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Author Archives | John Laird

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Movie Breakdown: Ready Player One

March 29, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

What was the last blockbuster that Steven Spielberg directed?  2011′s The Adventures Of Tintin?  Does that even count?  I think I’d lean more towards Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, which was in 2008.  Can you believe that was 10 years ago?  That’s way too damn long to go without a spectacle from Spielberg.  Bring on Ready Player One.

Post-Screening Ramble:

I was a little worried at the start of Ready Player One.  There’s a lot of narration to help establish the film’s hero, a teenager named Wade/Parzival (Tye Sheridan), his world, a rough looking Earth set in 2045, and the Oasis, a virtual wonderland with limitless possibilities.  You also get looped in on a quest put together by James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the creator of the Oasis.  It was the last thing he did before he died, and whoever solves his grand mystery (he left behind clues that lead to three keys) will gain sole ownership of the much ballyhooed VR game.  Naturally, anyone who is anyone is on the hunt for said treasure, but the ones to watch out for are Innovative Online Industries (IOI) and their leader Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), a shady, ad-loving man who desperately want to own the Oasis.  As I mentioned, it’s quite a bit of setup, but once you trudge through the details, the film really opens up.  I not only found myself dazzled by the visuals on display, but Steven Spielberg drops in enough pop culture references to make even the strongest hater of yesterday feel a tinge of nostalgic bliss. Here’s what I truly loved about Ready Player One though, it’s all heart.  Its main characters just want a better world, in and outside of the Oasis, and their drive to make it happen is difficult to not find infectious.  I also appreciate that none of the film’s references come off as forced or dumb, they actually feel curated and celebrated. This is certainly a movie that could have easily been a vehicle to sling toys, but instead it’s an enthusiastic high five to pop culture lovers everywhere.

This very entertaining movie is 100% worth your time.  Make sure you see it in a big theater with a big bucket of popcorn and with as many friends as possible.

One Last Thought:

I can’t even imagine how many pop culture references I missed in Ready Player One.  Some of them just barely flash on the screen.  Guess I’ll find out what I didn’t see once the internet does its thing and provides me a frame by frame breakdown of the film.

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Fujiya & Miyagi

March 28, 2018

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I’m not digging the current concert calendar for Austin, so instead of a SHOW OF THE WEEK column today, you’re getting a new one from Fujiya & Miyagi.  It’s called Subliminal Cuts and it was supposedly inspired by the TV show Columbo.  No word yet on whether it’s from a new album, or if it’s just a one off.  Enjoy.

PS – What in the world is it going to take to get this band to come to Austin?

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Quickdraw: Tancred, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Snail Mail, Iceage, Hop Along

March 27, 2018

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Enjoy.

Tancred – Reviews

Tancred impressed me with their 2016 release, Out Of The Garden, so I’m definitely looking forward to the freshly announced follow-up, Nightstand (due June 1).  Jump all over the sincere first single now.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Shiggy

A month or two back Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks put out a twang-ish rocker, and I figured that was the direction for the new album.  Nope!  The latest track is wonderfully noisy.  Look for Sparkle Hard on May 18.  The act will be at the Mohawk on July 25.

Snail Mail – Pristine

Snail Mail put on one of the best sets I saw at SXSW, and I can’t to check out their debut LP, Lush (due June 8).  Hard to believe that front woman Lindsey Jordan just graduated high school.  By the way, the band is set to play the Scoot Inn with Japanese Breakfast on April 10.

Iceage – Take It All

Every song released so far off of Iceage’s upcoming album, Beyondless (due May 4), has been next level stuff.  You should be very excited for its release.  I am.  The band will play Barracuda on May 27.

Hop Along – Prior Things

I caught a fairly rough set from Hop Along at SXSW (not really their fault, there were sound issues), but that’s not stopping me from being excited about their upcoming album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog (due April 6).  The new tune off of it is a head turner.

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101X Homegrown Podcast

March 26, 2018

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Check out the latest 101X Homegrown!  It’s got a ton of new stuff!

Hit me up via Facebook, Twitter or email if you need something.

(NEW) Okkervil River – Pulled Up The Ribbon
(NEW) Marmalakes – Milwaukee
Jess Williamson – I See The White
RF Shannon – Cold Spell
(NEW) The Suffers – Do Whatever
Black Pumas – Black Moon Rising
Leon Bridges – Bad Bad News
The Sword – Twilight Sunrise
Suspirians – Nocturne
(NEW) Jarebear – Gather A Team
Class Angles – I Feel Like (Alan Wise)
(NEW) Aisha Burns – Must Be A Way
Robert Ellis – Good Intentions
Erika Wennerstrom – Extraordinary Love

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Movie Breakdown: Isle Of Dogs

