Sunday, July 31, 2011

Song of the Day - Pumped Up Kicks

By Foster the People

A crazy cool riff with a priceless bass line and some unique vocals via a distorted mic. A choice that reflects the disturbing lyrics. Nice.

Continue reading this post

Weekend Box Office: 7/29-7/31/11


1. Cowboys & Aliens: 36.2 mil / NEW
2. Smurfs: 36.2 mil / NEW
3. Captain America: 25 mil / -62% / 117 mil
4. Harry Potter 8: 22 mil / -54% / 318 mil
5. Crazy, Stupid, Love: 19.3 mil / NEW
6. Friends with Benefits: 9.3 mil / -50% / 38 mil
7. Horrible Bosses: 7.1 mil / -40% / 96 mil
8. Transformers 3: 6 mil / -51% / 338 mil
9. Zookeeper: 4.2 mil / -52% / 69 mil
10. Cars 2: 2.3 mil / -59% / 182 mil
11. Winnie the Pooh: 1.8 mil / -66% / 22 mil
12. Midnight in Paris: 1.2 mil / -32% / 47 mil

Continue reading this post

Friday, July 29, 2011

Song of the Day: Vomit by Girls

I know what you're thinking, but this one starts out good and builds and builds to greatness. The vibe is 70's Pink Floyd on the front end moving to gospel in the last couple of minutes. I think it's right up doctor's alley.

And here is the rest of it.

Continue reading this post

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Recent Documentary Viewings

Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (On DVD, 2009). Trailer.
Sometimes (most of the time??) stereotypes are accurate. This film follows the "legendary" White family from rural West Virginia and their triumphs, addictions and travails. The films is alternately funny, sad and informative. The family is famous in their area for being 'crazy' and they live up to the billing. The affects of addiction, low expectations and the welfare state are on full display. Worth every second of your time.

There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane (On HBO, 2011). Trailer. In the summer of 2009 a normal mother of 2 drove the wrong way on the Taconic Highway in New Jersey and had a horrific crash that killed 8. Initially, the public was very sympathetic, then the lab tests came back showing she was drunk and possibly high on marijuana. The fallout is fascinating and the filmmakers do a good job of letting the facts and characters speak for themselves. Worth your time.

Hot Coffee (On HBO, 2011). Trailer. A well-made film that studies the urban legend that is the McDonalds coffee spill lawsuit and other media concoctions. It then goes on to attack tort reform and provide quite a bit of frustrating arguments against tort reform. Doctor's blood pressure will not survive this one. I found that the film did enlighten me on the McDonalds suit and reminded me to be super-cynical all the time because nothing is that it appears. Further, it reminded me that there is another side to the tort reform argument and that 'absolute caps' are something that is immoral and not something that belongs in our justice system. Damage caps on punitive damages make sense as do some other caps. This one is very thought-provoking and interesting. Worth your time.

Continue reading this post

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

HBO Sunday Night - 7/24/11

Curb Your Enthusiasm - Palestinian Chicken
Season 8, Episode 3

Who would've guessed Curb Your Enthusiasm would have out-sexed the season premiere of Entourage? As Larry prepares for a 5-man golf tournament, two members ask him to confront their own family members about annoying tics. Of course, his "social assassination" attempts will have unintended consequences. Meanwhile, Funkhouser has become a devout Jew (complete with a yarmulke). And Jeff and Larry enjoy the best chicken in LA - made by Palestinians . . .

