Miley Cyrus, CAN'T BE TAMED

Teens and rebellion have gone together throughout the ages, and I think being the poster child for wholesome Disney entertainment would make the desire to rebel that much more intense. This explains a lot about the "mature" approach Miley Cyrus took with her new album Can't Be Tamed -- and yet it's still very much the music of a young girl.

The music on Can't Be Tamed is easily divided into three themes: romance and infatuation (like "Who Owns My Heart" and "Permanent December"), co-dependent obsessions with an ex ("Stay," "Take Me With You") and being independent against controlling forces (the title track, "Robot"). For good measure, there's an obligatory cover, this time of Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."

These themes are far from new to pop music -- and Miley Cyrus does little to add them either musically or lyrically. Her voice isn't bad (though it's often heavily supported by synthesizers) (and she should never try rapping again), but it seldom stands out. The "sexy" image is still safe ("I met a boy in every city no one kept me amused/ but don't call me a Lolita 'coz I don't let 'em through") so it's mostly about dancing and dating. The songs are fairly average, except for the closing ballad "My Heart Beats for Love" and the surprisingly upbeat separation song "Two More Lonely People." And the Poison cover is decent, if not great.

Maybe Miley Cyrus will be more daring and original with time (she still has one more season of Hannah Montana, though I doubt the video below will be shown on the Disney Channel), but for now Can't Be Tamed is very standard teen pop.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch



If Playboy is known for anything -- besides the transparent "I read it for the articles" excuse -- it's known for the centerfold. This (literal) center of the magazine seems the focus of the appeal of Playboy. Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds is a coffee-table book collecting these fold-out images from 1953-2007.

Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds is 12.8" by 6.5", matching the approximate proportions of the original centerfolds. The pictures are collected chronologically, with a list at the start of each year of the names of the centerfolds (and who was Playmate of the Year, once the magazine began that particular honor). The book ends with an index of both the centerfolds and photographers.
If you want to tell people you bought this book for the articles, they're present as well. Apart from opening comments by Hugh Hefner (naturally) and David Hickey, an author contributes a page of thoughts for each decade: Robert Coover for the 1950s, Paul Theroux for the 1960s, Robert Stone for the 1970s, Jay McTierney for the 1980s, Daphne Merkin for the 1990s, and Maureen Gibbon for the, er, naughts. These vary from commentary on the photos themselves (Gibbon talks about a prominent, er, styling) to social commentary. Robert Stone says about the 1970s, "For a while it seemed as though all the ideals of the 1960s had been lost and everything vulgar and idiotic about them lingered." McTierney comments about the 1980s, "It was not exactly a contemplative or reflective decade."

There are a few celebrities present here -- Marilyn Monroe (the first Playboy centerfold), Jayne Mansfield, Erika Eleniak, Pamela Anderson (who was not the Playmate of the Year), Jenny McCarthy -- but Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds is better for an overall view of this photography than for an individual person. Rather than working on a strictly prurient level, this collection is fascinating as an evolution of an ideal of beauty over time. Looking through the book, the reader (viewer?) notes changes in body type, fashion, and even amount of nudity. (It was decades before the Playboy centerfold truly bared it all.) Some of the commentary is questionable (did powerful women like Hilary Clinton really affect the poses and looks in Playboy?) but this is a fascinating time capsule. With centerfolds.

Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds is a very good pictorial journey through history, as seem by the most popular men's magazine out there. This is both a fascinating and fun look at what people enjoyed looking at through the decades.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



What happens to toys when their owners grow up? This is the question posed -- and the basis for adventure -- in Toy Story 3, the latest Pixar animated feature.

Toy Story 3 takes place several years after Toy Story 2, and a lot has changed. Andy is now seventeen and about to head off for college. His toys -- Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Hamm (Jon Ratzenberger), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Slinky (Blake Clark, taking over the role from the late Jim Varney), the three-eyed aliens (Jeff Pidgeon), and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris) -- haven't been played with in years and think they'll wind up in the attic, donated to day care, or thrown out. (Several other toys from the previous movies are gone.) It turns out that Andy is bringing Woody to college and putting the others up in the attic, but the latter think they're being thrown out and all the toys end up at Sunnyside Day Care.

Sunnyside seems perfect -- kids to play with them! -- to everyone but Woody, who believes they have to stay loyal to Andy. Sunnyside's toys are headed by Lotso (Ned Beatty), an avuncular charmer who isn't all he seems to be. There's also an instant romance between Barbie (Jodi Benson) and Ken (Michael Keaton).

