Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Classic Album Review, Reflection Eternal, "Train of Thought"

From Rakim and Eric B. to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, collaborations have been a long-standing tradition in hip-hop. Sometimes when two artists come together, things just click.

That’s exactly what happened when Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek first met in Cincinnati, Tek’s hometown, in the late 90’s. The two formed the group Reflection Eternal and signed to the upstart underground hip-hop label Rawkus Records, where they started to collaborate on tracks.

But before they put out an album of their own, Kweli teamed up with fellow Brooklyn MC Mos Def to release the album, “Mos Def and Kweli are Black Star”, which received great critical acclaim.

Hi-Tek produced some of the best tracks on the album including "Definition" and "Respiration" and the success of Black Star put the three at the forefront of the underground hip hop scene and paved the way for Reflection Eternal’s debut album, “Train of Thought”.

At 70 minutes and 20 tracks, “Train of Thought” is longer than most hip-hop albums and that’s just one of the reasons why it stands apart from the flock.

Released in October 2000, the album was produced primarily by Hi-Tek himself and features Kweli intelligently rapping about some interesting and diverse topics including love, the state of hip-hop, modern American culture and the revolutionary mentality.

Talib Kweli has always been on point with his social criticisms, and all through “Train of Thought” he really shows it. On the tracks "Ghetto Afterlife", "Africa Dream" and "Soul Rebels" in particular, Kweli conveys his feelings on society and culture in an extremely articulate and intelligent way.

The entire album is filled with some memorable tracks, but “Love Language”, “Good Morning”, "Love Speakeasy", "On My Way" and “Big Del From da Natti" stand out above the rest.

"Love Language" is one of the most unique tracks on the album. The theme throughout the track is perfectly conveyed by the line “The language of love can never be translated”. Using symbolism and metaphor Kweli describes one of the world’s most universally debated topics: love.

Kweli describes the feeling in such a detailed, illustrative way as he raps: “Love is blind, you just see bright light/You up in the club feelin' the night life, lookin' for the right type/Blood rushing to your heart making it beat/When she swept you off your feet and made it complete/You know the plan you had to conquer the world/Thinking you Scarface, looking for that perfect girl.”

My favorite aspect of the track is how Kweli has the chorus drop in French. Throughout the track he mentions how love is a universal language, and by using a different language Kweli shows that love is exclusive to no one.

“Move Somethin” is the second track on the album and may be the most energetic of the bunch. Kweli is extremely skilled at rapping in a calm, serious demeanor, but I honestly think he is at his best when he is quick and ferocious. He brings it hard and with a huge dose of energy over a beat that is just fantastic.

Kweli is clever and you can almost hear the fire he has within himself as he raps: “Takin you high like sky divers/When we spark with live wires/Original, cavemen quest for my fire/Express my desire to drop this new shit/These record executives keep tellin me y'all stupid/Now if they right, Shut The Fuck Up!/Revolutionaries throw your guns up.”

"Good Mourning" is one of the best tracks and is my favorite one on the album. Kweli describes the Brooklyn neighborhood where he came from in vivid detail and also links hip-hop’s obsession with death by looking at it through a lens of life.

The beat is simple yet haunting, and on the chorus Kweli perfectly describes what the track really means: “Good mourning, good afternoon, good night/What have you done with your life?/Everybody time comes to be embraced by the light/You only scared to die when you ain't livin right, man/I'm puttin up a hellafied fight.”

On the last verse Kweli mentions the names of some fallen artists, including Big L, and Curtis Mayfield, which shows Kweli is well versed in his music history.

Kweli is a rare MC, as his lyrics show off a knowledge that easily transcends his age. Coupled with Tek's loping keyboard wails, soulful claps, and shimmering piano loops, Kweli shows off that he is one of the most talented and skilled rappers in the game.

It’s fitting that Reflection Eternal is dropping a new album, because on “Train of Thought” it’s abundantly clear that these two have something to say about hip-hop, and we should all listen. Their debut is one of the most poignant, interesting and intelligent hip-hop album ever released, and is definitely a classic.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Zoe Saldana Goes To "Columbiana"

Zoe Saldana ("The Losers," "Star Trek") is in negotiations to join the Luc Besson-produced drama "Columbiana" says Heat Vision.

According to Heat Vision: Zoe Saldana is in early negotiations to star in "Colombiana," a drama that Luc Besson is producing under his Europa Corp. The project is slated for late-summer start with Olivier Megaton ("Transporter 3") directing.

Saldana will play a stone-cold assassin who commits contract killings for her uncle's company by day. On her time off though, she commits vigilante murders in the hope of finding the mobster responsible for her parents' murder, which she witnessed as a child in Bogota, Columbia.

Saldana soared to fame in the past year by starring in "Avatar" and "Star Trek." Her other recent credits include "The Losers" and "Death at a Funeral." I really think Saldana is great, and she has been for a while.