The political discussion reflecting the Muslim Mosque being built at Ground Zero was a nice touch. Larry seems to be incredibly relaxed (and less angry) this season, making his interactions more enjoyable. This is especially true with Shara, a Palestinian woman he meets. Flirting brings out the best in him. The first-ever Curb sex scene and its aftermath (with Funkhouser) are instant classic scenes in another classic episode. A

Entourage - Home Sweet Home
Season 8, Episode 1

In contrast, Entourage was too tame and sterile during its season premiere. Vince is released from rehab which forces an annoying Johnny to dispose of everything that is alcohol or drug related. And without the parties and women, these guys are infinitely more boring. The writers have contrived a way to get all of the guys together under one roof during this last season (including Ari). Let's hope this set-up episode is a springboard for some great interactions. On a positive note, E will be Sloan-less (for awhile) and Andrew Dice Clay will be given some serious supporting time. And the great Billy Walsh has returned. B-

Continue reading this post

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

PJ 20 Trailer

Watching this Cameron Crowe directed documentary about Pearl Jam will be among my favorite 2 hours this year. Great trailer debuted today.

Continue reading this post

Monday, July 25, 2011

Song of the Day - Till I Collapse, Eminem

Yet another classic from Marshall Mathers. Best starting at 2:20

Continue reading this post

Sunday, July 24, 2011

R.I.P. - Amy Winehouse

Not the biggest fan, but I like people that don't compromise. Amazing voice, original style and commitment to her demons.

Continue reading this post

Best Songs Clocking In at 3:20

Tonight Tonight by Hot Chelle Rae is the year's perfect pop song. It comes in at 3 minutes and 20 seconds. Here are a few others (links when available):

Complication with Optimistic Outcome
Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch
One of my favorite tracks on the soundtrack wasn't even in the movie.

Near Wild Heaven

Why Go
Pearl Jam

Our House

Magic Bus
The Who

Hurdy Gurdy Man

Shake Your Rump
Beastie Boys

Smashing Pumpkins

Fleetwood Mac

Ruby Tuesday
The Rolling Stones

Continue reading this post

Weekend Box Office: 7/22-7/24/11


1. Captain America: 65.8 mil / NEW
2. Harry Potter 8: 48 mil / -72% / 274 mil
3. Friends with Benefits: 18.5 mil / NEW
4. Transformers 3: 12 mil / -44% / 326 mil
5. Horrible Bosses: 11.7 mil / -34% / 82 mil
6. Zookeeper: 8.7 mil / -29% / 59 mil
7. Cars 2: 5.7 mil / -32% / 176 mil
8. Winnie the Pooh: 5.1 mil / -35% / 18 mil
9. Bad Teacher: 2.6 mil / -50% / 94 mil
10. Midnight in Paris: 1.9 mil / +1% / 45 mil
11. Bridesmaids: 1.3 mil / -22 mil / 164 mil
12. Larry Crowne: 1 mil / -61% / 34 mil

Continue reading this post

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Safe House

Season 8, Episode 2

Richard Lewis returns with a stripper girlfriend. When LD, Leon, Funkhouser, and Jeff go see her show, complications ensue. Meanwhile Larry gets involved with a battered women's shelter and racial profiling abounds . . .

This hilarious episode was perfectly structured and had great moments of improvisation. Excellent acting from the aforementioned foursome was supplemented by many women (including former SNLer Michaela Watkins and the "marm" Miriam Flynn). Flynn easily held her own against everything LD threw at her. Great to see Curtis Armstrong again. A-

Continue reading this post

Monday, July 18, 2011

Song of the Day - The Stand, Hillsong (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Maybe its the heat making me miss my church camp in East Texas, but I'll be damned if this praise chorus doesn't get me every Sunday at church. Great instrumentation and phrasing coupled with the rare praise lyrics that don't have weird sexual connotations. This version is okay, but the best starts at the 3:00 mark.

Continue reading this post

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Trailers

1. Contagion - New Steven Soderbergh film
about a virus threatening the world looks like an artier, grittier update of Outbreak (1995)starring Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet. The music and performances look amazing.

2. Hugo - New Martin Scorsese 3D children's film about a boy in Paris. Marty in his 'I got my Oscar, so now I'll just mess around phase"?

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Totally outside my usual interests, but this trailer is electric - love the apes. Great score.

Continue reading this post

Song of the Day - Lights (Remix), Ellie Goulding

Dentist sends this remix of an already good song with intensity and an angelic voice.

