Sunday, January 31, 2010

Invictus - Movie Review

Invictus PG-13 134 minutes C
Rugby unites black and white

Starring Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman and Tony Kgoroge

Without giving too much away, Invictus is a pleasant film if not a played out sports cliche ("David vs Goliath"). The film is entertaining and recommended for those who like a nice uplifting story and want to feel warm and fuzzy afterwards.

Morgan Freeman is great, Tony Kgoroge is underrated and Matt Damon is good (even though his performance in the Informant! was much more impressive). My problem with this Clint Eastwood film is that it's very vanilla bordering on dull. When you look at his work over the last 8 or 9 years this film is not only less personal but it feels safe and a little formulaic. The subject matter is relevant and extraordinary but I couldn't help but feel ho-hum about it all.

Invictus is based on Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation by John Carlin.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Crazy Heart - Movie Review

Crazy Heart (R) 108 minutes B
An old fart steals a young heart and lives to sing about it

Starring Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Sarah Jane Morris.

With all due respect, Jeff Bridges is not an ugly guy but he plays one in this film. Maggie Gyllenhaal is not ugly (quite the contrary), so the obvious question is why would her character fall for Bad Blake (Bridges)- a broke, sweaty, alcoholic, chain smoking, washed up country music singer old enough to be her father?

The answer is why Jeff Bridges is the favorite to win the Oscar and the other answer is because the heart wants what the heart wants- it's unexplainable. On my radar of impossible hook-ups this ranks pretty high but it's not inconceivable.

Crazy Heart reminded me a lot of last year's film The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke & Marisa Tomei, it's essentially the same film except Bridges is a former country music star and Gyllenhaal is a music journalist.

I'm always up for a good "broken man" story that's introspective, mature and well-crafted... this is precisely it. Newsweek critic David Ansen said it best when he stated that the film is "like a good country song- not because it tells you something new, but because it tells it well."

The film is based on the Thomas Cobb novel of the same name.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sundance 2010

Well, it was another great year (our 4th in a row) at Sundance. We saw lots of great films and celebrities, but most importantly we saw young filmmakers challenging the status quo and artistically sharing their personal vision through film.

One of the biggest and most pleasant surprises for me was seeing the Joan Rivers documentary, Joan Rivers-A Piece of Work. I've never been a fan but this film caused me to have a new found respect for her and her comedy- she's funny! Pictured on the left is the photo I took of her and the two directors (Ricki Stern & Annie Sundberg) after the screening. And by the way, Morgan Spurlock (from Supersize Me) was sitting two rows in front of us.

Below are brief descriptions and grades of the films we saw.

Joan Rivers-A Piece Of Work A-
The surprising life of a hardworking, legendary comedian and pop icon who has paved the way for many female comedians. Contrary to popular belief she is more than a "plastic surgery freak" and I have to admit that it broke my heart when she said that no one has ever told her she was beautiful.

Bass Ackwards B+
The title of this film is terrible and because of that I was afraid that this film might suck. But despite the title it really won me over, a charming film about a lost soul who travels across America in a beat up 76 Volkswagen van. It's essentially the misadventures of a misfit, each town he stops in he learns a new lesson even though it's not always obvious. I think that you can find this film on YouTube right now or sometime in the very near future.

The Art of Drowning (short film) D-
This short was bad and the volume was up way too loud. Very forgettable considering I can still remember all of the shorts I saw last year and how remarkable they were.

Daddy Longlegs C+
I liked this film even though it was a little frustrating at times. Imagine Kramer from Seinfeld, slightly retarded, struggling to save himself from himself and is a divorced father of two young boys. He has custody of the boys for two weeks and in that time they are nearly kicked out of school, abandoned for hours at a time and nearly killed... That's the film in a nutshell. Pictured are the three main actresses from Daddy Longlegs (from left to right): Dakota Goldhor, Eleonore Hendricks & Leah Singer.

Mother & Child B+
This movie has already been bought and didn't feel like a true Sundance film. However, it was very good and what RW calls "a chick flick"... maybe so but this one should do very well in the female 30-50 demographic and guys who dig chick flicks (like me).

