Friday, April 29, 2011

The Graduate

My review of The Graduate is in this week's WE.

Kayvon Khoshkam and Camille Mitchell
Kayvon Khoshkam and Camille Mitchell

The Graduate fails to seduce

When it debuted in 1967, the Graduate was hailed as the best comedy film of the year. But that was merely to be one aspect of its influence. Benjamin Braddock (portrayed by Dustin Hoffman) became the poster boy for a specific archetype: restless young men rebelling against the lingering consumer perfection of the ‘50s, but too upper class to embrace the ‘60s counter-culture. Ben’s character traits — a smart person who does some dumb, self-destructive things — spoke to a universal truth that continues to resonate and has helped make the Graduate an enduring part of pop culture.

It’s that significance that makes its alternate life as a play, adapted by Terry Johnson in 2000, a double-edged sword for the Arts Club. The name recognition all but guarantees good attendance, but with that comes high expectations. For those curious about whether the Graduate holds up in its transition from screen to stage, well, in short, it doesn’t.

Johnson’s plot points remain faithful to Calder Willingham and Buck Henry’s screenplay, which was based on Charles Webb’s novel, but he introduces a host of small changes that dilute the story.
Benjamin (Kayvon Khoshkam), home for the summer following college graduation, doesn’t know what to do with his life, but his parents are rolling full steam ahead for him to attend grad school. When Mrs. Robinson (Camille Mitchell), a friend of his parents, stumbles drunkenly into his room during a party and makes a pass at him, he succumbs to the affair, not so much from desire or excitement, but a depressive self-loathing. Ben’s shaken from his stupor when his parents insist on setting him up on a date with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Celine Stubel). Against Mrs. Robinson’s wishes, they fall for each other. He breaks Elaine’s heart when he confesses the affair and must try to win her back before she marries someone else.

Director Lois Anderson offers some nice creative touches, the best of which is original music from indie-rock band Ivory Sky. But, her scene transitions are often jarring, and her use of blackouts to convey the passage of time is poorly executed. Similarly, some of the actors’ choices are inspired, while others prove confusing. Mitchell makes an attractive Mrs. Robinson, but is never quite as manipulative, sad or calculating as necessary — playing up Mrs. Robinson’s boozy nature until she’s more caricature than character. Similarly, Khoshkam can’t quite nail down Benjamin’s rhythm for the first 30 minutes, and the opening scene between the leads are mostly devoid of spark. There are lots of laughs, but no underlying tension. Everything changes with Stubel’s arrival, as she brings out the best in both Khoshkam and Mitchell. Stubel and Khoshkam have an easy chemistry, and the scene between Stubel and Mitchell as mother and daughter contemplate the shared object of their affection and face some unpleasant truths about their relationship is genuinely fantastic.

Sadly, this scene is the only positive departure Johnson’s script makes from its source, and Anderson’s direction creates distractions rather than smoothing over the play’s fundamental flaws. It’s mostly thanks to Stubel and a few key moments that this Graduate sneaks by with a passing grade.

The Graduate runs to May 14 at Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnson), 8pm (Mon, Wed-Sat); 7:30pm (Tues). Matinees: 2pm, Wed, Sat. Tickets $25-$49 from 604-687-1644.

Corin Tucker

My feature on the Corin Tucker Band is in this week's WE. 

From left: Sara Lund, Corin Tucker, Seth Lorinczi
From left: Sara Lund, Corin Tucker, Seth Lorinczi


Corin Tucker’s new band ‘Years’ in the making

As one of the most recognizable faces of the riot grrrl movement, singer/songwriter/guitarist Corin Tucker knows a lot about breaking the rules. She’s written songs about her period, women’s reproductive rights, feminist politics and sex for her early ’90s alt-punk band Heavens to Betsy and later for the indie rock outfit Sleater-Kinney. But in 2006, Sleater-Kinney went on hiatus, in part because Tucker wanted time to focus on her family. Two children later, Tucker’s slowly edging back into the spotlight with the Corin Tucker Band and a full-length album, 1,000 Years. Gone are the snarling vocals and raw chords; instead the 38-year-old revisited the music of her heroes, crafting a sound that blends elements of rock and folk for her most intimate record yet. Tucker spoke with WE from her Portland home a few days before the band’s show Sunday, May 1 at the Media Club.

WE: Why was last year the right time to come back to music after going on hiatus from Sleater-Kinney?
Corin Tucker: I’m not sure that it was necessarily the right time to come back, but I just really love music so I’m trying to do a little bit of it in my life. It’s certainly not the easiest thing to work out with the schedule that I have. I really love doing it so I’m trying to make it happen. The way the album came together, it’s a really nice arrangement of the schedule and the people and the musicianship, it’s all really great.

Were you doing much writing previous to this album?
No, I pretty much stopped writing for a couple years while I had my daughter. I started writing a couple of the songs for a benefit show Seth [Lorinczi of indie-rock band Golden Bears] asked me to play for the Reading Frenzy benefit. I’d written a couple of songs for that and Seth was like, ‘You should really record an album.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’d really like to do that.’ It just got my itch back for playing music again. I just started writing more songs to make a record and Seth and I started working on it, planning it out. We took our time, and that is really essential for me and the busy schedule I have. I’m not in a hurry. (Laughs)

The album feels very honest and earnest, more personal maybe. Has having a family changed your songwriting perspective?
I think that’s always been my songwriting style. This record is more personal and it’s more reflective. After taking a long break from writing I think that it came back. I think the songwriting style is stripped down and kind of more intimate than more traditional rock band writing.

