Monday, March 23, 2009

Stab yourself in the eyes and ears

28. "Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show"
The worst movie I've seen since documenting movies I've seen. I did not finish the movie. I stopped after 18 minutes. I wanted to stop after 5. I could not finish this film without sedation in some way. If this movie was on while taking a nap I would dream of plagues.

Fuck you, Vince Vaughn. I now realize I did not ever really enjoy your work. I like "Swingers" because of Jon Favreau. "Old School" was funny because there wasn't that many good comedies being released at the time. "The Break-Up" was bearable because I like looking at Chicago on film. God damn, man. You fooled me.

Four comedians go on the road for thirty days. They play 1200 seat venues. Vince Vaughn is the MC. In the first ten minutes we learn that all the comedians fucking awful and cater to the lowest common denominator of comedy. And they complain. About dumb fucking shit. Fuck me.

I knew it would be bad yet I gave it a shot.

I will dream of plagues.

Uptown, Chicago, March 20 2009


Three new podcasts are up on Interviews with Bill Pritchard, Jared Bowen and Jeremy Tromburg. Please download them through iTunes and write nice reviews.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


27. "We Are Wizards"
Thanks, Hulu. I like documentaries too much and your new section of documentaries will give me hours of pleasure.

I have a few friends into Wizard Rock. They enjoy "Harry Potter" books and films. I've read the first two books and seen the first two films. They're good. I enjoy the fantasy in them and like anything that gets people reading. I understand the cult following but don't participate. I've been interested in this subculture for years and this film does an excellent job giving outsiders a decent idea what this whole thing is about.

The film follows a few Wizard Rock bands. It tells the story of the guy that did his own soundtrack to the first film. It follows a teenager that led the fight for Internet sites to post about Potter related news. It gives the Christian lady who thinks all things Harry Potter evil a chance to talk. It doesn't judge anyone. It lets the viewer get an idea of why people feel attached to this world.

It's good to have friends.

The end

26. "Children of Men"
Clive Owen is super cool. He drinks and smokes in all of his movies. He wears a trench coat and swears and has sex with pretty ladies. He doesn't take himself too seriously because he's usually drunk.

"Children of Men" is one of those movies you put off seeing because it looks dark and you know it's good but doesn't seem easy to watch whereas a film like "Knocked Up" is obviously a fun romp. You won't remember the light romp but "Children of Men" will stick with you. It has an ending that is somewhat clear. It has a compelling story. It's beautiful and horrific. It looks expensive but natural at once.

I don't think I could watch "Children of Men" enough to grasp everything in the film. The sound mix alone is mind blowing. See this film as soon as you can. Give it your full attention.


9. Matt Tiabbi "The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics & Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire"
After fifty pages I began to enjoy Tiabbi's angry and mean musings. After three hundred pages I'm glad I stuck with the book. I haven't been swayed in any way, but I don't think I was meant to. I don't think anyone would be swayed by "The Great Derangement," but what are you going to do?

If you believe in Jesus Christ and believe that he is the one true savior of the world and that those who don't repent are doomed to hell you probably won't enjoy this book. Tiabi goes undercover and joins a Texas MegaChurch. He sits through services and prayer meetings and retreats. He becomes friends with fellow parishioners. He comes to the conclusion that most of the people in the church mean well but are just lonely and loneliness will lead you to groups that believe in hellfire.

If you believe 9-11 was an inside job you probably won't enjoy this book. Tiabbi is targeted by the 9-11 conspiricists because he makes an off-handed remark in one of his columns. After that he meets some of these people and reads site after site of 'truths' and calls government officials and scientists. He becomes sympathetic to these people. He comes to the conclusion that most of the people that believe 9-11 was an inside job are just lonely and loneliness and a good internet connection may lead you to paranoia.

I know people like this. People on both sides. They're good people. I want to give them a hug but don't want them too close to me. Their sadness weighs me down and I don't know what my role should be. So I read books like this and feel no different.


