Tuesday, December 31, 2013

American Hustle - Movie Review

American Hustle (R) 138 minutes A
Hustle and Flow

Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Michael Pena and Jack Huston

Outstanding performances (Christian Bale is masterful), stunningly beautiful women (Amy Adams never looked better), and a story that had me on the edge of my seat for the duration.  American Hustle is David O. Russell's best film to date- much, much better than 2012's Silver Linings Playbook.  This might be the best film of 2013!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Philomena - Movie Review

Philomena (R) 98 minutes A-
Human Interest

Starring Anna Maxwell Martin, Dame Judi Dench, Judi Dench, Mare Winningham, Michelle Fairley, Steve Coogan

Philomena is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, played by Dame Judi Dench.  As a teenager in 1950s Ireland, Philomena became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.  Shortly thereafter, her baby boy was taken from her.  Fifty years later her only goal in life is to find out what became of her son.  Initially, the trailer for this film struck me as a dull and pandering to the older holiday crowd (because it can't be all fart jokes and explosions).  But, this film is funny, cynical and frankly, surprisingly touching.  Steve Coogan is marvelous, as is Dame Judi Dench.  Philomena is very understated, but don't let that fool you.  High Recommended.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Two Unique Voices, Two Mixed Results (Book Reviews)

Published February 2006
Published April 2002
 Open: Stories - Lisa Moore B-
I found some of these stories original and enthralling, while others were contrived and forgettable. I'm sort of undecided about this one, but I think Moore's voice is interesting enough to consider her other books.

Sinners Welcome: Poems - Mary Karr B-
The poems in this collection are hit and miss, but I thoroughly enjoyed the essay on poetry and faith. Sinners Welcome is a nice companion piece to Karr's extraordinary 2009 memoir, Lit.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Punk Singer - Movie Review

The Punk Singer (NR) 80 minutes A-
Rebel Girl

Starring: Kathleen Hanna, Carrie Brownstein, Kim Gordon, Joan Jett, Adam Horovitz

Watching Sini Anderson's documentary The Punk Singer made me happy, because it reminded how much art matters.  It also made me feel regretful, because I wish I'd possessed the passion and the drive to pursue art when I was younger.  The Punk Singer follows the evolution of punk rock feminist Kathleen Hanna, from little girl to riot grrrl, to her battle with late-stage Lyme disease.  Hanna may or may not come to mind when you think of influential feminist icons.  But, there's no denying that when she talked you could hear the revolution and where she walked you knew the revolution was coming. 

I wanna be her best friend. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Better, Better, Bland (Music Reviews)

Released Sept 2013 
Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You A

Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt B+

John Mayer - Paradise Valley C
Released Oct 2013 
Neko Case and Pearl Jam are two of my favorites; but, until their latest releases I thought their best music was behind them.  The Worse Things Get gives Furnace Room Lullaby a run for its money as the best album of her career.  Lightning Bolt is not Pearl Jam's best, but it's their best album in over a decade.  
John Mayer is an artist who has the potential to be one of the future greats.  Yet, the bland Paradise Valley would suggest otherwise.  Mayer is a brilliant dude with a tendency to do and say stupid sh*t - a perfect combo for making intriguing music.  However, as he mellows out and settles into Americana/adult contemporary territory I hope he doesn't get all top forty cheesy on me. 
Released Aug 2013 
Favorite tracks:
The Worse Things Get
Night Still Comes,
I'm From Nowhere
Nearly Midnight, Honolulu,
Lightning Bolt
Mind Your Manners,
My Father's Son,
Sleeping By Myself
Paradise Valley
                                          Dear Marie


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

All Lit Up (A Book Review)

Published November 2009
Lit - Mary Karr A

I know it sounds cliché, but this book changed the way I feel about writing, religion and my own personal demons. Lit was a reminder of why some people are special, while others only dream about being special. Not only did Mary Karr persevere through insurmountable odds, she channeled those odds into a literary masterpiece.

Mary Karr talks Lit  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu7QyaOFgPc

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's His Vibe (Concert Review)

Jeff Tweedy @ Paramount Theatre 12/5/13 B-

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (YHF) is one of the greatest albums of all time.  Jeff Tweedy's solo concert at Denver's Gothic Theatre in 2006 was one of the ten best concerts I have ever seen. Yet, my love for Wilco has faded over the last seven or eight years. A Ghost is Born, Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (The Album), all failed to conjure up earlier mystic.  Maybe it was because they became super popular after YHF, or maybe because of my own musical shift...?  Whatever the reason, It wasn't until 2011's The Whole Love that Wilco popped up on my radar again.  A solo acoustic Jeff Tweedy show seemed like the perfect shot in the arm to motivate me to dig out all my Wilco cds and give them a spin.  But, Thursday's show wasn't a "play the hits" kind of deal... Tweedy played a very casual, very talky show that played well to the KBCO types and the hardcore Tweedy fans.  Since I no longer belong to either subset (I still think the guy is a brilliant singer-song writer), I have to confess I was a little disappointed.  It's lame to admit, but I hoping to hear more of the songs I love- "She's A Jar," "Sunken Treasure," "Misunderstood," "Acuff-Rose," "I Must Be High," "Reservations," etc... Instead, the set-list looked something like this:
* Denotes my favorites
1. Someday Some Morning Sometime (Woody Guthrie cover)
2. Laminated Cat (Loose Fur song)
3. Ashes of American Flags (Wilco song)*
4. One Sunday Morning (Wilco song)
5. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Wilco song)
6. One Wing (Wilco song)
7. Pecan Pie (Golden Smog song)
8. Remember the Mountain Bed (Woody Gutherie)
 9. Long Time Ago (Golden Smog song)
10. Bob Dylan's 49th Beard (Wilco song)
11. Jesus, Etc. (Wilco song)* 
12. Born Alone (Wilco song)
13. You Are Not Alone (Written by Tweedy for Mavis Staples)*
14. The Ruling Class (Loose Fur song)
15. New Madrid (Uncle Tupelo song)
16. Box Full of Letters (Wilco song)
17. California Stars (Written by Woody Guthrie)
18. So Much Wine (The Handsome Family cover)
19. Passenger Side (Wilco song)
20. Nothing Up My Sleeve (Wilco song)
21. I'm the Man Who Loves You (Wilco song)*
22. A Shot in the Arm (Wilco song)