Did you have an idea for what you wanted the album to sound like?
I definitely wanted it to be this quieter album where I could do different things with my voice, use different instrumentation, using the piano was something I was really excited to do. So we came at it that way, but it ended up having a lot more rock on it that I thought, but I think that’s part of the collaborative process.

“Doubt” really reminded me of early Pretenders.
Cool. Pretenders really was a big influence on this record. The Slits were another we were really inspired by, the Raincoats, Patty Smith. These were the female rock legends we were thinking about while we were putting it together. (Laughs)

A lot of people hold you up as an inspiration for women in music. Did you ever want to be a role model?
When I was young I wanted the notoriety of being in a known rock band because of the power dynamic that comes with being a famous rock person. That’s a really simplistic way of looking at it. (Laughs) But, when you’re 20 years old, you’re like, ‘Let’s be the best band any one’s ever heard of!’ I definitely had that desire, and I think as I’ve gotten older, realizing the much deeper connections you can make with people, it can be a real pain to be recognized by people you don’t know, but you can also use it for good and being a role model for young women. I think in Sleater-Kinney we realized that. Our work with the rock ’n’ roll camp for girls was one way we were able to do good with that role model situation.

What were the most positive contributions music made to your identity?
I think there were some really interesting role models in music. I looked up to Sinead O’Connor. She was amazing! Chrissy Hynde, love her, and Kate Bush, I love her music. I bought all her records when I was in high school. Aretha Franklin, America’s most amazing singer. It’s just a neat way to see a woman, you know, have a career in music. Because of the feminist movement of the ’70s, so many women were influenced by that and it really came out in some of the music when I was growing up. Like Aretha Franklin’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T, this Otis Redding song, she really took that and linked it to the women’s lib movement. That kind of subversive stuff is something we really take for granted in America with the amount of freedom women have here.

Everything ’90s is coming back now. Is there another resurgence of the Riot Grrrl movement coming?
Where is it?! When is it happening? I want to get involved again! (Laughs) It’s kind of sad how nostalgic I feel for it. I read Sarah Marcus’ book [Girls To The Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution] on the last tour our band did of Japan. I had just forgotten so much of what had happened. And she did such an excellent job of tying together historically what happened, and also the meaning that it had towards what was happening in the larger culture and the degradation of women’s rights that a lot of politicians have been trying to put forward for a long time. It was so re-inspiring for me and just how involved I was in it. Sometimes I look back and go, ‘Why was I so involved?’ And it’s like, of course I was. It was so enthralling and I still feel — I mean obviously with the Planned Parenthood de-funding bill now, we’re still arguing about these really basic reproductive rights for women. We’re so stuck in this same argument that’s been going on my whole life and it’s so frustrating that we can’t move forward for women’s rights.

Corin Tucker Band plays Sunday, May 1 at the Media Club (695 Cambie), 8pm. Tickets $15 (RC, S, Z and

Thursday, April 21, 2011


My interview with STRFKR is in this week's WE.

Indie electronica-rock band Starfucker
Indie electronica-rock band Starfucker

Doing time with STRFKR

It’s been a month of some serious highs and lows for Portland-based indie-electro dance-rock group Starfucker (STRFKR). They kicked off a North American tour in support of their second full-length release, Reptilians. Then there was the headline-making arrest of guitarist Ryan Biornstad in Austin, Texas, during South By Southwest, forcing the cancellation of two shows. A day later, the tour van broke down en route to their next gig. Now, thanks to fan support and sold-out shows, they’ve extended their tour — which brings them to the Biltmore this Friday — and just announced their first stint of festival gigs, including Calgary’s Sled Island in June. Drummer Keil Corcoran checked in with WE from a tour stop in Boston, offering his uncensored thoughts on the police, STRFKR lead singer Joshua Hodges, and cute kitties.

WE: What’s your background?
Keil Corcoran: Musically I started playing punk rock as a kid and then moved on to playing, like, thrash grind metal stuff when I was late-teens, like Napalm Death and shit like that. I kinda got sick of that. It’s fun to play, but I didn’t really enjoy listening to it, so I started getting into electronic stuff. I did a lot of programming for a few years, you know, writing, like, shitty techno music. Then I started playing drums again. I actually stopped for three years and started again and here we are!

Where does shitty techno music get played?
I’m pretty sure the shitty techno music I was making wasn’t getting played anywhere. It was really awful.

What’s it like to come on board to something that started as a solo project?
It’s good. It pretty much still operates similarly to how it did in the beginning. Just Josh has to show us all the shit instead of just learning it himself. I mean, we write our own parts somewhat, but Josh always has direction for it and is the mastermind behind the project. It’s fun. I respect the hell out of what Josh does, so I was really excited to play with the band. I think he’s a brilliant dude.

