Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Sarah Silverman Program

Usually I watch something and then tell you all about it. Well, how about this for change? Tomorrow night (Thursday) at 10:30 PM you should tune in to Comedy Central and watch Sarah's new show. I don't know much about it, but Sarah is hilarious. The end.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Screen Actors Guild Awards

That annual pre-cursor to the Academy Awards that recognizes the best performances across film and television took place last night and there were little surprises. Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker have been racking in the awards for their work as world leaders, Queen Elizabeth and Idi Amin respectively, and last night they both took home "the actor." Typically those who score SAG awards repeat at Oscar time and with the overwhelming support both of their performances are garnering, it would be quite stunning for someone else to win.

The same can be said for Jennifer Hudson, American Idol cast off and feel good story, who has been dominating the race for Supporting Actress for her work in Dreamgirls. The only real race of the big four for actors that is left to be decided is whether or not Eddie Murphy can build steam for his Supporting role in Dreamgirls. Murphy won the SAG, but he has been losing more than he has been winning this award season. The good news for Murphy is that the field last night contained almost the same faces as it will on Oscar night. Only Mark Wahlberg was missing and looks to be a dark horse anyway considering the lack of performance nominations The Departed received from the Academy.

The best news of the night for me was the Ensemble acting award, SAG's equivalent of Best Picture, went to Little Miss Sunshine. Only four castmates were on hand to accept, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, Steve Carell and Greg Kinnear (all nominees in other categories and Kinnear a presenter.)

Steve Carell was awarded for his work as part of team twice actually. The Office took home the top prize for Ensemble Comedy Show, another win I fully support!

Alec Baldwin and America Ferrara repeated their Golden Globe wins in the comedy lead categories. Hugh Laurie also took home the top prize in a drama for his work on House. The stunner was Chandra Wilson as fiesty Dr. Bailey on Grey's Anatomy who won female lead and also shared Ensemble Drama with her cast mates.

Highlights: Steve Carell and Julia Louise Dreyfus presentation interplay. Chandra Wilson thanking her 10 castmates here and "the one in rehab". Steve Carell's acceptance speech for The Office.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Smokin' Aces

When I first saw the trailer for Smokin' Aces, I was blown away. I thought that this was going to be one of the best "action" movies of the 2007 and that Ben Affleck might end up finally showing us that he can actually act. I was horribly, horribly disappointed. But I did get to see a ten year old with a boner and a few awesome shoot-em-up scenes that made the experience somewhat worthwhile.

The movie's plot is somewhat simple and you don't really pay attention to it until the end where they try to blow your mind but fail to. Jeremy Piven who can do no wrong in my eyes plays Buddy Israel, a David Copperfield-esque Vegas performer who has decided that he wants to play mob boss and make some more dough on the side. One of the top mafia guys decides that Israel has stepped over the line and makes a call to a man known only as the "Swede", setting up a million dollar bounty on Israel.

Ryan Reynolds enters the scene as an FBI agent hot on the trail of the bad guys, following a slew of mercenary killers to Reno as they race to claim the astronomical bounty on Israel's head. Israel has holed himself up in the penthouse suite of a Reno hotel because he has just decided to rat to the Feds and is laying low until his witness protection program kicks in.

The cast of "killers" ranges from a lesbian tag team, redneck electro-punk nazi wierdos, a master of disguise and a few other stereotypes. All lend their own little flavor to the movie; I found the rednecks to be the most annoying because you can't really tell what they're supposed to be.

This is a movie that promised the world and only gave us a piece of dirt. Okay maybe a handful--there are redeeming moments that will keep you somewhat amused.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Shins - Wincing The Night Away

Is it too soon to declare the new The Shins album the best album of 2007? Holy crap. I'm stunned by just how good this long awaited follow up to Chutes to Narrow actually is. James Mercer's voice is soothing on the opening track Sleeping Lessons and immediately you realize that this effort is a million times better than everything else the band has ever done.

Mercer's songwriting gets stronger and he has a control over his voice now; those two things make me smile. His songs fill the void left by Neutral Milk Hotel with their wordiness and eloquence. I've always been a fan, but now I'm like uber-fan. Look at me...I'm gushing incoherently....why? Well, I'm listening to the CD for the third time in a row, and I can't stop.

So let me paraphase New Music Express. "their best yet."

Yep, that about sums it up. Every track stands out.

Listen to Red Rabbits and Girl Sailor if nothing else. Beautiful shit.

Dear Celebrity Asshole,

Isiaih Washington. Listen up. You are a scumbag. First of all your character on Grey's Anatomy is boring and useless. You should be thankful you have a job. But no, you have to go and call your co-star a faggot. And then get into an onset fight with McDreamy over it. And then have the nerve to deny you said it at the Golden Globes in front of the cast who heard you say it. And guess what? There is no such thing as rehab for this problem. Asshole.