A few years ago she starred in the film “Haven” which was grossly underrated and her past few roles in “Star Trek” and “The Losers” proved she was ready for some more action roles. Teaming with Besson should only help establish her as one of the most badass babes in Hollywood.

Besson and Robert Mark Kamen wrote the script while Olivier Megaton ("Transporter 3") will helm the project, which begins filming later this summer.

Ethan Hawke Counts "Numbers"

Ethan Hawke has signed on to the sub-$10 million CIA thriller "The Numbers Station" for Content Film International says Variety.

According to Variety: The film “The Numbers Station,” directed by Kasper Barfoed and starring Ethan Hawke, has been acquired for worldwide distribution by ContentFilm International. The acquisition was announced at Cannes on Sunday.

Hawke plays Emerson, a disgraced black ops agent tasked with a dead-end job protecting 20-year-old Katherine, the code operator for a small CIA broadcast station in the middle of the Nevada desert. Emerson’s mission is simple: protect Katherine. Keep her safe and keep her secure. When the station is under attack, their priority is to make it out alive.

Ethan Hawke has been one of my favorite actors for a while, but he hasn’t taken on a really decent role for a while, so hopefully this one will turn out to be another quality performance like he put on in “Training Day”. I loved him in both “Gattaca” and “Assault on Precinct 13”, and I think he has the perfect look and style to play a disgraced former agent.

Principal photography on the film will begin in September.

Matthew Goode Goes To Bondi For "Man"

British actor Matthew Goode ("Watchmen," "Leap Year") has joined Jonathan Teplitzky's Australian-set romantic comedy "Burning Man" says The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the Hollywood Reporter: Matthew Goode is playing rough with a bevy of beauties including Bojana Novakovic, Rachel Griffiths, Essie Davis, Kerry Fox, Kate Beahan and Gia Carides in writer-director Jonathan Teplitzky's "Burning Man."

Goode plays an English chef with a hot restaurant on Sydney's Bondi Beach trying to get his life together and re-establish his relationship with his son. Things aren't helped by all the gorgeous women that surround him.

Although at times Goode can seem a bit hollow (aka in “Watchmen”) anyone who saw him in Tom Ford’s “A Single Man” last year knows Goode is an excellent actor and he should be perfect for this role. He has the charm and charisma to take on all those females and be the leading man.

Teplitzky and Andy Paterson will produce. Produced by U.K. producer Andy Paterson and Teplitzky, the film will shoot on location in Sydney.

Courtney Hunt Takes Over "Human Resources"

After winning Sundance in 2008 with the acclaimed "Frozen River", filmmaker Courtney Hunt has finally selected her next project - "Human Resources" at Focus Features reports Variety.

According to Variety: Courtney Hunt has her next project figured out at Focus Features. She is currently writing the script for a remake of the 1999 French film, “Human Resources”.

The story involves a young man who returns to his hometown to take a management position at a local factory. When pushed to make personnel changes, he examine his feelings about what it means to be in management. Laurent Cantet, who was behind the fantastic Oscar-nominated The Class, directed the original.

Hunt's version will be set in contemporary America though will follow the original film's storyline.

Anyone who saw “Frozen River” knows that Hunt can take on any type of story and make it gripping. She could have done a lot of projects after the success of “Frozen River” so I’m glad she took her time and waited for something she really wanted to do.

This remake sounds as if it could end being a really great project, especially with adapting the script to a US location. With the economy and the job market the way it is, this script could turn out to be a pretty good allegory for what’s really going on today.

Stephanie Danan and Alain Chabat are producing.

Fassbender, Macy, Church Fire A "Shot" (400!)

Michael Fassbender, William H. Macy and Thomas Haden Church have joined the cast of the film adaptation "A Single Shot" for HanWay Films and Unanimous Pictures reports The Playlist.

According to the Playlist: Michael Fassbender, William H. Macy and Thomas Haden Church will star in David Jacobson's adaptation of Matthew F. Jones thriller "A Single Shot."

Matthew F. Jones adapted the screenplay from his own novel about a poacher (Fassbender) who accidentally kills a young runaway girl while hunting. Trying to hide the evidence, he finds a large sum of money and soon has ruthless killers on his tail while his mental state begins to quickly deteriorate.

This is another interesting role for Fassbender, who has risen to leading man status after his turn in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds” last summer. He was fantastic in that film and it will be nice to see him take on a role like this.

David Jacobson will direct and shooting kicks off this summer once Fassbender has wrapped David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" which stars Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley and Vincent Cassell.

Chris Coen and Christine Sola are producing.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Classic Album Review, Common, "Resurrection"

Over the years the city of Chicago hasn’t been quite as successful as New York or Los Angeles when it comes to producing hip-hop stars. But what Chicago lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality.

Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and Common Sense all hail from the Second City, and each of the three are bonafide rap stars, some of the best in the business.