How’d you guys meet?
I was playing with another band in Portland and we went on tour with Starfucker through Washington and we just kind of hit it off as homies and he liked the way I played drums because I’m really into playing with a click track, so he needed a drum machine man and I fit the bill.

The music sounds like it has some complicated minds behind it.
Yeah, well, I wouldn’t say the music is complicated, it’s just executing all that shit on the record live is pretty complicated just because there’s so much of it and we have to figure out who plays what and what instrument should be used to play that. There’s just a lot of technical shit that I hate, because I usually end up helping with the technical aspect.

Is it Josh coming up with everything or are you guys contributing to the sound?
Live, definitely we all contribute, but on the record it’s for the most part Josh. Although, for the newest one, we all had a little bit of input, which is awesome.

How has that transition to a more collaborative process worked?
It’s been really good actually. I feel like the new record’s probably the best sounding record that we have. And, on that one, I helped Josh a little bit with structuring the songs, wrote a couple keyboard parts here and there, and Ryan recorded a bunch of stuff and so did Sean, everybody had a hand in it, and we also had a producer work on that one, which is a first. He was amazing and it helped a lot for sure.

You’ve had plenty of back and forth with the band’s name...I like the way STRFKR sounds.
Yeah, we’ve grown into it. I don’t hate it anymore, which I did initially. When I started playing with them, my girlfriend was like, ‘Are they all douchebags or something?’ and I’m like, ‘No, they’re really fucking cool guys.’

I’ve read that part of the inspiration for this album was the passing of Josh’s grandmother.
There’s a song pretty much about that, but more specifically I think it’s pretty much about death or whatever. Oh, wait, there’s a kitty out here and I’m trying to let it inside the house. I don’t even know if it’s the people’s we’re staying with but it looks really cute. All right, it’s walking away now. Never mind. Okay, so yeah, Josh is just kind of obsessed with death and dying, he’s kind of like a hypochondriac, he always thinks he has cancer and shit like that. (Sighs) So, yeah, all the songs are pretty much him obsessing over death and dying. Yeah, he’s a weirdo. (Laughs)

What happened at South By with Ryan’s arrest?
He has a court date now. Yeah, we really only managed to get him out of jail because Josh’s friend was dating a lawyer that lives in Austin and he knew the judge in charge of the case, so we got Ryan out about 10 hours after he got arrested, but we still missed two shows. It was really bizarre. Ryan was just standing in the street and a cop pulled up and told him to get out of the street and so he did and he put a piece of equipment down on the sidewalk and the cop’s like, ‘Okay, I’m giving you a ticket.’ And Ryan pulls his ID out and as soon as he does, another cop comes up and is like, ‘You’re fucking getting arrested!’ And he just puts him in cuffs and like, without reading him his rights, throws him in the fucking cop car. Like, all within the space of 30 seconds or so, maybe a minute.

That’s insane.
Yeah, it was the worst, weird, fucking fascist display I’ve ever seen in my life.

What happens now? He has to go back to Austin for the court date?
Yeah, we’re thinking that — well, the lawyer guy was saying there’s a pretty good possibility that he can get it thrown out... And then the next day, our fucking van broke down. And we got towed to our show. It’s been an interesting tour so far. Actually, after that it’s been good. Ryan fixed the van himself, like went and bought a new computer and had it programmed and put it in the van himself, and the van’s been working perfect ever since.

Does this make you feel more politically charged?
I’ve always hated the fucking police. Fuck those assholes. (Laughs) I think they’re all a bunch of fucking macho dickheads and they suck. Every kid I’ve ever grown up with who turned into a cop was initially a fucking a dick.

Starfucker plays Friday, Apr. 22 at the Biltmore (395 Kingsway) 8pm. $13 from Zulu Records, Red Cat Records, Highlife and

Patton Oswalt

My interview with Patton Oswalt is in this week's WE.

Patton Oswalt makes'em laugh
Patton Oswalt makes'em laugh
Credit: Supplied

Laughing out loud

Making comedian Patton Oswalt laugh, even if for just a second, is like high-fiving a unicorn. There’s something magical about hearing the chuckle of a person who has made you laugh. And, frankly, Oswalt hasn’t just made me laugh. On countless occasions, either at his stand-up shows or on his comedy specials or via his new book, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, he’s inspired me to erupt in rib-bruising, eyes-watering, disturbing-the-peace laughter.

Over the phone from his home-base in Los Angeles, the 42-year-old Oswalt is pleasant, polite and smart. He answers questions directly and efficiently. He’s not the type of person who feels obligated to fill silences, or who wants to analyze his own processes. His confidence and ease belie some of the characters he’s inhabited so memorably when wearing his actor hat: the schlubby nerd-sidekick Spence on King of Queens; the sad sack nurse in Magnolia. Oswalt the comedian is clever, edgy and insightful — a fairly stark contrast to the roles in which he’s most often cast.

But Oswalt dismisses suggestions that his stand-up is likely a bit of a jolt for audiences used to seeing him acting on screens small and big.

