Sunday, August 31, 2008

Favorite Scenes - Adaptation.

John LaRoche: So I got married and me and my beautiful wife – now ex-wife – the bitch – open up a nursery. People started coming out of the woodwork to ask me stuff. Admire my plants and admire me. I think some people were really spending time with me because they were lonely. (pause) You know why I like plants? Susan Orlean: Huh uh.
John LaRoche: Because they're so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.
Susan Orlean: Yeah, but it's easier for plants. I mean, they have no memory. They just move on to whatever's next. With a person though, adapting is almost shameful. It's like running away.

Also love this, one of my favorite previews ever.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay – D

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (C+) was based in the reality of college nerds with the munchies after smoking pot. And while there were fantastical elements, most notably the openly gay Neil Patrick Harris playing a womanizing druggie, there was some charm to the interactions of the main characters. This sequel, as the title suggests, loses its way almost immediately, when Harold and Kumar are arrested after trying to smoke pot in an airplane bathroom. The “smokeless” bong is assumed to be a bomb, and the duo is sent to Guantanamo Bay. (Click below for the rest)

Apparently at Guantanamo, the US Military forces prisoners to perform fellatio. Apparently, in Alabama, all white people are incestuous, baby deer killing cretins and all black people like grape soda. Apparently, all “successful” white people got that way by screwing over Asian Americans and all hot white women prefer unemployed, unattractive, unmotivated underachievers to successful attractive men with connections. Sure, it’s only a movie, but it’s offensive. As is the duo smoking pot with George W. Bush (terrible impersonation, by the way) at his Crawford ranch.

Being offensive is OK with me (see Tropic Thunder) but co-writers/co-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (both 30 year olds) are hopelessly incompetent with tone, pacing, writing, and character consistency. Their only film credit is . . . wait for it . . . writing the original Harold and Kumar movie. That film was directed by an experienced director, Danny Leiner, who’s responsible for many quality TV shows. Daily Show veterans Rob Corddry and Ed Helms have some humorous moments as Homeland Security personnel, but the likable John Cho (Harold) and Kal Penn (Kumar) are hung out to dry by Hurwitz and Schlossberg. D

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Death Race C+

In Theatres. 89 minutes. Rated R.

I’ve never seen more than five minutes of Death Race 2000, the source material for Death Race (2008), so the obligatory reference to its cult status and slowly realized themes find their extant in this sentence. Set in 2012 in a United States whose economy has gone belly-up leading to an epidemic of crime, this one is running on the Schwarzenegger classic The Running Man’s engine—a prison in which in-mates have the “option” of racing heavily-armored and –artilleried autos on three-lap races sold for major pay-per-view bucks. If a driver wins five races, they win their freedom. To add an extra-kick for potential TV-viewers (and film viewers), each car is outfitted with a smokin’ female “navigator” brought in from a nearby women’s pen.

This iteration stars unlikely critic-fave and suddenly ubiquitous action star Jason Statham. I say unlikely because he has steadfastly refused (with the exception of 2005’s London) to stretch too far beyond playing a British Bruce Willis, happy to shut up and let his physique speak when possible, but capable of delivering a line as well as any when asked. And because he’s been the only standout in otherwise by-the-numbers action flicks the titles of which, like their star, are not prone to a surplus of syllables (War, Crank, Chaos, Revolver, Collateral). Statham is once again solid here, even if the only heavy lifting he’s called to involves a jaw-dropping set of shirtless, behind-the-neck pull-ups.

The supporting cast is surprisingly solid, starting with prison warden Joan Allen, clearly slumming, who’s the brains behind the show. Journeyman Ian McShane (Deadwood) is fun as Coach, the head of Statham’s pit crew, as is Frederick Koehler, as crewmember and racing nerd Lists. Tyrese Gibson and Natalie Martinez also show up to fill rolls and offer eye-candy as a fellow racer and navigator, respectively.

On the negative side of this ledger is bad dialogue and some pretty huge plot holes. On the positive is solid action sequences, great graphics, and a refreshing lack of the clean, computer-generated effects that have come to dominate Hollywood of late. Every car crash and crumpled piece of iron feels, at least, real here. If you’re looking for deeper themes, they can be found in a skewering of the reality TV series that go to increasing links to make the fear and danger seem real to viewers as well as a palpable fear for where our economy is heading and what that will do to working men and women. Still, the heart of this beast is the ultra-violent, video-game inspired race itself. C+

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Concert, Dallas, 8/27/08

Opening act Steve Winwood’s distinctive voice had the crowd cheering throughout his set of familiar songs, including “Higher Love.” He writes some pretty great pop songs including "Roll With It" and "Back in the High Life Again". Great voice for a 60 year old, especially approaching the end of the tour.