Speaking of assholes. Anne Heche. Ugh. Do you realize that six months ago you were under everyone's radar? We forgot you were a lesbian married to Ellen who cheated on her with a camera man filming a documentary on your "wife" and then went "crazy" wandering in yards and seeing spacecrafts. We forgot you married this camera guy and had a kid and named said kid Homer like an asshole. Yep, you were a figment of our imagination, a person we laugh about once in a while like Sean Young. But no, you do a TV pilot and it gets put on after the number 1 show on TV and now here you are again, in our world. And how do you decide to continue to resurrect your career? Oh yeah, you screw over your husband and fall for your co-star. And for good measure you break up his marriage too. Christ lady...are you for real?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Academy Award Nominations Announced

The Oscar nods came down this morning and the list appears to be slighty on the edgy side. Except for the crazy omission of Sacha Baron Cohen, Golden Globe winner for Best Actor in a Comedy. Come on Academy, get a clue. Comedy is hard to pull off and should be rewarded.

Since the show is still a bit away, I'll save my projections until a later date. I just need to point out a couple observations on the nominations and I'll be on my way.

Little Miss Sunshine getting both Alan Arkin and Abigail Breslin nominations in supporting roles is sweet. I loved this movie, and Breslin is only 10 years old which is astonishing.

Only acting nomination for the Departed was Mark Wahlberg....interesting.

Ryan Gosling took away my Borat nomination, but it's good to see someone get a nod for a little seen indie picture.

No Best Foreign Film nomination for Mel Gibson. (The jews fight back?)

Pan's Labyrinth cleaned up in the non-acting nominations, scoring six.

Best Picture: Babel, The Departed, Letters From Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen.

Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond ; Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson ; Peter O'Toole, Venus ; Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness ; Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.

Actress: Penelope Cruz, Volver ; Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal ; Helen Mirren, The Queen ; Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada ; Kate Winslet, Little Children.

Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine ; Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children ; Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond ; Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls ; Mark Wahlberg, The Departed.

Supporting Actress: Adriana Barraza, Babel ; Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal ; Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine ; Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls ; Rinko Kikuchi, Babel.

Directing: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel ; Martin Scorsese, The Departed ; Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima ; Stephen Frears, The Queen ; Paul Greengrass, United 93.

Foreign Language Film: After the Wedding, Denmark; Days of Glory (Indigenes), Algeria; The Lives of Others, Germany; Pan's Labyrinth, Mexico; Water, Canada.

Adapted Screenplay: Sacha Baron Cohen and Anthony Hines and Peter Baynham and Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips, Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan ; Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, Children of Men ; William Monahan, The Departed ; Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, Little Children ; Patrick Marber, Notes on a Scandal.

Original Screenplay: Guillermo Arriaga, Babel ; Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis, Letters From Iwo Jima ; Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine ; Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth ; Peter Morgan, The Queen.

The full list.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Proceed with Caution: Reading Material for the Twisted Mind

Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia by a bunch of Russians. one with the first name of Danzig. Sweet.

Russian tattoos just look tough. And you never know when you might find yourself imprisoned in Moscow with a Bolshevik cellmate. Fun fact: the most common Russian prison tattoo is a cat, which is associated with the characteristics needed by a thief.

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

Author Mary Roach is known for her book “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” in which she investigated the quirks and mysteries involving dead bodies. Now, she has met with scientists and such to find out what happens when we die. Is there an afterlife? She tracks down people who feel that they have been able, or will be able to product scientific evidence that there is life after death.

Let Me Finish by Udo Grashof

This book contains 45 suicide letters from various people in hopes of finding some sort of commonality in the stories and thoughts of these poor souls. Grashof asks why someone will kill themselves over unrequited love, while others would simply cry for a week and get over it. While suicide remains quite a “touchy” subject, maybe the million people a year that follow through with it would have benefited from frank discussion, leading to prevention.

Flags of Our Fathers

Clint Eastwood is a very talented man. A writer, a musician, a director, an actor; accomplished at the highest levels at many of these skills. After seeing Flags I suggest we add historian to the list.

Now like a history book, some parts are boring and some are kind of cool, but unlike a book the juicy parts are visual and moving images convey a better sense of what went on than a book in my humble opinion. My knowledge of what took place on Iwo Jima during WWII was limited, so I got a better sense of the sacrifice of our troops, the tenacity of the Japanese and the terrain's pitfalls.

The tone of the movie differs from Speilberg's Saving Private Ryan and that may be intentional by Eastwood. You almost get the sense that he is not only telling a story of faceless and nameless heroes, but that he is somehow trying to point out how horrific war in general. It's as if it's an anti-war movie wrapped up in a war movie costume. The soldiers are treated as expendable, both during the battle and after the war is ended. Racism was touched on slightly with African Americans, but more with Native Americans due to the fact that one of the flag raisers on Iwo Jima was Ira "Chief" Hayes portrayed by the superb Adam Beach. And it is in the story of the men who are just one of many who sacrificed so much to end this war that you can see Eastwood's message.

