Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Austin power

The lineup for the Austin City Limits Music Festival is out. In a word: Yesssssssss!

A sampling of the 100-some bands playing: Pearl Jam, Beastie Boys, Dave Matthews Band, Ghostland Observatory, Ben Harper, John Legend, Lily Allen, the Avett Brothers, Sonic Youth, Mos Def, The Decemberists, Arctic Monkeys.

I suggest you get thee to Austin, Texas, from Oct. 2-4. Tickets are only $185. That's what I call value.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Merry vs. Pippin

Noticed the other day that Dominic Monaghan is in the new Wolverine movie coming out next week, and it got me to thinking: Wow, little Merry has come a long way. Monaghan used his turn as mischievous hobbit Merry in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy to launch himself into a fantastic role on "Lost" (And I'll bet more people call him "Charlie" on the street than "Merry." Just a guess.) and now a huge summer blockbuster. Good on ya, brutha!

Anyway, fellow hobbit Billy Boyd, a.k.a. Pippin, appeared in "Master and Commander" -- the same year that "Return of the King" came out, 2003 -- and hasn't really had a memorable role since.

So, this round of Hobbit vs. Hobbit goes to Monaghan.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Summer movie preview

Good God, is it seriously almost May? It is? Well, that's sorta kick ass because that means summer movie season is right around the corner.

The flicks I'm jazzed about (in order of release date):

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (May 1): It can't be any worse than "X-Men 3," right?

"Star Trek" (May 7): I know you all thought I was a big dork, but one glaring omission on my nerd resume is that I've never seen a "Star Trek" movie. At least not that I remember. I gotta say, though, the trailer for J.J. Abrams' reboot looks good enough for me to want to see in the theater. And I think casting Simon Pegg as Scottie is down right awesome.

"Terminator: Salvation" (May 27): I really wish I didn't want to see this movie. I really wish it looked like McG destroyed the once-proud franchise. But dammit if that trailer doesn't knock my socks off. Also, I trust Christian Bale to make good movies. Perhaps he will prove me wrong this time. Here's hoping he won't.

"Up" (May 29): Looks to be another genius effort by Pixar.

"The Hangover" (June 5): Todd Phillips, the dude who brought us "Old School," seems to have found another great recipe for comedy gold. The premise is simple: Friends head to Vegas for a bachelor party blowout, but get so effed up that they can't remember what happened the night before. Like, where did this baby come from? And why is there a Tiger in their hotel room? Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis will be the Michael Cera-Jonah Hill or Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy team of the summer.

"Year One" (June 19): Speaking of Michael Cera, he stars in this spoof on primitive life, written and directed by Harold Ramis. Cast is stellar (Jack Black, David Cross, Paul Rudd, Hank Azaria), and if the rest of the film is anywhere near as funny as the clip with Cross and Rudd as Cain and Abel, well, I think we'll have a winner.

"Public Enemies" (July 1): Like I said, I trust Christian Bale to make good movies, almost as much as I trust Johnny Depp (let's face it, even his more bizarre films are still quality entertainment). Directed by Michael Mann (!), it's the real-life story of Depression-era bank robber John Dillenger (Depp), who is being pursued by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Sign me up!

"Bruno" (July 10): Like "Borat," but probably even more offensive.

"Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince" (July 15): Ahhhhhhhhh! Why can't I go watch this one NOW?!?!?!?! (Side note: How is this movie rated PG? And if they decide to make the last two HP movies PG, that likely means they'll be taking out a lot of good action. Just sayin'.)

"(500) Days of Summer" (July 17): Looks like a funny and sad but ultimately uplifting movie. Synopsis via film's site: "When Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hapless greeting card copywriter and hopeless romantic, is blindsided after his girlfriend Summer (Zooey Deschanel) dumps him, he shifts back and forth through various periods of their 500 days "together" to try to figure out where things went wrong. His reflections ultimately lead him to finally rediscover his true passions in life." All together now: Awwwww.

"Inglorious Basterds" (Aug. 21): I still can't tell if Quentin Tarantino is trying to be sorta serious or just completely tongue-in-cheek with his twisted take on World War II. What I can tell is that it's gonna be flippin' violent. Game on.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Review: Adventureland

RATING: Recommend it
ANALOGY: "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" meets "Dazed and Confused"
SYNOPSIS: A coming-of-age comedy set in the summer of 1987 about an uptight recent college grad (Jesse Eisenberg) who is forced to take a job at a local amusement park when he realizes he can't afford his dream European vacation.
SOUNDTRACK: Yes, full of stellar '80s tunes. You'll never think of "Rock Me Amadeus" the same way again.

REVIEW: "Adventureland" gives to the world '80s nostalgia in a sophisticated way, plenty of belly laughs, a wide-ranging cast, a believable plot and an overall enjoyable 2 hours at the movies.

The amusement park locale is fertile ground for hijinx and relationship growth. And really, any place where bulk of its employees are high school and college students is going to provide that fertile ground. Director Greg Mottola ("Superbad") actually based this film on his experiences as a teenager working at an amusement park in New Jersey. The first-hand experience shines through in behind-the-scenes details -- i.e. How do they rip off midway game players? And where do those stuffed bananas with googly eyes come from? -- and in the characters that inhabit the park each summer.

The '80s setting feels authentic, like it actually could have been shot during the John Hughes Era (unlike, say, "The Wedding Singer," which over-accentuates the '80s the clothing, music and pop culture references purely for cheap laughs). "Adventureland" winks at the bad hair, stone-washed jeans and Material Girl personas, but those things blend in with what really is a timeless coming-of-age plot.

I've heard Eisenberg ("Rodger Dodger") described as the poor man's Michael Cera. The analogy fits -- awkward, mumbling, poofy hair and adorable -- but he brings more maturity to his character. Rightly so, as James is a recent college grad and not a recent high school grad. Kristen Stewart's main acting technique is running her fingers through her long, chestnut hair, but somehow, it works and soon the audience is as drawn to her Em as Eisenberg's James is.

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig (both of "SNL" fame) absolutely kill in their roles as married park managers. And Martin Scott ("Knocked Up") puts a new spin on the nerdy intellectual, giving him an almost goth-emo-indie feel -- as opposed to a McLovin' type.

While Mottola's follow-up outing to "Superbad" likely won't be as oft-quoted as its predecessor, "Adventureland" has the potential to catch on as a more cultish film, a la "Dazed and Confused," for the 20- to 30-something crowd.