Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ya Gotta Lovett (A Concert Review)

Lyle Lovett & His Large Band at Red Rocks B

It's been 15 years since the first time I saw Lyle Lovett live. That concert remains one of the top 3 concerts I have ever seen. His performance that night was legendary; it was like seeing Elvis in his prime (or so I imagine). The first song he played that night was Just the Morning from the album I Love Everybody. Road to Ensenada was not yet released and I think he was dating Julie Roberts. He played a new song that night called That's Right (You're Not From Texas) and I thought my head was going to explode- the song was amazing! And it's still one of my favorite songs to hear live.

Tonight he also debuted some new material and it too was phenomenal. I have to admit, I was a slightly underwhelmed by the last two albums (It's Not Big It's Large & My Baby Don't Tolerate) but after tonight's show I am stoked about the new album coming out in October. The only disappointment of the night was that he only played one song (Penguins) from I Love Everybody. An album that has overtaken Joshua Judges Ruth as my favorite Lovett album. Yet his ever present wit and undeniable charm make it impossible for Lovett to put on a bad show. The standout songs tonight - That's Right (You're Not From Texas), Closing Time, Keep it in Your Pantry and Walk Through the Bottomland.

An Upbeat and Bouncy Summer Soundtrack (A Music Review)

First Impression Review
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix B+

When I first listened to this album I thought it was just catchy summertime fun that would ultimately become disposable once the weather turned cold and summer was in our rear view.

Initially this album only motivated me to open my windows, turn up the volume and dance around in my underwear while singing into a hair brush. But after further review... it still makes me dance around in my underwear but it's also an essential summer soundtrack.

It's a little disco fabulous, euro-trashy, and synth-centric with a dash of the late 80's/early 90's. Yet most of all it's infectious as hell and a great album to listen to while you're getting ready for a night out on the town.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ritter Rocks Denver (A Concert Review)

Josh Ritter at the Bluebird Theater B

Why is Josh Ritter so darn happy? I've seen a lot of rocks shows in my day but rarely have I witnessed an artist so exuberant and simultaneously humble. Tonight was an angst free zone, and although I love angst and all that sad sap aggression. Tonight's show was a refreshing change that was fun and entertaining without feeling contrived.

It wasn't without its touching moments though, when he played Girl in the War it almost brought me to tears.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Sister's Keeper - Movie Review

My Sister's Keeper (PG-13) 106 minutes C+
Genetically engineered to make you cry

Starring Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin, Jason Patric, Sofia Vassilieva, and Joan Cusack

I haven't read the novel which this film is based on, nor do I plan too. But I have to hand it to Jodi Picoult for coming up with an original story that raises interesting questions about moral, ethical and legal issues concerning genetic engineering.

The first half of this film is nothing more than a Lifetime movie of the week, it wastes no time immersing you into the family's drama and the result is a feeling of apathy. But halfway through the film things start to get a little strange, a little funnier, and the movie becomes better for it.

Although he annoyed me at first, the catalyst for this change may have been Jesse (Evan Ellingson), the dyslexic brother who appears to be a meaningless character until we begin wondering if he's a druggie, street hustler, gay, or suicidal?

The most impressive roles here were turned in by Alec Baldwin and Joan Cusack, although the two sisters (Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva) are pretty adorable. I somehow managed not to cry during this film but I admit that I came close several times.

This Week's Album, Nanci Griffith - Flyer

If you're a fan of Contemporary Folk or Americana you won't find many albums better than Flyer. This album is a gem, full of folkie goodness and honest songwriting.

Original released in September of 1994, nominated for a Grammy in 1995 (Best Contemporary Folk Album), it sounds just as good today as it did 15 years ago. The album also boasts an all-star lineup of musicians (Peter Buck, Mark Knopfler, Emmylou Harris, Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton, Adam Duritz, The Chieftans, and the Indigo Girls) but never feels contrived, slick or overdone.

I've bought a couple of her albums since this one and none have ever come close to making me feel the way this one does.

Niggy Stardust Presents His Feminine Side with Flowers (A Book Review)

Saul Williams - She A-

Saul Williams has been called "Hip Hop's poet laureate", and "the Bob Marley of American poets". She is a humble collection of sensitive and self aware poetry marinated in emotional larceny.

Still Life with Woody (A Book Review)

Glenn Hopp - Woody Allen (Movie Icons) A-

This is more or less a coffee table/photography book that gives a visual biography of Woody's career. It's mostly captions and quotes from Woody, some of which are very enlightening. At $10 this book is an absolute steal of a deal!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Proposal - Movie Review

The Proposal (PG-13) 108 minutes B
A thin line between love and hate.

