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.
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!
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.