I suppose I like my rock and roll bratty. Or just a little more on the brash, less serious side. That’s why I’ve always shied away from bands like Radiohead and the like, as there seems to be a self-seriousness there that I find off-putting. I like music that comes with almost a wink and a nod from the band members that it’s pretty awesome that you’re listening to their songs. And it not that they don’t know any more than you do, but unlike you can play guitars and write music. It’s not that they’re not serious about their craft per se, but they don’t want to give you a lesson in their sadness, they just want to rock you out. Sweet John Bloom seems to follow that model Continue reading
Rating (out of 5): ***
This is a movie that feels eerily similar to Garden State. I’m not sure why… Oh, wait, I totally know why! It’s a Zach Braff joint — the second Zach Braff joint, once again about a slightly nebbishy guy who can’t get his shit together. But this time he’s got kids and a half-Jewish wife (instead of the presumably full-Jew Natalie Portman). Once again punching above his weight with Kate Hudson as his blonde counterpart who reminds us she can be pretty and pretty charming when put in a role that isn’t shrill and weird. Or with Matthew McConaughey. Playing Braff’s dad is an always engaging Mandy Patinkin Continue reading
Community is/was always a hard one to categorize. It wasn’t one that came up a lot with anyone I knew and I rarely, if ever, brought it up outside of the context of my own brain. It was much like Scrubs in that way (and many other ways). I could get into it as much as I felt like putting myself into it. And, honestly, the show’s creators seemed to take the same tack throughout its run and especially in this, what I assume is its last and final season after moving from NBC to Yahoo! Screen. There was some mishigas a few years back with creator and mastermind, Dan Harmon, that had the show actually taken away from him, but it’d been back in his hands for a couple years now, including this season’s Yahoo! run. And while Harmon is a super-smart guy (whom, I believe, seems to love intoxicants of many different flavors) Continue reading
So we all remember reading Bright Lights, Big City and its mind-bending use of the second-person narrative structure. You felt immersed in a very drugged-out kind of way. It was familiar, yet foreign. But somehow it worked perfectly for the story. And now, in this book, we have the first-person plural approach. And while it too is off-putting at first, you gotta admire a guy who’s willing to attempt it, as it’s almost completely impossible to sustain (and he does break it for sections of the book where the ubiquitous narrator is offscreen, so to speak). But it too is used to elicit a feeling. In this case it’s not the disorienting, funhouse mirror of Bright Lights, but the weird group-think thing that happens within companies, and more specifically Continue reading
Rating (out of 5): ***½
For a very large film, this thing felt remarkably small. Maybe it’s the silence of space or the oddly myopic view of the world we’re exposed to, but for a movie that is essentially about the end of the world, the thing seemed ready to go out with a small sigh. I mean blight is not the sexiest of apocalyptic scenarios. It’s basically the slow choking of the world’s food supply. Dying of starvation isn’t the same as dying in the flaming shards of a giant meteor or alien invasion. It becomes a fact of life and something that you have less and less of on a daily basis until you are no more. Death by a thousand cuts. Continue reading
The humble brag isn’t a good look for a rapper. That’s how Murs starts off this album with an odd God-centric track that basically talks about his comfy life, his faithful wife and his willingness to create radio-friendly music. Look, I’m no cheerleader for the G-man, but when athletes basically say, “I’m not great, I’m just blessed by Jesus with a 50″ vertical and a 4.3 forty that allows me to juke motherfuckers,” I think even their lord and savior wants to tell them to shut the fuck up. So it’s instantly disappointing that Murs would go that way out the gate. I mean Continue reading
I’ve heard surprisingly little about this show from just about anyone. Granted, I think people only discuss TV on Twitter these days, and I have next to no time to follow those conversations. But even my reliable Podcasters (for whom I have all sorts of time) have barely mentioned this thing, despite it being from the creators of the well-loved series 30 Rock. I mean this is Tina Fey, people! Wasn’t there like a year and half there where that woman was everywhere? Like in your face funny? And then came out and, splat, nothing. Some of that — and this is total conjecture — I think has to do with Netflix’s “drop ’em all at once” methodology. Rather than string out the conversation over the ten to 22-week run, the series lands and then everyone starts Continue reading