Starring Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Malin Akerman, Craig T. Nelsonn, Mary Steenburgen, Denis O'Hare, and Betty White

I think Sandra Bullock is a very talented actress who mainly does silly (big payday) films... But hey, whatever works right? The thing is, Bullock is starting to perfect these roles and when she has good actors/actresses opposite her and half way decent material the result is The Proposal.

A surprisingly vibrant and entertaining film in which everyone in the theater knew the outcome before they parked their cars at the cineplex. Yet there are enough minor plot twists to keep you interested and guessing.

I'm a sucker for romantic comedies and I found myself anxiously awaiting the part when they fall in love and they both realize it. I'm not giving anything away, it's a Sandra Bullock film for christ's sake... you know how she rolls.

American Central Bust (A Music Review)

First Impression Review
Son Volt - American Central Dust C
The media, the record company, or whomever has been promoting this album as the second coming of Trace, their magnificent debut album. But unfortunately this album doesn't come close to capturing the accessibility and hook of their 1995 classic.

I'd read that Down to the Wire and When the Wheels Don't Move were the album's best tracks, but only No Turning Back stood out during my first listen. Since then a few more tracks have grown on me but this is one hell of a slow burn. It's not a horrible album by any stretch, but it's a disappointment considering the brilliance of their last two albums.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Bright Future for the Left (A Music Review)

First Impression Review
Future Of The Left - Travels With Myself And Another B+

My friend Diddlefinger is more or less a musical savant. Recently when he gave me a copy of the new Future of the Left cd (I'd never heard of them before) I had no idea what to expect but at the very least I knew it wouldn't be boring.

The first track of this cd, Arming Eritrea totally and completely kicks ass- "Come on, Rick, I'm not a prize/I'm not a cynic or one of those guys. The guitars rip and roar, this opening track is guaranteed to remind you of the best song AC/DC never wrote and recorded.

The rest of the cd never lets a foot off the pedal. It's intriguing and rebel rousing, music that keeps an old man like me young.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pete Yorn Prolongs Pain We Will Deal with Eventually (A Music Review)

First Impression Review
Pete Yorn - Back & Fourth B

"Gotta let the boy have his way, 'cause he can't seem to drink it away" sings Pete Yorn on the opening track called Don't Wanna Cry. This album finds Mr. Yorn introspective and perhaps a little sad. He's conflicted, his feelings are back & fourth... love her, leave her, either way he can't stop thinking about her.

This is an easy listen unlike the sometimes brilliant sometimes scattered-brained Nightcrawler. Some of my friends will say this album is boring or a bit one dimensional, but I like to think that it's honest and endearing. There's just enough misery here to keep me happy although at times it's a thin line between Yorn being sensitive and just sounding wimpy.

After about 3 or 4 listens I've surprised myself by falling for one of the oddest tracks on the album, the strangely titled Social Development Dance, while Paradise Cove, Close, and Country flirt with breaking my heart every time I hear them.

This is a good outing and maybe his best since Musicforthemorningafter.

Eternally Grateful (A Music Review)

First Impression Review Sonic Youth - The Eternal B+

Somewhere I read that The Eternal sounds like a collage of old Sonic Youth albums. There is some truth to that but it's not a bad thing. This album reminds me of SY circa 1995... It's loose, intelligent and fun as hell. I can't wait to see them perform these songs live, they're sure to be completely mesmerizing at full volume with beer in hand.

Once again SY demonstrates why they are one of the most influential, innovative and important bands of our time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dando & Two Pretty Ladies have it Covered (A Music Review)

First Impression Music Review The Lemonheads - Varshons B

A covers album that features guest appearances by Liv Tyler and Kate Moss... for some this would've resulted in contrived cheez whiz . But Dando and company turns in an honest album that feels mature and essential.

I'm Sorry You Feel That Way ( A Book Review)

Diana Joseph - I'm Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog B-

I first discovered this book after reading a review of it in Entertainment Weekly. Several google searches later and numerous stellar reviews (of this book and her first book) I discovered that Diana Joseph once taught Creative Writing at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO (my old stomping grounds). I was intrigued and curious what would bring such a literary talent like Joseph to the western slope of Colorado.

The answer to that question and many more are revealed in this fast paced memoir, and even though I always talk about my cat at parties and often take my shoes off in public... I found Joseph extremely likable and relatable.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Whatever Works - Movie Review

Whatever Works (PG-13) 92 minutes C+
Curb your enthusiasm grumpy old man

Starring Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Begley Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Henry Cavill, Kristen Johnston, and Michael McKean

In many ways Whatever Works is vintage Woody Allen. Originally written in the 1970s the film has traces of Allen's legendary comedic flare along with witty social commentary. But unfortunately it's also a little flat and Larry David is a little tiresome despite doing an admirable job in the "Woody Allen role".

