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.

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.

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 ( 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.