The flaw I found in the film had to do with the character development of the main characters. Both Ryan Phillippe and Jesse Bradford are slightly wooden as actors in this picture and I needed more depth from them to care about the men thay portayed. The war sequences were fantastic, although not as graphic as recent movies of World War II. Clint perhaps spread himself too thin making two movies about the war in one year, scoring the films and doing it all while approaching 80. Or perhaps when viewed as one half of a whole, I need to see Letters to Iwo Jima first to truly figure it out, the movie will have more resonance.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Children of Men

This masterful piece of art by Alfonso Cuarón, portrays a gloomier than normal Britian, pulling itself apart from the inside because one day children just stopped being born. It's a fascinating story, what would happen if conception just went away and the remaining children became adults. Schools would become wastelands, of no use. The sound of a baby's cry would become foreign.

Would chaos ensue as envisioned by P.D. James (author of the novel the film is based on) and Cuarón's team of writers? Outstanding leaping point for a film, only further exemplified by the brutal realism of the opening, jarring scene. Cities around the world are in turmoil, burning and being seiged by military action. A byproduct of the lack of births appears to be the formation of political activists demanding answers and suspecting the worst of the lechery of the government and the brewings of a race war. Interment camps are once again a reality and immigrants are cattled into these gritty slums and forced to exist in an even worse underbelly than the crumbling cities around them.

The cinematography and camera work draws you into this ugly place, and the set pieces are at once futuristic and contemporary giving this movie a feeling of realism you don't get in most sci-fi pictures. It's an achievement in filmmaking that is rare these days. Intense story, literally a heart racing escape and chase for two hours, actors never detracting from the story with such subtle performances, great use of music to create mood. This is a film to be studied in future college level film course for the next generation of aspiring directors.

One could argue that the relative downer premise and truly sad ending would take away from the film, but I disagree. Movies should exist to make you think and feel. And Children of Men does just that. You will be riveted, ocassionally forced to look away and ultimately invested in the plight of Clive Owen's Theo. A magical experience.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

American Idol

Is there a bigger phenom in TV history? The show just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. The audition show from Tuesday night was the second highest rated episode ever. An audition show people!!!

Now being the TV whore that I am, I did tune into all four hours this week and here's what I've learned.

1. The show is getting meaner and meaner. It was funny when a bad audition was buried in among some talented folks, but now it's just relentless. They do full profiles of a person before you even get to hear them sing and then they are a trainwreck. Why make these people who are clearly fans look like such fools?

2. Paula is getting higher. As in "that bitch is on something." I thought she was asleep during the entire episode that featured Jewel. Didn't hear her make a peep. Strangeness.

3. They have to be planting some of these people. There is no way that these folks are that delusional. The monkey eyed kid and his fat retarded buddy? The red headed pot head guy? The mother/daughter team in awful wigs and red lipstick? I just can't imagine these people exist.

Part of me wishes they would forgo this audition process on TV and just give us a singing competetion. However, I do know people who watch the show only during this part of the season for the comedy of it. One thing you can't deny is the absolute water cooler aspect of this show. I honestly find myself getting a funny look on my face when I run across someone who didn't watch last night. For some reason, I don't trust those people.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Golden Globes

Real time blogging here people...

8:02 PM...The Cloon looks like shit. PARTY MUCH?

8:06 PM...water works ensue as Jennifer Hudson, a virtual nobody, beats out Cate Blanchett for Best Supporting Actress.

8:07 PM...Prince is a no show?!?! Nice dig Timberlake. Do you realize, no Prince = no Justin?

8:11 PM...Jeremy Irons beats both Hiro Nakamura and Ari Gold? Unreal.

8:16 PM...Mrs. Bacon wins for a show no one watches. That's nice. Kyra is the new Michael Chiklis. Maybe I'll love the Closer in a couple years on DVD.

8:18 PM...Nancy O'Dell? Hmmm...she's a lot better looking than Dick Clark. Thanks for stroking out on us Dick!

8:26 PM...that's why he's a writer folks. Nice delivery Peter. 56 years ago....zzzzz.

8:30 PM...Emily Blunt was amazing in The Devil Wears Prada. But what the hell is Gideon's Daughter?

-I'm already bored to tears at the idea of doing this real time thing. Something good better happen soon. Wait, the cast of HEROES? I'm all ears!!!!

8:32 PM...did they really need 12 people to present an award? Everyone loves House! Why am I not watching this show? What no cut away to a pissed Keifer? Oh...there it is. God damn, is this House fellow this funny on the show? Somehow I doubt it. Not bad for not preparing anything Hugh.

8:35 PM...What is that in your hair Hillary Swank? A giant diamond flower? It barely detracts from your horse teeth. Barely.

8:40 PM...Charlie Sheen looks just as he did in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. And that's not a good thing. Way to suck your big brother's cock off Chuck. "Stand up Emilio!" "I am standing!"

8:42 PM...Golden Globes finally add Animated Film as a category? Way to make the Oscars seem ahead of the times. are supposed to be funny dude. What's the deal? Saving it for your acceptance speech I assume? What?!?! No Larry the Cable Guy shout out? Beat.

