Friday, April 30, 2010

Kick-Ass - Movie Review

Kick-Ass (R) 117 minutes B+
Ass kicked!

Starring Nicolas Cage, Aaron Johnson, Lyndsy Fonseca, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Chloe Moretz

As a kid I dreamt of fighting crime and ridding the world of evil doers much like Batman and Robin. The caped crusaders were especially inspiring because they were (for all intents and purposes) mere mortals who happen to have an endless supply of cool gadgets in their handy utility belt, a badass Batmobile, the Batcave, Alfred and a fail proof alert system - the BatSignal/Redphone... Ok, so their situation was extraordinary, but it gave wannabe vigilantes a ray of hope.

Kick-Ass, one of the best films I've seen this year (so far), it's for anyone who has ever tied a beach towel around their neck, owned a pair of underoos or secretly thought they had "spidey sense".

These days I'm not much of a comic book guy, nor do I particularly care for action-adventure (much less crime fighting). Yet Kick-Ass made me want to buy a comic book, read a graphic novel and watch Sin City.

Nicolas Cage is outstanding and the young cast is very convincing, especially the uber-adorable Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl. The film is not for everyone because of the intense violence oddly coupled with young-adult humor, but regardless of the teen-comedy meets Quentin Tarantino hybrid it all works heroically.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Back-up Plan - Movie Review

The Back-up Plan (PG-13) 106 minutes D
J-Lo needs to lay low

Starring Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin, Eric Christian Olsen, Michaela Watkins, Noureen DeWulf, Melissa McCarthy, and Danneel Harris

When I saw the trailer for The Back-up Plan I thought it looked reasonably OK even though the odds were against it. After all, Jenny from the block has made credible showings in films like Out of Sight and Selena while serving as unadulterated eye candy in Oliver Stone's 1997 film, U-turn.

But I should’ve known I was trouble when I walked into the theatre five minutes before showtime and only one other person was in attendance. Occasionally this happens if I’m seeing a little known indie film starring no one you’ve ever heard of but rarely does it happen when seeing something mainstream... unless it’s really bad.

In this film J-Lo continues the trend of crappy rom-coms starring overly glossed, beautiful leading ladies (i.e. Jennifer Anniston, Kate Hudson, Katherine Heigl) who continue to disappoint us with bad roles and underwhelm us with poor acting.

Lopez is not the least bit convincing as Zoe, a lonely New Yorker who is so unlucky in love she decides to go it alone and get artificially inseminated. Whereas her hunk of burning love, Stan (Alex O'Loughlin), is as contrived as a toy from a box of Cracker Jacks.

Thing is, I initially liked the premise of Zoe finding love after she closed herself off to the possibility because that’s just how life works. I also wanted to like Stan because I knew he would accept Zoe despite the instant family. But what ensues is stupid, corny and not well executed; the acting seemed terribly off key and the characters were fresh out of a bad sitcom.

Perhaps Lopez needs to take it down a notch, do some smaller films and/or smaller (more meaningful) roles to get her groove back. This could've been better and a lot less campy had they left out the cheap laughs and idiotic characters (i.e. Zoe's friends/employees at the pet store).

Not the worst film I've seen but very disappointing.
Bonus DVD Review
Ira & Abby (R) 101 minutes C-
Love not marriage

DVD Release Date: September 14, 2007
Starring Jennifer Westfeldt, Chris Messina, Jason Alexander, Frances Conroy, Fred Willard, Judith Light, Robert Klein, and Maddie Corman

I wanted to see Ira & Abby back in 2007 but I never got around to it. I'd read that it was a lot like a Woody Allen film and Woody fans would dig it... well, not exactly. It does bare a resemblance to a Woody Allen feature minus one key ingredient- Woody Allen!

The story follows Ira and Abby who meet at a gym and 6 hours later they decide to get married, "fifty percent of marriages end in divorce so we have as good a chance as any" Abby says convincingly to Ira.

This premise is unlikely but I liked it... I also didn't mind the film's closing salvo and grandiose proclamations about love and marriage. But what I don't buy and didn't necessarily care for was the tiresome narcissism that came off as water-down Woody Allen featuring characters (who I wanted to like) that lacked authenticity, one of the very qualities that makes a Woody Allen film so enjoyable.

Nice try, but this film bites off more than it can chew.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Curtis's Mock Draft (1st Round)

I'm sure my mock draft will be mucked up because I think at least three teams will trade up, down or out of the first round. But to keep it simple here are my projections minus the trades.