Continue reading this post

Weekend Box Office: 7/15-7/17/11

Finally, a couple of box office stories worth noting. Harry Potter 8 took the opening weekend record from The Dark Knight. Woody Allen has his biggest hit of all time. R-rated comedies continue to make money while 90s movie stars can't. Cars 2 has passed A Bug's Life so it won't be the lowest Pixar grosser. But it ain't great. At least there's always the merch.


1. Harry Potter 8: 168.6 mil / NEW
2. Transformers 3: 21.2 mil / -55% / 303 mil
3. Horrible Bosses: 17.6 mil / -38% / 60 mil
4. Zookeeper: 12.3 mil / -39% / 42 mil
5. Cars 2: 8.3 mil / -45% / 165 mil
6. Winnie the Pooh: 8 mil / NEW
7. Bad Teacher: 5.2 mil / -42% / 89 mil
8. Larry Crowne: 2.6 mil / -57% / 32 mil
9. Super 8: 1.9 mil / -60% / 122 mil
10. Midnight in Paris: 1.9 mil / -28% / 42 mil
11. Bridesmaids: 1.7 mil / -36% / 161 mil
12. Mr. Popper's Penguins: 1.4 mil / -57% / 61 mil
13. Monte Carlo: 1.3 mil / -66% / 20 mil
14. Green Lantern: 1.3 mil -60% / 113 mil

Continue reading this post

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Quick Hits - A Few Recent Viewings

The Adjustment Bureau - B. On DVD (2011).

Matt Damon stars in what even he has to recognize has become 'his' character: a prodigious and handsome star with a hard scrabble past that threatens to derail his success. This time he is a congressman running for Senate that meets the love of his life (Emily Blunt) on an important night. Trouble is, there is an Adjustment Bureau that controls the world, and he isn't 'supposed' to be with her. Blunt and Damon are both very entertaining, with decent support from Anthony Mackie as a sympathetic agent. I enjoyed the direction of the film, but the concept and predictable story just weren't that great. Not bad.

Click below for Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, Lincoln Lawyer, Winnie The Pooh, and the Bottle Rocket Rolling Roadshow:

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop - B. On DVD (2011).

This documentary follows Conan as he tours the country in the aftermath of his ouster at NBC. It gets a B for being interesting, not necessarily funny. I found it mostly interesting to watch Conan's behind the scenes life and his compulsion to be the center of attention. He is a prisoner of his own graciousness as he burns himself out talking after the shows and taking on extra gigs.

Lincoln Lawyer - C-.
On DVD (2011).

I feel like I heard good things about this one during its theatrical run...must've been from an insane asylum. Matthew McConaughey stars as a semi-morally bankrupt criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles. A million cliches get thrown around with a supremely weird and uninteresting relationship with Marisa Tomei. I like McConaughey a lot, and there were some decent moments, but this is a dumber, longer Law and Order..Skip It.

Winnie the Pooh - C+. In theaters. Okay, so its pooh, I know. But, its only 63 minutes long and the story was uninteresting and boring. Worth it only if your kids are under 8 and sheltered (which applies to me, but it was rough).

Bottle Rocket Rolling Roadshow. Europpraiser and I (plus our wives) attended last Saturday night's Alamo Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow presentation of Bottle Rocket at the hotel where it was filmed in Hillsboro, Texas. Robert Musgrave (Bob Mapplethorpe) was in attendance, and it was really cool to watch the film outdoors, on a big screen at the hotel. A cool experience and greatly enjoyed watching the whole film without stopping on a big screen - gets better and better. "Bob, you're the zero". Click here for a writeup and pictures of the event.

