Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans - Movie Review

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (R) 120 minutes B+
Going Rouge in the Big Easy

Starring Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Xzibit, Jennifer Coolidge, Vondie Curtis Hall, Fairuza Balk, Shawn Hatosy and Denzel Whitaker.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is one helluva ride! In this film director Werner Herzog manages to create something seductive, sleazy and overblown without going full retard. The film never takes itself too seriously yet there's enough drama and grit to keep things real... albeit real strange and real funny.

This is not a film with mass appeal and chances are you will either love it or completely hate it. I found it wacky and fun... this is the Nicolas Cage I came to know and love from films like Wild at Heart and Leaving Las Vegas. He's a rogue cop who smokes dope, snorts coke and his girlfriend is a high class hooker (Eva Mendes); this character would be right at home in a Quentin Tarantino or David Lynch film.

I've never seen the first Bad Lieutenant from 1992 starring Harvey Keitel but if it's anything like this one I may have to seek it out.
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Bonus DVD Review

Wall-E (G) 103 minutes C
Robot love, Fat humans, Cute story... but so what?

DVD Release Date: November 18, 2008
Starring Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver, Fred Willard, Jeff Garlin and John Ratzenberger

Highly esteemed New York Times film critic A.O. Scott listed Wall-E as his favorite film of the decade (2000-2009). I totally respect his opinion but his choice completely baffles me.

Wall-E is a cute film, a nice love story and a snarky commentary about humans and the future of earth. But it left no lasting impression on me whatsoever.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's Complicated - Movie Review

It's Complicated (R) 120 minutes B-
What Women Want When Something's Gotta Give

Starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski and Lake Bell.

It's Complicated is an entertaining, light-hearted, adult rom-com that could be viewed as a film full of complex interpersonal relationships and emotions... or a film in which several upper class white folks hold down good jobs while gallivanting around town longing for love.

The latter scenario isn't a bad thing... All the main players are excellent- Streep, Krasinski, Baldwin and Martin. But everyone else in the film seems either non-essential, contrived or eye candy (see- Lake Bell).

That being said, I did enjoy the film and I recommend it. Just don't expect anything too complicated.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Graphic Life of a Broke Baby Dyke

Rent Girl by Michelle Tea - C

I accidentally stumbled upon Rent Girl at Borders, I was looking for poetry and ended up in the Gay & Lesbian section of the book store. Nevertheless, Rent Girl's enticing cover, gritty subject matter and hip illustrations were too intriguing to ignore.

Author Michelle Tea is a very interesting person with a colorful past. Rent Girl is her 2004 autobiographical illustrated novel about her years as a prostitute.

It's amazing to think that this was once her life and now she is an award winning author. It just goes to show that some people have that "It" factor regardless of what obstacles life throws in their way.

However, the best parts of this novel are the illustrations by Laurenn McCubbin. They're luscious, dark, and seedy; the very characteristics I hoped for in the writing. Tea's prose is at times captivating and at times disjointed. She gives us a glimpse into the sad, funny and creepy world of the sex industry, but I was hoping for something a little more pensive and emotional considering the circumstances.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Up in the Air - Movie Review

Up in the Air (R) 109 minutes A
Head in the clouds

Starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Tamala Jones and Chris Lowell

Up in the Air is Jason Reitman's third feature film, and although I loved his first two- Thank You for Smoking and Juno, I think that Up in the Air (an adaptation of the 2001 novel by Walter Kirn) trumps them both!

Rarely have I seen George Clooney this memorizing and charismatic on screen. His character, Ryan Bingham is believable and likable despite having a job that requires him to fire and layoff employees (in a down economy) for companies who are downsizing… he’s what you’d call a “Career Transition Counselor’’ or “Terminator”.

Bingham is the ultimate loner who travels 322 days a year and likes it that way. He’s found solace in the preferential first class treatment he receives as an elite traveler and frequent flyer; hassle free and members-only perks at the finest hotels, rental car counters and airports. No wife, no kids, no responsibilities... no problems.

But life comes at you fast... First, Bingham meets a woman named Alex (Vera Farmiga) who is essentially the female version of himself. Then his firm hires a young whipper snapper named Natalie (Anna Kendrick) who proposes to cut the travel budget by 85% and in effect ruin the only thing that truly makes him happy- being up in the air. After all, he believes “to stop moving is to stop living”.

The film is a nice blend of romance, drama, comedy and real life. The performances are top notch and there’s no way this review will convey how brilliant this film is from a directing, acting and cinematic standpoint.

With the awards season among us I encourage you to believe the hype surrounding Up in the Air. It’s easily one of the best films of the year!
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Bonus DVD Review

Changeling (R) 140 minutes B-
Mom vs the LAPD

DVD Release Date: February 17, 2009
Starring Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Colm Feore, Amy Ryan and Michael Kelly.

Previous to this one, the last three Clint Eastwood directed films I saw were Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River, three excellent films! During that time frame he also directed Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Father (both in 2006).

At my age Eastwood might be best known for his directing rather than his acting (which is still strong), and although Changeling is not in the same league as the aforementioned films it’s still penetrating work.

Set in 1928, the film aims for a classic cinematic feel that rivals historic Hollywood. But the results are mixed due to some mediocre child acting and contrived scenes that try to hard to be sentimental.

Yet overall it’s a film worth seeing because Clint Eastwood is a pro at weaving a genuine grit into his films, plus the fact that it’s based on true events which adds an element of intrigue.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Awake but Dreaming (A Theatre Review)

Spring Awakening at the Buell Theatre C+

So take this brief review with a grain of salt because I am not a big fan of musicals. The only reason I wanted to see this one was because it featured music by Duncan Sheik and I heard it was pretty amazing (winner of 8 Tony Awards and a Grammy Award for "Best Musical Show Album").

If you actually like musicals you'll probably love this theatrical tale of teen sexuality and self discovery. It's based on the controversial 1891 German play of the same name and features many brash and bold performances.

My problem with this production and most musicals (this may sound stupid), is that it's too damn dramatic! Yes, perhaps you can't have theatre without theatrics but it all seems so unnatural and dare I say, cheesy (especially the adult characters).

Just when I'm intrigued and into it they burst into song. Granted, I really liked some of the songs but it disrupts the flow. I actually would've liked it more if there were fewer songs.

Being closer to the stage would've also helped. We didn't have bad seats but we weren't close enough to see the expressions of their faces. Some parts of the musical are so intense it would've been beneficial to get up close and personal and feel some of that emotion.

All in all, it was a good show but not my cup of tea. Any of you who like musicals and rock music I urge you to checkout Spring Awakening (after all, it did win a Tony Award for "Best Musical").

For everyone else, proceed with caution.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire - Movie Review

Precious (R) 109 minutes B+
The miseducation of Claireece "Precious" Jones

Starring Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, Paula Patton, Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, and Lenny Kravitz

Claireece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is young, black, illiterate and obese. At 16 years old she is pregnant for the second time by her father... and that's just the beginning of her problems.

This is the most heartbreaking film of the year but don't let that detour you from seeing two of the best acting performances (Sidibe and Mo'Nique) of 2009. The adversity here is relentless and for the first half hour of the film I thought it might be too much too fast for the audience to digest.

