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.