Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Edwardian Farm

In this fascinating series form BBC Television, archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn and historian Ruth Goodman go back in time to the early 1900s to live the lives of Edwardian farmers for a full calendar year. Month by month they show viewers what people who really lived back then went through to not just make ends meet, but to survive. Although they work together at a lor of things, from harvesting strawberries to shoveling horse dung to fertilize the fields, the chores are divided between the sexes, for the most part, with the two guys doing the farming and herding while Goodman tens to the household chores. Both are equally fascinating to watch, whether it’s Langlands and Ginn learning how to mine copper to make a little extra money or Goodman trying to get her decidedly indelicate fingers to learn the art of how to weave lace. The show is refreshingly free of any forced tragedy or challenges; life itself in the 1900s was challenging enough, as the three hosts learn every day. Their joyous spirit for learning all about life in Edwardian times is infectious.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Garbage: One Mile High…Live

After a seven year hiatus, the members of Garbage decided it was a good time to regroup and see if they still had what it takes to make great music. Their new studio album Not Your Kind Of People and subsequent world tour, captured here on film at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, Colorado on October 6, 2012, prove they do. Lead singer Shirley Manson remains the focal point of the band as she struts the stage in a black outfit that’s both a little sexy and scary. Her voice is strong and he commanding stage presence is a sharp reminder to all the musical pretenders out there that you don’t need a lot of backup singers, dancers and pre-recorded vocals to do a show; all you need is real talent. The bonus of watching Garbage in concert on this disc, though, is getting to see and hear he twin guitars of Steve Marker and Duke Erikson, the backbone of a band standing ramrod straight at the height of its power.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Life is Sweet

Few films have captured the joy, the drama and the sheer messiness of life quite like this groundbreaking film from director Mike Leigh. It stars Alison Steadman and Jim Broadbent as Wendy and Andy, two lower middle class English parents struggling to make ends meet during the hard scrabble days of the Thatcher regime. Although money is tight, the pair does their best to keep things light and funny around the house not always an easy thing to do given the generally negative world view of their twin daughters, played by Claire Skinner and Jane Horrocks. Things look brighter when Andy buys a dilapidated chip van that he thinks will change his fortune, but it’s soon pretty clear that life, sweet though it may be at times, has other plans for Wendy, Andy and their children.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tribute to Ron Asheton

As the guitarist and co-songwriter (with Iggy Pop) for the seminal rock band The Stooges, Ron Asheton, who died in 2009, left a legacy that not only shook up the music world when the band was at its height. Seeing his friends and fellow bandmates gather to play his music before an enthusiastic crowd in his hometown of Detroit is a lot of fun; having to sit though almost 30 minutes of Henry Rollins yapping before the music starts is almost boring enough to make you stoop the DVD before the first note is played. So do yourself a huge favor and skip the Rollins and listen to the rock.

Friday, June 14, 2013

12 Rounds 2

WWE Superstar Randy Orton gets a chance to star in this solids action movie from director Roel Reiné (The Marine 2). In the movie, Orton plays Nick Malloy, an EMT who, while driving home from a date with his wife, witnesses a car accident. He does what he can to save the people in the wreck, but one of the passengers dies. Twelve months later, Malloy is set up on by a crazed killer who makes him complete 12 increasingly dangerous tasks that he must finish within a specific time frame or innocent people will die. This sequel to the 2009 movie starring WWE Superstar John Cena, doesn’t move the original story forward so much a pick it up, dust it off and recycle it for Orton. And that’s fine. The role isn’t that challenging, but Orton does a decent enough job. The only really weak link in the film is Brian Markinson’s needlessly cheesy performance as the bad guy.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Rose of Versailles, Part 1

Anyone who is looking for a perfect example of why anime films and series are not “just cartoons” should check out this fabulous epic about Oscar, a young girl raised by her father to be a soldier in the palace guard in the court of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The series, released in Japan in 1972, has a throwback, hand drawn look that really compliments the storytelling, and the attention to detail in both the interior and exterior scenes is the equal of any Broadway or Hollywood set designer. The characters are well designed and the scripts very well written. It’s a solid story, but there are moments of true visual flair that raise it to the level of real art.