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.
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

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.