But sometimes life comes at you hard, and as Precious cautiously began to reveal her character, I began to lose myself in her gravity. This is a reality no one deserves but the film reminds us that there's a hellacious world outside the scope of our daily lives.
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Bonus DVD Review
Towelhead (R) 124 minutes B+
Fear, loathing and hormones: A coming of age story for a Lebanese teen in Texas

DVD release date: December 30, 2008
Starring Aaron Eckhart, Toni Collette, Maria Bello, Peter Macdissi and Summer Bishil

Towelhead is a film based on the Alicia Erian novel of the same name, and much like the aforementioned film review of Precious its focus is a troubled young girl.

Directed by Oscar winner Alan Ball (screenwriter, American Beauty) the film blurs the line between a brilliantly played awkwardness and unintentional bad acting. Regardless, I found it jaw-dropping and intriguing; raising eyebrows by touching on hot button issues of racism, war, teen sex and rape (set in the suburbs of Texas during the first Gulf War).

It's the type of film that initially infuriates the viewer because characters make the obvious bad decisions while coming off as unlikable and disconnected. But as the film unfolds over the course of two hours these flaws (in the characters and the film) are overshadowed by a disturbing seduction that's as curious as a train wreck.

Although the dialogue is a little contrived at times, the relentless melodrama kept me on the edge of my seat. The film features two of my favorite actresses (Bello and Collette) but the real star is Summer Bishil whose performances earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Lead Actress.

I recommend seeking this out on DVD and/or reading the novel. But note, at one point this film was alternatively titled Nothing is Private.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Good Looking Man About Town ( A Music Review)

First Impression Music Review Morrissey - Swords A-

Swords is a collection of b-sides spanning the last five years and Morrissey's three most recent albums (You are the Quarry, Ringleader of the Tormentors and Years of Refusal).

This type of compilation seems out of place in the age itunes, ipods, etc... because no one actually buys singles any more. But these "outtakes" are often more interesting than the original studio album.

Swords
has a sense of urgency that's immediate and intriguing.
Full of his tongue-in-cheek wit, these tracks stand on their own and even exceeds his latest masterpiece, the critically acclaimed Years of Refusal. Handpicked by Moz himself the albums avoids that disjointed feel that hampers so many greatest hits/b-sides-rarity collections.

Never has one band/artist had so many great song titles in which the lyrics and music are equally as brilliant! Meat is Murder will turn 25 years old next year and Morrissey is still one of the most vital artists in music today (in my opinion); bigger than the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and Elvis, Morrissey rocks!

Favorite tracks - Don't Make Fun of Daddy's Voice, Friday Mourning, Ganglord, Christian Doir

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gone too Soon (A Book Review)

Love Is A Mix Tape - Rob Sheffield C+

Rob Sheffield meets the girl of his dreams and in a cruel twist of fate she's taken away. Despite the looming theme of death, Sheffield delivers an entertaining and light read that is the literary equivalent of a tribute album.

This is a book for anyone who has ever made a mixed tape for someone they loved (or wanted to love).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My weekend of (new & unreleased) films

Friday, November 20, Special Screening at the Bug Theatre
Merlove C+
A documentary about Merlot wine and a humorous response to the film Sideways. An interesting look into the world of wine, wine making, etc... but it's about 20-30 minutes too long.

Saturday, November 21, Starz Denver Film Festival
Orgasm, Inc. A
Perhaps the best documentary I've seen all year. This is an eye opening look at the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA approved Viagra equivalent for women. Highly recommended if it ever achieves wide release.

Hick Town B+
This is another highly entertaining documentary that will benefit from more editing (essentially reducing its running time from 132 minutes). Hick Town is all about John Hickenlooper during the volatile and exciting summer of 2008 which saw the DNC invade the Mile High City. The director of the film is none other than George Hickenlooper- award winning filmmaker and cousin of John Hickenlooper.

The Young Victoria C
A syrupy historical romance that is neither original or extraordinary, but it's good enough to keep you in your seat.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mayer gets mellow, stoned & to Japan alone (A Music Review)

First Impression Music Review John Mayer - Battle Studies B

In the media he comes off as a major cheese ball but I must admit that I think he's ultra talented and could possibly become one of the greatest (pop musicians) of all time.

Battle Studies
is a surprisingly understated album that clicks right away. The album isn't particularly dazzling and his songwriting has been better... yet the album is catchy as hell and extremely easy to listen to. Whether it's Friday night or Sunday morning the album always fits. The more I listen the more I like.

Favorite tracks - Heartbreak Warfare and Assassin

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Desperately Seeking Elizabeth (A Book Review)


Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert C+

Eat, Pray, Love is not a book I would normally pick up but since the 13 hour unabridged audio version was free (paperbackswap.com) I felt I had nothing to lose.

Many readers seemed to either hate this book or love it, I fell somewhere in the middle. EPL is a travelogue that focuses on Gilbert's search for spirituality and self balance after a messy divorce. I was pleasantly surprised by this delicate and mature exploration into the darkest times of her life. Yet ultimately her fortunes are so sweet you'll get a toothache.

Writer Rolf Potts called the book "travel porn for women" and indeed it is... But Gilbert is a tremendously talented writer whose vulnerability is readable and dare I say, likable.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

An Education - Movie Review

An Education (PG-13) 95 minutes A-
A lesson in love, innocence and rich older men (or the miseducation of Jenny)

Starring Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Sally Hawkins, Cara Seymour, Matthew Beard and Emma Thompson.

There's a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding Carey Mulligan's performance in this film, and based on what I've seen so far this year (I've yet to see Precious) only Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia has delivered a performance this flawless. Mulligan's portrayal of Jenny, a brainy, 16 year old English schoolgirl who becomes smitten with David (Peter Sarsgaard), a debonair Jewish gentleman twice her age, is both alluring and precise.

Considering that this all takes place in London circa 1961, it's an unusual pairing but not impossible. The history of Catholic/Jewish relations is not something I'm particularly familiar with, but the audience found many of the cultural contrasts hilarious.

The film works on many levels, most striking to me was the believability of Mulligan as a starry eyed 16 year old and the captivating beauty of this adolescent teen as seen through the eyes of David. However, this is not a cliche film in which the girl becomes a woman. Like the title suggests, it's an education, albeit a hard lesson on love and what's important. It's also an excellent example of how people (not just young women) fall in love with an idea, a concept, a lifestyle... and lose themselves in the process.

An Education is well-made, smart and highly recommended- a must see film.

For the Love of Movies - Movie Review

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism (NR) 81 minutes C
For film lovers who are interested in film criticism

Starring various film critics (Documentary). Narrator- Patricia Clarkson

The title of this documentary says it all. It's a straight-forward examination of the history of film criticism along with discussions about what qualifies a film critic to critique films.

For the Love of Movies will not appeal to the masses. I really wanted to love this film but all I really loved was seeing the faces of a lot of film critics I've read but never seen.

The film is screening at a variety of theatres and festivals in the U.S. and internationally.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On Writing is On Point! (A Book Review)

Stephen King - On Writing A+

If Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is the mother of all books on writing instruction and the writing life, then Stephen King's On Writing is the father of all books in that genre.

Bird by Bird
is written with a mother's touch- loving, artistic, humanistic and intelligent, while On Writing is relentless, stern, and wildly captivating. It's part memoir, part writing insight that is enjoyable even if you have no aspirations to write.