8:50 PM...Meryl Streep in a shock there. Classy broad that Meryl Streep. Love the attack on big movie chains...especially since that is my new hell. Indie cinema needs an outlet and Meryl says I should "quietly, authoritatively demand it." Of course, Meryl doesn't realize that the man I would be demanding this from finds it necessary to post a sign outside his theater to not only exclaim that a movie is in subtitles but to explain that subtitles means "the words are written at the bottom of the screen." I shit you not.


8:57 PM...speaking of subtitles, can I get some for Salma Hayek please?

8:58 PM...Something won something...not sure what Salma said it was, but based on who walked up on stage I can't say I give a fuck.

9:01 PM...Eddie Murphy will tarnish this all in about 30 days when Norbit gets released in a theater near you. Trust me. And you are not forgiven for Pluto Nash!

9:04 PM...Prince sighting?! And he's trying to shield himself from the camera? Guess who was taking a shit when he won an award tonight? The purple one!

9:09 PM...Bill Nighy wins for Gideon's Daughter...guess just went on my Netflix list?

9:12 PM...Helen Mirren is having a great year. Playing two Queens and winning awards for both all over the place.

9:20 PM...Best Screenplay...The Queen...Peter Morgan. Welcome to America dude. Only Clooney gets to go on and on about politics here buddy.

9:22 PM...toughest category of the night. Best Actor in a Comedy Series. Alec Baldwin!!! Yikes!! The new kid in TV town upsets Monk! Thank God!!! Who could possibly be upset at Alec Baldwin winning a Golden Globe. Oh yeah, Kim Basinger probably.

9:31 PM...Ugly Betty is Best Comedy. Why? Well, there are versions of this show in practically every country and since this is the foreign press...yadda, yadda, yadda. The Office was robbed!

9:37 PM...Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood nominated in the Foreign Film category is incredible. And Clint gets another trophy for the mantle.

9:45 PM...More Prince nonsense. Come on, if he didn't come up when he won, then fuck him. Move on...

9:52 PM...America Ferrara wins for Ugly Betty. Well at least I didn't have to hear another Desperate Housewife ramble on and on. Now I get to hear a chubby Puerto Rican babble on and on and on and on.

Cecil B. Demille bestowed on Warren Beatty. Time for a bathroom break.

10:25 that was quite an intermission...Marty Scorsese is a hack. All he did was remake a movie from 4 years ago.

10:29 PM...Sasha Baron Cohen sans Borat schtick is still pretty hilarious. Best acceptance speech of the night by a mile. Refreshing to see him not only nominated, but to walk away a winner.

10:35 PM...Dane Cook gets to be on the Golden Globes? What is wrong with the world?

10:37 PM...J. Lo is going against herself right now. Isn't that Dance show of hers on MTV right now? Anyway, Best Comedy or Musical is ... surprise! not a comedy!!! It's Dreamgirls. I'm convinced if you make a Musical these days you will pretty much win this award. Chicago won it. Moulin Rouge won it. Oh wait, Rent didn't win it. Okay so I'm wrong. The point is, Borat is the funniest movie of the past 10 years and lost out to a bunch of people singing.

10:42 PM...Grey's Anatomy. General Hospital at night. I'm a fan.

10:45 PM...Are they rushing things a bit now? Guess that 25 minute Warren Beatty thing was a mistake, no? I'd rather hear these winners for more than 27 seconds!!

10:46 PM...Helen Mirren as the Queen is about a predictable as you can get. I don't think there is a Best Actress statue that she hasn't won yet for this role. But I'll be damned, Mirren is the sexiest old lady EVER. Go rent The Cook, The Theif, His Wife and Her Lover and you will see a gorgeous 40 something Mirren getting naughty. Sequel anyone???

10:48 PM...commercials still? I want to end this insanity already. I'm tired and the laptop is burning the tops of my thighs from resting it there for 3 hours!

10:50 we have what left? Actor and Drama Film? I'm sensing a Martyfest.

10:51 PM...come on already!!!

10:52 PM...Heroes is back next Monday. Yes!!!!

10:53 PM...Leo cancels himself out or is Forest Whitaker just on a tear like Mirren this year? Wow...I can't tell if Forest is genuine or just acting in his acceptance speech? Maybe he's auditioning? And what is up with his eye? Did he always have a crazy eye situation? I don't recall Radio Raheem having eye issues.

10:56 PM...Ahnold, the Governator is presenting Best Picture? Well they are holding this shindig in his state.

10:59 PM...Ha. He's on crutches!!! Priceless. Wow!! Babel pulling an upset of sorts. This I like very much. This is the year of the Mexican. Babel, Pan's Labyrinth and Children of Men are three of the strongest movies of the year and all were made my Mexican filmmakers. Go Mexico!

I'm going to forgo any cohesive analysis until the next day. And screw spell checking this as well. Good night y'all.

Everybody Into The Pool : Beth Lisick

To crown Beth Lisick the female David Sedaris might be premature, but this collection of brief snap shots of her life has the same mixture of comedy and tragedy found throughout Sedaris' collected works.

