Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Classic Album Review: T.I., "King"

Back in October 2007, just four hours before the BET Hip-Hop Awards in his home town of Atlanta, T.I. was charged with two felonies — possession of three unregistered machine guns and two silencers, and possession of firearms by a convicted felon. It was a big blow for the superstar rapper, but either way, T.I. did his time and was released this past March.

We all know that everyone makes mistakes. Even rappers. But in order to appreciate how far T.I.'s fall from grace was, we have to first establish just how high he once was and how he elevated himself to the top of the hip-hop world.

The self-proclaimed “king of the south”, T.I. truly established his royal lineage on his 2006 album, aptly titled, “King”. Released in March 2006, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and was nominated for a Grammy.

T.I. showcases how truly skilled he is on this album, taking full command on every track and rapping with a combination of attitude and confidence that few can match. From top to bottom the album is packed with hits. “What You Know” is easily the most popular of the bunch, but “Why You Wanna”, “Live in the Sky”, “Front Back” and “I’m Talkin’ to You” are all excellent as well.

T.I. also brings out some great collaborators on this album, including Pharrell, Common, Young Jeezy, and Jamie Foxx. All contribute some great verses to the album, but it’s still T.I. who shines above the rest.

“Live in the Sky”, which features Foxx singing some heavy gospel, is easily the most personal track on the album. The somber ballad has T.I. rapping about the pain of losing friends and family to violence.

You can hear the heartbreak in his voice as he raps: “My cousin died over some yay and I miss 'em/Plus he had his family out let's say she the eye witness/But her boyfriend did the shooting judge gave her life sentence.”

It only took one month for the single “What You Know” to go platinum and it was for good reason. The track is the masterpiece of “King” and the chorus is truly an epic creation. The simple verse still echoes on today in the hip-hop world: “What you know about that?/What you know about that?/What you know about that?/Hey I know all about that.”

Aside from “What You Know”, “Why You Wanna” is my personal favorite track on the album. The beat is infectious, the sound of it is like a lost cousin to a Jay-Z track, and I mean that as a compliment.

T.I. raps in his patented laid back, yet cocky style about women and relationships and you can hear the playful humor as he raps: “Can he touch you like that, and make you make you feel like this?/How I left and came back and it's still like this/Do he hit it from the back and make you feel it yo chest/Take advantage of what your concealing in yo dress/What, he think he too fresh to show that you the best.”

Throughout his career, T.I. has had some amazing highs, and some unfortunate lows. But no matter how you view T.I. as a person, one thing is clear: he is wonderfully skilled as a rapper. Who knows what the future holds for the artist, but one thing he will always have is “King”.

Although T.I. crowned it himself, "King" is definitely worthy of the royal treatment.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Michael Bay Talks "Transformers 3" Story

USA Today recently visited the set of the third "Transformers" movie and Michael Bay revealed several new tidbits on the film, including some aspects of the plot.

Bay plans to debut the movie next summer. He admitted some missteps with the last film and aims to upgrade the shape-shifting robot franchise with a more coherent story, less goofball humor and a pledge that characters who die will stay dead.

Bay partly blames the rush to churn out the first sequel so soon after the writer's strike to blame for "Revenge of the Fallen" not being quite up to par with the original.

Also, despite Bay not being a fan of 3D, the film will be released in 3D--though it's unsure as of yet if it will be shot that way or converted in post-production.

“Revenge of the Fallen” was the No. 2 movie of 2009 (behind only "Avatar"), earning $836 million worldwide — very popular, though complaints from moviegoers and a negative barrage from critics made the filmmakers take notice.

Plot details are under wraps, but the new film will delve into the space race between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. At the same time, Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) is taking his first tenuous steps into adulthood while remaining a reluctant human ally of Optimus Prime.

Bay also spoke about the film’s new villain, who will be Shockwave, a character from the original '80s cartoon. The robot cyclops-turned-laser-cannon, became dictator of the Transformers home world of Cybertron after the other Autobots and Decepticons journeyed to Earth.

Megan Fox, who played Mikaela, was dropped just before shooting, so LaBeouf's character also has a new love interest, played by Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

I really loved the first “Transformers.” I was excited for “Revenge of the Fallen,” but after I saw it, I felt as if I had just sat through two hours of crap blowing up. Which is pretty much exactly what it was. While the original wasn't a cinematic masterpiece, it at least had a story you could follow.