It's easy to see why King is such a literary legend after learning about his life long love of the craft and strict writing regimen. On Writing is on the mark; classic nonfiction by one of the best fiction writers around.

Monday, October 26, 2009

When You're Engulfed in Laughter (A Book Event/Reading Review)

Book Event/Reading at the Buell Theatre 10/26/09
David Sedaris at the Buell Theatre B

The Grammy nominated, bestselling author, humorist and writer David Sedaris read/spoke to a sell-out crowd in Denver tonight. The iconic figure (over 7 million books sold) did not disappoint and kept the boisterous crowd laughing and cheering from beginning to end. Even if you haven't read his books seeing him live is highly recommended.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time Traveler's Wife - Movie Review

Time Traveler's Wife (PG-13) 107 Minutes C-
Time out of mind

Starring Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana, Arliss Howard, and Ron Livingston

Fantasy, romance and drama- sometimes these three things go hand in hand. In 1990 America fell in love with Demi Moore as she fell in love with Patrick Swayze's ghost. In 2006 Sandra Bullock and Keenu Reeves fell in love via a magic mailbox in The Lake House, while last year we watched the divine Cate Blanchett love a backward aging Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Time Traveler's Wife is the latest paranormal love story showcasing an inconvenient (not to mention impossible) romantic quandary. Claire (McAdams) has been in love with Henry (Bana) all her life. When she was a little girl he would appear, disappear and reappear naked in the woods. Naturally, she kept a diary of his appearances and provided clothing upon his arrival. This part of the story is not only creepy, it screams pedophilia.

The film as a whole isn't horrible, and if you read the book you may have a different perspective all together. But it is syrupy sweet, full of mushy melodrama and features plenty of Eric Bana (bare) butt shots. Yet despite his rear-end he's probably the best thing about the film. He adds a little grit and humility that balances out McAdams' overabundance of wide-eyed cutsyness and puffy-lipped pouting (also cutesy).

If you read Audrey Niffeneggar's novel or you're a fan of fantastical-romance-drama-impossible love scenarios, I'd say rent it when it's available on DVD. For everyone else... not so much.
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Bonus DVD Review
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (R) 96 minutes C
It's hard not to like Cox

DVD release date - April 8, 2008
Starring John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, and Kristen Wiig

Walk Hard is a parody of numerous pop-icon biopics, most notably 2005's Walk the Line which chronicled the life of Johnny Cash.

This film is stupid! Some of it funny stupid, most of it stupid stupid. But the music is surprisingly great and unbelievably catchy. Matter of fact, after watching the film I promptly went to my computer and ordered the soundtrack from Half.com.

There's a plethora of cameos which normally means nothing, but if you're a music nerd like I am this only adds to the idiotic charm of the film.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Home Is Where My Horse Is (A Music Review)

First Impression Review Lyle Lovett - Natural Forces B

Lyle Lovett has been a favorite of mine for a long, long time, but I was slightly disappointed with his last two albums- 2003's My Baby Don't Tolerate and 2007's It's Not Big It's Large. Neither album is bad, but the bar was set so high with his previous works that disappointment was inevitable.

But this album raises the bar once again, despite being a little bit of a hard listen. This album doesn't jump out of the stereo like Road to Ensenada, I Love Everybody or Joshua Judges Ruth, yet it finds Lovett in fine form and stellar wit.

While initially I wasn't crazy about the tracks Whooping Crane and Bohemia. Sun and Moon and Stars stands me still every time I hear it, reminding me of the strength I get from solitude. The title track, Natural Forces was a slow burn at first and now it's one of my favorite songs, almost impossible to get out of my head (it also makes me want to drink a cold Coors Light).

Lyle Lovett is one of the greatest artist of our lifetime, Natural Forces is not his magnum opus but it is another great addition to an already legendary career.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Get So Emotional Baby ( A Music Review)


First impression Review
The Avett Brothers Emotionalism B-

I love the title, it indeed posses an emotional vibe. But being vulnerable also puts one at risk of coming off cheesy and/or soft...

I listened to this album several times before I got past its flaws. Yet one of the reasons I listened to it so much was because I felt like something was there- something powerful, smart and genuine.

The Ballad of Love and Hate is a track that may best encapsulate my mixed feelings about the album. In many ways it's a brilliant track, all the elements I love are in place, some of the lyrics are spectacular while some are forgettable. It's a 5 minute song that should be 2 1/2, 3 minutes max.

At times the album begins to bog down and just when I think it's about to go downhill, there's a song like Living of Love which stops me in my tracks, and gets me, well... emotional. It's also a tune that is reminiscent of Adam Duritz and would be right at home on a Counting Crows album.

Not a bad album at all, and one that will definitely tug on my heart strings on those introspective days of love and longing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Invention of Lying - Movie Review

The Invention of Lying (PG-13) 100 minutes B
Sometimes a lie is the best thing

Starring Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan, Rob Lowe, and Tina Fey

The Invention of Lying is a concept comedy that takes place and in a world where lying does not exist, nor does the concept. Every one tells the truth regardless of how harsh and hurtful.

At the beginning of this film it all seemed a little daft, everyone blurting out every thought that came to mind... imagine if we lived in a world where everyone you encounter told you exactly what they thought, including friends and family...

For Mark (Ricky Gervais) this lie-free environment had been doubly cruel- he's slightly overweight, not particularly attractive and terrible at his job... not to mention he's alone, lonely and his mother is gravely ill.

But all that sets the stage for this morality tale of good versus evil if you will, and the power of what's real and what we believe to be real.

By no means is this a masterpiece but it gets better and better as it goes along. By the end Mark had really sunken into my soul and touched my inner snub-nosed loser, so much so that I almost got a little teary eyed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Couples Retreat - Movie Review

Couples Retreat (PG-13) 107 minutes C-
Seek a divorce

Starring Vince Vaughn, Kristen Bell, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Kristen Davis, Faizon Love, Malin Akerman, Kali Hawk and Jean Reno

Couples Retreat is a fairly entertaining film that starts OK, but bogs down quicker than an elephant in quicksand. It's trying to be a mature rom-com (romantic comedy) that tackles serious relationship issues while simultaneously making us laugh (nice idea, poor execution). The result is a very unbalanced film with unoriginal characters and a horribly trite ending.

Vaughn, Favreau and Bateman provide a few laughs but overall this film is not worth the $8.00 I paid. However, it is worth $3.00 or however much it costs at your local second run/discount movieplex.

Despite an abundance of negative reviews the film set a record for movies opening on the Columbus Day weekend and brought in $10 million more than analyst predicted (according to Monday's USA Today). Maybe you'll like it more than I did...?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Your Love is Weird (A Music Review)

First Impression Review
Beck - One Foot in the Grave (Deluxe Reissue) A-

One Foot in the Grave was originally released during the summer of 1994 and earlier this year an expanded version was reissued with an additional 16 unreleased tracks.

This album is a brilliant mess peppered with strokes of genius. It's odd, scatterbrained and experimental; In many ways it's the album I always dreamt of making.

Very low-fi and mostly acoustic, the album is essentially a traditional blues and folk recording. Not the bouncy, catchy, radio friendly Beck that we've come to know and love.

