Friday, December 31, 2010

My Gray Morning - Best Music 2010

My Gray Morning's Musical Soundtrack 2010
"Of all noises, I think music is the least disagreeable" - Samuel Johnson

15.1,000 Years - Corin Tucker Band
She will always remind me of Sleater Kinney.
14. Love and Its Opposites - Tracey Thorn
I always over use this term but it truly is "heart-breakingly beautiful".
13. How I Got Over - The Roots
I still don't think this album has reached it's full potential with me.
12. Brothers - Black Keys
Surprisingly infectious, I liked this album more than I thought I would.
11. Write about Love - Belle and Sebastian
Always embodies my pouty, whimsical, lovable side.
10. Dear God I Hate Myself - Xiu Xiu
Not their best but it made an emotional connection.
9. Transference - Spoon
I'm surprised how much I like this album every time I listen to it.
8. Swim - Caribou
Inspires me to dance like a dehydrated Helen Keller.
7. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West
It took awhile but it finally clicked... believe the hype.
6. Grinderman 2 - Grinderman
It's true, Nick Cave is my dark, twisted, cool soul brotha from another mother.
5. Lonely Avenue - Ben Folds & Nick Hornby
Where literature and music collides, breaks my heart and makes me smile.
4. Heaven is Whenever - The Hold Steady
Hurricane J might be my favorite song of 2010, it makes me feel alive.
3. Goodbye, Killer - Pernice Brothers
I'm not sure I listened to any other cd more in 2010.
2. Thank Me Later - Drake
A hip hop album with indie sensibility, the most surprising album of the year.
1. High Violet - The National
The National has never been an easy listen but this album is epic in a very modest manner.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Black Swan - Movie Review

Black Swan (R) 107 minutes B
Lose Yourself

Starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassell, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder

Black Swan begins as a gritty, intense melodrama before venturing into David Lynch/skinemax/bloodletting high-art. Yet Black Swan is no less intriguing even when director Darren Aronofsky overreaches; specially the eurotrash club scenes with "Tom" and "Jerry" and the much talked about sex scene (you'll know it when you see it).

The aforementioned sex scene is sexy but it feels a little cheap and slightly unnecessary despite providing one of the film's funniest one liners shortly thereafter.

This film is good, Natalie Portman is great! It made me want to go to the ballet, It made me feel sorry for the protagonist (Portman) while feeling simultaneous frustrated with her.

If you're like me and go to see Black Swan without knowing much about it be prepared for a ride. It's creepy, sad, sensual and weird but never boring.

With award season just around the corner I doubt this film will win any Best Picture accolades but don't be surprised when Portman walks away with multiple Best Actress statuettes. It's an interesting film to say the least and worth checking out!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tiny Furniture - Movie Review

Tiny Furniture (R) 98 minutes A-
Postgraduate delirium and other bad choices

Starring Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham, Jemima Kirke, Alex Karpovsky

How could I not like Lena Dunham? She's talented, charmingly funny and full of naked ambition. In this semi autobiographical, deadpan comedy the twentysomething writer/director/actress has created a wickedly entertaining film that has been compared to Woody Allen's earlier works.

Tiny Furniture was reportedly made for around $50,000, shot with a $1,500 camera, filmed in the family's New York loft and stars Dunham's mother and sister. Many of the actors were not professionally trained, yet several moments here feel authentically awkward, sad and real (see the film's lone sex scene).

The film follows the plight of Aura (Dunham) who has just graduated from college, been recently dumped by her college boyfriend and "temporarily" moved back home with her family. The plan is to get a job, an apartment and figure out what she wants to do with her life. But Aura quickly finds that the transition from college life to real world responsibility can be daunting. Especially when you're vulnerable, unmotivated and living in the shadow of an overachieving mother and sister.

This is a good film that's not for everyone but highly recommended for those who like low-budget, bittersweet indie comedies.
Bonus DVD Reviews
Man Push Cart (NR) 87 minutes B+
Missing someone and something he can't forget

DVD Release Date: October 2007
Starring Ahmad Razvi, Leticia Dolera, Charles Daniel Sandoval and Ali Reza.

A very heartfelt story about a man who once had it all- a beautiful wife and a promising music career. Now he's just a "Pakistani guy selling coffee and doughnuts" and trying to survive in New York City.

The film was one of Roger Ebert's ten best of 2006 and nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards.
Blind Date (NR) 80 minutes C
Desperately trying to save the date

DVD Release Date: December 2009
Starring Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson.

A surprisingly sad and depressing film about a couple who try to cope with the death of a child by pretending to be strangers and meeting for blind dates. Tucci and Clarkson are two of my favorites, if this film was done by anyone else it would've been a total disaster.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'm Doin' Me Before the World Ends (Music Reviews)

First Impression Music Review Drake - Thank Me Later A-
Release Date: June 2010
Full disclosure: Before I heard this album my only exposure to Drake was that catchy Sprite commercial where he's in the studio, not feeling the flow, he drinks a Sprite and his face, body and mind explodes into a gushing, carbonated wave of lemon-lime refreshment and rejuvenation- "Last name Ever/first name Greatest".

Later I noticed Thank Me Later was racking up good reviews, both Time and Rolling Stone magazines hailed it as one of the top ten albums of the year. Yet, despite the warm critical reception I was still skeptical of the unknown mainstream artist. Especially since the rap game doesn't excite me like it use too.

But to my surprise, Drake, once the star of a teen television drama called Degrassi: The Next Generation, has delivered one of my favorite albums of the year. One that I've been bumpin in my car nonstop. It started as a grower and has blossomed into a bonafide mainstay in my rotation.

The review stated that Drake "sings or raps the word I 410 times on his debut album. Even in the realm of hip-hop-- a style famous for its unswerving solipsism-- this is a feat." However, a little self indulgence isn't so bad when you have something worth saying, something that connects with a lot of people on a humanistic level. That bond is part of what hooked me along with a refreshing vulnerability and lush, atmospheric beats that rarely grandstand like another highly praised hip hop album I reviewed a few weeks ago. Thank Me Later is worth being thankful for now!

Favorite Tracks - Fireworks, Karaoke, Over and Fancy,28804,2035319_2034644_2034627,00.html

Pernice Brothers - The World Won't End B
Release Date: June 2001
The World Won't End is vintage Pernice Brothers; smart, sympathetic lyrics wrapped in acute reflection and observations. At first listen it's not as accessible as later releases but ultimately very rewarding. More than just a sad sack record, Pernice proves once again he's one of the best songwriters of our generation.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tenspeed and Blackshoe (Book Review)

Walter Mosley - Fear Itself B-

I've always thought of Walter Mosley as a legendary figure in literature. Fear Itself probably wasn't the best place to start but it was enough to inspire further reading.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Throwing Kinney (Music Reviews)

First Impression Music Reviews
The Corin Tucker Band - 1000 Years B
Release Date - October 5, 2010
1000 Years sounds enough like a Sleater Kinney album to make it instantly likable, yet different enough to stand on its' own. Since leaving SK apparently Tucker has become quite the domestic goddess, fortunately for us it hasn't made the music any less vital.

