Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Last Chance Harvey - Movie Review

Last Chance Harvey (PG-13) 99 minutes C+
Two lonely people find each other

Starring Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Kathy Baker, James Brolin, Eileen Atkins, Richard Schiff, and Liane Balaban

In real life Emma Thompson is approaching 50 years old, yet in this film she looks more like a youthful 40 year old. Dustin Hoffman on the other hand looks all of 70(ish) but does a fine job of portraying a struggling jazz pianist who is burning out and slowly fading away.

Last Chance Harvey is a poignant love story about a lonely woman (Thompson) and a lonelier man (Hoffman) finding each other at a vulnerable and coincidental crossroads. These types of films are never an easy sale because we've been there, seen that. But LCH is successful because of the vulnerable restraint depicted by Thompson and an almost stalker like, fatal attraction (that eventually proves to be somewhat charming) by Hoffman.

Last Chance Harvey is worth a chance... if not in the theater, check it out on DVD in a few months.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Slow Starter

The Starter Wife - Gigi Levangie Grazer C

I almost gave up on this (audio) book several times. The beginning was cheesy and the humor seemed forced, but there was just enough wit sprinkled throughout the first half of the book to keep me interested.

It eventually got better, but how good can a novel be when Britney Spears is one of the characters? I admit she added a little something to the story, her presence puts the ex husband's desperation into perspective... yet utimately Britney is a microcosm of the book's personality - fluff that is occasionally intriguing and entertaining but never to be taken seriously.

The mini-series (of the same name) is based on this book. It earned 10 Emmy nominations according to Wikipedia; surprising considering that this book often reminded me of a bad sitcom. Perhaps this is one of the rare occasions in which the book is not better than its' adaptation... (I'm curious now and may have to rent the DVD).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Marley & Me - Movie Review

Marley & Me (PG) 123 minutes B
It's a doggy dog world

Starring Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Alan Arkin, Eric Dane, and Kathleen Turner

RW cried...
I cried... (but only out of one eye).

And even though I haven't read the popular book that this film was based on, Marley & Me is a dog lovers film; albeit it a little formulaic and syrupy sweet. But one that is endearing and featured more breadth than I expected.

Personally, I loved the writer aspect of the story (John's struggle with being a columnist or a reporter), but one of the major complaints I've heard is that the film is too much about the people when the book is more about the dog. I found the romance between John and Jenny Grogan (Wilson and Aniston) to be very engaging...especially Aniston.

As for the doggies, their all very adorable, and at the heart of it all this really is a love story about man's best friend.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Curtis's Oscar Predictions & Years of Refusal

sHere is who will win and who should win in 8 of the major categories...

Best Picture
Will win - Slumdog Millionaire
Should win - The Reader

Best Actress
Will win - Kate Winslet
Should win - Kate Winslet

Best Supporting Actress
Will win - Penelope Cruz
Should win - Penelope Cruz

Best Actor
Will win - Mickey Rourke
Should win - Sean Penn

Best Supporting Actor
Will win - Heath Ledger
Should win - Heath Ledger

Best Director
Will win - Danny Boyle
Should win - Stephen Daldry

Best Original Screenplay
Will win - Milk
Should win - Frozen River

Best Adapted Screenplay
Will win - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Should win - The Reader
First Impression Review

Morrissey - Years of Refusal B
He's still wishing you an unhappy birthday (because you're evil and you lie)

Moz is one of if not the best live acts I have ever seen, and Years of Refusal with its sonic force will undoubtedly sound phenomenal performed live. Since 2004's You Are the Quarry, Morrissey has been a critical smash and has somehow reinvented himself with a swagger of 50 year old man (he turns 50 this year), bedding hard-bodied 25 year olds on a regular bases. But the most famous (and allegedly) asexual won't be having any of that. Instead, he has put all of that repressed sexual energy into his songs- and I believe and hang on every note (except for Mama lay softly on the riverbed which I could do without).