Continue reading this post

John C. Reilly's Best Movies

In recent years, John C. Reilly has turned to comedy, including his lawyer-loving turn in this year's Cedar Rapids. He's paired himself with Will Ferrell twice to often hilarious results. He received a leading role in Dewey Cox, an OK but unfocused and overly profane parody. Reilly's penchant for comedy was obvious in Boogie Nights where he (among others) served as comic relief. Not surprisingly, his best films are the ones from the best directors he's worked with:

5. Gangs of New York

4. Hard Eight

3. Magnolia

2. Boogie Nights

1. The Thin Red Line

Continue reading this post

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Tree of Life A

In theaters. 138 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
This film was previously reviewed by Lawyer here.

Terrence Malick in The Tree of Life sculpts an intensely personal, intensely beautiful retelling of life that is immediately accessible while maintaining a distance from the viewer that I suspicion will melt away upon subsequent interactions. In so doing, Malick attacks the very nature of the medium he’s chosen. More than any other art form, even the novel, film controls how and what we experience. It controls the questions we ask, what we see, when we see it, and how we process it. It traditionally gives us no space to consider what we’re watching and, more importantly, to bring our own experiences to bear. This stands in stark contrast to pieces of art, which beg us to step back and get lost in our own experiences as our eyes wonder. Even the novel, which may share the most in common with film, allows us to imagine places, people, and things and gives us permission to stop, consider, even put the book down and come back later. Tree of Life is best approached like poetry. Living in a time in which the appreciation of poetry is limited to collegiate sophomores or dirty limericks, it is perhaps to be expected that the walk out rate for this film is so high. That’s a shame. Great poems launch us on someone else’s voyage only to end with us realizing it’s our own terrain we’ve been exploring. So it is that in Life we start off wondering what’s going on in Jack O’Brien’s life and end up exploring our families, our past, and our future.

Ahh, but I’m just talking around the subject. Stylistically, Life is non-linear, abstract, and heavily spiritual; moving in and out of reality, history, memories, and imagination. It is marked by multiple narrators, many of them whispering prayers. The story is of Jack O’Brien, played as an adult by Sean Penn, but the real heavy lifting goes to Hunter McCracken who plays Jack as a child. He is the oldest of three boys born to a disciplinarian father (Brad Pitt) and a loving, angelic mother (Jessica Chastain). Pitt’s character, a frustrated musician, tries to instill in his son the hard-knock nature of existence. Although a committed religious man, his ethic is survival-of-the-fittest in which he teaches his sons to fight and instills in them a selfish view of humanity. While the father is hated at points by his sons, he is a sympathetic character, a man who practices a certain realpolitik in life that may be ultimately wanting, but is a valuable counter-balance to his wife. Jessica Chastain’s mother instructs her boys to love everyone, always forgive, and never use violence. While her sons love her, they also take advantage of her and do not submit to her authority unless it is backed by her husband. While it is easy to dismiss her mantra of love and grace as idealistic and out-of-touch with the real world, her handling of the death of one of her sons proves it is anything but as she moves from anger to grief to acceptance, movements her husband seems incapable of.

This tension between two approaches to life inhabited by the mother and father, described in Life as the way of nature and the way of grace, propels the film. It is here that we get in to the deep spirituality of the film. It begins with a beautiful scripture from the Biblical book of Job. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation while the morning stars sang together and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?” Job, along with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, falls within the category of wisdom literature in the Bible. Job is a counter to Proverbs. Proverbs basically teaches that if you do good things, good things will happen to you. Job says, “except when it doesn’t.” This scripture is an important one to the film in that it not only addresses a major issue in the plot, the death of a child (the death of all Job’s children is one of his afflictions), it also holds in tension the inscrutability of God by humans and the great joy and beauty of God’s creation. Indeed, the beauty of creation seems to be the point of a 20-minute re-telling of the evolution of the universe that serves as the foundation of the story. It is a breathtaking exploration of film and photography marked by rapturous music. But even here, as Malick both embraces a creator and shows a scientific explanation of species, the twin themes of the beauty of grace and the harsh reality of nature play out.