“For the most part, I hope people that watched me on King of Queens know that’s an acting role for hire and that’s probably not how he is, if we go see him in a night club it will probably be different,” Oswalt says. “But, it’s not my job to worry about that. I would hope people understand, but if they don’t, I just gotta go do what I do.”

This is the attitude that seems to have propelled Oswalt since his first stand-up at an open mic on a Tuesday in Washington, DC roughly two decades ago.

“It didn’t go very well, but it was fun and I wanted more,” Oswalt recalls. “Even though I wasn’t getting any real positive feedback, it was still really fun, so that’s why I kept going back.”

The years of rejection never deterred him, and Oswalt estimates that it took a long time before the audience was having as much fun as he was.

“[Probably] not until I was six or seven years into it, when I was more comfortable with my own voice and with myself on stage,” Oswalt says. “That’s when I was able to do what I wanted to do. Once you get comfortable with yourself, then people will be comfortable with you.”

By 1997, Oswalt had his own HBO comedy special. In 2004, he released his full-length comedy album, Feelin’ Kinda Patton, and co-ordinated his Comedians of Comedy tour which featured a slew of fellow stand-ups including Zach Galifinakis, Brian Posehn and Maria Bamford. Over the years, Oswalt’s stand-up has become the stuff of legend, resulting in sold-out shows in almost every city he visits. This particular tour that brings him to Vancouver coincides with the publication of his first book, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, a brilliant collection of everything from essays to comic panels to poetry. It’s like a goody bag from Oswalt’s brain, running the emotional gamut from bittersweet to joyful.

“I try to just sort of talk about what’s on my mind,” Oswalt says. “Not everything I think about is comedic all the time, so I was going along those lines.”

Oswalt describes the collection as different pieces of things he’d been mulling for years, but he didn’t dig in to the writing process until the book was sold. And, even then, it didn’t come naturally, per se.
“[Stand-up and the book are] different mediums,” Oswalt says. “Stand up I tend to write more on stage riffing, going on over and over again every show, kind of refining what I do. Writing, it all has to be edited and refined on the page.”

Now that the book is behind him and he’s in the midst of this stand-up tour, Oswalt’s mind is occupied by other things. He’s reluctant to discuss any one element of some of the topics he’ll be talking about on stage, insisting it’s impossible to take them out of context.

Instead, politics and social issues come bubbling up. Oswalt, an outspoken critic, says he was always more curious than critical. “Then, when your curiousity isn’t answered or engaged, that leads to frustration.” His frustrations are numerous.

“The Democrats fumbling on the majority and not acting on it and not getting the things done that they were elected to do, whereas the Republicans can seemingly just ram through the most unpopular stuff and not care about what the public thinks,” Oswalt sighs. “The Democrats, who actually have the public on their side and don’t go and push things through that would actually benefit people. I’m a big fan of like, dragging people kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I don’t know why the Democrats didn’t do it this time, but I guess that’s how it is right now. It’s frustrating.”

Legalizing gay marriage, which has also been a contentious issue in much of the US, is another thorn in his side.

“With gay marriage, I’m beyond even wanting – I don’t even care about gays being allowed to be married anymore. What I care about is that in 40 years, history’s going to look back on this time and it’s going to be so embarrassing that we even were debating it. That’s what’s going to seem embarrassing. It’s going to be like looking back at the time we were doing the first moon shot and finding out people were debating whether or not witchcraft was real. You’ve got to be kidding me! It’s crazy. Same with evolution, climate change, the fact that the debate is happening is going to be so mortifying.”

History tends to have a lot to apologize for, and often times it’s comedians that remind us of that, pointing out the ridiculous and the false and the hypocritical. Oswalt is one of those voices of reason, sometimes, when hysteria threatens to overtake the masses. He gives language to things that are sometimes indescribable, be it serious issues like civil rights or not-so-serious ones — like how I made him laugh at the beginning of our conversation.

“I have to thank you for a phrase you coined: nut fog. It’s perfect. It’s really helped in my life,” I tell him.There’s a second of stunned silence, then a chuckle.

“Oh wow. Ooh. I’m sorry? Cool, thank you.”

No, Patton. Thank you.

Patton Oswalt performs Saturday, Apr. 23 at the Vogue (918 Granville), 7pm. $24.99-$49.99 from

Randy and Evi Quaid

My new cover story for WE. 

 Randy and Evi Quaid in a self portrait


Randy and Evi Quaid: The new odd couple

Last October, actor Randy Quaid (Saturday Night Live, Kingpin) and his wife, Evi, arrived in Vancouver and promptly became the ringmasters of their very own media circus. After months of making headlines for a variety of offences in the USA — a dash ’n dine here, an unpaid hotel bill there — the pair fled California and made it across the border, seeking, at the time, refugee status right here. Yes, refugee status. The Quaids claimed they feared being killed as part of a Hollywood death conspiracy of “star whackers” that had already felled other celebrities, including Heath Ledger (who died of an accidental drug overdose) and Chris Penn (who died of a heart attack).