Perhaps most impressive here are the lyrics- funny, witty, offbeat and heartbreaking. These are some of the most memorable songs you will ever hear. The album is not for everyone, but it's definitely organic and completely original.

"The world is your oyster and the trashbags are your kids."
Beck - Painted Eyelids

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Zombieland - Movie Review

Zombieland (R) 80 minutes B+
Time to nut up or shut up!

Starring Abigail Breslin, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone

Zombie films are not my cup of tea. Matter of fact, Michael Jackson's Thriller video is the closest I'd come to ever watching a zombie film. But, you don't have to be a zombie aficionado to enjoy this gem... you just have to deal with a lot of blood and guts (being eaten).

This film is stylish and funny. All the main characters are extremely likable.  Only Jesse Eisenberg with his Woody Allen-like neurosis could pull off the sensitive, lovable, zombie killing geek role with such authenticity.

The ultimate popcorn movie!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story - Movie Review

Capitalism: A Love Story (R) 120 minutes B+
Moore Capitalizing on Capitalism

Starring Michael Moore

Michael Moore- most people I know either love him or hate him. I'm not here to convince the people who hate him that they should like him, but I don't understand how anyone can deny that he raises some valid questions through his films.

Film critic Amy Biancolli brilliantly stated that Moore's films are "essays: one-sided, hyperbolic, heatedly persuasive works that broadcast a single viewpoint for a single cause", I get that... and yes, the George W. Bush is a douche bag campaign has grown a little tiresome. But also in his crosshairs are Bill Clinton, Chris Dodd and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate.

It goes without saying that Moore is not for everyone, but I appreciate that his films always give me plenty to think about and from there I can draw my own conclusions.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Year of the Tiger circa 2007 (A Music Review)

First Impression Review Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - Follow The Lights (EP) B-

My first impression of this EP was that it was "soft". I wondered if Adams was trying to capitalize or continue the soft rock success of Easy Tiger (which was released four months prior), or simply wanted a venue to showcase a few new songs.

Easy Tiger was a good album; some hailed it as his best effort since 2001’s Gold. So you can hardly blame him for this side dish EP that Pitchfork Media music critic Stephen M. Deusner described as a “satellite orbiting planet Tiger.”

Follow the Lights actually features several re-vamped tracks from various albums- Cold Roses, Rock N Roll, Songbird (Willie Nelson & the Cardinals) and Jacksonville City Nights, plus an awful version of Alice in Chains Down in a Hole (why oh why Ryan!?).

But after three or fours listens this album has begun to win me over. The live studio version of If I am a Stranger is awesome and I love the toned-down Cardinals version of This is it (from the underrated and trashy Rock N Roll album).

Follow the Lights is a satisfying EP that will be most appreciated by fans of his music.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Straight Line ( A Music Review)

First Impression Music Review David Gray - Draw the Line C+

It's been four years since we last heard from David Gray (2005's Life in Slow Motion) and with this latest offering Gray doesn't stray too far from his familiar folk-pop yearnings.

Draw the Line floats along with no tremendous peaks and no major missteps, although it does seem a little awkward when Gray sings "here we are butt naked baby" on the melancholy title track.

I miss the exploratory introspection of Life in Slow Motion and the vulnerability of some of his older material. This album isn't bad but it feels a little straight-laced and conservative. Perhaps the next album will cross the line.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Informant! - Movie review

The Informant! (R) 108 minutes B
Greed, Lies & Videotape

Starring Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Melanie Lynskey and Joel McHale

The trailer for this film is terrific, based on that alone I expected an Oscar caliber performance from Matt Damon and a smart script from Steven Soderbergh. But, if you go into this film expecting anything more than I cheeky, witty, talk-fest... well, you might be gravely disappointed. There are no car chases, street fights, explosions, gun fights or boobs; this is a David vs Goliath vs David story.

Mark Whitarce (Matt Damon) is a high level company man turned whistle-blower. Behind his potbelly and porno mustache is a childlike enthusiasm and deviant criminal mind. The Informant is an intriguing character study (based on Kurt Eichenwald's book) and testimony for criminals everywhere to quit while you're ahead.

Essentially this film is like a healthy entree, it's not as juicy and tasty as a greasy burger, hot french fires and an icy carbonated beverage, but for the discriminating palate it's just as satisfying on many levels and ultimately better for you.

State of Love & Trust (A Music Review)

First Impression Review
Pearl Jam - Backspacer A-

Selling millions of records and being the most important band in the world for a few years (during the early 90's) will always be a blessing and a curse. Even though their first 2 albums, Ten and Vs are classics, 1994's Vitalogy to current has yielded some of PJ's most interesting and speculative music. It hasn't always been their "best" but it's always been better than most of the sh*t out there.

Backspacer finds the group loose and refreshed. Clocking in at 37 minutes this album satisfies without leaving you bloated, in other words, I didn't feel like the band was overreaching or trying to regain their glory days. It's not trying to mimic any genre or pandering to the mainstream. It's just Pearl Jam being Pearl Jam... and it is one of the best albums I've heard this year.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The September Issue - Movie Review

The September Issue (PG-13) C+
Vogue's Saving Grace

Starring Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, Andre Leon Talley, Patrick Demarchelier and Oscar De La Renta.

The September Issue sounds like the name of a silly teen comedy where the lovable high school underachiever lands a date with the September Playboy centerfold... Fortunately that's not the case, this is the award winning documentary film (2009 Sundance Cinematography Award) that follows the trials and tribulations of publishing the most sought after issue of Vogue magazine.

I had no idea that this issue was so vital. I was expecting to learn more about the infamous Anna Wintour, Vogue's editor-in-chief, and the inner workings of one of the world's most successful fashion publications. But the film fails to provide insight to what makes Wintour tick. Instead it portrays her as the mysterious, apathetic and powerful lady boss (a little like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada). Personally I think she was playing up her abstruse image for the camera, but either way she is undoubtedly a polarizing figure.

The September Issue is pretty straight-forward, there's not a lot of depth to what it's trying achieve or convey. Yet somehow it works and is ultimately an interesting film even though it never really "WOWed" me. If not for the lovely Grace Coodington, Vogue creative director, this film would've been a snooze. Coddington is Wintour's most vocal adversary within the office and also her greatest strength. The two may not always see eye to eye but together they make one helluva team.

In retrospect, I'm not sure why any straight guy (like myself) would voluntarily see this film on his own. But as a writer, and a cinephile I'm glad I did.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Big Fan - Movie Review

Big Fan (R) 86 minutes B-
Another "one trick pony" from Robert Siegel

Starring Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rapaport and Marcia Jean Kurtz

Perhaps the clown is the saddest... Robert Siegel, a former editor of The Onion wrote one of last year's most tragic love stories - The Wrestler. This year he makes his directorial debut with another story of love and heartbreak, only this time it features a man and his favorite football team.

Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the dramatic category at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Big Fan has received good reviews (Denver Post gave it 4 out of 4 stars) and some critics have even suggested that Patton Oswalt's performance may be Oscar-worthy.

This film is a little dry and a tad repetitive, but what it lacks in energy, it makes up for in emotion. On the surface, Paul (Patton Oswalt) is a one trick pony- content with his job as a parking lot attendant, lives at home with his mother (at age 36), and is a self proclaimed "world's biggest New York Giants fan". But when he gets the opportunity to meet his favorite player his life changes forever... sorta.

