Friday, February 29, 2008

Penelope - Movie Review

Penelope (PG) 102 minutes C-
Pig girl looks for love

Starring Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O'Hara, Reese Witherspoon, Peter Dinklage, Richard E. Grant, Simon Woods, and Ronni Ancona

Penelope is a whimsical modern-day fairytale about finding inner beauty and self acceptance. It's the story of Penelope Wilhern (Ricci), a princess born with a pig snout for a nose. The snout is the result of a family curse from long ago, and the only way the curse can be broken (and the snout disappears) is for Penelope to marry a blue blood (a son of wealthy socialites).

The film is your classic ugly duckling/beauty and the beast story with a twist. Christina Ricci is Penelope, and even with a snout she's far from ugly.

Directed by Mark Palansky and also starring Resse Witherspoon (who is one of the film's producers), Penelope is uneven, and at times, bland and uninspired. But the film does have some redeeming qualities, especially if you can accept it for what it is; a goofy fairytale with a noble message of self love and fairytale style romance.

It also features a talented cast that manages to conjure up brief moments of wit and emotion even though the overall result is average at best. Penelope is only mildly entertaining and a film that was a distant memory by the time I left the movie theater parking lot.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

My Week

Highlights from a busy week so far …

Attended an advance film screening (review to come).

It’s restaurant week! RW and I went to The Corner Office Restaurant and Martini Bar. Very cool decor, friendly staff...

First Course

She had - Shrimp Spring Rolls = very tasty
I had - Fried Shisito Peppers = very interesting…not bad though
Second Course
She had - Crab Pad Thai = needs less sweet and more spicy
I had - Braised Short Ribs & collard greens = a little underwhelming
Third Course
She had - Apple Egg Rolls = very yummy
I had - Butter Almond Crunch = awesome

After dinner we attended a book launch/signing at the historic downtown Tattered Cover for popular local author Carleen Brice. It was a big turn out with lots of enthusiastic fans (and the free wine- no tips required, didn’t hurt either).

Happy Happy Happy Hour at the Red Square Euro Cuisine and Vodka Bar. Afterwards, dinner (and more cocktails) at PF Chang’s... good times

Tummy ache, hangover, School

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Morrissey & Me

I always look back at 1992 as being one of the greatest years ever in music. Here's a sample of what came out that year:

Dirt - Alice in Chains
The End of Silence - Rollins Band
Dirty - Sonic Youth
Hey Babe - Juliana Hatfield
Little Earthquakes - Tori Amos
Bricks are Heavy - L7
Automatic for the People - REM
Slanted and Enchanted - Pavement
Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine
Wish - The Cure

This week's album of the week also came out in 1992, Morrissey's Your Arsenal. Released during that summer, it was critically hailed as a return to form for Morrissey and marked the debut of his new band featuring Alain Whyte and Boz Boorer. Arsenal was an instant classic, even earning a Grammy nomination for best alternative rock album. Songs like "Your gonna need someone on your side", "Your the one for me Fatty", and "We hate it when our friends become successful" were my anthems.

Listening to that album has inspired me to dig out a few cd's this week that never quite caught fire with me... albums that were suppose to be "very good" but for one reason or another they never touched me. I'm revisiting the following albums this week:

Oh Inverted World - The Shins
Funeral - Arcade Fire
Hearts of Oak - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Kicking Television (Live in Chicago) - Wilco
Sunny Border Blue - Kristin Hersh
One Beat - Sleater Kinney

Today I listened to Hearts of Oak and One Beat. They both sounded great, they both rocked! Looking back, I think I simply shelved these cd's too quickly and didn't absorb them. Something else probably came along and distracted me and I never gave these discs the attention they deserve.

I also listened to Kicking Television. I've never been a big fan of live albums, but every now and again one will knock me off my feet. This one is good, but for whatever reason it never grabbed me. I always have a short attention span when it comes to this double cd.

And one last thing, I bought the new issue of Rolling Stone this morning while buying java at 7Eleven. Below is a bit of the Lenny Kravitz review which made me laugh out loud.

Lenny Kravitz - Three Stars (out of Five)
It's Time for a Love Revolution
Classic riffs? Got'em.
Modern touches? Check!
Sharp Lyrics? Not so Much

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Definitely, Maybe - Movie Review

Definitely, Maybe (PG-13) 111 minutes B
The Ex Files
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher, Derek Luke, Abigail Breslin, Elizabeth Banks, Kevin Kline, and Rachel Weisz

Definitely, Maybe rolled into theaters just in time for Valentines Day with the hope of catching moviegoers still buzzing from chocolate and candy hearts… or in need of a reminder that their true love is still out there somewhere.

Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) is a 30-something, successful, Manhattan Ad writer in the midst of a divorce. His 10 year old daughter (from the marriage), Maya (Abigail Breslin), still hopes that her mom and dad can work things out, and is obsessed with knowing how they first met and fell in love.

Maya is a key character in the film, and the main ingredient to the plot. But she is also the films biggest flaw. Yet another overly precocious kid whose too big for her britches and too smart for her own good. Nevertheless she is the reason that Will recounts the misadventures of his young adult love life in this romantic-comedy-mystery.