Although you’d most likely say that Kanye is the biggest star of the group, it’s Common that has been in the game the longest. After debuting with “Can I Borrow A Dollar?” which received a lot of underground attention, he released “Resurrection” in 1994.

Although “Resurrection” didn’t have much mainstream success, it did very well with critics and proved how truly skilled Common is as an MC. The South Side native doesn’t hesitate to show off how original he is, with his complex style of rapping, intelligent lyrics and witty lines.

The jazzy flavored sound of the album combined with Common’s socially conscious lyrics inspire comparisons to “A Tribe Called Quest”, “De La Soul” and “The Fugees”, but Common really is in a league of his own.

He doesn’t let you forget where he’s from either. Inspired by the city he hails from, the album is divided into two sections, the "East Side of Stony" and "West Side of Stony". Stony Island Avenue is a street that runs through the South Side of Chicago, which was where Common was raised.

“Resurrection” has a ton of great tracks, including "Watermelon", "Nuthin' to Do", "Pop's Rap" and "Book of Life", but standout track on the album easily is "I Used to Love H.E.R.”, which arguably is best track that Common ever made.

The album opens up with the title track, “Resurrection”, which perfectly combines the scratches by Mista Sinista with the jazzy melody. Common opens it up by rapping how he is literally immersed in his music: “In spite I've been indicted as a freak of all trades/I got it made/I bathe in basslines, rinse in riffs, dry in drums/Come from a tribe of bums.”

On "Nuthin' to Do", Common speaks out on the deterioration of Chicago's neighborhoods, and describes some of the best ways to kill time on the South Side.

He illustrates a perfect picture of what it’s like to grow up in Chi-town as he raps: “The days of Old Chicago and Fun Town and shorties we run round/Play strike outs till sun down, but the shit ain't as fun now/And the city is all run down, we troop down to Jew Town/Talking cat down on some gear, have enough for a Polish incom fair/I stare, at what use to be Bubbles and think about who use to cop our liquior.”

"Book of Life," is the most introspective track on the album. The track is an autobiographical look at Common’s struggles over the years, and gives him a chance to put things in perspective over the mellow beat.

You can hear the realism and truthfulness from Common as he raps: “It's my life I live it up/The cup I gotta give it up/One day/I'm cruisin' down a one way street and I done passed fun day/Three blocks ago/It itself life is an obstacle/As I maneuver through the manure I try to be responsible/I want a job but I ain't lookin - how come?”

“I Used to Love H.E.R.” is my favorite track, and is easily the best track on the album. The track is genius in its use of metaphor and symbolism. On its face the track seemingly describes a lover's moral and spiritual decline, but it’s about much more than that. The track employs the use of an extended metaphor, with a woman representing hip-hop music itself. The acronym “H.E.R.” in fact stands for Hip Hop in its Essence and Real, so when spelled out the track really reads: "I Used to Love Hip Hop in its Essence and Real.”

On the track Common give us a history lesson into how hip-hop has changed and criticizes the direction that hip-hop was taking during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Specifically he refers to the fall of conscious rap as well as the rising popularity of West Coast hip-hop and G-funk.

He also intelligently makes an analogy comparing the degradation of a woman with the deterioration of hip-hop music after its commercial success brought it into the mainstream. Common is able to convey his feelings so well through his lyrics as he raps: ”She said that the pro-black, was goin out of style/She said, afrocentricity, was of the past/So she got into R&B hip-house bass and jazz/Now black music is black music and it's all good/I wasn't salty, she was with the boys in the hood.”

The track boasts one of the best beats ever constructed, a simple yet sleek melody, and opens with some of Common’s best written lines: "I met this girl, when I was ten years old/And what I loved most she had so much soul/ She was old school, when I was just a shorty/ Never knew throughout my life she would be there for me."

“I Used to Love H.E.R.” perfectly epitomizes what Common is all about and is one reason why “Resurrection” is such a great album. One thing that makes Common stand out as such a unique MC is that he never tried to change who he is, or use an image to sell records and he proves it with his truthfulness and intelligence on this album.

It has a timeless quality about it, and to me it is on par with some of the other great albums of the early 90’s like “Illmatic”, by Nas, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”, by Wu-Tang Clan, and “Ready to Die”, by the Notorious B.I.G.". “Resurrection” is Common’s defining work, and is definitely a hip-hop classic.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Anthony Mackie, Evangeline Lilly Join "Real Steel"

Anthony Mackie ("Eagle Eye," "Notorious") and Evangeline Lilly ("Lost," "Afterwards") have joined the cast of Hugh Jackman led "Real Steel" for DreamWorks Pictures.

According to ComingSoon: Mackie and Lilly ("Lost"), who each had roles in "The Hurt Locker," are joining Hugh Jackman in the Shawn Levy-directed film.

The film is based on a short story by Richard Matheson that was originally adapted into an original "Twilight Zone" episode that starred Lee Marvin.

