”. When their father dies and leaves them penniless, a group of sisters find out what’s its like to not have privileges in life and have to come to terms with reality. From Prada to Nada is being released in 256 theatres and the film does not have any reviews posted at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster – This film stars Donnie Yen and follows the Ip Man as he tries to open a martial arts academy in Hong Kong. The townsfolk won’t let him until he proves himself. Ip Man also has to deal with the British upper-class coming to Hong Kong, where one of the Brits insults martial arts and Ip Man has to defend the honor of his nation and himself. The film is being released in 20 theatres and has a 91% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
Kaboom– This film is about a group of students dealing with sex. What makes this film stand out is that it is actually a science fiction film. Kaboom is being released in 1 theatre and has a 74% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
So to recap, here are my predictions:
No Strings Attached – $11.6 million
The Mechanic – $10.5 million
The Green Hornet – $9.9 million
The Rite – $9.5 million
The King’s Speech – $7 million
Remember to check back on Sunday to see how I did!
Last night I was sitting back, watching a Yes DVD (review to come, mark my words) and doing a little internet surfing when I came across two very different stories regarding Ron Howard’s casting plans for his adaptation of Stephen King’s massive 7 book series The Dark Tower. If you read our site regularly, you may have seen a few pieces I wrote about the epic tale of Roland Deschain and his search for The Man In Black and the elusive Dark Tower at the center of the world. I spent about 4 months immersed in the series last winter and it still ranks as the most satisfying and moving reading experience I’ve ever had.
When it was announced that Ron Howard and his partner Akiva Goldsman were going to bring the series to life as three movies and two linking tv seasons, I was extremely skeptical. And I still am. The Dark Tower is meant to be an epic on the scale of The Lord Of The Rings, and I’m not sure Howard and Goldsman have the right feel for something so grand. However, if the talk about who the duo are looking at to play the role of The Gunslinger rings true, maybe they’ll get it right.
Here’s where it gets interesting. In my surfing, I found two very different pieces of news about who are the frontrunners for the role. The first came from Page Six, via Ain’t It Cool, and suggested that Christian Bale was being talked about as the actor most wanted for the role.
Personally, I think Bale would be an excellent choice. He’s been a fantastic Batman and made a below average film like Terminator: Salvation reasonably watchable. I’d be excited to see him take on the role of Roland – Bale is a master of dark and brooding, which is a key to the character, who doesn’t warm up to people easily. As demonstrated by his choice of roles, Bale is also open to working in genre films so he may actually be interested in entering the world of The Dark Tower. However – it is a large commitment, and Bale is as bankable a star as there is right now. Would he actually be willing to take on this mammoth endeavor?
Now, not five minutes after reading the above information that Bale was in the running, I was checking out Deadline Hollywood and, wouldn’t you know it, they had an article on another name that’s being considered for the role of Roland – Oscar winner Javier Bardem.
His name has been bandied around since Howard’s announcement (along with Viggo Mortenson’s) months ago. According to Deadline, Howard has already offered Bardem the role and is just awaiting a formal sign-off by Universal (who haven’t officially green lit the series either, for that matter). Official or not, I think Bardem is more likely to wind up in The Dark Tower. While he may have an Oscar to his credit (for No Country For Old Men) and another Best Actor nomination this year for Biutiful, Bardem is less a household name than Bale and more likely to commit to the multi-year project. It could take him from solid actor to superstar.
Bale? Bardem? Viggo? There a lot of great names being considered for the lead role in what could be the next great fantasy film franchise. Hopefully a straight answer will come out shortly as to who will become The Gunslinger and scale The Dark Tower.
In the meantime, as we wait, I wish you long days and pleasant nights.
Every Wednesday, JP makes the after-work run to his local downtown comic book shop. Comics arrive on Wednesdays you see and JP, fearful that the latest issue will sell out, rushes out to purchase his copy. This regular, weekly column will highlight a particularly interesting release, written in short order, of course, because JP has to get his – before someone else does!
It’s the only true constant in the comic book genre. Well, that and rebirth. Heroes and villains die, heroes and villains return. They always have, they always will. You could bet the house on it, if you were a betting kind of person.
I am. Just don’t ask about the two million I currently owe resident EIC, Andy Burns. (That monetary burden, however, is under control. In the last few years, I’ve weaned it down from the original five million. Still, I could have sworn that M. Night Shyamalan directed Stuart Little, dammit!)