But clearly Bay and the other filmmakers heard what fans and critics were saying, and it looks as if the third “Transformers” film might just be the best of the bunch.

"Red Dawn" On Indefinite Hold?

MGM's financial woes may have claimed another victim - the "Red Dawn" remake.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the Dan Bradley-directed $75 million remake of the '80s John Milius cult classic had been scheduled for a November 24 release this year, but with MGM's spiraling debts, the company has withdrawn the project from release as it simply doesn't have the funds to market and distribute films of this size.

Bradley’s film focuses on a group of teenagers looking to save their town from an invasion of Chinese and Russian soldiers.

When Disney dropped the Miramax label a few months ago, several completed (or nearly completed) projects became essentially stuck in limbo and still may not see the light of day. Now, it seems through quite different circumstances, the same thing will happen with MGM's upcoming slate.

Two high-profile projects in development – the new Bond film, and "The Hobbit" - are currently both going nowhere until the financial issues are resolved.

Sony picked up the Kevin James comedy "The Zookeeper" from the studio and will release that, and a similar arrangement could be worked out for "Dawn," but right now, there's apparently nothing in the works on that front.

I’m hoping that changes, because I was really looking forward to this film. The original was great, and I thought that Bradley’s film could have been made as a straight remake, but I also thought it would be good having Russia and China as the villain as well. There’s been some backlash on that front, and I wonder if the filmmakers would have been better served keeping the original Russian and Cuban villains instead.

Hopefully, something will happen, because with a cast of talent like Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Isabel Lucas and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the film has a shot to be pretty good.

“Taken” to Get A Sequel?

Liam Neeson says a sequel to his surprise hit revenge thriller "Taken" could be in the works.

The actor tells MTV News that he and writer/producer Luc Besson have discussed ideas for a possible follow-up, but nothing is set in stone quite yet.

Said Neeson: "It is hard to get a plot that's going to be believable.” Later this month, he added that he and Besson are "going to sit down and see if we can hash it out."

The low-budget film was released in mid-2008 internationally and in January last year in the U.S. Not only did it get decent reviews, it ended up taking $226 million globally.

I loved “Taken.” I thought Neeson was fantastic, but even more than that, I left the theater feeling satisfied. Sure, it wasn’t the best ‘film’ I've ever seen, it didn’t win any awards, but it did come through with allowing me to be entertained. Hopefully, if they do come out with a sequel, it will be just as good as the first.

"Clash of the Titans" Sequel Prepping For January

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures are not only moving forward with plans for a sequel to this year's "Clash of the Titans" remake--the studio is making it a major priority.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the pair are planning to begin shooting the sequel as early as January with Jonathan Liebesman ("Battle: Los Angeles," "Darkness Falls") the top contender to direct. He would replace Louis Leterrier.

Despite weak reviews, 'Titans' is one of the year's biggest earners with a $486.8 million worldwide haul thus far from a relatively modest $125 million budget.

The plan for the sequel is to properly shoot it in 3D, and part of the reason for the hurry is to lock in star Sam Worthington. The Aussie actor gets to work on the "Avatar" sequel, which likely will shoot sometime in the second half of 2011.

Thankfully, this time around, the "Titans" sequel will shoot in 3D instead of going through a conversion, which will be a plus, and after making so much money the first time around, its no surprise that the studio wants to move fast.

Although Liebesman doesn’t have much experience under his belt, “Battle: Los Angeles” looks as if it will be pretty great and he could spin that into a quality sequel here.

Look for the film to start shooting in January.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Classic Album Review: 50 Cent, "Get Rich or Die Trying"

Massive expectations usually are the precursor of two things: that a star is about to be born, or it’s about to explode and flame out forever, never to regain its brightness.

In the case of Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent, massive expectations led to one thing and one thing only, a domination of the rap world, all thanks to an album called "Get Rich or Die Trying".

In retrospect, this domination was not so predictable. Jackson was born in Queens and started dealing drugs as early as the age of twelve. As he got older he decided to put aside the drugs and strictly pursue a career in rap music.

He suffered a set back in 2000 after being shot nine times with a 9mm handgun at close range. While Jackson sustained some heavy injuries, including a small slur in his voice, he survived the incident and used as motivation for his music.

Jackson later stated that: "After I got shot nine times at close range and didn't die, I started to think that I must have a purpose in life... How much more damage could that shell have done? Give me an inch in this direction or that one, and I'm gone".