25. "Raging Bull"
Yea, it's a great film, but it's not better than "Rocky". If anything, "Raging Bull" is the Italian-American stereotype of a 'real' man. It's hard to sympathize with Jake or anyone involved in the film. After watching the film I wanted to read a book and detach myself from anything Italian. Then again, I usually feel that way.

Scorsese loves New York City and it shows in "Raging Bull". It's a wonderful love letter to a time and a place I have no desire to visit. His camerawork is revolutionary. His storytelling is a little scattered but intentionally so. It's odd to write about a film so well known and loved.

I still think "Rocky" is better and would totally win in a fight.

Bad touch

24. "Deliver Us From Evil"
My mom told me on my first day of school to never go to the bathroom with a priest. She told me this at least once a week from three to eighteen. She didn't trust priests. She said they might want to touch me in my privates. I laughed off her paranoia for years. I still laugh it off. I wouldn't say she has been vindicated, but her reasoning became slightly more sound with more and more priest sexual abuse allegations.

This award winning documentary is a good intro into the Catholic Church's problems. As someone who has been surrounded by Catholicism I enjoyed the film. It didn't cater to the lowest common denominator nor did you have to have a knowledge of the church to sit through it. You may have to have a strong stomach.

An awful film for a first date. Other than that, watch anytime.

Jesus is just alright

23. "Religulous"
Bill Maher's film was much better than I thought it was going to be. I went in thinking it would be no different than "Fuck" or any other film skewed far to the left. It wasn't. It was actually funny. Think "Borat" but with a smug American comedian.

I've liked Bill Maher since "Politically Incorrect" moved to ABC in the mid 90s. I think he's a smart guy and enjoy his take on politics. I listen to "Real Talk" as a podcast. If you're not a fan you probably won't like the film. It's very similar to his style of comedy, which turns a lot of people off. He's a smart guy and not afraid to let you know that.

The last five minutes probably should not have been tacked on. Maher gets on a soapbox and uses fear in the same way the religions he's been criticizing use it. The end of the world, end days stuff is fine to laugh at, but a little annoying to hear about from Maher. It's obvious he believes what he preaches, but still, it seemed pointless.

Cat in a Drawer, Chicago, March 2009

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sam Raimi directed this?

22. "For Love of the Game"
I'm counting this one because I saw the last hour and you don't even need to see that to know exactly what happens.

Kevin Costner has been in three other baseball related films.

The script is laughable, specifically the John C Reiley lines. I might try to get my hands on a copy of the script to perform at social gatherings. It's that bad.

This film was my penance for a hangover.

I'd read a follow up

8. Sudhir Venkatesh "Gang Leader for a Day"
Either Venkatesh is the most naive grad student of all time or wrote this book down to the reader. He never portrays the actions of the gang or their associates or the projects as a plague, but as just the way things get done. For example, the representative of one project essentially blackmails the tenants into selling themselves, products, loved ones and more in order for anything to get done. Anything usually meaning a new door or working electricity. I understand that our author couldn't confront this woman, but he didn't have to keep his mouth completely shut. I probably shouldn't write this so quickly after finishing. I was able to finish this book quickly and that definitely says something about it, it's a good, quick read.


21. "W."
Easy to watch, probably because I'm an American that can remember every incident set between 2000 and 2004 in the film, but that's not the point. Oliver Stone did an alright job portraying Bush Jr. as a son of a former president, a guy that always knew he would be in his father's shadow. By the end of the film you don't really feel bad for W, but you do give the guy a little leeway.

This film made me want to eat. Brolin is eating a sandwich, pretzel, Cheeto or something in all scenes as president. He's drinking Jack Daniels or a beer in every scene pre-born again. After that it's non-alcoholic beer.

Another example of Elizabeth Banks taking over the world.

