She Wants Revenge channels Joy Division. Rihanna resurrects Soft Cell. "V for Vendetta" goes back to the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, I try to keep my personal life out of these pages – I don’t care to share those details with you, and you don’t care to hear them. But I’ll break with tradition briefly to say that my impending marriage is slowing down this redoubtable machine of entertainment consumption and that I promise to get back into the swing of things in a few months. Not that I’m quitting cold turkey – it’s just that real life for once is getting in the way.
She Wants Revenge, “These Things” (from She Wants Revenge, Geffen)
In theory, this band is nothing but poseurs – the first single gave me all the proof I needed. But I can't help it – I love this song. The way the opening riff sounds like it's slowly walking down the hall towards me, inviting me to come along. The way the chorus hooks you like that each and every time – and may we hear it at least five more times, please? Artists you hate can sometimes floor you the hardest when they pull everything together – their irritable traits suddenly become bulletproof, a passport to a life of guiltless, nonstop pleasure. The song always ends too soon for me, and then I want to languish in its sleaze once again.
Nelly (featuring Paul Wall, Ali, and Gipp), “Grillz” (from Sweatsuit, Universal)
What can criticism hope to accomplish in the face of such rampant thug authority? This here is the purest (and, therefore, the worst) example of rap culture's excessive materialism, its casual arrogance and ignorance. So, of course, it's also very funny. And catchy as hell. I don't bob my head, I sit there in grim admiration – this is for the time capsule, a window into our cynical era where nothing matters anymore. I'm not sure kids should be exposed to it because I'm not positive I want them knowing something this lethally addictive exists.
Rihanna, “SOS” (from the forthcoming A Girl Like Me, Def Jam)
My very laidback fiancée had only one request of our wedding DJ: Please don’t play “Tainted Love.” Of all the songs that encapsulate the soulless sheen of ‘80s pop, Soft Cell’s withering testament may by the most representative – and because I hate the era, I detest it the most. So, much to my surprise, Rihanna’s sampling of it doesn’t bother me, probably because I enjoy how she simply steamrolls over the irritatingly ineffectual vocals and zeroes in on the faultless keyboards – or “keybs,” to use the era’s shorthand. For a song presumably about the desperation of love, “Tainted Love” sounded emotionally embalmed even back then. At least Rihanna revs it up, makes it sound like the emergency every teenage heart knows it is.
V for Vendetta (Warner Bros. Pictures)
I try to separate a movie's qualities from its advertising, but "an uncompromising vision of the future" is a truly poor choice of words. A Clockwork Orange, 1984, Batman, Darkman, Phantom of the Opera, Brazil .... V for Vendetta is more like a very familiar vision of the future. (Even a little of Ridley Scott's Apple commercial from the Super Bowl 22 years ago shows up here.) What's missing isn't just the Wachowskis behind the camera but their sense of cool and fun from the first Matrix – there's very few laughs, and what few action sequences there are aren't all that terrific. Some really lovely sequences show up from time to time, but the movie wears on you. If I was 14 and hadn't seen the above-mentioned works, I'd bet I'd be jazzed by all of this. But I'm not and so I'm not.
The Intruder (Wellspring)
I like this rambling poetic vision up to a point, but no amount of geopolitical topicality and reality/fantasy interweaving can distract me from the fact that Claire Denis’ central story isn't quite that original. From The Passenger to The Straight Story to Broken Flowers, filmmakers have married existential dread to ponderous images. I admit that I worry a little I missed the greater significance of The Intruder’s metaphoric content. But I also am not afraid to admit that, hey, it's not a revolution just because it’s slow.
Stoned (Screen Media Films LLC)
Rock stars are real people too, but biopics rarely get the human element right – especially if the rock star in question died young and did copious amounts of drugs and babes. Stephen Woolley's first foray behind the camera attempts to juggle several worthwhile thematic strands – the dangers of the creative mind, the seductive qualities of celebrity, the wonders of huge breasts – but there's no overriding vision to this mishmash of biography and rock excess. And the breasts you can see anywhere.
The New Adventures of Old Christine (Mondays on CBS)
Here’s my problem: Even the reviewers who like this show simply prefer it to most conventional network sitcoms. But what if you can’t tolerate conventional network sitcoms? What then? You’re out of luck, because while Julia Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t reveal a megalomaniacal desire to be adored and Clark Gregg is a good actor who’s been doing great work long enough to deserve some press, the utter familiarity of the setups, punch lines, and execution pull down everything around it. I hate conventional network sitcoms. Who has the time?
Ricky Gervais on The Simpsons (Sunday, March 26 on FOX)
The star of Extras and The Office outclasses the show he admired from afar for so long. Maybe he’s just recycling shtick, but his has more juice than theirs does. A lot more, actually.
Consumables is a regular overview of popular culture.