Set in the near future, in which boxers have been replaced by human-controlled two-ton robots, Hugh Jackman portrays a former boxer-turned-manager who reunites with his estranged son to take his fighter to the championships.

Jackman will play an ex-fighter who becomes a promoter when human boxing is outlawed for being too violent. The new gladiators are 2,000-pound robots with human qualities.

The ex-fighter's access to sub-standard robot parts hampers his hopes for glory in Robot Boxing, until he discovers a discarded robot that always seems to win. The ex-fighter also has discovered he's the father of a 13-year old son (Dakota Goyo), and they bond as the robot brawls its way toward the top.

Mackie will play a boxing promoter while Lilly will portray a friend of Jackman's character.

I love Jackman, but I’m even more excited about Mackie and Lilly being added to the cast. Anyone who watches “Lost” knows Lilly is great, but Mackie might be the best actor of the bunch. He was fantastic in “The Hurt Locker” and over the years, he has put together some fine acting roles.

The story sounds a bit weird, but knowing that it is adapted from a Richard Matheson short story makes it better. He is considered to be one of the best sci-fi writers of his time, and many of the “Twilight Zone” episodes he was involved in are considered classics.

Shawn Levy will direct and produce alongside Don Murphy and Susan Montford.

Sharlto Copley Out of “I Am Number Four,” Timothy Olyphant In

Timothy Olyphant ("Justified," "The Crazies") will replace Sharlto Copley ("District 9," "The A-Team") on thriller "I Am Number Four" at Dreamworks Pictures.

According to Variety: Based on the novel series by James Frey and Jobie Hughes, the story follows nine aliens who flee to Earth disguised as teenagers. The titular character, now disguised as a human high schooler (Alex Pettyfer), soon learns the enemy alien race that caused them to abandon their home planet are still hunting them.

Copley, who had to bow out due to scheduling conflicts, was to play Henri, a guardian and mentor to the story's title character

Olyphant, who is also on the rise thanks to the critical hit "Justified," will shoot the film during his hiatus from the FX series.

After seeing “District 9” last year, I, like most everyone else who saw it, fell in love with Sharlto Copley. He put on an amazing performance in that film, and I was happy to hear he had been up for a lot more roles following it. So, it’s sad he’s out of this film, which sounds like it could potentially be really cool, but I couldn’t ask for a better replacement that Tim Olyphant.

I’ve been a fan of Olyphant’s since his early days of “Scream 2” and he has been just amazing as US Marshall Raylon Givens on “Justified.” The show has easily been one of the best new shows on TV this year and he has been one of the best actors.

Michael Bay is producing, while David Valdes, Chris Bender, J.C. Spink exec produce. D.J. Caruso will direct from a script by Al Gough, Marti Noxon and Miles Millar.

Darren Aronofsky, Brad Pitt Team For "The Tiger"

After two failed attempts, Brad Pitt and Darren Aronofsky are trying to team again for the adventure thriller "The Tiger" at Focus Features.

According to Cinematical: Once upon a time, Brad Pitt and Darren Aronofsky were lined up to do “The Fountain” together. Pitt dropped out, the project fell apart, and there have always been rumors of hurt feelings.

They were set to do “The Fighter” together until both abandoned it, and were replaced. But now it’s clear that Pitt's Plan B and Aronofsky's Protozoa Pictures will produce “The Tiger” and the project is being lined up as a possible starring vehicle for Pitt.

Based on John Vaillant's upcoming non-fiction book, the story takes place on the Siberian plain, where humanity is encroaching on the tigers' habitat -- and one tiger turns on the intruders.

As townspeople are being hunted with an almost supernatural power, a conservationist game warden must face the tiger in a fight to the death. Guillermo Arriaga ("Babel," "21 Grams") will pen the script.

I’ll try not to get my hopes up too high about Aronofsky and Pitt teaming up because based on past events this project will probably be made with someone else starring. Either way, my fingers are still crossed because Aronofsky is brilliant, and Pitt is the type of intelligent, high-profile actor that could work well with him.

Here’s hoping this project comes together.

Colin Farrell, Marion Cotillard Join David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis"

Colin Farrell and Marion Cotillard are set to star in David Cronenberg's adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel "Cosmopolis"

According to Variety: The $20.5 million film is penned by Cronenberg and produced by Portuguese producer Paulo Branco's Alfama Films and Cronenberg's Toronto-based Antenna, in association with Kinology.

The story is set across a 24-hour period and takes place almost entirely within a limousine which is making its way slowly through a city due to several events (including a presidential visit) keeping traffic at a standstill.

Farrell would play a newlywed billionaire who cheats on his wife (Cotillard), finds himself being stalked, attacked by a protester, and slowly losing his massive fortune.

Cronenberg's kicks off filming on the psychoanalyst love-triangle drama "A Dangerous Method" this month in Germany.