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Logan Square Auditorium, Chicago, March 6 2009


20. "Fuck"
Like listening to your dumb friends talk about why marijuana should be legal. You like them and they have some valid points, but they're missing the big picture, going on tangents and talking way too long.

The "documentary" (I use quotes because it's the Fox News equivalent of journalism) would please most 15 year olds, or anyone that likes the film "Zeitgeist".

The use of clips from other films and television shows make made me want to watch those films and television shows, so that's good, right?

It's so long. Though it's only 90-minutes you'll feel like you've had to sit through a drivers ed class.

Dick jokes

19. "Zack and Miri Make a Porno"
Kevin Smith's next goal should be to make a film that doesn't use the word 'fuck'. I like all of his films, but, well, he uses the word fuck an awful lot.

My friends saw this film before I did and loved it. Funny throughout. I thought the first few acts were great, but the last thirty minutes felt tacked on. Maybe my friends enjoy sex jokes more than me.

Live? The band Live? Really? There wasn't any other music you could clear for the Zack and Miri having sex scene?

Elizabeth Banks is slowing taking over the world.

Best reading ever

7. John Hodgman "For Your Consideration, The Firms of Dutton & Riverhead Books Present in the English Language: A Further Compendium of Complete World Knowledge in "The Areas Of My Expertise," Assembled and Illumined by Me, John Hodgman, A Famous Minor Television Personality, Offering More Information Than You Require On Subjects as Diverse as: The Past (as There Is Always More of It), The Future (as There Is Still Some Left), All of the Presidents of the United States, The Secrets of Hollywood, Gambling, The Sport of the Asthmatic Man (Including: Hermit-Crab Racing), Strange Encounters with Aliens, How to Buy a Computer, How to Cook an Owl, and Most Other Subjects"
John Hodgman's reading in October at Second City Etc. was the best reading I've attended. It hurt to breath for almost two hours. I was thrilled to read his second book of complete world knowledge. I began the book the day it came out. It took five months to finish it. It became my bedside book, something I read in small doses. I think I made a mistake. I read Hodgman's first book in a few days. I loved it. This one, not so much.

Book two has a page a day calender, a novel idea. On each page is the days date and an interesting made up fact to go along with it. This little snippet on each page makes it a little difficult to concentrate on the text. I know I shouldn't be complaining about a page a day calender in a comedy book, but it does take away from the main jokes, if that's even possible.

Molemen names are not as funny as hobo names. I'll never figure out why.

You know this guy. He's the PC in the Mac Vs. PC commercials. He's also on "The Daily Show". He had a small role in "Baby Mama". He's a funny and smart guy. I like the guy a lot. I just didn't enjoy this one as much.

They wear uniforms

6. Neil D. Isaacs "Bat Boys & the World of Baseball"
Quite possibly the worst non-fiction book I've ever read. Why did I keep reading it? Why do people follow baseball? Sooner or later you expect to see a home run. Most of the time you just get two old timers reminiscing about times that don't exactly remember.

This book has a lot of footnotes. It's barely 200 pages long and has a shitload of footnotes. For what? It's about bat boys. It's not a list of facts or series of charts and data. It's about some bat boys that don't' have interesting stories or anecdotes or anything worth saying. In fact, they seem to not want to talk to the author. They sensed something I could not detect.

He seems to have a lot of disdain towards bat boys. He sounds jealous. He writes that it's boys work in a boys game, that the game itself is for boys and an escape from reality and fuck this guy. Fuck. This. Guy. Fuck me for reading it.

So fucking bad. Please, someone, buy this on Amazon from me. It's the only way this awful experience could turn out well.

He'd call me a dego (sp?)

18. "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project"
I love Don Rickles. I like when he's racist and homophobic and sexist. I like when he insults the audience. I like Don Rickles and hopes he never dies.

If you like Rickles you'll enjoy this documentary. It'll make you want to see him in Vegas. It won't really teach you anything about the comic, but it's still a good viewing. It's even better because it's currently free on Hulu.