But I digress. This is the Wednesday Run and if you’re gonna run, you better run fast!
You see, Marvel Comics’ First Family, the Fantastic Four, shall see a subtraction of one this Wednes-err-make that Tuesday–yesterday!
That’s right! If you’re reading this column, you’re already a day late! Marvel Comics, in their infinitely sensationalist wisdom, in their glee for life’s black veil and the almighty green dollar, released issue #587, the big “superhero death” issue, to comic stores a day early!
Absolutely it’s a gimmick. So is the sealed black plastic bag the issue is being sold in.
There was a time not so long ago–let’s call it 1993–where such comic-related gimmicks very nearly spelled the death knell for the industry itself. I can’t help but wonder if history, like comic book superhero deaths, is repeating itself again.
If you’re a betting kind of person, lay down your odds in our dark-humoured dead pool. Who will cease-to-be this week?
Could our unlucky, four-colour adventurer be Ben Grimm, also known as the rock-encrusted The Thing? Could it be the elastically malleable scientist Reed Richards, AKA Mr. Fantastic, once thought dead in his own comic some years ago? Could it be his loving wife Sue Storm, where the clue may already be found in her nom-du-super: the Invisible Woman?
Personally, I’m putting my money on wisecracking brother, Johnny Storm, better known as The Human Torch – he who cracks one too many somethings this particular week.
But don’t cry for this long-standing, much beloved, Marvel family. Right as rain, the recently deceased will become the recently reborn. Just give it a few months, a major storyline dealing with the ramifications of loss and an inevitable change of creative team on the book – another true constant in the comic book genre.
Secretariat – This film stars Diane Lane and John Malkovich and tells the story of how the world’s most famous horse came to be. The film was marketed like The Blind Side and Disney really pushed the film as a “feel-good” movie. Reviews were decent, but audiences didn’t really make this film the hit that experts thought it should be. Disney is definitely hoping that people will find this film in its DVD life.
Red – This film stars Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Karl Urban and Mary-Louise Parker. The plot focuses on the Willis character, who is a former black-ops C.I.A. agent, who is not quite adjusting to retired life. He soon finds himself under attack, and escapes to meet up with a woman he only knows from his talks on the phone and some former R.E.D.’s (Retired Extremely Dangerous). They realize the C.I.A. is attacking them, so they plan a mission to break into the C.I.A. and find out that the reason why they are being hunted could go all the way to the White House. A fun movie that I’m sure most people will enjoy.
Saw 3D: The Final Chapter – The supposed last installment (I wouldn’t be surprised if they rebooted the franchise in a couple of years like some other famous horror franchises have done) follows the police as they try to find Hoffman, who continues Jigsaw’s legacy. I have not seen a film in the franchise since the first installment, but from what I have been told, everything comes full circle in this one. The box office gross was better than the previous film, but it ranks as the 6th highest grossing entry in the franchise (which is not good when the series only has seven installments). I think this puts the final nail in the coffin of the “torture porn” genre.
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest – This is the third and final chapter of “The Millennium Trilogy” and it picks up right where The Girl Who Played with Fire left off. Lisbeth is in a hospital fighting for her life, while Blomkvist continues to find out about the network that is responsible for his journalistic friend’s murders and why Lisbeth is such a threat to this group of people. Not my favourite in the trilogy as it is a little slow at points, but it is well done, and for fans of the books, they will not be disappointed.
Nowhere Boy – This film stars Aaron Johnson (most notable for playing the main character in Kick-Ass) and Kristin Scott Thomas and it is about the early life of John Lennon. It follows Lennon growing up as a teenager, the importance of his mom and his aunt in his life, and the very early beginnings of The Beatles. The film received excellent reviews and will be a must-have for any Beatles fan.
Open Season 3 – This Direct-To-DVD release continues the adventures of Boog and Elliot. This film follows Boog, who wants to have a boy’s weekend with all the male animals, but they all have to stay at home with their families. Enraged, Boog goes by himself into the woods and decides to make new friends. When he spots a circus, Boog joins them. Life seems wonderful, but when his nemesis – Mr. Weenie – finds out that Boog is in the circus, Boog’s life is in danger. His friends from the forest come to find him to rescue him. I wouldn’t expect much from a Direct-to-DVD sequel.
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot – This film is a documentary about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s fall from grace as a politician who cracked down on white collar crime to a politician who was caught with a prostitute.
