Summer Preview 2011

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MUSIC

Beyonce

June 24

While Beyoncé seems to have spent a majority of the past couple years since the 2008 release of I Am … Sasha Fierce flying under the radar and being crazy in love with Jay-Z, the diva has also been developing the sound on her fourth studio album, the aptly titled 4.

On her first single, the up- tempo “Run the World (Girls),” a raspy Beyoncé shouts about female empowerment, all set over an altered sample of Major Lazer’s “Pon de Floor” (the video, which features a gladiator-couture B with hyena companions, is just as striking as the single itself). When she’s not busy running the world, the R&B princess croons on the buttery-smooth “1+1” and laments love lost on her second single, the forgettable slow jam “The Best Thing I Never Had.”

Impressions are mixed: The disappointing amount of radio airtime doesn’t bode well for Beyoncé or for her fans who were hoping for a club jam to whip their hair to. Her newfound willingness to experiment since parting ways with her father and manager Mathew Knowles and teaming up with the often grandiose producer Kanye West could have the makings of the sweetest dream — or an unfocused nightmare.

Neda Salamat


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Arcade Fire

August 2

Legendary indie ensemble Arcade Fire follows their critically acclaimed The Suburbs with a reissue of the album that includes two bonus tracks (“Culture War” and David Byrne’s collabora- tion “Speaking in Tongues”), and the highly anticipated Spike Jonze- directed “Scenes from the Suburbs” — a short film and companion to the band’s Grammy-winning third album. Jonze, who also directed 2009’s decidedly not-for-kids existentialist beauty “Where the Wild Things Are,” highlighted Arcade Fire’s Funeral classic “Wake Up” in his “Wild Things” trailer. His music video for “The Suburbs,” comprised of footage taken straight from the upcoming 30-min- ute film, depicts scenes of a group of suburban teens who navigate an oppressive dystopian landscape on BMX bikes. But, considering his knack for effortlessly dodging cliches (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), Jonze will undoubtedly turn the film’s focus from the spectacle of masked, gun-wielding officers and patrolling helicopters to its beautiful cinematography and remarkably human characters.

Tanner Cook


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Brian Eno

July 5

Last year, Brian Eno released Small Craft on a Milk Sea — a collection of understated instrumental compositions that infused Eno’s trademark dreamy ambiance with a much-needed sense of edge, though the album failed to reach the sublime heights of the musician’s earlier work. Untamed electric guitar licks brushed up against relentless motorik drumming and blasts of distortion, creating captivating, off-beat waves among Eno’s otherwise serene soundscapes.

Eno continues to explore this streak of (slight) dissonance in Drums Between the Bells, in collaboration with poet Rick Holland. In Drums, other vocalists (includ- ing Eno himself) recite Holland’s poetry, spoken-word style, over Eno’s expansive electronic compositions. If initial single “Glitch” is any indication, Eno’s planning on revisiting the dense polyrhythms he explored on 1981’s David Byrne collaboration, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Good news if you plan to spend your summer driving around in your car to futuristic ambient funk grooves while listening to several elderly British men recite postmodern poetry (we know we are).

Andrew Whitworth


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YACHT

June 21

YACHT’s last album, 2009’s See Mystery Lights, was an unexpected hit — a collec- tion of irresistible electro anthems that solidified YACHT’s place as twentieth-century inheritors of the downbeat dance groove legacy established by Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” and Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place.” It’s then a welcome sentiment that the bouncy Portland electro-pop collec- tive is releasing their follow-up, the sci-fi referencing Shangri-La, in the summertime.

You can expect the band’s tight disco beats to be more developed and even groovier, like on Shangri-La’s superb lead single “Dystopia (The Earth is On Fire).” On that track, the band’s slick, mantra- espousing jams are supplemented by a new willingness to step away from the bare-bones synth blips of Mystery Lights, experimenting with dense textures, vocal harmonies and somewhat darker subject matter.

Andrew Whitworth


MOVIES

hp2Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2

July 15

Despite Warner Bros.’ best efforts to Petrificus Totalus, their way out of ending this colossal moneymaker, the “Harry Potter” series is coming to a definitive close this summer.

The second half of “Deathly Hallows” picks up where the other left off — with the beloved trio, an excruciating hunt for Horcruxes and Hallows and a final battle at Hogwarts for control over the wizarding world (and thankfully, no more of that goddamn camping trip). It should be an exercise in special effects that puts “Avatar” to shame: blooming sparks of phosphorescent spells and explosions, a monstrous dragon and buckets of ruby red blood. It’s not a summer blockbuster — it’s the summer blockbuster.