Big Fan is not the feel good movie of the year and it's not for everyone, but it is an intriguing film worth seeing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Break Up to Make Up (A Music Review)

First Impression Review
Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson - Break Up C+

Earlier this year Pete Yorn released an album titled Back and Fourth. Critically it's not the best album I've heard this year, but it's by far the most listened to cd in my collection over the past three months. I've made a personal connection that borders on obsessive when it comes to Back and Fourth's catchy, sensitive, heart-achey pop gems.

So it should come as no surprise that I gobbled up this new collaboration between Yorn and the criminally beautiful Johansson, who actually has an interesting voice... Much of the problem I have with this album is that some material sounds like discarded straps from previous Yorn albums or cover songs that were written decades ago.

That being said, there are some stellar moments here, specifically Blackie's Dead, Someday, and the oddly enticing I Am The Cosmos. I'm giving this album a C+ based on my first impression but if it continues to grow on me it could easily find itself in heavy rotation.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Extract - Movie Review

Extract (R) 91 minutes B-
Office life forget your wife

Starring Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Ben Affleck, Mila Kunis, J.K. Simmons, David Koechner, Clifton Collins Jr., and T.J. Miller

Extract is the latest offering from Mike Judge, creator of Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill and writer/director of the 1999 cult classic, Office Space. Extract has been advertised as better and/or funnier than Office Space... it's not. But it does possess a certain charm and definitely stands out on its own; the two films work better as companion pieces than compared.

Extract centers around Joel (Jason Bateman), owner of Reynolds Extract. He lives a comfortable life and seems fairly content despite the normal ups and downs of running a business. But when his sexual frustration and home life goes from bad to worse, Joel makes a series of bad choices before seeing the light.

Bateman is excellent and has become an actor that's always worth your time regardless of the film (State of Play, Juno, The Promotion, Hancock, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, etc...). Ben Affleck continues his string of respectable movie roles as the know-it-all, free thinking stoner friend- a character that's been done many times before, yet works as a nice segway to various predicaments.

Mila Kunis serves one purpose- eye candy, while the always underrated J.K. Simmons and David Koechner turn in small but mighty performances. Kristen Wiig of SNL plays Suzie, Joel's bored yet insatiable wife, a role that's purposely understated and brilliant.

For the most part this is a light-hearted and funny romp. But film critic Stepanie Zacharek of Salon.com said it best when she wrote Extract is about "drawing out the poison that can build inside us when we're not paying attention." That's perhaps viewing the film from a deeper/darker perspective but nevertheless she is 100% correct.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Curtis's NFL Answer Key 2009

My Annual NFL Predictions

AFC

East
1. New England 10-6
2. Miami 8-8
3. Buffalo 7-9
4. NY Jets 6-10

North
1. Pittsburgh 11-5
2. Baltimore 10-6 (wildcard)
3. Cincinnati 6-10
4. Cleveland 6-10

South
1. Indianapolis 11-5
2. Houston 9-7 (wildcard)
3. Tennessee 9-7
4. Jacksonville 7-9

West
1. San Diego 11-5
2. Oakland 6-10
3. Denver 5-11
4. Kansas City 5-11

Wild-card Round
Pittsburgh over Houston
New England over Baltimore
Divisional Round
San Diego over New England
Indianapolis over Pittsburgh
Conference Championship
San Diego over Indianapolis

NFC

East
1. Dallas 11-5
2. Philadelphia 10-6 (wildcard)
3. NY Giants 9-7
4. Washington 7-9

North
1. Chicago 10-6
2. Minnesota 9-7 (wildcard)
3. Green Bay 8-8
4. Detroit 4-12

South
1. Carolina 9-7
2. New Orleans 9-7
3. Atlanta 8-8
4. Tampa Bay 5-11

West
1. Seattle 10-6
2. Arizona 9-7
3. San Francisco 7-9
4. St. Louis 4-12

Wild-Card Round
Seattle over Minnesota
Philadelphia over Carolina
Divisional Round
Dallas over Philadelphia
Seattle over Chicago
Conference Championship
Dallas over Seattle

Superbowl
San Diego 30 Dallas 13

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Julie and Julia - Movie Review

Julie and Julia (PG-13) 123 Minutes B
When Food is Life and Life is Food

Starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Linda Emond.

I met the real Julie Powell in September of 2006. She wore a retro cool blue sweater dress and black knee high boots; she was striking in a New York sheik-literary savvy sorta way. She seemed a lot more intriguing than the movie version of Julie Powell (Amy Adams) who struck me as sorta vanilla. However, much of this perception is because Meryl Streep is completely illuminating as Julia Child, Stanley Tucci is phenomenal as Paul Child and Mary Lynn Rajskub is brilliantly understated in a minor sidekick role as Sarah.

Julia Child's life overshadows Julie Powell's life. I suppose that's the point of the film but it also creates an unbalance for the viewer. The relationship between Julia and Paul is as inspiring as the recipes Julia creates. Beyond the food and the cooking this is one of the year's best love stories.

P.S. After the film I went home and made an inspired turkey sausage and green onion omelet- yummy!

Friday, August 28, 2009

D-Mode Delivers Music for the Masses (A Concert Review)

Depeche Mode @ Red Rocks Amphitheater 8/27/2009 A

Wow! This will most likely be the best rock show I see in 2009. These guys put on one helluva show and my only regret is that I didn't see them (live) sooner.

An ageless and slinky Dave Gahan, 47, shook his money maker and worked the crowd in true rock star fashion. While the brilliant Martin Gore played various instruments, sang backing vocals and stepped front and center on songs like Jezebel and Somebody.

In my head this band is bigger than life and their live show gave me no reason to think otherwise.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

(500) Days of Summer - Movie Review

(500) Days of Summer (PG-13) 95 minutes A
Summer of Love/Winter of Discontent

Starring Zooey Deschanel, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Clark Gregg, Minka kelly, Matthew Gray Gubler, Rachel Boston, Geoffrey Arend and Chloe Moritz.

This is not a love story, but it is further evidence that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. This film presents us with many romanticized and disillusionment theories about relationships. But most of all (and perhaps most importantly) it reminds us of how falling in love makes us feel euphoric and invincible... how in those moments of bliss we are making memories that will last a lifetime even if the union does not.

(500) Days of Summer ties together the sad bastard music I love so dearly with the heartbreaking beauty of love gone wrong. And although there is at least one movie cliche near the end I could've done without. This is a winning effort and one that will stay on my mind for days to come.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The joy of cooking, the perils of love (A Book Review)

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti - Giulia Melucci A

Besides being a fabulous cook and a terrific writer Giulia Melucci has a lot to offer. As I was reading this intriguing and funny "food is love" memoir I'd often flip to the back inside cover of the book and look at the author's photo. From what I was reading and seeing Giulia seems like a great catch. Chances are these perspective suitors will never find anyone better.

Love and the human heart is complicated, thank god we can lose ourselves in good food and good books. Not only is this an excellent read but it's filled with easy to make and delicious recipes. I'm probably not the targeted demographic but I have to say that I loved this book - my favorite of 2009 so far.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Docuwest Film Festival August 6th - 9th (All documentaries all the time)

The 1st annual DocuWest Film Festival hosted by the Foothills Art Center (Golden, CO) wrapped up yesterday. Not only was this inaugural year a success but I honestly believe that this festival will become instrumental in promoting, celebrating, and mainstreaming the art of documentary filmmaking. RW and I attended 4 films:

Kimjongilia - C+
A timely documentary about North Korea and the ruthless regime of Kim Jong-il.

