Saturday, December 27, 2008

I've Loved You So Long - Movie Review

I've Loved You So Long (PG-13) 115 minutes C+
Less than Strangers

Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Laurent Grévill, Elsa Zylberstein, and Frédéric Pierrot

I've Loved You So Long is a French film written and directed by Philippe Claudel. It has been nominated for two Golden Globes- Best Foreign Film and Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama -Kristin Scott Thomas (speculation/industry buzz also has her earning an Oscar nomination as well).

Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) has spent the last 15 years in prison for an unthinkable crime, now she tries to reconnect with a long lost sister and make sense of a strange world that has no idea of the pain and heartache she has suffered for so long.

The film is formulaic and a little slow at times, but Claudel adds a lot of nice touches that makes the film feel very humanistic. I especially liked the dynamic of the two men who are romantically interested in Juliette, it's very subtle but there's a lot of longing in their eyes.
First Impression Music Review

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig!!!Lazarus Dig!!! A

This album is pure genius and I'm convinced that with this recording they are one of the seminal bands of all time. Perhaps that was established long ago, but it wasn't until I listened to this album that the light bulb popped on- "these guys are f*cking brilliant!"

There is something so perversely creepy, yet cool about Nick Cave... Whether he's rocking out and/or singing a piano ballad about god, either way he evokes passion in my soul.

This album sounds like the soundtrack to a life I could have had in another life, in another city, in another time.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Doubt - Movie Review

Doubt (PG-13) 104 minutes B
Trying to break my own heart

Starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis

John Patrick Shanley's Doubt was a Pulitzer Prize-winning play and now he has adapted it for the big screen. After winning an Oscar (screenwriting) in the late 80's for Moonstruck, and making his directorial debut in 1990- Joe Versus the Volcano, Doubt could be considered a "comeback" for Shanley.

I had a hard time coming up with a final grade for this movie because the acting is so superb, but as Boston Globe film critic Wesley Morris said, "it never managed to boil my blood or break my heart."

Set in 1964 at a Bronx, NY Catholic school, Father Flynn (Hoffman), a young, idealistic priest is suspected of having an inappropriate relationship with the school's first African American student. Sister Aloysius (Streep), the school's principle and head nun appears to have a heart of steel; her old fashion traditions are outdated and insolent. She is suspicious of Father Flynn and it is never revealed exactly why, but it's an obvious clash of new school versus old school. Several things in the film are vague, but that's part of what makes it so good.

If you have a catholic school past, this film is sure to unlock some bittersweet memories. I think the ending is especially great because it sums up the state of faith and devotion.

Meryl Streep is a goddess, she will be nominated for an Oscar (I have my certainty!), Viola Davis is very strong in a small role, Philip Seymour Hoffman is always brilliant, and Amy Adams is steady, cute and likable if not underwhelming.

I would consider this a successful comeback for Shanley, even though he failed to break my heart.
Bonus DVD Review - DVD release date October 31, 2008

Born on the Fourth of July (R) 145 minutes B-
History repeats itself

Starring Tom Cruise, Kyra Sedgwick, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Tom Sizemore, William Baldwin, Vivica A. Fox, and Lili Taylor

A star-studded cast and what many consider Tom Cruise's best acting performance. But there's something about Oliver Stone films that don't sit right with me. This is a good film, not Cruise's best work, and not a film I'd care to see again. A little drawn out and over done, but effective and powerful.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Too Drunk to Dream: A Ryan Adams Top 10

My Ryan Adams top 10 ( solo, Whiskeytown, and w/ the Cardinals)

10. Easy Tiger
9. Gold
8. Jacksonville City Nights
7. Cold Roses
6. Rock N Roll
5. Demolition
4. Love is Hell (part 1)
3. Heartbreaker
2. Faithless Street
1. Strangers Almanac

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Role Models - Movie Review

Role Models (R) 99 minutes B
You white, then you Ben Affleck

Starring Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jane Lynch, Bobb'e J.Thompson, and Elizabeth Banks.

I was pleasantly surprised by the film Role Models, it was fresher and more entertaining than I thought it would be. Going in it wasn't hard to figure out what was going to happen... two underachieving guys find themselves facing jail time or 150 hours of community service mentoring kids. Of course the kids are hell on earth, and after some trails and tribulation... well, you can pretty much guess the rest.

But as telepathic as it maybe, Seann Williams Scott and Paul Rudd compliment each other well. The comedic duo kept the film well-balanced and funny without relying on over-the-top slapstick and silly gags. Well worth seeing.

Furnace Room Lullaby (this week's album of the week) is a remarkable album, and easily my favorite Neko offering. Every time I hear her sing "leave me the check/I'll pay with the rest of my life" from Twist the Knife it breaks my heart a little.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nothing Like the Holidays - Movie Review

Nothing Like the Holidays (PG-13) 99 minutes C
Dysfunction junction what's your function

Starring John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, Freddy Rodriguez, Vanessa Ferlito, Luis Guzman, Jay Hernandez, Alfred Molina, and Elizabeth Pena

Nothing Like the Holidays is an entertaining film but it's nothing we haven't seen before. The Rodriguez family is gathering in Chicago for the Christmas holiday and this year is extra special because they're welcoming home their youngest son, Jesse, from Iraq. But of course there's plenty of drama to go around and lots of family baggage to be rehashed.

I never saw The Family Stone or This Christmas, but I've read that this film is basically the Latino version of those films... Nevertheless, Nothing Like the Holidays is not bad, but it's also not original.