Then, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Mike Campbell, Scott Thurston, Ron Blair, Benmont Tench, and Steve Ferrone) took the stage to standing crowd.
Tom Cruise sings “Free Fallin’” in Jerry Maguire

Click below for the setlist and the review:

1. You Wreck Me
2. Listen to Her Heart
3. I Won’t Back Down
4. Even the Losers
5. Free Fallin’
6. Mary Jane’s Last Dance
7. End of the Line (Traveling Wilburys cover)
8. Can’t Find My Way Home (with Winwood – a Blind Faith cover)
9. Gimme Some Lovin’ (with Winwood – a Spencer Davis Group cover)
10. Saving Grace
11. Breakdown
12. Honey Bee
13. Learning to Fly
14. Don’t Come Around Here No More
15. Refugee
16. Runnin’ Down a Dream
17. Gloria (a Van Morrison cover)
18. American Girl

The concert started strong with Petty and company in sync playing some essentials from the greatest hits album and the Wildflowers album. The lights and stage were solid as well and Petty played the crowd beautifully, encouraging them to participate. Petty’s best song (“Free Fallin’”) was played early on and the strongest performance by far immediately followed. The punching guitar and subtle harmonica in “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” blending beautifully in the American Airlines Center and the vocal harmony sounded terrific. A delightful surprise followed next with the Traveling Wilburys song "End of the Line" (if only they could have played “Handle with Care”, too). Tom Petty was a member of the group which included Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne. Steve Winwood then shared the stage for 2 songs, which were a slight letdown after the great opening. “Can’t Find My Way Home” nearly put the crowd to sleep. I like “Gimme Some Lovin’” though, but it needed more bass or louder drums or something.

Winwood then exited stage right and Petty sang “Saving Grace” from his 2006 album Highway Companion (which I didn’t know). This didn’t exactly wake up the crowd and the next 2 numbers ("Breakdown" and "Honey Bee") were over-extended and gave many a reason to visit the restroom (myself included).

A terrific drum-less version of "Learning to Fly" followed and the opening set finished strongly with "Don’t Come Around Here No More" and Petty’s best pre-Full Moon Fever song: “Refugee”. An encore followed and Tom went all Jim Morrison during the middle of “Gloria” with an extended anecdote while the organ played Ray Manzarek-style. The concert ended where Petty began back in 1977 with “American Girl”.

Brooke Smith sings “American Girl” in Silence of the Lambs. This is well before Buffalo Bill asks her to “PUT THE F@CKING LOTION IN THE BASKET!”

The first third and last third were great but the middle dragged. I could have used more songs from Wildflowers. The most glaring omissions were “You Don’t Know How it Feels” and “To Find a Friend”. But the band played great and most of the classics were covered. Overall, a great experience. B+

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Tom Petty - Dallas - August 27, 2008

Setlist and review coming. For now, here's Doc and Lawyer 'rocking out'.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Paul Thomas Anderson Moment

Oil is Struck . . .

and Daniel Plainview takes his son H.W. to safety . . .

but then leaves him to take care of the fire.

“What are you looking so miserable about? There’s a whole ocean of oil underneath our feet. No can get at it except for me.”

The oil derrick collapses.

A black soul.

Plainview directs his men . . .

to place dynamite in the well . . .

and put out the fire.

Daniel consoles H.W. – for about 5 seconds.

There Will Be Blood (2007)

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Shocking Words

Hillary Clinton is Wesley Mouch. From her speech tonight:

"We need to elect Barack Obama, because we need a president who understands that America can't compete in the global economy by padding the pockets of energy speculators while ignoring the workers whose jobs have been shipped overseas.

We need a president who understands we can't solve the problems of global warming by giving windfall profits to the oil companies while ignoring opportunities to invest in the new technologies that will build a green economy." (emphasis added)

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DVD and CD Releases - August 26th

Recent DVD Releases:

What Happens in Vegas
Where in the World is Osama bin Laden

Click below for more DVD and CD releases.

DVD Special Editions/Other Releases:

TV Box Sets:

Entourage: Season Four
Everybody Hates Chris: Season Three
Heroes: Season Two
NCIS: Season Five
One Tree Hill: Season Five
The Shield: Season Six
The Untouchables: Season Two, V2

Special Editions/Other Releases:

The Adventures of Robin Hood
Brotherhood of the Wolf: Director's Cut
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning
My Sassy Girl
Never Say Macbeth
Pale Rider
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector's Edition

New CD Releases:

Blues Traveler - North Hollywood Shootout
Cordero - De Donde Eres
DragonForce - Ultra Beatdown
Missy Elliott - Block Party
The Game - LAX
JJ Grey & Mofro - Orange Blossoms
BB King - One Kind Favor
Solange Knowles - Sol-Angel and The Hadley Street Dreams
Slipknot - All Hope Is Gone
The Verve - Forth
Eva Cassidy - Somewhere
Motorhead - Motorizer
Jimmy Wayne - Do You Believe Me Now
Matthew Sweet - Sunshine Lies
Jordan Pruitt - Permission To Fly
George Duke - Dukey Treats

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Monday, August 25, 2008

5 Great Movie Monologues

“I don't know that we ever were that decent. Suffering thousands of years of hatred doesn't make you decent. But we're supposed to be righteous. That's a beautiful thing. That's Jewish. That's what I knew; that's what I was taught - and now I'm losing it. And if I lose that, that's everything. That's my soul.”