Enter the Void – This film is from acclaimed director Gasper Noe and follows the life of a drug dealer, who is shot and killed. His spirit rises from his body and he sees how his friend’s lives unfold without him (think a darker version of It’s a Wonderful Life). Definitely not a film for everyone, but for fans of the director, they should check this out.
TV ON DVD
Glee: Season 2, Volume 1
The Flash: The Complete Series
Matlock: The Sixth Season
MI-5: Volume Eight
Webster: Season One
Until Next Tuesday!
Still A Pilgrim: Tim Batke Reviews Robert Plant At The Sony Centre For The Performing Arts, Saturday January 22nd
You could sense throughout the first half of the Robert Plant & the Band of Joy set on Saturday night in Toronto that many in the sold out audience were growing impatient wanting to hear some Led Zeppelin from the Golden God. You could feel some getting restless in the recently redesigned Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, formerly the Hummingbird Centre, originally the O’Keefe Centre. Plant referred to the venue by its original name on a couple of occasions as the evening was drawing to an end and even spoke of how Led Zeppelin performed at the O’Keefe Centre on November 2, 1969. Well, over forty-one years later and more than thirty years since the end of Led Zeppelin, there are many that just will not let Plant move on to something different musically without voicing their disdain.
Since Plant’s last one off with Led Zeppelin in December 2007 in tribute to former Atlantic Records head Ahmet Ertegun, he has repeatedly turned down untold millions to tour again tour with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham’s son, Jason. Why? To do what he has been inspired by, making music with new people. Working with American country songstress Alison Krauss and producer T Bone Burnett, Plant created the critically acclaimed ‘Raising Sand’ which won Album of the Year at the Grammy’s. And instead of repeating his success with Alison, where sessions to record a follow up were reportedly unsuccessful, Plant joined forces with more Americans like Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin & Darrell Scott to create a new version of his 60′s outfit, the Band of Joy. The end result – yet another critical darling with the album titled after his touring band.
Yet instead of all of the audience at the O’Keefe Centre, I mean the Sony Centre, enjoying phenomenal songs on ‘Band of Joy’ like the Los Lobos number “Angel Dance” and “House of Cards”, written by Richard Thompson, I could hear someone repeatedly yell out “come on” scornfully when the next non-Led Zeppelin number began. Rather than enjoying the multitude of great vocalists on stage while Patty Griffin, Darrell Scott & Buddy Miller all took a turn on lead vocal, I even heard one woman just a few feet away from me scream out “you pussy!” For myself, one of the highlights of the night was when Scott took the lead vocal on a rendition of the Joe “Red” Hayes and Jack Rhodes song “A Satisfied Mind” one of the greatest songs ever.
Even when Plant relented halfway through the night performing by Led Zeppelin’s “Tangerine,” where Scott again blew me away this time on pedal steel, there still was not that big of a reaction from the exclusive Zeppelin fans. It was almost as if now Plant was not getting the Led out with the Zeppelin songs they wanted to hear. To bring the point of the crowd home, while Plant did a medley of “12 Gates to the City” which included traditional numbers “Wade in the Water” and “In My Time of Dying” which Led Zeppelin made it there own epic on ‘Physical Graffiti,’ though hardly anyone acknowledged the performance. The arrangement of “Houses of the Holy” was changed to such an extent that the song didn’t get the reaction that I would have expected, though to me it was another definite highlight.
Plant’s solo career was also not up to par for the Toronto audience. The performance of “Tall Cool One” which Plant referred as his “last hit”, was not a big enough one for most, based on the crowd reaction. It wasn’t until Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” and the traditional “Gallows Pole,” which ended up on on Led Zeppelin III in 1970, that the crowd on the floor got on their feet. This time, in the crowds defence, the majority of the set was mid tempo in an Americana style.
After back to back Zeppelin numbers to close out the set the crowd stayed on their feet for the final track from the ‘Band of Joy’ the cover of Low’s “Silver Rider,” then the crowd went as nuts as they did all night for the classic “Rock & Roll.” The concert fittingly ended a cappella in the traditional number made famous by the Grateful Dead “And We Bid You Goodnight.”
To clarify the majority of the audience at the O’Keefe/Hummingbird/Sony Centre were respectful and appreciated the wonderful performance from Robert Plant & the Band of Joy, though in this case they were almost like the silent majority. There was a loud minority that were heard periodically throughout the show showing their disappointment that Plant has chosen not to be some old nostalgic act as many of his contemporaries have become.
Oh well. You can’t please them all, especially if your name is Robert Plant.