Saturday, January 21, 2017

Curb Service: A Memior - Book Review

Published July 2013

Curb Service: A Memoir - Scot Sothern C+

Scot Sothern has made a career of photographing prostitutes. His passion for photography and affinity for streetwalkers led to his first book in 2011, Lowlife (published in the UK), and subsequent photography exhibits around the world. In 2013, Curb Service: A Memoir was published by Soft Skull Press. It's an unapologetic narrative that centers around Sothern prowling for and photographing prostitutes, while trying to maintain a "normal" life that includes an ex-wife, a son he adores, and a steady job. The book is gritty and bleak. Sothern does not glamorize or attempt to rationalize his nasty habit. The women he documents are often homeless, drug addicted, and forgotten. Curb Service is part junkie memoir, part exposé. Sometimes it's flat, sometimes it's redundant, but mostly it's too perverse to ignore.

For more info about the book, see the link below via (NSFW!)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Elle - Movie Review

Elle (R) 130 mins B-
Oh! So Twisted.

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Charles Berling, Judith Magre, Christian Berkel, Virginie Efira, Authur Mazet, Jonas Bloquet, Alice Isaaz, and Anne Consigny

Elle is a rape-revenge drama directed by Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Robocop). Verhoeven has been quoted as saying, "No American actress would ever take on such an amoral movie." Hence, his first French-language feature, critically his best work, and a provocative mind f**k. It stars an ageless Isabelle Huppert who delivers a captivating performance that hasn't gone unnoticed. At last count, Huppert has been nominated "Best Actress" for at least a dozen awards- most notably (to general audiences) for this year's Golden Globe.

Michelle (Huppert) is unbreakable. She's the head of a sexually charged/violent video game company, she's sleeping with her best friend's husband, her son is a money sucking underachiever with a pregnant girlfriend in tow, and her mother is shacking up with a young gigolo... none of which comes close to the most dramatic event happening in her life. I went into his film with a vague notion of what it was about, and if you plan to see this film (she'll likely be nominated for an Academy Award) I suggest the same approach. The film, a thriller, kept me guessing- I thought I knew what I was getting into, then I didn't, then I did. The film goes on too long and it felt messy. Nevertheless, Huppert's performance is worthy of viewing and worth the price of admission. Elle is a challenging piece of art, not for everyone. However, it's been lingering in my mind since I left the theatre.

Based on Philippe Djian's novel "Oh..."

Check out the trailer courtesy of YouTube & Sony Pictures Classics

Saturday, January 7, 2017


Jackie (R) 100 mins B
A biopic that looks and feels a little different

Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup and John Hurt

Jackie is Pablo Larrain's latest film and first English-language feature. The Chilean filmmaker provides a unique look at an iconic life that has spent most of its historical relevance in the shadows. Natalie Portman plays an emotionally distraught Jackie Kennedy during the aftermath of her husband's assassination. The film is sullen, abrasive, and slightly awkward; however, those qualities only magnify Portman's Oscar-worthy performance and Larrain's fresh perspective.

Check out the Fox Searchlight Trailer via YouTube

Saturday, December 24, 2016

La La Land - Movie Review

La La Land (PG-13) 128 mins B+
There will be singing and dancing.

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Hemky Madera, Jason Fuchs, and Finn Wittrock.

I'll tell you up front, musicals are not my favorite. But, I went into La La Land with an open mind and a certain amount of expectations. Directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), the film has already garnered the most Golden Globe nominations (seven) for next month's award ceremony. Not to mention, it's a critical darling and likely Oscar favorite. The film opens with plenty of beautiful people singing and dancing on the Los Angeles freeway (so much for easing into it). Immediately, I worried that the entire film would be a bright and shiny homage to old school cinema ala Singin' in the Rain. But, once I settled into the magic that is Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, the film was enchanting despite the sudden outbursts of song and dance.

The story is familiar - two talented wannabes trying to make it in Hollywood. Mia (Stone), an aspiring actress and Sebastian (Gosling), a jazz musician trying to resurrect jazz. It's easy to see the romance brewing between Mia and Sebastian early in the film. But, without giving too much away, the film won me over because just like real life things got hard, things got complicated, and the film didn't necessarily take the easy way out.

Recommend to those who like romantic musicals and/or Hollywood nostalgia 2016 style.

The trailer (courtesy of YouTube/Lionsgate)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Allied - Movie Review

Allied (R) 124 mins C
We'll always have Casablanca

Allied is the latest film by esteemed director Robert Zemeckis (Flight, Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future). It's high on suspense, fashion and Hollywood beauty. But, unfortunately the rest of the film feels like an imposter. The WWII thriller begins with intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt) parachuting into a vast desert before being mysteriously picked up and delivered to Marianne Beauséjour (Cotillard), a French Resistance fighter. The two are undercover as husband and wife. Their mission is to assassinate a specific high ranking Nazi official. Max and Marianne eventually fall in love, and when you think the love birds can't get any happier the unspeakable is suspected (anyone who has seen the film's trailer knows what I'm talking about).

The first half of the film is overreaching- elaborate clothes, Pitt looking debonair, and Cotillard doing her best impression of a 1940s fashion model. The pace is slow and pedantic- and there's that scene where Marianne gives birth outside during an air strike, it's ridiculous. However, the film gains traction during the second half. The acting is dialed up a notch, and the best plot line (the one teased in the trailer) really takes shape. At the film's high point, I was just as puzzled as Max and just as smitten with Marianne. The film plays on a certain sensibility- classic love and war Hollywood style. For some, that alone might make Allied worthwhile. For me, it was a decent escape for two hours and nothing more.

Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Matthew Goode, Lizzy Caplan, August Diehl, Camille Cottin, Charlotte Hope, Marion Bailey, Anton Lesser

Check out the trailer courtesy YouTube of

Monday, December 5, 2016

Hungry Heart - Book Review

Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing
Jennifer Weiner B-
Published Oct 2016
Jennifer Weiner changed my life before I ever read her books. During the fall of 2004 I reluctantly attended one of her readings. Subsequently, I was hypnotized by her charm, her wit, and her story of becoming a bestselling novelist. She inspired and motivated me that evening. A few days later I enrolled at a local community college. A few years later I graduated from a local university. All because of that chance encounter.

Since then I have enjoyed several of her novels (Good in Bed and Fly Away Home are my favorites), and the film adaptation of In Her Shoes (very underrated). I've never been Weiner's "target" audience, and that never mattered to me. At the risk of sounding over dramatic, she changed my life. Now, twelve years after that initial encounter I still follow Weiner on social media, TiVo her on GMA (Good Morning America), and remain interested in her writing. Hungry Heart, her first nonfiction book, was especially exciting because it presented an opportunity to learn more about her life and her writing process. Plus, the book boasted that "no subject is off limits."

In this collection of essays, Weiner discusses all the usual suspects - weight, love, parenting, family, writing, etc... Some of which felt familiar (about her mother), some not so familiar (about her father), some I thoroughly enjoyed (the success of Good in Bed/the film adaptation of In Her Shoes), and some I couldn't relate to (motherhood). Hungry Heart is thoughtful and warm, but it only confirmed what I've been feeling lately- we've grown apart. Many times during this book I was struck by how impactful Weiner's experiences might be for young female writers. At times, It felt like I was privy to a conversation that wasn't meant for me, even though I was welcomed to listen.

I appreciate Jennifer Weiner. She's a fabulous role model and a champion for women. But, I'm afraid we don't have much in common, and maybe we never did? I guess this is why I'm not her target audience... and why should I be? There are plenty of books for jaded middle-aged men (like me) to draw inspiration from. Nevertheless, it's always a good idea to read broadly (it's great for the soul!).

Highly recommended for her targeted audience, you know who you are.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Manchester by the Sea - Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea (R) 137 mins A
Uncomfortably Numb

Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, C.J. Wilson, Kyle Chandler, Matthew Broderick, Gretchen Mol, Lucas Hedges, Erica McDermott.

Manchester by the Sea is a strong contender for my favorite film of 2016. Casey Affleck has never been better, and in limited screen time Michelle Williams steals every scene in which she appears. With this film writer-director Kenneth Lonegran has created one of the most authentic and honest meditations on sadness, seclusion and grieving you'll see at the theatre this year. But, don't let that scare you... or do.

Manchester by the Sea introduces us to Lee (Affleck), a handy man/janitor who lives a quiet and lonely life in Boston. His life is severely uprooted when he gets a call from Manchester (a 90 minute drive north) that his brother Joe is seriously ill. By the time Lee gets to the hospital, Joe has died. Suddenly, Lee is faced with new responsibilities and a new life. Neither of which he's capable of handling. This is an emotionally dark drama intertwined with moments of humor. I love that Lee is a realistic anti-hero; His desolation feels familiar. Furthermore, he's proof that sometimes you can't go home again.

The trailer courtesy of YouTube

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Moonlight - Movie Review

Moonlight (NR) 111 mins A-
"No more hope of holding your body in the moonlight. Did I fall in love for nothing?"
~ Michael Damian

Moonlight is like no other film I've seen this year. A film so raw and emotionally honest it's almost hard to watch. However, don't let that scare you off. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin. It is a rare cinematic exploration into African-American masculinity and queer identity. In its own reserved, sad, and elegant way, it's nearly a masterpiece.

Set in Miami during the 1980s, the story follows a young man named Chiron (aka "Little" aka "Black") and told in three vignettes: 1.) His childhood - he's bullied 2.) Teenage years - he's bullied and confused 3.) Early adulthood - well, let's not give it all away :-) This film feels like a game changer. It takes familiar themes (bullying, drug addiction, poverty) and defies stereotypes. The film is melancholy and tender. James Laxton’s cinematography is exquisite. Moonlight is a worthy film sure to cast a different tint on the Academy Awards ceremony come February 26.

The trailer for Moonlight (courtesy of YouTube)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bad Fame - Book Review

Published June 2015
Bad Fame - Martin McGovern A-

These poems snuck up on me, surprised me, and set up camp in my imagination. McGovern's humble debut collection is carefully plotted, artfully humanistic, and quietly resilient. I also love the book's cover image (courtesy of Joslyn Winters). My favorite poems include:

All Hallows Eve / Anniversary
Tonight Mars is over by the Moon, Look
For Charles and Mary Lamb
Hospital Corner
I Feel Guilty Watch You Sleep

Monday, November 7, 2016

Gone Girl - Book Review

Published June 2012
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn A

So far-fetched; yet, so well-written. At times, Gone Girl felt so real it hurt... the mark of a great novel.

Check out the trailer for the film adaptation starring Ben Affleck & Rosamund Pike courtesy of YouTube (both the book and film are highly recommended).