Formerly the location of goodburger, P.J. Clarke’s decided to go into the same business and open an old-fashioned burger joint, complete with ice cream and milkshakes, paper hats and vintage decor. But like sized and updated for Manhattan. Which means that at certain hours, the tiny area that holds the herds of Manhattanites hungry for a classic burger wrapped in paper and stuck into a cardboard sleeve, along with some awesome-smelling fries and a drink can’t hold the sheer mass of humanity that inhabits the most Continue reading
I had an on-again, off-again relationship with Mad Men over the years. I watched the first couple of seasons live, but grew weary of the relentlessly bleak nature of the show. Bleak not in a Walking Dead type of way, but more so in the depravity of human nature the show showcased. That depravity was embodied mostly by the show’s main protagonist, Donald Draper, but even the sidekicks got into the act, boozing and cheating and in some cases even raping their way into our living rooms on a weekly basis. Like I have with so many shows over the years, I asked myself, “Are we supposed to like these characters, or root in any way for their success?” As the many Dabney Coleman series flops over the years have taught us Continue reading
I want to like this. I do. The same way I wanted to like PJ Harvey and some of those woman-fronted college radio rock bands from back in the 90s. I just can’t get past the meandering melodies of the whole thing. The lack of hooks. The lack of anything to grasp other than a nice singing voice and perhaps some sweet harmonies. It all feels a little too much like the Lilith Fair version of Dave Matthews to me. Ok, that’s too harsh. It’s more like I want more, well… More balls. Continue reading
Built to Spill sound like a band out of time. I mean people just don’t make music like this anymore. And that’s not a sentimental statement, but more so an indictment of the current state of indie rock. To be fair, though, very few bands made music like BTS even when slightly spacey guitar rock was actually a thing. I heard a podcast recently where Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie admitted that he just completely ripped the beginning of his musical career straight from BTS and that their influence propelled his music to the extent he thought that the similarities would be so shamefully Continue reading
Rating (out of 5): *½
This movie is such an amazingly over-engineered pile of crap, it’s shocking that Danny Boyle didn’t Alan Smithee the shit out of it. Like drown it in the bathtub and leave it for dead (but then hypnotize himself so he didn’t remember drowning it in the tub). I had honestly never heard of the thing before running across it in the on demand section of one of the millions of cable company channels I get for my $3,000-a-month cable subscription. Odd, considering this was a man who won an Academy Award and made fucking Continue reading
Hot damn the Belgians love their beer. I mean they probably love chocolate just as much, but this joint doesn’t trade in the sweet stuff. Instead this hole-in-the-wall cafe deals in the briny and the sudsy. And by that I mean moules frites and beer in great abundance and great variety. And this, to my mind, is absolutely the shit. And by that I mean the best! Continue reading
I’ve read a bunch of Murakami over the years and am starting to wonder if, like Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King before him, I have moved beyond him and would be better off leaving his tales for the young and less jaded of our world. It’s not that I now dislike or don’t appreciate Murakami, it’s just that all the things I appreciated and liked about him have been repeated and repeated ad nauseum over the course of his bibliography. The writing is very samey-samey across all of his books and the characters seem to meander from one book to the next with very little change in inflection or surrounding-area influence. Despite actually naming this male protagonist (and putting his name in the title!) he’s still just a small variation on his everyman, lost mid-thirties empty vessel. Even if he was trying to fill this one with more emotion and not make him the wishy-washy automaton he has proliferated his narratives with for decades, he fails to differentiate him from any of his previous sad sacks. And, who knows, this all may be part of Murakami’s huge plan, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to grow tired of it. Continue reading
Opening your album with a seven-and-a-half minute song is a pretty ballsy thing to do. It’s basically a band saying, “You’re gonna take us seriously, motherfucker!” And then to make that song a clear mashup to all of your heroes in U2 and Springsteen and some Tom Waits and perhaps something a little edgier version of The National, you’re laying it all out for listeners to either click away or be so intrigued they Continue reading
I’m always a little skeptical of chain restaurants that claim to have this crazy process that makes their food unique. Tres Carnes claims slow-smoke awesomeness on their Tex-Mex-inspired barbecue grub. But, really, how can one do this en mass? The answer is that there is probably some unevenness in the process. Maybe some batches are better than others. Maybe the quality control as more and more locations open is compromised. Whatever the case, the sound of the product turns out to be better than the result.