After the shooting Jackson focused hard on his music, releasing the mixtape, “Guess Who’s Back?” in 2002. Eminem got his hands on a copy of the album, which he shared with Dr. Dre, both of whom were impressed. Soon after that Jackson signed a one million dollar record deal Dr. Dre, and began walking on the path to superstardom.

Released in February 2003, “Get Rich or Die Trying” debuted at number 1 on the Billboard charts and eventually went on to sell over 12 million copies worldwide. That doesn’t happen by accident. Sure, 50 had the street cred from being shot, but it was also his charismatic, laid-back drawl that brought the fans to frenzy.

The album is filled to the brim with twenty quality tracks without a skit in sight. “Get Rich or Die Trying” plays out like every rapper wishes their debut would: opening with a personality defining track (“What Up Gangsta”), a team up with one of rap’s biggest stars, Eminem (“Patiently Waiting”) and of course, the radio ready single that blows up (“In da Club”).

Along with those tracks, “21 Questions”, “Don’t Push Me”, “If I Can’t”, “High All the Time”, and “P.I.M.P” are the highlights on this impressive debut. “Get Rich or Die Trying” is an incredibly calculated album, with Eminem and Dr. Dre handling some production in the background, but it’s also an amazing one.

“In Da Club” might not be considered one of the greatest tracks ever, but its effect can’t be understated. I think it has one of the catchiest beats of all time, and when 50 starts off by casually slurring, “Go shorty, it’s your birthday/We gonna party like it’s your birthday,” you know all bets are off. I think the track is easily one of the most memorable of all time, just due to the sheer amount of popularity it attained.

“Many Men (Wish Death)” is one of the most serious and personal tracks on the album. It begins with a dramatization of 50’s shooting incident, and as the song goes on he raps with anger and ferocity, his mood changing with each verse.

You can hear the pain in his voice as he raps: “In the Bible it says what goes around comes around/Homie shot me, three weeks later he got shot down/Now it’s clear that I’m here for a real reason/’Cause he got hit like I got hit, but he ain’t fuckin’ breathin’.”

“High All the Time” is my personal favorite track, and it’s not just because of the subject matter. Jackson raps with a deliberate yet casual style that fits extremely well with the beat. He drops some of his most clever lines of the album on this track as he raps: “Daddy need Perelli's to look mean on 22s/Stash box, Xbox, laptop, fax machine, phone/Bulletproof this bitch and I'm gone.”

The track also has one of the best and simplest choruses of all-time. 50 channels fellow West coast rapper Nate Dogg and crafts the motto for the modern day smoker: “I'm high all the time, I smoke that good shit/I stay high all the time, man I'm on some hood shit.”

“Get Rich or Die Trying” is hands down one of the best party albums of all time. No matter where you are and not matter who you are hosting, you can play the album from beginning to end and keep the party going the entire time.

On top of that, with this explosive debut, 50 solidified himself a place all his own in the hip-hop industry. “Get Rich or Die Trying” is one of the best debuts of all-time and is definitely a classic.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Michael Fassbender Up for "X-Men" & "Spider-Man 4"

German-born, Irish-raised Michael Fassbender ("Inglourious Basterds," "Hunger") is currently being linked to not one but two Marvel comic book film adaptations currently heading towards production.

According to Showbiz 411: "X-Men: First Class" director Matthew Vaughn is pursuing Fassbender to play the younger version of Ian McKellen’s Magneto in Fox's prequel project which already stars James McAvoy as the younger Professor Charles X. Xavier. That film is slated to kick off filming soon in the UK for release next summer.

At the same time, Fassbender is being pursued to play the villain in “Spider-Man 4" at Sony Pictures. As that film isn't scheduled to hit until mid-2012, its production won't kick off until sometime next year.

Fassbender is expected to choose one over the other--the question is which one and how it will fit into his schedule. On top of that, the new “Spider-Man” villain has yet to be revealed, and director Marc Webb has still yet to choose his new Peter Parker. Fassbender was great in “Inglourious Basterds” last summer, and whichever role he chooses, he is likely to be excellent in it.

The actor is currently shooting David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" and will next star in David Jacobson's "A Single Shot."

David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse In "Fright Night" Remake

Former "Doctor Who" star David Tennant and rising young actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse ("Superbad," "Kick-Ass") have joined the cast of the "Fright Night" remake for Dreamworks Pictures.

According to Reuters: David Tennant, best known for starring in the BBC series "Doctor Who," and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are joining the cast of "Fright Night," a remake of the cult 1985 film.

