Movie Review: The Island

The Island Opens everywhere July 22
Starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson
Directed by Michael Bay

“Our favorite scene involves some none too subtle Bush bashing….”
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Movie Review by Robert Lanham

Against our better judgment we went to see a sneak preview of Michael Bay’s The Island. Our desire to see Scarlett Johansson in a tight, space-age jump suit outweighed our instinct to avoid another film by the fool who brought us Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, The Rock, and Bad Boys II. Michael Bay is arguably the lamest director in Hollywood. Not to mention the biggest frat boy in Hollywood.
Thankfully, since we shelled out 12 bucks per ticket after the Fandango surcharge, we were pleasantly surprised by Bay’s latest creation. In fact, The Island, may not be the film of the year, but it’s sure to be the blockbuster of the year. Sorry, Batman. The Island is better.
The Island takes place in the not-too-distant future and features set pieces reminiscent of 2001 and THX 1138. A contaminated atmosphere has caused people to seek shelter in a sterile and contained “utopian” facility. It’s a Brave New World where their actions are monitored Big Brother-style. Though completely detached from nature and the outside world in their sterile chambers, the white track-suited masses find meaning and hope in the form of a random lottery. Lottery winners are granted the freedom to be relocated to a tropical paradise known simply as The Island; the last remaining place on Earth where the atmosphere has not been contaminated. Strangely, lottery winners are announced by a breathy-voiced woman who looks like she just returned from a threesome on a seedy porn set.
As is to be expected from a Michael Bay movie, The Island is a loud, in-your-face ride that prefers spectacle to subtlety. Nonetheless, the pacing is always perfect and it never fails to be exciting. It’s a blockbuster in every sense of the word and is notably smarter than Bay’s other bonehead movies. And of course, Johansson is ridiculously cute.
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The Island’s sci-fi themes aren’t exceptionally original—you’ll notice similarities to Logan’s Run, Blade Runner, The Matrix, and Gattaca—but the packaging is beautiful and unexpected. The movie never slows down enough to allow McGregor and Johansson to develop any chemistry, but they are serviceable and believable in their roles.
As the movie progresses, it deviates into a more conventional action film. But thankfully Bay is able to show some restraint and avoids his normal embarrassing testosterone-driven dialogue. With the exception of a joke about the word “dude” that would be a perfect concept for a Coors Light commercial and a stupid line about never trusting a woman with a credit card, Bay’s frat boy antics are kept largely in check.
On the downside, The Island makes a shameless spectacle of its product placement. At points, the advertisements nearly kill any suspension of disbelief the film is able to generate. The opening scene includes a close-up on a pair of Pumas. From that point on, everything from Cadillac, to Michelob, to Aquafina are shamelessly plugged. In fact, the product placement is so over-the-top it ultimately becomes a running gag. An entire scene is framed around McGregor and Johansson making a video-enhanced call in a phone booth embroidered with a Microsoft Logo. They even search for an address using Microsoft search software. Bay’s attempt to ironically embrace his sponsors is campy, but his eagerness to cash in ultimately detracts and becomes obnoxious.
Our favorite scene involves some none too subtle Bush bashing. While watching a press conference on television with one of Earth’s future presidents, McGregor glances over and states “he’s an absolute idiot.” Wow, Mr. Bay. Maybe you’re not the frat boy we had you pegged as being after all.
The Island’s Official Site

The Logic Behind Rove's Legal Rhetoric

Now we know exactly what Rove meant when he said this in regard to Valerie Plame:
“I didn’t know her name. I didn’t leak her name”
Newsweek reported today on the contents of Matt Cooper’s internal Time Magazine email:
“it was, KR said, wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip.”
He didn’t leak Plame by name, but as Wilsons’s wife.
Read the whole story here.

