Archive | July, 2011

Don’t Cowboy Up

29 Jul

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly magazine, the creators and cast of Cowboys & Aliens explained that to them, the whole joke of the movie was in the title, so they consciously decided to play the rest of it straight and serious.

(Actually, they say it was producer Ron Howard’s idea not to make the film like a western version of Men in Black.)

Big mistake.

This action film, about an alien invasion in the late 1800s, is so serious that it’s not very fun. Continue reading

Can They Kick It?

27 Jul

A documentary for fans, and made by a fan, Beats Rhymes & Life tells the story of the rise and fall and rise and uncertain future of A Tribe Called Quest, one of the best rap/hip hop groups of the last 20 years. Through interviews with group members and others (including The Beastie Boys, Monie Love, De La Soul, The Jungle Brothers, and Common), we learn how the group was formed, how it found success with a unique sound, and how eventually, differences, miscommunications, pride, and ego led to the group’s breakup in 1998.

Actor Michael Rapaport (Friends, Prison Break, Mighty Aphrodite) set out to make his movie in 2008, when A Tribe Called Quest reunited and went on tour. The film captures not a triumphant return to the stage but a fractured and tenuous relationship among the band, with unresolved issues that threaten any long-term reunion plans. In this footage and the accompanying interviews, Q-Tip is presented as ATCQ’s brains and leader, and Phife Dawg as its heart. And those two just can’t seem to see eye to eye. It’s a love-dislike relationship, with wounds that cut deep. And the film, in natural, not augmented ways, helps you see the discord is very real and heartfelt.

The rest of the movie is like that too. Neither a slick documentary, a PR puff piece, or an amateurish home video, Beats Rhymes & Life feels instead like an affectionate tribute to an influential music group, warts and all, made by a guy who really likes them. It’s filled with great music and well shot interview footage. I wouldn’t say the movie was essential viewing, but it’s a fun documentary and worth the hour and a half if you’re a fan of hip hop and rap. I’m giving Beats Rhymes & Life a B.

For the Kids

26 Jul

When my niece, Abby, was born, my sister and brother-in-law told me they were committed to visiting Boston twice a year so that I could be more a part of her life, and so she could see where I live.

They’ve done just that.

Now that I have two nephews, the same philosophy holds true.

And this weekend, the boys — and their sister and their parents — came to visit me.

Like Abby’s first visit, it was a low-key weekend, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun. Continue reading

She Told Ya She Was Trouble

24 Jul

When news broke yesterday that Amy Winehouse had died at the age of 27, the news was less shocking than it was just sad.

After all, Amy was a singer who burst on the scene in 2007 and created an immediate buzz with “Rehab,” a song that would later go on to win the Grammy Award for Record of the Year (she won four other awards that year).

And that song seemed to tell you everything you needed to know about Amy, a troubled singer who had problems with drugs, drinking, and the law: “They tried to make me go to rehab,” she sang, “and I said ‘No, no, no.'”

Ultimately, that’s what derailed her career and now seems to have ended her life as well. Continue reading

When Dylan Met Jamie …

22 Jul

Among the many things we can thank When Harry Met Sally… for is the not-breaking news that try as they might, men and women just can’t be friends because sex always gets in the way.

If they could, then many, many, many movies would never have been made. Among them: Friends with Benefits, a new film in which two impossibly good looking, single, emotionally detached people decide to sleep together but not date. (Yes, it’s pretty much the same plot as No Strings Attached.)

Will these two eventually get over themselves and fall in love? What do you think? Continue reading

It Doesn’t End Here

18 Jul

For some reason, I never did get into the whole Harry Potter phenomenon. I only read the first book from start to finish, and have only seen the first and third movies. On a 1-10 scale, with 1 being muggle and 10 being wizard, I’d probably be a 3. But being a pop culture junkie and a sucker for hype, not to mention an avid reader of Entertainment Weekly, I felt not just obligated to see the final film in the series, but mildly prepared — no matter what my more obsessive fan friends said. And I’ve gotta say, even without all the background or emotional investment, I still thought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was great. So there!

Epic, intense, and really violent, HP7.5 is all about what the entire series has (apparently) been building to: The showdown between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, who has grown into a very nice actor) and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), the evil wizard who killed Harry’s parents. Nearly the entire staff and student body of Hogwarts is on alert, and ready to defend the school and stand beside Harry. Talk about loyalty under difficult circumstances. This is no ordinary children’s movie.

I can’t pretend to appreciate HP7.5 on any level other than as a self-contained film, but on that level, it succeeds wildly. The story builds nicely, the stakes feel real (even if the whole thing’s a fantasy and we know who will win), the effects are convincing, and the acting all around is impressive. I can’t say I feel compelled after seeing HP7.5 to go back and watch the other five films I missed, but I didn’t feel lost during this movie either. This one is satisfying on its own, and definitely worth seeing, even if you’re like me and haven’t seen all the others.

Harry Potter is the boy who lived (no spoiler there), and based on how good the final film in the series is, I’m sure he’ll live on a whole lot longer. I’m giving Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 a B+.

Front Page

12 Jul

Despite the fact that I work at an online company producing online content, and I’m a blogger and a tweeter, and I certainly spend more than my share of time tooling around the web, truth be told I still consider myself an “old media” guy.

It’s certainly convenient and easy to find information and read articles online, but that doesn’t compare to the tactile feeling of holding a newspaper or magazine in your hands and flipping through the pages.

Reading an article online often doesn’t come with the same design and layout, and it’s certainly not as permanent as an actual printed piece of media.

So the new documentary Page One is a movie right up my alley. Continue reading