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    Thursday
    Oct212010

    Seven Days of Shyamalan: Prologue

    Hey there, folks, and welcome to Seven Days of Shyamalan, a look back on the filmography of one of the strangest downturns in the history of film. Today's entry is actually the Prologue, where we'll be looking at a film that, while it predates The Sixth Sense, doesn't really fit the usual tropes associated with the releases that would follow.

    That film is 1998's Wide Awake, written and directed by none other than M. Night Shyamalan.

    I should note that he actually directed one film before this, titled Praying With Anger, but it wasn't a major release, and it's pretty much impossible to find on DVD. It's really a shame, too, because in addition to being the movie's writer and director, M. Night also starred in the story of an American man with Indian ancestory going back to his family's homeland and discovering his spirituality. You can tell by watching this short segment that the source material likely meant a lot to Shyamalan, and I hope to track it down one day.

    Having said that, let's get to Wide Awake.

    The movie tells the tale of Joshua Beal, a fifth-grader in a Philadelphia suburb who's recently lost his grandfather. Finding himself grief-stricken, and hoping to find out what actually happens when someone dies, he embarks on a year-long "mission" to find God and ask him if his grandfather is being taken care of.

    The "mission" itself ultimately ends up ranging from speaking to the priest at his all-boys Catholic school to learning about and practicing a plethora of other religions from around the world to simply praying for any sort of sign that God actually exists. Frequently disheartened with his lack of results, there's a surprising amount of agnosticism to be found, usually in Joshua's best friend, David, who eloquently says, "Is there a God? I drink chocolate milk through my nose. What do you I know?"

    Mostly due to the light, orchestral score, you can never really escape that "90s Kid Movie" feel, which is a shame, because there are some genuinely touching and heartfelt moments to be found, especially between Joshua and his grandfather in various flashbacks scattered throughout the film. Needless to say, this is not a movie you'd ever suspect M. Night Shyamalan to be behind.

    And yet, he wrote it and directed it. It's hard to deny that this was probably his vision. I suppose there is a little bit of Joshua's precosiousness and soft nature that was brought into The Sixth Sense's Cole, but that's a tenuous link at best. I suppose the best compliment I can give this movie is that it handles a child's crisis of faith subtlely enough to not be heavy-handed. Wide Awake is a thoroughly light-hearted movie, from David's antics in driving the nuns at school insane to Joshua's doughy classmate Frank, who constantly thinks "today" is "tomorrow."

    So is Wide Awake a good movie? It's a very competent children's movie that explores some mature themes, but it hardly ever elevates itself to being genuinely great. Joshua's actor, Joseph Cross, is adorable and charming in his own way, and there are a few funny casting choices (Joshua's father is played by Dennis Leary, and two of his teachers are played by Rosie O'Donnel and Camyrn Manheim), but it's hardly a classic, and you're not missing anything by skipping over it. I can't even really recommend it to die-hards, since it doesn't have anything close to the same tone to Shyaman's later works.

    Oddly enough, Wide Awake was actually filmed in 1995, even though it wasn't released until 1998, and after watching the movie, I can understand why it was shelved. The fact that it only took in a little over a quarter of a million dollars (on a six-million dollar budget, no less) proves the fact that this movie has no audience. The crisis of faith moments are too heady for children, but still too simple for adults.

    So that's Wide Awake. Come back tomorrow for Day 1, where I'll be going to town on 1999's The Sixth Sense.

    Tuesday
    Oct192010

    Discover Music Project: Episode 3

    DMP returns to give you a spotlight on one of the all-time great independent rock bands: Pavement!

    Guest-starring Rough Draught's Jon Rind, our two Jonathans go to town on one of the most under-the-radar bands in the history of alternative. And for your convenience, here's the set list with runtimes:

    Silence Kit (Crooked Rain) - 3:01
    Gold Soundz (Crooked Rain) - 2:40
    Range Life (Crooked Rain) - 4:55
    Grounded (Wowee Zowee) - 4:16
    Father to a Sister of a Thought (Wowee Zowee) - 3:30
    Kennel District (Wowee Zowee) - 3:00
    Pueblo (Wowee Zowee) - 3:25
    Spit on a Stranger (Terror Twilight) - 3:04
    Stereo (Brighten The Corners) - 3:08
    Summer Babe [Winter Version] (Slanted and Enchanted) - 3:17
    Here (Slanted and Enchanted) - 3:58

    Total - 38:12

    Encore: Hopscotch Willie (Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks) - 6:56

    As always, be sure to send all of your questions and concerns to crosstawk@gmail.com, take our brand new listener survey on Crosstawk.com and follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk).

    Come back on Friday for a new episode of Rough Draught!

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    Thursday
    Oct142010

    Box Office Poison: Episode 4

    The crews' back with more movies and movie things! Once again, Evan Burchfield couldn't take time away from school, but we're still a five man team thanks to Rough Draugh's Jon Rind, who stepped in to guest star. This month there are a bunch of movies to talk about, from The Social Network to Biodome to Henry V to a Lifetime Original Movie (yep - that's right!).