Cronenberg is one of the most interesting filmmakers in the industry, and he is perfect to adapt one of DeLilo’s novels. It’s also good to see Colin Farrell getting some more work, because when he is on his game (“Tigerland,” “In Bruges”) great things can happen.

"Cosmopolis" will shoot from March to May next year.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Classic Album Review, Wu-Tang Clan, "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)"

In the early 90’s East coast rap took a backseat to the West coast scene. Dr. Dre had released “The Chronic”, and along with N.W.A., Snoop and Nate Dogg, he took West coast rap to the mainstream.

While “The Chronic” was a significant debut, soon after that, another group from the opposite coast emerged, blazing a trail for an East Coast comeback that would bring on what many in the industry called “the East Coast Renaissance”.

Wu Tang Clan’s debut album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” is easily one of the most influential hip-hop albums of all time. RZA’s distinctive production style and Wu Tang’s cast of unique and talented MC’s created the blueprint for hardcore hip-hop and helped revitalize the New York rap scene. The album laid the groundwork for young rappers on the East coast such as Nas, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G. and Mobb Deep.

Released in November 1993 the album's title originates from the martial arts film The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. As the group’s de facto leader, RZA produced the entire album and used some eerie, peculiar beats along with a raw sound based on movie clips and soul music samples.

His production, along with the talents of Method Man, GZA, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and the rest of the Clan, helped make the album feel completely original.

Every track on the album is packed with fresh, inventive rhymes, which are filled with martial arts metaphors, pop culture references, threats of violence, and a truly twisted sense of humor. The album is great from top to bottom, but “Protect Ya Neck”, “Method Man”, “C.R.E.A.M.”, “Bring da Ruckus” and “"Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit” stand out above the rest.

“Bring da Ruckus” is the first track on the album, and in a way it epitomizes everything the group wanted to accomplish on “36 Chambers”. The track is a burst of energy as it opens with a martial arts audio clip, leading into the opening line, with RZA emphatically stating: “Bring da motherfuckin ruckus/Bring da mother, bring da motherfuckin ruckus”.

The ferocious opening sets the stage for Ghostface Killah, who has the best verse on the track. He drops some perfectly placed cultural references as he raps: “However, I master the trick just like Nixon/Causin terror, quick damage ya whole era/Hardrocks is locked the fuck up, or found shot/P.L.O. style, hazardous, cause I wreck this dangerous/I blow sparks like Waco, Texas.”

"Method Man" is one of the most unique and original tracks on the album. Method Man the rapper introduces himself in a big way as he spits one of the best, yet simple choruses of all time: “I'm…/M-E-T, H-O-D, Man/ M-E-T, H-O-D, Man.”

Throughout the track Method Man shows off his confidence and bravado as he raps: “Here I am here I am, the Method Man/Patty cake patty cake hey the method man/Don't eat Skippy, Jif or Peter Pan/Peanut butter, Cause I'm not butter/In fact I snap back like a rubber.”

Essentially every track on this album is great, but "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothing Ta F'Wit” might be the best of the bunch. The track has one of the best beats I have ever heard and RZA spits some truly great lines as he raps: “I be tossin, enforcin, my style is awesome/I'm causin more Family Feud's than Richard Dawson/And the survey said -- ya dead/Fatal Flying Guillotine chops off your fuckin head.”

"C.R.E.A.M." is easily my favorite track on the album. Raekwon and Method Man both spit some great verses, but this track is all about the chorus. Method Man’s gritty East coast drawl is instantly recognizable as he raps: “Cash, Rules, Everything, Around, Me/C.R.E.A.M./Get the money/Dollar, dollar bill y'all.”

The sound and style of the album became hugely influential in modern hip-hop production, while the group members' explicit, humorous, and free-associative lyrics created a blueprint for future rappers to follow.

“Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” was the start of something truly great in hip-hop, and the album is a definitive classic.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Office Recap, "The Cover Up"

The episode opens with Jim and Pam teaming up to prank Dwight. The two are clicking and taping on their keyboards continuously, and Dwight thinks they are communicating in Morse code, talking about him. They tell him that’s ridiculous, but it’s true. Dwight gets frustrated, but all he can do is get in a Morse code stare down with Pam.

Michael is in a great mood due to his wildly successful relationship with Donna, the woman he met in “Happy Hour”. Michael calls everyone into a meeting so they can help him figure out more things to do with Donna than just have sex.

Ryan and Kelly bring to Michaels attention that Donna might be cheating on him, because they don’t go out.

Andy receives a call from a customer that the Sabre printer they bought caught fire during routine operation. He becomes frustrated when no one takes his customer's complaint seriously. He says something to both Stanley and Gabe (the corporate dude) but neither gives him any answers.

Michael is worried about Donna. “I haven’t eaten or slept since I found out Donna was cheating”, he says to the camera after knowing for about 5 minutes. Michael decides to put Dwight on the investigation, to follow Donna and see if she’s cheating.

