Tuesday, September 29, 2009

HBO Sunday Night - 9/27/09

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Vehicular Fellatio
Season 7, Episode 2

After a slow, frustrating first scene where Larry David tends to Loretta as she makes unreasonable demands, the show started a slow hilarious build that accelerated and never let up until the very end. My favorite moment was Larry just looking at Susie who is trapped in a car and making an incoherent guttural sound. I could tell more of the story, but it's best just to let it to unfold blindly. David is a miraculous writer in terms of structure (finding 4 separate and different ways to include the TV-14 title). The Seinfeld reunion starts next Week. I wonder if Leon will have anything to say to Michael Richards. A-

Entourage: Scared Straight
Season 6, Episode 11I've been dumping a lot on Entourage the last few weeks, but they really pulled it together with the next to last episode of the season both in terms of acting (Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Jerry Ferrara - no, really!) and in story (Eric getting Drama's sloppy seconds). The show also boasted the best nudity of the season (the swimming pool raft). But what really worked was Ari finally doing what Ari does best (making deals) after he had been watching from the sidelines the last few weeks. The show also acknowledged that their hedonistic lifestyle is not without consequence as Eric worries about his unprotected fling. This gives hope for the season finale next week. B+

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A Couple Solid Links

The situation with Roman Polanski's (Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, The Pianist) arrest by the Swiss and potential extradition to the United States once again turns a spotlight on a particularly troubling bit of Hollywood history. While personally I'm interested in the arguments for and against dropping the charges and letting the old statutory rapist get on with the few years he's got left, slate has this excellent article detailing the legalities of the case.

And, for the Radiohead and/or Peppers fans out there, it appears that Thom Yorke is joining forces with Flea and some other big shots to form yet another supergroup. More information here.And here is the rest of it.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

DVD and Blu-ray Releases - 9/29/09

Away We Go - #
The Girlfriend Experience - #
Management - #
Monsters vs. Aliens - #
The Wizard of Oz (70th Anniversary) - #

CSI NY - 5th Season
How I Met Your Mother Season 4 - #
The Unit - Season 4 - #

Click below for this week's Blu-ray releases

Billy Jack
The Dark Crystal
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Snakes on a Plane
Texas Chainsaw Massacre

# - also on Blu-ray

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday Night Live - 9/26/09

Megan Fox hosted the season premiere and U2 played 3 songs. The last was "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" which played over the closing credits. It was the best moment of the show, but unfortunately was cut just before the great chorus. The show was filled with other memorable moments, not least of which was new cast member Jenny Slate dropping the F-bomb during a biker chick skit. I can't decide if I should erase my DVR recording or not since it didn't play on the West Coast version of the show and this video has a short half-life on youtube . . .

The other new cast member is Nasim Pedram who didn't make quite the impact. Those 2 ladies replaced Casey Wilson and Michaela Watkins. Abby Elliott stayed - probably some nepotism involved since she didn't really stand out from the 2 departed. Most of the skits were about Megan Fox's looks. My laugh out loud moment occurred during the SNL Digital Short which had Will Forte and Fox on a date. Forte's break down is hilarious. As always, the great Kristen Wiig owned the show both with new (the flight attendant) and recurring (Judy Grimes) characters. Weekend Update's best joke involved Jews and Palenstinians cohabiting Queens. See the available skits here.

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Weekend Box Office: 9/25-27/09

Weekend total / % Change / Cumulative total

1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: 24.6 mil / (-19%) / 60 mil
2. Surrogates: 15 mil / (-)
3. Fame: 10 mil / (-)
4. The Informant!: 6.9 mil / (-34) / 21 mil
5. I Can Do Bad All by Myself: 4.8 mil/ (-52%)/ 45 mil
6. Pandorum: 4.4 mil / (-)
7. Love Happens: 4.3 mil / (-46%) / 14.7
8. Jennifer’s Body: 3.5 mil / (-49%) / 12.3
9. 9: 2.8 mil / (-49%) / 27.1 mil
10. Inglourious Basterds: 2.7 mil / (-29%) / 114 mil
11. All About Steve: 2.3 mil / (-32%) / 30 mil
12. Julie & Julia: 1.2 mil / (-37%) / 90.5 mil
13. Sorority Row: 1.1 mil / (-56%) / 10.7 mil