March 23, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

It’s a Wes Anderson movie, so of course I’m in.  Also, I’m excited that it’s stop-motion animation, as Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of my favorite films from him.  Also also, Isle Of Dogs screened at SXSW and most people raved about it.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Isle Of Dogs is a bleak film.  Set 20 years in the future, dogs have contracted a terrible flu and thus have been banished to a trash-filled island, where they toil about until they die.  Yikes.  Thankfully though, Wes Anderson’s latest is also a charmer that’s very sweet.  It’s centered around Atari (Koyu Rankin), a determined kid on a mission to save his pup from perishing, but it’s told from the perspective of the dogs that he inadvertently teams up with once arriving on the island.  This means that they don’t understand exactly what he’s saying (and unless you speak Japanese, you won’t either), but the lot of them together decipher his needs and go about assisting him (in the quirkiest, most offbeat ways possible, of course) on his quest to locate his bud, Spots (Liev Schreiber).  Like I noted, it’s an ostensibly sweet story, but boy does it feature some dark stuff.  “Whatever happened to man’s best friend?” is a heart breaker of a line from the film, and I found myself frowning every time some downtrodden dog popped onto the screen.  If you’re thinking this one would be great for kids, I’d probably take notice of the PG-13 rating.  On the flip side of that, this film isn’t solely an adult adventure either, as it seems as though Anderson’s aim is to showcase the bond between a child and a pup.

In all honesty, Isle Of Dogs is a grower.  I certainly think it’s a good film, but there’s some stuff that registered as a miss for me in my initial viewing (the American teenager, the cat backstory), and I’m going to need another viewing or two before I’m willing to say it’s great.  Don’t be afraid to slightly check your expectations before heading to the theater.

One Last Thought:

Pretty much everything in Isle Of Dogs is charming, but my runaway favorite bit is Duke, the dog voiced by Jeff Goldblum.  He loves gossip and always has some rumor or whatnot to share with the group.  This repeatedly made me giggle like a child.

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Movie Breakdown: Unsane

March 22, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

Steven Soderbergh has directed so many good movies that it’s impossible for me to not look forward to something with his name on it.  With that being said, I’m more intrigued than usual by this shot-on-an-iPhone thriller of his.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Even though I went into Unsane expecting an unsettling experience, I was surprised at how much it weirded me out.  Not only does the film highlight the PTSD that comes from being the victim of a stalker, but it adds a horror element on top of it all that simultaneously makes things too unbelievable and too realistic.  This means that as Sawyer Valentini (a very good Claire Foy) struggles to keep her shit together in a mental institution that she’s been involuntarily committed to, your head is swirling and unsure of what’s real and what’s only happening in her head.  There’s also something to be said about this film being shot on an iPhone.  Yes, it’s certainly gimmicky, but director Steven Soderbergh keeps the backgrounds dull and implements a lot of close-ups, so it works to the strengths of the phone’s camera while also adding a semi-claustrophobic feel to the film.

I think Unsane is better than it has any right to be, so that means you should go and see it.  Just don’t be surprised when it gives you the willies.

One Last Thought:

Most of the people seated near me at the screening found this film to be absolutely hilarious.  At first I figured it was nervous laughter, as it’s a tense movie, but by the end of it they were cracking up so hard that it started to make me feel crazy.  Could it be that the cacklers were planted by the studio in order to make the film come off as super bonkers?  Or did I just happen to sit next to 40 crazy people?  It’s the latter, isn’t it?  Dang it.

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Show Of The Week

March 21, 2018

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I know, I know, who in their right mind wants to go see live music the week after SXSW?  Hardly any of you, I suppose, but even though the festival just wrapped, there are some quality shows happening this week.  For instance, Broken Social Scene at Stubb’s on Friday.  The Canadian indie rockers put out a solid album, Hug Of Thunder, last year, and they’ve generally just been a great band for a long time.  Why not jump back up on the proverbial show horse via them?

Tix are $31.  Belle Game will open.

BONUS Show Recommendations:

Tonight:
- The Sword, King Buffalo at the Mohawk
- Trouble in the Streets, Shy Beast at Native Hostel

Thursday:
- Chrome, Burnt Skull, Mind Spiders at Barracuda
- Dwight Yoakam at the Travis County Expo Center

Friday:
- Magnet School, Bloody Knives, Lacing, Since Always, Dethgaze at Cheer Up Charlies
- Western Youth, Otis Wilkins at the Cactus Cafe
- The Weeks, Caroline Rose at Antone’s

Saturday:
- Ringo Deathstarr, Blushing, Soda Lilies, Sinking, Processions at Cheer Up Charlies

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Quickdraw: The Decemberists, Beach House, Courtney Barnett, Parquet Courts, The Black Lips & The Khan Family

March 20, 2018

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Enjoy.