Darryl uses Andy’s problem to get back at him for an incident that happened a couple years before, when Andy got Darryl in trouble for getting a paper shipment out late. He decides to prank Andy and convince him that something shady is going on with the fire printers.

Dwight follows Donna to the gym, and goes about things totally the wrong way. He attempts to seduce her, and fails, so he openly admits Michael sent him there to tail her.

Darryl enlists Creed to help further his prank. Then after initially pretending to help Andy to not get fired, Darryl agrees to film Andy using the printer in typical fashion to confirm his burning printer theory.

Donna comes to the office to talk to Michael about the whole situation, and after Michael charmingly apologizes to her about the whole thing, they talk about going away for a weekend.

Darryl and Andy go into the old Michael Scott Paper Company Office/Supple Closet and film the video, Andy continuously prints while Darryl films.

While Donna and Michael are talking about their trip, Pam find photos on Facebook revealing that she is hugging and kissing another man. Pam shows Michael the pictures she found, and he confronts Donna with the evidence.

At the end, to Darryl’s surprise, the printer indeed catches fire, confirming Andy's suspicions. Darryl decides to end his prank, with things getting “real, real fast”.

The episode ends with Michael confronting Donna in the parking lot. Donna reveals that she is cheating, but that it is Michael that is the "other guy". The photos are of her and her husband. Michael is left confused and hurt.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Inception" Synopsis Revealed

Warner Bros. Pictures has released an official synopsis for Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated yet still very mysterious thriller "Inception" - a synopsis that delivers a basic outline of the story at last:

"Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan directs an international cast in an original sci-fi actioner that travels around the globe and into the intimate and infinite world of dreams.

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable.

Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved.

Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible–inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one.

If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming."

I'm more excited for this film than any other this summer. The trailer is mysterious, and just leaves you begging for more. Nolan is a cinematic genius, and this film looks to be mind blowing.

The film is scheduled to hit theatres on July 16th. Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy and Michael Caine also star.

Joel McHale Asks "What's Your Number?"

"The Soup" and "Community" comedian Joel McHale has joined the Anna Faris comedy "What’s Your Number?" says The Hollywood Reporter.

According to the Hollywood Reporter: Joel McHale has booked his first movie since his turn leading the ensemble cast of NBC's "Community."

The actor is in final negotiations to play a key role in the New Regency's comedy "What's Your Number?"

Based on Karyn Bosnak's book "20 Times a Lady," the story follows a woman (Anna Faris) who thought she'd find her perfect guy by the time she'd slept with a maximum of twenty men.

Waking up after a drunken night in the bed of her mildly charming boss (McHale), she realizes she's reached that limit but hasn't achieved it. Rather than increasing the number or staying celibate, she tracks down all her ex-partners in an attempt to make things work with one of them.

McHale's deal for "Number" comes on the heels of his joining the cast of the Fox 2000 comedy "The Big Year," starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin. McHale plays Martin's boss in the David Frankel-directed movie.

McHale appeared last year opposite Matt Damon in "The Informant!" -- a movie he did prior to "Community," which has been picked up for a second season by NBC.

It’s no secret that McHale is hilarious. He’s great on “Community” and as a fan of “The Soup” I always knew he was ready to branch out into film. McHale will be perfect for this film, which is putting together a solid cast.

The movie, whose cast also includes Chris Evans, Zachary Quinto and Matt Bomer, shoots at the end of the month. Mylod ("Entourage") is directing from a script by Jennifer Crittenden and Gabrielle Allan.

Huston, Pike, McHale Up For "Big Year"

Anjelica Huston, Rosamund Pike, Dianne Wiest and more have all joined the cast of "The Big Year" for Fox 2000 says Movieweb.

According to Movieweb: The director of Marley & Me's next film project has rounded out its cast. Rashida Jones, Anjelica Huston, Dianne Wiest and Jim Parsons have all joined the cast of “The Big Year”.

Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson play a trio of guys who attempt to outdo each other in a yearlong bird-watching competition. Rashida Jones, Jim Parsons, JoBeth Williams, Brian Dennehy, Anthony Anderson and Tim Blake Nelson also star. Kevin Pollak and Joel McHale are in talks for roles.

The film is based off the 1998 book by Mark Obmascik, which revolves around three men who try to keep outdoing each other in a yearlong bird-watching competition. Jones will play Black's love interest, also a bird-watcher, while Huston will also play a competitive bird-watcher while Parsons will play a bird-watching blogger.

The cast from top to bottom is fantastic, especially with Martin, Wilson and Black in the lead roles. But the news that I’m most excited about is the fact that Jim Parsons is cast in the film. He has proven he is one of the best comedic actors on TV with his portrayal of Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory”. He is one of the most memorable TV characters in recent years, and it will be interesting to see Parsons take on a new role.