Munich (2005)
Mathieu Kassovitz as Robert
Screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth

“We both had done the math and Kelly added it all up and knew she had to let me go. I added it up, and knew that I had lost her - 'cause I was never gonna get off that island. I was gonna die there, totally alone. I was gonna get sick, or get injured or something. The only choice I had; the only thing I could control was when, and how, and where that was going to happen. So, I made a rope and I went up to the summit to hang myself. I had to test it, you know? Of course - you know me. And the weight of the log snapped the limb of the tree, so I couldn't even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing. That's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow, I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that's what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day that logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I'm back- in Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass. And I've lost her all over again. I'm so sad that I don't have Kelly. But I'm so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow, the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”

Cast Away (2000)
Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland
Screenplay by William Broyles, Jr.

“Hello, Penny? It’s Russell. Don’t hang up. I can’t really talk right now. I’m in a room full of people. Actually, I’m alone – and I won’t call again, I promise. But I need to see you face to face because I’m never as good as when you’re there and I can see myself the way you look at me. And I’m sorry. If we could just get together, find some time to talk. Let’s say all the things we never said. Give me your address. I’m coming to you – this time.”

Almost Famous (2000)
Billy Crudup as Russell Hammond
Screenplay by Cameron Crowe

“Yeah. Yeah, sexy, huh? How about this for a number? Six. That's how old my other daughter is. Eight is the age of my son. Two is how many times I've been married - and divorced. Sixteen is the number of dollars I have in my bank account. 850-3943 - that's my phone number, and with all the numbers I gave you, I'm guessing zero is the number of times you're gonna call it.”

Erin Brockovich (2000)
Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich
Screenplay by Susannah Grant

“I guess you must be kind of angry. I’m supposed to be gone, far away. I guess it seems sort of irresponsible, my being here. And I was gonna leave – honest, I was. But then I started thinking, if I stuck around, that would not be good for you. Then I started thinking that - that might not be bad for me. You didn’t see the play you gave me. I mean what am I gonna do? If I leave, I got nothing. No money, no friends, nothing. If I stay, I got you. Anyone finds out I’m alive, you’re dead, so, I got, I got you, Tommy. What’s the matter? You got nothing to crack wise about? Bernie ain’t so funny anymore? I guess I made kind of a fool of myself out there - bawling away like a twist. I guess, I guess I turned yellow. You didn’t tell anyone about that?”

Miller’s Crossing (1990)
John Turturro as Bernie Bernbaum
Screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - B

In theaters. Rated R, 96 minutes. Trailer.

Woody Allen's latest film is set in beautiful Barcelona and tells the tale of free spirited American Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), engaged, neurotic and pragmatic American Vicky (Rebecca Hall), sensitive artist lothario Juan Antonio(Javier Bardem), and manic and beautiful Spanish artist Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz). Vicky and Cristina arrive in Barcelona for a summer with Vicky's relatives and are soon approached by Juan with a proposition to go away with him (then a stranger) for the weekend. Vicky protests at the absurdity of the idea but Cristina is enchanted with the artist's plan, and away they go. Click below for more VCB:

Their trip takes several twists and turns, ending up with a complicated love triangle that is only more complicated once Maria Elena comes back to live with Juan, along with Cristina. Lots of intelligent dialogue ensues with consideration of stability versus passion, traditional values versus self indulgence, etc. It is hard to say whether Woody is saying that within every woman lies part of Vicky and part of Cristina, or he is trying to compare Europe's (Cristina's) values to America's (Vicky's) values. Either way, it must be easy to live the 'artistic' life in a beautiful mansion in Barcelona with a vintage Alfa Romeo and nothing to do but paint and get into a live in relationship with Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz.

Cruz shines as the firecracker Maria Elena, and she will likely earn a Best Supporting Actress nomination for the performance. Bardem and Johansson seem to be playing themselves, which works for Javier but not Scarlett. Rebecca Hall is great as Vicky, the character clearly modeled after Woody himself, with the wordy analytical protestations at every turn. All in all, the film was enjoyable to watch, with a novel story and characters as well as classic Woody dialogue - intelligent and incisive. Almost a B+.

Today in the NYTimes, Woody has a hilarious tongue-in-cheek 'diary' from the filming. As a sidenote, Woody is heavy on the Gaudi with lots of Sagrada Familia and Parc Guel visits. Makes for an interesting and visual backdrop.

