Saturday, October 31, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
P.S.--This is what I got when I did a Google image search for "happy mailman." Sure.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
For those who are coming to me via the link to The Beachside Resident, thanks for dropping by. That magazine's editor Tobin Bennison has been nice enough to provide a link on the Web site to this blog. I hope you enjoy it, even though I am based in New Jersey, which is Jets territory.
Anyway, here's what you can expect on the blog...
1.) Reviews of movies.
2.) Musings on trends, actors/actresses, and the life of a pseudo-critic.
3.) A borderline unhealthy appreciation of Maggie Gyllenhaal.
4.) A borderline unhealthy hatred of
5.) Links to stuff that I like or find interesting.
6.) Book recommendations (Yes, I read and you should too.)
I update as much as I can--I am a full-time freelance writer on top of my book and movie reviewing duties so time is tight--but I promise that stuff I post will be worth your time. I value quality over quantity.With that said, thank you for stopping by and please let me know what you think.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Really, is there any better supporting actor working in the movies today? I came to that realization after watching Jennifer's Body, which he's in for for all of five minutes and walks away with it. Ditto for Juno, The Ladykillers (and that starred Tom Hanks), I Love You, Man, and all of the Spider-Man movies.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
These reviews previously appeared in ICON and are reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina.)
In this edition of the Film Round-Up: Two indies (one better than the other), a foreign stinker, and a box office dud. Is Diablo Cody (pictured) running out of time? Will she have to go back to stripping? Stay tuned.
Sorry the site hasn't been updated as frequently. Part of it is that I'm just getting over an awful cold that had me wheezing and coughing like a rummy after a long hike. Throw in that and more writing work, and it's hard to carve out the free time.
Say, have you stopped by BiblioBuffet? I'm writing a new column on sports books called "The Athletic Supporter." You should check it out; you'll love it.
And now on with the vitriol:
Peter and Vandy (Dir: Jay DiPietro). Starring: Jason Ritter, Jess Weixler, Jesse L. Martin, Tracie Thoms, Noah Bean. Two young New Yorkers (Ritter, Weixler) meet cute during a lunch break, paving the way for a relationship that is alternately euphoric and maddening. The movie's wrinkle: The couple's history is purposely told out of order, a device that is actually effective. DiPietro's shuffling forces you to pay attention, getting your mind involved instead of waiting for cues, while Ritter (Happy Endings) and Weixler (Teeth) convincingly play characters enduring the emotional ringer of a serious relationship without isolating us. DiPietro doesn't go overboard with his cleverness in showing the way we revisit relationships--as a series of jumbled, crucial moments that range from the mundane (preparing for a job interview) to the spectacular (the first "I love you"). A couple's past is never linear. A quirky, thoughtful gem that should not be compared to (500) Days of Summer, but probably will anyway. Best scene: Peter and Vandy arguing over the proper way to make a PB&J. ***
Irene in Time (Dir: Henry Jaglom). Starring: Tanna Frederick, Andrea Marcovicci, Victoria Tennant, Jack Maxwell, Lance Idewu, Karen Black. Singer Irene (Frederick), who still hasn't gotten over the years-ago death of her playboy father, stumbles upon a long-hidden clue that might provide some answers about the man's past. While this is going on, Irene navigates the dating scene, something she is ill-equipped to handle, and confides to her friends and her father's old racetrack cronies. Starts off as an honest and insightful look at the dynamic between fathers and daughters and how it can be a comfort or a chokehold, before lapsing into overwrought symbolic sentiment and, well, lots of whining. Frederick tries her best to play a woman without an emotional rudder, but too often she comes across as a high-maintenance, sobbing nightmare. Though writer/director Jaglom's conversational, loose-limbed storytelling style is an asset throughout, it's difficult to generate compassion for the title character as the movie proceeds. Women, understandably, may have a different reaction. ** [PG-13]
Jennifer's Body (Dir: Karyn Kusama). Starring: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, Adam Brody, J.K. Simmons, Amy Sedaris. Follow-up from Juno's Academy-Award winning screenwriter Diablo Cody again covers high school life, only with a lot more back-biting--literally. When small-town high school beauty Jennifer (Fox of dubious Transformers fame) is butchered by a group of occult-following rock musicians who mistakenly believe she's a virgin, the girl reemerges as a blood-thirsty, boy-hungry demon. The only person who sees what's going on is Jennifer's mousy, longtime best friend, Needy (Seyfried, Mamma Mia!). Periodically funny and cheeky, Cody's script fails to cash in on the dynamics of frenemies--namely how Needy's quest to stop Jennifer gives her the chance to finally be her own person--and other dynamics of high school life. Scream and Carrie covered the same bloody hallways much, much better; Jennifer's Body is strictly splatter-by-numbers. Fox and Seyfried are OK, Sedaris is wasted, and J.K. Simmons is terrific (as usual) as an overly emotional science teacher. ** [R]
The Baader Meinhof Complex (Dir: Uli Edel). Starring: Moritz Bleibtreu, Martina Gedeck, Johanna Wokalek, Bruno Ganz. In 1967, Germany was under political upheaval and journalist Ulrike Meinhof (Gedeck) covered it, though she hungered for a more active role. She got it, joining forces with revolutionaries Andreas Baader (Bleibtreu) and Gudrun Ensslin (Wokalek) in a series of increasingly violent acts to promote a more human society, paving the way for German authorities to futilely fight back. What could have been a provocative, fascinating look at well-intentioned rebellion gone mad is butchered by Edel from the word go, when it becomes clear that there's no central theme or character anchoring down the film. Instead, we get a blur of characters shuffling in and out of plans, while Edel crams subplots galore and scenes of beating, bombings, and shouting matches like he's getting paid by the pound. Unpleasant part of 20th century European history to be sure, but Edel's relentless desire to provoke coupled with the leaden pace and clumsy, confusing storytelling makes The Baader Meinhof Complex both unwatchable and unenlightening. Somehow, I don't think that was the intent. Amazingly, this was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film last year. * [R]
Enjoy, and please make sure to stop by early and often.