Toy Story 3 is a pretty good movie. Pixar always has great visual and vocal talent, and the cast once again delivers a great vocal performance. This movie also feels like a perfect end to the trilogy, hitting the emotional highs of love, nostalgia, and growing up and apart. The story meanders a bit (characters that are barely in the movie, numerous perils), and this time most of the humor feels aimed far more at little kids than at adults. Toy Story 3 is entertaining, and while it's far from Pixar's best, this is a fine finale to this movie series.
Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch


The Gaslight Anthem, AMERICAN SLANG

The Gaslight Anthem are back, and better than ever, with American Slang. This album proves that the spirit of classic rock can work in a modern style.

Much as I liked the Gaslight Anthem's last album, The '59 Sound, there was a similar style to most of the songs that made the album sound a little repetitive. This is fixed on Anerican Slang, as the band is able to rock hard (like their last album) but also slow down and try different sounds as well.

The content of American Slang is about tough but sentimental life on the wrong side of the tracks. Nostalgia is both pathetic ("God help the man who says if you'd have known me when/old haunts are for forgotten ghosts") and tempting, as memories keep drawing the singers back. Romance is also confined to the past, and there are plenty of scars along the way. Far from maudlin, these songs -- propelled by Brian Fallon's vocals and very strong support from the rest of the band -- hit all the right notes: sad while uplifting, thoughtful while strong, and very, very satusfying. American Slang combines the sentiment and regret of age with the powerful playing of young rockers -- and it's a terrific combination.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

John Arch, A Twist of Fate (Metal Blade Records, 2003)

Custom furniture maker/progressive metal singer John Arch has an unusual story. In the eighties he was the original singer for the group Fates Warning, who've built up and maintained a cult following over the years. But he left the group in 1987, and stayed out of music for fifteen years. In 2002, Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos talked Arch out of retirement for long enough to make an EP called A Twist of Fate. Consisting of only two songs but stretching nearly half an hour, A Twist of Fate shows a very distinctive voice covering topics both familiar and unfamiliar to heavy metal audiences.

Joining Arch and Matheos on the record were current Fates Warning bassist Joey Vera and Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. Despite the length of the songs, the instrumental breaks are relatively brief, and the focus is primarily on Arch's voice. Indeed, his voice (similar, if not superior, to Queensryche's Geoff Tate) is so well-suited to the genre that it's not hard to see why Arch's friends and former bandmates were eager to get him back in the studio. The first song "Relentless" covers themes like childhood disillusionment, maintaining a sense of spirituality when you're surrounded by people who don't practice the morals they would impose on you, and trying to pass some wisdom along to the next generation. "Cheyenne," the more compelling song of the two, was inspired by a picture of a young Cheyenne woman. Arch is part Native American himself, and in this song he seems to be trying to reconnect with a part of him that's been buried for a long time. Both songs are very carefully developed, interspersing quiet parts with loud ones. Perhaps, though, the progressions were a bit too careful and predictable, with a lot of solid parts but nothing really breathtaking.

John Arch has since gone back to his day job. Rumor (in the form of a comment on YouTube) has it that he's been working on new material lately, though. It gives his long-time fans reasons for hope, but I'm sure they've learned not to hold their breath. A Twist of Fate was a quick, fleeting showcase of Arch's considerable talents, but maybe it will eventually lead to something more.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

part 1 of "Cheyenne"



The world loves soccer (even some of the United States), and this year the FIFA World Cup is being held in South Africa for the first time. So it's appropriate that there's an African feel to the music on Listen Up! The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Album.

Listen Up! is mostly collaborative efforts, with most songs having two or three artists. (The album even ends with Siphiwo "joined" by a sampling of Nelson Mandela.) There are even three official 2010 FIFA World Cup songs: the official anthem ("Sign of a Victory" by R. Kelly and Soweto Spiritual Singers), the official song ("Waca Waca (This Time for Africa)" by Shakira and Freshlyground, and the official mascot song ("Game On" by Pitbull, Tkzee and Dario G.).