---------------------------------Bonus DVD Review------------------

Breaking and Entering (R) 120 minutes C+
Emotional Larceny

DVD Release Date - May 2007
Starring Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn, Martin Freeman, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, and Rafi Gavron

This is a film that I had very very high hopes for. I hoped that it would be a mature film about love, lust, and complicated hearts... and indeed it is. It's directed by the late Anthony Minghella, who also directed Cold Mountain, The English Patient, and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Breaking and Entering is a slow developing film about crime and passion; stealing possessions as well as emotions. It didn't quite live up to my expectations, but the last quarter of the film did have me on the edge of my seat and the acting is very effective.

It's important to note that this was the first original film Minghella had written since 1990's Truly Madly Deeply, so perhaps that might explain the film's introspection which both helped and hampered the outcome of this romance/drama.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Terence Trent D'Arby's Monasteryo

This week's album of the week goes back to 1993, Terence Trent D'Arby's Symphony or Damn (subtitled- Exploring the tension inside the sweetness). This is arguably TTD's best album... yes, even better than his popular debut album, Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby that spawned the hits Sign Your Name and Wishing Well. After his debut album, supposedly TTD became a raving egomaniac and pissed off several people at the record label. He followed up Hardline with the very disappointing Neither Fish Nor Flesh, and by the time Symphony or Damn arrived it was overlooked and under appreciated (and it's too bad because it's a really good album).

So whatever happen to Terence Trent D'Arby? Well, in October 2001, Terence Trent D'Arby was laid to rest... he legally changed his name to Sananda Maitreya. Currently he lives in Italy (according to the web), and he is still making music

I've always wondered why someone like TTD never really found his niche here in the states. I read something on his website about being too R&B for Rock and too Rock for R&B early in his career. Nevertheless, in this day and age of American Idol, and all this fly-by-night mindless music we could use more artists like TTD (or should I say Sananda Maitreya). Besides, if Prince/the Symbol can make a comeback like he did several years ago, why can't TTD/Sananda Maitreya...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

First Impression Music Reviews

Coldplay - Prospekt's March B
This EP is not all that different from Viva La Vida. At 27 minutes and 8 songs long it breezes by and promises not to disturb the peace. Standouts include Glass of Water, a track that would've been right at home on Viva La Vida and the quiet heartbreaker, Prospekt's March/Poppyfields. The track featuring Jay-Z (Lost) is a little disappointing, but not horrible.

Jay-Z - American Gangster C+
This album came out in November of 2007, I hesitated buying this album because when I heard that jigga was inspired by the film (American Gangster) I thought he was just capitalizing on what was sure to be a blockbuster film. But lately I've been in the mood for Jay-Z, and my curiosity got the best of me (this has been tauted as one of his best outings). This album didn't totally grab me at first listen, it struck me as an album of straps with some fancy, bouncy, retro beats. The album is soulful and I can see the appeal, but it feels like an album aiming for the mainstream. That being said, the album has the potential to grow on me after repeated listens. I love the audio clips from the film, and the standout tracks include the title track American Gangster and Success. This one is gonna sound great in the car stereo on the open road.

Kanye West - 808s and Heartbreak B
I'm a sucker for break up albums and/or album that derive from some sort of tragedy... some of the best art is born this way. Kanye is definitely one of the most talented musicians around, albeit a little overexposed. 808s and Heartbreak is done in a mostly auto-tuned voice, which was kind of annoying at first listen. I know it's done this way to convey a certain ambiance but one can only imagine how much better (or worse) these tracks could have been. The lyrics are pretty good and what you'd expect from someone going through a sea change. The album is interesting and intriguing, only time will tell if it has the ability to completely hook me. I commend Mr. West for stepping outside the box and taking a musical risk. Standout tracks are Love Lockdown and Paranoid.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Me versus Me

Morrissey has released details about his forthcoming album, Years of Refusal. The album hits stores in February 2009 (I can't wait!).

So it's been a busy week. school, school, school! What a pain in the ass, but I suppose it's a necessary evil. I seem to always run out of steam near the end of semesters, and this semester is no different. I've been working on my mental toughness, but I seem to psychologically self destruct, then crank out work/ideas/solutions when the pressure is on. Problem is, those last minute fixes can be either a work of art or total disaster. Guess I'm still a work in progress...

Grammy nominations came out this past week. I use to care, now I just glance at the nominees to see if anyone cool is up for anything, and to see whose been nominated in categories like the best traditional Folk and best traditional Blues albums. NIN is nominated for best instrumental album (or something like that), Heavy D is up for best Reggae album, and Radiohead, Beck, and Coldplay are also nominated for awards. I miss the days when Michael Jackson was always nominated for something, and we watched the Grammy's with curious anticipation.

Finally, this week's album of the week is a delightful soundtrack and one that has sounded really great during the last few days. If you have this album, I'd recommend you dust it off and give it a spin. As for the film itself... It wasn't bad. I wonder how it would hold up now since I haven't seen it in several years. I remember that it wasn't as good as The Brothers McMullen, and if I remember correctly, She's the One was sort of a sequel to that one...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bolt - Movie Review

Bolt (PG) 96 minutes B
The Last Action Hero

Starring John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Diedrich Bader, Malcolm McDowell, and Nick Swardson

I'm 36 years old, no children, and I don't have much desire to see Disney films. But Bolt is an entertaining film for all ages. Bolt is an adorable doggy who believes that he is the superhero he portrays on television, but when he finds himself off the set of his hit TV show for the first time he's introduced to the harsh reality that he's just an ordinary dog... or is he?

The film also features some excellent supporting roles by wise-cracking birds, Rhino the hamster, and the scene stealer - Mittens the cat. The film appears to break no new ground stylistically, but it effectively entertains and even tugs on the heart strings a little.