LeBron James is more than a great basketball player--he has the kind of talent that's an international currency. The guy is 6'8", 250 lbs. of freakish athleticism who does everything well on a basketball court. He's Michael Jordan only bigger, stronger, and without the championship pedigree.
Like Jordan or Tiger Woods, James has mastered the art of being on his best behavior for the masses. We've seen him countless times on commercials, TV shows, and during his professional career. But we don't know him. We know him the same way we do our mailman or the counter guy at the deli. James plays the role of a basketball-playing, very marketable celebrity. And he does it exceedingly well.
The new documentary, More Than a Game, which profiles James' high school basketball days at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, OH, offers us a peek into the making of James's world. Basketball has given him many things and has taken away some more, namely the chance to be a normal guy. He's been in PR mode since he was 17 years old. We're never going to know him, a revelation that's the movie's biggest asset and its biggest flaw.
Three of James's teammates on that dominant squad--Willie McGee, Sian Cotton, and Dru Joyce III--he had played with since age 10. That's when Dru's dad, Dru Joyce II, organized a youth basketball team that eventually competed for a national championship. The four boys became inseparable both on and off the court, so it was only logical that they ended up at the same high school. And it was only logical that Coach Dru, the group's patriarch, joined them, first as an assistant, then as the head coach.
When Coach Dru took over the squad, it wasn't the perfect blending of family and talent. Coach Dru was hard on his son, as he made up for their relationship by increasing his expectations. A new player, Romeo Travis, joined the fold sophomore year and his me-first attitude was a difficult fit. When the boys were juniors, their annihilation of teams and James's surging profile brought national attention. That also produced a toxic mixture of complacency and swagger that threatened everything.
The hook of Kristopher Belman's film is that he makes you care about everyone involved, not just James. Romeo's lone wolf attitude came from a transient childhood where he was forced to rely on himself. While Coach Dru was battling the media hype and inflated egos in his first season at the high school, he still had to learn about the game. (He admits that he coached basketball because his son loved the sport.) Sports meant more to Sian because he couldn't go to college without an athletic scholarship, and Willie, a gifted athlete, nobly faded to the background because of a career-altering injury.
Basketball and life were hard to separate for the boys, especially James, who faced a media blitz after making the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 17-year-old junior. The school wasn't ready for this, and neither was anyone else. At an age when most of us are worrying about the SATs, James became a national celebrity. His team's games--which were moved to bigger and bigger venues--were nationally televised. If the team was the Beatles, then James was John, Paul, and George, and the crazed fans reacted accordingly.
Inadvertently, the movie reveals why James maintains such a good poker face. Wouldn't you retreat further and further into a safe place, especially if your home life was less than secure and bored reporters were looking for a new angle on you? Seeing how it's probably the only thing you can rely on, wouldn’t you immerse yourself in your passion, your salvation? LeBron James had no choice but to become blandly charming and let his game do the talking. It's fitting that during his last game at St. Vincent-St. Mary while other players walked out with their families, James walked out with his teammates. It makes sense: They're the few people to know him before he became a brand name.
While it's well-filmed, exciting, and serves as a touching example of how sports matter, More Than a Game doesn't resonate. James, who executive produced, wants us to believe that he's giving us a chance to see his roots. But by showing us what amounts to a cinematic victory lap with personal touches (a tour of his old apartment; footage from home videos) he further cements his smooth façade. Besides, James is only 24 years old. He graduated from high school six years ago. That's not enough time to acquire a clear perspective on the past. All these loose ends say more about James, and the media-savvy attitude of today's professional athlete, than anything in the movie. We should be thankful James has given us anything remotely personal, and go back to enjoying the highlights. [PG]