To Do this Weekend: The Blind Boys of Alabama

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Sunday July 10
The Blind Boys of Alabama
(with Citizen Cope)
Free at Summer Stage
(Rumsey Field at 72nd St)

From Flavorpill
The Blind Boys of Alabama love New York City. It was here, in The Gospel at Colonus, that their stirring Southern harmonies earned them mainstream attention. Since the group’s genesis more than 60 years ago ‚Äî before there was rock, rap, or the Rolling Stones ‚Äî the Blind Boys have gathered no moss. They stay fresh and relevant through their affiliation with Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records and their work with Gabriel, Ben Harper, and sacred steel giant Robert Randolph. The two remaining founding members bring a palpable fire to tunes both secular and sacred on this welcome return. Basehead and Lazy K cohort Clarence Greenwood, aka Citizen Cope, got help from Meshell Ndegeocello and Carlos Santana on the long-delayed The Clarence Greenwood Recordings ‚Äî today he holds forth with his band, conveniently called Citizen Cope.

Death of Fashion

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There’s lots of hype surrounding Death of Fashion so we decided to catch up with them at the Delancey last week. They have the fashionable stylings of the Talking Heads and the Velvet Underground, along with their more recent progeny like the Killers, the Walkmen, the Strokes — ah hell, just read the bio on Death of Fashion’s website. If there were a graduate school for those who yearn to scrutinize, probe, and in all other ways analyze what it means to commingle with that famed and beloved NYC sound, Death of Fashion would have an impressive thesis, complete with David Foster Wallace style footnotes and thirty-page bibliography, Arial 10. These Indiana boys ain’t in Indiana no more. They’ve even scored a sold-out show at Pianos that they called “neo-legendary.” We’re no sure what that means.
Death of Fashion is Jesse Davis (lead vocal, keys), Jacob Bills (guitar, vocal), Daryl Specht (bass) and Daniel Boivin (drums). Check out some samples of their EP, “Lovely and Guilt Free,” (Canarsie Records) at deathoffashion.com.
–Monte Holman

Hipster Zombie Nerds vs D&D Nerds

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This makes us want to move to Montreal. [From The Scourge]

Right, so there are a colony of nerdy D&D-playing medeivalists who gather in Mount Royal Park every Sunday to run around screaming and slapping each with swords made of duct-taped iron bars and shields made out of the lids of recycling bins. Shit, there are even dudes with nerf arrows, flails, battle axes and big fuckin’ hammers. One guy had on an entire suit of chain mail armor.
Anyway, a cabal of local hipsters decided that this Sunday was going to be different. This Sunday, the hipsters were going to dress up like zombies and come marching out of the woods to engage the nerds in glorious battle. We were there to witness and record the hilarity that ensued:

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The post on Scourge has prompted some great comments. Here’s our favorite:

the circle will be complete when the nerds dress as travelers from the future (twilight zone style) and warn the hipsters that their own collective fantasy is just as irrelevant to history as D&D combat club. the hipsters will react with indifference,and continue bolstering their egos, getting soon to go out of style tattoos and working on post-ironic record collections. the nerds, feeling vindicated, will return to the park to happily vent their own feelings of self loathing by beating up friends with nerf swords.

See the rest of the photos here.

Decemberists Covers

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Download Ten Decemberists Covers Care of MyOldKentucky.

L Train Not Safe

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MTA subway operator Haley Daley on the new conductorless, automated L Train:

Daley, an operator for six years, said in case of emergency, it would be impossible for one person to evacuate a train. [Via Daily News]

The MTA did nothing to up security after the Madrid bombings. They’ll do nothing now. Write them and let them know what you think about having a solitary employee on the L Train:
Email the MTA here:
http://mta-nyc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/mta_nyc.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php

Why isn't that fat fuck Novak in jail?

NYTimes statement in regard to Judith Miller’s incarceration:

“There are times when the greater good of our democracy demands an act of conscience. Judy has chosen such an act in honoring her promise of confidentiality to her sources. She believes, as do we, that the free flow of information is critical to an informed citizenry.
“It has been more than 25 years since Myron Farber, a Times reporter, was jailed and The Times was fined for refusing to provide the names of confidential sources. Subsequently, Mr. Farber and The Times were pardoned and the fines were returned. The case prompted many states to enact shield laws to protect journalists and to help ensure that the public receives information so important in a democracy. I sincerely hope that now Congress will move forward on federal shield legislation so that other journalists will not have to face imprisonment for doing their jobs.
“In the days, weeks and months ahead, The New York Times Company will do all that we can to ensure Judy’s safety and continue to fight for the principles that led her to make a most difficult and honorable choice.”