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|August 27 - September 2, 2009
Duplicity (Universal Studios) $29.99. 125 mins.
Two former spies — now operatives for rival corporations — battle their mutual attraction in the effort to outwit one another. With Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti. PG-13 (profanity and some sexual content)
Adventureland (Miramax) $29.99. 107 mins.
Working at the local amusement park after graduation might be disappointing for some people, but for one grad it was the best time of his life. With Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds. R (profanity, drug use and sexual references)
Sunshine Cleaning (Overture Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment) $29.98. 91 mins.
A single mother working as a housemaid learns that the real money is in crime-scene clean-up. With Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn . R (profanity, disturbing images, some sexuality and drug use)
The Informers 1.5 stars (Senator) $24.96. 98 mins.
It’s the 1980s and sex and drugs connect Hollywood’s A-list with the town’s lowly characters who don’t rate a list. With Kim Basinger, Billy Bob Thornton, Rhys Ifans, Mickey Rourke, Winona Ryder. R (strong sexual content, nudity, drug use, pervasive profanity and some disturbing images)
—MCT, Philadelphia Inquirer
Matisyahu, Light (Epic)
by Steve Klinge
As a Hasidic Jew singing dancehall reggae and rapping, Matisyahu is so outside the realm of expectation as to be beyond any questions of authenticity, and he’s too skilled to be dismissed as a novelty. Born Matthew Miller, Matisyahu is on a mission to spread positive messages on Light, his third studio album.
The album ranges widely, from widescreen electro to triple-time toasting to loping reggae to splashes of hard-rock guitars, and it features guests including reggae legends Sly & Robbie, members of the L.A. ska-punk band Fishbone, and, for “On Nature,” a boys choir and bagpipes.
But all the positivity ends up feeling relentless over the course of the 13 anthems, and Matisyahu too often relies on platitudes and sloganeering: “Freedom!,” “Strive to be alive every day,” “There’s something wrong with a system that leaves its children victims.” It’s hard to disagree with the sentiments, but it’s also hard to be inspired by truisms.
Pissed Jeans, King of Jeans (Sub Pop)
by David R. Stampone
No longer just a dated South Philly clothing store with a charmingly garish sign, King of Jeans is also the third album from Pissed Jeans. (The band is Allentown-born but largely based in Philadelphia, so the album title probably is a conscious if ultimately fleeting reference.) Often darkly humorous, this KoJ is a royal ripper, a tighter amalgam of lurching post-hard-core and caustic semi-noise rock than 2007’s impressive Hope for Men, PJ’s previous Sub Pop collection.
New bassist Randy Huth — aka Randall of Nazareth, also in Pearls and Brass, and a PJ pal since school days — joins with drummer Sean McGuinness for rugged rhythms that alternately explode, roll (the Birthday Party-esque “Half Idiot”), chug or lumber.
Guitarist Bradley Fry fuzzily splatters, squeals or doom-riffs (the Sabbath-y “Spent”), but never to excess, regularly enhancing the hooky melodic thrust (“R-Rated Movie”). Vocalist Matt Korvette seals — or, for the timid, breaks — the deal, a volatile howling presence who brilliantly expresses everyday ennui, making you care whether the rant concerns premature balding, getting a massage or bothering with anything (“False Jesii Part 2”).
If “heavy rock” is a category, King might easily stand as Philly’s best for ’09 (and compete in any overall Top 10); the group already is contending internationally.
K’Jon, I Get Around (Universal Republic)
by A.D. Amorosi
Detroit’s auto industry may have money problems, but the Motor City’s R&B scene is booming, what with its biggest star, the laid-back K’Jon, breaking through to the majors after several independent releases.
By mixing the more passionate aspects of Marvin Gaye and R. Kelly with a Bill Withers weariness in his supple voice, K’Jon shows off soul-sonic resources at a time when the Auto-Tune blanches all in its path.
“Fa Sho” and “On the Ocean” would be torch songs if it weren’t for K’Jon’s youthful swagger — the hustler’s shuffling step, an occasional pitter-patter of scat, a musky sensuality. While the title track benefits from breezy vocal melody and jazzy sway, “Fly Away” is robotically synthetic without being icy or distant. I Get Around isn’t perfect. The club-hop of “After the Club” is typical stuff, of which the best that can be said is “not bad.” Yet K’Jon manages something oddly innovative on the electronic tip during “On Everything.” Here, a sultry vocal, a sparsely arranged melody buoyed by its piano line — elegant, simple, memorable — and a chopped-’n’-screwed rhythm commonplace in Southern hip-hop meet for something sleepy, sensual and kicking. Impressive.
Third Eye Blind, Ursa Major (Sony RED Distribution)
by Jakob Dorof
Even after six years, it seems front man Stephan Jenkins hasn’t spent enough time away from Third Eye Blind. Comeback album Ursa Major is just as much a product of his struggles with writer’s block as were its repeated delays. Retreads of his Californian trio’s sunny alt-rock tunes lack their predecessors’ infectious hooks. Awkward appeals to lesbians and rap stars abound. And the instrumental closer “Carnival Barker” inexplicably aborts after less than 90 seconds, fading out just as the pretty thing begins to coalesce. It’s hard to expect much from a band that was good only for its singles over a decade ago, but considering that Ursa Major’s most salvageable song is the pleasantly modest “Monotov’s Private Opera,” maybe it’s time for another break.
—MCT, Philadelphia Inquirer
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