We begin in 1992; Will leaves Wisconsin and his college sweetheart, Emily (Elizabeth Banks), to pursue his passion- politics. His plan is to work on Bill Clinton’s campaign for two months, return to Wisconsin afterward, and move in with Emily. Unfortunately that doesn’t work out and next up is April.

April is breathtaking from the start and I assumed that somehow these two would end up together despite both being in other relationships. They initially appear to be complete opposites but their differences result into a significant kinship… That is, until Summer Hartley (Rachel Weisz) comes into Will’s life.

I have to say that Summer was my favorite and the most alluring of his ex’s. I never realized how much Rachel Weisz looks like a young Brook Shields until this film. She is extraordinary and makes a man want to fall in love. Beautiful, seductive, sophisticated and smart, she appears to be the perfect match for Will... And maybe she is... (the rest you’ll have to see for yourself).

Ultimately the mystery is which of the three women, if any, he ends up with.

I was not crazy about the ending. Once again it was hollywoodized, but I suppose it made sense considering the circumstances. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but this movie did evoke a little emotion from yours truly… and that’s a little embarrassing only because it’s not really a tearjerker type film. I found myself caught up in the characters and trying to solve the film’s minor mystery.

This is not a masterpiece by any means, but it is a nice and entertaining romantic comedy, in a time when a lot mainstream romantic comedies suck!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Enemy Strikes Black

I should be writing a paper right now but I thought I'd make a brief appearance and update you on what's been going on. Sorry for the lack of movie reviews lately... Since the Sundance Film Festival I've been busy with school, work, football, and other devious distractions. I think I get a little burnt out after the rush of holiday/Oscar films in November, December and January, then attending the film festival in Park City. But I'll probably get my groove back right before or immediately after the Oscars (February 24th).

I've been buying, trading and listening to a lot of music lately... some good stuff is on the horizon. I read that Whiskey Town is reissuing Strangers Almanac, one of my favorite albums. Freedy Johnston has a new covers album out (available only through his website and other select outlets), and I'm curious about the new Lenny Kravitz album.

I can't believe I overlooked the latest PE album (featured as album of the week). It actually came out last August, and marked 20 years since their debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show. How to Sell Soul to a Soulless People... was impressive at first, and after one or two listens I was shocked that this album didn't get more commercial press. But PE set the bar so high back in the late 80's/early 90's with classic, groundbreaking and epic albums that everything after that feels like a let down. Chuck D has no interest in making the same album over and over again (remember the lyric- "Who gives a f*ck about a g*dd*mn Grammy!").

That being said, their latest effort feels a little like a retrospective. It's reflects on the past and gets pensive about the future. There are outstanding moments here (Harder Than You Think), and some filler (Eve of Destruction), but mostly I wish that the album was trimmed from 19 songs to a tighter 12 or 13 songs. Nevertheless, PE always has something to say and a message worth listening to. Even their weak songs speak louder than a lot of the mindless pop that fills our airwaves today.

My Top 5 PE albums
1. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back (1988)
2. Fear of a Black Planet (1990)
3. Apocalypse 91, The Enemy Strikes Black (1991)
4. Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987)
5. Rebirth of a Nation (2006)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Best Concerts - My Top 15

15. Lollapalooza - Fiddlers Green, 1993
14. My Morning Jacket - Fox Theatre, 2003
13. Duncan Sheik - Bluebird Theatre, 1998
12. Neko Case - Bluebird Theatre, 2005
11. The Cure - McNichols Arena, 1996
10. Counting Crows - Paramount Theatre, 2005
9. Freedy Johnston - Soiled Dove 2002
8. Chris Isaak - Red Rocks, 1996
7. Pete Yorn - Gothic Theatre, 2003
6. Jeff Tweedy - Gothic Theatre, 2006
5. Rollins Band - Bluebird Theatre, 1999
4. Indigo Girls - Red Rocks, 2000
3. Counting Crows - Paramount Theatre, 1997
2. Lyle Lovett - Paramount Theatre,1994
1. Morrissey - Fillmore Auditorium, 2002

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Bowl & Super Tuesday

Chet Lee and I arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday morning and proceeded to drink too much, gamble too much and lose a lot of cash. I drank more beer on Sunday than I've drank in the last 2 or 3 months combined.

We both put our money on the Patriots because we thought they would win in a blowout, and even though we lost our money it was good to see the Patriots lose. As far as the commericals, I didn't see many of them... During commericals I either played video poker or was in the restroom.

Yes, I am supporting Hillary Clinton. I like Obama a lot, and if he wins the nomination I will gladly support him. But right now I think Hillary has the tools to best run this country. It was no surprise that at tonight's caucus I was the only african american supporting Hillary in my precinct. A couple of the black women supporting Obama looked at me suspiciously, but maybe they didn't see the Joint Center poll (conducted for AARP) which said Clinton had an 83% favorable rating among blacks.

That being said, Obama supporters were out in force tonight and easily dominated the caucus event I attended. All of this enthusiasm made me wonder if Obama is the new Oprah?