A good salad you don't know why you didn't love

17. "Frozen River"
A quiet film about border crossers in Canada. An interesting story. A low budget. A good script. Excellent lead performances. I probably won't remember this film in six months, but it may be studied in film classes for the next thirty years.

I watched this one alone at 7am. I don't recommend it.


16. "Changeling"
I love Clint Eastwood. I think I'd like to see everything he's ever done, even the film with that monkey. I enjoy his style and brevity of the shoots (though I have no proof that I like this aspect, I just know that I think I like short shoots and using the first or second take). I enjoyed "Changeling" for these reasons. I didn't love the film, but I didn't hate it. It could have been a half an hour shorter, but that's OK. It was neat to look at a California that existed almost a hundred years ago. It was hard to view Angelina Jolie as a distraught single mother with no other children. Whatever.

It won't go down as Eastwood's best, but it's far from bad.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Face tattoo

5. Jose Torres "Fire & Fear: The Inside Story of Mike Tyson"
Mike Tyson clearly never beat Robin Givens because if he did, her skull would be detached from her body and that has not yet happened.

My friend and I tend to talk about Mike Tyson when we've been drinking and we have a computer in front of us and it's 3am and we're out of cigarettes and all that's left to drink is vermouth and scotch that's been missing a cap for weeks. We'll watch clips of Mike Tyson destroy people in the ring and then read his Wikipedia page. We'll laugh and end up watching cartoons til 5am. Apparantly our talks wasn't enough to quench my Tyson interest so I picked up the recently deceased Jose Torres biography. I'm glad I did.

The book doesn't get to the downward spiral of Tyson's career. It doesn't even get to the 90s. It may be better this way. We get to see Tyson grow up from the projects of Brooklyn to an ideallic country house in northern New York to hotel rooms in Vegas that make him claustrophobic. We get to see Tyson nurtered by a caring old timer on his way out. We get to see Tyson lose his bearings when that old timer passes away. It's a sad story. It's a quick read. It's a good book.

I don't think someone without a small interest in Tyson could enjoy this book. It's not nearly scandalous enough for those just interested in the celebrity of Tyson. It's for the casual boxing fan that may want to know how this phenom was able to become the most dominant boxer of the 1980s.

Yes we can

15. "Off the Cuff"
A friend of mine made this film. It's a mockumentary about a Chicago improv festival. I went in to the premiere expecting to see a mediocre product, not because the filmmmakers have a history of mediocracy, but because most friends art is a little underwhelming. I was happily suprised. I laughed out loud multiple times and days later had a song from the film stuck in my head.

It's difficult to judge a film when you know the filmmmakers. You inevitably watch with different eyes. I may have sat back and just enjoyed the film if I didn't know anyone in it. Instead I've been inspired to do what I wanted to do at 15 and make films. It was like seeing a punk band play in a basement for the first time at the age of 13.

Hopefully I'll be able to organize a screening of "Off the Cuff" for a YMTE night at the Hungry Brain. Then you could come and buy the DVD so my friends can make more films. It's the circle of life.

I also have that song in my head

14. "Slumdog Millionaire"
It did deserve to win Best Picture. It was ambitious in scope, heart touching, tragic, comic, musical, beautiful, ugly, steeped in tradition and broke new ground. It did everything a great film should and more. And it had kids. Who doesn't love kids?

Boyle deserved Best Director. He has a kid falling through a 'toilet'. He had Ewan McGregor climb out of a toilet over a decade ago. He's come full circle.

The film may be the second to "Moulin Rouge" in its use of a previously released pop song with M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes".

My favorite use of subtitles. I didn't realize the film switched languages until an hour after leaving the theater.

Friends of mine didn't want to see this film once it garnered mainstream fans. I kind of understand this but don't agree. It's like not listening to Nirvana after "Bleach", you're the one missing out.