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Biden on Obama and McCain

Here. Here's another one that makes me laugh out loud, featuring clips from The Ten Commandments.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Upcoming Concerts of Note

1. Toadies - Tomorrow at the Palladium Ballroom.
2. Tom Petty/Steve Winwood - August 27 at AAC
3. REM/Old 97's - October 24 at Nokia Grand Prairie (tix tomorrow)
4. Weezer - October 21 at Nokia (tix tomorrow)
5. Cardinals (with Ryan Adams) - October 11 at Nokia(tix tomorrow)
6. The Swell Season (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performing the songs from Once) - September 29 at Palladium
7. Coldplay - November 19 at AAC

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The Counterfeiters B
The Lawyer really enjoyed this one (A-, review here), but I wasn’t as smitten. While the acting is uniformly excellent, this 2007 Best Foreign Film Oscar winner brings nothing new to the Nazi-WWII films. Karl Markovics is great as lead Sally Sorowitsch, the greatest counterfeiter in 1930’s Germany who happens to be a Jew. Unfortunately, the wiles of a beautiful women lead to his imprisonment, where his ability to perfectly copy currency saves his neck and those in his all-Jewish counterfeiting crew. The secondary story of the Third Reich’s attempt destroy the economies of their enemies by flooding them with phony money churned out in concentration camps was riveting, but the ethics of the main plot, based in loyalty to the gang over loyalty to any universal humanity, left me cold. Even so, if they hadn’t wussed out at the end and given Sally an inexplicable conscious, I’d have liked it better. B

Click below for more Quickies.

Definitely Maybe C
My ability to enjoy any chick flick is largely predicated on the women on the screen. This one gives you Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, and Rachel Weisz. Not too shabby. The set-up is also reasonable, with recently-divorced Ryan Reynolds explaining to his daughter (Abigail Breslin) how he came to pick her mother as his wife. The first holds up pretty nicely before Breslin becomes the “know-more-than-daddy” brat I hate in these kinds of flicks. The second half is as tedious as they come. By the end, you won’t care who ends up with who. C

Made of Honor C+
Yes, I realized that’s back-to-back romantic comedies. I was recently on a plane for a total of 36 (gulp) hours, and I’d already seen most of the on-board movie selection…. As mentioned above, it’s the girl that can make-or-break a chick-flick for me, and it just so happens I’ve loved Michelle Monaghan since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. While this movie has no reasonable concept of who guys are or what they do when girls aren’t around (co-screen-writer Adam Sztykiel should be ashamed of himself), this retelling of My Best Friend’s Wedding with the genders reversed was still reasonably fun for me. Patrick Dempsey’s lack of acting chops outside of a smoldering look and above-average appearance in scrubs is a distraction early on, but either he settled into the role or I just got used to him sucking. Either way, the under-appreciated Monaghan holds the film together from second fiddle. The breath-taking shots of Scotland are a nice bonus, although the too-cheesy ending for even this by-the-numbers rom-com is not. C+

The Thirteenth Warrior D-
Based on Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, this 1999 release is a truly bad film. Antonio Banderas plays an Arab emissary (yes, that‘s correct. An Arab. With a halting Hispanic delivery) sent from his homeland for bagging the wrong dude’s woman. He meets up with some Vikings who enlist him to fight a people-eating monster from the north. What follows are ridiculous battle scenes and even more ridiculous platitudes of respect across cultures and religions. Awful. D-

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tropic Thunder B

In Theatres, Rated R, 107 Minutes

While Ben Stiller the actor tends to get old real quick, Ben Stiller the director has managed to make some films that hold up pretty well. The Cable Guy (1996) has developed a sizeable following since its initial release, and Zoolander (2001) boasts several phrases now in the pop lexicon (“I’ve got the black lung, pop”, “Mer-man. Mer-man!”). Still, there’s been little in his writing/directing past that would lead one to believe he was capable of churning out the most talked about comedy of the summer. Tropic Thunder is exactly that, although it owes quite a bit to Hollywood’s unwavering devotion to itself, even the skewering of itself, and the movie critics who love to think that getting the joke means they’re part of the machine.

The set-up is as follows: a group of five Hollywood actors set out to make a Vietnam biopic. With the actors continually primping and fighting, the director determines to take them out into the country and shoot “guerilla style” to get more authenticity. When they get caught between the crosshairs of real drug dealers with machine guns, they can’t figure out if it’s all part of the movie or the real deal until it’s too late. Ben Stiller is great at Tugg Speedman, an action star looking for legitimacy. Jack Black is bearable (which is saying something for me) as an Eddie Murphy-type comic actor with a heroin problem. Robert Downey Jr. is the best thing in a funny movie, playing an Australian playing a black soldier, who is so committed, he won’t break character even though he’s the only one convinced they’re really in danger. Jay Barachul (Knocked Up) as the young nerd-type and Brandon T. Jackson (I don’t know him from anything) as the legitimate black man round out the five soldiers on location.