Howard Franklin penned the script while Frankel directs with filming kicking off this week in Canada.

Downey Confirms "Gravity", Talks "Holmes 2"

Robert Downey Jr. has confirmed that Alfonso Cuaron's sci-fi-thriller "Gravity" is his next immediate project followed by Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" sequel reports MTV News.

According to MTV News: Downey confirmed that he'll be doing "Gravity" next, with director Alfonso Cuaron, and then following that up with the "Holmes" sequel.

The 'Holmes' sequel kicks off this fall and while it will mostly shoot in London, Downey expects to "be abroad" saying "A bit of Paris, a bit of Switzerland by the end, if I'm not mistaken".

That last bit could allude to the filmmakers using the famous ending of "The Final Problem" in which both Holmes and Moriarty seemingly fall to their death at Reichenbach Falls (Holmes ultimately survives). As its already been stated that Moriarty will serve as the film's villain, it would come as no surprise if the events in 'Problem' are incorporated into the script.

Downey's not sure if Rachel McAdams' Irene Adler character will also return: "It's hard to say. Because Irene Adler only appeared in one of the stories of Doyle's reservoir of activities. But we'll find out quickly."

He's also not sure if they'll do it 3D but says "you're leaving a bunch of dough on the table if you don't shoot something in 3-D."

Although I didn’t think it was perfect, I really enjoyed “Sherlock Holmes” and I thought Downey Jr. was brilliant with the way he took on the classic character. Hopefully the sequel will build on the quality parts of the first film to make an awesome follow up, much like how “The Dark Knight” was to “Batman Begins”.

Also, hearing that two talents like Cuaron and Downey will be working together on a sci-fi project has got me excited. I thought “Children of Men” was brilliant and it’ll be interesting to see what Cuaron does with “Gravity”.

Downey will shoot "Gravity" in London this summer.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Classic Film: "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974)

Many people consider the 1970’s to be one of the most classic decades for film. It's also true that the 1970’s were a golden age for director Sidney Lumet.

He directed 12 films in the 70’s, and in a stretch from 1973-1976 he helmed the films: “Serpico”, “Murder on the Orient Express”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, and “Network”.

All four of those films are classics, each extremely well written, acted and directed. The reason I bring this up, is because many filmmakers are lucky to create one film that is considered “great”, and here in only a span of four years Lumet crafted four brilliant pieces of filmmaking. While all are fantastic, “Murder on the Orient Express” may be the best of the group.

The film is based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name, which was published in 1934. Christie is one of the best selling authors of all time, and “Murder on the Orient Express” is one of her finest novels.

Both the book and the film follow the exploits of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who is played by Albert Finney, as he investigates a murder that takes place on the titular “Orient Express”.

In this one, Belgian detective Poirot (Finney) finds himself surrounded by 13 murder suspects after a vulgar American millionaire (Richard Widmark) gets stabbed to death in his train compartment. Could the assailant be the victim's nervous assistant played nimbly by Anthony Perkins? Is it he quick-tempered military man, Sean Connery? The meek missionary, Ingrid Bergman? Or did the butler, played by John Gielgud really do it? I won’t give it away, but let’s just say everyone is connected.

Although the murder is the central focus of the story, the film rests on the performance of Finney, and he handles the load gracefully. Finney is nearly unrecognizable as Mr. Poriot. His moustache is perfectly groomed, and his accent is impeccable. Finney was nominated for an Oscar for his performance, and deservedly so.

Finney’s performance was a ‘Hercule-an’ effort in itself. For example, the final scene, in which Poirot shares his solution of the case, required more shots and camera angles than could be captured in a single take on the cramped set, so the cast had to shoot the scene multiple times. You could imagine how hard that must have been on Finney, whose monologue was eight pages long. The scene is beautifully directed, but Finney is just unbelievable.

The film was nominated for six Oscars all together, with Ingrid Bergman winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Virtually all of Ingrid Bergman's winning performance is contained in a single scene in which Poirot interrogates her character. The scene was captured in a single continuous take, nearly five minutes long.

Adapting a book is never easy. Adapting a book that is considered to be one of the best of its genre is even harder. Lumet shows his brilliance as a director on this film and he makes things look easy.

I’m amazed that the film was nominated for Best Actor or Best Director, but the Academy doesn’t always get things quite right anyway (“Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan”? I’m still not over that one).

Either way, “Murder on the Orient Express” is easily one of the best mystery films of all time, but I’ll also go as far as to say it’s one of the best films of all time, a definitive classic.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Classic Album Review, 2Pac, "All Eyez On Me"

1995 was a landmark year for Tupac Shakur.

In February he began serving a one-and-a-half to four-and-a-half year prison sentence for sexual assault. Soon after that he released the album “Me Against the World”, which gave 2Pac the distinction of being the only artist ever to have an album at number one on the Billboard 200 while serving a prison sentence.

