Tuesday, March 30, 2010

And She Kissed Me... ( Book Review)

Said the Shotgun to the Head by Saul Williams C+

Saul Williams is a true artist in every sense of the word. Said the Shotgun to the Head has some beautiful and inspiring moments but ultimately it didn't have the emotional impact I'd hoped for. I was also conflicted about the book's format... arty yet distracting.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Guy Unfortunately Not Taken (Book Review)

The Guy Not Taken (stories) by Jennifer Weiner C

Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorites but unfortunately this collection of stories didn't resonate with me. Swim and Buyer's Market were outstanding, but the rest were lukewarm at best.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Close, But No Mcmuffin (Concert Review)

Xiu Xiu at Hi Dive 3/27/10 C+

Xiu Xiu is a small band, a duo in fact, and on Saturday night they brought big sound and even bigger emotion to one of Denver's hippest dive bars- Hi Dive (located at 7 South Broadway).

Frontman Jamie Stewart is an intriguing figure and just watching him is always worth the price of admission, but on this night noise trumped artistry while volume drowned the vocals. I was slightly disappointed that they only played 4 or 5 songs from the new album and just when they seem to be hitting their stride the show was over.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Ghost Writer - Movie Review

The Ghost Writer (PG-13) 128 min B
Writers of the Storm

Starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, and Eli Wallach

The Ghost Writer is a mature and well-crafted conspiracy thriller about a ghost writer who becomes a pawn in the deadly game of politics.

Ewan McGregor gives the best performance of his career, while Olivia Williams steals every scene she's in. Polanski does a brilliant job of creating a suspenseful atmosphere that's dark, gloomy and full of intrigue; everyone in this film seems like they're missing something or someone.

Kim Cattrall is surprisingly good and my only negatives are that it feels a little long and slow paced at times. Otherwise this is a good film that's worth seeing while it's in theaters.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

She's Out Of My League - Movie Review

She's Out of My League (R) 105 minutes C+
Geek gets the Girl

Starring Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, T.J. Miller, Nate Torrence, Krysten Ritter, Geoff Stults, and Lindsay Sloane

You've seen this film before- geeky guy gets smokin hot girl, loses smokin hot girl, then wins her back after he realizes he can't live without her (duh!). I'm not really giving anything away here because every knows that this is what happens in mainstream romantic comedies, the question is can it entertain us even though we know the outcome? And in the case of She's Out of My League the answer is sorta...

This is a very watered down rom-com that imitates smarter/better films in the genre yet it does have its moments. I laughed a few times and Jay Baruchel is more or less believable as an underachieving, non-chick getting, buffoon with good intentions.

It might be worth renting if you're in the mood for a light-hearted comedy that's stupid, crude and at times funny. Don't expect it to be anywhere as good as Wedding Crashers, Knocked Up, The Hangover, etc... But it's entertaining enough to get you through a bowl of popcorn and a cold beverage.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fear and Self-Loathing in My Own Little Sacramento (Music Review)

First impression Music Review
Xiu Xiu - Dear God, I Hate Myself B+

Xiu Xiu has always sounded like a band on the brink of a nervous breakdown and I love them for that. On the title track frontman Jamie Stewart sings "I will always be nicer to the cat than I am to you" with complete sincerity. While on the opening track "Gray Death" he promises to be extra outrageous. He delivers... as always.

Dear God, I Hate Myself is a peek inside the mind of a serial killer, a scorned lover and a hopeless romantic. It's perversely exquisite and delectably creepy... at least that's how their albums always come off to me within the first few listens.

There are three songs in the middle of the album that slightly disappoint, but overall this is an exciting and terrific outing for Jamie Stewart and his ever changing band mates. I can't wait to see these guys live next week!

Standout Tracks - "Chocolate Makes You Happy", "Cumberland Gap", "House Sparrow", Dear God, I Hate Myself", "Apple For A Brain" and "Gray Death".

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Life & Times of a Material Girl (Book Review)

Pretty In Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, Or the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomanical, Self-Centered Smart Ass Phase by Jen Lancaster B-
I read her blog and watched her book trailers. Jen Lancaster is witty, funny and cute; some have even called her the female David Sedaris. Yet as I made my way through the beginning of Pretty in Plaid I was afraid that it might not be to my liking.

In this, her fourth memoir, Lancaster takes us from the pre-teen years as a smart-ass fashionista through the college years as a smarter, smart-ass fashionista.

