Sunday, March 30, 2008

Snow Angels - Movie Review

Snow Angels (R) 106 minutes B+
Decaying lives in a small town
Starring Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale, Michael Angarano, Griffin Dunne, Amy Sedaris, and Olivia Thirlby

Snow Angels is sad and depressing, but that doesn't mean it's a bad film. As a matter of fact, it's a very good film. A film that I wish more people would see because it's a reminder that life isn't always a happy ending. It's also a reminder of how precious love is in its purest form- young love.

*****Bonus DVD Review
The Notorious Bettie Page (R) 100 minutes B-
Nude, Naive, Nice
Starring Gretchen Mol, Chris Bauer, Lili Taylor, Jared Harris, Jonathan M. Woodward, Sarah Paulson, David Strathairn, and Cara Seymour. DVD release - September 26, 2006

I liked this film... it's very charming. But dammit it left me with cinematic blue balls! It's very incomplete and ends much too soon. Bettie Page led an interesting life and this film only tells us three quarters of the story.

*****Book Event
Lisa Daily at the Tattered Cover
Friday night I went to Lisa Daily's book signing at the historic Tattered Cover downtown. Lisa was promoting her debut novel Fifteen Minutes of Shame, which I proudly have an autographed copy of.

Initially I wasn't sure what to think of Lisa or her new book. But the world renown relationship expert and infamous debutante was one of the nicest, coolest, and most down-to-earth authors I have ever met. We chatted briefly about writing and she gave me her card (so I can interview her for one of my class projects). We're BFF now.

She also offered to make me a guest debutante if I was interested (apparently John Grisham was a guest debutante)... but I politely declined.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Parnoid Park - Movie Review

Paranoid Park (R) 90 minutes B-
The Sk8ter Dairies

Starring Gabe Nevins, Daniel Liu, Taylor Momsen, Jake Miller, and Lauren McKinney

Paranoid Park is a highly touted indie film that spent most of 2007 on the festival circuit (Cannes, Toronto, New York, Vienna, etc...). Last month it was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards including Best Feature. It's directed by Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting, and more) and based on the novel by Blake Nelson.

The film is an intriguing piece of cinema about an unsolved murder and a young man’s emotional and psychological odyssey. Alex (Gabe Nevins) is a fresh faced high school student dealing with his parent’s divorce, peer pressure from friends, a girlfriend he doesn’t love, and a life changing secret that he can’t tell anyone.

In an effort to make sense of it all, Alex journals, and through his entries we come to understand the enormity of the situation. This is a wonderful character study, and a brilliant move by Van Sant to use a majority of nonprofessional actors.

One of the drawbacks to this film was the use of varies camera styles- VHS, grainy Super-8, and 35mm. These styles are effective during some parts of the film, but ultimately I found it more distracting than artistic.

Overall, this film stuck with me more than I thought it would. It felt a little slow at times, and artistically it felt a little forced... but I'm recommending this for the enduring characters and the intriguing story.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Bank Job - Movie Review

The Bank Job (R) 110 minutes B+
Jason Statham breaks on through to the other side

Starring Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows, Stephen Campbell Moore, Daniel Mays, James Faulkner, Alki David, Michael Jibson, and Richard Lintern

The Bank Job didn't sound like a movie I'd want to see, and Jason Statham isn't an actor that draws me to a film. But this is his magnum opus. The Bank Job is a very good heist movie that doesn't try too hard to be a heist movie.

Set in 1971 London, this motley crew of bad guys with good hearts tunnel their way into a London bank vault. But little do they know, their in for more than they bargained for.

The film is done with a delicate restraint and stylish direction. Based on a true story, The Bank Job is one of the best films of the year so far...

Today is the big day! The release of Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, the new album by the Counting Crows.

Now there's no secret that I love the Crows. There's something about Adam Duritz's lyrics that touch me profoundly. During some difficult times the Crows helped me rise above.