The Imperalists Are Still Alive B+
A beautiful, stylish and poetic film about a multicultural visual artist and her life, love and post 9/11 paranoia in New York. Pictured below is director Zeina Durra.

8: The Mormon Proposition B
Shame on the Mormon church. As a former Mormon myself I was appalled by the great lengths the church has gone to to ostracize the gay and lesbian community. Despicable!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On the road with the big three - NFL, MLB, NBA

Last summer I went to a White Sox game in Chicago and tonight I made my way to EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City to watch the Utah Jazz destroy the New Jersey Nets.

In order to complete the trifecta this summer I plan to attend an NFL road game. Ideally I'd like to see a game in an outdoor stadium in a city I've never been too. However, seeing a game at Arrowhead in Kansas City would be awesome not to mention (relatively) close and convenient. Most of the cities I'm considering have less to do with the actually football team and more to do with the ease of getting tickets, lodging and airfare.

I don't want to break the bank, I just want to travel and experience the NFL on someone else's turf. Between now and summer I'll have to do my homework. Last year I considered going to Orchard Park, NY to see T.O. and the Buffalo Bills because I found some cheap flights to NY, but a friend of a friend gave me the scoop on Ralph Wilson Stadium and the surrounding area. Basically he said it was a shitty stadium and it's neither close nor convenient getting to and from most hotels.

On the other hand, I hear that Seattle is one of the best places to see a NFL game. The stadium is close to the downtown, hotels and lots of cool bars yet tickets are hard to come by and lodging is pricey. Destinations like Jacksonville and Tampa Bay are on the radar for the upcoming year because Florida sounds nice in Oct/Nov and those teams rarely fill their stadiums. Along those same lines a co-worker suggested a Cardinals game in Phoenix because Southwest flies there and airfare is cheap...

Part of me believes that football is meant to be played and to some extent experienced in the elements. Cleveland, New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay would all be magical places to drink a beer and eat a bratwurst on a cold, crisp fall Sunday afternoon. So we'll see... Regardless of where I go and which teams I see the NFL is awesome! Until then, I'll anxiously await the release of 2010-2011 NFL schedule.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sounds So Good When I Listen (A Music Review)

First Impression Music Review
Joe Pernice - It Feels So Good When I Stop (Novel Soundtrack) B+

I always thought it would be cool to write a novel and create a "novel soundtrack". Well, it's been done and who better to do it than luminary musician Joe Pernice.

Many of you know him from his band the Pernice Brothers or perhaps the Scud Mountain Boys, but Pernice is also a talented writer/poet with a MFA from UMass.

Somehow this novel and its companion soundtrack fail off my radar and I didn't find out about this exciting development until a few weeks ago. I've yet to read the novel (it's in the mail) but I'm happy to report that the novel's soundtrack is very cool.

The soundtrack consists of cover songs that Pernice successfully makes his own and one original song from a fictional band called The Young Accuser. The standout tracks include "Found a Little Baby" (Plush cover), "Tell Me When It's Over" (The Dream Syndicate cover), "Chevy Van" (Sammy Johns cover) and "Hello it's Me" (Todd Rundgren cover).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Seperation of Church and Sex Education (A Book Review)

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta A

I really liked this book. The writing is outstanding and I felt a lot of mixed emotion in this tale of longing, religion and vulnerability.

Mixed emotions because I could never decide who I identified with most? The lonely single mother or the recovering addict who has accepted Jesus Christ as his everything.

Little Children and Election are two of my favorite films of all time (both Perrotta books), so I can't wait to dive into the rest of his work!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Single Man - Movie Review

A Single Man (R) 99 minutes B-
Everyone loves a sharp dressed man... even if he's depressed as hell

Starring Colin Firth, Ginnifer Goodwin, Matthew Goode, Julianne Moore and Nicholas Hoult

A Single Man is a stylish film set in 1962 Los Angeles about a college professor's struggle with grief and loneliness after the death of his long time partner. Much has been made about Colin Firth's performance in this film and well it should. It's worthy of the Oscar hype as he single-handedly carries the film. To use a music analogy, A Single Man is Firth's solo album with guest appearances by the Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult and the delectable Julianna Moore.

