Monday, July 28, 2014

Lucy - Movie Review

Lucy (R) 90 mins B-
Pretty on the outside, empty on the inside

Starring Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked and Julian Rhind-Tutt

I probably don't watch enough sci-fi films to know if this film is smart, or trying to be smart. Nevertheless, watching Scar-Jo kick-ass for the better part of 90 minutes isn't a bad way to spend an afternoon. Lucy is what I would describe as a "popcorn movie." I was highly entertained. I enjoyed some buttery popcorn and a cold carbonated beverage. But, I will have forgotten this movie two days from now.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Boyhood - Movie Review

Boyhood (R) 165 mins A

Starring Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Marco Perella, Evie Thompson, Brad Hawkins and Jenni Tooley

This film is amazing for several reasons. Filmed in sequence over a 12 year period (2002 to 2013) using the same actors, I found it interesting to watch this cast/their characters grow up and grow older. It seems remarkable that everyone stayed on board with this project for over a decade. Furthermore, no three hour film I have ever seen has done so little (in regard to plot), yet expressed so much. After the credits rolled I walked out of the movie theatre and thought, "that was great! Immediately followed by the thought, "it's too bad more people won't see it. It's cliché to say, but experiences like this is why I go to the movies. This film is real life, full of real ups and downs, yet it's not depressing. People tell me all the time that they go to the movies to escape real life. Boyhood is as good an escape as any 3D alien film, action-adventure film, etc... and one doesn't have to suspend belief.

Boyhood not only follows the plight of a young boy maturing into a young man, it also follows the ebb and flow of adulthood. I usually dread films with running times that exceed 120 minutes. But, this is storytelling so delicate, so humanistic, it needed 165 minutes to unfold organically. By the end of the film I found myself intertwined in these characters- I cared about them. I applauded director Richard Linklater for last year's Before Midnight, hailing it mature film making at its best. But, Boyhood takes it to another level. This is the film that 2011's Tree of Life wished it could be. So, do yourself a favor and go see Boyhood. It is sure to get plenty of buzz six months from now when awards season rolls around. Highly recommended!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Oh, To Be Young, Pretty, and Über-talented (Book Review)

Published: Janurary 2013
I Will Never Be Beautiful Enough to Make Us Beautiful Together - Mira Gonzalez A-
I was filled with envy and admiration as I read this book. These poems are exquisitely undemanding, organic and naïve. Some of my favorites include:

"Ryan Gosling"
"Untitled 2"
"I can read a novel out loud while you lie on my floor..."
"McSweeney's caused global warming"
"I wrote a novel about you and saved it to my drafts folder"
"It is June and he wants to leave your room"
"You will roll around in an empty parking lot with him..."
"Untitled 5"
"I feel more lonely when I am with people..." 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Begin Again - Movie Review

Begin Again (R) 104 mins B-
Once but not Twice

Staring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, James Corden, Cee Lo Green and Mos Def

Begin Again, formerly titled Can a Song Save Your Life? (which was a better title), is from director John Carney.  Carney is best known for his excellent 2007 film, Once.  But, do not go into this film expecting the same excellence from Begin Again.  This latest musical voyage from Carney is respectable and Keira Knightley is endlessly adorable.  However, it feels a little contrived and too pristine.  Mark Ruffalo, who was once my favorite actor on the planet, is serviceable here.  Catherine Keener, let's just say that she makes every film she is in better.   

I did love the concept of making an organic, outdoor album that is recorded in different locations. I also liked the way the film ended- yes it eventually won me over in the end and it even evoked a little emotion from moi. But, ultimately that emotion didn't last, the film is already evaporating from my memory. Begin Again is a nice way to escape the summer heat for a couple hours... just don't expect it to rock your world.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Natalie Merchant's Hungar Banquet (Album Review)

Released: May 2014
Natalie Merchant - Natalie Merchant B+

Natalie Merchant's first album of original material in 13 years promises not to disturb the peace.  However, that doesn’t mean it won’t tug at your heart strings.  During the last decade the former Maniac got married, had a kid and got divorced.  The disillusionment of love and other revelations are laid out here, on this self-titled and self-produced effort.  During an interview with Rolling Stone magazine Merchant explained, "It's a painful, difficult thing to do, to accept that a marriage is unsatisfying. It slowly dies. Or you have to murder it."  That quote is in regard to the first track on the album, "Ladybird." 

I wouldn't call this album a downer, but it's not exactly feel-good folk pop.  The two closing tracks "Lulu" and "The End" are to of my favorites; but, they break my heart each time I hear them. I like that this album sounds genuinely personal and introspective.  Those looking for lite summer fare, this isn't it. This album is a well-crafted, deliberate and effective in a "life-doesn't-always-work-out-how- you-planned" sort of way.  Yet, it also reminds us to move on and keep pushing on because that's what we're suppose to do.   

Favorite tracks: "Ladybird," "Texas," "Lulu," & "The End"   

Further reading:
Rolling Stone Magazine


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Epic Fiction (Book Review)

Published: September 2007
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz A-

This is an epic book that deserves an epic review; yet, all I can muster is "wow!" Diaz has delivered a novel, his first, that feels like the Pulitzer Prize winning classic it is. Our anti-hero, Oscar, is an obese, non-chick getting, J.R.R.Tolkien wannabe, "ghetto nerd." But, don't let that fool you.  At his core, he's just like the rest of us and that's what makes this book so wondrous. Much like his gritty critcally acclaimed debut short story collection, 1996's  Drown,  Diaz's writing in long form is equally electric and awe-inspiring.  Highly recommended!