He has a radio program on WXOU out of Oakland University
Wild At Heart
Had a lot going on last week which I ended up capping with a wonderful Sunday which started off with dinner at Greektown. That was followed by the 4 1/2 megafilm "The Red Cliff" at the Detroit Film Theatre. If you didn't know, it is an epic Chinese directed by John (Face/Off, Hard Boiled) Woo that is based on the Battle of Red Cliffs and events during the end of the Han Dynasty and immediately prior to the period of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China. Detroit was the only place in the USA where movie goers could have seen this particular version of the film and I am glad I did. Other areas were showing shorter, more highly edited versions that I can't imagine being anywhere near as good as this film was. This could be my favorite film of last year. After the movie, I went down to the Magic Bag with my buddy and took in Robert Gordon and the Gang They Couldn't Hang which was full of a lot of energy, esp when the back-up band played by itself and they played songs from each members past including "God Save The Queen" (Glen Matlock of Sex Pistols), "Motorbikin'" (Chris Spedding's only solo hit but who played with numerous artists including Roxy Music and Tom Waits) and "Rumble In Brighton" w/"Rock This Town" (Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats). The only issue I have is the Magic Bag's need to close it's doors as soon as the band is over. I have never understood why they do that esp when bands plan on coming out to meet the fans only to find all the fans have been rushed out and the place is now empty.
Speaking of movies, I saw a few this past week starting with a pair of films at the Main Art Theatre starting with "Crazy Heart". The movie's focus is on Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), a 57 year-old alcoholic singer/songwriter who was once a star of country music and kind of reminds me of Kris Kristofferson. Blake was once a noted songwriter but has fallen on bad times and now earns a modest living by singing and playing his guitar at one-night stands in small town bars and bowling alleys across the southwestern United States. On the road one night he meets a young journalist Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is looking for a story and begins to see the man behind the musician and starts a relationship. Jean and her son become a catalyst for Bad getting his life back on track and Bad also uses this time to renew a professional relationship with Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell) who used to be one of Bad's Back-up players and is now a successful solo artist (kind of like a Randy Houser or Luke Byron). Things seem to be going well until Bad loses Jean's son in a mall after grabbing a drink at a bar. He decides to seek help and eventually gets sober but still has to deal with the consequences of his past behaviour. The movie ends with a pinch of hope for Bad and while not a perfect life as movies so often give out like candy, we have a very realistic life set aside for him which rings true. I think this is a great movie and deserves to be seen on the big screen so if you are a fan of music, get out to this film which I think does a better job than movies like "Walk The Line". My grade is an A.
The next film I saw at the Main Art Theatre was "A Single Man" which has been getting a lot of big buzz but left me wanting more. Set in Los Angeles a month after the Cuban missile crisis, we have the story of George Falconer (Colin Firth), a middle-aged British college professor who has struggled to find meaning in his life since the sudden death eight months earlier of his longtime partner, Jim (Matthew Goode). The film is about one day where George plans suicide as he can't help dwelling on the past and can't imagine ever finding true love again. He meets up with his close friend Charley (Julianne Moore) for dinner, has an unexpected encounter with a Spanish prostitute and gets stalked by a young student of his, Kenny Potter (Nicholas Hoult). Inspired by his interactions with Kenny, George opts against his planned suicide and see what the future might bring. I liked parts of this film but feel the director, Tom Ford, who is making his debut here tries to get overly artistic and ends up frequently pulling me out of the film. I found this annoying and while I enjoyed the basic story, I wish he could've forgone the more artistic splashes and just told the story straight since he did get some wonderful moments with Colin, Julianne and even Nicholas. Some nice potential and a good debut but for me it falls short of engaging. My grade is a B-.
On the lighter side is "Tooth Fairy", the new Dwayne Johnson vehicle where he plays minor hockey player Derek Thompson who is basically a goon because he is known for hitting players so hard that he knocks out their teeth, hence the nickname, "the tooth fairy". He is in a relationship with Carly (Ashley Judd) and is continuosly putting down her children's (and every other child's) aspirations. One night he goes to bed to find he is summoned to fairyland where he will spend 2 weeks as a real tooth fairy and hopefully learn his lesson and start believing in dreams again. At first he is inept at replacing teeth with money, but his case worker (the goofy looking Stephen Merchant) and the head fairy (Julie Andrews) help him become skillful as a tooth fairy despite his protests. The process makes him realize the value of dreams and goals, even if unrealistic ones. The film does have a few good moments but I would have prefered to have Stephen and Dwayne is reverse roles. The Rock (yeah he doesn't go by that anymore but whatever) still can't carry a movie all by himself and I would rather see him as a tough tooth fairy giving the training instead of recieving. He has a great screen presence but subtle nuances of acting are still escaping him at times. While not a total loss, the average movie fan and kids might actually enjoy this. At least it looks better than the new babysitting Jackie Chan movie. My grade is a C-.