Lisick, a San Fran based spoken word artist and mother, recounts some rather odd moments from her past, laid out for our enjoyment in her book Everybody Into The Pool. What I like about Lisick is her ability to take pretty horrific events and make them extremely humorous. How do you make a story about stealing money from nuns for an abortion seem like a delightful anecdote? Lisick does it, and does it with ease. Or what about the time she dabbled in lesbianism to see if it was her true calling? Or what about the time she bought a house in the projects against the judgement of her upper middle class parents and almost caused a race war over being too lazy to care for her lawn.

World Trade Center

Before you see this film, you need to really ask yourself if you are ready. Are you ready to revisit this catastrophe? Are you really ready? Oliver Stone delivered a movie that is very understated and heroic, one that will not leave you quickly. And you need to brace yourself for it.

It's a tale of 2 men trapped in the rubble fighting to stay alive.

It's a tale of 2 wives confronting their worst fears.

It's a tale of 2 towers collapsing to the ground in confusion.

It's a tale of 2 men figuring out what they are good at in the face of tragedy.

But above all, it's a tale of human spirit and triumph.

Oliver Stone could have easily got caught up in the blame game, focusing on the politics surrounding 9/11; and instead (much to my surprise) gives us a unique perspective on 9/11 devoid of anything more than watching heroes do the work that heroes do. Is this the same Stone who gave us conspiracy theories on Kennedy's death and anti-Vietnam films? It is. But it is a kinder, gentler Stone. A man who clearly did his best to not tarnish such a unifying event in the lives of all Americans.

The cast, a mixture of the recognizable and not so recognizable, become merely faces in this story. A testament to the writing and above all the performances. Is there a bigger, over the top hack than Nic Cage? Well, you would barely recognize the man in his role as a Port Authority sergeant. (The same could be said for Stephen Dorff or Frank Whaley, both playing very small albeit crucial roles and doing so with chameleon-like aplomb.)

It's hard to critique a film like this. More or less, you are immediately caught up in the unfolding story, right back there the day it happened and for two hours you just watch. You are not judging the music, or the framing of the shots. You are not questioning the plot, or looking for flaws in the script. You are simply riveted and wishing that what you are watching never happened.

So again, I stress that you must ask yourself if you are ready. Ready to relive 9/11.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Fast Five...

I am excited for the following flicks based merely on buzz and trailers.

1. Smokin' Aces (watch trailer below)

2. The Lookout

3. Disturbia

4. 300

5. Pan's Labyrinth

What are you eager to see?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Shooting Sizemore

Celebrity trainwrecks like Danny Bonaduce and Flavor Flav certainly carved their notch out on VH1, scoring not only ratings but a renewed fan base. I for one never thought Tom Sizemore was in the same category as Flav or Bonaduce, so I was very skeptical going in to watching Shooting Sizemore on Sunday night. Was Sizemore going to be larger than life, over the top for the sake of trying to save his drowning career? I wasn't looking to watch another cocky, dysfunctional C-lister act a fool for the cameras for 30 minutes a week.

Sizemore is genuinely a mess. Facing possible prison time for alledgedly beating Heidi Fleiss a few years back, Tom has avoided going in to the big house thus far by dragging things out in court, getting addicted to crystal meth, going bankrupt and spending 3 months in rehab. This reality series appears to be focused on Sizemore seriously attempting to get his life together, and you can't help but feel bad for the guy. (Something that Breaking Bonaduce fails to illicit in viewers.)

But perhaps I'm just biased in that Tom is a Temple University alum like me. In fact he graduated from the same school within Temple, the year before I started college. And his resume is a litany of movies that I revere like Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, True Romance and Natural Born Killers. So I think maybe I'm pulling for him more than most...

If the season preview is any indication, this show will at least captivate your attention for 30 minutes. And that's all you can ask from a show.


Call me!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

DVD Vault

Luc Besson wrote another fast paced, over the top action film and I'm willing to bet you haven't seen it. District B13 is set in France, some time in the future at a time when most of the dregs of society are corralled behind a wall in the shadow of Paris. The story is your basic good vs. evil, with David Belle (Leito) and Cyril Raffaelli (Damien) teaming up as the side of the good vs. the entire District riddled with drug dealers and gang members.

Much the flavor of Besson's Transporter series, the film is one part Run Lola Run, one part Jackie Chan with French dudes and one part any revenge thriller on the market. What makes this movie a must see is the antics of Belle, the real life inventor of a discipline known as Parkour, which consists of moving quickly and efficiently in any environment, using only the abilities of the human body. Seriously, you have to see this guy to believe it. Astonishing. And Raffaelli is no slouch having been a long time stunt coordinator and master of shotokan karate and wushu.

I'm not going to lie, I'm a Besson fan. Danny the Dog (Unleashed stateside), Fifth Element, Le Femme Nikita, Leon (The Professional stateside) and even the Transporter movies are interesting and unique in their own ways, something that endears me to Besson. The guy has one hell of an imagination. But, if you don't like his other work or aren't really into some serious action, then I suggest staying away from this 2004 French flick.

