Saturday, November 29, 2008

Milk - Movie Review

Milk (R) 128 minutes B
My Milkshake brings all the boys to the yard

Starring Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Victor Garber, and Denis O'Hare, Stephen Spinella

As a film, Milk has more substance than Slumdog Millionaire (my previous review), but it didn't captivate me quite as much as Slumdog did. That's probably because I already knew how Milk would end. The film is based on Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be voted into major public office in America. After several failed candidacies and being on the front lines in the fight for gay rights, Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

Milk is not only entertaining, but for me, it was educational. I discovered an inspirational figure who I probably wouldn't have known about otherwise. He was courageous, charismatic, and enhanced the lives of many (not just the gay community). Sean Penn (plays Harvey Milk) is as good as advertised, and he definitely gives an Oscar-caliber performance.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire - Movie Review

Slumdog Millionaire (R) 120 minutes B+
Rich in Love

Starring Dev Patel, Madhur Mittal, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, and Irrfan Khan

There was a lot of buzz surrounding this film before its release... Roger Ebert claimed that "it could land a best picture Oscar nomination", while New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick says it "may be the most entertaining movie I've ever labeled a masterpiece."

I thought to myself, how good could it be? An orphan from the slums of Mumbai goes on India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to win the heart of a long lost love...? It sounded kind of cheesy, but it works brilliantly! Director Danny Boyle adds a unique twist and refreshing look at a somewhat familiar formula.

There's some cutesy kid stuff in the beginning I could've done without, but other than that, this is a winning film! Definitely worth a trip to the movie theater.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"First Impression" Music Reviews

TV on the Radio - Dear Science A-
This albums has hooks! Almost every song has an undeniable appeal that pulls you in with diverse instrumentation and interesting lyrics. Dear Science reminds me of many of the great albums of the late 80's and early 90's in which each song stands on its own and any track could be a single.

I like this album much more than Return to Cookie Mountain (which wasn't a bad album at all), and although Diddlefinger loves the album's first track - Halfway Home, my "repeat" track (at least right now) is Dancing Choose which reminds me of a sweat trenched Tunde Adebimpe (nothing gay about that).

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - Cardinology B-
When Easy Tiger came out last year I was quick to claim it as one of the best albums of the year. But shortly thereafter I shelved the album because of premature burnout on the album.

When I first listened to Cardinology I thought it was more of the same... Easy Tiger 2. But after a few repeated listens this album is growing on me more and more and I think it might have the opposite effect that Easy Tiger had. The more I listen to this one the more certain songs stand out. Magick is easily the first track that jumps out at you, but some of the deeper cuts are real heartbreakers and seem to be slowly burning into my soul (like the last track on the album called Stop).

Tracy Chapman - Our Bright Future C+
Tracy Chapman is one of my all time favorite musical artist. Her second album, Crossroads still has the ability to make me weep like a 4 year girl (and that's a good thing). But Tracy's latest starts strong and then fades into a safe, warm, and comfortable place.

The first half of the album is fairly strong, Tracy has always sang with such sincerity and her music always feels very organic. But what's missing here is the spice. Those adventurous moments that encapsulates her best works. I almost feel like she might have phoned it in on some of these tracks.

But nevertheless it's still a very listenable album that I hope well grow on me more with additional listening.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Happy-Go-Lucky - Movie Review

Happy-Go-Lucky (R) 118 minutes C+
A happy girl in a cruel world

Starring Sally Hawkins, Alexis Zegerman, Andrea Riseborough, Samuel Roukin, Sinead Matthews, Kate O'Flynn, Sarah Niles, and Eddie Marsan

Mike Leigh has been nominated for 5 Oscars and has won numerous film awards throughout his illustrious career. His latest film, Happy-Go-Lucky has been well-received by critics and has done very well on the festival circuit this year (chalking up wins at the Hollywood Film Festival, the Norwegian International Film Festival, and the Pula Film Festival).

The lead character and main focus of the film is 30 year-old Poppy (Sally Hawkins), a London schoolteacher and chronic optimist. She is indeed happy-go-lucky, so much so that she almost seems a little retarded. Throughout the film I asked myself this question- "Could I be friends with someone like Poppy?" She's a great person, but she's so damn cheery it might drive me crazy.

That being said, she is undeniably adorable, and her character is one that the audience can wrap their hearts around. But despite the character's appeal and a great performance by Sally Hawkins. I thought the film was a little slow in the beginning. I felt that Leigh spent too much time convincing us (the audience) that Poppy was a wise-cracking free spirit. I kept waiting for something to happen, and when it finally did the momentum was thrown off by a strange scene (involving a homeless man) that seemed oddly out of place.

The second half of the film is a home run. Totally absorbing and infectiously entertaining. This is a film worth seeing but it may require a little patience.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Depression Never Sounded So Beautiful

This week's album of the week is Morrissey's Kill Uncle. It sounds as good today as it did in 1991 when it was truly the soundtrack to my life. The song Driving Your Girlfriend Home was essentially my existence in a nutshell, and the rest of Kill Uncle is best described as an introspective and moody masterpiece. It's not for everyone, and it's probably Morrissey's most panned album, but it remains one of my favorites. I guess misery loves company.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Contenders/Pretenders & My Writing Life

NFL Contenders & Pretenders

N.Y. Giants - I picked this team to finish last in their division, but Eli Manning is the real deal. This team impresses me every week.