Favorite tracks - "It's Always Summer", "Dragon", "Riley" and "Doubt"

Kristen Hersh - Cats and Mice B-
Release Date: June 8, 2010
Hersh is never an easy listen for me but she always wins me over with her underdog grit, earthly wit and bewitching voice. Cats and Mice is a live, stripped down, unedited recording of her at Yoshi's in San Francisco. It may not do much for those unfamiliar with Hersh but for the rest of us it's a nice treat.

Favorite Tracks - "Deep Wilson", "Fortune", "Winter", "Teeth"

Friday, November 26, 2010

Love and Other Drugs - Movie Review

Love and Other Drugs (R) 110 minutes B-
Beauty and Other Disorders: Use as directed

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Josh Gad, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria and Judy Greer

Once you get past all the naked perfection that is Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway you'll find a slightly above average Hollywood rom-com that is thoroughly entertaining but easily forgettable.

Love and Other Drugs is a familiar story of two unlikely characters who meet, fall in love and break-up before realizing that they can't live without each other. But the film is not without its redeeming qualities, most of which involve Maggie's (Hathaway) struggle with early onset Parkinson, Jamie's (Gyllenhaal) commitment to her and reliving Viagra during its infancy.

In a recent issue of Newsweek writer Jennie Yabroff wrote a piece titled Who Wants to See Anne Hathaway's Breasts? In it, Yabroff admits "there are worse ways to kill 90 minutes than watching two gorgeous actors cavort semi nude." The film didn't really affect me emotionally like a good rom-com can but indeed Yabroff's assessment is correct.

The film is an adaptation of Jamie Reidy's book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman and Jennie Yabroff's piece is worth a glance

Recommeded for fans of Gyllenhaal, Hathaway, rom-coms and partial nudity.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Frustrating Album by a Frustrated Artist (Music Review)

First Impression Music Review
Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy B-
Release date: Novemeber 23, 2010
Whether you love him or hate him, if you're a connoisseur of hip hop music it's hard to ignore him. I've grown to like Kanye more and more with each consecutive album so I thought this would be the one to truly blow my mind, peaking after the whole Taylor Swift/public backlash. I looked forward to an album full of smart and witty lyrics, tight beats and snarky angst.

What I have after 3 listens is one ridiculously frustrating, slightly annoying, overly cluttered album with moments of brilliance that are overshadowed by gimmicky showmanship. Hey, I love Chris Rock as much as the next guy, but here I don't need his banter about p*ssy for what feels like 15 minutes on the track Blame Game.

After additional listens I hope to uncover more of the Kanye that makes him one of the few hip hop artist that always evokes me to stand up and take notice.

Favorite track - "Power"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fair Game - Movie Review

Fair Game (PG-13) 104 minutes B+
She Got Game

Starring Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly, Bruce McGill, Brooke Smith, David Denman, Noah Emmerich, David Andrews and Louis Ozawa Changchien

Fair Game is an edge-of-your-seat political drama based on Valerie Plame's memoir, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House. Plame is played wonderfully by Naomi Watts, while Sean Penn is outstanding as her husband, Joseph Wilson.

Some of you may remember the Valerie Plame's story from 2003... She was the CIA agent whose cover was blown after top secret information leaked to the press. Adding fuel to the fire was her husband's involvement in the operation and his published op-ed piece suggesting that President Bush exaggerated the nuclear threat to legitimize the U.S. shock and awe type onslaught. This is a top-notch dramatization of real life events. Recommended.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tamara Drewe - Movie Review

Tamara Drewe (R) 111 minutes B+
Plastic Fantastic: A former ugly duckling seeks love and shags in witty British comedy

Starring Gemma Arterton, Roger Allam, Dominic Cooper, Tamsin Greig and Luke Evans

Personally, I found Tamara Drewe to be a lot of fun; enjoyable and recommended to fans of saucy British sex comedies and/or the lusty eyed literary types. Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Posy Simmonds, Tamara Drewe is essentially an ugly duckling story with twists and good subplots.

It all starts at a writer's retreat in a small English village. Tamara Drewe hasn't been seen since she moved away years ago and in the meantime she's acquired a new nose (to replace the oversized bumpy one she sported as a teen) and a smokin hot body that stops men and women alike in their tracks. This sort of discourse leads to quite a stir in the sleepy village and sets off a chain of sad, funny and sentimental events.

This is one of my favorite ensemble films of the year. There isn't one character here that I didn't find engaging at some point. It never rises to the point of belly achingly funny or strikingly great, but it is a steady dose of bittersweet that inspires and enthralls.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Due Date - Movie Review

Due Date (R) 100 minutes D
Sour & Expired

Starring Michelle Monaghan, Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis, Juliette Lewis, Danny McBride and Jamie Foxx

How could I have known that Due Date would be this disappointing? It has good actors (Downey, Galifianakis) and a good Director in Todd Phillips (Old School, Road Trip and The Hangover). But perhaps all this talent is the reason Due Date has expired. It feels like a film trying too hard and settling for the cheap laugh. Essentially it's nothing more than mindless filler until Phillip's next commercial smash, 2011's The Hangover II.

Despite a few laughs here and there the film relies heavily on the tireless shtick between Downey and Galifianakis. It's a two man show that unfortunately doesn't have enough cameos like those by Danny McBride (butt kicking disabled Vet) and Juliette Lewis (weed dealer).

At the Atlanta airport our two main characters meet, Downey is a polished, rageaholic architect heading to L.A. to be with his pregnant wife. While Galifianakis is a socially inept buffoon with Hollywood dreams. Somehow the two find themselves on the no-fly list after a string of chance encounters and inappropriate interactions at the airport/on the plane. Soon, all they have is each other and a due date to get back to L.A.

What ensues is sometimes funny but mostly stupid. The film gets worse as it goes along and by the end this odd couple, buddy comedy derails into forgettable fodder.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Three To See From The 33rd Starz Denver Film Festival

Starz Denver Film Festival November 3rd - November 14th
We only saw three films at this year's Festival but they were three very good films! Please look for each of these to open in wide release next month.

I Love You Phillip Morris (R) 102 minutes A-
Love Crimes

Starring Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor and Leslie Mann

Gay, gay, gay, gay, gay! The best performance of Jim Carrey's career!

Helena from the Wedding (?) 89 minutes A
Lovely & Amazing

Starring Lee Tergesen, Melanie Lynskey, Gillian Jacobs, Dagmara Dominczyk, Paul Fitzgerald, Dominic Fumusa, Jessica Hecht and Corey Stoll

It's not for everyone but I completely adore this film, it's a wonderful example of why I love low-budget indie films. Among all the quiet despair, longing and anxiety lies one of the most beautiful and true odes to coupling I've seen this year.