I'm throwing my arms around Paris sounds like a man in need of comfort food in a comfort place... What better destination to drown your sorrows after a break up which is what I imagine when I listen to this song. But my favorite track is, It's not your birthday anymore, check out these lyrics:

it's not your birthday anymore/ there's no need to be kind to you/ and the will to see you smile and belong has now gone/ it's not your birthday anymore/ did you really think we meant all those syrupy, sentimental things that we said yesterday?

Years of Refusal has more in common with Ringleader of the Tormentors than the classic Your Arsenal, but most of the songs here are strong and blessed with Morissey's signature wit. The closing track, I'm OK by myself is also among my favorite tracks on the album that is revealing new gems with each spin.

Monday, February 16, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You - Movie Review

He's Just Not That Into You (PG-13) 129 minutes A
The rules (and exceptions) of loving & longing in Baltimore

Starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Kris Kristofferson, and Justin Long

So this is one of those films that most critics panned but I loved. Romantic comedies were my first love in films, so I'm a bit of a sucker for funny, introspective, and smart ones... even if their a little sappy and contrived. Perhaps I had my blinders on but I was totally into this film.

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle is one of the few critics that I found who liked the film, he brought up two excellent points in his review. He claimed that "Scarlett Johansson's Woody Allen exposure has paid off: In just a few years, she has become a deft comic actress." Which is interesting because at times I thought that the film displayed a certain Woody Allen"esqe" quality.

LaSalle also went on to say that "somebody in Hollywood has tried to make a thoughtful movie about love, and that rarely happens anymore. Let's take it and like it." To that I say, amen brother!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Air Force & Whisper House

First Impression Review
(& Album of the Week)

Xiu Xiu - The Air Force A

This is my second Xiu Xiu album and let me tell ya, there is no one else out there like this experimental, melancholy and odd indie rock outfit. Their not for everyone but more people need to hear this band. This is art! We tend to forget that music is an art. Xiu Xiu combines artistry, haunting introspection, hooks, and morose detail on this magnificent if not disturbing tour de Air Force.

First Impression Music Review Duncan Sheik - Whisper House A-

On the opening track of Duncan Sheik's new album he sings "It's good to be a ghost, it's better to be dead". A far cry from the breezy, clean cut, perceptions of 1996's insanely catchy Barely Breathing which put him on the mainstream map and brought him droves of adoring fans.

But nowadays Mr. Sheik is extremely underrated, although he is the current king of musical theater having won a couple Tony's and a Grammy for the Broadway smash, Spring Awakening.

Whisper House is his new studio album and the soundtrack for an upcoming play of the same name. The album is catchy and addictive pop tuneage, a candy coated layer of bittersweet songs over a core of ghosts and darkness. The recording feels at home within his catalog and has grown on me more and more with each listen. It has the potential to be amongst my favorite recordings.

He also has a cover album in the works in which he'll be covering the likes of: The Smiths, The Cure, Tears for Fears, and Depeche Mode. I'm anticipating that release with mixed emotion; on one hand I'm anxious to hear Sheik's take on these songs, but on the other I'm afraid there's no way he can improve on the original recordings... some of which are very near and dear to my heart.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fashion Disaster

I know the economy is causing a lot of people to cut back, but if you can afford to go shopping (for new clothes) now is the time. It's a bit out of character for me but I've been shopping 3 or 4 times in the last 2 month. My wardrobe sucks, and it's my own fault because I mostly shop at thrift stores, Ross, TJ Maxx, Old Navy, and similarly cheap stores. But lately I've stepped it up and ventured out to the mall.

I'm finding some incredible deals, a couple weeks ago everything I bought (a pair of corduroy pants, polo shirt, hat, and pullover) was all at discount prices. Tonight I found a pair of $80 dress slacks for $15 (they fit great!) along with other deeply discounted clothing (the theme/goal tonight was "dressy"!).