My Son the Pornographer - B+
A bitter young man makes the adult film industry seem pedestrian while his father lends physical and emotional support.

Talhotblond - C+
An internet love triangle ends in death, jail time and a shocking twist.

$100 a day - C+
An innocent man spends 12 years in jail for a murder he didn't commit. Exonerated- he will receive $100 a day... hmmm, that should make up for losing the last 12 years of his life.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Top 3 John Hughes Films


As many of you know John Hughes passed away this past week. In honor of his passing I have listed my three favorite John Hughes films.


3. Career Opportunities (Writer)

2. Weird Science (Writer & Director)

1. Sixteen Candles (Writer & Director)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Funny People - Movie Review

Funny People (R) 140 minutes B+
Depending on your sense of humor

Starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, and Jason Schwartzman

I like a little bitter with my sweet and here Judd Apatow does a nice job of mixing the two. This film isn't for everyone, but not in the "it's too artsy fartsy or too indie" sort of way. There's a lot of penis jokes, crude humor and the film is ambitiously long. But despite the length I enjoyed every minute (pun intended), and apparently I enjoy penis humor when it's done right.

Compilations: The good and the not so good (A Music Review)

First Impression Review

The Jayhawks - Music From The North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology C

I'm not a big fan of "Greatest Hits" collections but there is a time and place for them. Since I've always been curious about The Jayhawks (other than what I heard on the radio) I thought this would be a nice teaser before I bought one of their critically acclaimed albums (like 2003's Rainy Day Music).

But unfortunately Music From The North Country was a disappointment to me. My first impression was that these songs are very "safe" and "clean" bordering on boring. It's nice, pleasant, Americana/folk rock but to steal the words of another music critic, "it's guaranteed not to wake the neighbors".

Neil Young - Greatest Hits A+
On the other hand, sometimes a "Greatest Hits" collection can really capture the essence of an artist even without some of the deeper album cuts. Neil Young's Greatest Hits collection from 2003 is such an album.

I was having a discussion with a couple of co-workers today about his best album and one mentioned this album. My first inclination was that compilations don't count, but a few hours later when she gave me a copy of this album I was blown away! I'd heard all but 5 or 6 of the tracks before, but some I hadn't heard in a long time -Hey, Hey, My My (Into the Black) & Ohio. While songs like Down By the River (from Everyone Knows This is Nowhere) and Comes A Time (from Comes A Time) sounded vintage and timeless.

This is a superior album and one that I highly recommend for anyone who craves a perfect Neil Young album from beginning to end.

My favorite Neil Young albums based on the ones I've heard/own (excluding compilations)

5. (TIE) Living with War (2006) & Greendale (2003)
4. Harvest Moon (1992)
3. Sleeps with Angels (1994)
2. Silver & Gold (2000)
1. Harvest (1972)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Adam - Movie Review

Adam (PG-13) 99 minutes D
A love story without the love

Starring Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, and Frankie Faison

When I first saw the trailer for this film the main character, Adam (Hugh Dancy), tells his very attractive neighbor, Beth (Rose Byrne), that he has Aspergers. Initially I thought he said "Assburgers" and that was suppose to be some sort of joke. But Asperger's Syndrome (AS) is not a joke, it's a neurobiological disorder that's closely related to autism (or at least that's what I gathered from watching the film).

The film raises awareness of AS and sheds a bittersweet light on the disorder. A noble gesture that unfortunately results into a dull film. Frankly, I thought that the relationship between Adam and Beth was completely unrealistic, Beth's daddy complex was totally contrived and stupid, and Hugh Dancy (who I loved in the 2007 film, Jane Austen Book Club) seemed to be overacting the part.

Many people at the advanced screening last week and at Sundance last January loved this film. I on the other hand am surprised that so many people liked it. Perhaps you should see it for yourself and report back, I'd be curious to know what you think. The film opened in limited release on 7/29, and opens nation-wide in a few weeks.
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Bonus DVD Review
Stardust Memories (PG) 88 minutes C+
The reluctant celebrity

DVD Release Date: July 5, 2000
Starring Woody Allen, Charlotte Rampling, Jessica Harper and Tony Roberts

This was one of the few Woody Allen films I hadn't seen and reportedly one of Woody's personal favorites within his catalog of work. The film didn't quite live up to my (very high) expectations, but if nothing else Stardust Memories is worth seeing for one scene near the end of the film (called A Profound Moment on the DVD's scenes menu) in which a young Charlotte Rampling lies on the floor, flipping through pages of a magazine and gazes into the camera with a look that could bring a man to his knees- hypnotizing and alluring it's a classic cinematic moment.

Sonically Ageless in a Daydream Nation (A Concert Review)

Sonic Youth @ the Ogden Theater 7/31/09 A-

There is nothing like a Sonic Youth show. I've seen them numerous times and I'm always hypnotized by the sound.

Friday night's sold out show at the Ogden Theater was another stellar performance. Their set list consisted mostly of the new album, The Eternal, with a heavy dose of Daydream Nation.

Standouts included Cross the Breeze, Silver Rocket, The Sprawl and Antenna. SY did two encores and I wish they would've done five more.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ya Gotta Lovett (A Concert Review)


Lyle Lovett & His Large Band at Red Rocks B

It's been 15 years since the first time I saw Lyle Lovett live. That concert remains one of the top 3 concerts I have ever seen. His performance that night was legendary; it was like seeing Elvis in his prime (or so I imagine). The first song he played that night was Just the Morning from the album I Love Everybody. Road to Ensenada was not yet released and I think he was dating Julie Roberts. He played a new song that night called That's Right (You're Not From Texas) and I thought my head was going to explode- the song was amazing! And it's still one of my favorite songs to hear live.

Tonight he also debuted some new material and it too was phenomenal. I have to admit, I was a slightly underwhelmed by the last two albums (It's Not Big It's Large & My Baby Don't Tolerate) but after tonight's show I am stoked about the new album coming out in October. The only disappointment of the night was that he only played one song (Penguins) from I Love Everybody. An album that has overtaken Joshua Judges Ruth as my favorite Lovett album. Yet his ever present wit and undeniable charm make it impossible for Lovett to put on a bad show. The standout songs tonight - That's Right (You're Not From Texas), Closing Time, Keep it in Your Pantry and Walk Through the Bottomland.

An Upbeat and Bouncy Summer Soundtrack (A Music Review)

First Impression Review
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix B+

When I first listened to this album I thought it was just catchy summertime fun that would ultimately become disposable once the weather turned cold and summer was in our rear view.

Initially this album only motivated me to open my windows, turn up the volume and dance around in my underwear while singing into a hair brush. But after further review... it still makes me dance around in my underwear but it's also an essential summer soundtrack.

It's a little disco fabulous, euro-trashy, and synth-centric with a dash of the late 80's/early 90's. Yet most of all it's infectious as hell and a great album to listen to while you're getting ready for a night out on the town.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ritter Rocks Denver (A Concert Review)

Josh Ritter at the Bluebird Theater B

Why is Josh Ritter so darn happy? I've seen a lot of rocks shows in my day but rarely have I witnessed an artist so exuberant and simultaneously humble. Tonight was an angst free zone, and although I love angst and all that sad sap aggression. Tonight's show was a refreshing change that was fun and entertaining without feeling contrived.