Adapted from Chris Isherwood's novel of the same name and directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, I loved the cool darkness of Firth's character who is on the brink of suicide and sexual indulgence. But overall the film is too overdressed (metaphorically speaking). Ford's eye for detail is unquestioned and this is an impressive directorial debut. Yet all the elegance and style trumps emotion. I wanted to like this film more than I actually did and unfortunately I never felt any genuine compassion for the main character (mainly I thought he was cool, if not morbidly depressed).

Ironically this film is like a pretty girl who is nice to look at even though it's certain that you will not take her home with you.
Bonus DVD Review

Resurrecting the Champ (PG-13) 111 minutes C+
I'm going to do some shameless name dropping here which will impress no one.

DVD Release Date April 1, 2008
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Josh Hartnett, Peter Coyote, Teri Hatcher, Alan Alda, Kathryn Morris, David Paymer and Harry J. Lennix.

Resurrecting the Champ is based on a LA Times Magazine article written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist/author J.R. Moehringer. I had the pleasure of meeting Moeringer at a reading at the Tattered Cover and ran into him a second time in Utah where we both attended the Sundance Film Festival.

Anyway, I put off seeing this film for a long time because Josh Hartnett seems like such a cheese ball. Yet in each film I've seen him in (The Virgin Suicides, Lucky Number Slevin and now this one) he's been surprisingly good. Matter of fact, he's the best thing about this film. Samuel L. Jackson does a good job as well but I have a soft spot for films about writers/journalist.

Also in this film is Kathryn Morris, the blond from the television show Cold Case. I've never watched Cold Case but I must have seen her a million times in commercials for the show. During the entire film I keep thinking "that's the chick from Cold Case... I wonder if that show is any good?"

Resurrecting the Champ is a decent film, but it feels a little like a made for TV movie. It's a good rental and it's especially interesting if you live in Denver because some of the film was shot here and features cameos by John Elway and Jake Plummer.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Avatar - Movie Review

Avatar (PG-13) 150 minutes B-
Pretty on the outside...

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Peter Mensah, Laz Alonso, Wes Studi, Stephen Lang and Matt Gerald.

Films like Avatar (Sci-Fi/Adventure) are normally not my cup of tea, yet there's no denying that the film is visually stunning and a landmark in 3-D technology, computer generated animation/live action, etc... But the rest of the film leaves something to be desired.

Several of the characters seemed cheesy (Colonel Miles Quaritch), contrived (Trudy Chacon), uninteresting (all of the "human" characters with the exception of Sigourney Weaver) and I am not alone in feeling this way. film critic Stephanie Zacharek called it "clumsy storytelling" with "godawful dialogue", Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News describes the story as "pure cheese", while Scott Tobias of The Onion explains that it's "a weak patchwork" of Cameron's other films.

I know a lot of you have already seen this film and loved it- that's cool. It's by no means a bad film and I recommend seeing it in 3-D. But the script is weak and not worthy of being called "the best film of 2009". Cameron spent a lot of money making this film look amazing, plus a lot of bells and whistles to keep audiences intrigued, however, much of this feels like a mirage - all beauty and not enough substance.

Curtis's Favorite Albums of 2009

Honorable mentioned: Pet Shop Boys - Yes, Lemondheads- Varshons, Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career, Sonic Youth - The Eternal, Lyle Lovett - Natural Forces, Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson - Break up, Morrissey - Years of Refusal, Chris Isaak - Mr. Lucky, John Mayer -Battle Studies

(tie) 10. Dinosaur Jr- Farm
(tie) 10. Pearl Jam - Backspacer
9. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
8. Future Of the Left - Travels with Myself and Another
7. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
6. Indigo Girls - Poseidon and the Bitter Bug
5. Duncan Sheik - Whisper House
4. Morrissey - Swords
3. Jill Sobule - California Years
2. AC Newman - Get Guilty
1. Pete Yorn - Back and Fourth