2012 - %3, June

If You Care About Yourself, You Won't See This Movie

| Fri Jun. 15, 2012 3:35 PM PDT
Ugh.

That's My Boy
Columbia Pictures
114 minutes

The new Adam Sandler flick That's My Boy is one of the most oppressively unfunny films ever produced, reaching levels of jaw-dropping unwatchability that rival 2002's The Sweetest Thing.

I could detail for you the dumb, gossamer storyline, but what would be the point? That's My Boy stars Adam Sandler (remember when he was in Punch-Drunk Love?), playing a hybrid of Dickie Roberts and a bad Good Will Hunting parody. Andy Samberg co-stars, presumably trying to win a bet he drunkenly made with friends who thought he couldn't make a movie worse than Hot Rod. James Caan and Susan Sarandon are also in the movie, for god knows what reasons. What follows is a long slog of vulgarity-to-nowhere. There is not one boob joke, fart joke, hard-on joke, masturbation joke, trailer-trash joke, pube joke, bunghole joke, cunnilingus joke, sex-with-your-mom joke, vomit joke, incest joke, or obesity joke in this that isn't unpardonably stale.

To add shotgun-to-the-kneecap to injury, Vanilla Ice (Vanilla Ice) plays himself.

If you care about yourself, you will not see this movie ever. It is tailor-made to be consumed by the kind of grown men who will only eat chicken nuggets if they're shaped like dinosaurs, and there are times when the film honestly feels like physical torture.

Here's a redband TV spot for the damn thing:

That's My Boy gets a wide release on Friday, June 15. The film is rated R for crude sexual content throughout, nudity, pervasive language and some drug use. Click here if you hate yourself and want to get local showtimes and tickets.

Click here for more movie and TV features from Mother Jones. To read more of Asawin's reviews, click here.

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Film Review: No Look Pass

| Tue Jun. 12, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

No Look Pass

HIGH HIP PRODUCTIONS

87 minutes

Emily Tay is the Asian American pro baller from Harvard that you haven't heard of (disclosure: I played hoop there too), and her career as a flashy point guard has its own coming-out story. In Melissa Johnson's No Look Pass, Tay navigates between her life at Harvard (where "if I had the choice, I'd want to be white"), her struggles as a lesbian trying to live openly, and her role as the daughter of socially conservative Burmese immigrants who just want her to marry a rich man. Basketball is the through-line in the film, from Tay's childhood hours perfecting Allen Iverson's crossover dribble to her run as a bona fide star overseas.

Quick Reads: "Overdressed" by Elizabeth Cline

| Tue Jun. 12, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

By Elizabeth Cline

PORTFOLIO/PENGUIN

When Elizabeth Cline emerged from a Kmart in the summer of 2009 with seven pairs of the same perishable $7 shoes, she knew America had a problem. In 1985, we bought roughly 31 clothing items per year; now we snap up twice that many thanks to "fast fashion." (See "What Not to Wear" from our July/August 2012 issue.) Cline explores the origins of this shift—think the Gap circa mid-1990s—as she tours cheap-chic factories in China and clothing "landfills" (charity stores) where the castoffs pile up. Best, Cline is never preachy; she uses her personal addiction to highlight our national one.

This review originally appeared in our July/August issue of Mother Jones. 

Inside the Biggest Bank Failure in American History

| Mon Jun. 11, 2012 10:02 AM PDT

The Lost Bank

By Kirsten Grind

SIMON & SCHUSTER

 

The collapse of Washington Mutual, which the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation placed in receivership in 2008 near the outset of the Great Recession, was the largest bank failure in US history. Yet in comparison to the crashes and bailouts on Wall Street, it received little in-depth coverage outside its Seattle hometown. Reporting for a small paper in nearby Puget Sound, Kirsten Grind, who now writes for the Wall Street Journal, followed the story meticulously and was named a Pulitzer finalist for her troubles. The Lost Bank, out this week, is the culmination of her award-winning work.

Packaged as a narrative tragedy, the book tells the story of WaMu's adept transition to a publicly traded company under CEO Lou Pepper in 1983, successor Kerry Killinger's failed attempt to establish the "Wal-Mart of banking" to cater to Main Street, and a last-ditch three-week effort after Killinger's ouster that failed to convince the feds to save the company. Along the way, WaMu's down-home sensibilities and the "frugal is sexy" work ethic that steered the bank back to profitability through the savings and loan debacle succumbed to the allure of the subprime bubble.

A former senior financial analyst at the company told Grind that the day after WaMu failed, executives from JP Morgan, which had snapped up most of the bank's assets for $1.9 billion, descended on it headquarters. "They were exactly what we were trying not to be," the analyst said. "The classic stodgy banker." In the storytelling, Grind manages to make the wonky accessible and portray her characters as fallible human beings, as opposed to the usual Wall Street caricatures. 

Review: "Rent Money" by Dent May

| Sun Jun. 10, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

TRACK 1

"Rent Money"

From Dent May's Do Things

PAW TRACKS

Liner notes: "I've been feeling bad/So I'm gonna find something to cure that heartache," sighs Dent May, his multiple vocal tracks channeling a heavenly choir.

Behind the music: While the Mississippi native emphasized ukulele on his debut, Do Things finds him in mad-scientist mode, crafting elaborate solo pop epics in sessions at a local venue called Cats Purring Dude Ranch and in a cabin by a cotton field.

Check it out if you like: Experts at dreamy sonic confections, including Brian Wilson and Todd Rundgren (then), and Grizzly Bear and Morning Benders (now).

 

Review: "Whatever Happened to the Times" by Bobby Womack

| Sun Jun. 10, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

TRACK 5

"Whatever Happened to the Times"

From Bobby Womack's The Bravest Man in the Universe

XL RECORDINGS

Liner notes: His raspy voice framed by eerie organ and spooky beats, R&B legend Bobby Womack delivers a plea for redemption, crying, "Whatever happened to those good times?"

