Archive | November, 2011

10 Is Enough

30 Nov

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of Thanksgiving.

Yes, I love me some turkey and gravy, a couple days off from work, time to see friends, maybe hang out in New York City and see a show, and just generally have fun.

But one of the best things about Thanksgiving is that when it’s over, that’s when the coast is clear to break out the holiday music and play those songs on repeat for a month straight.

That’s basically what I’ve done since Friday, and thankfully, I’ve amassed quite a collection so there’s a lot to listen to. Many of those songs have been included on my Very Marty Xmas mixes over the years. Continue reading


29 Nov

What can a guy like Harry Potter teach me about how to succeed in business without really trying?

Well, maybe not a whole lot, but he sure can school me about how to succeed on Broadway.

In the current revival of the musical, the boy wizard himself, Daniel Radcliffe, plays window cleaner J. Pierrepont Finch, who, with the help of Shepherd Mead’s book of the same name, quickly rises up the ranks at a large corporation where no one really knows what anyone else is doing, and a smart, savvy, and charming guy like Finch can get ahead just by knowing the right people and saying the right things at the right time.

The show was first produced in 1961, and was revived in 1995 with Matthew Broderick and a pre–Will & Grace Megan Mullally in the lead roles.

This production opened in March, and I finally got a chance to see it over the weekend when I was in New York. Continue reading


23 Nov

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays.

Of course it is; what could be bad about a day off from work spent with family, watching football, and eating turkey covered in gravy?

But Thanksgiving is more than that.

As the name implies, it’s a day to reflect and give thanks for those things that make life special and/or worth living.

So with that in mind, here is my annual list (in no particular order) of some of the things I’m thankful for: Continue reading

The Third Greatest Gift

22 Nov

True story: I grew up next door to Jim Henson.

One day, after I was scared by his family’s cat (no kidding), a teenage Brian Henson “rescued me,” and decided to cheer me up by bringing me next door to see some of his father’s things.

I don’t remember everything I saw, but I do remember a giant Ernie in the living room. To a child as small as I was, Ernie was literally larger than life, and I was so excited.

The experience made this Muppet fan an even greater one.

But you didn’t have to have an experience like I did to grow up a fan of the Muppets. You just had to be a kid once (though it would help if it was in the 1970s and 80s when Jim Henson was around, when The Muppet Show was a TV staple and The Muppet Movie was brand new).

And that’s why so many of us (and the Walt Disney Company, too) are excited about Kermit, Gonzo, and the rest of the gang’s return to the big screen in The Muppets.

Alas, I hate to break it to you, but the movie is ultimately a disappointment.

(I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming, did you?) Continue reading

Perfectly Imperfect

21 Nov

One of my favorite pastimes is reading magazine articles about (and watching interviews with) George Clooney.

The man’s a charmer who just does everything right.

He’s got the life, but he’s not rubbing it in. He’s enjoying where he is now, and he’s comfortable in his own skin.

And why wouldn’t he be? For Clooney, life is just about perfect right now, as the great and highly amusing cover story of the latest issue of Rolling Stone discusses.

In a way, that’s what makes Clooney’s latest film, The Descendants, so nice.

In it, Clooney plays Matt King, a man whose life is decidedly not perfect, despite the fact that he lives in the seemingly perfect state of Hawaii.

For starters, he’s got a troubled relationship with his wife and a barely-there one with his two daughters (Matt even admits that he’s the “backup parent”).

Then, when his wife is in an accident and rendered comatose, he learns (from his eldest daughter of all people) that she was cheating on him.

Oh, and throw in a complicated real estate deal that involves his many cousins and relatives. Continue reading

Johnny and Clyde

14 Nov

Films like Clint Eastwood’s latest, J. Edgar, really trip me up.

You see, J. Edgar, which, yes, tells the story of J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is an ambitious, often well made film with some impressive acting.

But it’s also not one I felt much attachment to after the lights went up.

Days later, I felt more obligated to write a review than compelled. When movies don’t hit you on an emotional level after the fact, and don’t drive you to go home and write about them, then that’s kind of a bummer, even when they’re good movies.

That’s the predicament I find myself in with J. Edgar. Continue reading

Distance Makes the Heart …

7 Nov

Watching the new film Like Crazy, it’s hard not to think that on at least a few levels, this is the movie (500) Days of Summer wanted to be. That is, a love story for young people, many of whom feel like they’re too cool for conventional Hollywood romances, and that those films just don’t speak to them. But whereas (500) Days had stars with indie cred (Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel), a hip soundtrack, and a contemporary aesthetic, it was just a little too self-aware to be as beloved as it so wanted to be.