August and Everything After is one of the best albums of all time, yet it was Recovering the Satellites that helped me through some very dark days. Songs like Monkey, Have You Seen Me Lately, Catapult, Good Night Elizabeth, Long December, Walkways, and Recovering the Satellites, spoke to my seclusion, my alienation, my shame, my regret, and my loneliness.

Speedway from This Desert Life reminds me of leaving. Running away from it all. One of those things I've thought about and fantasized about all my life but could never do.

Counting Crows music is personal to me. There's a connection with the things being said. That's why I want to vomit and spit fire when they do sh*t like that f*ckin Shrek song.

After two listens, Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings sounds great! I love it! I think this is going to be one of their best albums yet. Intially it reminds me of a cross between Recovering the Satellites and Across the Wire Live In NY, with touches of This Desert Life and Hard Candy. This is partly due to the 1/2 loud (Saturday Nights), 1/2 quiet (Sunday Mornings) concept.

This is the best album of the year so far, hands down! Then again, I might be a little biased.

"I don't want to feel so different, but I don't want to be insignificant"
- Adam Duritz

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Shutter - Movie Review

Shutter (PG-13) 85 minutes C-
A sweet and sour ghost story

Starring Joshua Jackson, Rachael Taylor, David Denman, James Kyson Lee, and John Hensley

Hotshot photographer Ben Shaw (Joshua Jackson) is on top of the world. He's just married Jane (Rachael Taylor), the love of his life, and landed a lucrative new assignment - a fashion shoot in Tokyo

Having worked in Tokyo previously, Ben is very familiar with the city, the people, the language, and is eager to reunite with a couple of old friends and colleagues. But Ben also has a dirty little secret from his previous time in Tokyo, and that secret comes back to haunt him.

Shutter is very bland, but it does have a few redeeming qualities and one surprising twist. If you're a fan of this genre (J-horror or horror/suspense) you might find this film a little more entertaining than I did. Otherwise wait for this to come out on DVD... or better yet, cable.

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

3:10 to Yuma (R) 117 minutes C+
Crowe flies again
DVD release - January 8, 2008

Starring Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Ben Foster, Alan Tudyk, Gretchen Mol, and Peter Fonda

3:10 to Yuma is directed by the very talented James Mangold. Mangold's films include Walk the Line, Cop Land, Heavy and Girl Interrupted.

Crowe and Bale do a great job, as does some of the supporting cast. The film is full of holes and at times... "hokey". But, it is very entertaining and definitely worth renting if your a fan of Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, and/or Westerns.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Amber Headlights, Emotional Trash, Amerykah

Greg Dulli is the f*ckin man! Today I picked up his solo album from 2005, and the new Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks album.

I admit that I loved Pavement, but I don't have the same love for Stephen Malkmus solo. I have all of his post-Pavement albums, and I like them all, but I don't feel the same affinity for his solo stuff as I did for Pavement.

His latest offering sports the best album title of the year so far, Real Emotional Trash. I love that title! This album features Janet Weiss (from Sleater Kinney) on drums, and her presence elevates the Jicks to the next level. The band sounds great!

It's probably too early for me to give this an honest review right now (I've listened to it once from start to finish), but this has the potential to be his best effort yet. There's a cool retro vibe throughout the album and after one listen it's not so much the songs that stand out as much as the music itself.

Speaking of retro sound, I also got a copy of the new Erykah Badu album last week. I'm not sure if I like the album title- New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War, but after a couple spins it sounds pretty good.

An album cover and album title that I absolutely adore is Greg Dulli - Amber Headlights (see above). Dulli is so cool. His one and only solo album is Amber Headlights, the cover and the title is totally Dulli- sexy, sleazy, seedy, and brutally honest. Dulli sings about things that men are afraid to say- "I use to feel love/now I want to hurt you real bad" (from "Early Today").