Made in Dagenham (R) 113 minutes B
Hey Ladies

Starring Sally Hawkins, Jaime Winstone, Nicola Duffett, Andrea Riseborough, Lorraine Stanley, Geraldine James, Rosamund Pike, Bob Hoskins, Rupert Graves and Miranda Richardson

Women fighting for equality at a Ford Dagenham assembly plant (Ford of Britain subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company) in 1968 and looking very stylish in the process. This is the performance that should earn award-winning actress Sally Hawkins an Oscar nod. As well as her co-star and two time Oscar nominee Miranda Richardson. The film is a little predictable but one that will make you stand up and applaud afterwards.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rockin' the Suburbs with High Fidelity (Music Review)

First Impression Music Review
Ben Folds/Nick Hornby - Lonely Avenue A-
Release Date: September 28, 2010
“Some guy on the net/Thinks I suck/And he should know/He’s got his own blog” are lyrics from "A Working Day", the opening track on Lonely Avenue. But au contraire, mon frère, this album does not suck! How could it? Words by the novelist Nick Hornby, music and melody by Ben Folds...

Spin magazine described this collaboration as "music nerd-dom", and although it is goofy at times, it's mostly clever, snarky and sentimental; a familiar concoction for Folds followers. With Hornby on board I can't help but feel like there's so much more to the story than these 4 minute piano-pop gems.

With subjects ranging from Levi Johnston, poet Saskia Hamilton, hacking into a girlfriend's email account, divorced parents reuniting for a daughter's birthday and neighbors with an affinity for weed, junk food and violent pornography. This album is 100% entertaining from beginning to end.

Favorite tracks "Picture Window", "Belinda", "A Working Day", "From Above" & "Claire's Ninth"

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Secret Life of Water (Book Review)

Amber Flora Thomas - Eye of Water B
Publication Date: October 2005

Eye of Water is an award winning collection of poems about coming of age, coming alive and allowing life to pass through us like water; ultimately molding us into who we become. The more these poems marinate in my mind the more impressed I am by their depth, reflection and maturity.

I liked Eye of Water from the start but I also felt like something was missing... That was until I read a poem titled "In My Hand" about 1/3 of the way through the book. It jumped off the page and demanded I read it again and again. The author's observation and meditation of seemingly small details felt almost spiritual as they resonated within my imagination.

My favorite poems in this collection include: "Tree House", "Marlboros at Dusk" and "Magdalene Speaks".

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger - Movie Review

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (R) 98 minutes B-
Domestic angst and the unpredictability of love

Starring Freida Pinto, Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Lucy Punch, Neil Jackson, Naomi Watts, Ewen Bremner, Anna Friel, Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones

The title of Woody Allen's latest film, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, signifies the disillusionment and mystery of love/romance. In somewhat typical fashion the film follows two unhappy couples as they long for love and search for greener pastures. The dramedy is not unlike Allen's past endeavors and no less brilliant.

Roy (Josh Brolin) is a novelist trying to avoid being a one-hit wonder. After a successful debut novel years ago he's produced nothing but flops. His wife Sally (Naomi Watts) has sacrificed her own dreams of starting a family to support and encourage Roy. Lacking any kind of emotional connection they both seek solace in others: Roy admires the beautiful stranger next door while Sally quietly fantasizes about running off with her wealthy boss (Antonio Banderas).

Meanwhile, Sally's parents announce they're divorcing after 40 years of marriage. Helena (Gemma Jones), Sally's mother, is distraught. Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), Sally's Dad, feels he has been reborn- "he's had his teeth whitened and his skin darkened". Alfie takes up with a prostitute turned actress who is half his age while Helena turns to a fortune-telling charlatan who only tells her what she wants to hear.

At first the film comes off as a little dry, but a week later it's still lingering in my head. The ending was a little off putting as well because story builds a full head of steam and ends abruptly.... Then again, such is life sometimes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Follow You Down But Not That Far (Music Review)

First Impression Music Review Gin Blossoms - No Chocolate Cake D+
Release Date: September 28, 2010

I've always been drawn to the GBs catchy pop rock sound and modest lyrics. But No Chocolate Cake feels terribly unoriginal and dated. With the exception of a few songs and a few appealing lyrics this album borders on cheesy. It reminds me of ripped jeans and big hair, if this was 1988 it would be epic!

Favorite Tracks: "I Don't Want to Lose You Now" & "Somewhere Tonight"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Social Network - Movie Review

The Social Network (PG-13) 121 minutes A
A War He Can Afford

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Rooney Mara and Justin Timberlake

It's fiction loosely based on nonfiction (Ben’s Mazrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires) and yet more proof that the pursuit of beauty, money and to some extent, revenge, is what fuels the world.

Essentially The Social Network is a film more about revenge and less about social networking. The opening scene finds Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) being dumped by his girlfriend who exclaims, “dating you is like dating a Stairmaster” before leaving our antihero bewitched, bothered and bewildered at the bar. Moments later back in his Harvard dorm room, drinking insistently and still fuming from the break-up, Zuckerberg creates “Facesmash”, which later becomes "thefacebook" and eventually just “Facebook”. It all results in Zuckerberg becoming the youngest billionaire in the world and a world-class asshole.

I loved this film mostly for its exploration of human behavior. Minus the smarts and access to free money (from his friend “Eduardo” played by Andrew Garfield) Zuckerberg is a familiar representation of today’s society of longing to belong, status updates and friendship. Many times during the film I found myself cheering for Zuckerberg while simultaneously wishing he wouldn’t be such a jerk because then he could have it all. But his jerkiness is what makes the film so winning and keeps the audience engaged: he's the geek you love to hate.

The Social Network is talky, it’s one of the few (but common) complaints I’ve read about the film. Yet it’s masterfully made- crisp and clean with a witty upbeat pace. Not to mention it's scored by none other than Trent Reznor.

Highly Recommended!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Switch - Movie Review

The Switch (PG-13) 101 minutes B-
Bateman & Switch

Starring Jason Bateman, Jeff Goldblum, Jennifer Aniston, Patrick Wilson and Juliette Lewis

The Switch isn’t much more than your typical Hollywood rom-com but it does have a couple things in its favor: the always attractive (no matter how bad the film is) Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman who makes any film he’s in better.

In The Switch Wally (Bateman) and Kassie (Aniston) are bff’s and of course Wally is in love with Kassie and Kassie is oblivious to this...or so it seems. After a few colossal screw-ups by Wally he realizes he’s in love and has to win her back. Sound familar? Yeah, it's the same old same old plot line. But The Switch still manges to entertain due in large part to Bateman.

Loosely based on a short story called "Baster" by Jeffrey Eugenides the film also features nice supporting roles by Juliette Lewis, Patrick Wilson and Jeff Goldblum.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Interruption of my time (Book Review)

Terry McMillan - The Interruption of Everything D-
Publication date: July 2005

I had to force myself to finish this one. I didn't like or care about any of these characters. Disappointing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Never Let Me Go - Movie Review

Never Let Me Go (R) 103 minutes B-
Longing, hopelessness and Cary Mulligan looking sweet and innocent

Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, Charlotte Rampling and Sally Hawkins

I didn't read Kazuo Ishiguro's novel (of the same name) from which this film is based, nor did I have any idea what this film was about before I saw it. But the trailer looked intriguing and I heard the novel was terrific.

Tauted as a sort of artsy science fiction film, it's really just a haunting romantic drama laced with longing and unrequited love. It follows three friends, an adolescent love triangle and their deadly fate. Never Let Me Go unfolds slowly, it's not terribly exciting or uplifting, but Cary Mulligan makes it worth watching.