But after a comfortable decade of well-made movies star- ring the bespeckled teen hero, facing a reality that includes a yawning expanse of shitty sequel-cinema with charmers like “Transformers: Foxy No More” and “Twilight: Still Sexless” makes that final goodbye to Hogwarts only that much more bitter than sweet.

And at that midnight hour, wrapped in a robe while watching the last Lumos! light up and fade from the cinema screen, it’s likely you’ll find yourself wishing for a time-turner of your own — or, at the very least, an encore screening.

Neda Salamat


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X-Men: First Class

June 3

Rebooting a franchise is always a dicey move, but “X-Men” producers decided to skirt that issue by using a tried and true method — Mad Men-ing it. Directed by Michael Vaughn (of “Kick Ass” fame), the movie is set during the Cold War — and, of course, goes to great lengths to preserve historical accuracy by blaming the Cuban Missile Crisis on mutants.

In addition to setting the film decades before the first “X-Men,” the film replaces most of its characters with a new cast of less featured mutants, among them Mystique, Beast, Banshee and Emma Frost. Of course Professor X (James McAvoy of “Atonement” and “Wanted”) and his frenemy Magneto (Michael Fassbender of “Inglorious Basterds” and “Jane Eyre”) are central components of the film — 2009’s “Wolverine: Origins” proved that leaving these key players out wasn’t the greatest idea, shirtless Hugh Jackman or not.

Regardless of which characters you hoped would return, the movie promises enough superhero action to keep anybody entertained (levitating submarine, anyone?). Whether you are a die-hard “X-Men” fan who has dog-eared copies of Ultimate X-Men or someone who doesn’t know the difference between the Pheonix and the Dark Pheonix — head over to theatres and make “X-Men” the first of many franchise reboots that you will undoubtedly view this summer. It may end up being the best one.

Margaret Yau


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The Tree of Life

July 8

Legendary writer/director Terrence Mallick ends his six year hiatus with “The Tree of Life” — a multi-generational family epic starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn as a father and son living in the American midwest. And, satiating the film’s already vehement anticipation, Mallick secured the coveted Palm d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival to exaltations of critical praise and countless Oscar nods. The film’s plot, though deliberately ambiguous, follows Jack O’Brian (Penn) as he attempts to reconcile with his aggressive, emotionally hostile father (Pitt). But, as was the case in Mallick’s earlier classics such as “The Thin Red Line,” “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven,” the director’s keen eye for breathtaking cinematography and meandering, poetic dialogue will serve as “The Tree of Life”’s strongest asset.

Ren Ebel


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Cars 2

June 24

It’s summertime, so like clock-work, there’s a Pixar movie set for release; this time it’s another sequel — the not-really-highly-anticipated “Cars 2.” For once, Pixar may not be poised for Oscar glory by the end of the year (“Cars” lost out to “Happy Feet” for Best Animated Picture in 2006), though a new globe-trotting premise could give the animated franchise new life (and high numbers at the box office).

The flick has race-car hero Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and rusty truck buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) departing the small southwest American town of Radiator Springs for the world’s biggest race, set to take place at an undefined East Asian metropolis. But darker scheming is at play, with Mater brought into international espionage, including a James Bond-esque Aston Martin named Finn McMissile (Michael Caine).

Though the absence of the “Route 66” culture may make the film feel like a complete departure from the original, the return of McQueen and Mater should keep crowds laughing and provide another Pixar hit.

Liam Rose


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Crazy, Stupid, Love

July 29

With the seemingly end- less string of action blockbusters competing for movie-goers’ dollars this summer, your typical ensemble romcom just got a little more refreshing. Crazy, Stupid, Love sports an A-list cast including Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei. Carell plays Cal, a middle-aged sad-sack dealing with an unexpected divorce from his cheating wife (Moore). He seeks lady help from Jacob (Gosling), a womanizer who vows to get Cal his “manhood” back (via a classy makeover and a whole lot of clubbing), all while having his own shallow perceptions of love twisted by the ever-lovely Hannah (Stone).

But Crazy, Stupid, Love isn’t all sappy melodrama rehash. The script’s rife with one-liners, like when Julianne Moore’s character says, sobbing, to her ex-husband, “You know when I told you I had to work late, I really went to see the new ‘Twilight’ movie by myself. And it was so bad!” If that’s not enough, then let it be put in print that Ryan Gosling takes off his shirt. Often.

Neelaab Nasraty

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