Malick even goes so far as placing scripture in the very mouths of his characters. Among other examples, Paul is paraphrased twice, once from the 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter), and once from Romans 7. What are we to do with all this scripture, prayer, and religion? Is Malick proselytizing? Is he symbolically retelling the story of Job? Is this an allegorical tale? I don’t think so. Malick is doing something infinitely more interesting and complex. He’s taking scripture and other forms of knowledge seriously and trying to understand life via them. He’s not retelling Bible stories. He’s telling his story in light of them. It is the lens he’s using to understand a life lived, while simultaneously using that life to make sense of scripture. The audience is caught in the middle, watching this dialectic play out. Is what we’re seeing memory? Reality? A dream? My guess is, if we could ask Malick, he’d say all those things all the time. For a believer, which Malick’s characters are (and one assumes Malick to be as well), memory, reality, and possibility are all filtered through faith. Indeed, there is no independent knowledge unbuttressed by beliefs, experiences, and texts. Malick isn’t trying to get outside of his particular vantage point, nor is he trying to convert others to them. He’s just showing life from his particular set and inviting the audience, through multiple pauses, silences, stories, and visuals, to explore their own.

Through all this Malick wrestles with the great spiritual and scientific dilemma of our time. How can a loving God create through such a brutally painful mechanism as survival of the fittest? How can a brutally painful mechanism such as survival of the fittest alone lead to such exquisite beauty and love? While theology and evolutionary biology both posit answers, neither are satisfying and rarely does either side take the other's objections seriously.

That Malick chooses to take up these issues (and countless others I won’t write of here) is commendable. That he treats both with respect and finds, ultimately, a reality that acknowledges then supersedes these questions, is close to miraculous. The best movie of the year thus far. The best movie about about faith I’ve ever seen.

Continue reading this post

Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Divorce

Season 8, Episode 1

Larry is finalizing his divorce with Cheryl but he's not sure he'll get the best deal since the Hebrew ethnicity of his lawyer is in question. He buys dozens of girl scout cookie boxes but isn't sure he wants them. And he inadvertently causes the divorce of Marty Funkhouser . . .

The season opener was awkward in many ways. The LA Dodgers went bankrupt earlier this summer which made the Gary Cole subplot anachronistic. Larry and Cheryl making each other laugh was out of place for a divorcing couple. And the bit with the tampon was revolting (twice), but you do have to respect LD really going for the visual joke. There were several good moments (including Susie's monologue about a potential divorce and the look on Funk's face when his wife decides to go on his London trip). LD's jabs at liberal hypocrisy and liberal racism are still refreshing. B

Continue reading this post

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cedar Rapids - B

On DVD (2011). Rated R, 86 minutes. Trailer.

Ed Helms stars as Tim Lippe in this decent indie-comedy set in the upper-midwest. We are introduced to his sheltered, rural character living and working as a middling insurance salesman in Wisconsin. Through some misfortune, he ends up headed to mid-size city Cedar Rapids, Iowa to a regional conference for insurance salesmen. He ends up rooming with two veterans of the conference - John C. Reilly (Dean Zeigler) and Isaiah Whitlock Jr. (Ronald Wilkes). Click below for more on CR:

Most of this film feels like a mash-up of Up In The Air, the Office and any fish out of water comedy. Helms obviously can pull off the lovable nerd, and he is playing a less interesting version of his Andy Bernard character in this film. His character is extremely naive and his naivete is peeled away like an onion as the film progresses. He hangs with Dean and Ronald, as well as a woman played by Anne heche, and learns that the big award given by the conference is all a sham and that his weird back-home lover (Sigourney Weaver) is not in love with him. Because of this he goes a little crazy and the film follows a very predictable arc.

So far this review is unorganized and pretty negative, so why the B? Well, there are several laughs, and the 4 main actors are all fun to watch. But, the real star of the show is John C. Reilly, who turns a potentially one-dimensional character into my favorite performance of the year. He needs to get a Best Supporting Actor nomination. His Dean is a crude, caring, unsentimental buddy and anchors the credibility and comedy of the film. The scene where he busts in on Helms in the bathroom is an instant-classic.