The original film followed Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), a young man who is convinced his new neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire and seeks the help of his girlfriend (Amanda Bearse), his nerdy and condescending friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) and aging horror actor turned late night TV host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) to help him.

The new film, scripted by Marti Noxon and directed by Craig Gillespie, moves the action to Las Vegas. Tennant will take on the Peter Vincent role, which has been reimagined as a Las Vegas magician and self-proclaimed vampire expert whose show revolves around horror-movie imagery.

Anton Yelchin stars as Charlie, a teen convinced that his new neighbor (Colin Farrell) is a vampire. Toni Collette is the teen's disbelieving mom, who falls under the vampire's spell.

Mintz-Plasse will play the Evil Ed role, the nerdy friend who ends up joining Dandrige (Colin Farrell).

Tennant was fantastic on “Dr. Who,” and I’m glad to see him moving on to other roles. Mintz-Plasse should fit in well with Yelchin, who is no stranger to remakes, having taken part in the “Star Trek” reboot.

Filming kicks off in July.

Steven Quale To Helm Fifth "Final Destination"

Steven Quale, the visual effects guru who also worked as second unit director on "Titanic" and "Avatar," has been hired to helm the 3D fifth entry in the "Final Destination" franchise for New Line.

According to Variety: New Line has tapped visual effects vet Steven Quale -- a longtime associate of James Cameron -- as director for "Final Destination 5." Quale also worked on special effects on "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" and directed "Aliens of the Deep" for Disney.

Story details on the sequel are being kept under wraps, but it will kick off with an opening scene on a suspension bridge and involve laser eye surgery in another scene.

Eric Heisserer ("A Nightmare on Elm Street") is penning the script while Craig Perry and Warren Zide will produce.

Although the “Final Destination” films have declined in quality as each sequel has come out, they are sure money makers. With Quale directing, the franchise is moving in the right direction. Even if the story is poorly written, you know the action will be top notch given all of his experience with James Cameron. If the story is up to snuff, this could end up as a much better film than the past few installments.

Shooting kicks off September 13th for release next August.

Max Minghella in "The Darkest Hour"

Max Minghella ("Agora," "Bee Season") is set to join the $40 million sci-fi thriller "The Darkest Hour" for New Regency and Summit Entertainment.

According to Variety: The story follows a group of kids struggling to survive in Moscow after an alien invasion. Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor and Joel Kinnaman also star.

Chris Gorak ("Right at Your Door") directs from a script by Les Bohem and Jon Spaihts he re-wrote. Timur Bekmambetov and Tom Jacobson will produce.

Minghella, son of the late director Anthony, will be seen in Sony's "The Social Network" in October. He’s a great young talent, and along with Emile Hirsch, the cast of this flick is solid.

I also think the sci-fi aspect and the interesting story all point in a positive direction for this film. If done correctly this could end up being a surprise quality hit much like “District 9” was last summer.

Filming kicks off in Russia this summer.

Links of the Day, June 14

Links of the Day:

-The AV Club usually has some of the best stuff on the web when it comes to movies and television, and it's true again with these articles: The AV Club's writer's take a look at films that start off pretty well, but then eventaully stall in the third act.

-They also have a great running bit called 'The New Cult Canon' and in this particular one they tackle the ridiculous yet entertaining "Starship Troopers". For anyone that's seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about. They delve deep, looking at the anti-war aspects and other themes. Plus, Doogie Howser aka Barney Stinson aka Neil Patrick Harris stars in it as well. 'Nuff said.

-Ever wonder what could happen if 'Die Hard' met '24'? IFC tries to imagine some of the best "Killer crossovers we'd love to see (and never will)." The combinations truly are great, especially with "Dirty Harry" and "Bullitt", but the mashed up pictures really make it. Doc Brown and the Termiator? Count me in. Too bad we'll probably never get to see any of these, but when it comes to Hollywood, who knows?

-Remember the 90's? Remeber Kevin Smith's "Dogma"? Cinematical does a nice column about Smith and the film's overly religious and satirical aspects and it's pretty funny.

-Cinematical's countdown lists are usually on point, but in this case, they hit the nail right on the head with "Cinematical Seven's Ass Kicking Teachers", especially at number one.

-I still can't get enough of this Nike World Cup ad directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, the director of "21 Grams". Here's an article on detailing some of how it got made, and if you haven't watched it, get a clue man.