    Our Movie of the Month this episode is 2007's I'm Not There. Telling stories in and around the mythology of Bob Dylan, there were a lot of different opinions, and I definitely think you'll enjoy the conversation. Next month we'll be tackling The Third man.

    As always, send all of your thoughts and concerns to crosstawk@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk) and head over to iTunes to rate/review us.

    See you next week when Rough Draught returns!

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    Wednesday
    Oct132010

    Check it Out: Fourmile Canyon Revival Write-Up

    This past weekend, the Fourmile Canyon Revival benefit concert was held to raise funds to help those affected by the September wildfire that burned down over 6000 square acres in Fourmile County. Our own Jonny Metts happened to be there, and wrote a dynamite recap over at HonestTune.com. With a line-up that included several members of Phish, Leftover Salmon, String Cheese Incident and more, you'd do well to head on over and give it a look-see.

    Sunday
    Oct102010

    Take the Crosstawk Listener Poll, Get a New Series Before Anyone Else

    Hey there, folks!

    All of us here at Crosstawk are extremely proud of our content, but we'd like to know what you think! Taking the time to fill out this little questionnaire will only benefit you, as it'll make us much more in tune with what interests you and which areas of the website you like the most. And as it says above, anyone who participates will get exclusive access to a new Crosstawk series before the general audience. Just make sure you include your name and email address in the form so that you can send you the episode.

    Thank you for your time,

    The Crosstawk Team

    

    Sunday
    Oct102010

    Discover Music Project: Episode 2

    This week on Discover Music Project, Jonny and Mike return to turn the tables on the coversation. The first DMP was all about Jonny's favorite band, Phish, but it's time for Mike to educate Mr. Metts all about the finer points of Florida's own Less Than Jake. With tons of different tracks to listen to, you're in for a great crash course in the band's discography. Here's the set list:

     

    1. Look What Happened (The Last Time)
    2. The Science of Selling Yourself Short
    3. Nervous in the Alley
    4. My Very Own Flag
    5. Never Going Back to New Jersey
    6. P.S. Shock the World
    7. Devil in my DNA
    8. The Brightest Bulb has Burned Out / Screws Fall Out
    9. City of Gainesville
    10. The State of Florida
    11. Gainesville Rock City
    Encore
    12. Rehasher - "Lift!"

     

    If you've got any suggestions for future episodes of Discover Music Project, send 'em on over to crosstawk@gmail.com. While you're at it, make sure you're subscribed to the Crosstawk feed at iTunes, and once you are, go on ahead and rate/review us. You can also follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk) to get the latest news in what's going on with our various shows.

    Having said all of that, see you on Friday for Box Office Poison!

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    Friday
    Oct082010

    Crosstawk Presents: A Look at DJ Hero 2

    Hey folks, and welcome to the first episode of Crosstawk Presents. CP's basically going to be a catch-all for projects that don't really fit into one of our dedicated series. Think of them as a collection of one-offs.

    This recording was actually done while I was in San Francisco last month attending an Activision event for DJ Hero 2. I was actually there for NintendoWorldReport.com, and though my detailed impressions can be found there, we didn't end up using this audio. So I figured I might as well release it for you guys!


    It's a bit on the short side, but seeing as how Crosstawk was going to be taking the week off anyway, I thought you might enjoy it. If you'd like to read the aforementioned impressions, they can be found here:

    http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/impressions/24120

    As always, be sure to rate and review us on iTunes, follow us on Twitter (@crosstawk) and send in all of your emails to crosstawk@gmail.com! With all of that said, see you next week when Box Office Poison returns!

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    Thursday
    Oct072010

    Check it Out: The Following Special Presentation

    If you're a big fan of Thoroughly Manly Musicals (and you should be), then you've got to check out one of Stan's other projects over at AgonyBooth.com, entitled The Following Special Presentation. In his debut episode, Stan's recapping (and thrashing) "Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?" Starring Tori Spelling as the girl asking her mother if she can sleep with danger, you can probably make a safe assumption that there's a lot to make fun of there.

    The good folks over at AB were also kind enough to link over to our site, so it only seems fair to do the same. It seems like it'll be a great new video series, so do yourself a favor and check it out.

    Tuesday
    Oct052010

    Five Super Tips for Zack Snyder

    So news hit the internet yesterday that Zack Snyder's going to be the director for Warner Bros. and Chris Nolan's Superman reboot. Written by David S. Goyer, the film's probably due out around Christmas 2012, so we're still a long way out, but if there was ever a time to give Mr. Snyder some tips as he gets into gear, it's now.

    1. Do what you do best and mine the material. Snyder did the impossible when he somehow turned a 12-issue magnum opus into a comprehensible 3-hour movie with Watchmen. Say what you will about the film, but it was held up for decades in development hell because it was un-filmable in any sort of respectful manner. At the end of the day, it was an amazing achievement just getting it done.

