Ben Affleck’s Argo is an intelligent, reasonably compelling depiction of an intelligence operation that remained pretty secret for years.
The first time I saw and heard Dean Regan perform was at The North Hollywood Church of Religious Science. Dean is a phenomenal singer with a vocal style and range that is reminiscent of the giants in Old School Broadway.
Riam Johnson’s riveting sci-fi/noir Looper combines time travel and future urban angst as it tells an intricately plotted tale weaving strands of organized crime, loyalty, telekinesis, mother love, and mortality.
Mumford & Sons are back with their new album ‘Babel’ and credit should be given where it is due. The record, in terms of sound quality, composition and lyrics are fantastic. Once again the band strip down music to the bare essentials and make it work for them. Songs like "Reminder" and "The Boxer" are perfect poetic stories that, whilst being short, have a huge amount of depth to them.
John Hillcoat’s Lawless purports to tell the story of the resilient Bondurant brothers who sold moonshine in Virginia during the 1930s and allegedly achieved some degree of legendary stature…at least in the eyes of Matt Bondurant, the relative who wrote the book (The Wettest County in the World) on which the film (written by Nick Cave) is based.
Today, we are interviewing Jim Manzo, member of the OTYP Band. Jim goes back quite a few years with the NoHo Arts District. He graduated from the Los Angeles Recording Workshop, which moved to Hollywood and is now where the Art Institute of California Hollywood is standing. Jim was a regular at local recording and rehearsal studios such as AMP, Leeds and The Alley. Now, the OTYP Band is releasing their new album.
The Expendables 2 is an action-packed, testosterone-filled sequel to the 2010 Sylvester Stallone-driven (writer, director, star, set caterer—I may be mistaken on that last part) commando adventure. This time out Stallone shares the writing credit with Richard Wenk and relinquishes the directorial reins to Simon West. The result is the rare sequel that is actually an improvement on the original. Whereas the first film was laden with expository, brooding scenes meant to establish the team’s camaraderie and air of fatalism, the sequel is more focused and tighter paced yet with a looser feel, courtesy of some macho, quasi-mocking banter. In addition, the action scenes are consistently exciting and exhilarating without being excessive and exhausting. The plot is pretty negligible…the bad guys led by Jean-Claude Van Damme want to steal a lot of plutonium, enslaving a small town-and killing an expendable Expendable (Liam Hemsworth with death written all over his face—you’ll know the minute he mentions the girl waiting at home) in the process. This galvanizes these altruistic mercenaries (they only kill for a good cause) led by Stallone and Jason Statham into doing what they do best: locking and loading to wipe out these evildoers and possibly the save the world as we know it. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are back, but this time they ‘re not just picking up a check—these action icons are picking up automatic weapons and blowing away the bad guys; in addition, the script abounds with references to their past triumphs that enables everyone to be in on the joke-and enjoy themselves while doing it. At the screening I attended, the biggest audience response was reserved for Chuck Norris, playing a renowned lone wolf of a mercenary. Perhaps the big screen wants him back…
Dax Shepard wrote and co-directed (with David Palmer) Hit & Run, a hit or miss chase comedy that is noteworthy for not wasting the lovely and talented Kristen Bell, as well as giving Bradley Cooper a chance to shine as a vengeful bad guy with jail issues. Shepard is Charlie Bronson, so named after he entered the witness protection program. His idyllic, anonymous existence in New Mexico (with live-in girlfriend Kristin Bell and skittish agent/caretaker Tom Arnold) is jeopardized when he decides to drive her to L.A.---thus incurring her ex-boyfriend’s wrath, which leads the ex to contact Shepard’s nemesis, a dread-locked Bradley Cooper. Much fleeing, chasing and stunt driving ensue. The car chase scenes themselves are probably the lesser part of the movie; they’re not bad but you’ve seen them before-and better. However, the writing gives the performers plenty of opportunities to show off their wares; Tom Arnold, while initially a little too cartoonish as the would-be protective agent, nevertheless gets to display flashes of likability and warmth; Bradley Cooper is like an actor reborn as the animal-loving, gun-toting robber with more than a few axes to grind. Kristen Bell finally has a lead role that gives her a chance to show many of her formidable skills, including her comic timing, intelligence and ability to project strength and vulnerability (previous films of hers generally focused on one aspect, much to the films’ detriment). Shepard (Bell’s real-life fiancé) and Bell convince and have genuine chemistry as a couple, so that their exchanges between the chases aren’t just filler, but portray the insecurities and suspicions that can befall even a seemingly happy couple. Hit & Run is a hit—whenever the tires aren’t screeching.