The skewering of Hollywood is funny, with the most hilarious lines being the infamous “retard” rant coming from Downey Jr. The supporting cast is also money. You’ve heard about Cruise, who reminds you how great he really can be in his most against-type performance since Magnolia, but for my money McConaughey as Stiller’s agent and Nick Nolte as the Vietnam vet turned author that pinned the original Tropic Thunder deserve every bit as much credit. That said, the film at times plays like one long inside joke. If you don’t know your Hollywood Insider, there isn’t nearly as much for you. What’s more, the whole charade can get a little cloying after awhile. Who really buys that Hollywood is being critiqued or even tweaked in a $100 million dollar film coming out of a big studio?

The laughs are a bit hit-and-miss, but when they hit, they hit very hard. It’s worth mentioning that this bad boy is rated R for violence, and it definitely earns it (Lawyer, you’ve been warned). I turned my head on several occasions. Tropic Thunder is a fun and funny movie with every member of the ensemble cast coming through in spades. Even if it’s not as consistently good as advertised, it’s still a good time. B.

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Treasure of the Sierra Madre - A- (AFI 100 Series)

On DVD (1948). #38 on the AFI list.

After Paul Thomas Anderson cited Treasure of the Sierra Madre as a major influence on There Will Be Blood, I moved it up in my queue. The film tells the story of drifter Dodds (Humphrey Bogart) and his adventures as an unlikely gold prospector in the wiles of Mexico. Director John Huston uses the story to try and show the impact of greed on men and the problems that individualism can cause - obviously the same themes PTA was reaching for in TWBB. For me, Bogart's performance is hammy and hard to relate to. Although Huston won the Academy Award for adapted screenplay, I thought Bogart's Dodds character was less than compelling because he is such a loser. Click below for more on MADRE:

He starts out begging for money in Tampico and ends up being tricked about another job, only lucking into the trip with the knowledgeable prospector. As a viewer, I would expect someone like that to fall prey to the temptation to sell out and even kill your friends for money, so his fall from grace wasn't compelling for me. Interestingly, the other main character, the experienced prospector, is played by John Huston's father, Walter. One big bonus for the film was the appearance of the infamous "Badges, we don't need no stinkin' badges" line from a very stereotypical Mexican bandit.

The film is beautifully shot in black and white and has several great sequences during the prospecting trip, especially during the visit to their camp by a friendly stranger. Huston touches on environmentalism ever so briefly when the group chooses to repair the mountain after they finish prospecting instead of leaving it "wounded". He was way ahead of his time on that one.

I like the film, but Bogart didn't do it for me and I am in the middle of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, which takes the opposite view of greed and capitalism (I agree with Rand), so maybe it was the wrong time for this one. I can see the influences of the film on the structure and overall TWBB themes, but to me its not even close as to which is better.

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The World is Flat - Thomas Friedman

First published in 2005.

I am only about 3 years late to the party on this book, but at least I got there. Friedman, the influential New York Times economics etc. columnist followed up his much ballyhooed The Lexus and the Olive Tree with this book, which focuses on the impact of globalization on the world and its impacts on the future of the United States. At this point, some of the epiphanies that were revelatory in 2005 are commonplace (ie widespread wifi access), but the major themes of the book still ring true and are important for parents, policymakers and educators in the USA to grasp. Click below for more FLAT:

Friedman goes to great pains to explain how gloablization and outsourcing came to be...I was more interested in the 'state of the world' and what that means. He clearly lays out his position that globalization is good for the USA, but that future generations will have to work harder to be the driving economy of the world because they will be competing against billions of people, not just Americans, to lead companies and foster innovation. I am not entirely sold on the idea that globalization is good for the US, although I do acknowledge that it is inevitable.

The most interesting thing I have read recently along these lines basically sets forth that China is to America in the 21st century as America was to Western Europe in the 20th century. The article hold that the US is no longer ascendant economically, and the more liberal our policies become the harder it is to innovate while other developing countries aggressively pursue oil and expansion.

The book has long patches where the techno-geek Friedman gets bogged down in the novelty of things, without any interest for the reader (ie the several pages on where the parts for his Dell computer came from....we get it, the world is flat). Part of that problem I think is generational, because things are so novel to him as a boomer that a GenXer just takes for granted. At a lengthy 19 hours on audio CD, this is better in abridged format, if you can find it...I wish I had gone that route.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

DVD and CD Releases - August 19th

Recent DVD Releases:

Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds
The Life Before Her Eyes
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Prom Night
Street Kings

Click below for more DVD and CD releases.