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs had a surprisingly low drop and beat the expected winner (Surrogates) handily. It helps being the only kid movie out. The Informant! held well and Quentin's latest remains strong.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Rhett Miller by Rhett Miller

Rhett Miller, lead singer of alt-country pop rockers Old 97’s (you may know them as the band Vince Vaughn didn’t show up to see with Jennifer Aniston in The Break-Up), has been his own side project for about a decade now. He has tended to be more pop, less rockin’ country than the 97’s. His self-titled fourth album Rhett Miller lacks the killer hooks and early ‘90’s pop sensibilities that made his earlier works immediately likable if a bit vapid. However, a closer listen reveals that Rhett, always a strong lyricist, has sharpened his writing to a penetrating titanium scalpel gleefully applied to (ex-)girlfriends, himself, and society as a whole. Indeed, the perils of modern relationships, if not exactly a novel subject matter, one with endless material, is his primary hunting grown. He covers with more insight and a lighter touch than Pete Yorn and his ilk. Nowhere is this more evident than on lead-off Nobody Says I Love You Anymore, which details the modern romance where, ahem, nobody says I love you or acknowledges emotional attachment until it’s too late. “I don’t need heaven, ‘cause heaven’s right here, whispering ‘Goodbye, Goodbye in my ear’.” “Celebrate love when it’s over, Celebrate love when it’s gone, Celebrate love when it’s over, When nobody knows you are wrong.”

Second song Like Love takes the universality of his opening thesis and applies it with specificity to a recent break-up. “She could talk for hours on end, the girl of my dreams, and never say a word. She wanted things I couldn’t afford, like a house full of laughter every night. She wanted things I couldn’t afford, like love.”

The remainder of the CD, which includes stand-outs I Need to Know Where I Stand, If It’s Not Love, and the shuffling, alcohol-soaked Another Girlfriend, continues to explore the current relational landscape of the post-twentysomething unattached. Interestingly, part of that landscape is the reality the issue is not a lack of prospective mates or a lack of yearning for connection. It seems to be a matter of a momentary inability to appreciate connectivity or institutionalize it. Some moments are, of course, more important than others, and, when strung together, form habits then character traits. With this demographic quickly expanding (full-disclosure, this author has a vested interest in this landscape himself), guiding lights or at least warning sirens from other, observant fellow travelers with a knack for insight will prove indispensable. Place Mr. Miller among the more helpful.

There's not a ton of free Rhett out there, but here's a nice live version of "I Need to Know Where I Stand"

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Parks and Recreation

I wasn't on board for the series during its first 6 episodes last spring, but its second season has started very strong, with the actors (Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Rashida Jones, Paul Schneider, and Aubrey Plaza) really finding and embracing their characters. But what completely hooked me was Ron (Nick Offerman) stuck in his chair in excruciating pain from a hernia throughout "The Stakeout", the second episode. Every scene with him is priceless. Ansari is equally hilarious from the other side of the comedy spectrum. I initially thought Poehler was a lame ripoff of Steve Carell's Michael Scott character, and she sort of still is, but the set up in a government bureaucracy does lend itself to irony not found in a paper factory and Poehler takes full advantage of this. Catch "The Stakeout" here. And the excellent prior episode "Pawnee Zoo" here.

The rest of NBC Thursday night's lineup included The Office, which included a classic pre-theme song scene where Michael Scott asks the openly gay Oscar what to expect from his upcoming colonoscopy, how he can make it better for himself and his gastroenterologist, and if they should have a "safe word". See "The Meeting" here.