-Like a lot of peeps these days, I'm a big fan of Drake (even since his wheelchair bound days on "Degrassi"...come on, admit it, you watched it). Here's a great article from about his much anticipated album "Thank Me Later", which drops this week.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Classic Album Review: De La Soul, "3 Feet High and Rising"

Over the years many artists have come along and transformed hip-hop into what it is today. While that’s an obvious statement, it's also true one, and arguably the group that made the biggest impact on the industry during their time is De La Soul.

The group formed in 1987 and was comprised of Kelvin Mercer, David Jude Jolicoeur and Vincent Mason who each went by a slew of nicknames over the years. Early on, De La Soul caught the attention of producer Prince Paul with a demo tape, which eventually led him to play a heavy part in producing the group’s debut album.

De La Soul's debut, "3 Feet High and Rising" came along at an interesting moment for hip-hop. At a time when West coast gangsta rap was dominating the mainstream, the East coast group came on with a jazzy, alternative sound that was completely unique to the industry.

Released in 1989, the album it pretty much transformed the concept of what a traditional record should be. At 27 tracks the album is epic in size, but its quality matches it quantity without a doubt.

Each of the three members of De La Soul showed here that rap could be more than just rhyming about violence and guns. The production on the track in unbelievable as well, with Prince Paul pulling out all types of samples including Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Michael Jackson and even the Beastie Boys.

The group raps about a wide array of subjects including love, drugs, expectations, culture, revolution, and even the rap industry itself. While the entire album holds up, some tracks stand apart from others. “Me Myself and I” is easily the most well-known track, but “Plug Tunin’”, “Buddy”, “Eye Know”, “Potholes in My Lawn” and “The Magic Number” are all excellent as well.

"Say No Go" was one of the singles off the album and the track is a cautionary tale about drugs, primarily crack cocaine or ‘base’, which at the time was a serious problem in America.

The vivid lyrics illustrate the story perfectly, and Mercer starts off the track strongly as he raps: “Now let's get right on down to the skit/A baby is brought into a world of pits/And if it could've talked that soon/In the delivery room/It would've asked the nurse for a hit/The reason for this?/The mother is a jerk/Excuse me Junkie.”

“Eye Know” is one of the most unique and easily the most lighthearted track on the album. Featuring some great samples from Steely Dan and Otis Redding, the track is about the wonders and mystery of love. The lyrics are poetic and also have a humorous tone to them, which is one thing the group does so well.

Dove has one of the best verses on the album and you can hear the playfulness as he raps: “May I cut this dance to introduce myself as/The chosen one to speak/Let me lay my hand across yours/And aim a kiss upon your cheek/They name's Plug Two/And from the soul I bring you/The Daisy of your choice/May it be filled with the pleasure principle.”

While “Me Myself and I” is the most popular track from the album, it’s also one of the best of all time, and one of my personal favorites. Combining social commentary with the dry and satirical tone that they are so skilled at, De La Soul crafts a supremely original track that has one of the simplest yet best openings in hip-hop: “Mirror mirror on the wall/Tell me mirror what is wrong?/Can it be my De La Clothes/Or is it just my De La Soul?”

The track has some complex and clever lines, with Dove spitting a great verse as he raps: “Proud, I'm proud of what I am/Poems I speak are Plug Two type/Please oh please let Plug Two be himself, not what you read or write/Write is wrong when hype is written.”

"3 Feet High and Rising" is an album that is worth listening to over and over again. While it’s an extremely pleasurable roster of tracks, it also has impacted hip-hop in ways that can still be felt today.

Prince Paul’s creative sampling is something that producer’s have mimicked ever since, and De La Soul’s creative and intelligent lyrics helped pave the way for more socially conscious rap. The album was an amazing way to debut, and it is most definitely a classic.

Christopher Nolan Talks "Superman", "Batman"

Empire Magazine has done a rather epic interview with "Inception" director Christopher Nolan and got him to talk a little bit more about both a third "Batman" and the "Superman" reboot he's attached to "mentor."

According to Empire: Nolan still hasn't officially signed on to direct the next "Batman" and he says it's due to workload. Said Nolan: "The God's honest truth is I work on one movie at a time. I'm only capable of doing that, so my head will continue to be firmly in ['Inception'] for another few months."

While this is understandable, I pray he directs it. I mean, who else could pull it off? His brother Jonah is currently working on the script and Nolan is excited about it. He confirmed that the film would essentially be the capper of a trilogy rather than a random third entry.