Rock and Metal are one of the few genres that are still thriving with talent. Each new band seems more underrated than the last and Our Innocence Lost release of their brand new album ‘Like A Complete Unknown’, is no exception to that rule.
Jay Roach’s funny but uneven political spoof The Campaign pits morally lax incumbent North Carolina congressman Will Ferrell against insecure, uptight tour guide Zach Galifianakis. Before you can say “no contest,” Galifianakis, with some seriously shady financial backing, not to mention a shark of a campaign manager (Dylan McDermott), manages to give the previously unopposed Ferrell a run for his money, as the two candidates descend to the kind of overzealous one-upmanship (including a novel use of a sex video) that gives politics a bad name. While the movie makes some passing references to the current economic situation and the power of the media, much of what occurs is a little too silly, with a corresponding lack of insight, to make this a genuine political satire. Despite this lack of artistic ambition, The Campaign is pretty funny, with a few hilarious sequences including a dinner in which Galifianakis learns more than he wanted about family secrets, and a scene involving the overly eager candidates and a baby. There is solid support form Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow as Galifianakis’ rapacious backers, Jason Sudeikis as Ferrell’s campaign manager, and Dylan McDermott as Galifianakis’ campaign manager from Hell-almost literally. As for the candidates: I've rarely found Galifianakis funny in the past, yet here he manages to be likable and appealing, even when he engages in some down and dirty dealings. Ferrell’s incumbent also manages to retain his likability, even when indulging in the must outrageous, childish behavior. Amidst all the shenanigans, there is a quiet scene where Ferrell and Galifianakis share some bourbon and reflections. It is not a particularly funny scene (nor was it intended to be), but it manages to convey some of the characters’ decency, so that what happens at the end of the contest is not totally unexpected or unfounded.
The sunny trailers for David Frankel’s Hope Springs might lead you to believe this may be a cheerful comedy about post mid-life crisis, but it’s much more serious than that. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones’ lengthy marriage has fallen into a malaise of hasty morning goodbyes, unrelieved small talk (if any) at dinner, separate bedrooms, and nothing in the way of intimacy. While Jones is seemingly content with how things are, Streep has decided (over Jones’ objections) that they will travel to a small town in Maine (called-you got it-Hope Springs) for some intensive couples therapy with compassionate counselor Steve Carell. There is some humor here- in the befuddled, cantankerous Jones’ reactions to small town life, as well as Streep’s sojourn in a tavern (under the watchful eye of bartender Elizabeth Shue—somebody get that actress more work). However, the wrenching power of the movie is in the portrayals of Streep and Jones. They are entirely convincing as a couple whose relationship is more like that of roommates than of soulmates. One can see Streep’s insecurity as she wonders if she is still attractive to Jones, as well as Jones’ fear that he is no longer the man he was-or that Streep deserves. The most intense scenes are in the therapist’s office as they lay bare, under Carell’s gentle prodding, all the disappointments and regrets-as well as the happy memories that caused them to find each other in the first place. The movie shows is how easy it is for two people to fall into marital monotony, to forego meaningful communication in favor of impersonal distance. Where the movie occasionally falls down is in not trusting the actors’ abiltities and instead adding some music to needlessly underscore the emotional moments. In spite of this shortcoming, the exquisite artistry of Streep and Jones should manage to move the hardened heart.
BETO CUEVAS is in demand! He is currrently in Puerto Rico inundated with press interviews for his new album,"TRANSFORMACIOM" Warner Music. "TRANSFORMACION" is fast on track to becoming a hit. "QUIERO CREER," (I Believe), the first single released that has climbed the music charts and is now a number one music video. After ten successful albums as the frontman for Latin rock group La Ley, selling millions and receiving a Grammy, Latin Grammys and MTV Awards, BETO CUEVAS emerged as a solo artist in 2008. "Miedo Esceni," his first post La Ley launch spawned notable hits such as "Vuelvo" and "Hablame."
The Watch has received its share of scathing reviews and, if truth be told—they’re well-deserved. This so-called comedy about a neighborhood watch that encounters aliens (I hope I’m spoiling everything) fails on practically every conceivable level.