Behind the music: What a résumé! Womack composed and sang on the original version of the early Rolling Stones hit "It's All Over Now," played guitar behind Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin, collaborated with Sly Stone, and scored the blaxploitation classic Across 110th Street. His comeback album is coproduced by Damon Albarn, of Blur and Gorillaz fame.

Check it out if you like: Bold soul men from Wilson Pickett and Solomon Burke to Charles Bradley and Lee Fields.

 

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"True Blood" Season 5: Sex, Gore, and Michele Bachmann

| Sat Jun. 9, 2012 7:47 AM PDT

This review contains a few mild spoilers for the previous (fourth) season of True Blood.

Well, summer is upon us—a season for loud movies, unprecedented heat waves, drowsy economic growth, and vampires on premium cable having depraved sex, drawling like Flannery O'Connor characters, and politicking furiously.

The fifth season of True Blood (premiering Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO) begins by giving its audience more of exactly what it loves: rural nihilism and supernatural sleaze pumped chock-full of allegory and Southern charm. Augmenting the cast of usual players (Sookie, Bill, Eric, Jessica, Sam, you know the rest) are more werewolves, more loose Louisiana sorority sisters, and even more proud "gay vampire Americans." The burning questions left unanswered at the end of Season 4 are promptly addressed. Did that shotgun blast to the brain actually kill off Tara? What the hell is up with Reverend Steve? Is vampire king Russell Edgington definitely back to unleash more corybantic fury?

If you're a fan of the show, chances are you don't need much convincing, but here it is regardless: Tune in—the show hasn't stopped being addictive, delirious fun, and the melodrama and viscera hits just as hard as last time around.

"Prometheus": Lady Pulls Octopus-Alien Out of Her Own Stomach, Amid Other Joys

| Fri Jun. 8, 2012 6:53 PM PDT
Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" (2012).

Prometheus
20th Century Fox
123 minutes

Director Ridley Scott's hotly anticipated epic (a pseudo-prequel to 1979's Alien) cuts deeper than merely showing people getting terminally wrecked by martians. Per true, classic Scott formPrometheus uses the backdrop of sci-fi grandiosity and hard-hitting thrills to meditate on pop-culture-primed philosophy. How thin is the line between religion and scientific inquiry? What force creates life? What supreme being creates the force that creates life? What force created the supreme being that creates the force that creates life?

I dunno, the filmmakers kind of raid the muniments of freshman-year philosophy for this one...

No doubt, Scott's two-hour movie does not conclusively answer any of these big questions, nor explore them too deeply. For all its earnest meditating, the film's intellectual heft isn't all that mightier than an above-par episode of Stargate SG-1. To the credit of Scott and Co., though, they carried the burden of handling these major themes while dealing with the impossibly tall order of satisfying the Alien-universe fanboys. With all the mythology and (for serious) trove of academic papers about the movie and its franchise, critics and devotees were understandably eager for explanations to some of the series' greatest mysteries.

Fighting Stop-and-Frisk With a Smartphone

| Fri Jun. 8, 2012 3:36 PM PDT

Want to end stop-and-frisk tactics by police? There's an app for that.

There's been a growing public outcry over the NYPD's controversial policy that targets mostly innocent, mostly black and Latino New Yorkers for pat downs and interrogation. Last month, a lawsuit alleging the practice amounts to racial profiling gained class action status, and this week, New York officials asked the Justice Department to consider investigating the program.

But now, pushback against stop-and-frisk is in the hands of everyday citizens. On Wednesday, the NYCLU, in collaboration with Brooklyn developer Jason Van Anden, rolled out a free Android app (iPhone version out later this summer) called "Stop and Frisk Watch," which will allow New Yorkers to monitor and report police misconduct. The app alerts users when folks in their area are being stopped by the cops and lets them film the incident and send it to the NYCLU.

 
Van Anden caught the eye of the NYCLU when he devised an Occupy-inspired app called "I'm Getting Arrested" that allows people to broadcast to their friends that they're being detained. When the NYCLU approached him about creating the stop-and-frisk app, "I was totally on board because I had seen incidents in my neighborhood," Van Anden says. Local community and labor groups also pitched in with brainstorming and test-runs.

Broken Water's Catchy Tempest

| Mon Jun. 4, 2012 3:02 AM PDT

Broken Water
Tempest
Hardly Art

Never heard of Broken Water? Neither had I until I listened this great new album from the Olympia, Washington, trio—and couldn't stop listening. Drummer Kanako Pooknyw, guitarist Jon Hanna, and bassist Abigail Ingram have played countless live shows in their rainy college town and put out a couple of well-received records; Tempest, out on the sub-Sub Pop label Hardly Art, is their second full-length effort. The stormy, jagged aesthetic conjured by the band's name, album title, and lyrics is well-suited to the band's dark, tumultuous music—heavy, melancholic, melodic rock in the great Pacific Northwest tradition, with evident nods to grunge, post-punk, no wave, and shoegaze, but ultimately a sound all their own.

While blurry noise rock isn't always the catchiest music, this album hooked me from the first beat. "Drown" opens almost mid-lyric, throwing you headlong into a current of Pooknyw drone-singing lyrics that are hard to make out but haunting where decipherable—"doesn't matter what you’ve done / doesn't matter where you're from," she lulls, "when you’ve drowned in the ocean"—over a mildly spooky beat before the first torrent of sound hits you about a minute in. Broken Water has clearly honed what Kurt Cobain famously described as the "soft and quiet, then loud and hard" style of bands like the Pixies, and it's a structure they repeat inventively throughout the album.