And finally SNL Weekend Update Thursday can be found here. Great to see Keith Morrison back and there's a great Walmart-syphillis joke. Fred Armisen's Governor Patterson is 100 times better than his Barack Obama, but a lot of that has to do with the writing.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fall Movie Releases - 9/25/09


In the future, Bruce Willis creates a way for people to experience life safely through robots that go out into the world and indulge. But when one of these "surrogates" is murdered, he has to figure out what happened. The super-hot Rosamund Pike co-stars and director Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3, Breakdown) does action better than most.

Boys are Back

Looks uncomfortably sentimental and director Scott Hicks (Shine) has really crapped it up since his Oscar nomination. But the story of a widowed father taking care of 2 boys hits awfully close to home and Clive Owen's presence always piques my interest. It's based on a British journalist and his permissive parenting techniques. Owen is getting some Oscar buzz for this.


Two men (Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster) find themselves stranded on an abandoned spaceship with amnesia. They have to figure out what their mission was and probably save the human race in the process. These futuristic outer space existential movies (Solaris, Sunshine) are right up my alley. Foster has been surprisingly absent after his memorable turn in 3:10 to Yuma.

Capitalism: A Love Story

If you're not let into the movie for free, then Michael Moore is a hypocrite. In fact, you should be paid to see this movie, like the hospitals pay the patients money to visit them in the UK (as shown in Sicko).

Coco Before Chanel

Audrey Tautou is a blog favorite, but I'm not sure the biography of a 19th century fashionista (who appears to wear clothes that even cover her ankles and wrists) will have anyone creating 2 hours in their schedule. Pass.


A remake that no one asked for, featuring a bunch of pathetic, desperate kids who gotta sing and dance. I never understood or liked the 80s version, but at least that ubiquitous Irene Cara song wasn't a travesty. A bunch of unknowns fill the roles. Huge pass.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

HBO Sunday Night - 9/20/09

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Funkhouser’s Crazy Sister
Season 7, Episode 1

Larry David returns where he left off, romantically involved with Loretta (Vivica Fox) whose health has deteriorated. While visiting, Marty Funkhouser (Bob Einstein) takes Larry up on an empty gesture which forces Larry to visit Funkhouser’s mentally ill sister (the brilliant Catherine O’Hara). He takes along Jeff, who hits it off with her. Meanwhile Jeff’s wife Susie is planning a dinner party which leads to many awkward situations. And Larry has to figure out how to break up with Loretta before she’s diagnosed with cancer . . .

In another perfectly plotted episode, it’s retrospectively alarming that Larry David gets away with jokes about mental illness and cancer so easily. David’s politically incorrectness (especially with the gay couple) has always been more honest than the liberal platitudes he spouts. Every actor is back on board and at the top of their game. And this is before the addition of the Seinfeld cast – a development that was hinted at by Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) who got along with Larry better when he was working on that show. Well worth the wait. A-

Favorite line: “Don’t patronize me with your tiny pear.”

Bored to Death: Stockholm Syndrome
Season 1, Episode 1
Jason Schwartzman is a barely employed novelist living in New York with writer’s block. His girlfriend leaves him since he won’t give up pot and white wine. His best friend (Zach Galifianakis) is a cartoonist with relationship problems of his own. As Schwartzman struggles to complete his second book, he decides to become an unlicensed private investigator (like in a Raymond Chandler novel) and gets surprising, immediate requests after posting on Craig’s List. Ted Danson is obviously having a great time as Schwartzman’s marijuana-obsessed boss. Galifianakis isn't given much to do so far, but Schwartzman is perfect as the reluctant P.I. Good start to the series. B

Entourage: Berried Alive
Season 6, Episode 10

Now working for a different agency, Lloyd and Ari fight over Johnny Drama’s representation. And Turtle finds himself attracted to the sorority girl who stole his dirty undies. Eric finally dumps the insanely obsessed Ashley and Vince does nothing – just like the whole season. The Ari vs. Lloyd competition was well played, but the whole Eric romantic plot has worn me out this season. Drama may want to be on Melrose Place 2009, but Kevin Dillon didn’t know he already was. B-

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Monday, September 21, 2009

David Gray on Regis and Kelly (and more)

Here. Click here for a 360 video of 5 songs, including the great "Kathleen".