1. Rams - Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma
2. Lions - Ndamukong Suh, OT Nebraska
3. Bucs - Gerald McCoy, DT Oklahoma
4. Redskins - Russell Okung, OT Oklahoma State
5. Chiefs - Trent Williams, OT Oklahoma
6. Seahawks - Byran Bulaga, OT, Iowa
7. Browns - Eric Berry, S Tennessee
8. Raiders - Anthony Davis, OT Rutgers
9. Bills - Jimmy Clausen, QB Notre Dame
10. Jags - Rolando McClain, LB Alabama
11. Broncos - Mike Iupati, G Idaho
12. Dolphins - Dan Williams, DT Tennessee
13. 49ers - Earl Thomas, S Texas
14. Seahawks - Dez Bryant, WR Oklahoma State
15. Giants - Sergio Kingle, LB Texas
16. Titans - Derrick Morgan, DE Georgia Tech
17. 49ers - Bruce Campbell, OT Maryland
18. Steelers - Joe Haden, CB Florida
19. Falcons - Carlos Dunlap, DE Florida
20. Texans - C.J. Spiller, RB Clemson
21. Bengals - Golden Tate, WR Notre Dame
22. Pats - Jason Pierre-Paul, DE South Florida
23. Packers - Kyle Wilson, CB Boise State
24. Eagles - Taylor Mays, S USC
25. Ravens - Arrelious Benn, WR Illinois
26. Cardinals - Sean Weatherspoon, LB Missouri
27. Cowboys - Charles Brown, OT USC
28. Chargers - Ryan Matthews, RB Fresno State
29. Jets - Demaryius Thomas, WR Georgia Tech
30. Vikings - Maurkice Pouncey, C Florida
31. Colts - Jared Odrick, DT Penn State
32. Saints - Jerry Hughes, DE/LB TCU

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Greenberg - Movie Review

Greenberg (R) 107 minutes B+
Embracing life you never expected

Starring Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Chris Messina, Rhys Ifans, Brie Larson, Juno Temple, Mark Duplass and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

"Hurt people hurt people." That's one of several things I took from Noah Baumbach's infectious new dramatic comedy, Greenberg. An awkward and painful portrait of Roger Greenberg- a former musician turned carpenter whose fresh out of a mental institution (nervous breakdown). He travels to Los Angeles via New York to house sit for his wealthy brother, his plan is to,"try and do nothing for awhile."

The 40 year-old Greenberg hopes to re-group and restart his life, he begins by trying to mend a few broken relationships from his past. Most notably he hopes to rekindle an old flame with an ex-girlfriend and reconnect with his former band mates who may or may not (still) resent him for breaking up the band in the 80's.

The film reminisces about the past, the present and embracing a life you never expected. Stiller is nearly flawless as the title character but better yet is Greta Gerwig as Florence- his brother's personal assistant and charming underachiever who possesses a stumbling politeness. Film critic Roger Ebert describes her as "reasonable and approachable; one you could look up and see walking dreamily through a bookstore" and I couldn't agree more.

I liked this this film a lot but I have to warn you that it's not for everyone. It definitely has a smart and edgy sensibility that will come off as weird, dry, depressing and pointless to some. But I found the tone very realistic and familiar. It's simultaneously funny and hard to watch at times (see the first sex scene between Greenberg and Florence), while making no apologies for misery and dysfunction because after all, such is life...
Bonus DVD Review
Bubble (R) 90 minutes C
To live and die in a small town

DVD Release Janurary 31, 2006
Starring Debbie Doebereiner, Dustin James Ashley, Misty Dawn Wilkins, Omar Cowan, Laurie Lee, David Hubbard, Kyle Smith and Decker Moody.

The first thing that struck me about this film is that the first 15 minutes or so evoked John Mellencamp's song Pink House to constantly repeat in my head. Secondly, the film starts very slow but gradually becomes more interesting.

After I watched this film I read that none of the actors and actresses were professionally trained and according to wikipedia the lead actress (Doebereiner) was discovered at a KFC Drive-thru window.

Nevertheless Steven Soderbergh proves once again why he is one of the most intriguing, innovative and gifted filmmakers around. Overall, I found the film simply "OK", but even Soderbergh's average material is more interesting than most.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

AWP Denver 2010

This was my first year attending AWP (The Association of Writers & Writing Programs) conference and it was absolutely amazing! Being among so many vivacious writers was both exhilarating and inspiring. I didn't take any photos but here's a brief rundown of my favorite things at this year's event.

