Friday, May 26, 2017

The Lovers - Movie Review

In Theaters Now
The Lovers (R) 94 mins B+

Starring: Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Melora Walters, Aidan Gillen, Tyler Ross and Jessica Sula

I was drawn to Azazel Jacobs' latest film, The Lovers, because of the premise- a mature, zany bedroom farce with a Woody Allen-ish vibe. The film's trailer was also intriguing, but I feared it might be giving too much away (see the link to the trailer below). Despite what I thought I knew about the film, The Lovers was full of subtle surprises. An unhappy couple, played by Debra Winger and Tracy Letts, are on the brink. The film spares us the typical kicking and screaming that usually accompanies a cheating spouse comedy. Instead, it focuses on the doldrums of their unhappy marriage, the grind of their daily lives and the weight of their unsatisfied lovers. The tone of the film is light, yet pensive- Jacobs really gets it right. In lesser hands this film would've been a throwaway bittersweet romantic comedy with a predictable outcome. Jacobs manages an outcome that's both satisfying and unnerving. If you're in the mood for a lite bedroom farce, The Lovers is a perfect matinee on a lazy spring afternoon.

Check out the trailer via YouTube --->

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spirit - Album Review

Released March 2017
Spirit - Depeche Mode B+

Spirit is Depeche Mode's 14th studio album. Produced by James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco, Spirit sonically finds the synth icons returning to their roots. Lyrically, it's the most socially aware album of their career. As a long time fan, even I was surprised by how much Spirit resonated after one listen. Depeche Mode has always been great at setting the mood - gloomy, soul-searching, sadomasochistic romanticism. This late-career album successfully marries that nostalgic sound/mood with current affairs. "Where's the Revolution," the album's first single is timely and sets the tone. However, it's just the appetizer prior to the main course. On "The Worst Crimes,"Gahan croons "/Blame misinformation/Misguided leaders/Apathetic hesitation/Uneducated readers." On the opening track, "Going Backwards," a poignant slow burner, the lyrics are direct and on target -"We are still in debt/To our insanities/We're going backwards/Turning back our history." But, my favorite album cut is all about the politics of dancing, the sultry "You Move." After listening to this album It's hard to believe it's been 36 years since Depeche Mode's debut, Speak and Spell. Spirit is an album that sounds more and more vital with each listen. My favorite tracks: You Move, The Worst Crime, Fail, and Scum

My Top Five D-Mode albums

1. Violator (1990)
2. Ultra (1997)
3. Music For the Masses (1987)
4. Some Great Reward (1984)
5. (tie) Spirit (2017)
5. (tie) Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Nix - Book Review

Published: Aug 2016
The Nix - Nathan Hill B

The Nix is a sprawling novel that has all the makings of a classic. It's witty, funny and surprising; a multilayered epic about family dysfunction, thwarted love and political unrest (among other things). This is one helluva debut. But, ultimately the novel is too ambitious for its own good. It's lengthy and I learned more about online gaming than I care to know. Otherwise, The Nix is sort of brilliant.

Check out the NPR review by Jason Sheehan below

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lion - Movie Review

Lion (PG-13) 118 mins C
A fascinating story that fails to roar

Starring: Dev Patel, Sunny Pawaer, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Priyanka Bose, Deepti Naval, and Tannishtha Chatterjee.

Saroo (Pawaer) is a five-year old Indian boy. He falls asleep on a train and wakes up thousands of miles from home. Suddenly, he's a stranger in a strange land lost and alone. Based on a true story, Lion is the kind of drama that should tug at your heart strings. However, the film had no such effect on me. Young Saroo was the best thing about the film, he was truly a lion. But, young Saroo eventually grows up and the film skips ahead twenty years or so. Adopted by a nice Australian couple (Kidman & Wenham), a mature Saroo (Patel) is now attending college, has a hot new girlfriend (Mara) and a bright future ahead of him. Yet, his past begins to haunt him more and more. He becomes sullen and emotionally divided between his past and present. Enter Google Earth. Saroo becomes obsessed with Google and finding his birth family.

This is an intriguing and remarkable true story. There's nothing inherently bad about the film; however, it felt flat and it didn't resonate with me at all. Although, judging by all the sniffling in the dark theatre, it resonated with a lot of my fellow moviegoers. If you're in the mood for a sentimental true life tearjerker with an adorable child act- this one is for you. Me, not so much.

See the trailer via YouTube

A Long Way Home via NPR

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Loving - Movie Review

Loving (PG-13) 123 minutes D
Love Crimes

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Marton Csokas, and Michael Shannon

I can't express how significant Loving v. Virginia (1967) is to me. I do not take Richard and Mildred Loving for granted. They were the interracial couple whose love was deemed unlawful in Virginia when they married in 1958. But, I'm sorry to say that this film (directed by Jeff Nichols) did nothing for me. Ho-Hum.

See it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Check out the trailer via YouTube

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