Since earlier this year, the Quaids have lived amongst us relatively quietly in an undisclosed location. They have dropped the refugee claim and are now seeking permanent resident status for Randy, who would be sponsored by Evi thanks to her Canadian citizenship. And now they’re quite literally bringing Hollywood north. In March, Randy debuted his music onstage at the Commodore and this Friday marks the debut of the Quaids' new, work-in-progress documentary/feature film Star Whackers — part of a double bill with Randy’s 2009 Canadian feature, Real Time. WE spoke with the notorious duo via email about their love affair, the film, and rumours that Randy will open for Charlie Sheen’s Vancouver show next month. (Ed’s note: In a mutual agreement, WE is printing the interview unchanged from the email transcription. It has been edited only for spelling.)

How did you two meet?
We met on a movie fell in love within 24 hours. AND THAT WAS 22 YEARS AGO

What was your first date like?
Chinese food and GREAT sex

Evi, what do you love most about Randy?
I love Randy’s talent and range. As a man he is tough and his talent is humongous. Love is not a strong enough word for my respect loyalty and admiration I have for my husband. I am his wife and he is my life, my man, and my master of ceremonies.

And, Randy, please answer the same questions about Evi.
Evi is Love. When I think of Evi I think of Love, I feel Love and I feel Loved.  Evi’s Love is like a thousand prisms refracting all colors, all colors of Love exploding like a kaleidoscope of Roman candles within my soul. Love is expressed in many ways, but Evi is all Love and all expression of Love.  She has no guile or deceit; her honesty can sometimes be brutal, but always she is truthful, as an artist, as a friend, as a spouse, as a Lover, she is the foundation of my universe.

Evi, please tell us a bit about your background. Have you always been a filmmaker?
My father worked for the RCMP and the FBI. I did not know this until I found out I was a Canadian. He is also a painter. I have, according to him, always been a visual artist. He has my drawings in a secret location and I have his paintings in a secret location.

What is Star Whackers about?
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

People have made a lot of jokes about the two of you. Do you care?
YES. The Internet is a terror tool for the hunting of celebrities — entrapping and stalking and smearing. It’s beyond cruel. It’s frightening, horrifying and should be illegal. It’s only for corruption and I fear for my life every day when I see what people write and the way criminals use the Internet to terrorize and entrap their victims. I fear for others: not only famous but targeted by people who use the Internet as a terror tool.

Do you understand why some people might not believe you?

What do you have to say to those who are making fun of you and your situation?

Why Vancouver?

Randy, what do you feel has been your greatest professional achievement?

Randy, do you feel Hollywood has turned its back on you?
Hollywood has no Back and if it does it’s my back because I have been working in Hollywood longer than 99% of all Hollywoodians. It’s a misconception that Hollywood is other than the people who work IN IT. WE ALL STRUGGLE TO REMAIN RELEVANT WITH OUR WORK. AND ITS IMPORTANT NOT TO TURN YOUR OWN BACK ON YOUR OWN MUSE.

What’s the music like that you’ve been writing?
True rockabilly stories

How did your show at the Commodore go?

Why should people come out and see this show at the Rio?

What’s your day-to-day life like right now?
We love Canada. Our life is wonderful, we have a great team of lawyers who have become like family AND CARE ABOUT US.

What’s your plan if your permanent residency claim is granted?

Randy, could you tell me a little bit about the news that you’re in talks to open for Charlie Sheen when he comes to Vancouver next month?
Someone from Live Nation had a conversation with Brian Watson about the idea of me doing it. It’s a good idea. I like Charlie and am happy to be supportive of his plight. If asked by him, [I’d say] “I am here for you Charlie, I understand what few others do!!” People should watch Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder to really understand what this nightmare is so they can send help. Movie Star 101, from Randy Quaid: Tom Cruise’s performance in Tropic Thunder, the Star Whackers performance I gave and Charlie’s tour should be required viewing for all actors who aspire to be Movie Stars.

An Evening with the Quaids, which will feature screenings of Star Whackers and Real Time, takes place Friday, Apr. 22 at the Rio (1660 E. Broadway), 7pm. Tickets $20-$25 from More

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Daydream Nation

My review of Daydream Nation is in this week's WE.

Kat Dennings bewitches boys and men in 
Daydream Nation.
Kat Dennings bewitches boys and men in Daydream Nation.
Credit: Supplied

Starring Kat Dennings, Josh Lucas
Directed by Michael Goldbach

A serial killer is on the loose as an industrial fire burns perpetually in the background. Daydream Nation might not be your typical romantic teen comedy, but it is a quintessentially Canadian one: quirky, funny, strange, and bittersweet.

Seventeen-year-old Caroline (Kat Dennings) is the new girl in a small B.C. town, but she has little in common with her peers. She seeks solace in the only other sophisticate she can find — her teacher, Mr. Anderson (Josh Lucas). To deflect suspicion about their affair, Caroline agrees to date classmate Thurston (Reece Thompson), a sweet stoner who falls hard and enlists his mother, Enid (Andie McDowell) to cozy up to Caroline’s disapproving father, Mr. Wexler (Ted Whittall).

The cast executes their roles perfectly. Thompson, a native Vancouverite, is believably awkward and awed by Dennings’ Caroline, and does a wonderful job exhibiting Thurston’s anger and confusion when he finds out about her betrayal. Lucas, so often cast in good guy roles, tempers his typically sexy charm with a crazy-eyed edge. The unorthodox love triangle nicely mirrors Caroline’s own competing personae of savvy seductress and smart, sad adolescent, and Dennings skillfully moves between the two, conveying Caroline’s sardonic angst with aplomb.