Lyrically, all the songs here are about striving, achieving, and celebrating; they're so universally positive they could be part of a self-help motivational album. (South Africa is often mentioned, unlike soccer.) The strength of Listen Up! is in the nice variety of the songs: While there's a definite African musical influence here, these songs are all distinctive -- and provide a greater variety than you'd find on Top 40 radio. Listen Up! The Official 2010 FIFA World Cup Album is a positive, solid album for getting the blood pumping.

Overall grade: B

Reviewed by James Lynch

Justin Currie, The Great War (Ryko, 2010)

There can be no doubt that The Great War is a Justin Currie creation. It is populated by songs which reflect classic Currie style, from his standard thematic preoccupations to recognizable chord progressions and modes of orchestration. While patterns may be discernable to a long-time Del Amitri and Justin Currie fan, however, their presence does not reflect artistic weakness—for the Currie hallmark is a guarantee of quality.

Currie throws pop culture a bone with his opening number “A Man With Nothing to Do,” a well-crafted, upbeat tune with refreshingly unpretentious lyrics which progress from ennui to hopefulness: “Let the years go by, let the daylight die/ I can’t think of anything to be/ The planes in the sky, the lines in the road/ Human hands make everything you see/ And if you keep busy in your mind do you think / you’ll see this through?” The final pronouncement of this song is the most unabashedly romantic statement of the album: “I’m a man with nothing to do / But wait around to fall in love with you.”

“Can’t Let Go of Her Now” is another peppy number featuring a classic Currie dilemma: this speaker is reluctant about his need for a particular relationship; while the melody is straightforward, however, the lyrics are poetically sophisticated, even if they do echo a certain Beatles’ tune: “Just don’t tell her I would die if I let her slip away/ Let her think I’m resigned/ Like those drying clothes just hang onto the line.” “At Home Inside of Me” also features a simple upbeat tune supporting complex imagery which, in this case, is rather surprising and morbid at times. The persona behind this song imagines the multiplicity of human experience residing within himself, as in the following quote, which may be one of the most wonderfully bizarre images to appear in pop music: “Armies of children and ghosts of suffragettes/ Make merry in the cauldron of my chest/ Bodies dumped in ditches and stowaways at sea/ They make themselves a home inside of me.”

“You’ll Always Walk Alone” is a rousing tune which jadedly undermines the intention of rousing tunes such as Carousel’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (also an English football anthem); here there is no god and human connections are limited: “Arm in arm and hand in hand, tied together with a wedding band/ Tethered to the line between the phones/ Remember you’ll always walk alone.” The song works well as a bleak reflection on human isolation, but Currie perhaps compromises this vision with a final verse which feels tacked on to appease listeners: “And alone every night you walk through my mind/ There we go, you and I in tandem all the time/ Our cover’s blown, now it’s all talk/ How you always walk alone.”

“Anywhere I’m Away From You” and “As Long as You Don’t Come Back” are what I will call classic Currie “good riddance to a bad relationship songs,” while “Ready to Be” represents the “I’m really a bad ass” genre. “The Fight to be Human” is an extended meditation on the woes of the world, which has become a standard feature of Currie’s ouevre, although this song does not simply repeat the ideas of its precursors such as “Nothing Ever Happens” and “No, Surrender”; this epic points inward as well as outward, considering how the author has tried to deal with the mess that is human life, unabashedly admitting “I hate the world they gave me.”

“The Way that it Falls” and “Baby, You Survived” feature gorgeous string orchestration of the kind witnessed on Currie’s first solo album “What is Love For”—but by far the most interesting track on this album, musically speaking, is “Everyone I Love.” The title is misleading, for this song is not about love at all; it continues the idea from “Ready to Be,” that “I’m ready to be the devil they’ve been seeing in me,” as the speaker plans to unleash pent up hostility and play a twisted emotional game which people sometimes play: “Tonight I’m gonna hurt everyone I love/ just to see if they love me/ I’m gonna run around running off my mouth,/ be as cruel as I can be.” “Like Dr. Frankenstein I’ll let the monster walk/ from the cellar to the town” is an appropriate image, as the complex rhythms and dark sounds of this number feel like a tango in a haunted house. With its terribly honest lyrics and meaty electric guitar, “Everyone I Love” is a guilty pleasure of the first caliber.

The Great War is indeed about war: strife between people in romantic and familial relationships, the struggle to make sense of the world in which we live and to be a “good person,” the desire to express one’s feelings, even if they are not palatable to all. In this album Currie has once again shown that he is a solid tunesmith and transcendent lyricist who is not afraid to think and engage deeply with the “dark side,” even under the false guise of a harmless pop album.

