Archive | September, 2012

This Rainy Day Playlist Will Keep You Dry Today

30 Sep

It’s a rainy, wet day here in Boston. Looks like it’s raining in a bunch of other places too.

That makes it the perfect day to listen to my rainy day playlist.

That’s right. Not only do I have a summer playlist and a July 4th playlist, I have one for rainy days too.

Like those others, all the songs on this playlist have one thing in common: They reference a word — in this case, “rain” (or some variant of it) — in a significant way. (Or it’s “Umbrella,” which, I guess, is so essential to this mix that four versions of it are included.)

Here’s what’s on my rainy day playlist, in no particular order: Continue reading

Organized Nerd Singing

28 Sep

Midway through Pitch Perfect, there’s a scene that’s symbolic of my feelings about the movie.

A group of older (i.e., 20- or 30-something) singers is performing in the hallway at an a cappella competition, and they’re mocked by the college kids because they’ve graduated and are still performing.

A cappella is a college thing, the students are saying, and anyone who’s into it after that is just lame. (They probably shouldn’t see the movie Sing Now or Forever Hold Your Peace.)

There you go: Apparently, you can be too old for a cappella. It’s a fact I learned for myself during my junior of college (I was a fan, not a performer). Since then, with the exception of Straight No Chaser’s two Christmas albums, I’ve still been able to appreciate it, but I just haven’t been as into a cappella music as I used to be.

So alright, Pitch Perfect is not a movie for my demographic. But it’s one that captures the moment in your life when a cappella is the be-all-end-all of the collegiate experience — the glories and the annoyances.

Continue reading

21 Things I’m Not Apologizing For

24 Sep

The week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is known as the Days of Awe.

During this time, you’re supposed to go around to all the people you’ve wronged in the past year and apologize, so that you can start the new year with a clean slate, and more importantly, be inscribed in God’s Book of Life.

I’m not perfect — far from it — so I have a lot of people to apologize to before Yom Kippur begins tomorrow night at sunset. On the off-chance that I don’t get to speak with you individually, know that I’m sorry for whatever I did.

I’ll be honest, though … I may have things to apologize for, but there’s also plenty I’m not sorry about. So with that in mind, here’s my second-annual list of the things I’m not apologizing for: Continue reading

The Will of One Man

23 Sep

Paul Thomas Anderson is a master filmmaker.

There’s just no other way to say it without making that lame, obvious pun.

His latest work, The Master, follows in the tradition of There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, and Boogie Nights as another ambitious, sprawling film that simultaneously feels epic and intimate, and wholly original.

It’s a captivating film that will establish Anderson as the best American filmmaker working today, and will likely win him all the awards that eluded him four years ago (how Blood lost the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars to No Country for Old Men, I still don’t know).

Simply stated, The Master is the best film I’ve seen so far this year (beating out The Dark Knight Rises by a smidge).

Is that enough hyperbole right off the top? Yeah, I think so too. So let’s move on.

Continue reading

Come Back When You’re Ready

21 Sep

My 20-year high school reunion is in a couple months.

For one reason or another, my class hasn’t had a reunion once in the two decades since we graduated — unlike my college class, which has had one every five years (for better and for worse).

So you might think I’d be dreading or feeling nervous about this gathering. Actually, the opposite is true: I’m kind of excited for it.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with folks I haven’t seen or been in touch with in 20 years. I’m looking forward to remembering good times. I’m looking forward to seeing how people have changed. And most importantly, I’m looking forward to showing how I’ve changed, and how the me I am now is not the me I used to be.

I wonder if my class’ reunion will be anything like the reunion that’s currently on the big screen in the movie 10 Years. Continue reading

A Broken-Down Old Man

20 Sep

If you thought Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention was bizarre, then just wait until you see him in Trouble with the Curve.

In the opening moments of the film, the actor stands in the bathroom, looks down, and talks to his penis. “Don’t laugh,” he tells his poorly functioning organ. “I outlived you, you little bastard.”