Working from writer-director Michael Goldbach’s confident script, Nation plays up the absurdity of suburbia, artfully blending the line between wickedly funny and tragic. The stories, including that serial killer subplot which haunts the film like a dark shadow, culminate in a twisty, startling conclusion that’s satisfyingly, and fittingly, David Lynch-lite. —Andrea Warner

Neve Campbell and Scream 4

My exclusive interview with Neve Campbell is this week's WE cover story.

Neve Campbell (fourth from left) returns as ongoing victim Sidney Prescott in Scream 4 alongside  fellow franchise originals Courtney Cox and David Arquette (fifth and sixth from left, respectively). Also included in the latest cast are (from left) Allison Brie, Marley Shelton, Adam Brody and Anthony Anderson.
Neve Campbell (fourth from left) returns as ongoing victim Sidney Prescott in Scream 4 alongside fellow franchise originals Courtney Cox and David Arquette (fifth and sixth from left, respectively). Also included in the latest cast are (from left) Allison Brie, Marley Shelton, Adam Brody and Anthony Anderson.
Credit: supplied

Neve returns with a ‘Scream’

"The first film was such a great time that it feels like going back to summer camp every time we see each other again.”

Neve Campbell’s version of summer camp is a little bit different than most: Gallons of fake blood, butcher knives, Courtney Cox and David Arquette, and, of course, a hell of a lot of screaming.
It’s been 15 years since she played tortured teen lead Sidney Prescott in Scream, a blockbuster horror-comedy that revitalized the genre and became the benchmark for self-referential pop culture skewering in movies and television. The film was such a success that Scream 2 followed just a year later in 1997, while Scream 3 landed as a bit of a dud in 2000.

But, in keeping with the Hollywood cliché that everything old is new again, 2011 finds 37-year-old Campbell leading a cast of familiar (Cox, Arquette) and fresh (Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere) faces in the highly anticipated Scream 4. It’s a reboot of a franchise that this writer didn’t even realize she missed until she saw the familiar opening scene of a pretty girl answering a ringing phone and ol’ creepy voice himself asking, ‘Do you like scary movies?’

Over the phone from Toronto, Campbell laughs. “It’s nostalgic, right?”

It is, and while that might be what the movie moguls are banking on, generational affection does not a movie make. Luckily, Scream 4 is a twisty, clever addition to the horror canon, picking up 10 years after Scream 3. Though there’s little flexibility in releasing the plot details, what we can offer is this: Sidney returns to Woodsboro on the anniversary of the original killings as part of a book tour promoting her memoir about survival. Gale, Cox’s ambitious investigative reporter turned best-selling author is suffering writer’s block and is feeling the small town stifles since marrying Arquette’s Dewey, who’s now the police chief. New bodies start piling up and Sidney is once again the fixation of a creepy copycat killer wearing the ‘Ghostface’ mask.

Campbell recalls reading writer Kevin Williamson’s original Scream script and realizing they were on to something “special.” She credits Williamson with convincing her that there was a new story worth telling.

“What I loved about Kevin’s pitch to me, and it was one of the reasons why I chose to do the film again, is that I did realize we were going to be able to make this up-to-date and keep up with pop culture and what’s going on today,” Campbell says. “This film now takes a look at not only being self-referential in the film industry but at kids today and what they’re dealing with and how their lives now are intertwined with social networking, the Internet, mobile. Also, reality television and quick fame and quick fortune and all of those kinds of influences that are around at the moment. I thought that kept it very fresh.”

Thanks to the re-teaming of Williamson and original director Wes Craven, Scream 4 might be the rare movie franchise that seems to have benefited from a decade-long break. But even Campbell admits she had some misgivings about revisiting the past.

“I was apprehensive at first,” Campbell admits. “I only wanted to be a part of it if it was going to be the whole team. I didn’t think there would be any point in making something if we weren’t going to be able to give the audiences what they loved, which is the characters. Gale and Dewey are great characters. I just saw the film a couple weeks ago and it was so fun to just see them again! Like, when I saw David on set the first day, it was just so fun to see him in his moustache and his costume again. It’s because we ended up having fun with these characters, they’re fun to revisit.”

A particular treat, Campbell says, is the rare opportunity for an actor to grow alongside a character. Campbell herself was just 21 when she made the first Scream film.

“I’m 37 now,” she laughs. “That’s a big gap! I was at the beginning of my career [then]. I’d been working in Canada for about five years as a dancer and an actor, and was on my second year of Party of Five and had done The Craft, but Scream was my first lead. Obviously it catapulted my career to a different level, which was lovely, but you know, I was young, I was in my 20s. They’re challenging as it is but when you add fame to that it can be very challenging. I think I’m at a place in my life now where I’m a lot more comfortable with myself now. I’m a lot more confident with my choices in my life and I enjoy where I live — I live in England — and I enjoy traveling and I enjoy some of the charity work I’m working on... I have more control over what I want my life to be and that feels very good.”