On the other hand, Like Crazy tells a more realistic story of young love. Its stars are less well known (for now, anyway), the action unfolds without the hipster accompaniment of the Smiths, Feist, and Regina Spektor, and its natural aesthetic (handheld camerawork, completely improvised dialogue, etc.) make for an almost too obvious counterpart (despite a twee trailer that features music by Stars and Ingrid Michaelson). But is it a better movie?

In Like Crazy, two college students, American Tom and British Anna (Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones), fall for each other hard and fast. When the school year is over, and Anna must return to the U.K. (per the limitations of her student visa), she decides to disregard the law (and the advice of her parents and lawyer) to stay with Tom. This gets her barred from the U.S., and puts a real strain on the relationship (to put it mildly). Is the bond between these two strong enough to survive time and distance apart?

If you’ve ever been in a similar relationship, then you know just how challenging the situation can be, and how painful. Like Crazy doesn’t shy away from this, focusing on all the minutiae that can eat away at a couple (missed calls, ignored or poorly timed text messages, etc.), and presenting more-available options for both characters (X-Men: First Class‘ Jennifer Lawrence and Charlie Bewley, of the Twilight movies). I won’t spoil whether Tom and/or Anna remain loyal, but yeah … over the course of four years, it’s tough to be separated from the one you love.

Drake Doremus, Like Crazy‘s director, based the film on his own true life experience, and he’s clearly rooting for these two to make it. If only I could root as hard as he is. After a while, the initial spark that burns so brightly (between our heroes and the film itself) fades. Watching Like Crazy, I felt like Tom and Anna themselves had given up, so as hard as they try to make things work is as hard as I had to try to believe that they actually wanted to be together. In the end, I just didn’t buy it. And once I made the decision to not root for Tom and Anna to make it, I couldn’t wait for the movie to end. Like Crazy only has a 90-minute running time, but its last third makes it seem even longer.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy parts of the film. Like Crazy is frustrating, but it features a totally likeable and winning performance by Jones that announces her as an actress to watch (just like Martha Marcy May Marlene did with Elizabeth Olsen). Adorable, modern, real, and almost the anti-Zooey (in that she doesn’t have that dorky/cute thing going for her), Jones is a big reason why Like Crazy works when it does, particularly in the first third. Even though the film lets her down, Jones is someone viewers can easily fall for. Chances are good we’ll have plenty of other occasions to do so in the future.

For now, though, Jones is in a film that, like (500) Days of Summer isn’t as good as it wants to be. I’m giving Like Crazy a B–.

WaffleBot Saves Christmas!

4 Nov

What is there to say about A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas?

It’s funny (I’d say funnier than the last film, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay), the 3D effects are generally completely gratuitous (and some are very cool and/or very funny), there’s a jolly soundtrack, Neil Patrick Harris makes another amusing appearance, you may never watch A Christmas Story the same way again, it begins well and ends well but has some slower moments in the middle, and there’s a must-have holiday gift called WaffleBot that I totally want. Continue reading

Robbery in Progress

3 Nov

If Law & Order, with its ripped-from-the-headlines plotlines, was ever made into a movie, it might be a bit like Tower Heist. The film tells the story of a bunch of luxury residence employees who plot to steal from the Bernie Madoff–like jerk who has defrauded them and left them without pensions. No doubt, the film will be like a wish-fulfillment fantasy for so many moviegoers. But here’s my wish: I wish Tower Heist was a better, funnier movie. After all, the cast is top-lined by Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, and it also includes Casey Affleck (no stranger to funny heist films, having been in all three of the Oceans movies), Matthew Broderick, and Alan Alda.

Actually, if you want to see a robbery, then this is the movie you want to see, because it’s Gabourey Sidibe (yes, Precious herself) who steals the thing right out from under Stiller, Murphy, et al. Playing a Jamaican cleaning woman, Sidibe delivers her lines with perfect deadpan and impressive comic timing. She’s a hoot. What a difference a couple years makes in her choice of big screen roles.

Tower Heist does have its moments — the plan comes together and is impressively staged during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade — but the whole thing is far-fetched, even for someone like me who can typically suspend his disbelief pretty easily. Put simply: I expected more from the film overall. Like Madoff’s victims (though to a much much much smaller degree), you may feel defrauded too. I’m giving Tower Heist a B–.

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