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases 9/22/09

Adam Resurrected - #
Battle for Terra - #
Clive Barker’s Book of Blood - #
Ghost of Girlfriends Past - #
Lymelife - #
Observe and Report - #
Star Trek: The Next Generation Collection
Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf or Death
Wallace & Gromit: Complete Collection - #

Click below for this week’s TV and Blu-ray releases

30 Rock – Season 3 - *
Brotherhood: Final Season
Castle: 1st Season
Ghost Whisperer: 4th Season
Law & Order: SVU -10th Year
The Mentalist: 1st Season
Star Trek: Original Series – Season 2
Taxi: Fourth Season
Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles: 2nd Season - #
Ugly Betty: Season 3

Complete Monterey Pop Festival -Criterion
Hot Fuzz (Ultimate Edition) - *
Pierrot le Fou - Criterion
Shaun of the Dead - *
Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection
Streets of Blood

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Recent DVD Releases

Click on the title for the original theatrical review.

State of Play

Jason Bateman steals the movie in a few short scenes as the man with the connections. No small feat with Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, and Robin Wright in the cast. The film does a pretty good job of condensing the 6 hour BBC miniseries, and even manages a tacked on, incredulous twist at the end. But I did like the closing credits, showing how a newspaper is made (with CCR’s “Long as I Can See the Light” playing). It’s the filmmakers admitting their film is nearly out-of-date. B


A big disappointment coming from Tony Gilroy’s whose last film Michael Clayton is the best lawyer movie of the decade. As Lawyer said, Clive Owen and Julia Roberts have fantastic chemistry and the film is well written and directed. The entire cast is interesting, right down to the extras. But the leads are basically opportunistic thieves, and without anyone with a soul or heart, it leaves the audience at arm’s length. B

Speaking of soul and heart, this one has it in spades. I can’t do any better than Priest did in his great review. My favorite scenes included the 4th of July scene (with the Crowded House song) and the last one. While Jesse Eisenberg has been good in his past films (most notably Roger Dodger), I never really liked him until this one. And unlike many young actresses (Megan Fox, anyone?), Kristen Stewart apparently has quite a huge acting talent and will be with us for a long while. B+


Amazing (!) visuals and exciting action scenes mostly make up for the flat dramatic scenes (that get exponentially worse as the movie progresses). Somewhere on Mars I lost interest in the film, probably when it shifted focus from Rorschach to Dr. Manhattan. I liked all of the Nite Owl 2 scenes as well. It could play better on a repeat viewing, which is totally deserved, if only for the prison sequence. B

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
The motorcycle action scene is pretty great, as is Hugh Jackman who sells the role of half man – half beast well. The opening scenes showing brothers (Jackman and Liev Schreiber) fighting all the wars from The Civil War through Vietnam are clich├ęd but well done. The brothers go on to join a team of mutant mercenaries (led by the predictably malevolent Danny Huston) and after they disband, they start getting killed off one by one. The morality is murky at best, and all the twists and turns will leave you wondering if fooling the audience is all modern Hollywood can do. Is it too much to ask for memorable dialogue, character development, coherence, and honesty? C+

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Weekend Box Office - 9/18-9/20/09

The lone recent family film release ruled over the half dozen or so recent horror releases (not including the artistic horror of Tyler Perry). The Informant! was surprisingly strong, probably due to Matt Damon's presence (doughy though it may be). Love Happens can be too easily turned into a famous TV-14 bumper sticker by wiseacres like me. And Jennifer's Body fell surprisingly flat (even with Ms. Fox showing the girl-on-girl clip on the talk-show circuit this past week).