It wasn't without its touching moments though, when he played Girl in the War it almost brought me to tears.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Sister's Keeper - Movie Review

My Sister's Keeper (PG-13) 106 minutes C+
Genetically engineered to make you cry

Starring Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin, Jason Patric, Sofia Vassilieva, and Joan Cusack

I haven't read the novel which this film is based on, nor do I plan too. But I have to hand it to Jodi Picoult for coming up with an original story that raises interesting questions about moral, ethical and legal issues concerning genetic engineering.

The first half of this film is nothing more than a Lifetime movie of the week, it wastes no time immersing you into the family's drama and the result is a feeling of apathy. But halfway through the film things start to get a little strange, a little funnier, and the movie becomes better for it.

Although he annoyed me at first, the catalyst for this change may have been Jesse (Evan Ellingson), the dyslexic brother who appears to be a meaningless character until we begin wondering if he's a druggie, street hustler, gay, or suicidal?

The most impressive roles here were turned in by Alec Baldwin and Joan Cusack, although the two sisters (Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva) are pretty adorable. I somehow managed not to cry during this film but I admit that I came close several times.

This Week's Album, Nanci Griffith - Flyer

If you're a fan of Contemporary Folk or Americana you won't find many albums better than Flyer. This album is a gem, full of folkie goodness and honest songwriting.

Original released in September of 1994, nominated for a Grammy in 1995 (Best Contemporary Folk Album), it sounds just as good today as it did 15 years ago. The album also boasts an all-star lineup of musicians (Peter Buck, Mark Knopfler, Emmylou Harris, Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton, Adam Duritz, The Chieftans, and the Indigo Girls) but never feels contrived, slick or overdone.

I've bought a couple of her albums since this one and none have ever come close to making me feel the way this one does.

Niggy Stardust Presents His Feminine Side with Flowers (A Book Review)


Saul Williams - She A-

Saul Williams has been called "Hip Hop's poet laureate", and "the Bob Marley of American poets". She is a humble collection of sensitive and self aware poetry marinated in emotional larceny.

Still Life with Woody (A Book Review)


Glenn Hopp - Woody Allen (Movie Icons) A-

This is more or less a coffee table/photography book that gives a visual biography of Woody's career. It's mostly captions and quotes from Woody, some of which are very enlightening. At $10 this book is an absolute steal of a deal!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Proposal - Movie Review

The Proposal (PG-13) 108 minutes B
A thin line between love and hate.

Starring Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Malin Akerman, Craig T. Nelsonn, Mary Steenburgen, Denis O'Hare, and Betty White

I think Sandra Bullock is a very talented actress who mainly does silly (big payday) films... But hey, whatever works right? The thing is, Bullock is starting to perfect these roles and when she has good actors/actresses opposite her and half way decent material the result is The Proposal.

A surprisingly vibrant and entertaining film in which everyone in the theater knew the outcome before they parked their cars at the cineplex. Yet there are enough minor plot twists to keep you interested and guessing.

I'm a sucker for romantic comedies and I found myself anxiously awaiting the part when they fall in love and they both realize it. I'm not giving anything away, it's a Sandra Bullock film for christ's sake... you know how she rolls.

American Central Bust (A Music Review)

First Impression Review
Son Volt - American Central Dust C
The media, the record company, or whomever has been promoting this album as the second coming of Trace, their magnificent debut album. But unfortunately this album doesn't come close to capturing the accessibility and hook of their 1995 classic.

I'd read that Down to the Wire and When the Wheels Don't Move were the album's best tracks, but only No Turning Back stood out during my first listen. Since then a few more tracks have grown on me but this is one hell of a slow burn. It's not a horrible album by any stretch, but it's a disappointment considering the brilliance of their last two albums.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Bright Future for the Left (A Music Review)

First Impression Review
Future Of The Left - Travels With Myself And Another B+

My friend Diddlefinger is more or less a musical savant. Recently when he gave me a copy of the new Future of the Left cd (I'd never heard of them before) I had no idea what to expect but at the very least I knew it wouldn't be boring.

The first track of this cd, Arming Eritrea totally and completely kicks ass- "Come on, Rick, I'm not a prize/I'm not a cynic or one of those guys. The guitars rip and roar, this opening track is guaranteed to remind you of the best song AC/DC never wrote and recorded.

The rest of the cd never lets a foot off the pedal. It's intriguing and rebel rousing, music that keeps an old man like me young.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pete Yorn Prolongs Pain We Will Deal with Eventually (A Music Review)

First Impression Review
Pete Yorn - Back & Fourth B

"Gotta let the boy have his way, 'cause he can't seem to drink it away" sings Pete Yorn on the opening track called Don't Wanna Cry. This album finds Mr. Yorn introspective and perhaps a little sad. He's conflicted, his feelings are back & fourth... love her, leave her, either way he can't stop thinking about her.

This is an easy listen unlike the sometimes brilliant sometimes scattered-brained Nightcrawler. Some of my friends will say this album is boring or a bit one dimensional, but I like to think that it's honest and endearing. There's just enough misery here to keep me happy although at times it's a thin line between Yorn being sensitive and just sounding wimpy.

After about 3 or 4 listens I've surprised myself by falling for one of the oddest tracks on the album, the strangely titled Social Development Dance, while Paradise Cove, Close, and Country flirt with breaking my heart every time I hear them.

This is a good outing and maybe his best since Musicforthemorningafter.

Eternally Grateful (A Music Review)

First Impression Review Sonic Youth - The Eternal B+

Somewhere I read that The Eternal sounds like a collage of old Sonic Youth albums. There is some truth to that but it's not a bad thing. This album reminds me of SY circa 1995... It's loose, intelligent and fun as hell. I can't wait to see them perform these songs live, they're sure to be completely mesmerizing at full volume with beer in hand.

Once again SY demonstrates why they are one of the most influential, innovative and important bands of our time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dando & Two Pretty Ladies have it Covered (A Music Review)

First Impression Music Review The Lemonheads - Varshons B

A covers album that features guest appearances by Liv Tyler and Kate Moss... for some this would've resulted in contrived cheez whiz . But Dando and company turns in an honest album that feels mature and essential.

I'm Sorry You Feel That Way ( A Book Review)

Diana Joseph - I'm Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog B-

I first discovered this book after reading a review of it in Entertainment Weekly. Several google searches later and numerous stellar reviews (of this book and her first book) I discovered that Diana Joseph once taught Creative Writing at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO (my old stomping grounds). I was intrigued and curious what would bring such a literary talent like Joseph to the western slope of Colorado.

The answer to that question and many more are revealed in this fast paced memoir, and even though I always talk about my cat at parties and often take my shoes off in public... I found Joseph extremely likable and relatable.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Whatever Works - Movie Review

Whatever Works (PG-13) 92 minutes C+
Curb your enthusiasm grumpy old man

Starring Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Begley Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Henry Cavill, Kristen Johnston, and Michael McKean

In many ways Whatever Works is vintage Woody Allen. Originally written in the 1970s the film has traces of Allen's legendary comedic flare along with witty social commentary. But unfortunately it's also a little flat and Larry David is a little tiresome despite doing an admirable job in the "Woody Allen role".