Remaining 2010 US Tour Dates for The Great War:
06.17.10 - New York, NY, Joe's Pub
06.18.10 - Boston, MA, Paradise
06.19.10 - Philadelphia, PA, Tin Angel
06.20.10 - Washington, DC, Jammin’ Java

reviewed by Rachel Wifall

"You'll Always walk Alone"


Christina Aguilera, BIONIC (DELUXE VERSION)

Christina Aguilera's new album Bionic has the singer leaving behind the pop of her early days and the retro-feel of Back to Basics (her last album before the Keeps Getting Better greatest hits collection) and venturing into the world of techno and clubs. Unfortunately, this new direction is at a cost.

Bionic can be easily divided into three parts (not including the five bonus songs on the deluxe version). The beginning of the album is club and dance hits; opening with the song "Bionic" is perfect, as it foretells all the electronics and synthesizers that permeate the songs (and, often sadly, the vocals). This part of the album is also hypersexual, from the lyrics ("whisper all your fetishes inside my ear/ my domain is shame free so lose your fear") to the subjects (the bisexual partying of "Not Myself Tonight," the, er adoration of "Woo Hoo"). There are also songs celebrating fashion ("Glam") and oneself ("Prima Donna").

Halfway through, Bionic does a 180-degree turn. We then get the inspiring ballad ("Lift Me Up") and the song to Christina's young child (who I doubt will be hearing this album unedited for some time) and songs of sensitivity and loss. Aguilera then returns to clubbing for the finale, with a perky song bashing men ("I hate boys but boys love me/ I think they suck and my friends agree") and the uber-narcissistic "Vanity."

What distinguishes Christina Aguilera from much other pop is her powerful voice -- and it's largely absent here. On some songs the vocals are so synthesized they could be sung by anyone. The rap and club music styles don't work that well, and the massive amounts of sexuality -- which make her "Dirrrty" seem subtle -- feel more sensationalistic than wild or expressive. And the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition are either painful (especially "Bobblehead") or forgettable. There are a few decent songs on Bionic, but Christina Aguilera is capable of much better.

Overall grade: D+
Reviewed by James Lynch


Zero 7, Yeah Ghost (Atlantic, 2009)

Englishmen Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker have been performing as Zero 7 for over a decade now. The band is unusual in the sense that each of their albums features a rotating cast of vocalists, while Binns and Hardaker do most of the songwriting and producing and much of the instrumentation as well. Zero 7 have have uncovered some decent vocal talent over the years, including Tina Dico, Sia Furler, and José González, but for the new album Yeah Ghost they wipe the slate clean with a new group of singers. Yeah Ghost winds up having a different feel from previous Zero 7 albums as a result, and will likely please some people more than others.

The most prominent of the new vocalists is Eska Mtungwazi, who struts her stuff on songs like "Mr. McGee" and "Medicine Man" with a degree of sass not previously heard on a Zero 7 recording. The American singer Binki Shapiro chimes in with "Swing," my favorite song on the album, and Martha Tilston takes an ethereal turn on "Pop Art Blue." The male vocals are limited on Yeah Ghost, but Henry Binns steps up to the mike on "Everything Up" and hip-hop artist Rowdy Superstar supports Eska on "Sleeper." There are also a couple of psychedelic-sounding instrumentals, of which the closing track "All of Us" is particularly good.

Like a lot of Zero 7 albums, Yeah Ghost has a number of pretty good songs but nothing really exceptional that will force its way onto the radio or people's iPods. So while it's generally more beat-heavy than previous albums, I felt the end result was predictably decent.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

"Swing," featuring touring vocalist Olivia Chaney


Hughes de Courson, Babel (Virgin Classics, 2008)

Mozart is blended with Egyptian music, Bach is set to African percussion, and Vivaldi compositions are played like Irish reels. Operatic sopranos sing to the beat of dumbeks, Bulgarian choirs sing flamenco, and children sing and rap folk songs from around the world. Songs are sung in French, Spanish, Bulgarian, Arabic, Medieval Italian, and even a made-up language. Welcome to Babel.