Weekend total / % Change / Cumulative total

1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: 30.1 mil / (-)
2. The Informant!: 10.5 mil / (-)
3. I Can Do Bad All by Myself: 10mil/(-57%)/38 mil
4. Love Happens: 8.5 mil / (-)
5. Jennifer’s Body: 6.8 mil / (-)
6. 9: 5.5 mil / (-49%) / 22.8 mil
7. Inglourious Basterds: 3.6 mil / (-41%) / 110 mil
8. All About Steve: 3.4 mil / (-40%) / 26.7 mil
9. Sorority Row: 2.5 mil / (-51%) / 8.8 mil
10. Final Destination: 2.4 mil / (-57%) / 62 mil
11. Whiteout: 2.1 mil / (-58%) / 8.5 mil
12. Julie & Julia: 1.9 mil / (-40%) / 88.5 mil
13. District 9: 1.9 mil / (-48%) / 111.6 mil
14. G.I. Joe: 1.4 mil / (-44%) / 146 mil
15. Gamer: 1.3 mil / (-61%) / 19 mil

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New Music

1. Listen to the new Pearl Jam album Backspacer free here. You HAVE to go there and listen to "The End". Yowza. Still listening to the rest of it, so far like Unthought Unkown, Just Breathe and The Fixer. Album comes out today (weird Sunday release) - only available at Target.

2. David Gray's new album Draw The Line comes out this Tuesday, September 22. He'll be on Regis and Kelly (!) on Monday to promote. Worth setting your Tivo. An incredible talent with elegant and moving songs. Video for Fugitive here. Listen free here.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fall TV

This Fall, I am most excited about the following shows:

1. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Starts back tomorrow night. The involvement of the Seinfeld cast makes this pretty close to comic nirvana. Sunday nights at 8:00pm Central.

2. Parks and Rec. This show is consistently hilarious with lots of really good subtle commentary. The first episode aired last Thursday and was a classic. Great open, great Poehler Boss, and lots of great Aziz Ansari and odd gayness.

3. Community. A variation on the Billy Madison story wherein a lawyer who lied about his undergraduate degree has to get one to avoid at the local community college to avoid being disbarred. Talk Soup host Joel McHale stars as a talky cynic (the fictional version of me!) who thinks he's smarter than everyone. The first episode was promising, but flawed. The ripping of "community college" was too harsh and there was too much "sitcom sumup" at the end of the show where everything gets fixed and morally fine. Like 30 Rock, it is likely being overanalyzed and watered down by 'the brass' at its inception and hopefully the funny and mean stuff will stay in.

4. The Office. I still think this show is funny. Haven't watched the first episode yet, though.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Fall Movie Releases 9/18/09

The Informant!

Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, who, while working for an agricultural company, blows the whistle on a price-fixing scandal in the mid 90s to the Feds. The straightforward events and book have been turned into a jokey, sarcastic film. But with Steven Soderbergh at the helm, odds are the tone (among everything else) will be just right. Scott Bakula and Joel McHale (!) co-star.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Animated. Bill Hader and Anna Faris voice characters who are investigating why food is falling from the sky. Adam Samberg, Mr. T, and Bruce Campbell provide additional voices. Looks fast paced and somewhat visually interesting. Reviews are not too bad so you could probably do a lot worse.

Love Happens

Aaron Eckhart is a self-help author who doesn’t take his own advice. Jennifer Aniston has sworn off men until she meets Eckhart. Sounds like every single romantic comedy of the last 10 years.

Jennifer’s Body

Megan Fox is a small town high school student who becomes possessed by a demon. Her best friend must stop her from killing all the boys in town. I can’t think of a worse way for Diablo Cody to follow up her Oscar-winning Juno script.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

5 Favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs

Not one of my favorite bands (especially the early stuff), but still a few greats in their extensive catalog. John Frusciante is on my guitarist Mount Rushmore.

Scar Tissue - Great lyrics and Frusciante's greatest song. Love the slide guitar.

Under the Bridge - A poetic song about drug abuse with, again, brilliant melodies from Frusciante. Visceral high school memories associated with this one.

Californication - Mystic melodies and great lyrics capture its subject.

My Friends - Moody song with great instrumentals. My only non-Frusciante guitarwork (Dave Navarro).

Other Side - Kiedis' voice is great on this classic modern rock song.