If you're looking for a good cry this is the film for you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Living the Dream...Or Not (Book Review)

Juliana Hatfield - When I Grow Up B+
Publication Date: September 2008

Juliana Hatfield was buzzworthy in the early nineties. Her first solo album, Hey Babe, was one of the top selling indie albums of 1992 and the follow-up one year later, Become What You Are, spawned two successful singles - "My Sister" and "Spin the Bottle".

These days Hatfield is less popular but just as relevant. As a fan of her music I enjoyed the insight into her rocknroll fantasy and sequential reality. In this memoir she tends to get a little bogged down in mundane details and I would've preferred more about the albums/songs. Nevertheless it's still an interesting glimpse into the life and pressures of an indie rock musician who was once the "next big thing".

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rock Crowd Put Your Arms Around Me (Music Review)

First Impression Music Review
Pete Yorn - Pete Yorn B-
Release date: September 28, 2010
Could Pete Yorn have come up with a less original album cover and album title? And what about the second track on the album- Rock Crowd? The first time I heard it I thought it could be the cheesiest song he'd ever written.

My first spin of PY left me feeling less than impressed but Yorn has an uncanny way and growing on me and really getting under my skin. After about 4 or 5 listens I can't get Rock Crowd out of my head even though I still think it sounds a little cheesy.

I read that he recorded the album while fighting the flu, knowing this gives the album an element of suffering yet determination. Sorta like Game 5 of the 1997 NBA championship between the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls when Jordan had the flu but still managed a very memorable 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. PY may not be that remarkable but it has its moments.

Favorite tracks- Precious Stone, Velcro Shoes, Stronger Than & Future Life

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Eternal Flame For Sonic Youth (Concert Review)

Sonic Youth w/Caldera Lakes @ the Ogden Theatre B

Tonight was my 6th Sonic Youth show and probably the must understated one that I've seen. With a wave and a smile the band walked on stage and kicked off their set with Bull in the Heather from 1994's Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, followed by Sacred Trickster from their most recent album, The Eternal.

Fans expecting to hear a heavy dose of the ever popular (and classic) Daydream Nation were probably disappointed because almost half of tonight's set consisted of songs from The Eternal. Nevertheless you can't go wrong with a Sonic Youth show, they're easily one of the greatest bands and live acts of all time.

Here is tonight's set list:
Bull in the Heather
Sacred Trickster
No Way
Calming the Snake
Catholic Block
Anti-Orgasm (dedicated to the Tea Party)
Poison Arrow
What We Know
Massage the History
Encore 1
The Wonder
Encore 2
Shadow of a Doubt
Expressway To Yr Skull

Friday, October 1, 2010

Easy A - Movie Review

Easy A (PG-13) 90 minutes B+
A high school sex comedy minus the sex

Starring Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Dan Byrd, Thomas Church, Patricia Clarkson, Cam Gigandet, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell, Aly Michalka, Stanley Tucci, Fred Armisen, Juliette Goglia and Jake Sandvig

Easy A is the story of how a little white lie can snowball into an avalanche of lies (despite temporarily enhancing your social and financial status). On the surface it may seem like just another teen comedy... and it is more or less. But it's also clever, smart and funny.

Directed by Will Gluck the film also pays homage to 80's cult favorites like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Say Anything giving it a certain amount of cinematic street cred so to speak.

Great cast, lighthearted and recommended. Get your popcorn and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Le Noise Sounds Fresh But Will It Stick? (Music Review)

First Impression Review
Neil Young - Le Noise C+
Release Date: September 28, 2010

Sonically I love the way this album sounds, lyrically I'm not sure if it really breaks new ground. The more I listen to Le Noise the more I like some songs and the less I like others.

For whatever reason I'm afraid I might shelve this one sooner rather than later, however I've yet to listen to it on headphones which I think will add another dimension.

Not a bad album but once you're pass that initial excitement of raw, electric gutiar fuzz I'm not sure Le Noise has long term staying power...

Favorite tracks: Rumblin, Hitchhiker

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Town - Movie Review

The Town (R) 124 minutes A-
A Gritty and Compelling Crime Drama with Heart

Starring Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper and Jon Hamm

The Town grabbed me from the beginning and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Based on Chuck Hogan's 2004 novel Prince of Thieves and directed by Ben Affleck the film brilliantly takes an old theme (one last heist/an honorable thief) and creates something thrilling, fresh and humanistic. Affleck proves that his first directorial feature, Gone Baby Gone was no fluke. The Town cultivates the gritty, blue-collar Boston formula of his last film and delicately balances adrenaline filled action with heartfelt melancholy.

The Town is short for Charlestown, Massachusetts, a place reportedly known for its bank and armed car robberies. Doug MacRay (Affleck) was a local kid, from a broken home, who had a shot at playing pro hockey but instead he inherited the family business - robbing banks. He and his band of brothers were a well-oiled machine until MacRay fell in love with Claire (Rebecca Hall), a hostage from one of their heists.

Ultimately (without knowing) Claire became MacRay's “Yoko Ono”, motivating the ringleader to turn away from a life of crime and live an honest life. However, he must complete one last job, and we all know what happens when the criminal with a heart of gold vows to do "one last job".

Nevertheless this is an excellent film and one that might require a bit of patience from moviegoers expecting nonstop action. Small performances by Blake Lively (Gossip Girl), Chris Cooper and Pete Postlethwaite are tight and on point. While Jeremy Renner is just as good here as in the Hurt Locker. Jon Hamm (Mad Men) seemed a little out of place at first, yet by the end he and his five o’clock shadow will grow on you... as will this ambitious film.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - Movie Review

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (PG-13) 127 minutes B+
Greed is back and better than ever.

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Susan Sarandon, Josh Brolin and Frank Langella

A rare sequel that's better than the original, that's the case with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. A timely film about greed, revenge and of course, Wall Street.

It's not essential that you see the first Wall Street film from 1987 but if you have it makes the sequel more enjoyable.

The performances are solid all around and the film maintains a nice balance of serious drama and light-hearted moments. It feels a little long at 127 minutes but rarely is there a dull moment.

Gordon Gekko (Douglas) is back and he's as smooth as ever!
Bonus DVD Review
Wall Street (R) 126 minutes B
Rise and Fall of a Hustler

DVD Release Date: November 2000
Starring Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, James Spader, Daryl Hannah and Hal Holbrook.

Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a young broker from a working class family. He has big dreams, big ideas and nothing gets you there faster than money- lots of it! . Wall Street is really an age old story of greed and corruption, ironically that's pretty much the story 23 years later in real life.

Watching it now the film is a little dated (in a good way) and a little long... it also helps if you understand all the Wall Street mumbo jumbo. All in all it's a solid film that gets better as it goes along not to mention an Oscar winning performance by Michael Douglas.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Can Get With This or You Can Get With That (Literary Event Review)

Dave Zirin w/ David Sirota @ Mercury Cafe A-

Tonight I gave up seeing the ultra-talented and very beautiful Koren Zailckas (at the Tattered Cover), she's the author of one of my all-time favorite books, Smashed: the Story of a Drunken Girlhood.

