Saturday, October 26, 2013

Gravity - Movie Review

Gravity (PG-13) 91 minutes D
Lots of flying Debris in 3D

Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Ed Harris

If you're a fan of epic space drama, cool special effects, George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, and you plan to see this film regardless of the grade I am giving it... fork out the extra cash and see it in 3D! Imax 3D if possible.

Now, if you're like me- you like George Clooney, Sandra Bullock is okay, not a big fan of sci-fi films, but wanted to see what all the hype was about... proceed with caution.  

Honestly, the two or three people that actually read this review will probably go see the film, watch it on Netflix, or have already seen it.  Most people I know liked the film, some even loved it.  I thought it was hokey as f*ck and I thought George Clooney "phoned it in" (not that there was much he could do with such a one-dimensional character).  

Needless to say, I was disappointed.  However, other critics seem to love it, audiences like it, and I guess the special effects are pretty cool if you're into that sorta thing.  So, go see it for yourself and let me know what you think. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Visit From Jennifer Egan (Book Event)

Inside The Writers Studio with Jennifer Egan B+

Jennifer Egan, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in 2011 was Inside the Writers Studio tonight.  She discussed her writing life and how President Obama's campaign inspired the infamous PowerPoint chapter in the Pulitzer Prize winning A Visit From the Goon Squad.  With all the hoopla surrounding Goon Squad, it was nice to hear about her other books during the interview... several of which I knew little or nothing about.  Egan's 1995 debut novel, The Invisible Circus, was adapted to the big screen in 2001.  The film starred Cameron Diaz.  Egan's short story collection, Emerald City and Other Stories and her mysterious and robust novel, 2001's Look at Me were both nominated for the National Book Awards.

Here's a short youtube clip of Jennifer Egan from a few years ago - Enjoy.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What's up Yeezus? (Album Review)

Released June 2013 
Kanye West - Yeezus B+

The first track from Yeezus is called "On Sight" and it is on point! The song, fully loaded with beats by Daft Punk, jumps out of the speakers and "gets this bitch shakin' like Parkinson's." Yes, this album is lewd, angry and neurotic...  I own all of West's previous studio albums, yet known of them grabbed me with such intensity and intrigue as Yeezus, his sixth studio album.  However, the downside is that the album's first four tracks are so strong I felt like the rest of the album fell off a cliff. Luckily, after repeated listens I got my groove back for the second half of the album.  Turns out, I really dig "Blood on the Leaves," which features a heavy sample of Nina Simone's "Strange Fruit."  I also like the album's closing track, the old school-ish "Bound 2."  Needless to say, Kanye isn't for everyone.  But, it's hard to dispute his genius. Favorite tracks: New Slaves, Black Skinhead, On Sight and Blood on the Leaves.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (Book Review)

Published July 2013
The Rest of Us - Jessica Lott B-

I heard about Jessica Lott's debut novel, The Rest of Us, on NPR. It appealed to me because the two main characters, a budding photographer and a well-respected poet, were entangled in what I hoped would be a unique and artistic story about second chances. At times, I was completely captivated by this first-person account of longing, friendship, photography and love. But, I also got a little frustrated when the side plots (like Rhinehart's Ukrainian family history) would break the novel's momentum.  I found myself hurrying through pages to get to the parts I liked most- the friends, the lovers, the photography and the ex-wife. The ending wasn't particularly original, yet it was one I didn't expect. I enjoyed The Rest of Us; the characters are likable, smart and well-written. However, overall, the novel didn't quite win me over like I hoped it might.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Salinger - Movie Review

Salinger (PG-13) 120 minutes A-
A Broken Man

Starring (Documentary): Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, Judd Apatow, Edward Norton, Martin Sheen, Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal, Jean Miller, A.E. Hotchner, Joyce Maynard, A. Scott Berg, and Margaret Salinger.

Let me start by saying that I never read The Catcher in the Rye.  I tried reading it 15 years ago, but my expectations were so high it didn't stand a chance.  After reading several pages I put the book down and never picked it up again.  Going into this film I practically knew nothing about J.D. Salinger.  This documentary, which has garnered a rash of lukewarm reviews, was completely enthralling.  I have a tendency to gravitate toward talented and tormented writers and Salinger definitely fit the bill.  Among other things, the film revealed that Salinger was an intensely private and reclusive writer whose fame afforded him the luxury to seduce vulnerable young women.  It also revealed the traumatic experiences he endured during WWII.  Salinger likely suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) before it became commonly known as such.

The documentary is filled with reenactments, talking heads and still photos of Salinger because he was never keen on publicity.  As a result, the film feels second tier and a little History Channel-ish.  Nevertheless, it is full of personal drama and the type of tortured writer stuff I love.  Salinger definitely inspired me to give The Catcher in the Rye another chance.  This documentary is recommended for all you literary types, while others should proceed with caution.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Don Jon - Movie Review

Don Jon (R) 90 minutes B

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Rob Brown, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Jeremy Luke

When I think of films about sexual addiction, I think of: Shame (2011), I Am A Sex Addict (2005), Auto Focus (2002), Crash (1996), and Choke, the outstanding 2001 novel by Chuck Palahniuk that was adapted to the big screen in 2008 (I read the book but didn't see the film).  All of the aforementioned films are edgy in a gritty, unflinching sort of way.  Don Jon is racy, provocative, honest and even heartwarming.  But edgy, not so much... and that's okay.  This is Joseph Gordon-Levitt's writing and directorial debut and he's not trying to scare off audiences on his first attempt.  He is however, sporting a little swagger, a little style, and a little "manufactured glitz" to quote writer and critic Jamie S. Rich.  Don Jon is a better than average mainstream film about sex/porn addiction.  But if you want the real thing, pimples and all, seek out one of the films (or the book) I mentioned above. Furthermore, here is My Gray Morning's short-list of sexually extreme/slightly bizarre films for the adventurous cinephile (in no particular order).

1. Shortbus
2. Secretary
3. Auto Focus
4. Crash (1996)
5. I Am A Sex Addict
6 . Boogie Nights
7. Shame
8. Kissed
9. Savage Grace
10. Eyes Wide Shut
11. Young & Wild
12. Bitter Moon
13. Sex, Lies and Videotape
14. Sex with Strangers
15. Center of the World