I came across this joint quite by accident. I was wandering the neighborhood Continue reading
I’ve never been a fan of the Florida Keys ever since I was almost swallowed by the sea whilst driving in a huge storm on one of their stupid roads. The beach is non-existent and that giant Hawaiian-shirted douche, Jimmy Buffett, started his horrible empire right there in town. Plus the humidity is horrible and I had to attend two of the four funerals I’ve ever attended in that godforsaken state. Every episode of COPS should take take place in Florida — at least the 5% or so of them that don’t already. It was bad enough suffering through an almost unwatchable season of American Horror Story set in Florida, now I was subjecting myself to 13 episodes of more of the same. Though these freaks were a little more subtle in their freakishness.
I was also not a devotee of star Kyle Chandler’s Friday Night Lights, despite being told a million times by half a million people that it was awesome. I also don’t watch The Good Wife, even though people besides my CBS-loving parents, including some trusted critics, Continue reading
Rating (out of 5): ***½
First we start with this amazingly creepy poster. I mean, Duplass looks like a serial killer and Moss looks like some awful painting out of The Royal Tennenbaums. As it happens, there are no serial killers in this film, nor is this a Wes Anderson joint. It’s more like an extended episode of mumblecore Twilight Zone. Or perhaps Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I’m not sure I knew that going into it, honestly. I just thought it was a another one of those talky-talky relationship movies where someone has an affair and then they spend the entire movie unraveling their relationship while the dude — in this case, the perennially wimpy Duplass — attempts to get revenge by awkwardly trying to cheat back. But not succeeding. I was way off.
Instead we get what is a sort of supernatural — or alternative universe — tale about a couple on the rocks who think they can reconcile their failing marriage by time away at an Continue reading
Earl, the reform school, bipolar rap prodigy from the hot-for-a-minute Odd Future, surprisingly seems to be the one that really broke out from under the yoke of insta-fame. Surprisingly because for a while there he looked to be the one who had the most to lose. Granted, I’m stuck in the white hipster echo chamber of joints like Pitchfork and the like who are less interested in what’s hot in the ‘hood and more about what they deem to be artful. So it’s a compete possibility that Earl’s haze-filled, jumbled bag of broken appliance-sounding beats may only appeal to an indie crowd unimpressed by 95% of the other hip hop out there. It’s not to say I’m completely in love with this album, as there are times when his delivery slows to a point that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Like a train grinding to a halt. It’s not like I want Twista or anything, but most of the album sounds like it’s stuck in quicksand. Like a guy who’s just popped a handful of Continue reading
Like most people, I was a little nervous when AMC announced they’d be following up Breaking Bad with this less-than-inspired-sounding spin-off. On Breaking Bad, Saul (a.k.a. Jimmy) was often the clown, the comic relief, the buffoon. I mean it’s not as if Bob Odenkirk is someone I’ve certainly thought of as a leading man, or a marquee guy on which to risk the reputation of a series that made TV history. Not that the buffoonery was necessarily Odenkirk’s fault. The writers just gave him that kind of glib, slickster thing that always kind of felt like a put-on. And perhaps that’s why Vince Gilligan decided that his character was one worth investigating.
And the odd thing is that despite Saul being kind of a goofball in Breaking Bad, this series is somehow darker and more serious than the original. More serious and more sad, as we see the making of the man, who despite being what appeared to be a competent and earnest lawyer in Breaking Bad, just get shit on over and over again by friends, family and life. A man who started life as “Slippin’ Jimmy,” a nickname afforded him because of his conman ways. A petty criminal whose life of crime comes to a crashing end due to an Continue reading