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 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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

San Diego 30 Dallas 13