Said Nolan: "There are things for me to be very excited about in addressing the characters again. It will be the finishing of a story rather than infinitely blowing up the balloon and expanding the story."

He also shot down are some villain possibilities. Thankfully, he mentioned that the Joker character would not return, which I think is a great decision. Said Nolan: "No, I just don't feel comfortable about it."

Nolan also explained his role in the new “Superman.” Nolan said David Goyer pitched him a new approach to the Man of Steel one day, and "thought it was really tremendous. It was the first time I had been able to conceive of how you would address Superman in a modern context."

Having Nolan involved will only be a positive for that franchise, and after the dud that was “Superman Returns” in 2006, hopefully Nolan and Goyer can right the ship.

Nolan’s film “Inception” is set to open July 16, 2010.

Jeremy Renner Possibly Fills Out Spandex for "The Avengers"

Though its been rumored for months, it now looks like Jeremy Renner is in final negotiations to play Hawkeye in "The Avengers."

According to Heat Vision, Renner was first connected to play the character in "Thor" last year, reports that were shot down as Renner was circling two other projects. Now it seems he'll finally play the character in "Avengers" when it kicks off filming next year.

Renner will play the bow-and-arrow-carrying hero Hawkeye, who--while not one of the initial members of the team when it was created in the 1960s--became an integral member soon after when the misguided villain switched sides.

Renner will join Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Don Cheadle as War Machine.

The Hulk may also be a character in the movie, but there is no deal that would bring back Ed Norton, who starred as the giant in 2008's "The Incredible Hulk."

While this still isn’t fully confirmed, this would be yet another dream casting choice for Marvel and “The Avengers.” Anyone who saw “The Hurt Locker” knows how powerful and amazing Renner can be, but also the confidence and bravado he has onscreen would be perfect for the Hawkeye character. Here’s hoping this works out.

Filming on 'Captain America' kicks off next month in the UK.

Daniel Craig Set for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"

Though it has been rumored that Brad Pitt was to re-team with his "Fight Club" director David Fincher on the upcoming remake of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," another name has emerged to play the film's male lead--Daniel Craig.

According to Deadline: Daniel Craig has emerged to play the film's male lead, but no offers have been made as of yet.

In the story, Blomqvist is a disgraced journalist in Stockholm who is investigating the 40-year-old disappearance of a industrialist's niece on a remote island. His investigations alongside misunderstood rebellious female hacker Lisbeth Salander uncover religious killings, Nazism, rape, child abuse and murder.

Craig, currently filming Jon Favreau's "Cowboys and Aliens," was slated to shoot the next James Bond film at the end of the year. However, MGM's financial difficulties have likely pushed back filming on 007's next adventure into 2011.

The important role of Lisbeth Salander has yet to be cast, though, with names such as Carey Mulligan, Ellen Page, Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, Kristen Stewart, Mia Wasikowska, Anne Hathaway and Scarlett Johansson offered up as potentials.

Steve Zaillian ("Schindler's List," "American Gangster") is penning the script based directly on the book rather than the Swedish-language film.

The rumor mill will always swirl especially when you are talking about a project this high profile, but in my eyes either Pitt or Craig would be a fine choice. Craig is free due to the problems with MGM, and I really think he could fit the role, and perhaps give it a bit more authenticity since he's from Europe. Either way, this role would be a score for any actor.

The film is slated for release in December next year.

Bruce Willis, Forest Whitaker Play "Catch .44"

Bruce Willis, Forest Whitaker, Malin Akerman and Kate Mara have signed on to star in the ensemble thriller "Catch .44."

According to Variety, first-time director Aaron Harvey will direct from his own script. Kate Mara also stars in the film.

The story focuses on three women--led by Akerman's character--being thrust into an extraordinary situation involving a psychopathic hitman, played by Whitaker, a grizzled trucker and a delusional line cook. Willis will play the head crime boss, the mastermind behind everything that happens.

While I don’t know much about Harvey, I do know that with a cast of stars like Willis, Whitaker and Akerman, this production is headed in the right direction. While the story sounds as if it could fall into some clichés, I think the actors will take over the characters and this film could end up being a nice surprise.

Shooting kicks off July 11, 2010 in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Classic Album Review, The Beastie Boys, "Licensed to Ill"

The Beastie Boys are one of the most interesting and unlikely success stories in not just hip-hop history, but throughout all of the music industry.