1. Favorite Panel
The New Domestic Fiction

2. Second Favorite Panel
Black Goes Green: New African American Poets on the Natural World

3. Favorite Readings
G.E. Patterson (Panel - Black Goes Green)
Cheryl Strayed (Panel - The New Domestic)
Kim Addonizio (Panel - It's Not You, It's Me)

4. Favorite Fashion Trend
Stockings/Fishnets in various colors and designs

5. Favorite Audience (I felt like I was at an Indie rock concert)
At the Graywolf Press Reading

6. Favorite Woody Allen Moment
Talking and walking through downtown with New York photographer Miriam Berkley

7. Favorite Story Collection That Doesn't Exist (...Yet?)
"The Nap Stories" by Lynn Kilpatrick

8. Favorite Writer Who Seemed More Like a Rock Star

9. Favorite Writer I Most Wanted To Meet- And Met.
Nick Flynn

10. Favorite Editor
Jessica Strawser - Writer's Digest

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why Did I Get Married Too - Movie Review

Why Did I Get Married Too (PG-13) 118 minutes C-
Dripping with drama- Tyler Perry's latest is a mixed bag.

Starring Tyler Perry, Sharon Leal, Janet Jackson, Malik Yoba, Jill Scott, Lamman Rucker, Richard T. Jones, and Tasha Smith

I admire what Tyler Perry is trying to do with the Why Did I Get Married films. His perspective on love and marriage is somewhat refreshing if not overblown and soap opera-ish. In this, his latest installment, the couples once again head off to their annual couples retreat/vacation hoping for peace and relaxation but predictably getting just the opposite.

The first part of this film is uneven bordering on annoying thanks to Tasha Smith's character (Angela). The chemistry between the couples seems almost nonexistent and none of these characters are particularly engaging. Troy (Rucker) was the most likable but even he becomes irrelevant after awhile.

The second half of the film is better, albeit heavy on the drama, but at least it brought up a few captivating moments regarding the complicated nature of relationships and working though difficult decisions. In the end it's all scatterbrained and hurried. The film goes on too long and ends too abruptly.

I like where Perry is trying to go but I'm hoping he'll start over and try again with this adult-relationship genre.

Hot Tub Time Machine - Movie Review

Hot Tub Time Machine (R) 100 minutes B-
Glory Days

Starring John Cusack, Clark Duke, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Crispin Glover, Lizzy Caplan, Collette Wolfe, and Chevy Chase

Silly title but one that says it all. Four guys travel back in time and try to change history by not changing at all.

The film has evoked a lot of comparisons to The Hangover, it's not as funny but it's equally clever and worth checking out. Especially if you ever wore leg warmers, had a jheri curl, listened to (and loved) hair bands or owned a pair of air jordans.

Spooning On A Tuesday Night (Concert Review)

Spoon at Ogden Theatre 4/6/10 B-

I really wanted to be blown away by Spoon. The new album seemed like it would translate into a great live showing. The first two songs of the set rocked! They sounded crisp, clean and sharp, I thought here we go... this is going to be one helluva show!

But the band quickly lost momentum and the rest of the set felt very hit or miss - a rockin song, an ok song, a great song, an ok song that's a little boring, a rockin song, a boring song, etc...

It was like every third song sounded great and in between greatness I found myself daydreaming, scanning the crowd and shifting my weight from one leg to the other.

The band was never bad at any point. Their sound, their moves, were always clear and clean. They hit all the notes and Daniel (the lead singer) shook just enough ass to make the girls swoon. Yet for my taste they would've benefited from a little more sleaze, raunchiness and balls-out rockin!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

They Make Their Own Money (Music Review)

First Impression Music Review Spoon - Transference B+

Spoon is one of those bands that my friends have always raved about but I never got into. It's not because I didn't like their music, I just never gave them a chance. Honestly, I thought they were another trendy young band with big riffs and monster hooks who would fade out after a few albums.

But this outfit from Austin, Texas has been around since the early 90's and have perfected a sound and rhythm that's all their own. Transference is a groovy, infectious and cool: using only guitar, percussion, bass and Daniel's voice (whose vocal delivery has the styling of a young Mick Jagger), this album sounds better and more interesting than most albums (polished & over-produced) you'll hear this year.