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Free Movie - Burning Plain

See it for free tonight before it comes out in the theater (7:00pm - Central). On HDNET. Review here.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

HBO Sunday Night - 9/13/09

Hung: Fight the Honey (Episode 10)

The climactic scene (where Ray gets hired to service his ex-wife) was telegraphed weeks ago, but instead of going for French bedroom farce, the Hung crew went for something unexpected and more profound in this season finale. Ending with a spiritual and emotional bond (rather than a physical one), the writers have hit the mood of the country perfectly. Everything is not OK, but people still have dreams and hope for a better future. The visuals were very strong (symbolic umbrellas, magic hour lighting) this episode. The fly and honey metaphors might seem pretentious for some, but I like Tanya’s and Ray’s houses falling apart (like their aging bodies – or lives). And Lenore has become my favorite villainess on TV – sexy, hilarious, profane, and brutally honest – just like the show. B+

Entourage: Security Briefs
Season 6, Episode 9

Ari finally pushes Lloyd too far. Ashley has to be the most possessive person in L.A. And Vince’s stalker story comes to a sudden, dull conclusion. Though putting Drama in a sex shop (where he buys 3 bags of stuff!) and watching him yell at someone is infinitely entertaining. Zac Efron and Frank Darabont make rather uninspired, predictable cameos. Besides Drama, only Ari has any real spark as he steals Efron from a rival. B-

Programming Note: Curb Your Enthusiasm starts next Sunday. The entire Seinfeld cast is back for a few episodes. Can't wait to see LD get yelled at again (and again).

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - B

I ran across The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou on cable and thought I’d give it another chance. When I saw it almost 5 years ago, I liked many parts of it (the visuals, the David Bowie songs, the low-key subtle humor), but thought the end didn’t come together at all and Wes Anderson was too flippant about the deaths (of both Jeff Goldblum’s crew and Owen Wilson). While I felt mostly the same way this time, I did like it more, raising it to a B. And it has set off some kind of Bowie revival. Click below for Zissou's closing credits with "Queen Bitch". It has a very Velvet Underground feel.

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Kanye + "jackass"

I watched a few portions of the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night. A few observations: (1) Russell Brand sucks; (2) Kanye sucks worse; (3) Eminem is funny; and (4) Barack's off-color, offhand comment was the best thing he's said in 6 months - I bet his approval ratings go up...what voter doesn't think Kanye is a jackass.

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I have embarked upon James Joyce's epic Ulysses, and am already engrossed. Widely acknowledged as the greatest novel ever written, it tells the story of a single day in early 20th century Dublin, and features the same lead character, Stephen Dedalus, as in Joyce's brilliant A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (wherein Stephen loses his faith). Here is the first of what will likely be several passages that are worth putting on the blog:

"You (Stephen) wouldn't kneel down to pray for your mother on her deathbed when she asked you. Why? Because you have the cursed jesuit strain in you, only it's injected the wrong way."

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Monday, September 14, 2009

DVD and Blu-ray Releases 9/15/09

Camille - #
Directed by John Ford - *
Easy Virtue - #
I Am Cuba – Ultimate Edition - *
Michael Jackson: Never Surrender
Next Day Air
Phantasm II
Wagon Master - *
The Wolfman - *
X-Men Origins: Wolverine - #

Click below for the TV and Blu-ray releases

The Big Bang Theory: 2nd Season
Crash: 1st Season - #
CSI: Miami: 7th Season
Grey’s Anatomy: 5th Season
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 4
My Name is Earl: Season 4 - #
Private Practice: 2nd Season
Sanctuary: 1st Season

Amadeus – (Director’s Cut) - *
An American Werewolf in London
Army of Darkness
Casablanca - *
Child’s Play
Deep Impact
Hannibal Lecter Anthology – 2/3 *
Hero - *
Iron Monkey
Legend of the Drunken Master
Punch-Drunk Love - *
Van Helsing
Varsity Blues
Wrong Turn
Wrong Turn 2: Dead End
Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

“Anthology” sounds better than “Collection”, I guess. Too bad Hannibal is included with 2 of my favorite movies. Ratner’s "contribution" is rightfully omitted.