While incarcerated, 2Pac read many books by Machiavelli, Sun Tzu's The Art of War and other works of political philosophy and strategy, which would later influence his music.

In October 1995, after serving eleven months, 2Pac was released from the penitentiary due in large part to the help and influence of Suge Knight, CEO of Death Row Records, who posted a $1.4 million bail pending appeal of the conviction in exchange for 2Pac to release three albums under the Death Row label.

While not the most customary way to score a record deal, it gave 2Pac the chance to immediately start recording his next album.

Maybe it was his time in prison, or maybe it was simply his signing with Knight's Death Row label, but whatever the case, 2Pac emerged hardened and hungry with “All Eyez on Me”, the first double-disc album of original material in hip-hop history. It only took 2Pac two weeks to record the 27-track epic.

“All Eyez on Me” was released on February 13, 1996 almost a year after 2Pac began his prison sentence. Sadly, the Grammy nominated album was the last to be released during 2Pac's lifetime.

The album opened at number 1 on the Billboard 200, making 2Pac the first rapper to have two straight albums debut at number one. Although 2Pac spent most of 1995 locked up and battling the system, the album makes it obvious that, rather than reducing his artistic abilities, the struggles only elevated his skills.

Most of the tracks on “All Eyez on Me” are unapologetic celebrations of living the thug lifestyle (“California Love”) and while there is the occasional reminiscence about past and present friends ("Heartz of Men"), it moves away from the social and political consciousness of “2Pacalypse Now”.

The album featured six singles, the most of any 2Pac album up to that point and at 132 minutes, truly is an epic set of music. While every track has something to offer, “I Ain’t Mad At Cha”, “How Do U Want It”, “Picture Me Rollin” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” (which features Snoop Dogg), stand out above all the rest.

While “California Love” was released as the “comeback” single for 2Pac, it also epitomizes the west coast lifestyle, and is easily one of the best hip-hop tracks of all time. The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards and features Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman.

2Pac is ferocious on the track, showing that he was motivated and ready to be back on the rap scene: “Out on bail fresh outta jail, California dreamin/Soon as I stepped on the scene, I'm hearin hoochies screamin/Fiendin for money and alcohol/the life of a west side playa where cowards die and its all ball/Only in Cali where we riot not rally to live and die.”

Dr. Dre has one of the cleverest and most recognized verses on the album as he raps: “Now let me welcome everybody to the wild, wild west/A state that's untouchable like Elliot Ness/The track hits ya eardrum like a slug to ya chest/Pack a vest for your Jimmy in the city of sex.”

“I Ain’t Mad At Cha” is a personal track for 2Pac, a heartfelt tribute to his friends he knew before he was famous. He speaks of losing touch with people and how many people turned on him after his success.

On the track 2Pac raps about his younger days, his time in prison and how his life has changed from being in the ghetto to being a celebrity. "So many questions, and they ask me if I'm still down/I moved up out of the ghetto, so I ain't real now?/They got so much to say, but I'm just laughin at cha/You niggaz just don't know, but I ain't mad at cha."

"Life Goes On" is arguably the most emotional track on the album and is a tribute song to his friend Kato. Ironically, it also talks about his own death, and his funeral. You can hear the truthfulness and sadness as 2Pac raps: “As I bail through tha empty halls/breath stinkin' in my jaws/ring, ring, ring, quiet y'all/incoming call, plus this my homie from high school/he's getting bye/It's time to bury another brotha nobody cry.”

The track also has one of the best and most meaningful choruses on the album, as 2Pac croons: “How many brothas fell victim to tha streetz/Rest in peace young nigga, there's a Heaven for a 'G'/be a lie, If I told ya that I never thought of death/my niggas, we tha last ones left/but life goes on.”

“2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” is my personal favorite track on the album. Featuring Snoop Dogg, the track has an infectious beat, and some of the best lyrics on the album. The duo paints a perfect picture of the California lifestyle and show why they are two of the best MC’s of all time.


2Pac brings it with confidence and bravado as he raps: “So now they got us laced/Two multimillionare motherfuckers catchin cases (mmm)/Bitches get ready for the throwdown, the shit's about to go down/Uhh, me and Snoop about to clown/I'm "Losin My Religion", I'm vicious on these stool pigeons/You might be deep in this game, but you got the rules missin.”

Snoop uses some great culture references as he spits the verse: “I got a pit named P, she niggarino/I got a house out in the hills right next to Chino/and I, think I got a black Beamer/but my dream is to own a fly casino/like Bugsy Seagel, and do it all legal.”

With all his past success, 2Pac could have put out a run-of-the-mill album and still probably sold millions, but instead he put something truly original and epic.

With solid tracks from top to bottom, the album is easily one of the best of all time. Throughout his career 2Pac released some truly great music, but I think “All Eyez on Me” is his defining work and is most definitely a classic.