Worth your time.

Continue reading this post

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

X Men: First Class - B

In theaters. Rated R, 131 minutes. Trailer.

Given the films I review every summer, its obvious that the superhero film is not my favorite genre. But, the positive reviews and directorial pedigree (Matthew Vaughn) put me in the theater. The film traces the origins of each of the X-Men and the current alignment of the mutants. We begin with Magneto's (Michael Fassbender) experiences in the concentration camps during World War 2 and then get on with the others with mixed success. Click below for more on XMFC:

We see Professor X (James McAvoy) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) meet as children and then get recruited by the CIA (agents played by Rose Byrne and Oliver Platt). They use Professor X's telepathic powers to recruit the other mutants to battle the bad mutants led by a horribly miscast Kevin Bacon and his wooden sidekicks (they are like something out of the Batman and Robin TV show; except for Emma Frost (ably played by January Jones...). The assembly of the mutants is VERY pedestrian and uninteresting, stylish as it may be put together.

I was very bored by pretty much everything except the relationship between Magneto and Professor X as they semi-wrestle with a few difficult issues. They present the only adult storyline in an otherwise kid-friendly film. The film was a pretty solid B- until the final scene on the beach, which nearly lifted it to B+ because of its existential and Magneto-heavy sequences.

Fassbender is the best thing about the film and, combined with his elegant performance in Inglorious Basterds, has pretty much solidified himself as one of my favorite actors. He conveys intelligence and intensity along with a little panache in both films - he should immediately be handed the 007 franchise, post-haste.

Continue reading this post

Just Because

Continue reading this post

Song of the Day - Waiting for the End

By Linkin Park

The chorus of this one resembles pretty good U2 with it's soaring lyrics and inspired vocal line. In the absence of that Irish quartet, it'll have to do.

Continue reading this post

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Song of the Day - Tonight Tonight

By Hot Chelle Rae

It's silly and inconsequential, but it's deceptively simple, and most of all, fun. A perfect summer song.

Continue reading this post

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Song of the Day - Better Man, Pearl Jam.

Enough with BEP and the Script. A classic from PJ. Their Cameron Crowe directed documentary comes out this fall (teaser trailer).

Continue reading this post

Cars 2 - B-

In theaters. Rated G, 113 minutes. Trailer.

The first Cars film was one of Pixar's best because of a great story, quality lessons learned and a strong collection of interesting characters. Cars 2 brings the same characters and even adds with a spy voiced by Michael Caine and a few other minor cars, but doesn't come close to capturing the magic of the original. This one focuses on Tow Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) and his "fish out of water" issues as he accompanies Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) on a series of international races. Click below for more on C2:

The story was extremely convoluted and confusing, not to mention sort of backward....the theme was on "always being who you are", which I agree with, but I was having to explain to my kids that actually when you are in other countries you need to be respectful of their culture and try and learn. The visuals are stunning as you would expect, and I found the racing scenes extremely entertaining. This is decent for kids, but they won't get the story. A disappointment. (I won't even get into the liberal anti-oil plot points)

Continue reading this post

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams - B-

In theaters. Rated PG, 90 minutes. Trailer.

Director Werner Herzog is fascinated with human existence and how our species fits into the world. Cave explores the Chauvet cave in France, which was only recently discovered and which contains the oldest known cave drawings. Herzog's signature commentary and lingering, contemplative cinematography frame this meditative documentary about the fascinating cave drawings. The drawings are amazingly preserved and contain much artistry, and Herzog does a good job of making them compelling. Wow, though, this film is about 30 minutes too long with lingering shots of the drawings that are so long its almost comical - with that trim, this would be a B+ or an A-.

Continue reading this post

Song of the Day - Just Can't Get Enough

By the Black Eyed Peas

It's shocking that I don't change the station given this one's ubiquitousness. The last segment is the worst part and thankfully the shortest.

Continue reading this post