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Coen Article

Since Shutter Island has been moved to next February, the Coens' A Serious Man has become my most anticipated film of the year. Here is an interesting article about the Coens' spirituality and morality - as played out in their films. Love the phrase, "the most sneakily moralistic in recent American cinema."

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Weekend Box Office - 9/11-9/13/09

Weekend total / % Change / Cumulative total

1. I Can Do Bad All By Myself: 24 mil / (-)
2. 9: 10.9 mil / (-) / 15.2 mil
3. Inglourious Basterds: 6.5 mil / (-44%) / 104 mil
4. All About Steve: 5.8 mil / (-48) / 21.8 mil
5. Final Destination: 5.5 mil / (-56%) / 58 mil
6. Sorority Row: 5.3 mil / (-)
7. Whiteout: 5.1 mil / (-)
8. District 9: 3.6 mil / (-49%) / 109 mil
9. Julie & Julia: 3.3 mil / (-38%) / 85 mil
10. Gamer: 9 mil / (-66%) / 16 mil
11. G.I. Joe: 2.5 mil / (-51%) / 144 mil
12. Time Traveler’s Wife: 2.33 mil / (-46%) / 59 mil
13. Halloween II: 2.32 mil / (-60%) / 30 mil
14. Extract: 2.2 mil / (-49%) / 8.6 mil
15. Shorts: 1.3 mil / (-53%) / 20 mil

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Extract - B+

In theaters. Rated R, 95 minutes. Trailer.

Leave it to writer/director Mike Judge (Office Space, Idiocracy) to make a funny film with conservative themes like hard work, ownership, and bloodsucking lawyers. In Extract, Judge considers the plight of the self-made man, the boss of his own factory, his marriage and his whiny employees. Jason Bateman stars as Joel, who started an extract company and is now living a nice life somewhere in the midwest with his wife, Suzie (Kristen Wiig). Along for the ride are the bad girl Cindy (Mila Kunis), the goofy manager (JK Simmons), and the stoner friend, Dean (Ben Affleck). Click below for more EXTRACT:

Joel is happy with his 7 series BMW and for the most part likes running his company, but he and Suzie have become a 'brother/sister' couple and he is sexually frustrated. When rampant criminal/manipulator Cindy shows up as a new temp worker at his plant, he is tempted. Dean convinces him to hire a gigolo to temp Suzie - if she goes for it, he will ostensibly have a 'free one' and be able to pursue Cindy sans guilt. Things don't go accordingly to plan and Joel goes through a series of situations that make him appreciate the life he has.

The film should be a B, but Judge's characters, worldview and sensibilities are so similar to my own that I just enjoyed the film too much to give it a B. Joel is tempted by Cindy, but would never consider cheating on his wife - he's got a tough bark but no bite, always capitulating or fending off a conflict. There are several other funny characters, mostly David Koechner as Nathan the super-annoying neighbor. I was laughing so hard as Nathan approached Joel's car and Joel tried to get away from him time after time, but he gets sucked into being nice. Other standouts were the rocker/forklift operator, Step's half-brother (drinking Pepsi), Beth Grant as the perfect gripey older southern woman and Gene Simmons in a surprisingly funny turn (I can't stand him in real life) as a sleazy lawyer suing Joel's company.

Judge does a great job of writing about a mature marriage, the plight of the boss, the idiotic workers, and the ways a pretty girl manipulates to get her way. He also really drills down on the impact a lawsuit can have on a company and people's lives and how hard it is to be an owner of a business. The film reminded me a lot of Alexander Payne's writing style, mostly Election. Worth your time.

Bonus points for a great 'old country' soundtrack including an opening song from Johnny Paycheck.