It’s not really a surprise that some of Campbell’s own self-confidence is reflected in Sidney now. Though the character is described as a “celebrity victim,” she does a significant amount of ass-kicking throughout, wielding a butcher knife with the kind of expertise that comes to the perpetually terrorized.

“For Sidney it’s 10 years later, she’s an adult, in no way is she really a victim,” Campbell says. “Obviously in the first film she was young and more of a victim and eventually found her legs, but in this one, you know, she’s grown up, she knows who she is. She’s very strong... She knows how to answer a phone, she knows how to respond, she knows how to run, she knows how to fight. Just a day in the life of Sidney.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fitz and the Tantrums

My feature on Fitz and the Tantrums is in the Charleston City Paper. 

Fitz and the Tantrums dig the retro vibe 

Piece by Piece

Fitz and the tantrums' Michael Fitzpatrick found his soul on the way to school

Fitz and the Tantrums' Michael Fitzpatrick found his soul on the way to school
Michael Fitzpatrick is wowed by his indie rock 'n' soul band's whirlwind ascent from DIY upstarts in 2009 to South By Southwest's reigning fairy-tale royalty in 2011. If you haven't heard of L.A.'s Fitz and the Tantrums yet, you will. Judging by the retro-soul band's trajectory, mainstream success could be days away.

And, though it might be hard to get Los Angelenos excited about an old-school band, it's easy to understand how Fitz and the Tantrums managed to shake things up. Their modern twist on classic soul reflects Fitzpatrick's own affinity for Motown.

"I grew up with parents who were classical music freaks and opera freaks," Fitzpatrick recalls. "My dad's kind of a fascist, so when he's home, you can't listen to anything else in the house. The one concession I could get driving to school in the morning was I could talk my mom into putting the oldies station on. That's where I first got introduced to soul music."

Fitz admits he's living the dream, but even he can't believe his band's good fortune.

"When we started, our whole foundation was a do-it-yourself approach," Fitzpatrick says. "Nobody was really giving us the time of day in any shape or form. We just hoed our own road, started playing before we even had songs to play, and developed our own fan base organically."

A lifelong singer, Fitzpatrick says it was love at first listen and, obviously, an enduring one. Following four years studying experimental film in college, he returned to music after experiencing his first recording session with his college band. His love of soul music was fully realized in the studio.

"Once I got into being a studio nerd and being an engineer for a producer, I fell even more deeply in love with the way those records sounded," Fitzpatrick says. "To this day, hands down, it's my favorite period of production. As a student of songwriting, I'm obsessed with what makes a song great."
It's no accident that those ingredients have found their way into many of Fitz and the Tantrums' songs, which the band has effectively translated into live shows that have become the stuff of legend.

"There's something that's magical happening when you put the six of us together on stage or in a room or in a studio," Fitzpatrick says. "I think we had played 10 shows when Flogging Molly asked us to go out on the road with them. We had played 10 shows, and we were standing out on the stage at Red Rocks in Colorado, one of the most famous venues in all of America, in front of 10,000 people just going, 'How did this happen?'"

In late 2009, the band self-released its first EP, Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1. Soon, they had an unlikely ally in Maroon 5's Adam Levine.

"He was going to get a tattoo in New York, and the guy had found out about us through our NPR station in L.A. and bought the record," Fitzpatrick recalls. "Adam hears it, and he flips out."
But the opportunities didn't come without costs. The band's DIY ethic went hand-in-hand with self-financing. By the time they became one of the major buzz bands at 2010's SXSW, Fitz and the Tantrums were running out of steam.

"Everyone was congratulating us and yet we were broke, outta money, outta resources ... sort of at the wit's end of what we could do on our own," Fitzpatrick admits.

But a major break awaited them. Their last SXSW gig was a show for Dangerbird Records. The following morning, the label's president called a meeting: She wanted to be in the business of Fitz and the Tantrums.

The band's first full-length, Pickin' Up the Pieces, came out a few months later. The single "MoneyGrabber" became an instant hit. It has a polished confidence, with soul flourishes that evoke the most exciting elements of pop. There aren't any guitars to be found, either. Brass, woodwinds, organ, and drums create wonderfully textured songs, equally at home on an old black-and-white variety show or at a hip dance club.

Pieces features an assortment of songs that feel at once familiar and freshly invigorating. The searing "News 4 U" would be at home in a Quentin Tarantino movie. The title track is stuffed with hand claps and flute, and offers a call-and-answer set up between Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs.

The success of "MoneyGrabber" led to featured spots on Jimmy Kimmel Live and the Conan O'Brien Show, as well as a sold-out tour earlier this year. The band made a return to SXSW a few weeks ago.
"We were sort of the fairy-tale story," Fitzpatrick says. "That was a really cool moment to come full circle and come back to the SXSW community and Austin, and people are so happy that that kind of story can still exist within the constructs of SXSW. It's just been a wild ride."

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Submarines

My interview with the Submarines in this week's WEVancouver.