Tennessee - Each week I think they will fall, and last weekend they made a statement.

Carolina - When your QB completes less than 30% of his passes, throws 4 interceptions, and you still win... that's a sign that things are gonna go your way.

Pittsburgh - (My preseason AFC Superbowl pick) This team is a contender provided they can pass the IF test. IF they can survive a very tough schedule, IF big Ben can stay healthy, and IF they can win their division (and possible first round bye). Watch the f*ck out!

The AFC East - I basically like all these teams except the Pats. But whomever wins this division has a good chance of being embarrassed in the first round of the playoffs. If I had to choose I'd love to see Miami win the division, but look for the Bills or possibly the Jets to be the great pretender.

Baltimore - Ray Lewis is one of, if not the best defensive player of my lifetime and Flacco has impressed the hell out of me. But ultimately, Lewis is getting too old and Flacco is too young.

Minnesota - They have one of the greatest RB's in the game, but that's all they have.

Denver - If they win the division (at 8-8) the season won't be a total loss. But if they miss the playoffs (at 8-8) will they/should they fire Shannahan?

In Other News
I've been published! But not in the traditional sense of having a byline, etc... I wrote a small article about someone who is near and dear to me... a long time friend and companion.

Some of you will be receiving (hard) copies of the article, but I'm still trying to convince my partner to autograph those copies. I apologize that I am currently unable to post the article here, but I do have scanned electronic copies that I can send at your request.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Zack and Miri Make a Porno - Movie Review

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (R) 102 minutes C-
A limp effort by Kevin Smith

Starring Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, Traci Lords, Katie Morgan, Ricky Mabe, Jeff Anderson, and Jason Mewes

I've always felt that most Kevin Smith films possess a certain style and uniqueness. I loved Chasing Amy back in 1997, and I'm one of the few who liked 2004's Jersey Girl. But Zack and Miri is trying too hard to be a "shocking-vulgar-slacker comedy". Seth Rogen and numerous scenes of nudity keeps the film entertaining, but overall this effort is really forced and contrived. Watch a real porno instead.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trent Slips It In

Nine Inch Nails - The Slip A-

This past January Trent Reznor accomplished the rare feat of landing two NIN albums onto my year-end "Best of" list for 2007 with Year Zero and Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D (a remixed version of Yero Zero).

This coming January it appears that he'll break my top 10 once again with The Slip. An album that Spin magazine called "primo death funk". I'd be lying if I said that this album was a departure from his previous efforts, but somehow he keeps reinventing his anger and self loathing into funky masterpieces of digital brilliance.

This album was released as a free download back in May and now it's available in stores for $25 (or so) as a limited addition CD+DVD. The Slip is also one of my favorite album covers of 2008 so far.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Was a Lover Before This War

TV on the Radio and The Dirtbombs at the Ogden Theatre
I'm too tired and do a proper concert review, but let me say that this show rocked! This is the second time this year I've seen The Dirtbombs and they did not disappoint! Their live show is not to be missed! As for the headliner, TV on the Radio, they were sensational! Completely and totally engaging. Their set tonight was very cathartic, and the crowd was really into it which made the whole experience very unifying. Rock on!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rachel Getting Married - Movie Review

Rachel Getting Married (R) 114 minutes C+
Rachel marries the guy from TV on the Radio

Starring Anne Hathaway, Tunde Adebimpe, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Debra Winger

Director Jonathan Demme somewhat successfully captures the humanistic essence of his characters in his latest film Rachel Getting Married. There are times during the film when he masterfully captures real emotion within a realistic family dynamic. But during other times the film is hollow and a little contrived. Perhaps there are one too many musical scenes, and the hippy dippy, ethnic jambalaya theme feels like he's trying too hard.

That being said, I do like the interracial aspect of the film, and Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Sydney's (Tunde Adebimpe) relationship is one that I found myself admiring throughout. But this film is all about Kym (Anne Hathaway), she has been in and out of rehab for the last 10 years and she's home on a day pass or weekend pass (it's not real clear) to attend her sister's wedding.

The family is on edge because Kym is a loose cannon, and she also brings the unforgotten/unforgiven baggage of accidentally killing her little brother during a drugged out haze (pre-rehab). At times I thought that Kym's family was being too hard on her, after all, she carries the burden of guilt as well as being considered the "f*cked up daughter". But then again, living with someone like Kym who has lied time and time again to get what she wants/attention has to be very emotionally taxing.

I applaud the film for cleverly melding sad introspection with the promise of happiness and hope, but ultimately the film feels slightly unsatisfying because no one and nothing really changes from the beginning to the end. I sensed that if there is a sequel (Rachel Getting Divorced), this would be the same exact film with less music.
Bonus DVD Review
27 Dresses (PG-13) 107 minutes C
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride

(DVD Release Date - April 29, 2008)
Starring Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Malin Akerman, Ed Burns, Melora Hardin, and Judy Greer

I don't expect much from films like this, but sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised. The only surprising thing about this film is that there are actually some funny moments. The film is very very predictable, but fairly entertaining. Don't waste your money renting this film, pop some popcorn, fetch a frosty beverage, and watch this one on cable.