    With that in mind, the best way to proceed with a new Superman flick is to look back on the 70+ years of material and see what can fit a 2-hour movie. If it's a re-telling of the origin you're after, look no further than Mark Waid and Lenil Yu's Birthright story, which chronicles a young Clark Kent from his humble beginnings in Smallville to his passion for journalism that leads him to Metropolis (and face to face with Lex Luthor). It hits all of the classic Superman beats, but doesn't abandon any sense of modernity.

    Personally, though, I think it's best to move away from the origin story. Everyone knows it already, so why not just skip it altogether and get right to the good stuff? With some re-tooling, Geoff Johns' recent Brainiac arc in Action Comics is prime for the plucking. In it, Superman learns of an evil alien who "collects" civilizations, and we learn that he's actually got a piece of Krypton from before it exploded. The story presents a villain who's not only tied in to the Kryptonian mythos but is also a physical threat to Superman. Thankfully, this would also render the use of kryptonite unnecessary.

    You might scoff and say that the Brainiac story is too sci-fi-based to be mainstream, but again, with some slight tweaks, it'd work just fine. Obviously you'd have to axe Supergirl from the story, but she's not really vital anyway. The crystals in the Fortress of Solitude would provide any exposition necessary about who Brainiac is.  As for Brainiac himself, he's hardly Darkseid - he's an easy make-up job, and it'd be interesting to set up the dichotomy between the peaceful alien visitor (Superman) and the cosmic conqueror (Brainiac).

    The rumor is that the villain is going to be General Zod, and while he's a valid choice for an antagonist, I'd rather not see him, mostly because…

    2. The Richard Donner movies happened. It's time to move on. Look, I love the first two Superman movies. They're fantastic and I'll always look back on them fondly. But, seriously, just let it go. Ilya Salkind tried to continue it with Superman III and Quest for Peace, and it died there. Bryan Singer attempted to bring it back from the dead with Returns, and it just didn't work. Ultimately, you have to realize that the Donner movies aren't sacred cows. It's okay to start from scratch.

    My worry with this is that DC Entertainment's current Chief Creative Officer is the aforementioned Geoff Johns. Now, Johns is an excellent writer, and he's got a great sensibility when it comes to streamlining floundering characters, but he also got his start in Hollywood by being Richard Donner's assistant before switching over to the world of comics. And as CCO, one of his duties is to oversee adaptations in other media. With Nolan as a producer, I doubt he'll have anything close to absolute power, but I hope he'll realize what I've outlined above, and that it's best to forge ahead without worrying about fitting it into 30-year old film continuity.

    There was one thing that Singer did absolutely right with Returns. Which brings me to my next point…

    3. Keep Brandon Routh. As much as Returns' fell flat, the one shining beacon was Superman himself. It's extremely difficult to find an actor who can pull off blue tights and a cheesy haircut, but Routh did an amazing job portraying the majestic wonder of the Man of Steel while still conveying the meekness and insecurity of Clark Kent. He also managed to look like Superman without looking like a bodybuilder.

    Also, from a business point of view, his career didn't exactly go up, up and away. Word is Warner Bros. wants to get this done cheap, and I can't imagine he'll be asking for much. Lose Kate Bosworth and the rest of the Daily Planet cast, but seriously, you struck gold with Routh. Don't toss that just to distance yourself from Returns.

    4. Superman isn't Batman. Go big, blue and bombastic or go home. Nolan's done an amazing job with Batman by rooting him in reality and keeping things somewhat practical. With him as a producer and David S. Goyer as the screenwriter, it might seem like a good idea to try to apply the same formula to Superman. Look, there's no easy to way to say it so I'll just say it.

    Fuck that shit.

    Superman is Superman because he's idealistic and fantastical and everything that people wish they could be but could never really attain. Batman works as a gritty character because he has his roots in pulpy street-level stories. He works in dark, dank alleys. Superman should be up in the sky.

    5. Get John Williams to do the score. This is a no-brainer, and it's probably already locked in, but seriously. The man made this. He's the guy.

    So having said all of the above, I wish Zack Snyder the best of luck. Superman means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and he's arguably the hardest character to bring to the screen correctly, but he's also a flying dude who wears his underwear on the outside of his pants and has a giant crystal castle out in the arctic. Above all else, Superman should be fun.

    Sunday
    Oct032010

    Karl Teaches Kontinuity: Episode 2

    KTK returns in its second episode to make sense of those strange, strange comic books!

    On this episode, Karl is joined by his older, Golden Age-ier brother, Gustavo Castaneda as they get deeper into the Silver Age and how it all came crashing down, from the death of Gwen Stacy to Crisis on Infinite Earths.

    When you're done listening, be sure to explore Crosstawk.com and read Karl's review of The Social Network, subscribe to Crosstawk's brand new Twitter feed and get a great new episode of Thoroughly Manly Musicals. And when you're done there, head on over to iTunes, rate and review us, and bring it all home with an email to crosstawk@gmail.com. We want to know what you think, so get off your butt and tell us!

    With that said, we'll see you next week, folks!

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