Whatever Works is a must for Woody Allen fans (like myself) and for everyone else it's a grab bag of sporadic humor. The film doesn't necessarily break any new ground but as Peter Travers (Rolling Stone movie critic) stated in his review, "no true movie fan will want to miss the comic mind–meld of Woody and Larry."

My 15 Favorite Woody Allen Films
1. Husbands & Wives
2. Hannah & Her Sisters
3. Play it Again, Sam
4. Crimes and Misdemeanors
5. Annie Hall
6. Manhattan Murder Mystery
7. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy
8. Manhattan
9. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
10. Melinda and Melinda
11. Match Point
12. Anything Else
13. Celebrity
14. Deconstructing Harry
15. Take the Money and Run

*Of the 40 films directed by Woody Allen I have seen approximately 33 of them. This list could/probably will change after viewing his entire filmography.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wilco (the band) delivers music for the masses (A Concert Review)

Wilco w/ Okkervil River at Red Rocks 7/3/09 B-

I'm not ready to categorize Wilco as "dad rock" yet, and their still better than most bands out there. But Wilco seems to be venturing into musical territory that sounds comfortable, content, and dare I say... boring? That's not what I signed up for a decade or so ago when I punched my ticket on the Wilco bandwagon .

It's hard to beat a Red Rocks show on a cool summer night. Tweedy and company were polished yet unsurprising (much like their last two albums), they sounded like the popular rock band they have become and delivered what most would consider an outstanding show. But unfortunately I'm not most people and I thought the show was only slightly above average. The band played for over two hours (including encores) and the highlights were Jesus etc, Spiders (Kidsmoke), I'm a Wheel, Bull Black Nova and Wilco (the song).

Friday, July 3, 2009

Food, Inc. - Movie Review

Food, Inc. (PG) 94 minutes B-
Meat is Murder

Starring Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosserhberg, Gary Hirschberg, and Joe Salatin

I still like chicken after watching Food, Inc. but I'm not so sure chickens like human beings. This documentary is a not so gentle reminder of where our food comes from and what it goes through before landing on our plates.

Some may find this documentary shocking, appalling and/or enlightening, but more importantly it's further evidence that most of us need to make better choices about the foods we buy and put into our bodies. As well as brings awareness of how politics (corporations, government agencies, etc...) dictates consumer health, farmers and the safety of our food workers.

The film is dry at times and feels a bit longer than 94 minutes, but I really think this is a documentary that should been seen by the masses.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 - Movie Review

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (R) 106 minutes B-
Denzel saves the day... and this film.

Starring Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli, and James Gandolfini

We pretty much know how a movie like this will end, the question is all the stuff that brings us to that point. People complain that some films (like this one) are too predictable, yet it's the kiss of death when a filmmaker makes a film in which the bad guys win.

So here we have a chunky Denzel Washington as an understated New York City subway dispatcher. I sense that he's suppose represent many of us who are trying to survive that rat race in these competitive and complicated times. While John Travolta represents the thinking man's bad guy... the Bernie Madoff type with a gun.

The film is entertaining and suspenseful even though we can all figure out how it'll end. But I also found it a little too slick at times and a little annoying with it's MTVish type production that goes for the wow factor over good old fashion grit.

This isn't a bad film though, it's what I would call a "popcorn movie". It's nothing that will stick with me after I leave the cineplex, but it was entertaining and worthy of a cold beverage and a buttery small popcorn.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

2009's Best In Film & Music so far...

Every year on or around my birthday I bring you the best in films & music for the first half of the year... So with no further ado here are my picks for 2009 so far... Enjoy!

Best Films
1. The Girlfriend Experience
It's not a film that everyone can or will appreciate, but it's the only film I've seen this year that I would have paid money to see twice (in the theater).

2. He's Just Not That Into You
The critics generally panned this film but call me crazy, I liked it... a lot.

3. Adventureland
Young love is often the purest, this is a charming film that's totally worthwhile.

4. State of Play
A really good adult drama about sex, politics and journalism.

5. Two Lovers
Joaquin Phoenix's curtain call and a refreshing (albeit odd) romantic drama.

Best Albums


1. AC Newman - Get Guilty
Catchy, consistent, and interesting from beginning to end.

2. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
This would be number one if J sang every song on the album... but it's still damn good!

3. Jill Sobule - The California Years
An honest album by a true underdog, the best album of her career.

4. Indigo Girls - Poseidon And The Bitter Bug
A very listenable album that sounds better and better each time.

5. Duncan Sheik - Whisper House
Underneath the catchy hooks and boyish good looks is a talented and underrated dark spirit.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Away We Go - Movie Review

Away We Go (R) 97 minutes C
Away We Go feels like a familiar trip

Starring John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Allison Janney, Chris Messina, Catherine O’Hara, and Paul Schneider

Away We Go is an ambitious film about love and couplehood that falls short of originality and real substance. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are very likable on screen but I didn't find them necessarily believable. Their aloof and whimsical love affair is one to be admired (to a certain extinct) yet unfortunately this outing felt like a generic collage of several hip films within the genre.

Away We Go is an interesting film fully capable of keeping your attention throughout even though it tries a little too hard to be "different" and cool (note how the introspective music kicks in at all the opportune moments begging the audience for compassion). Performances by Allison Janney, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Chris Messina and Jeff Daniels, all talented actors/actresses are wasted. Their characters are contrived and cliche, the slow subtlety of the film leaves their dialogue hanging like bad punchlines.

I know it sounds like I'm ripping on this film but it does have some redeeming qualities. It is worth seeing at one of the second run/discount movie houses in your area, I was disappointed but that's partly because I had such high expectations.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson 8/29/58 - 6/25/09










My Top 10 Favorite Singles by the King of Pop
10. Say Say Say w/ Paul McCarthy (1983)
9. Who Is It (1992)
8. Billie Jean (1982)
7. She's Out Of My Life (1980)
6.Smooth Criminal (1988)
5. They Don't Care About Us (1996)
4. Dirty Diana (1988)
3. In the Closet (1991)
2. Scream (1995)
1. Human Nature (1983)

Wilco Continues to Lose Their Summerteeth

Wilco - Wilco (The album) C+

Ok, I'm giving the new Wilco album the benefit of the doubt. I've listened to it several times and at first I thought it was pretty good. But after a few repeated listens I think it's kind of boring. So I'm thinking (hoping) it'll click with me after I shelve it for a few days and come back to it. Bull Black Nova is an awesome song and a definite standout, I also like the first track, Wilco (the song). But otherwise I'm wondering if Wilco is becoming the new Steely Dan (no offense). I'm starting to like Son Volt better than these guys, and that's something I never thought possible.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dinosaur Jr Goes Farming

Dinosaur Jr. - Farm A-

I own a total of 8 Dinosaur Jr/J Mascis albums and this one is my new favorite. Farm is a pleasant surprise even though it shouldn't be. Their last album, 2007's Beyond was good but it didn't leave me eagerly anticipating a new album. Yet this one grabbed me from the first song of the first listen. It has more hooks than a Bass Pro Shop, and J's lazy vocal delivery coupled with his signature slacker lyrics are unmatched.