Standout Tracks - "Who Makes Your Money", "Is Love Forever" and "Trouble Comes Running"

My Top 10 Actors

(tie)10. Steve Buscemi - At one time I thought he was the best actor to ever grace the face of the earth.
Movie to Watch - Ghost World

(tie) 10. Hugh Grant - He's fading fast but I'm still curious when he does a film.
Movie to Watch - Four Weddings and A Funeral

<---9. Chiwetel Ejiofor - He still seems like an up and coming actor who will be the best actor on the planet someday.
Movie to Watch - Melinda and Melinda

8. Tom Cruise - I know everyone thinks he's a freak, but I love his intensity. He's the epitome of cool in the film Eyes Wide Shut.
Movie to Watch - Eyes Wide Shut

7. Don Cheadle - One of the best of all time.
Movie to Watch - Talk to Me

6. Peter Sarsgaard - A totally underrated actor. I don't think he's ever been nominated for an Oscar and that's a travesty!
Movie to Watch - Kinsey

5. John C Reilly - So many great roles and he's also a very good singer.
Movie to Watch - Chicago

4. Denzel Washington - His performances always demand you to stop and take notice.
Movie to Watch - Training Day

3. Paul Giamatti - "I'm not drinking any f*ckin Merlot!" Nuff said...
Movie to Watch - Sideways

2. Philip Seymour Hoffman - The man is truly brilliant... I've seen him in 19 films since 1998.
Movie to Watch - Owning Mahowny

1. Woody Allen - He's changed the way I see the world. Absolutely brilliant.
Movie to Watch - Crimes and Misdemeanors

My Top 10 Actresses

Wow! It was hard to narrow down my favorites to just 10... there's so many wonderful actresses out there.

(tie) 10. Maggie Gyllenhaal - She has proved time and time again that she can carry a movie all by herself. An incredible actress and a true artist.
Movie to Watch - SherryBaby

(tie) 10. Kerry Washington - Currently the best black actress in Hollywood. Look for her outstanding new film, Mother and Child in theaters next month.
Movie to watch - I Think I Love My Wife

9. Scarlett Johansson - OK, so this pick is mostly physical... she's gotta be one of the most beautiful women on the planet and it's hard to take your eyes off her when she's on screen.
Movie to Watch - Match Point

8. Toni Collette - A very versatile actress and one of the best of all time! How is it that she hasn't won an Oscar (yet)?
Movie to Watch - In Her Shoes

7. Julianne Moore - There's something timeless and classic about Julianne Moore. One of the best of all time.
Movie to Watch - Savage Grace

6. Maria Bello - She has a very authentic quality that jumps off the screen... very sexy.
Movie to Watch - A History of Violence

<----5. Patricia Clarkson - I can't believe this classic, mesmerizing and sensational actress has yet to win an Oscar. She's the ultimate scene stealer in every film she's in.
Movie to Watch - Pieces of April

4. Laura Linney - A flawless actress whose knows how to choose roles. She's been in a butt-load a great films. One of the best ever!
Movie to Watch - You Can Count on Me

3. Kate Winslet - Breathtaking. An amazing amazing actress!
Movie to Watch - Little Children

2. Catherine Keener - She's one of the reasons I fell in love with films and still love it.
Movie to Watch - Lovely and Amazing

1. Meryl Streep - Simply the best...ever!
Movie to Watch - Adaptation

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chloe - Movie Review

Chloe (R) 96 minutes B
The Fatal Attraction of Beautiful People: What's Love Got To Do With It?

Starring Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried and Max Thieriot.

Chloe feels a lot like a guilty pleasure; a wonderfully crafted b-movie specific to my liking and not for everyone.

It's dark, dreary, erotic and I'll admit... far-fetched and fabricated. Yet it's a helluva spectacle to watch and I'm not just talking about the sexual content. Visually it's best appreciated on the big screen to really feel the sense of loss, isolation and desperation. All of which is radiated by Julianne Moore.

I'm a Julianne Moore fan- I'd rank her among my top ten favorite actresses of all time, number one or two in regards to intrigue and interesting roles, not to mention her beauty, elegance and sex appeal (did I mention she's pushing 50).

Here she plays a gynecologist who suspects her husband (Neeson) of infidelity. Naturally she hires a drop dead gorgeous call girl (Seyfried) to seduced him and a variety of mind f*cks, deceptions and a fatal attraction occurs.

The title character is played by Amanda Seyfried, a talented up and coming actress who you might know from the films Mamma Mia!, Dear John and Jennifer's Body or from the HBO series Big Love. But chances are you've never seen her like this. She is sure to be one of the best actresses on the planet one day but until then, WOW!

Anyway, most critics didn't care much for this film (except for Roger Ebert) and it's definitely not for everyone. That being said, I really enjoyed the film despite some obvious flaws.