Many of you Dulli/Twilight Singers/Afghan Whigs/ fans know that this album was shelved after the death of his friend Ted Demme. Amber Headlights is the material he was working on before that tragic event- supposedly this album is "unfinished" and some critics have called it a "B-side collection" and "demos". But call it what you will, after one listen I was very, very pleased and happy with what I heard. After one listen I can already tell you I like this better than Black Love.

"Everything I want is either illegal, immoral, or fattening.
- Alexander Woollcott

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Asking For Flowers

I picked up the latest album by Kathleen Edwards this weekend. Asking for Flowers is her fourth disc (if you count Live from Bowery Ballroom), which was co-produced with Jim Scott.

I've listened to the album about five or six times now. It doesn't venture to far from Failer and Back to Me, but this album hasn't hooked me like those two albums did.

Critics have said this is her best album yet, and unfortunately I disagree. Flowers is a solid outing by Edwards but it lacks the piss and vinegar of her earlier efforts. Hopefully I will grow to like this album more in the coming weeks.

In other music news...

Kimya Dawson plays The Bluebird on April 22nd. I can't wait! Lately I've been itching to see a rock show and this should be great one!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Life On A Chain

Musicforthemorningafter is my favorite Pete Yorn cd (Day I Forgot is a close second). It's a solid album from top to bottom, and the album always makes me a little introspective.

On Your Side was my favorite track for a long time, it's one of those songs that reminds me of driving home from the bars tired, frustrated, and alone- "2 am it's dark/so many mistakes/come back home from bars".

But now it's hard to say which track is my favorite. A different song grabs me every time I listen to it... although lately I've been kind of particle to EZ and For Nancy.

"Stories and cigarettes ruined lives of lesser girls"
-Pete Yorn (Strange Condition)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In Bruges - Movie Review

In Bruges (R) 107 minutes B
No Country for Hit-men

Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Clemence Posey

Before seeing this film I didn't know that Bruges is in Belgium, nor did I know how to pronounce Bruges (as evident at the ticket window when the girl snickered after I mispronounced it). In the opening scene of the film, Ray (Colin Farrell), also admits to not knowing where Burges is... at least not until he is sent there to lay low after a botched murder attempt in London.

Ray and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are Dublin hit-men that are ordered to flee to Bruges after a hit goes wrong. The idea is to chill out for awhile until everything blows over. Ken is the older, wiser, more seasoned hit man, while Ray is young and restless.

Ken views this unexpected getaway as a time for sight-seeing and taking in the city's history and culture. Ray on the other hand hates being in Bruges and feels very emotional/guilty about what happened in London. That is, until he meets a dwarf and a beautiful girl named Chloe (I've never met an ugly girl named Chloe).

Colin Farrell is actually pretty good in this film, and Brendan Gleeson is excellent! It's basically their movie to make or break, and though I had my doubts at first, both actors performed wonderfully. Ralph Fiennes is also in this film as Harry, the boss. You'll either love him or hate him in this somewhat limited role... but he is an intriguing character and unlike any other I've seen him portray.

In Bruges started off a little slow, and I was a little suspect of the two main character (Ken and Ray) at first. But other than a few odd references to black people (which weren't that big a deal), and some bloody scenes near the end, this was an excellent movie! One that I highly recommend if you like subtle humor/dark comedies.

In other news- My name is Curtis, and I am addicted to breakfast burritos. I can't stop eating them. At night I dream about them, and in the morning they call my name... they say, "Curtis come hither... eat me!" I especially love the ones with sausage and green chili. But I told myself, no more! I must cut back!

So today I went to the grocery store and bought healthier alternatives for breakfast (oatmeal, fruit, cereal, etc...) because breakfast is when it's most tempting. I mean, don't get me wrong, I sometimes have them for lunch as well. But I hate starting off my day feeling guilty that I just ate a heart stopping, belt busting, erection killing (ok, that's a bit extreme), breakfast burrito smothered in pork green chili and cheddar cheese!

I'm replacing that addiction with another one; Flamin' Hot Funyuns! Have you guys tried those? OMG! Yum.