Problem is, my sense of fashion has gone to the dogs. It's hard to believe that I was once a stalwart believer of my own unique and personal style. I was always dressed to kill at every occasion and I felt good about myself. Nowadays I can't seem to mix and match my wardrobe if my life depended on it. My closet is a bunch of drab individual pieces waiting for a compatible companion piece- that certain shirt or pair pants that will make the nonactive clothing come alive!

Granted, my sense of style has evolved... but I don't feel like I have a solid fashion identity. It's a little pathetic but sometimes when I'm shopping I depend on that young and hip sales girl whose up on the latest fashion trends (because she doesn't think I'm a day over 30), or the well-dressed cougar with Mrs. Robinson type tendencies (she knows men and what looks good on me), or even the young, clean cut, dude with model looks (yes-he's gay), who can inform me of all the fashion dos and don'ts for straight men.

Anyway, dressing up seems to be my biggest problem. Most of the time I can rock some jeans and a button down (and/or sweater). It's that "cool, causal, dressy, I look great without putting much thought and effort into it look" that I can't seem to recapture. Then again, does it even matter any more? Who knows... but looking good feels good and compliments never hurt.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I still like Hootie bitch!

"I met a girl just the other day/Stop to talk she had alot to say/She told me all about politics/Then she told me something that made me sick" - Hootie & the Blowfish

Friday, February 6, 2009

Suburban Murder Mystery (book review)

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner B

Goodnight Nobody may not be Weiner's best effort, and for some of her followers it's their least favorite book. But Weiner is such a terrific writer that even at half speed she's still leader of the pack... and that's not to say she's at half speed here.

Initially this suburban tale starts off lighthearted and maybe even a tad cliche, but nevertheless I was entertained from the start. Besides, what do I know about being a white, upper middle class housewife, who may or may not have married on the rebound, and whose life has been turned upside down when she finds herself entangled in a murder plot.

After awhile I really became engrossed by the mystery, charmed by our heroine, and captivated by her antics (as well as the underlying marriage turmoil). Ultimately, I found Goodnight Nobody to be very satisfying and I look forward to continuing my trek through all of Weiner's novels.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Curtis Awards - Best Films of 2008

With the Oscars less than 3 weeks away what better time to unveil my favorite films of 2008. So without further ado I present a list of films that just might change your life. Drum roll please!!!!!

25. Stuck (tie)

25. Iron Man (tie)

24. Frost/Nixon

23. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

22. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

21. The Dark Knight

20. In Bruges

19. Role Models

18. Baby Mama

17. The Promotion

16. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

15. I'm Through With White Girls

14. Doubt

13. Snow Angels

12. Definitely, Maybe

11. Milk

10. The Bank Job

9. Slumdog Millionaire

8. The Wrestler

7. The Visitor

6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

5. Burn After Reading

4. Married Life

3. The Reader

2. The Wackness

1. Frozen River

Monday, February 2, 2009

Good Looking Man About Town & the Boss

Look whose on the cover of the latest issue of Filter magazine (on newsstands February 13).

Morrissey's new album drops on February 17th, and perennial music snobs and hard-ass music critics, Pitchforkmedia, has already declared it "his most vital, entertaining, and savage record since 1994's Vauxhall and I." I'm stoked! And I'm sure it'll be one of the best albums of 2009.

Bruce Springsteen also has a new album out, one that might be worth buying if only for one song - The Wrestler (from the film of the same name). I was a little disappointed with the last two Springsteen albums I bought (Magic and Devils & Dust), making me a little leery of buying this album- whose title sounds like a political slogan and an album cover more fitting for an American Idol runner-up.

The Pitchforkmedia review of Working On A Dream recalled similarities to The Rising, which wasn't a bad outing. But the review also goes on the say that "Queen of the Supermarket may be the worst thing he's ever written", and that "Springsteen doesn't seem to know what to do with himself."

When or if I get the album I'll let you know (whether it's worth the effort)... but only if, you're really interested.