Archive | August, 2009

Not So Far Out

31 Aug

In the new movie Taking Woodstock, we get to see some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that resulted in one of the most famous concerts of all time. The legend of Woodstock (which happened 40 years ago this summer) is, of course, a large one. Pity, then, that this movie doesn’t really come close to generating the same level of excitement that you’d hope it would. Granted, the lack of a typical soundtrack is a nice departure — no sign of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Woodstock,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner,” or other relevant tunes on the soundtrack — but by leaving off those recognizable touchpoints, Taking Woodstock doesn’t, ahem, get very high.

Set in the summer of 1969, the film tells the true story of Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin), whose parents owned and managed a run-down motel in White Lake, NY. When Tiber hears of a “hippie festival” that needs a home, he offers its organizers accommodations and puts them in touch with a friend, Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy), who has a field that would be perfect. The rest, as they say, is history.

You might assume that any film about Woodstock would be overly cliche because of the stereotypes now associated with it — the music, the attendees, the scenes so well documented, etc. Well, as noted, there’s not even a hint of the music you’d expect on the soundtrack. Richie Havens is heard softly in the distance, and an updated version of his “Freedom” comes on over the end credits if you stay long enough. And sure, there’s a lot of peace, love, and drugs, but the film is not as concerned with the concert as much as it is with how it came to be — and with the liberating effect it had on Tiber. That’s sort of a shame, because Taking Woodstock could have used some more of that fun. As it is, Martin and Levy, two very funny people, are left to be very serious and dull, and the chuckles come from Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff, from Broadway’s Spring Awakening), for example, not because he’s a funny character, but because he’s such a recognizable figure and it’s amusing to see him on screen.

On the good side, I liked Liev Schreiber’s very natural performance as Vilma, a transvestite Marines vet who offers Elliot and his family protection. It could have been a very gimmicky performance, seeing this very masculine guy in a dress, but Schreiber plays it totally, ahem, straight, and it just works. The film itself does not, however. It’s too long, too dull, and is not a must-see, since it really fails to capture the excitement of the concert and the surrounding events. Instead, check out the new 40th anniversary edition of the Woodstock movie. As for Taking Woodstock? I’m giving it a C.

Baking Up an Activity

30 Aug

I’m a traditional kind of guy, so when I get wind of a big storm approaching the area (no pun intended), I do what any domestic-minded person would do: I seek out a project to keep busy. After all, if I was going to be stuck indoors during a heavy rain and wind storm (as was predicted yesterday), I didn’t want to spend the entire day on my couch watching the funeral and burial of Ted Kennedy.

So what was my project? Well, I came across a new blog this week (new to me, anyway), Beantown Baker, and I decided to make one of the recipes I found there: Cookies-N-Cream Cupcakes. No cake mix involved; this was an actual recipe I had to follow, from scratch. So, after being rescued for the first half of the day (thanks, Kelly!), I got to work later in the afternoon (coincidentally, right as the storm started to subside)…. Aww screw it. Who cares about the story. Let me just cut to the chase: YUM. And, because I’m on a sort-of diet and don’t want to be a pig, I’m bringing most of the cakes in to work to share with my wonderful coworkers. (You’re welcome.)

You might say, as I did, mission accomplished: I avoided most of the funeral and burial, I kept busy with a project, I made good use of my kitchen, and I made something tasty. Actually, it’s kind of cool — between these and my whoopie pies, I’m developing a fun repertoire of snack foods. What will I cook next? All I need is another storm to find out. Stay tuned.

Starting a Legacy

30 Aug

I decided to drive down to Dedham today to check out the brand-new Legacy Place. Located at the intersection of Rte. 128 and the VFW Parkway (exit 15A on 128), the outdoor shopping center is a pretty nice place to spend some time. Sure, not all the stores and restaurants are open yet (many are due to open in the next two months, and at least a couple won’t be open till the spring), but the architecture and design of the place, plus some nice landscaping, make it a pleasant place to wander around. And that’s exactly what I did, stopping into L.L. Bean, City Sports, the Apple Store, the Showcase de Lux movie theater, Yankee Candle, and others. I also looked into the soon-to-open Whole Foods, Brooks Brothers, J.P. Licks, Met Bar & Grill, and Borders. I even bought something. It’s just a shame Legacy Place is only opening now, as summer draws to a close, because once the weather gets colder, I can’t see myself wanting to spend much time outdoors here. But for now, it’s a nice new place to go.

Sad Days

29 Aug

With coverage of Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral and burial on TV for most of the day today, it occurred to me what a strange contradiction this makes for the average person.

Suffice it to say, no one likes funerals when it’s someone they know — especially if it’s someone they love.

I remember when my grandmother died and how hard the day of the funeral was. I remember forgetting my sunglasses in Boston and not being able to hide my red, watery, frequently teared-up eyes. I remember how I didn’t want to watch her burial, didn’t want to say goodbye. How my senses were heightened and could not hear laughter or any lighter-mood sentiment without feeling sad.

