Monday, January 27, 2014

Sundance 2014 - It's a wrap!

Sundance 2014

Land Ho!  B+
A film about two old guys trying to get their groove back.

Appropriate Behavior A
A snarky, sexual and clever relationship comedy that has the perfect amount of bite. 

White Bird in  Blizzard B-
Shailene Woodley, eighties music and plenty of melodrama was enough to hold my attention. 

Lambert & Stamp C+
A frustrating documentary about The Who, but not really about The Who. I wish it was solely about The Who. 

Low Down B
A dark film about a jazz pianist who was a great musician and a greater drug addict. 

Young Ones D+
A sparse futuristic film about a lack of water, blah, blah, blah...

Hellion  C+
If you like motocross and annoying kids behaving badly, you'll love this one.  

Shorts Program IV  C+
A total mixed bag ranging from too weird (Kekasih),  too rough (Here I am... There You Are),  too cute (Dig), and brilliant (Person to Person).  Programming included the following short films:

Afronauts - Afrocentric
Here I Am...There You Are - Rough sex
Me + Her - Cardboard animation and an audience favorite.
Mystery- Women listen to the back of a young man's neck hoping to hear the voice of the Virgin.
Kekasih - Mad Professor/Scientist and a haunting encounter with his late wife.
Person to Person - A surprisingly unwanted house guest the morning after...
Dig - Cute kids and lots of digging.
Exchange & Mart - Scottish school girls straddle the line between lust, longing and danger.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Found, Found, Found (Music Review)

Released May 2013 
Trouble Will Find Me - The National A
In 2007 a friend introduced me to The National and their buzzworthy album, Boxer. I gave it a couple of spins and immediately dismissed it because, "I couldn't get into it." At the time, I didn't know that if I looked up the term "growers" in the dictionary I'd find the discography for The National. Their albums aren't immediately accessible, but once they sink their teeth into me I'm smitten.  I bought their 2010 album,  High Violet because I liked the song "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and all the glowing reviews made me curious. After a couple listens to that album it clicked in a major way. On a cold, gray morning in late December 2010, I was driving to a coffee shop on sobo (south broadway). Out of nowhere I felt tears begin to rise to the surface of my eyes as I listened to frontman Matt Berninger sing "You must be somewhere in London/You must be loving your life in the rain/ You must be somewhere in London/Walking Abbey Lane" from the song "England." High Violet went on to be my number one album of 2010 and Trouble will Find Me picks up where High Violet left off. On "Demons," Trouble Will Find Me's second track, Berninger croons, "I don't know what's wrong with me/the sour is in the cut/When I walk into a room I do not light it up, f*ck!" -My feelings exactly.
Favorite tracks: "I Should Live in Salt," "Demons," "Slipped" and "I Need My Girl."

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club - Movie Review

Dallas Buyers Club (R) 117 minutes B+
I wanna new drug

Starring Griffin Dunne, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn, Denis O’Hare and Dallas Roberts.

Dallas Buyers Club is loosely based on the true life story of Ron Woodroof, played here by Matthew McConaughey.  Woodroof was heterosexual and portrayed in the film as tough talking, homophobic redneck diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1985.  When the doctors suggested he get his affairs in order because he had (approximately) thirty days to live, first came denial, then the realization that it was do or die. Woodroof begin experimenting with any and all drugs and vitamins  he thought would slow the virus. This included traveling to different countries and smuggling unsanctioned medicines back to the United States. Dallas Buyers Club is more than a film about a man fighting a fatale disease.  It's also about a man against the machine of government and big business.  During one memorable scene Woodroof exclaims, "Screw the FDA, I’m gonna be DOA!" 

McConaughey and Jared Leto are sensational and undoubtedly worthy of their Oscar nominations.  But, what struck me most about the film is how remarkable the human spirit can be when facing adversity and how precious time is (and was) when we only have a little left. Sad and uplifting.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Parquet Courts Light Up Gold, Bill Callahan Sinks and Swims in a Dream River (Music Review)

Released Jan 2013 
Released Sept 2013 
Light Up Gold - Parquet Courts  A

Dream River - Bill Callahan C+

Light Up Gold is such a kick-ass album.  Listening to it makes me happy, it gets me hype!  This Brooklyn via Texas quartet has made an album that would have been an instant classic 20 years ago.  It reminds me of Pavement, Buzzcocks, The Clash, and even a touch of the Rolling Stones (in their early years). But, ultimately this mash up of sounds and styles comes off as their own.  Light Up Gold is infectious and solid from beginning to end.  The more I listen to it, the more I think it is a classic for any year. I sincerely hope these guys come to Denver on tour in 2014.  Favorite tracks: "Stoned and Starving," "Yonder is Closer to the Heart" and "Careers in Combat."