The WTF couple of the moment

Evan Rachel Wood and Marilyn Manson. Really.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


It’s just like England to keep a band like Razorlight from our rock and roll deprived ears. Those British bastards have had frontman Johnny Borrell and his mates for years, and selfishly have kept them from us, much like the Kooks or the Kaiser Chiefs. No, we have to listen to Beyonce, Lil’ Wayne and Cowboy Troy on the radio. I get closer and closer to becoming an expat every time the radio disappoints me.

Razorlight’s self-titled album, their second release to date, hit the US in late August 2006. With 10 eclectic tracks that range from ska-influenced to Talking Heads-influenced, this CD will get sweeter and sweeter with every play. Borrell uses his voice as percussion in several sections, adding a staccato howl to “Back to the Start”.

I was able to see them perform on London Live, which is my new best friend. They sang “Los Angeles Waltz”. Borrell wore all white but looked less than virginal as he stared into the cameras with pinhole sized pupils probably altered by some form of hard drug. As he sang the words “You and I, we belong together” a capella as the band came to a halt, it was apparent that he had every single audience member by the throat.

Yet, I don’t see any upcoming US tours, sadly. There was one with Muse (another great) that was canceled. Look forward to this rough and tumble crew, and make sure to pick up their US debut.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Twofer Book Review

I Know You're Out There: Private Longings, Public Humiliations, and Other Tales from the Personals
by Michael Beaumier.

As editor of the personals for the Chicago Reader, a big city independent weekly, Beaumier has a unique perspective into the pursuit of love and does his best to recount memorable stories about strange clients, chatty co-workers and the ranking of the personals department in the pecking order of a newspaper. I'll give you a hint, not real high up there.

What Beaumier tries to do by sprinkling in tidbits from his life (his large Irish catholic family, his lush mother, the death of his infant sibling, his homosexuality and failing relationship) into the book doesn't work for me. I went in expecting funny stories about personal ads and got a side of Augusten Burroughs. That's not to say that I didn't like the book as a whole. Beaumier's life story is actually the stronger parts of the book, making the title and back cover synopsis all the more frustrating. But the harsh reality is that Burroughs life is more interesting and therefore, I'll stick with his memoirs.

My Pet Virus: The True Story of a Rebel Without A Cure by Shawn Decker

Thankfully, this quick read by the living with AIDS author Shawn Decker was exactly the opposite, in that it also mislead me but I was pleasantly surprised by what I experienced in reading the memoir rather than being disappointed. The back cover quote reads "I was destined for a life of medical drama from day one. I was born in the month of July, and my horoscope sign is a disease (Cancer). The symbol for Cancer? A crab - the sexually transmitted critter. Not only that, my parent's named me Shawn Timothy Decker, which makes my initials S.T.D." and so I imagined a tragic weepy detailing the life of a gay man who contracts HIV in the days before anyone knew what was happening. Wrong.

Shawn Decker was a kid with a problem with his blood. It's called hemophilia. Much like the deceased Ryan White, Shawn was a victim of the misunderstood beginnings of HIV and AIDS here in the US, a victim of a bad blood transfusion. But unlike White, Decker has lived well beyond expectations for over 20 years with not only HIV but a nice helping of Hep C as well.

Decker painstaking details what it is like to have zero expectations from a young age because every says that you will eventually die. Decker had no desire to finish high school, let alone college. Never got a real job. Lived with his folks. Until that is Shawn hit 21 and decided that he was going to live with the disease and not just die from it. And thankfully, he is quite the writer despite his lack of education. His life story is wrought with more humor than horror and giving voice to someone who was a victim of circumstance is a welcome insight to me, even if it is 20 years too late.

Fame Games

God bless VH1 and the desire of C-list celebs to embarass themselves for our viewing amusement. Yep, the Surreal Life is back (sort of). Instead of the Real World format the show has used the past 6 seasons, this time the celebrities are all ex-cast members competing in silly games to win a 100K. But the real reason anyone watches is to see the likes of Briggette Neilsen chilling with Vanilla Ice and CC Deville. And if the first episode is any indication, we are in for another wild ride compliments of Ms. Glamazon Neilsen and her new foil, Chyna Doll.

The tragedy of the first episode is the plight of Mini Me Verne Troyer who goes from co-host, to participant, to bottom feeder in the course of an hour. If you haven't seen it, let me explain as best I can. Jordan Knight, the New Kid, was a reclusive pussy on his season of Surreal Life. Why he came back is anyone's guess. But luckily for the viewing public he had a quick freak out and left the show unexpectedly. (He says death in the family. Sloppy voice over work and editing suggest a mental breakdown.) Enter Verne who was co-hosting with Robin Leach up to this point and now gets tossed in to keep the numbers at an even 10. The result of losing the insipid competitions is to cast off the losing celebrities from the A-List (the nice part of the mansion) to the B-List (the crappy decor adorned part of the mansion.) and poor Verne was banished to the B-List after losing the first challenge.

