The Popdose Interview with Howard Jones

It was my great privilege to interview Howard Jones. Even better, it was great to discover that he is every bit the kind, thoughtful, stand-up guy that he appeared to be. One of my favorite interviews that I’ve ever done, for reasons that won’t leap off the page. He was just so upbeat and happy! My wife will attest: I was positively flying for the rest of the day.

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Dizzy Heights #43: It’s So Fresh! Popdose Flashback ’88 (Mostly) — The Beat Mix

Credit where credit is due: if Jeffrey Thames doesn’t do his 1988 Classic Club Special for KPFT in Houston, then this likely doesn’t exist. Not for a few more years, anyway.

The beat mixes I recorded during my salad days in Athens were mostly train wrecks. You press Record, mix until you run out of tape, and hope for the best. There were usually one or two segues per side that turned out unlistenable. But now, thanks to MixMeister Express, I can make them all nearly perfect! Well, as long as the remix editor does his job. *points bony finger at Terence Trent D’Arby’s editor*

Speaking of which, here’s the track listing. My guideline was to include songs that were released as singles in 1988, even if the album on which they first appeared came out in 1987 (or even 1989). I will be the first to admit, though, that a couple of songs break that rule, including the very first song on the mix. I had to include it, though – it’s just too good.

1. Eric B. & Rakim – Paid in Full (Seven Minutes of Madness)
2. George Michael – Monkey (Jam & Lewis Remix)
3. Sinead O’Connor – I Want Your (Hands on Me) (with MC Lyte)
4. Prince – Alphabet Street
5. Terence Trent D’Arby – Wishing Well
6. Scritti Politti – Boom! There She Was
7. Duran Duran – I Don’t Want Your Love
8. The Cure – Hot Hot Hot!!!
9. Siouxsie & the Banshees – Peek a Boo
10. M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up the Volume
11. Bomb the Bass – Beat ‘Dis
12. Bryan Ferry – Limbo
13. When in Rome – The Promise
14. Information Society – What’s On Your Mind
15. Depeche Mode – Strangelove ‘88
16. Book of Love – Tubular Bells
17. Peter Schilling – Different Story (A World of Lust and Crime)
18. Front 242 – Headhunter
19. Red Flag – Russian Radio
20. Camouflage – The Great Commandment
21. Erasure – Chains of Love
22. OMD – Dreaming
23. Pet Shop Boys – Always on My Mind

To download the mix, click here.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

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Movie Review: Despicable Me 2

When it comes to filmmaking, there are multiple types of chemistry. The one most often discussed is the chemistry between actors; when it’s good, it can make good movies great and even unwatchable movies tolerable (say, Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler in “Just Go With It”), but when it’s bad, it will consume all living things on the screen (Jennifer Aniston and every other co-star she’s had in the last 10 years in movies not named “Horrible Bosses”). The other, arguably more important bit of chemistry involves story lines. 2011’s “Despicable Me” was about 45% villain plot, 45% foster parent plot, and 10% minions. Now, of course, the minions are stars, so they get more screen time in “Despicable Me 2.” And the movie suffers because of it.

That’s not the only reason the movie suffers, mind you; the villain story isn’t as compelling, they lean really hard on the bathroom jokes (the “dart” gun from the first movie makes multiple appearances here), and for a movie that is supposed to have a mystery angle to it, everyone hides in plain sight.

Gru (Steve Carell) has quit villainy in order to be a good father to adopted daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher), but he is soon recruited by the Anti-Villain League, due to his expertise as a bad guy, to track down a new super-villain who has stolen a serum that turns its subjects into indestructible monsters. The AVL tracks the serum to a local mall, and Gru, with the help of AVL agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), go undercover to find out which merchant is hiding the serum. The girls, meanwhile, want a mom, and pressure Gru into dating, while Margo falls for a boy, something Gru is not remotely prepared to handle in a way that doesn’t involve the words “Freeze ray!”

It makes sense that filmmakers would want to make age-appropriate versions of genres that are not kid-friendly, but between this and “Cars 2,” it’s clear that spy thrillers should be left off the table. It’s extremely difficult to challenge both adult and child with a whodunit; if anything, they will likely insult one or confuse the other, and if the studio is forced to choose, the parents are always going to be out of luck. The ‘secret identity’ part of the villain story left a trail of bread crumbs for kids to follow, and the emotional core of the movie (i.e. the girls) is marginalized in favor of the minions. The minions are cute, sure, but there is more to moviemaking than rolling out the walking punch line every few minutes. Based on the first “Despicable Me,” the filmmakers clearly know this; they just took the easy route this time around.

It was nice to see Wiig return, though (she was the head of the orphanage in the first movie), and she nails Lucy’s combination of naiveté and spy badassery. Carell doesn’t get a ton of chances to do something really funny, but he makes the most of his opportunities. The bit where the villain shows off the indestructibility of his serum is the funniest scene in the movie, and there is a circular shot towards the end where Gru is fighting off an army of bad guys that looks better than most live action movies from the last couple years. (My wife would also like to add that she loved seeing middle sister Edith acting like a full-blown tomboy. Apparently, that’s a middle sister thing.) You can see the makings of something better in fits and starts; it just can’t keep its momentum.

Universal had a golden opportunity here to hit Pixar while they were reeling and gain significant ground in the ridiculously competitive animation market, but “Despicable Me 2” does not land the punch. It feels as it Hal from marketing had some input in the creative process. This is never a good thing, and worse, the next installment in the series is actually called “Minions.” The tail is now officially wagging the dog.

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

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Movie Review: Now You See Me 2

now_you_see_me_2If the idea of a sequel to the illusionist action comedy “Now You See Me” is shocking, look no further than the box office numbers. The original film grossed four times as much as it cost, and probably would have netted even more if they hadn’t stacked the movie with so much high-priced talent. For the sequel, “Now You See Me 2” (that they didn’t call the film “Now You Don’t” seems like a missed opportunity), they went for a flashier direction style, which suits the story well. At its core, it’s a heist movie, so appropriating from the “Ocean’s” films is to be expected.

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So, um, hey and stuff

So, it’s probably going to be a while before anything is posted here, since I gotta, like, get organized and plan the layout and all that stuff. Eventually, this will serve as an archive for everything I’ve ever written that exists online, which includes Bullz-Eye, ESDMusic, Premium Hollywood, Popdose, and PopMatters. Until then, hello world. See you soon.

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