The Decemberists – Once In My Life

It’s been a long while since something from The Decemberists has caught (and held) my attention.  I should check out their new album, I’ll Be Your Girl, which is now available.

Beach House – Dive

This new Beach House tune starts out a little bland, but stick with it until the 2:30 mark – it shifts into something damn good there.  7 is due out May 11.  Catch the band at ACL Live on July 31.

Courtney Barnett – Need A Little Time

I love how comfortable and sincere Courtney Barnett sounds here.  I can’t wait to hear all of Tell Me How You Really Feel, which is due out May 18.

Parquet Courts – Wide Awake

Admittedly, this is a silly song, but it’s too catchy and fun to not like.  Parquet Courts’ new album, Wide Awake!, will be released on May 18.  See the band at Levitation on April 26.

The Black Lips & The Khan Family – Too Much In Love

The Black Lips and The Khan Family (King Khan and his daughters) have an EP, Play Safe, coming out on Record Store Day (April 21).  The first single has me thinking it’s going to be a winner.

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101X Homegrown Podcast

March 19, 2018

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I survived SXSW!  Here’s the latest 101X Homegrown!  It’s got new tunes from Leon Bridges, Black Pumas, The Sword, RF Shannon and Class Angles.  I tossed in some show recommendations for this week as well.  Enjoy.

Hit me up via Facebook, Twitter or email if you need something.

(NEW) Leon Bridges – Bad Bad News
(NEW) Black Pumas – Black Moon Rising
Ty Richards – Killjoy
Feverbones – Sight Inside
Ringo Deathstarr – Guilt
Mind Spiders – Outside
(NEW) The Sword – Twilight Sunrise
Jess Williamson – I See The White
(NEW) RF Shannon – Cold Spell
Erika Wennerstrom – Twisted Highway
(NEW) Class Angles – I Feel Like (Alan Wise)
Single Lash – Insect Hell
Explosions in The Sky – The Only Moment We Were Alone

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101X Homegrown Podcast

March 12, 2018

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Just a heads up, this is probably going to be the site’s only post this week.  Noah may chime in with a film review or two, but otherwise I’ll see you on the streets for SXSW.

Now, onto the latest 101X Homegrown!  I included tunes from each of the bands playing the 101X Homegrown Day Party this Friday, March 16 at Buffalo Billiards – that’s Ume, Caroline Says, Marmalakes, Mobley, Palo Duro and Fort Never!  I also dropped in new stuff from Lola Tried, Ty Richards, Feverbones, Jess Williamson, Devan Mulvaney and Single Lash.  Enjoy.

Hit me up via Facebook, Twitter or email if you need something.

Ume – Too Big World
(NEW) Lola Tried – Bummertown
(NEW) Ty Richards – Killjoy
(NEW) Feverbones – Sight Inside
(NEW) Jess Williamson – I See The White
Marmalakes – Not Gonna Control You
Caroline Says – Sweet Home Alabama
(NEW) Devan Mulvaney – Into The Woods
(NEW) Mobley – Selfsame
Fort Never – Fly High
Palo Duro – True Fade
(NEW) Single Lash – Insect Hell

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Movie Breakdown: Gringo

March 8, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

This movie hasn’t really been on my radar, but it’s got a nice cast – Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, David Oyelowo, Thandie Newton, Amanda Seyfried, Sharlto Copley – and the one trailer I saw made it look fairly funny.  I also have to say I’m intrigued by the fact that it’s directed by Joel’s brother, Nash Edgerton.  Maybe it’ll be a pleasant surprise.

Post-Screening Ramble:

There’s something you should know about Gringo, and it’s that the film isn’t anything like its trailer.  I went in expecting an over the top, comedic adventure in Mexico, but it’s not really that at all.  The weed pills that are chatted up so much in the preview?  They’re practically non-existent in the movie outside of being a lightly-shared interest across those involved in the story.  There’s also just not quite as much action as advertised.  Here’s the deal though, while Gringo may not be some wild ride, it is a solid dark comedy.  I liked its patient pace, and I found myself constantly enamored with a couple of its weirder characters – Charlize Theron’s Elaine, an unhinged but calculated business woman, and Sharlto Copley’s ethically conflicted Mitch.  On the flip side of things, the film is dumb and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to root for or against David Oyelowo ‘s too-nice-but-also-too-whimpy Harold.

As long as you head into Gringo knowing that it’s a bit hit or miss, you’ll likely find yourself generally entertained by it.

One Last Thought:

Hollywood needs to figure out a way to get Sharlto Copley in more stuff.  He always injects a fun amount of legit craziness into his characters, and I love it.  He must be an interesting guy in real life.