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Unforgiven - A- (Mea Culpa)

As loyal readers will know, I am not a big fan of Clint Eastwood's work as a director, except for the inimitable Gran Torino (which reminded me that Eastwood is the conscience of American machismo), and have traditionally had low (B) regard for Unforgiven. Last week I decided to give it another chance, and it shot way up to an A-. Why? I loooooved the way Clint wrestles with his demons and whether he is a reformed sinner or just a sinner in denial. The scene when he and the young cowboy get paid for their assasinations and he starts drinking as he realizes Ned's been killed is among my all-time favorites now. Watch here. Mea Culpa.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fall Movie Releases 9/11/09


Crazy PG-13 animation with a strange story and stranger visuals. In a post apocalyptic human-less world, some creatures wonder why machines are trying to kill them. Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, and Crispin Glover provide voices. Not to be confused with Daniel Day-Lewis’s upcoming all singing, all dancing crap of the world Nine.

Sorority Row

A prank goes wrong and some sorority sisters accidentally kill one of their own. Of course that person might still be alive and everyone is killed one by one. Rumer Willis stars and she really should be hotter, given her pedigree.

Kate Beckinsale investigates Antarctica’s first homicide. Reviews are bad, but I love these type of cop thriller movies – and this one might have some great visuals.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tarantino on There Will Be Blood

Great discussion of TWBB with a little Boogie Nights thrown in as well.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

More on Extract

I took Sea World on the chin over the long weekend so I haven't seen this yet. Sad to see the bad box office. Here is a link to a great discussion of the film with Mike Judge and Robert Wilonsky - he intended it to be a bookend with Office Space.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

DVD and Blu-ray Releases 9/8/09

Crank 2: High Voltage - #
Harper’s Island
Homicide – (Criterion) - *
The Human Condition (Criterion)
That Hamilton Woman (Criterion)
Valentino: The Last Emperor - #

Criminal Minds: 4th Season
Fringe: 1st Season - #
Mr. Belvedere: Season 3
The Office – Season 5 - #
Parks & Recreation – Season 1

Click below for this week’s Blu-ray releases

Dead Calm
Menace II Society
The New World - *
Over the Top
The Postman
The Quick and the Dead
Requiem for a Dream (Lawyer’s pick of the week)
Set it Off
Silverado - *

# - also on Blu-ray
* - Doctor approved

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Weekend Box Office - 9/4-9/6/09

Weekend total / % Change / Cumulative total

1. Final Destination: 12.4 mil / (-55%) / 47.6 mil
2. All About Steve: 11.2 mil / (-)
3. Inglourious Basterds: 10.9 mil/(-44%)/91 mil
4. Gamer: 9 mil / (-)
5. District 9: 7 mil / (-32%) / 101 mil
6. Halloween II: 5.6 mil / (-66%) / 25.6 mil
7. Julie & Julia: 5.2 mil / (-26%) / 79 mil
8. G.I. Joe: 5.1 mil / (-34%) / 139 mil
9. Time Traveler’s Wife: 4.22 mil/(-35%)/55 mil
10. Extract: 4.19 mil / (-)

Big disappointment for Extract, but Inglourious Basterds and District 9 are holding well.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Flash of Genius - B-

On DVD and Pay Cable

In the early 1960s, Bob Kearns had an idea for the “intermittent” windshield wiper. Before his invention, wipers moved continuously whether there was a downpour or a drizzle. He had his patent stolen (basically) by the big 3 Detroit car companies and spent over a decade in legal battles for recognition, usually representing himself. This film focuses on his first battle with Ford Motors and the effect the trials had on his wife and 6 (count ‘em!) kids. A talky courtroom drama about patent rights with dabbles in mental illness and family sacrifice? Zzzzzzzzz, right? Not exactly - Greg Kinnear does an admirable job as Kearns, so likable that you can’t help but relate to his struggles …

The film works best toward the end (as it should be) as his kids mature before our very eyes. His refusal to accept out of court settlements strengthens his nobility, but you can’t help but wonder how much the filmmakers glossed over his mental illness and divorce. And it’s very predictable – they wouldn’t make this film in this day and age if he lost, right? The film needed more subtext as well (the borderline between genius and insanity, etc.), but mostly plays it safe, opting for a feel-good ending that works. First time director Marc Abraham has produced many films (including Children of Men) and serves the story well, but his directorial style could have used a flash of Alfonso Cuaron’s genius. B-

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