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CAPSULE REVIEWS 101: Recently Seen and/or Heard

May 31, 2005

This week...one film, two CDs, and one concert. But first...

If you haven't been to the SGC_Chadtees store at CAFE PRESS you're in for a real treat. Mr. Schtick has become our best-selling tee, and modest Miss Di (the brain-child behind the popular Schtick family) has unveiled even more new designs. Don't be the last one in your town to own an original MR. SCHTICK! Go now! Go on; get.

Many years ago I read a bit of the book but it never captivated my attention the way it probably would if I were to reread it today. As a result, I had no expectations about this film. I did not sit through it anticipating certain chapters from the novel and making mental comparisons between the printed word and the celluloid images on screen. Instead, I simply watched it as a vehicle of entertainment. Unfortunately, the vehicle stalled before the opening credits had ended, and it never restarted. Worse, the movie’s producers were apparently not members of Triple A, because no tow truck arrived to salvage this wreck of a film. And it really is a wreck. The film’s pacing is wretched, the actors are either too involved or not nearly involved enough, and the overall story is terribly disjointed. There are many interesting concepts throughout the film—the main concept of hitching a ride, the intelligence of the dolphins, and the guide itself—but concepts alone are not enough to salvage an otherwise bad script. The voiceovers of the “guide” as well as the minimalist graphics that accompany its encyclopedic explanations of all-things-galaxy, are also entertaining, but again, hardly the stuff of solid film making. At least the popcorn was fresh.

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE: Welcome Interstate Managers
Hardly a new release, but one of the freshest rock albums to come along since, well, FOW’s previous 1999 release, Utopia Parkway. FOW’s leading men, Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood are artisans in the writing of songs that are both sensible and intoxicating. The songs are so intoxicating, in fact, that listening to an FOW tune is almost painful—if only for the reason that the listener will almost certainly become an addict. Stacy’s Mom, Bright Future in Sales, and the trippy Peace and Love float through my mind daily as if I’ve been listening to them for the past 20 years. Not a bad thing, but just be warned—you will be addicted, and not after the tenth or eleventh play—FOW songs slip into the psyche after the first or second listen, after which there is no turning back. Many of the tracks are chock full of business motifs, and I can only wonder if whether before FOW became the rollicking success it is today if Adam and Chris were once frustrated office drones. There’s not a bad song to be found on this 16-cut release (even the football-themed All Kinds of Time will have you singing along whether you’re an NFL fan or not); if this CD is not already in your collection it certainly ought to be.

IVY: In the Clear
The fifth studio release from Ivy is easily as good as the first five and in many ways a little better. Ivy has mastered the art of cool, with dreamy sounds and vocals that are reminiscent of late night cruises along Mulholland Drive or early morning walks along the Santa Monica pier. On In the Clear, the band incorporates 1970s disco bass lines on several tracks, and the end result is surprisingly good. Dominique Durand’s vocals are lush and layered and her accent is wonderfully romantic; coupled with Adam Schlesinger (also of FOW) and Andy Chase, the trio continues to demonstrate artistic growth since the 1994 Lately EP and the band's first full-length release, 1997’s Apartment Life.

IVY: Live at the Troubadour, May 11, 2005
I wasn’t sure what to expect of the Ivy concert experience. The core band members were accompanied by three additional members, which created a full spectrum of sound; the guitars and keyboards sounded especially crisp. Unfortunately, Dominique’s vocals were flat by comparison. It is possible that the engineers did a poor job matching the vocal clarity to that of the music, but having moved around the Troubadour quite a bit during the show it seemed that the sound quality was not the problem. I was left with the impression that the studio does a lot to enhance Dominique's seemingly lackluster vocals. Dominique’s stage presence was limited to the occasional “thank you” in between songs and a bit of movement from time to time. She slapped a tambourine against her hand on a various tracks but seemed generally disinterested in performing. I'm not insinuating that a high-octane dance routine was in order--not at all. A minimal stage presence can be quite enjoyable (as anyone whose seen New Order in concert will likely attest). But there was a vast emptiness to Ivy's live show; like Cake, Ivy seems to fall in the category of better heard and not seen.

NEXT: More stuff.

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