DVD Special Editions/Other Releases:

TV Box Sets:

Dexter: Season Two
Gossip Girl: Season One
House: Season Four
Lonesome Dove: Collector's Edition
Perry Mason: Season Three, V1
Terminator - Sarah Connor Chronicles: Season One
Transformers: Animated Season One
Wayside School: Season One

Special Editions/Other Releases:

Chronicle of an Escape
The Fletch Collection
Her Best Move
Nixon: Election Year Edition
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior

New CD Releases:
David Byrne and Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
The Academy Is ... - Fast Times at Barrington High
Anarbor - The Natural Way EP
Caesars - Strawberry Weed
The Dandy Warhols - Earth To the Dandy Warhols
Salme Dahlstrom - The Acid Cowgirl Audio Trade
Fiery Furnaces - Remember Live CD
Juliana Hatfield - How to Walk Away
Human Highway - Moody Motorcycle
Karina - First Love
Lykke Li - Youth Novels
MakeUpBreakUp - We Prefer Not To... EP
Perhapst- Perhapst
Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line
The Ritz - The Night of Day
Shwayze - Shwayze
Todd Snidert - Peace Queer
Staind The - Illusion of Progress
Starling Electric - Clouded Staircase
Stereolab - Chemical Chords
The Stills - Oceans Will Rise
Straight Line - Stitch When Skies Wash Ashore
System and Station - A Nation of Actors
Uh Huh Her - Common Reaction
The Walkmen - You And Me
Loudon Wainwright III - Recovery

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New Verve Album

The new Verve album, Forth, comes out next week. This week you can listen to it for free here.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Obama Funny

This video makes me laugh so hard.

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New Bottle Rocket DVD

As I've mentioned before, Bottle Rocket (A), is being released as a Criterion Collection DVD this fall. Today I stumbled upon the cover art and list of special features.

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer supervised and approved by director Wes Anderson and director of photography Robert Yeoman
- Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack
- Commentary by director/co-writer Anderson and co-writer/actor Owen Wilson

Click below for more cool features, including a Scorsese angle:

- The Making of “Bottle Rocket”: an original documentary by filmmaker Barry Braverman featuring Anderson, James L. Brooks, James Caan, Temple Nash Jr., Kumar Pallana, Polly Platt, Mark Mothersbaugh, Robert Musgrave, Richard Sakai, David and Sandy Wasco, Andrew and Luke and Owen Wilson, and Robert Yeoman
- The original thirteen-minute black-and-white Bottle Rocket short film from 1992
- Eleven deleted scenes
- Anamorphic screen test, storyboards, location photos, and behind-the-scenes photographs by Laura Wilson
- Murita Cycles, a 1978 short film by Braverman
- The Shafrazi Lectures, no. 1: Bottle Rocket
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by executive producer James L. Brooks, an appreciation by Martin Scorsese, and original artwork by Ian Dingman

Go here for more information.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008


About a Boy's Marcus is all growns up.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Trailers

1. Trailer for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Director David Fincher, based on a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald).

2. The Duchess trailer - Starring Keira Knightly and Ralph Fiennes.

3. Body of Lies new trailer (so much better than the first). Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ridley Scott with a script from The Departed's William Monahan.

4. 2 new clips from Religulous. My most anticipated comedy of the year, even though I hate Bill Maher. Burqua humor is great.

5. Trailer for Role Models. Looks really funny. Starring Paul Rudd, Sean William Scott and McLovin.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008


Since I'm going to Alaska today, I wanted to write about my favorite filim set in Alaska: Insomnia, the 2002 Christopher Nolan film. I haven't had a chance to rewatch it. I did watch the director's cut of Dark City which is a great film. I should write both when I get back. Click below for more Alaskan landscapes from Insomnia.

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Lego Fun for the Whole Family

Daniel Plainview is not just for adults anymore.

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Step Brothers - B-

In theaters.

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly still live with their single parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins, respectively) and enjoy their unemployed lives of video games and musical dreams. When their parents meet and decide to wed, they become step brothers. At first they are competitive rivals, but when Ferrell’s biologic brother (Adam Scott) shows up, brandishing his success and belittling their lack thereof, they become fast friends. By the time the credits roll, Horatio Sanz will sing 80s Billy Joel, old dog poop will be licked, and "Sweet Child O' Mine" will be sung a cappella.

Click below for more BROS.

The movie is funnier than Semi-Pro mostly because of Richard Jenkins, who throws around the F-word as better than you can imagine. Ferrell and Reilly throw out hilarious one-liners too and bounce off each other better than they did in Talladega Nights. They are blessedly free of a PG-13 rating and many of the biggest laughs couldn’t be found without a restricted rating. Reilly is a strong presence that Ferrell missed in Semi-Pro. The archetypal portrayals of a mother’s love and a father’s toughness are shown well by the recently married couple. And they are welcome (although probably brief) additions to the Judd Apatow entourage. The movie makes lots of missteps and basically derails during the climactic scene (Ferrell sings/rapes Andrea Bocelli’s "Con te Partiro"). The message of allowing people to remain adolescents into their 40s is a dubious one, but this is funny and worth seeing for a many R-rated laughs. Can’t imagine how the edited version will play on regular TV. B-

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

DVD and CD Releases - August 12th

Recent DVD Releases:

Smart People

Click below for more DVD and CD releases.