To see an equally talented, but not as visually appealing (no offense) writer, Dave Zirin... and I can't say I was disappointed. Zirin, the author of a new book, Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love made a tour stop at the Mercury Cafe with special guest David Sirota.

His new book is very enlightening and a little scary. Do I really want to know about the politics behind sports? Why owners, teams and cities are motivated to do the things they do? Big business, shady deals, yadayadayada... It's all very thought-provoking but is ignorance bliss or does knowledge equal power?

Check out his book and decide for yourself.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'm Still Here - Movie Review

I'm Still Here (NR) 108 minutes INCOMPLETE

Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck

Back when I thought this documentary was real (for a week after I saw it) I was going to give it a solid "B". I thought it was a striking exposé of a troubled and tortured soul, not too mention the crazy beard, whores, blow and excrement- pure entertainment!

But now that I hear it was all a hoax, I'm not sure what to think... Much like the Blair Witch Project circa 1999 and the Crying Game in 1992, this film was better when I didn't know the "secret". Nevertheless Joaquin Phoenix deserves credit for such a convincing performance, many of us truly believed he was really that f*cked up. Touché.

Read more about this hoax at Chicago Robert Ebert's Journal

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Range Life (Concert Review)

Pavement w/ Jenny & Johnny @ the Ogden Theater C

I will admit that I have a pet peeve about bands who "goof off" too much on stage and it overshadows the music. I'm not trying to be a buzz kill, I love witty rock star banter between songs and interaction with audience. But when it comes to the music it's serious business. I've spent hours upon hours marinating in these songs and losing myself in the lyrics so at a live show I want to soak it all in.

I was stoked about seeing Pavement tonight, one of the seminal alt-rock bands of the 90's. For the past week I'd been listening to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Slanted and Enchanted, albums that sound just as good today as they did 18 and 16 years ago. But maybe my expectations were too high or maybe I just missed the boat (both the Westword and the Denver Post raved about the show).

This stop on their highly touted reunion tour was light-hearted and fun, yet it felt uninspired and forgettable. There were moments of brilliance and moments when I thought that euphoric feeling was about to kick in... but no, instead my feet started to ache from standing and I grew less and less enthusiastic. It made me wish I'd seen them in the early 90's when they still had something to prove.

It wasn't that Malkmus and Co. were being goof balls all night, it was more that the songs didn't resonate. I didn't feel that rhythm in my soul when they played my favorite songs. At times it seemed like the band was rockin their balls off but songs were sung half-heartedly, other times it seemed like Malkmus didn't care about singing at all while Bob Nastanovich did his best Flava Flav impression.

It pains me to sound so negative about a band who has provided me with so much pleasure but I guess you can't win them all. For a more positive spin check out the reviews below.

Denver Post

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Answer Key - NFL Preview 2010

My annual picks and predictions for the upcoming NFL season.
*Wildcard teams

AFC East
The Jets are good but not as good as everyone thinks.

1. New York Jets 10-6
2. Miami 9-7 *
3. New England 8-8
4. Buffalo 5-11

AFC North
Ravens D is getting old but on paper this team looks solid through and through.

1. Baltimore 11-5
2. Pittsburgh 9-7
3. Cincy 9-7
4. Cleveland 6-10

AFC South
Colts will win a division full of talented but inconsistent teams.

1. Indy 10-6
2. Houston 9-7 *
3. Tennessee 8-8
4. Jacksonville 6-10

AFC West
Chargers strength of schedule is one of the weakest in the league.

1. San Diego 10-6
2. Denver 7-9
3. Oakland 6-10
4. Kansas City 6-10

Number in parentheses = playoff seed
(6) Houston over (3) San Diego ............... (4) NY Jets over (5) Miami
(1) Ravens over Houston ..................(2) Indy over NY Jets
Ravens 21 Colts 14

NFC East
I'm hoping Shanny can derail the Cowboys.

1. Dallas 11-5
2. Washington 8-8
3. NY Giants 8-8
4. Philly 7-9

NFC North
Brett Favre probably should've retired after last season.

1. Green Bay 10-6
2. Minnesota 9-7 *
3. Chicago 7-9
4. Detroit 6-10

NFC South
Atlanta has all the tools and could be the NFL's biggest story this year.

1. Atlanta 11-5
2. New Orleans 10-6 *
3. Carolina 8-8
4. Tampa Bay 5-11

NFC West
Singletary gets it done in a competitive but woeful NFC West.

1. San Fran 9-7
2. Seattle 7-9
3. Arizona
4. St. Louis 4-12

(3) Green Bay over (6) Minnesota ..... (5) New Orleans over (4) SanFran
(1) Dallas over New Orleans ............ (2) Atlanta over (3) Green Bay
Atlanta 27 Dallas 17

Baltimore 20
Atlanta 17

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Get Low - Movie Review

Get Low (PG-13) 100 minutes B
Life, love and getting low

Starring Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek and Robert Duvall

Get Low is loosely based on real-life events that happened in Roane County, Tennessee in 1938. It tells the story of Felix Bush, a recluse who wanted to throw his own funeral party while he was still living. The goal was for people to share their stories about him, the same ones they've been telling each other (behind his back) for years.

For decades the mysterious hermit with a bad reputation lived in a self-imposed prison deep in the woods, his only companions; an aging horse and memories he can't forget.

As word of his funeral party spread Bush realizes that people are too afraid to share their stories, most of which are bad, because of what he might do to them (rumor was he had killed several people). So instead of listening to stories Bush decides he needs to tell his own, set the record straight and separate fact from fiction.

Not a lot happens in the film, it relies heavily on acting and storytelling which are both above average. Get Low won't get you too high but it will stay with you and it might even evoke a little emotion.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Life During Wartime - Movie Review

Life During Wartime (NR) 98 minutes C+
Try to forgive, forget and not relive what makes you upset

Starring Allison Janney, Ally Sheedy, Paul Reubens, Michael Kenneth Williams, Charlotte Rampling and Shirley Henderson.

As I was watching this film I overheard the lady sitting directly across the aisle whisper to her friend, "this movie is so morbid". That's the nature of unconventional director Todd Solondz whose latest film, Life During Wartime examines the lives of dysfunctional and unhappy people as they struggle (and sometimes fail) to stay afloat in a post 9/11 society.

The film is a sequel to Solondz's 1998 film, Happiness, however, none of the actors from Happiness are in Life During Wartime. Characters that were Caucasian in Happiness are African American in Life During Wartime. Characters that were fat in the previous film are skinny in this one, the young are old and the old are young... catch my drift? Solondz reinvented old characters and made them new by changing their ethnicity, body, age, etc...

Life During Wartime is a hard film to watch. It feels disconnected and the acting is hit or miss. I loved the "Joy" character played by Shirley Henderson, Ally Sheedy and Charlotte Rampling can do no wrong and Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman) in a dramatic role- excellent! But I cringed when Michael Kenneth Williams (from HBO's The Wire) and 13 year-old Dylan Snyder were on screen, I didn't find their characters convincing at all.