Watching these quasi- famous trainwrecks co-habitate isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it is so mine. I could watch Emmanuel Lewis, Ron Jeremy and Traci Bingham chit-chat for hours and not get bored. And since the preview of the upcoming season pretty much reveals that Vanilla Ice is running away with the contest, I'm all the more intrigued.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Beer League

Artie Lange, late of Mad TV and current Howard Stern sidekick, has created that special guy film that marries dick jokes, racial humor and softball perfectly and the laughs are machine gun rapid in this bawdy, low budget affair. Prior to Beer League, Artie had cult status in some circles due to his involvement in the Norm McDonald written/Bob Saget directed Dirty Work.

Like Dirty Work, the jokes are raunchy and the guys are more or less playing versions of themselves. Lange on the Stern show is known for his doting mother, his love of Molly Hatchett and AC/DC and his proclivity to swill Jack Daniels at any hour of the day, so seeing all of these flesh out his character in the film (also named Artie) makes you wonder if this is a work of fiction or just a documentary on Artie's softball league in Red Bank, NJ.

Lange was fortunate to get names like Seymour Cassel (hilarious as the oldest member of the team) and Ralph "Karate Kid" Macchio to participate for most likely peanuts. The movie looks like it was shot in about 10 days, but the low budget nature to the film adds a sense of realism to the affair. The dueling plot lines are your typical sports movie variety, Artie's team needs to win the Championship to stay in the league and they basically suck coupled with Artie's quest to find a good girl to settle down with, she just happens to be the town whore. Although the love story is treated somewhat sweetly, the jokes are raw and borderline filthy (chicks banging black guys, botched blow jobs, herpes and the dreaded "how many men have you had sex with" are some of the topics) and may not appeal to women or gay men.

I guess as a guy, one who is slight robust in build (like Lange) and occasionally obnoxious, I was enamored with the film more than most. If you like sports movies and you think Austin Powers, American Pie and Animal House are funny, then you will probably get a kick out of this one. I laughed my ass off. And that's rare these days.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Last Kiss

The Last Kiss was nothing like I had expected it to be. Upon seeing several trailers for it before its release, I thought that I had a good idea of what was going to happen in the movie, which was: boy thinks he's in love, meets a rad girl, and said rad girl shows him that he was able to make different choices in his life, that he didn't have to "settle". But the real world doesn't work that way, does it?

Loveable Zach Braff plays Michael, a 29 year old man who seemingly has a life that most would kill for. His core group of friends are in similar situations. This movie, much like Garden State, deals with the troubles of breaching adulthood. It explores the finality of youth and how most individuals have an extremely hard time letting go. Braff's character meets a younger woman at a wedding, Kim, played by Rachel Bilson. Kim openly flirts with him and gives him her phone number, leaving Michael confused and somewhat titillated. Braff does a wonderful job of conveying different emotions and feelings just through a twitch of an eye or a gesture. The scenes where he is simply by himself, fighting his inner demons, are the ones that compelled me the most.

In this movie, writer Paul Haggis attempts to convey real-life scenarios and how these troubled relationships would work out in reality. I feel that he has done a wonderful job at this; it is much more believable for Michael to have a horrible time with Kim than a good one--Bilson's character is loathable the second she opens her mouth and hits on someone who isn't available.

Jacinda Barrett also holds her own as Jenna, Michael's girlfriend. She has made some wonderful career moves since her Real World days, and I'm excited to see her in future performances.

The Last Kiss was quite surprising, and quite good. I'm starting to think that Zach Braff has a King Midas thing going on.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith does his best to hide the fact that he is perhaps the wealthiest African American man alive and plays a poor, eventually homeless father in this tearjerker. What I did learn from watching Smith's performance are the following:

1. Smith can NEVER play a villian. The man just exudes a genuine likability that cannot be shaken.

2. Smith is more than just a clown. There are some humorous scenes in this film, but not enough to say this is even a dramedy and Smith is very capable playing earnestness.

I'm not saying he will earn an Oscar for this movie, but I'm certain he will get a nomination. The movie itself isn't amazing, it's pretty standard issue Hollywood. But Smith makes the movie better than it would have been by putting himself into the movie from producing, to casting his own son as his onscreen co-star and giving us one hell of a performance. And that kid of his is not only cute as a button, but a pretty strong actor in his own right. I've seen this before where a kid does their best work along side a parent, Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon comes to mind. Perhaps having the parent there to coach you along in scenes is the key to success as a child actor?

In any case, I think you can do worse with movie choices. You will be entertained for sure, but don't expect to be blown away.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

United 93

Is it too soon? That was my thought when I first saw that this film was made, and then released on the eve of the 5th anniversary of 9/11. As a result, I didn't go see it in the theater. I just wasn't ready to relive the tradegy of that day and I think I thought that it would be a film that just rings of bad taste.