Wicker Park, Chicago, February 2009

Monday, March 02, 2009


13. "Revolutionary Road"
Kate Winslet should've won for this instead of "The Reader". I may be biased as an American. This could be considered "American Beauty: The Prequel". I loved Michael Shannon's performance. I liked the cinematography. I liked the story. I liked pretty much everything about this film.

I probably won't remember most of this film in a few months. It's not nearly as memorable as "American Beauty" but then again, what could be as memorable as a bag floating around?

Michael Shannon should be in every film.

When he's old he looks young

12. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
I'm a sucker and enjoyed this film. It's equal parts "Forrest Gump", "Big Fish" and "Titanic" but I don't care. I almost cried at the expected ending and enjoyed the epic scope. Every dollar spent on this thing looks like it was used on screen. Fincher may have alienated his "Seven" devotees, but who cares? Let the man go mainstream.

I don't think I'd enjoy this on the small screen. It should be seen in a dark theater on a big screen. Any external distractions would take away from the film. What that says about the film is a mystery to me. It may mean it wasn't a good enough story to hold my interest. It may mean it was so beautiful it could only be appreciated on a big screen.

Pitt didn't have a chance to win best actor. He's too pretty. The makeup department did a good making him look old and decrepit, but not a good enough to make the guy look like a normal guy.

Scarlett Johansson as the lady with the low voice

11. "Vicky Christina Barcelona"
I'm not a big Woody Allen fan. My favorite film of his is "Sweet and Lowdown," not your typical Allen film. I wasn't expecting to like "Vicky" and I didn't, but it was what I expected, a nice dose of Allen's dialogue and some decent performances. Penelope Cruz was a standout and her few scenes are excellent. It's a shame she wasn't used more but what do you expect? You don't turn to Allen for a diverse array of realistic characters. No, Allen is for intellectuals and this film follows suit.

Cruz deserved the Oscar for this role. It's nice knowing that this character will never be seen again. A one time Allen character that deserved the praise she garnered.

Hippy dippy liberals

10. "Rachel Getting Married"
I hated Anne Hathaway's character in this film, therefore, she did a great job.

"Rachel Getting Married" is set on the east coast in a well to do town. Rachel is Hathaway's sister. Hathaway is an addict. Throughout the wedding weekend Rachel demands attention, making inappropriate speeches, crashes cars and reminds everyone that she's kinda responsible for her little brother's death. She's not likable, yet you want to see her on screen at all times.

The wedding takes place in the house the bride grew up in. The reception takes place outside in a colorful tent. The band plays rock, hip-hop, Tropicalia, folk and more. The guests look like a U.N. convention. It may be unrealistic to most people, but it sort of makes sense. Rachel's father works in the music business and seems hippyish, so it makes sense, right?

A good film I wasn't expecting to be good.

Jordan and Pippen and Rodman in 98

9. "Doubt"
Like watching two professional athletes in their prime compete in the biggest game of the year. "Doubt" is near perfect (the camera work and use of weather was more Lifetime movie than respectable film). The four main performances are spotless. Nothing on their end could have been better. The use of blue eyes was a nice touch (I'm not spoiling anything). See this film.

My girlfriend thinks I like art that deals with Catholicism in America. She may be right. I don't think that is clouding my judgment on this one. It's so open ended that you could take whatever you want from it and still be right.

Read this book

4. Dana Spiotta "Eat the Document"
My favorite novel of the last five years. Spiotta was able to tie together multiple characters over 30 years or so and make me care about everyone. Sparse dialogue and descriptions. She was able to use music and make me believe she knows what she's talking about. I bought this book last summer and regret waiting 8 months to read it.

Anyone I know that has a good record collection tends to gravitate towards fiction that writes about music in a knowledgeable manner. Most of the time we're let down. "Eat the Document" does not let music obsessives down.

Buy this book and read it as soon as possible. It's next to nothing on Amazon. Go. Buy it now.

Chicago, February 2009

Chicago, February 2009, originally uploaded by Brandon Wetherbee.