Solondz films aren't always great, are rarely mainstream, yet they're always intriguing. That's why he's worth watching.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gray Delivers Celtic Soul & Quiet Storm (A Music Review)

First Impression Music review
David Gray - Foundling B
Release date: August 17, 2010
Less than a year after his last album, Draw the Line, David Gray drops his ninth LP, Foundling. An album that Gray described as a "private record" during an interview with Elizabeth Day of The Observer.

Foundling is the polar opposite of Draw the Line. The new release is introspective and intimate, most of which sounds lovely and amazing over the course of this 2-disc CD.

You won't find anything here you haven't heard from Gray before, yet these songs will get under your screen and stuck in your head. Fans of his 2001 release, Lost Songs, will love Foundling. It's an album that's guaranteed not to disturb the peace but it might take your heart and mind to places they haven't been in awhile.

Favorite tracks: "When I Was In Your Heart" , "Indeed I Will" and "Who's Singing Now".

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eat Pray Love - Movie Review

Eat Pray Love (PG-13) 133 minutes B-
A New York state of whine

Starring Julia Roberts, Billy Crudup, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Javier Bardem and Viola Davis

The things I liked most about Elizabeth Gilbert's 2006 memoir are the same things I liked about the film adaptation- the longing, the hurt and the wanting to escape it all and reconnect to one's core self. Unfortunately most of us can't afford to spend a year traveling, eating and mediating but luckily through the aforementioned mediums we can live vicariously.

Eat Pray Love is fairly realistic to a point, a the catastrophic break up (in this case a divorce), the inevitable doomed rebound relationship and soul searching that makes you question everything including the ability to live and love. Naturally the book trumps film in the details department by providing grittier insight to her true emotional and mental state. But when her journey to Rome, India and Bali begins so does the disconnect to anything I could ever relate too.

First stop is Rome (“eat”), in many ways my favorite segment, yet the most uneven and superficial. India (“pray”), probably the most substantial and heartwarming, while Bali (“love”), seemed the most indifferent and necessary.

The film features an outstanding cast that includes a couple Oscar winners and a few Oscar nominated actors/actress, none of which shined brighter than Richard Jenkins; he played the "Richard from Texas" character.

Julia Roberts brings charm and charisma to the role of Elizabeth Gilbert, however a lesser known actress probably would've have been more effective. Throughout the film I found myself watching Julia Roberts play Julia Roberts instead of Elizabeth Gilbert being portrayed by Julia Roberts.

I'm not one for spoof films but I would be intrigued if someone adapted Andrew Gottlieb's 2009 parody Drink Play F*ck: One Man's Search For Anything Across Ireland, Las Vegas and Thailand.

EPL was enjoyable if not a little exhausting, but all in all it's a worthy adaptation.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

All I Want Is To Feel This Way (A Concert Review)

Toad the Wet Sprocket w/ John Common & Blinding Flashes of Light @ Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder C+

It’s easy to take for granted a band like TTWS. They're not flashy, outlandish or sexy. They're just a band with a funny name who had a respectable string of hit singles between 1991 & 1997 before breaking up in the summer of 1998.

As far as I know TTWS haven’t technically gotten back together yet they still tour together from time to time and tonight was one of those times.
I don’t dislike Toad but I was never a big fan. I have their 1991 release, Fear, on cassette and 1999's P.S. (A Toad Retrospective) on CD. Normally I'd prefer that an artist play deeper albums cuts sprinkled with their more popular songs during a live show, though tonight I was hoping for all the singles that made them radio darlings during the mid-nineties.

They opened the show with Something's Always Wrong (one of my favs) and played several songs from Fear that I'd completely forgotten about like "Before You Were Born", which didn't sound all that great.

Surprisingly two of the most disappointing tunes of the night were two of their biggest hits- All I Want and Walk on the Ocean, both sounded tired and uninspired. During the encore would've been a perfect time for Glen Phillips to come onstage alone and play a raw, acoustic version of Walk on the Ocean instead of the flat, sing-along the band did at the end.

Overall the show was OK. I sorta like Glen Phillips, he seems like a hard working, serious musician who loves making music. His solo career may not be as financially successful as TTWS but it might be just as substantial.

As for the opening band, John Common & the Blinding Flashes of Light... they seemed nice but bored me to tears.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

First Impression Music Reviews

Once again I've gotten behind on my First Impression Music Reviews. Here's the latest batch.

The Black Keys - Brothers B
Release Date: May 2010
A pleasantly surprising stylistic jaunt that's fun, infectious and sounds good in my car stereo. My only problem is that it goes on a little too long and doesn't sustain the momentum. Trim the fat (3 or 4 songs) and this is one of the best albums of the year.

Sleater-Kinney - All Hands on the Bad One A-
Release Date: May 2000
The music rocks and everything about this album is hot!
Sincerely yours,
Riot Grrrl Fanboy.

Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away B-
Release Date: May 2010
Everything I've seen, heard and read about Josh Ritter indicates that he's an intelligent man, great musician and a genuine nice guy. But I'll be damned if he isn't making it hard to like his latest offering. It's a hard listen, a slow burn and one that I like better each time I listen. Most of the songs here are strong even though they don't always flow together as a whole. Perhaps he planned it that way because often times it's these albums (the slow burns) that are ultimately the most rewarding.

Richard Ashcroft - Human Condition C-
Release Date: February 2003
This album has moments of respectability but overall it's a bit of a bore. The first couple listens I felt like it was a cool guy trying too hard to craft a cool (commercial) album. But upon further review it's just a nice, slightly boring album that would be right at home as the background music for a contrived, melodramatic night time television drama. Check the Meaning.

The Roots - How I Got Over B
Release Date: June 2010
I started really hot on this one and then cooled a bit. Still it's a refreshing change from some of the stagnant hip hop currently dominating the airwaves.

Devo - Something For Everybody C+
Release Date: June 2010
Can you believe I bought a Devo album? Damn that People magazine for writing such a good review of their first album in ten years. Something For Everyone isn't for everyone but it is the perfect album to throw into a party mix. Here you'll find a number of upbeat, feel good tunes that's sure to bring out your inner geek.

Katie Herzig - Live in Studio: Acoustic Trio B-
Release Date: October 2009
After seeing her live this album feels like a bit of a let down but realistically it's pretty solid.

Patrick Porter - Lisha Kill B
Release Date: March 2005
I totally discovered this by accident and it ended up being quite the little treasure. I'd never heard of Patrick Porter before and haven't heard about him since but this atmospheric jewel seems to keep finding its way to my stereo.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - Movie Review

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (PG-13) 112 minutes B+
Great Scott! He Got Game

Starring Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Alison Pill, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Johnny Simmons, Mark Webber and Ellen Wong

From director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) comes the most inventive and original film of the summer - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Some will say that Michael Cera plays the same character again and again but this might be his finest moment.

One of my favorite young actors, Cera is becoming the master of deadpan comedy. Here he plays the lovelorned Scott Pilgrim, a sensitive, 22-year-old slacker from Toronto who plays bass guitar in a band called The Sex Bob-omb.

The story begins with Scott and his new 17-year-old girlfriend, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) getting to know each other and playing Dance Dance Revolution. Scott hasn't been lucky in love and seems smitten with Knives until he meets Ramona. Ramona is literally the girl of his dreams, a real game changer, but true love comes at a price. Scott Pilgrim must fight Ramona's seven evil ex's before they can truly be together.