I'd never heard of Bill Callahan until about 6 weeks ago.  Then, I started seeing his name and album, Dream River, on several year-end lists.  Dream River has been a strange and slow burn for me.  I like the lyrics, I like his delivery, but the soft adult contemporary musical arrangements (bongos, easy listening guitars, flutes and board soundscapes) don't do Callahan's poetic lyrics justice- it's a noticeable mismatch.  Favorite tracks: "The Sing" and "Ride My Arrow"   

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Start.Stop.Whisper.Pain.Jazz. (Music Review)

Released: Dec 2013 
Nina - Xiu Xiu C

As much as I like Xiu Xiu, I don't think this Nina Simone tribute works as a whole.  Previous to buying the album I read a review that said Jamie Stewart's voice fits the jazzy soundscapes, but I respectfully disagree.  There are nice moments here, like "See Line Woman" and "Pirate Jenny." However, Nina just makes me long for original Nina Simone recordings.    

Friday, January 17, 2014

Listening on the Low (Music Review)

Released: Sept 2013
Nothing Was the Same - Drake C+

I really liked the last two Drake albums, so I want to give Nothing Was the Same the benefit of the doubt.  I've listened to it at least a half-dozen times and only half of it sounds fresh.  The other half sounds forced, like someone who knows he can toss off an album and it'll be a hit because he's "the man." "Worst Behavior" is probably the second most annoying song he has ever done (first place goes to "Take Care" featuring Rihanna).  But, "Furthest Thing" and "Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2" reminds me why I can never count him out.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis - Movie Review

Inside Llewyn Davis (R) 104 minutes A-
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles

Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky and Max Casella.

Inside Llewyn Davis is the Coen brothers sad but affecting tale of a luckless troubadour whose music goes unrecognized as his life plummets into despair.  Set in New York (think Greenwich Village folk scene), during the winter of 1961, I found this film extremely well done, believable, and full of unassuming performances.  This is one of the Coen brothers finest films! Recommended for those who like folk music, the Coen brothers, and/or films featuring a good performance by a cat.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Roth vs Roth (Book Review)

The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography - Philip Roth B- 
Published Sept 1988

The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography is interesting and unconventional. It is an exploration of life, love and craft that I found a bit slow in the beginning, but eventually it pulled me in and left me wanting more. Initially, I was afraid that The Facts wouldn't be very revealing. Roth strikes me as someone who keeps his cards close to the chest; however, as the episodes of the book unfolded his life became more and more tantalizing. Just when I thought, "okay, so these are the facts according to Philip Roth," his alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman (and Zuckerman's wife), chimed in and provided another point of view- clever.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Her - Movie Review

Her (R) 126 minutes A
Virtual love or a glimpse into our future

Starring  Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt and Olivia Wilde.

This is one of the loneliest films I have ever seen, and it's a complete masterpiece! Totally original and forward-thinking.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Blue with Desire (Book Review)

Published March 2010
Blue is the Warmest Color - Julie Maroh B-

I had high expectations for this graphic novel.  I read a lot of glowing reviews of the book, while the film adaptation (which I hope to see in the coming weeks) won the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.  However, this lesbian coming-of-age love story didn't fully resonate with me.  The artwork is nice, the story is interesting, yet it all felt a little rushed and incomplete.  I'm very curious to see how the film plays out.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - Movie Review

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG-13) 114 mins B
Major Tom finds Life

Starring Ben Stiller, Kristin Wiig, Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Patton Oswalt and Adrian Martinez

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a little too whimsical for my taste.  However, I did relate to the protagonist and the film's main idea- it's never too late pursue your dreams, live life to the fullest, turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, yadayadayada...  I also liked Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty and Kristen Wiig as his love interest.  As a matter of fact, the best moment (by far) in the film is when Wiig sings "Space Oddity."  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn't great, but I have to admit that it stayed with me for days afterwards.  I recommend this film to daydreamers and those who prefer a "dialed down" Ben Stiller.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

12 Years a Slave - Movie Review

12 Years a Slave (R) 134 minutes B
The Passion of the Slave

Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti

A couple of years ago I had to read the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave for a history class in college.  I remember being angry, appalled and amazed by what I read.  That book extracted some of the sting from watching 12 Years a Slave.  Directed by Steve McQueen and based on Solomon Northup's 1853 memoir, 12 Years a Slave is a story that needed to be told.  However, it's not that type of film I can describe as being "good," nor do I care to see it again.  That being said, it's worth seeing for the acting and for the history lesson.