Really? Yes, really.

This is the guy who played Dirty Harry, who won Oscars for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, and who used to be one of the most respected actor-filmmakers in the business.

What happened?

He got old, that’s what happened, and he didn’t age well. Now, Eastwood is stuck in grizzled old-guy mode. His last big-screen role, in Gran Torino, reduced him to a one-note caricature. Trouble with the Curve digs him even deeper into that hole.

Continue reading

Ghetto Gunfighters

20 Sep

Good movies have the power to transport us, whether they’re taking us to a completely made-up world or showing us somewhere we typically don’t go.

The new movie End of Watch does the latter: It takes us on a cinematic ride-along with two cops as they patrol South Central Los Angeles.

The film’s gimmick is that Officer Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) is documenting what it’s like to be a cop. So he carries around a camcorder and has small cams that he attaches to his and his partner’s uniforms, plus the other cameras placed within the squad car and elsewhere.

Yes, that has a tendency to create a very shaky picture at times, such as in the opening car chase, which is exciting, but also a bit disorienting. When it works, though — which is more often than not — the vérité style makes the film’s dialogue sound unscripted, the action feel more real, and the chemistry between Taylor and Officer Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) more natural.

And that’s partly what distinguishes End of Watch from other buddy-cop movies. Continue reading

You Brought This to Our Door

16 Sep

There was a time when movie villains came from Eastern European countries or the Middle East.

While those do still exist, nowadays, a greater number seem to come from Wall Street, and the financial world.

That’s right: If you haven’t noticed (and how could you have missed it?) Hollywood’s favorite punching bag right now is the 1%. Whether the film is Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, The Dark Knight Rises, or countless other recent examples, we just love watching the affluent among us get what’s coming to them.

So it is in Arbitrage, the latest film to show the downfall of a rich, white guy who took advantage of people on his rise to the top. Continue reading

Rosie Never Did Anything Like This

15 Sep

The film Robot & Frank never tells you exactly when it’s taking place, but in this near-future time, we’re at least one step closer to The Jetsons than we are now.

That is to say, it’s a time when robots are human substitutes that can cook, clean, and even work in the garden.

Look out, Rosie!

In the film, the titular Frank (Frank Langella) is given a robot companion by his children because Frank is in the early stages of dementia and he needs someone — or rather, something — to look after him.

Frank, a retired jewel thief, is at first resistant to this new caretaker (“That thing is going to murder me in my sleep,” he says). But eventually the two become friends.

Even better, Frank realizes he has a new ally who can’t distinguish between legal and illegal activities. So he plans two final scores — one to win the affections of a librarian (the ubiquitous Susan Sarandon), and the other to get back at the head of the library’s redevelopment effort — and trains the robot to play a role. Continue reading

A Couch Potato’s Worst Nightmare

10 Sep

Entertainment Weekly’s annual Fall TV Preview issue is out, and that can only mean one thing: It’s time to set up my DVR so I don’t miss out on any of the new TV hitting airwaves over the course of the next month or so.

Every year I get the issue and I become interested in watching many of the new and returning shows. (Not that I needed the issue to tell me I was interested, but having them all in front of me like that solidifies my interest.) It’s like Christmas for a TV fan like me.

But it’s also a challenge because there’s not enough room on my DVR and not enough hours in the day to watch all these shows — especially if I actually want to have a life outside my apartment, which I do.

So my solution is simple: I have a three-strikes rule. I’ll do my best to watch what I want to, and if I get three episodes behind on any one show, I stop trying to watch it. That seems to work just fine. And it doesn’t take very long to pick out the good shows and the bad ones, the ones I should make time for and the ones I should give up on.

This year, I may need to apply that rule more readily, what with seven shows I have slated to watch on Tuesday nights alone.

So … what shows are on my must-watch list this year? To continue my annual tradition, here’s a list of what I’m looking forward to this fall: Continue reading