He's not known in this country, but Hughes de Courson has been a part of the folk and classical music communities in France for over thirty-five years. He originally came to prominence as a member of the medieval rock group Malicorne, playing a variety of instruments both familiar and unfamiliar. (Anybody out there know somebody who plays the crumhorn?) More recently he has spent his time primarily as a producer and arranger; his most noteworthy credit from my perspective is the 2000 CD Ilmatar by the Finnish folk group Värttinä. His musical interests are as eclectic as anybody's, but he also has an artistic ambition to match it. Babel is actually a compilation album, gathering material from nine different albums de Courson put together between 1993 and 2008.

If there's a flaw with Babel, it's that it suffers from what Lewis Carroll would call "muchness." The album covers an astounding amount of musical ground in a bulky 136-minute, 2 CD package. To say that listening though it completely requires a serious attention span would be an understatement. Still, there are at least one or two things to suit every musical taste -- how could there not be -- and there are a few highlights to justify the expense of your time. I'm particularly fond of the Balkan flamenco of "Romero Santo" on disc one and the combination of Bulgarian female voices with an angelic child singer and a classical waltz on "Tana Shàot Leïn" on disc 2.

It's been said that music is the universal language. Hughes de Courson certainly believes that, and Babel is a massive testament to de Courson putting his belief into practice. It's a hell of a lot to digest, but I think anybody who tries will find their efforts rewarded.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

"Toma que Toma"


Top Shot, Season 1

What do you get when you combine the TV show "Survivor" with a pile of all kinds of firearms? The History Channel's "Top Shot," which debuted last night. The host is Colby, who was a Survivor finalist, and from Texas as I recall, which probably qualifies him on the subject of guns. Add in 16 contestants, a veritable hit parade of Marine snipers, other ex-military types, law enforcement, and competitive shooters, and the stage is set for some serious shooting.

Unfortunately, the show had a little too much trash talkin', and not nearly enough shooting. The contestants were divided up into two teams, and it essentially came down to one shot for each of them. Then there was the equivalent of a tribal council, and they voted the two weakest shooters to engage in a shootout, with the loser out of the game. Yes, they did follow the Survivor formula just a little too closely.

I was hoping to see a little more about the variety of guns used. After all, this is the History Channel after all, and the weapons were just mentioned in passing, without more than a cursory detail. While I was a little disappointed with the debut, I'll probably check out another episode or two and see how this one goes. see it on History on Sunday night at 10 pm.

Reviewed by Jonas
Overall Grade: B-

Amadou & Mariam, Welcome to Mali (Nonesuch, 2009)

Malian husband-and-wife duo Amadou & Mariam have built up a healthy international following over the past few years, due to a combination of groove-oriented African rock and Amadou Bagayoko's strong guitar playing. On their latest CD Welcome to Mali, they work with a variety of producers to obtain a more eclectic sound, but the end result is at least as strong as its predecessors.

Ironically, the album's one misstep comes at the very beginning. The problem is not that "Sabali" is a weak track, it's just that it's by far the most mellow song on the album, and the sedate vocals over a synth track provided by Blur's Damion Albarn fail to set the tone for what follows. However, by the third track "Magossa," the party is in full swing. The disc moves from reggae to funk to frenzied rock, all with Amadou & Mariam's distinctively African touch. Highlights include "Je Te Kiffe," "Masiteladi," the title song, and the closing song "Sekebe."

Welcome to Mali is more overtly commercial than most African releases, and I suppose that might disappoint some African music purists. On its own terms, though, the album is a fun, infectiously energetic collection of songs. And who am I to complain about somebody embracing rock and roll?

Overall grade: A-

reviewed by Scott




Splice is about genetics, but this movie's title could also refer to its makeup: part sci-fi, part horror, part monster movie, part family drama. If only the parts worked better together...

Clive Nicoli (Adrian Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are famous scientists (and a romantic couple) whose work involves splicing together genetic material from different animals. Their biggest success are a pair of sluglike organisms called Fred and Ginger, and the scientists want to take the next step and add human d.n.a. into the mix. Financier Joan Chorat (Simona Maicanescu) doesn't want the potential controversy, and scientist-fearful-of-losing-funding William Barlow (David Hewlett) doesn't want to rock the boat. So Clive and Elsa work in secret. The result is Dren.

Dren is a humanoid creature, rapidly aging so the scientists (and audience) can see it go from a newborn to young child (Abigail Chu) to young woman (Delphine Chaneac) quickly. Dren is fast, strong, and has a prehensile tail with a deadly stinger at the end. Clive wants to get rid of Dren, but Elsa wants her: first to see exactly what they accomplished, then from more maternal urges. But as Dren gets moved from hiding place to hiding place (first in the lab, then in a barn at Elsa's country home), stress develops between Clive and Elsa. And could Dren actually be dangerous?