At first I was slightly put off by her bratty, materialistic, egomaniac rants, but as her life unfolded I became more and more entrenched in her world of fashion, crappy jobs, frustrating parents and dreading Mondays. Even the Sex and the City stuff was a nice parallel.

PIP got better as it went along and by the end I was definitely wanting more. The epilogue was especially intriguing because this was my first foray into Jennsylvania. I'm curious about how she became a writer and how she got rich (and lost it all?) during the dot.com boom.

Since this is a prequel to Bitter is the New Black I guess that memoir will be my next adventure to J-Town... and I'm looking forward to the bratty, materialistic, egomaniac rants, not to mention more inspiration.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What's So Funny About Peace, Love & Juliana Hatfield (Music Review)

First Impression Music Review
Juliana Hatfield - Peace & Love B-
In 1992 Juliana Hatfield released her first solo album called Hey Babe. The songs "Nirvana", "Everybody Loves Me But You" and "Ugly" were terminally catchy and bittersweet.

Her follow-up came a year later under a group name- The Juliana Hatfield Three. Become What You Are was the album and it featured radio friendly alt-rock staples "My Sister" and "Spin the Bottle". This remains my favorite Juliana Hatfield album.

Only Everything dropped in 1995, it was wildly delicious and misguidedly scatterbrained but satisfying nonetheless.

Jump ahead 15 years later to Peace and Love. An album that's presumably about healing and seeking peace and love. It's not as accessible or glossy as her last album, 2008's How to Walk Away (which sounded a lot like an above average Sheryl Crow album). Yet it's more intimate and ultimately more satisfying.

Standout Tracks - "Evan", " I Picked You Up" and "Peace and Love"

Timeless Sound Ageless Beauty (Music Review)

First Impression Music Review
Sade - Solider of Love B+
A Sade album is like a box of chocolates, you always know what you're going to get and that isn't a bad thing. Especially when you only get to savior those chocolates every few years.

Soldier of Love is a progression in Sade's musical catalog yet it's not a big stretch from previous albums. Maybe it's the long gaps between albums but her music always feels as fresh as a warm day in the dead of winter.

Homegirl always has the most seductive beats layered with confessional, heartfelt lyrics and you can always count of a few tracks so tight that they jump out of your speakers.

Even though it came out last December, the single "Soldier of Love" might be the best single of 2010 so far. Other recommended tracks include "Babyfather" and "Morning Bird".

My Top 3 Sade Albums
1. Stronger than Pride
2. Love Deluxe
3. Soldier of Love

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cleaving Not Leaving: A Love & Lust Story (Book Review)

Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession by Julie Powell B-

I love the way Cleaving goes against the grain and shatters the image of sweet little Julie Powell (aka Amy Adams) from the film Julie and Julia. This book will undoubtedly turn a few people off while intriguing others.

Julie and Julia was a good film and Meryl Streep was absolutely amazing, but Julie is a real person with real problems and very real desires. This book draws a nice parallel between butchering and the butchering of her marriage even though I found it difficult to wrap my head around the violent art of breaking down meat, frenching ribs, bleeding pigs, etc...

Having met Julie many years ago and remembering her stunning charisma, that only added to the dramatic effect of what I was reading. The gravity of her situation - a lustful affair with an old flame, a volatile blend of emotions regarding her husband and the hard work/dedication to Fleisher's (a family-owned butcher shop near Kingston, NY) was undoubtedly a taxing exercise in joy, pain and confusion.

It's probably presumptuous and simplistic for me to add that this sort of behavior isn't all together surprising considering Julie and Eric have been together most of their lives and haven't (to my knowledge) experienced the obligatory "sowing of their wild oats". Nevertheless, I found the book fascinating while discovering that Julie Powell is even more courageous and head strong than I imagined (see the chapter "When in Tanzania").

I can't wait to see what she does next (which I hear will be a work of fiction).

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cop Out - Movie Review

Cop Out (R) 110 minutes F

Starring Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Adam Brody, Kevin Pollak, Guillermo Diaz, Seann William Scott, Jason Lee, and Ana de la Reguera

Tracy Morgan is the best and worse thing about this film. He provides the lone laugh and over acts to the point of nausea and embarrassment.

This film is an insult to buddy films and cop comedies. As a matter of fact it's an insult to the movie theatre I saw it in. I can't believe Kevin Smith did this- one of the dumbest comedies I've seen in a long time.

To steal a quote from J.R. Jones, film critic at the Chicago Reader, "nothing to see here, keep moving."