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is, to my mind, an improvement over its overly busy, overrated predecessor. However, while this is intended to be mainly a movie review, it is difficult to ignore the striking parallels to real life, some intended—some regretfully unintended…
Savages - a Vicious Califor-noir from Oliver Stone
There is so much to savor in Oliver Stone’s Savages, especially if you’re a fan of clever dialogue, pulp fiction, film noir, Salma Hayek-and John Travolta.
I've said it before and I will say it again, experimatation is something that makes music beautiful, the ability to try anything in music and see what fits and sounds good is always a positive.
To Rome With Love, Woody Allen’s latest European love letter, finds the prolific writer/director presenting an assortment of vignettes set in a beautifully photographed Rome (courtesy of cinematographer Darius Khondji). It is also fairly enjoyable, as long as you’re not expecting another Midnight in Paris.
When bands release a three track EP they really need to get their point across of who they are and what they are about fast due to the time constraints.
Just when you thought you were done with the ‘80s, they’re back, courtesy of two new music-laden, star-driven vehicles, Rock of Ages and the latest Adam Sandler chuckle-fest, That’s My Boy. There is a good deal of amusement/curiosity value to be found in both as they resuscitate (some might say regurgitate) ‘80s pop culture in the service of musical mashups and predictable plotlines.
Snow White and the Huntsman, or 2012’s second revisionist look at Snow White, is a brooding, beautifully filmed work that attempts to graft a blend of Gladiator and Joan of Arc onto the tale of the fairest maiden of them all—with somewhat mixed results.
When Aussie Indie rockers The Temper Trap first released their debut album ‘Conditions’ back in 2009 it rocketed them to fame in the indie scene.
If you’ve seen the coming attractions for The Dictator, the latest teaming of Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles, you’ve seen many of the best bits, and considering the film runs a scant 83 minutes—heck, you’ve seen almost the whole movie. Cohen’s General Aladeen is the avaricious, lascivious, supremely childish ruler of the fictional country of Wadiya.
Well....I love Aardman films....(creators of Wallace & Grommit)...and directors Peter Lord (who also directed Chicken Run) and Jeff Newitt (key animator on Flushed Away) made a visually stunning clay-mation feature that is filled with panoramic views of old London, the Caribbean and the open sea!
Moses Luster is an American musician who’s debut album ‘I'm The Lion’ is something that is unusual to say the least.
A few years ago, Iron Man and Iron Man 2 helped reinvigorate both Robert Downey Jr’s career and the comic book superhero genre. Last summer, cinemagoers and comic fans were treated to a surplus of comic book epics, ranging from the very disposable, non-Marvel-ous Green Lantern (don’t know anyone who is clamoring for that sequel) to the hugely entertaining Captain America (Thor falls somewhere in-between). This spring, Marvel fans (and I predict many others) will be able to enjoy a superhero equivalent of The Magnificent Seven with Joss Whedon’s very entertaining The Avengers, only this time it isn’t a poor, hardworking village at stake—it’s nothing less than the entire Earth (by way of New York).
Attaboy are a Christian Rock band from Indiana; I admit that I don’t listen to much Christian Rock music, but if this band and their EP ‘Unshaken ’ is anything to judge it by than it is a truly underrated genre.
With their occasionally very funny The Three Stooges, the Farrelly brothers have rebounded somewhat from the comic abyss that was Hall Pass.
Heralding the start of blockbuster season, Gary Ross’ The Hunger Games-from the bestseller by Suzanne Collins- is a fitfully exciting, somewhat entertaining post-apocalyptic action drama with some regrettably modern touches (the “handheld” effect—oy!) and a scenario free of any moral ambiguity—which would be fine if it weren’t so clearly aiming for something more.
Van Ghost is a five-piece rock band weeping with soul. Whilst they have their own individual sound, listeners might be reminded slightly of bands such as Matchbox Twenty.
Every so often you hear that album that makes you completely fall in love with a genre again. Lucky for me Valentiger have made that happen with their album, ‘Oh, to Know’.
Friends with Kids aims to be a romantic comedy for the not-so-new millennium, incorporating the perils of parenting, the death of marriage (at least when kids are involved), and the bonds of friendship into what eventually turns out to be standard romantic comedy fare.