Saturday, April 30, 2011

Win Win - Movie Review

Win Win (R) 106 minutes B
Wrestling with life's choices

Starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Alex Shaffer, Bobby Cannavale, Melanie Lynskey and Burt Young

Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a small time New Jersey lawyer, family man, high school wrestling coach and all-round good guy.  But with his business on a downturn and no compensation for his coaching gig, Flaherty is struggling to make ends meet.  So when a profitable but immoral opportunity presents itself he takes advantage.  It's not exactly a win win situation but it'll keep him afloat until he can get back on his feet. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the jig is up soon after it begins and Flaherty risks losing everything. 

Win Win is a wonderfully crafted film by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent and The Visitor) that won't bowl you over but will definitely pin you to your seat.  Everything about this dramedy is subtle but affecting.  It almost feels too neat and tidy but it's hard not to like Win Win


Thursday, April 28, 2011

J Mascis on Fire in Denver (Concert Review)

J Mascis @ the Hi Dive - April 28th, 2011 B

Dinosaur Jr's legendary front man made a tour stop at the Hi Dive tonight in support of his latest acoustic album, Several Shades of Why.  Despite intermittent (and annoying) fire alarms throughout the show and an appearance by the Denver Fire Department, Mascis seemed unfazed. 

He opened with "The Wagon" from Dino's Green Mind album, followed by "Listen To Me" and "Several Shades of Why" from the new disc.  But it was the fourth song of the night that ended up being my favorite, a cover of Edie Brickell's 1988 hit song, "Circle".

The rest of the show was a nice mixture of quiet loud acoustic distortion with Mascis occasionally tilting back his head and closing his eyes; seemingly lost in the music.  Other highlights included the songs "Repulsion" and an old favorite of mine, "Ammaring" from J Mascis & the Fog's More Light LP.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cedar Rapids - Movie Review

Cedar Rapids (R) 86 minutes B-
Cedar Rapids: the Las Vegas of the midwest

Starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Kurtwood Smith, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Stephen Root and Sigourney Weaver

Naïve and sheltered insurance agent Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) has never ventured outside his hometown of Brown Valley, Wisconsin. But after the unfortunate death of his company’s number one salesman, Tim must attend the annual insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where the goal is to win/bring home the coveted “Two Diamonds” award for excellence.  

Reluctant to leave his comfort zone and cougarlicious girlfriend (played by Sigourney Weaver), Tim realizes this is a chance to rise above his own mediocrity.  Yet, when he arrives  in Cedar Rapids Tim takes an unforeseen walk on the wild side that includes: falling in love with a prostitute, having sex with a married woman, smoking crack, participating in extortion, and getting drunk every night (reminiscent of the character Ed Helms played in The Hangover).  Needless to say the man child becomes a man by the time he leaves "Cedar Crapids".   

Essentially this is a good indie film; a little uneven and not as funny as I expected, but one that stuck with me for days afterwards.  Everyone in the cast was good, with the exception of Anne Heche, who was great as the vivacious strawberry blonde vixen seeking escape from her mundane home life.  Cedar Rapids is the type of racy indie comedy that fans of the genre will love, while others might find it slightly overblown.  
Bonus DVD Review
Hannah Takes the Stairs (NR) 83 minutes  B-
Use to be a sweet girl 

DVD Release Date: April 2008
Starring Greta Gerwig, Kent Osborne, Andrew Bujalski, Ry Russo-Young, Mark Duplass, Todd Rohal

Hannah is young, pretty and self-absorbed.  She's insecure, slightly immature and craves lots of attention.  If this sounds annoying to you don't watch this film- you'll hate it! If this reminds you of yourself or someone you know, it might be worth your while. 

Hannah Takes the Stairs is improvised, highly experimental, raw and realistic; it's definitely not for general audiences.  Mumblecore fans rejoice!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Know This is Changing Me (Music Review)

First Impression Music Review
R.E.M - Collapse Into Now B 
Release Date:  March 8, 2011
This one is a grower.  I've listened to it a dozen times and I like it more with each spin.  It's probably their best album since 1996's New Adventures in Hi-Fi.

"Mine smells like honey" and "Überlin" grabbed me immediately (they're also the first two singles from the album), other tracks were slightly more challenging but they eventually won me over.  Special guests include Eddie Vedder, Patti Smith, Peaches, Lenny Kaye and Joel Gibb.

Favorite Tracks - Mine smells like honey, "Überlin", "That someone is you", "Blue"

Leftovers Never Tasted So Good! (Music Review)

First Impression Music Review
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - III/IV B+
Release Date: Dec 14, 2010
 I own several Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown albums and this collection of leftovers from the 2007 Easy Tiger sessions is among his best work. Just when I was afraid Adams might be going soft he released a metal album (2010's Orion) and delivers this gem-  a catchy pop album that holds together surprisingly well over the course of 21 tracks.
Billed as a "double-album concept rock opera" (tongue-firmly-tucked-in-cheek), III/IV is Demolition meets Gold with a little Rock N Roll thrown in. A single disc opposed to the two would've been a full blown masterpiece but as it stands I'm not complaining.

Favorite Tracks -"Numbers", "Gracie", "Breakdown into the Resolve", "Dear Candy" and "Icebreaker"