How far off the mark was I? Extremely. Paul Greengrass has put together a film that is very simple and powerful as it unfolds in real time, re-hashing not only the plight of the passengers on United flight 93 but the entire attack that fateful day. The outcome is well known, so you would think it would be hard to create a build up but Greengrass' decision to film the story in verite/documentary style adds such a level of realism to the events that it makes you feel like it is happening all over again, and you push aside your memories of the events so familiar and concentrate on the people on board the plane.

Greengrass made a wise decision to cast actors that would not distract from the story, so the most familiar faces you will see are Christian Clemonson and possibly David Rasche (He was Sledge Hammer back in the 80's sitcom.) Sidenote: Clemonson is tearing up the screen on Boston Legal as Jerry Espenson a lawyer who has suffers from severe ticks and has some incredibly back luck, but here has such a presence as essentialy the leader of the passengers who plot to overthrow the hijackers.

The film will hit you as an American in the face. I've been exposed to so many things about 9/11, it's ties to Bush, the possible conspiracy, the poor reaction time by our leaders, and although I'm not certain what really happened, it's not what this movie chooses to deal with. It's simply telling the story of the people who lost their lives that horrible day. And for that, I am thankful. Thankful for it's existence. And thankful that I brought myself to watch it.

The Decemberists: The Crane Wife

I'm a bit late on this review, as the first album The Decemberists dropped for Capitol Records officially came out back in October of 2006. And to make matters worse, if you read any music themed blog (Stereogum, Pitchfork, etc.) I'm sure you have seen at least casual mention about how strong the album The Crane Wife truly is. Universal acclaim is one of those things you have to take notice of when it comes to music, and so I've given the cd a thorough listen and decided that it's a winner.

As a fan of Picaresque, an early release of The Decemberists, one would think I would have run out and grabbed this cd up immediately. Well, one would be wrong. Here's why. I was not sure I could really appreciate Colin Meloy's voice for another album. Much like Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, Meloy has a very muppetesque vocal style that outside of small doses can sound more engineered than genuine. But in all reality one of the strengths of The Crane Wife is just how Meloy's voice adds something to the sound of the record. The Decemberists manage to sound at once contemporary yet oddly nostalgic at once on songs like When The War Came and Sons and Daughters. The record could be called revolutionary (war) ish or something equally as clever, but to make jokes would take away from the impact that the record has as a collective of very involving and interesting songs.

While pop acts toil away at the next hook or double entendre, this band is crafting melodic and grandiose compositions layered with instrumentation and brimming with life. Now Fergilicious has it's place, but it would be a better world if the kids were singing along to a rousing song like O, Valencia instead. That's all I'm saying.

The Prestige

At this point you probably will have to wait for the DVD if you haven't already seen The Prestige, but lucky for me I live in a town with a fully funtioning 99 cent theater and used my time off from work wisely by taking in a showing this fine afternoon in the new year.

I'm convinced the Chris Nolan is a master filmmaker based on only seeing 5 of his 6 films. Memento blew me away when it first came out, Guy Pearce was riveting and the backwards story line was not only an impressive script but the editing of that film was very carefully crafted. A feat once again acheived in the time jumping Prestige starring Christian Bale (aka the best Batman ever thanks to Nolan) and Hugh Jackman as rival magicians. Nolan and his brother have executed the best story about magic and sabotage I've ever seen, and thanks to the winning cast of this film, I'm willing to say it's perhaps one of the best films I've seen in the past year.

The Illusionist was a very good film about a magician, and had a very "pay attention" ending, but the film was more of a love story between Ed Norton's master and his assitant turned lover Beil. And not that The Prestige doesn't focus some energy on the women in the magician's lives, but the central theme is that of obsession and rivalry that goes to extremes you could not imagine. Both leads, Bale and Jackman, are tortured artists more intent on perfecting the greatest trick than anyting else. How they go about undermining each other is worth the price of admission and the finale is just something to behold. What makes the film so special is that you will see it coming, but in reality you won't. Just like an incredible magic trick.

The supporting cast turns in some fine work, strenghtening an already tight film from top to bottom. Stand outs include David Bowie channelling Pierce Brosnan with a strange Austrian (?) accent and the resurging Michael Caine. But the real show here is the performances of Bale and Jackman. Are you watcing closely?

Monday, January 01, 2007


Over the past 30 days I have amassed a small library to work through, and so prepare yourself for many book reviews in the coming weeks. Television gets all quiet this time of year and we start to get bombarded with those reality shows not quite strong enough for the start of the television season, so I should have time to read. I'm not saying I won't watch Beauty and the Geek (again), I'm just saying that when nothing's on I will have a book in my hand.

Mortified is a very clever idea for a book. Solicit people to hand over embarassing waxings from teenage journals and diaries and publish them as is with some commentary by the now grown up author. It's chock full of teenage angst and sexual frustrations of the unloved...and will bring you to tears laughing at least once. My favorite entry has to be by the girl who wrote this soft porn featuring her 13 year old self and the entire band Duran Duran. But the kid exchanging letters with his parents from summer camp is a keeper as well.

It's a quick read, you can do it in small 4 or 5 page chunks, and it's funny. That's all.