Sounds silly? It is! But man is it good fun! Not to mention one of the most quotable films I've seen in a while; "Bread makes you fat!?!" or "Wait, they make films in Toronto?". And even though the fight scenes are a little redundant the film is completely infectious and a wonderful homage to video games.

New York Times film critic A.O. Scott liked this film as did I, he brilliantly stated that it's "violent like a video game and sexy like a pop song on the radio". Scott Pilgrim vs. the World isn't for everyone but anyone up for an adventure should check it out.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Salt - Movie Review

Salt (PG-13) 99 minutes B-
Wham! Bam! Thank You Ma'am

Starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, and Chiwetel Ejiofor

If you're planning to see this film the less you know about it the better. But I will tell you that Angelina Jolie is an ass-kickin machine and bona fide action star in Salt.

That being said, this is nothing more than a popcorn movie (with extra "salt"), entertaining for 99 minutes and forgotten a few days later. The explosions, car chases and fight scenes are fast and furious, yet the plot is so outrageously ludicrous it's laughable (luckily we don't watch action films for the realism).

I am a fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Liev Schreiber but Jolie is the only reason worth watching. In this film she's sorta like the female equivalent of Jason Bourne. The role of Evelyn Salt (Jolie) was originally written for a man, thankfully that didn't happen or else this would've been just another run-of-the-mill espionage action thriller.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mr. Isaak, You Don't Cry Like I Do (Concert Review)

Chris Isaak A-
@ the Arvada Center 8/7/2010

Normally I'm not one for antics when I go to a concert. Rock star banter, humor, stories behind the songs- sure! But too much screwing around gets in the way of the music; all the passion, emotion and intensity I feel when listening to the CD should be magnified at a live show.

Chris Isaak sings some of the most bittersweet love songs you'll ever hear, he’s criminally handsome (hard to believe he’s over 50) and a goofball. Fortunately he knows where the antics end and the music begins. His live show is the musical equivalent of good cop/sad cop, one minute he can make us smile, the next he breaks our heart.

Back to Rockville, the music blog of the Kansas City Star once wrote, “when your goal is to entertain and you look and dress like Chris Isaak, you've won half the battle before you open your mouth.”

I swear he's the ultimate showman, a true entertainer. Each time I've seen him he gives the audience exactly what they want, whether it's channeling his inner Elvis, crooning like Roy Orbison or posturing as love's most loveable loser.

Tonight’s show at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities was no different. In front of a sell-out crowd he performed a variety of retro roots rock, upbeat rockabilly and at least one track from each of his studio albums. Highlights include the opening song "Lonely With a Broken Heart" from (my personal fav) the San Francisco Days album, a revamped gospel version of "Worked it Out Wrong" from Always Got Tonight and a wonderful acoustic rendition of "We Lost Our Way" from his latest album, Mr.Lucky.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Inception - Movie Review

Inception (PG-13) 148 minutes D-
Wake me when it's over

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine

I applaud director Christopher Nolan for trying to make a dark, complex and innovative film but in my opinion he totally misses the mark. Many friends and critics loved Inception (and more power to ya!), I on the other hand didn’t understand what was happening nor did I care.

I wanted to like it, after all, it had been called the ultimate "mind f*ck". Yet I disliked this film from the start. It felt disingenuous and reminiscent of an issue of GQ magazine; full of high fashion, smug expressions and slicked back hair.

Quarterbacking the film is Leonardo DiCaprio, he delivers one of the most insincere performances of his career. Even the Keanu Reeves-like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the adorable Ellen Page couldn't save what critic Rex Reed called “pretentious perplexity”.

A 148 minute hodgepodge of corporate espionage, extracting dreams, unfinished business with the dead, secrets of a dying father, endless high speed chases, gun fights and slow motion action scenes... what's so dreamy about that!

Inception is easily the most disappointing f*ck of the year.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Kids Are All Right - Movie Review

The Kids Are All Right (R) 104 minutes A-
Donor dad turned father figure falls in love with a lesbian.

Starring Annette Bening , Julianne Moore , Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson, and Mark Ruffalo

Sometimes the best films are the hardest to write about because I desperately want to convince you that The Kids Are All Right is one of the best films of the year.

It's the story of a middle-aged lesbian couple raising two teenagers. Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are no different than any other couple (gay or straight) and when their 18 year-old daughter (Mia Wasikowska) contacts the biological father - aka sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo), their marriage and family unit are threatened.

Sounds pretty intense but the film never takes itself too seriously and the dialogue is whip-smart, witty and realistic. It's an outstanding comedy/drama with universal appeal; a terrific alternative to the over hyped and underwhelming summer blockbusters.

The Kids Are All Right and you'll be too after seeing this wonderful film. Highly recommended!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Secret Lives of Housewives (Book Review)

In The House by Lynn K. Kilpatrick B
Publication date: February 2010

In The House reminds me of a Radiohead album- creative, beautiful, odd and smart. With its starts, stops and variations it's like an album in book form.

My favorite among this collection of character sketches, shorts-lists, scripts and directions is a story called My Neighbors. Kilpatrick's debut is darkly poetic and highly intriguing, I'm already looking forward to the next level of domestic bliss. Knives Out!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The New Lonely (Book Review)

Lonely: A Memoir by Emily White C+
Publication date: March 2010
Despite the subject matter I thought this memoir might be inspiring (lonely lawyer pursues real passion, succeeds as writer) and a good way to explore my own loneliness. White's personal story is interesting and White herself is extremely likable, but too much of Lonely focuses on research and case studies which are informative yet repetitive.

I would have preferred more memoir and less technical writing, nevertheless it's still a worthy examination of depression vs loneliness and various stages/conditions of being lonely.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Best Music of 2010 so far: A Mid-Year List

5. Bettie Serveert - Pharmacy of Love

4. Xiu Xiu - Dear God, I Hate Myself

3. The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever

2. Spoon - Transference

1. Pernice Brothers - Goodbye, Killer

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pretty Girls With Guitars (Concert Review)

Katie Herzig w/Megan Burtt B+
@ the Walnut Room 7/8/10

RW has been raving about this Katie Herzig since she saw her open for Brandi Carlile this past January. The singer-songwriter grew up in Fort Collins and went to school at the University of Colorado in Boulder before moving to Nashville four years ago. It had been a long time since I've gone to a rock show to see a headlining artist I'm completely unfamiliar with but tonight I was up to the challenge.

The opening act was a personable and talented singer named Megan Burtt. Burtt struck me as a somewhat typical female singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar- she played well, sounded nice, looked good and had a few standout songs. Yet in a field saturated with artists who can do just that she pulled off a nice opening set but nothing that motivated me to explore her further.

Herzig on the other hand is everything Burtt is not, granted, Herzig was accompanied by two outstanding musicians (Claire Indie & Jordan Brooke Hamlin) who added depth and richness to her songs.