DVD Special Editions/Other Releases:

TV Box Sets:

Caroline in the City: Season One
Dave's World: Season One
The Love Boat: Season One, V2
Prison Break: Season Three
South Park: Season Eleven
Tom and Jerry Tales: Volume Five
Tru Calling: Complete Series
The Wire: Season Five

Special Editions/Other Releases:

Aftermath: Population Zero
The Art of War II: Betrayal
The Killing Gene: Unrated Edition
The Legend of the Shadowless Sword
The Secret

New CD Releases:

Bark, Hide And Horn - National Road
Bigelf - Cheat the Gallows
Clique Girlz - Not Too Young
Extreme - Saudades de Rock
Inara George - An Invitation
Zach Hill - Astrological Straits
Jonas Brothers - A Little Bit Longer
Anne McCue - East of Electric
Mike & The Ravens - Noisy Boys! The Saxony Sessions
Janelle Monae - Metropolis: The Chase Suite
David Sanborn - Here And Gone
Sick of Sarah - Sick of Sarah
Anya Singleton - The Other Side
S.M.V. - Thunder
Tittsworth - Twelve Steps
Irma Thomas - Simply Grand
Ben Weaver - The Axe and the Oak
Young Berg - Look What You Made Me

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Charles Van Doren Essay (Quiz Show)

Quiz Show (A), directed by Robert Redford and starring Ralph Fiennes as Charles Van Doren, is one of the best films of the nineties, and is based on the true story of fraud in the game shows of the 1950's. All these years later, Van Doren has written an essay about the experience. For an intelligent response to the essay, go here.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pineapple Express - B-

In theaters. Rated R, 110 minutes. Trailer.

With one of the best trailers of the year and lots of buzz, I was expecting a knockout of a comedy from Apatow, Rogen and Co. What I got was an uneven and patchy film that was really boring in some spots and laugh out loud funny in others - and about 25 minutes too long. Rogen stars as Dale Denton, a pot-obsessed process server that unwittingly witnesses a murder and goes on the run with his dealer, Saul (James Franco) to avoid the perpetrator. The duo work together to get through their situation, and along the way there is pot-induced silliness, and lots of scene stealing by James Franco, Craig Robinson (Darryl from the Office), and Danny McBride (of Foot Fist Way fame). Click below for more on PINEAPPLE EXPRESS:

Franco sells Rogen special weed that can be tracked directly to him, and that is how the 'bad guys' track them down. Craig Robinson is Matheson, a cocky British Knight wearing hitman that is on the hunt for the hapless and high duo. He brings his typical cocky humor to the role, and his interactions are all first rate.

I feel dumb even trying to describe the plot, which culminates in a 25 minute climactic sequence in a rural farmhouse/pot production plant. As for the acting, Rogen's character is the classic Apatowian hero...schlubby, sensitive and ordinary. Trouble is, Rogen shot all of his bullets in Knocked Up, and his persona isn't funny enough to carry through several films, unlike other comic heavyweights like Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson. Without Franco and McBride, his Dale Denton is just annoying, especially in the scenes with his high school girlfriend, an exceedingly unnecessary subplot. McBride is hilarious as the clueless/cocky Red, the middleman that ultimately bonds with our dynamic duo. Franco gives a great lived in performance as the half baked dealer with a heart of gold.

The movie works extremely well when Franco, McBride and Rogen are all onscreen together, but struggles otherwise. I realize that there is a certain 'pot genre' that might forgive the aimless and boring plot and dumb sequences, but I don't grade on a pot curve. Ed Begley and Nora Dunn give very funny cameo performances as the pissed parents of Dale's girlfriend. The final scene, a Pulp Fiction feeling (not the violent part) diner breakfast scene, is one of the best of the year and nearly put the film at a solid B, but as I was writing about the plot it dropped back down to a B-.

I have read several articles about director David Gordon Green (from Dallas suburb Richardson) and the lack of 'meddling' from the studio on the film due to the power of the Apatow team's brand. I think a little practical meddling would probably have made this a much better film.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Seether - iTunes Originals Album

This week Seether released a special iTunes Originals album. For $9 you get new, brilliant versions of several songs, along with about 40 minutes of songwriter/singer Shaun Morgan discussing his songwriting, influences, and the band in general. Please go buy it. At the very least buy the following songs: "Fine Again", "Broken", "Remedy", "Truth," "Rise Above This", and Beatles cover "Across the Universe". I cannot get enough of this band.