Starting off as a punk rock group in 1979, The Beastie Boys (comprised of Michael "Mike D" Diamond, Adam "MCA" Yauch, and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz) eventually decided to experiment with some hip-hop in the early 80’s, which was moderately successful, but it paved the way for the group to fully concentrate on hip-hop.

After releasing two twelve-inch singles on Def Jam (which was just starting out), during that time, along with performing on tours with Run DMC and Madonna, the Beastie Boys were ready to break out themselves. Starting in 1984 the group teamed up with Def Jam’s uber-producer Rick Rubin to work on their debut album, “Licensed to Ill”.

Released in 1986 the album is one of the most important and influential hip-hop releases in history. Aside from the fact that it was the first rap album ever to hit number one on the Billboard charts, it solidified the Boys as one of the most original group’s in the game, and their place in history as well.

Rick Rubin could take a lot of credit for making the album as good as it was, with his mixing of rap and rock and his excellent production choices, but without the Beastie Boys and their passion for pop culture, humorous antics, wonderful use of wordplay and just not taking themselves too seriously, “Licensed to Ill” would just simply never be.

Filled with clear parodies and absurd lyrics, as well as some amazingly catchy tracks, “Licensed to Ill” is a truly great album. The Beastie Boys made music that at the time was radically original, childishly simple, yet hard to play. They rapped about drinking, robbing, rhyming, pillaging, busting open your locker and breaking your glasses. “Licensed to Ill” could be the soundtrack for any teen anywhere, even in 2010.

The album is filled with some amazing tracks, including “Girls”, “Brass Monkey”, “Paul Revere”, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, "Time to Get Ill" and “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)”. There really is not a single weak moment on the album, no skits, and not a single wasted minute.

“Brass Monkey” is one of the most playful and energetic tracks on the album, and has one of the best titles of all time. Named after the alcoholic drink of the same name, the track features one of the simplest, yet memorable choruses ever: “Brass Monkey - that funky Monkey/Brass Monkey junkie/That funky Monkey.”

The track evokes the days of high school when the most important things in life were girls and figuring out where to party next. As Ad-Rock raps: “Coolin' by the lockers getting kind of funky/Me and the crew we're drinking Brass Monkey/This girl walked by she gave me the eye/I reached in the locker grabbed the Spanish Fly/I put it with the Monkey mixed it in the cup/Went over to the girl, "Yo baby, what's up?".

One of the most unique tracks on the album is “Paul Revere”. Funny enough, the song actually evolved from and incident when the Beastie Boys were waiting outside the studio for Run DMC when Joseph Simmons ("Run") came running down the street screaming crazily. When he got to the Boys finally, he said: "Here's a little story I got to tell...”

Using that as a jumping point the Beastie Boys crafted a fantastic track that’s filled with autobiographical anecdotes, hilarious wordplay and some phrases that simply have no true meaning. MCA has the best verse on the track as he raps: “Now my name is M.C.A. I've got a license to kill/I think you know what time it is it's time to get ill/Now what do we have here an outlaw and his beer/I run this land, you understand I make myself clear.”

Ad-Rock’s tribute to the ladies of the world, "Girls", is energetic, funny and gets straight to the point. There’s no subtlety from the Boys on this track, the opening verse says it all: “Girls, all I really want is girls/And in the morning it's girls/Cause in the evening it's girls”.

“No Sleep Till Brooklyn” is easily my favorite track on the album. A lot of the tracks on “Licensed to Ill” are filled with Rick Rubin’s great mix of rock beats and guitar riffs with rap, but on this track he takes it to a whole other level, and it works to perfection.

The track is one of the group’s most memorable, but it’s easily also one of their best. I don’t think any other groups of hip-hop artists have used their names in their own tracks more cleverly than the Beastie Boys, and they really prove it on this track. MCA has the best verse on the track as he spits: “Born and bred Brooklyn U.S.A./They all me Adam Yauch but I'm M.C.A./Like a lemon to a lime a lime to a lemon/I sip the def ale with all the fly women.”

Even to this day there are a lot of music fans who don’t take the Beastie Boys totally seriously, but that’s just a mistake on their part. "Licensed to Ill" may have began as little more than a joke, but it went on to change the face of rap music forever and solidified the Beastie Boys’ spot in hip-hop history.

There is no other group that sounds like The Beastie Boys, and I have a feeling that another one won’t come along. “Licensed to Ill” was their debut, and easily is a hip-hop classic.