The Submarines

MUSIC: The Submarines collaborate on a ‘Love Note’

The Submarines’ origins is the stuff of indie-pop legend: boy (John Dragonetti) and girl (Blake Hazard) meet, play music and fall in love. They relocate from Boston to Los Angeles and then break up. But the sad songs they write about their broken hearts bring them together again and soon Dragonetti and Hazard are the living epitome of the soft-rock staple “Reunited and It Feels So Good.” Friends decided to master their break-up songs as a wedding present and the Submarines’ 2006 debut album, Declare a New State, was ready to go.

Since then, the duo has cultivated some high-profile gigs, including two songs that became instant classics thanks to prominent placement in Apple iPhone 3 (“You, Me and the Bourgeoisie”) and 3G (“Submarine Symphonika”) commercials. The Submarines’ third album, Love Notes/Letter Bombs, builds on the catchy indie-pop sound they have been perfecting over the last five years. WE spoke with the pair the day before the album dropped, and found out it might also be their most intimate creation yet: exploring themes of love and tension, and borrowing more than a little from their own challenges as spouses, bandmates, and musicians.

WE: The album’s out tomorrow. Is it still a nerve-racking experience waiting to see how it’s received?
Hazard: Yes!
Dragonetti: Hmm. Yeah, I guess there’s a lot of anticipation. But it seems like it’s kind of a slow process, too. Even though the album comes out tomorrow, for us there’s always been this build up. We’re just excited, finally, to have it out. There’s such a long wait after you deliver the record.
Hazard: It’s exciting to hear first responses, too. It just feels like more people are hearing this record than heard our previous ones, and that feels really good. It makes the work that’s gone into the band add up to something.

The album feels like a really natural progression, but also infinitely more confident.
Hazard: Cool! I’m glad we sound that way musically. (Laughs) That’s great. I think we went a little bit bigger sonically this time, so if it sounds a little more full that’s at least a little bit by design, so that’s good. I’m glad.

Obviously the process now probably couldn’t be more different than the first album.
Dragonetti: Right. It seems like we record songs and make records in so many different ways. We don’t really have a set flow that works for us. Sometimes Blake works on a song by herself and brings it in, and then I’ll start helping her produce the sounds and the tracks and stuff, and other times I’ll work on stuff on my own and bring it to her. This time we wanted to collaborate more and you know, sit in a room together and old-school style, hash a song out with a guitar and by hand. We wrote the lyrics together and tried a lot more of that on this record. I’m pretty pleased with how it came out. Blake, what do you think?
Hazard: I don’t think we set out necessarily to make the record more collaboratively, but by default we did because we ended up needing to do a lot of lyric writing together after working on the initial stages of the record separately. Basically we recorded the whole record instrumentally first and then went back and did like, oohs and aahs, melodies over that, and did the lyrics very last. Not on all the songs, so that was a wildly different process.
Dragonetti: We had this sort of Herb Alpert version of the album with oohs and aahs on it, which maybe we’ll release some day.
Hazard: On a few of the songs, it kind of allowed us to develop a story, or be inspired by the music itself instead of having a set idea before we went into it. Some of doing the writing that way captured this moment in time for us, where we were when we were writing as opposed to songs you write over a long period of time where you might think about one thing one day and another thing the next day. This was more concentrated... [Loud beeps start happening in the background] What is that? (Laughs)
Dragonetti: Sorry, I know. I’m multitasking but I’m very —
Hazard: Oh, John! Anyways, certain themes emerged that we weren’t even aware of until we’d almost finished the record and that sort of took us by surprise I think. To listen and realize, oh, this is what it’s about!
Dragonetti: Yeah, we wear our struggles on our sleeve for sure.
Hazard: Yeah, more than we intended! (Laughs)

The title of the album is fun and allows people to read into lots of stuff. Did that come after the fact, too?
Hazard: (Laughs) Yeah. It’s sort of a lyric lifted from the song “Tigers.” It’s very much like that’s what emerged later for us: the dichotomy of love and tenderness versus the conflict and tension in the relationship but also in the band and in the music. It became a theme that emerged after the fact. When we say Letter Bomb we don’t mean anything violent. We thought of like, a Wes Anderson movie and how there are all of these imminent perils... but it’s almost a sinister cuteness, you know? He plays on danger and safety and all that stuff.
Dragonetti: I think the title sums up the record pretty well.

The Submarines play Wednesday, Apr. 13 at Biltmore, 8pm. Tickets $13 from Red Cat Records, Zulu Records and


SUMMER FUN: Outdoor musical festival Live at Squamish is back for another summer, featuring headliners Weezer, Metric, Girl Talk and the John Butler Trio. Local acts Kyprios, The Zolas, and Bend Sinister will also be on hand to help round out the festivities. Aug. 20-21 in Squamish. Early bird tickets $79-$199 until May 15 from

WHOOOOO’S THERE?: Ever since beloved indie-dance band !!! (pronounced chk-chk-chk) announced its Vancouver show would take place at Electric Owl, concert-goers have been curious about this new, swathed-in-secrecy venue. Here’s what WE knows: The Electric Owl will be located in the former American Hotel space (928 Main), across from the Cobalt. Insiders say it’s “not part of a chain,” that it will be 8,000 square feet over two levels, and will open its doors in early May.

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