Don't forget - The new The Verve album "Forth" comes out on August 26, but you can now download the first single "Love is Noise" on iTunes now. Its a great song.

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The Road

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is being adapted into a film (coming this Fall). After Priest's review and Entertainment Weekly's declaration that it is the best fiction of the past 25 years, I read it and enjoyed it. There are several production photos for the film here. Below is one of Viggo Mortensen as 'man'.

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hard Knocks (HBO) - Dallas Cowboys Training Camp

Wednesdays at 9:00pm Central on HBO. Trailer.

Hard Knocks is an annual HBO series done by the superb NFL Films that tracks the training camp of an NFL team. This year's subject is the only team I really care about in sports, the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys were previously the subject of the series in 2002, and it was a disappointing, though interesting affair. This year is much different and, based on last night's premiere episode, it will be another NFL Films home run. With Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, Jason Witten, Coach Wade Phillips, Owner Jerry Jones, and the other characters on and around the team, the producers have an interesting and dynamic 'cast' and a Super Bowl type atmosphere to dramatize the series. Click below for more HARD KNOCKS:

The opening sequences gave me chills and got me excited for this season. The voice over about 'the star' and the Cowboys as the most glamorous team in professional sports were gratifying. Even Bride (a historic KC Chiefs fan) appreciated the majesty (and really liked the show).

The Cowboys training camp takes place in Oxnard, California on the coast. The show tracked the team as the left Dallas and arrived in California, focusing on Witten, Romo, and a couple of rookies just trying to fit in. As the team arrives, the focus widens to Jerry Jones, Terrell Owens and others. The main storylines explored so far are: rookies fitting in, making the team (only 48 of the 80 that start camp end up on the roster), T.O., Jason Garrett as a head coach, and Pacman Jones/TO rivalry. The scenes with Jerry Jones are particularly interesting, and his speech about being able to anywhere in the world doing anything and choosing to be with the team in Oxnard really made you feel his love for the team and validates your own.

The series is available and glistening in High Definition, with NFL Films providing high quality sound and production. The hidden microphones catch lots of meaningful candid moments like TO chastising Pacman for being too short. For those without HBO, the first episode will air on starting tomorrow.

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Seether Concert - Dallas - August 5, 2008

At the Palladium Ballroom. Safety Suit and Red opening.

For my money, Seether lead singer/songwriter Shaun Morgan is the best thing going in rock music right now. As an 'old school' guy that didn't think through his 'bit' and hairstyle before he even wrote a single song (like most of the rock acts out now) he and Seether have succeeded based on excessive talent and one of my new favorite voices.

At the Palladium Tuesday night, the band was tight, loud!, and perfect. After seeing Seether last fall as an opener for other bands, I was pumped about the prospect of seeing them as the headliner of their own show - and I wasn't disappointed. They took the stage at 10:20pm with music playing and a curtain covering the front of the stage, with only a swinging light visible at first, with each of their profiles becoming visible during the opening to the first song, with the curtain dropping at the first drumbeat and power chord. I hadn't seen that before, and it worked. Click below for more SEETHER and tales from a rowdy concert:

The band's set is simple, with some small lights on the microphone stands and drumkit, with a little utilized video screen behind them. As I said before, Seether is interested in their music, not their 'bit'. Morgan's voice was strong despite their extensive touring, and he sang each song with conviction and concern for the quality of the music. His low and growly (but not too much so) voice and songwriting make him like the perfect son of Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain. They played several songs off of their new album, including "Rise Above This", "Fake It", "Like Suicide", and others. All were good, and live they really closed the deal with me on the quality of the songs. They also played some of my favorites from their previous albums, "The Gift", "Broken" (done acoustically), "Gasoline", "Fine Again" (favorite), "Remedy", "Truth" and a good, but not great cover of STP's "Creep". Refreshingly, the band did not do an encore, instead making it clear that their last song was just that. Encores are so contrived now that I much prefer just a longer set to a faux encore. The sound mix for the show was great (could've used just a little bit more of Morgan's voice) and the guitars were crunchy and loud.

The Palladium is a great venue, with standing capacity of 1600 and an easily seen raised stage and ridiculously loud sound system. I love seeing bands that still care at venues of this size and it creates the perfect setting for a great show. The one big drawback was the inexplicable scrum of bodyslamming that opened up just in front of us (about 15 feet fron the stage) and grew into a circle of jackassery of about 500 square feet for the entire show (a 'slam pit'). As a post-primordial male, I've never been into that scene, which involves slamming into other male/simians while not really listening to the band you paid $30 to see and drove downtown for. The worst part is that of course all of the people surrounding the scrum have to absorb blows and push the jackasses back into the melee. People that take part in that activity should be put in a home.

Note: Original Appraiser - go see these guys in Lubbock on the 10th.

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