I discovered them a couple weeks ago at 7-11, and now I can't find them anywhere! I googled them today and found other people who are ga ga for Flamin' Hot Funyuns. There's Christar in Salt Lake, and some dude in San Antonio. I must get my hands on these zesty onion flavored treats! Their curiously delicious!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Heavier Things

In addition to the new Lenny Kravitz album (this week’s album of the week), I’ve been listening to John Mayer’s 2003 album, Heavier Things. At first this album felt like a guilty pleasure, but after repeated listenings I really dig this cd. Lately it’s been one of those albums that “fits” my mood.

I liked Room For Squares and Inside Wants Out, the two albums precluding Heavier Things. But it was one specific review I read when Heavier Things was first released that prevented me from buying the album right away. It said (and I’m paraphrasing), "Mayer is turning into Sting, and not the cool (young) Sting, but the boring, adult contemporary Sting”. Reading that was a major turn off! The critic also went on to say something about the album being poppy, jazz-lite, and very radio friendly.

Normally I take music reviews with a grain of salt. There are some critics I trust, but most of the time I will buy albums regardless of the reviews...especially if I like the artist and/or the concept. The thing with John Mayer is that I could see him going mainstream cheesy or something safer and boring… But I was wrong.

Expecting nothing, I finally listened to the album a few months ago. “Bigger Than My Body" instantly sounded better than I remembered and songs like "Something's Missing" and "New Deep" pulled me in right away. The long and the short of it is- I really like this album. I still don’t like the song Daughters; the album’s signature song and Grammy winner for song of the year in 2005. But I don’t vomit when I hear it now (I just dry heave a little).

Anyway, I like almost every song on the album, and the first 7 tracks are especially strong. I think John Mayer is very talented. I’m only 4 albums into his catalog, but he has potential to be a pop legend when and if he can put together an entire album of smart, sensitive, chamber pop that is free of any chez whiz (aka Daughters). Oh... and one more thing about the album... I hate the album cover!

Lastly, on March 25th I will be a very very happy man. The most eagerly anticipated album of the year (so far) will be released on that day... The new COUNTING CROWS album! I read this today on about the new album

"Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings is the story of what happens when all the bright lights start to burn instead of glitter and you become more of a part of the shadow they cast behind you than the person you are in front. Produced in two parts by Gil Norton & Brian Deck, it's about a flood of sin and liquor and dissolution and insanity and it's about trying to rebuild the life you wrecked in the wake of that flood. It's about the way it feels. It's about me. It's a Counting Crows album. We're back. We were only ever as far gone as you can go."
- Adam Duritz, Counting Crows


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Lenny's Love Revolution

It Is Time For A Love Revolution is the latest album by Lenny Kravitz. The jury is still out on this one, but I already like it much better than his last album, Baptism.

Baptism isn't horrible, but it's probably my least favorite Kravitz album, as well as his worst album cover and worst hair style (see album cover and liner note photos).

After two spins Love Revolution is very catchy. The tracks Love Love Love and Will You Marry Me are undeniably funky and stood out right away. Kravitz sounds rejuvenated and fresh despite the nagging criticism that his lyrics are weak- "It's getting heavy/But I'm ready/To take on this world and rock steady" (Bring It On).

I admit, his lyrics do seem kind of sophomoric sometimes... but this dude can rock! The retro guitar-funk-psychedelic sound echoing everything from Zeppelin to the Stones is sweet when he does it right. But he also gets a little too sappy sentimental on tracks like A Long And Sad Goodbye- "Papa you meant the world to me/Why did you abandon me".

All in all this album has the potential to really grow on me as well as crack my top 5 favorite Lenny Kravitz albums...

5. Lenny
4. Let Love Rule
3. Circus
2. Are You Gonna Go My Way
1. Mama Said

"I'm weak and I've gone hazy, I'm crazy for that lady"
- Lenny Kravitz