There's a lot happening in Splice -- genetics and ethics discussions, monster chases, a lab where massive amounts of equipment can be moved to and used in secret with no one noticing -- but most of it is neither interesting nor exciting. Dren shifts from near-alien creature to object of sympathy to threatening menace depending on the movie's mood, giving Splice a feeling of inconsistency. (Is it a science project or a person? Should we kill it? Will it kill us if we don't?) The actors here are all relegated to b-movie stereotypes, and the big finale isn't that exciting. (The "surprise" at the end can be seen from a mile away too.) There are lots of movies about scientists playing God and paying the price, and Splice is a weak one.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch



The words "once upon a time" call up images of fairy tales, magic, and romance. So it's appropriate that they are used for the name of Once Upon A Time, the card game where players cooperate and compete in creating their own stories.

Each player starts the game with a "Happy Ever After" card (with a final line for the story) and several "Once Upon A Time" cards, also known as "storyteller cards." The latter cards either have a specific card name and one of five categories (Character, Place, Event, Item, Aspect), or an Interrupt (which has one of the Categories, plus its own card name).

During each game a player begins as the storyteller. This player tries to play all their cards by telling a story that uses the cards from their hand. A player can use one card for each sentence of the story (so they can't get rid of multiple cards with one run-on sentence) and the story has to make sense to all the players. If a player can use up all their storyteller cards and guide the story so their "Happily Ever After" card makes sense, they win.
So can do the other players do? Take over the story! If the storyteller mentions something another player has a card for (for example, if the storyteller says a Prince encounters a merchant another player could play "Two People Meet") the player who played the card becomes the new storyteller and the former storyteller has to draw a storyteller card. A player with an Interrupt can also play it to become the storyteller, and force the former storyteller to draw another card, if their Interrupt matches a category that was just played. If a storyteller takes too long to continue the story (usually a pause of five seconds or more) they draw a card and the next person clockwise becomes the new storyteller. Finally, players can rule that the storyteller's card play or story doesn't make sense, forcing them to draw a turn and letting the next person clockwise take over as storyteller.
Once Upon A Time is a simple, fun, impressively silly game. As people make up stories on the fly, there's a lot of humor -- especially when someone decides to take the story in a completely different direction. Since there's no strategy beyond knowing your cards and being ready to pounce when one of your cards can be used, the focus is more on fun than victory. And the game gets amazingly tough if someone steals the story and leaves you with one non-Interrupt card; if that happens, you'd best hope people flub their stories or mention the only thing you can play -- or defeat is assured. If you like funny stories (especially telling them), Once Upon A Time is a nice way to spin some tales with other players.
Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch


There's plenty of drama to be found in the relations between a husband and wife, between men and women, and with the process of grief. Antichrist, written and directed by Lars von Trier, loses that in pretention.

The unnamed leads, played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourgh, are grieving: Their young child fell out a window to his death while the parents were in coitus. She has a mental breakdown and He, a psychiatrist, decides to take control of Her care -- despite Her objections and saying He's more interested in Her as a patient than a spouse. After working on her "pyramid of pain," He decides they need to go to Eden, the isolated woods where She said She feels the most fear.

Despite the name, Eden is far from paradise. While He tries exercises and soothing sayings, She seems to drift further away. There are also rains of acorns, talking animals, and lots of slow-motion and ominous chords. Plus there's the movie's descent into psycho woman (complete with torture and self-mutilation) and primal man.

Antichrist is hard to sit through -- but more from tedium than its last-act extreme violence. While the differences between the couple are interesting at first -- She tries to discuss their problems, while He hides behind psychological phrases and gimmicks -- von Trier allows his film to be swallowed by cinematic tricks and, sadly, cliches. Some critics have discussed this film's misogyny -- She tells Him "a crying woman is a scheming woman;" Her thesis is on migogyny against treatment, which she eventually believes -- but that is only one of this movie's many excesses. Dafoe and Gainsbourgh do what they can with their roles, but they are finally lost among the gimmicks. Ignore the talking fox and heed this talking critic: Skip Antichrist.

Overall grade: D
Reviewed by James Lynch