First thing that stood out about Herzig was how her tiny voice effortlessly filled the room and made for a perfect companion to her quirky, rustic, modern/yet classic sound and lyrics. Even though I didn’t know any of the songs almost all of them hooked me immediately (especially a song called "Hologram" which sounded unbelievably powerful live/acoustic)

She has a nice stage presence that evokes a serious musician passionate about her craft, a quiet confidence and subtle sense of humor. I was very impressed tonight and I'm expecting greater things to come from Herzig.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Best Films of 2010 so far: A Mid-Year List

10. The Ghost Writer

9. Chloe

8. Kick-Ass

7. I Am Love

6. Please Give

5. Cyrus

4. Mother and Child

3. Greenburg

2. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

1. The Square

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Get Him to the Greek - Movie Review

Get Him to the Greek (R) 109 minutes B
Will you come for my bangers, beans and mash

Starring Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Rose Byrne, Sean Combs, and Elisabeth Moss The first time I saw the trailer for Get Him to the Greek I thought this film would be good. Jonah Hill is always good for a few laughs and who better to play a rock star than Russell Brand (reprising his role from Forgetting Sarah Marshall).

But it's not quite as sharp, nor is it a laugh-a-minute riot I thought it would be. It's a little bit of a cluster f*ck at times and relies on a lot of over the top comedy that fortunately never jumps the shark. Once acclimated to the pace and mood the film is very rewarding.

Basically it's the story of Aaron Greene (Hill) and Aldous (Brand) as they try to come into their own personally and professionally. Aaron's mission is simple- fly to London and bring him back to L.A. to do the show. Aldous has other plans, namely women, booze and drugs. What incurs is a comedic thrill ride that's sometimes funny, sometimes sad but always entertaining.

Knight and Day - Movie Review

Knight and Day (PG-13) 110 Minutes D-
Mission Impossible - Night or Day is crap anytime

Starring Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Maggie Grace, and Marc Blucas

Everyone who knows me knows that I'm an Indie film guy first. Many (not all) of the Hollywood films these days are mindless distractions that sacrifice art for profit. Yet with that said, it has been duly noted that I am a Tom Cruise fan.

Despite the popularity of Les Grossman, his Tropic Thunder character, it's probably uncool to like Tom Cruise these days but the guy intrigues me (Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia, Vanilla Sky, Collateral, Jerry Maguire are my best examples). I've seen over 20 of his films and I'd have to say that Knight and Day is the most disappointing.

In this film Cruise has truly become a caricature of himself, and even though a few of the signature smirks and looks still remain the film is flat and ridiculously chaotic. I'm convinced that this was made with the hopes of capturing every audience/demographic possible.

Cruise and Diaz are present for looks and star power, Viola Davis for the African American set, Paul Dano and Peter Sarsgaard for indie cred, and stupid catch phrases like "I got this" repeated over and over for the sake of having a popular catch phrase. Let's not forget the abundance of car chases, guns, fight scenes, explosions, and a classic car or two for audiences who have a love for such shenanigans. Furthermore there's no nudity which also appeals to a wider audience, after all violence = ok, nudity = bad.

Bottom line- no art, lots of profit is the goal. I'm so disappointed Cruise signed on to do this. Next time leave this sh*t for the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's of the world. Knight and Day was a waste of my afternoon.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cyrus - Movie Review

Cyrus (R) 92 minutes B+
Creepy man-child, depressed divorcee battle it out in Cyrus

Starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh, and Katie Aselton

John (John C. Reilly) is a freelance editor who has been depressed and uninspired since his wife divorced him seven years ago. But his luck begins to change when he meets a beautiful, curly haired brunette named Molly (Marisa Tomei). Molly is divine, the woman of John's dreams and she also comes with baggage; a creepy 21 year-old man-child (Jonah Hill).

Dark humor, subtle comedy and excellent cast. Hill is becoming a comedic tour de force, while Reilly, Keener and Tomei are always worth the price of admission. Recommended!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Plum Good Advice from a Bestselling Author (Book Review)

How I Write by Janet Evanovich w/ Ina Yalof B
Publication date: September 2006
I have never read a Janet Evanovich novel yet I bought How I Write because I was curious to know the "secrets of a bestselling author". However these secrets aren't really secrets at all, it's just good advice with excellent examples from her previous works.

Much of the instructional stuff I've heard before (school, writing panels, conferences, writing books, etc...), but what sets this apart is Evanovich's sense of humor in regards to herself and her writing. Much like her Stephanie Plum character this book is mainstream and likable with a down-to-earth approach.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Please Give - Movie Review

Please Give (R) 90 minutes B+
Giving us something to think about

Starring Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Sarah Steel, and Ann Guilbert

Sometimes the best gifts come in small packages. That's the case with Please Give, a humanistic slice of life film that doesn't impact you all at once, rather it builds slowly on the screen and in your mind long after you've left the theatre.

Directed by Nicole Holofcener (Friends With Money, Lovely and Amazing, Walking and Talking), she quietly continues to make thought-provoking art that imitates life.

In short, Please Give is about living, dying and the mundane, complex and guilt that it often brings (without bringing you down).

Recommended for fans of indie films, Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet and/or Rebecca Hall who delivers one of her best performances.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Jill and Julia Show (Review)

The Jill and Julia Show
@ Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret 6/25/10 A

Jill & Julia is Julia Sweeney (SNL, Letting Go of God) and singer-songwriter, Denver native Jill Sobule.

We had seats directly in front of the stage, close enough for Sobule to apologize for spitting on RW.

The show was filled with heartfelt songs from Sobule and humorous heartfelt stories from Sweeney. Afterwards we had the opportunity to meet them both. Sobule and I briefly discussed being "music nerds" and an upcoming EP she's doing with John Doe.

It was a night I won't soon forget, a spectacular evening of songs, wit and commentary!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Am Love - Movie Review

I Am Love (R) 120 minutes B+
Feast of Love - How Emma got her groove back

Starring Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti, Gabriele Ferzetti, Pippo Delbono, and Edoardo Gabbriellini

The film opens with postcard-like wintry scenes of Milan's snowy vistas blanketed by a bitter chill. I Am Love is poetic, symbolic and the most visually satisfying film I've seen this year. Director Luca Guadagnino has created a bold melodrama that's artistically astonishing and lustfully delicious.

Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton) is a Russian exile who married into a rich Italian family. She's a quiet and dutiful wife whose eyes are filled with a mother's love. A wealthy husband, three adult children and a mansion filled with servants, Emma appears to have it all.

For the first ten or fifteen minutes I didn't know what was going on or where the film was headed. I sensed something stirring but wasn't sure why I should care. It's not until Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a talented young chef arrives with a mysterious package that the film begins to take shape.

Antonio eventually becomes best friends with Emma's son, Edo (Flavio Parenti), and impresses Emma with his masterful culinary skills and subtle charm. Winter soon turns to Spring, love comes out of hibernation and into bloom. Emma is reborn, overwhelming passion has resonated and can not be contained.

The love affair that ensues is utterly captivating and organic. Emma is insatiable and alluring, I became so engrossed in her that at one point I swear I could smell her perfume as she roamed the mountainside in a backless orange dress.

I Am Love may require patience from most mainstream audiences, but once this film kicks into gear all of your senses will thank you. Tragically beautiful and emotionally authentic, I Am Love is love at all costs...often the best kind.