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Damien Jurado

March 7, 2018

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I was going to roll out a new SHOW OF THE WEEK, but that’s such a weird undertaking with SXSW starting up.  Also, I had planned to simply just recommend my own gig, 101X Homegrown Presents: Austin Town Hall vs Side One Track One, anyhow, so I figured it was best that I skip that column this week and instead deliver a new Damien Jurado tune.  It’s a beautiful track off of his upcoming album, The Horizon Just Laughed, which will be out on May 4.  Enjoy.

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Quickdraw: Gang Of Youths, Dinosaur Jr., Iceage, Hinds, Bodega

March 6, 2018

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Enjoy.

Gang Of Youths – Straight To You (Nick Cave Cover)

Gang Of Youths are right at the top of my “must see at SXSW” list.  Looks like I should have a few shots.

3.14.18 – Secret Sounds @ Sidewinder / 5:30PM
3.15.18 – Vinyl Me, Please Showcase @ Empire Garage / 12:00PM
3.15.18 – Aussie BBQ @ Australia House – Lucille’s / 5:40PM
3.16.18 – Noise Trade @ The Blackheart / 1:00PM
3.16.18 – SX San Jose @ Hotel San Jose / 7:00PM
3.17.18 – Brooklyn Vegan @ Cheer Up Charlies / TBD

By the way, they did this Nick Caver cover for an Amazon playlist.  It’s a song that fits them well.

Dinosaur Jr. – Hold Unknown

How are Dinosaur Jr. still so damn good?  It boggles my mind.  In any case, this rad new tune is part of the Adult Swim Singles Program.

Iceage – Pain Killer (Featuring Sky Ferreira)

Iceage have finally announced a new album – it’s called Beyondless, and it’ll be out on May 4.  My guess is that it ends up being one of my favorites this year.  See the band at Barracuda on May 27.

Hinds – The Club

Like Gang Of Youths, Hinds are on my “must see at SXSW” list.  Here’s another very catchy tune off of their anticipated sophomore album, I Don’t Run, which is due out April 6.

Bodega – How Did This Happen?

Over the last few days I’ve revisited this new single from Bodega a lot.  It’s heavy handed lyrically, but the song itself is so hooky that I don’t really care.  I may have to catch them at SXSW.

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101X Homegrown Podcast

March 5, 2018

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Check out the latest 101X Homegrown!  It’s got music from some of the bands playing 101X Homegrown Live Presents: Austin Town Hall vs Side One Track One, which is this Sunday (March 11) at Hotel Vegas and Volstead!  Also, I’ll let you know where to see Sweet Spirit, Otis The Destroyer, Wild Child, Tamarron, A Giant Dog and Magna Carda this week.

Hit me up via Facebook, Twitter or email if you need something.

Sweet Spirit – The Power
Otis The Destroyer – Van Rosita
Wild Child – Expectations
(NEW) Marmalakes – Not Gonna Control You
Caroline Says – I Tried
Tamarron – House
Erika Wennerstrom – Twisted Highway
Quiet Company – We Should Go To Counseling
A Giant Dog – Roller Coaster
Magna Carda – Angela Bassett
BLXPLTN – Gun Range
Fort Never – Don’t Push My Away

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Movie Breakdown: A Fantastic Woman

March 1, 2018

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Pre-Screening Stance:

A Fantastic Woman is nominated for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Academy Awards, so my guess is that it’s going to be very good.

Post-Screening Ramble:

Considering that it’s fairly well hidden throughout the first part of the movie, it feels like a spoiler to start this review by noting that the lead character, Marina (Daniela Vega), is a trans woman.  This tidbit is in every plot summary though, and it’s part of the reason the film is being celebrated, so here we are.  I guess I like the idea of not mentioning it because, while it’s certainly a big part of A Fantastic Woman, I think the film initially pulls you in without it.  The first act follows Marina as she deals with the sudden death of her lover, Orlando (Francisco Reyes), a successful, much older man who dies after suffering an aneurysm.  With their age difference being so vast and her having just moved into his apartment, Marina is immediately suspected of having something to do with his death.  In addition to this, Orlando’s estranged ex-wife and son not only move fast to claim his car, apartment and more from Marina, but they forbid her from attending his wake and funeral. For the rest of the film, you watch as she fights for an opportunity to say goodbye to Orlando while also being shit on at every turn for being a trans woman.  As you’ve surely guessed by now, A Fantastic Woman is not an easy watch, but director Sebastian Lelio never lets things get too preachy or dramatic.  Instead he rides a very fine line between exploring the transphobia that surrounds Marina and dissecting the grief and loneliness that’s been wrangled into her life by the loss of her partner.  Honestly, it’s masterful work by Lelio, and you should see his rather compelling movie.

One Last Thought:

Francisco Reyes looks like he might be the long lost Chilean brother of Jeremy Irons and/or Scott Glenn.  Someone should make a movie that’s centered around their shared likeness.

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