Ted Raimi was born right here in the Detroit area and along with his buddy Bruce Campbell, they have become the equivalent of the classic b-movie actors. Ted started off with a small role in the original "Evil Dead" movie thanks to his elder brother, director Sam Raimi. He has an extensive collection of fun small budget movies, mostly horror, such as "Shocker", "Darkman" and "Drag Me To Hell" with some small character actor parts in bigger movies like "Clear And Present Danger" and "Spiderman". He had a recurring role on Speilberg's "SeaQuest DSV" and frequent guest role on "Xena" as Joxer the Mighty. When filming the episode "The Damned Thing" by for the horror anthology "Masters of Horror", he was impressed by director Tobe Hooper's work. Hooper is best known for the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Ted decided at that moment that he wanted to try directing and has done a number of music videos and some webisodes including the newest work entitled "Playing Dead". Written by and starring Suzanne Keilly, “Playing Dead” is an offbeat, black comedy about an out-of-work actress who gets a job temping for Death. Each week a new 3 minute webisode comes out and when asked why the web, Ted basically stated that it is a good place to get ideas out while having the freedom to do whatever you want without worrying about producers, etc. The series does have a certain Detroit flair having spoted a MOCAD sticker and a Faygo bottle in various scenes as well as having 3 Detroit bands in the first 4 episodes. Episode 4 will have a song by the wonderful band Lightning Love which has been getting some nice press recently. He agreed the series also has the feel of a similar to the TV Series "Dead Like Me" and I thought it also gained something from the Death character in Terry Pratchet's Discworld novels but that is where the similarities end. Ted said that in Hollywood, that series is basically forgotten now as they look for the next big thing. I asked Ted what he misses about Detroit and with a sentiment a number of northerners can relate too, he stated the weather, enjoying the change of seasons and the snow which are in short supply in California. He also stated that he would like to come back to Detroit with the growing film industry and do a movie here where he got his start. If you go to the website www.watchplayingdead.com, you can catch the first three episodes of the planned eight.
Not much is going on musically but their are a number of benefit shows going on. However, firstly, local Detroit jazz violinist Regina Carter is in town for three shows. She kicks off her hometown return by performing tracks from her upcoming release, "Reverse Thread", at her alma mater, Oakland University. Set for release in May 2010, it is a celebration of African music, culture and art with a modern perspective and re-imaged for violin. Joined by the kora, a traditional 21-string West African harp, bass, guitar, accordion, drums and percussion, Carter interprets and honors African folk music through her stirring and beautiful violin playing. That show is on Thursday, January 28 @ 8:00PM at Oakland University's Varner Recital Hall. Then she will perform two shows with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra where she will premiere a new, neo-classical violin concerto commissioned by the DSO and written specifically for her by the eminent composer and pianist, Billy Childs. Those shows are Friday, January 29 @ 8:00PM and Saturday, January 30 @ 8:30PM at the Max M. Fisher Music Center. She is a wonderful performer and if you get the chance to see her, don't miss it. The following video is taken from a show at Wesley College. Go to www.reginacarter.com for more information about the shows and her as an artist.
WXOU's fundraiser for Haiti raised over $6400 and it seems a couple of other benefits are going on featuring local bands. On Friday and Saturday, "Rock For Haiti" will take place at the Magic Stick featuring bands like Friendly Foes, Copper Thieves, Electric Fire Babies and Four Hour Friends. The Bishop Gumbleton who helped set this up is taking a group down to Haiti at the end of January to provide medical assistance to the many earthquake victims. Go to www.majesticdetroit.com for more info. Friday will also see "Hope For Haiti" at the Jazz Cafe located at the Music Hall. This benefit concert will consist of a line-up of various local hip-hop artists, spoken word artists, musicians, and rock bands banning together to use their talents and gifts to encourage and inspire people of the city to provide hope to the people of Haiti in their time of need. Go to www.jazzcafedetroit.com for more info and line-ups.
On a different note, the Michigan Darfur Coalition presents Jam For Sudan with Citizen Smile and Orange Marsupials @ Eagle Theatre. More info at www.michigandarfurcoalition.org. So basically, if you want to support a cause, this is the weekend to do it and hear some great local bands at the same time. Also on the concert list is:
Friday (1/29) Ann Arbor Folk Festival w/Iron and Wine @ Hill Auditorium & Motion City Soundtrack w/Swellers @ Clutch Cargos
Saturday (1/30) Ann Arbor Folk Festival w/Rosanne Cash, Doc Watson and Ritchie Havens @ Hill Auditorium & electronic music guru's Crystal Method @ Vain Ultra Lounge
Sunday (1/31) We The Kings w/Mayday Parade and A Rocket To The Moon @ The Crofoot & African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo (performed on Paul Simon's "Graceland" album) @ Hill Auditorium
This week's musical group is the Shadows from the UK. The Shadows are Britain's most successful instrumental and vocal group with a total of 69 UK hit charted singles: 35 as 'The Shadows' plus 34 as 'Cliff Richard and The Shadows' from the 1950s to the 2000s. According to the Guinness Book of Hit Singles and Albums (19th edition), The Shadows are the 3rd most successful UK charted hit-singles act, behind Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard, but unlike other popular UK bands like the Beatles, the Kinks, The Who, etc, the Shadows were never able to make the move to the US. The only song to chart over here was "Apache" but it wasn't the Shadows but jazz guitarist Jørgen Ingmann who made number two on the US pop chart. John Lennon once claimed that "before Cliff and The Shadows, there had been nothing worth listening to in British music" and the song "Move It" (with Cliff Richard when they were still known as the Drifters) is considered the first rock N Roll hit song on the British charts. As innovators in rock music The Shadows invented the bass solo and the drum solo that is now common usage by some rock bands like Fleetwood Mac. Among some other known facts, they had the first promo film (video) made for their Apache single (group mimed to their instruments) and they are the first group to have a Rarities album. Among the famous guitarists that cited the Shadows as influences are Carlos Santana, Neil Young and Randy Bachman. I find it amazing that an English band can have such success and still not be known to anyone but a few die-hard rock fans over here. I have had to go to Windsor's Dr Disc to get the few Shadows albums I own since you can't find them in the states. They are doing some farewell tour nowadays but it doesn't look like they will come to the states which is a shame. I would definately buy that ticket. Here are a few songs by the Shadows.
Here they are as puppets in "Thunderbirds Are Go!" with Cliff Richard.
Have a good week.