So why is it that on a day like today, people everywhere (myself included) find it so easy to sit in front of the TV for hours watching a funeral?

Continue reading

Road Rage

27 Aug

How long does it take to repair a quarter-mile stretch of road? I’ve been asking that question a lot lately because more than five months after it began, construction work on the stretch of Commonwealth Ave. near Boston College continues, and it shows no real sign of nearing completion. For many months now, I’ve been complaining about the many potholes in the area, which still haven’t been filled in, and the disturbance that some of this construction work has created. I’m sure I’m not the only one in the area who’s growing frustrated by the pace of the work. After all, it started in the spring when things were slow, and now, just as the college students are coming back and the roads are getting more crowded, it’s still going. Hopefully it won’t be much longer till Comm Ave is a nice drive again, and I don’t have to deal with being rerouted or driving over potholes or rocks or around construction trucks anymore.

He’s the One

23 Aug

It was a hot night on Saturday at the Comcast Center (formerly the Tweeter Center, formerly Great Woods), but just like he’s done so many times before, Bruce Springsteen brought the power and didn’t let a silly little thing like 80-degree-plus heat get in the way of a great show.

He even replaced his familiar call of “Is there anybody alive out there?” with “Is it hot enough for you?”

But that wasn’t the only departure from the script — he frequently shook up his planned setlist, playing songs out of their intended order and inserting a few extra requests along the way.

It added up to an experience that felt significantly different from the shows I saw back in April (night one and night two). Continue reading

Jews Kicking Ass!

22 Aug

In the new film Inglourious Basterds, writer/director Quentin Tarantino offers up a revenge fantasy that I can totally identify with: dorky-looking Jewish guys killing Nazis.

And sure enough, when Adolph Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and hundreds of Germans get what’s coming to them in the same brutal style that they have shown millions of other innocent people, it’s a cool thrill.

Still, the movie itself leaves a bit to be desired, so the fantasy never quite feels complete.

And as a result, Inglourious Basterds is a bit of a disappointment. Continue reading

Eat It

19 Aug

I don’t buy this whole diet thing. Oh, sure, you could probably tell by some of the things I post on here that I’m not the healthiest of eaters (exhibit a or exhibit b, anyone?). But in true Gemini style, there’s an opposite side of me that truly does want to lose some weight. And it’s been a constant struggle between the two sides for a long time now. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out which one is winning.

I don’t mind telling you that August was supposed to be the start of Martin Eats Healthy — or at least, Martin Eats Healthier. And I have made some impressive strides in that department (relatively speaking). For example, I rarely eat frozen chicken nuggets for dinner anymore. Now my meals consist more of actual meat — chicken, mostly. And instead of eating pasta as a side dish, I have either eaten corn on the cob, or broccoli, or carrots, or string beans, or some combination of them. For breakfast, I’ve stopped eating chocolate chip muffins, and now I eat a yogurt every day with some fruit (cantaloupe).

Generally, it’s alright. I have actually become somewhat addicted to corn on the cob this summer (much to the dismay of my teeth). But the yogurts? I have tried a few different flavors, and a couple different brands, but they all basically have the same tart taste, no matter what the flavor supposedly is. I’ve even been to that new place, Chill, in Cleveland Circle, and had the tart yogurt — but I have to say, it wasn’t great (I mean, compared to real ice cream, anyway). I’ve had salad for lunch, but it’s just not filling enough, and nor is a yogurt in the morning. A couple hours later and I’m hungry again.

Of course, I haven’t cut out bad foods entirely (still a few of those), but yeah, at least I’m trying. Eventually I’ll get it through my skull that eating better (relatively speaking) is only half the puzzle, and the other half is I need to exercise more. But that’ll happen in due time. Maybe if I start to see some actual results, it’ll encourage me to do more. But until then, I’m just not sure I’m cut out for this whole diet thing.

A Funnier Film Is Unforeseeable

18 Aug

During a radio interview, a British government official says that a proposed war in the Middle East is “unforeseeable.”

Thus begins the movie In the Loop, a hysterical political farce about U.S. and U.K. relations, and how this simple comment escalates into a possible declaration of war.

To spoil the film would be impossible — I dare say it would be “difficult difficult, lemon difficult.”

There are so many great lines, a ton of great insults, and some splendid profanities that you may need to see the movie a second time to make sure you heard it all (check out the brilliant trailer below for a sampling). Continue reading

Just What America Needs?

17 Aug

In the kind-of annoying trifle Paper Heart, comedian Charlyne Yi (who you might remember from Knocked Up) plays herself in a mock documentary about love.

She claims she doesn’t believe in it, and so she heads off with her director and friend Nick Jasenovec to interview random folks across the country about why they believe in it.

Along the way, she meets and develops a not-love (or is it?) relationship with Michael Cera. Sounds cute enough, but the film actually shares quite a bit of fakery with other mockumentaries, such as Sasha Baron Cohen’s Borat or Bruno. Continue reading