Whatever Works is a must for Woody Allen fans (like myself) and for everyone else it's a grab bag of sporadic humor. The film doesn't necessarily break any new ground but as Peter Travers (Rolling Stone movie critic) stated in his review, "no true movie fan will want to miss the comic mind–meld of Woody and Larry."

My 15 Favorite Woody Allen Films
1. Husbands & Wives
2. Hannah & Her Sisters
3. Play it Again, Sam
4. Crimes and Misdemeanors
5. Annie Hall
6. Manhattan Murder Mystery
7. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy
8. Manhattan
9. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
10. Melinda and Melinda
11. Match Point
12. Anything Else
13. Celebrity
14. Deconstructing Harry
15. Take the Money and Run

*Of the 40 films directed by Woody Allen I have seen approximately 33 of them. This list could/probably will change after viewing his entire filmography.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wilco (the band) delivers music for the masses (A Concert Review)

Wilco w/ Okkervil River at Red Rocks 7/3/09 B-

I'm not ready to categorize Wilco as "dad rock" yet, and their still better than most bands out there. But Wilco seems to be venturing into musical territory that sounds comfortable, content, and dare I say... boring? That's not what I signed up for a decade or so ago when I punched my ticket on the Wilco bandwagon .

It's hard to beat a Red Rocks show on a cool summer night. Tweedy and company were polished yet unsurprising (much like their last two albums), they sounded like the popular rock band they have become and delivered what most would consider an outstanding show. But unfortunately I'm not most people and I thought the show was only slightly above average. The band played for over two hours (including encores) and the highlights were Jesus etc, Spiders (Kidsmoke), I'm a Wheel, Bull Black Nova and Wilco (the song).

Friday, July 3, 2009

Food, Inc. - Movie Review

Food, Inc. (PG) 94 minutes B-
Meat is Murder

Starring Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosserhberg, Gary Hirschberg, and Joe Salatin

I still like chicken after watching Food, Inc. but I'm not so sure chickens like human beings. This documentary is a not so gentle reminder of where our food comes from and what it goes through before landing on our plates.

Some may find this documentary shocking, appalling and/or enlightening, but more importantly it's further evidence that most of us need to make better choices about the foods we buy and put into our bodies. As well as brings awareness of how politics (corporations, government agencies, etc...) dictates consumer health, farmers and the safety of our food workers.

The film is dry at times and feels a bit longer than 94 minutes, but I really think this is a documentary that should been seen by the masses.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 - Movie Review

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (R) 106 minutes B-
Denzel saves the day... and this film.

Starring Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli, and James Gandolfini

We pretty much know how a movie like this will end, the question is all the stuff that brings us to that point. People complain that some films (like this one) are too predictable, yet it's the kiss of death when a filmmaker makes a film in which the bad guys win.

So here we have a chunky Denzel Washington as an understated New York City subway dispatcher. I sense that he's suppose represent many of us who are trying to survive that rat race in these competitive and complicated times. While John Travolta represents the thinking man's bad guy... the Bernie Madoff type with a gun.

The film is entertaining and suspenseful even though we can all figure out how it'll end. But I also found it a little too slick at times and a little annoying with it's MTVish type production that goes for the wow factor over good old fashion grit.

This isn't a bad film though, it's what I would call a "popcorn movie". It's nothing that will stick with me after I leave the cineplex, but it was entertaining and worthy of a cold beverage and a buttery small popcorn.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

2009's Best In Film & Music so far...

Every year on or around my birthday I bring you the best in films & music for the first half of the year... So with no further ado here are my picks for 2009 so far... Enjoy!

Best Films
1. The Girlfriend Experience
It's not a film that everyone can or will appreciate, but it's the only film I've seen this year that I would have paid money to see twice (in the theater).

2. He's Just Not That Into You
The critics generally panned this film but call me crazy, I liked it... a lot.

3. Adventureland
Young love is often the purest, this is a charming film that's totally worthwhile.

4. State of Play
A really good adult drama about sex, politics and journalism.

5. Two Lovers
Joaquin Phoenix's curtain call and a refreshing (albeit odd) romantic drama.

Best Albums

1. AC Newman - Get Guilty
Catchy, consistent, and interesting from beginning to end.

2. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
This would be number one if J sang every song on the album... but it's still damn good!

3. Jill Sobule - The California Years
An honest album by a true underdog, the best album of her career.

4. Indigo Girls - Poseidon And The Bitter Bug
A very listenable album that sounds better and better each time.

5. Duncan Sheik - Whisper House
Underneath the catchy hooks and boyish good looks is a talented and underrated dark spirit.