The boys are back out of town.

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan strike an intellectual pose.

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan strike an intellectual pose.

You know when you think that your conversations with your friends are prime material for a movie, television show, or web series?  Well, 9 times out of 10, your conversations wouldn’t be very entertaining to others.  I’m guilty of this as well.  Thankfully we have Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, two comedians who have now created two hilarious and engaging films mostly consisting of them talking and eating.  The Trip (2010) introduced us to the semi-improvised story of Rob and Steve, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, where the latter joined the former on a restaurant tour assignment in Northern England.  The Trip to Italy is a direct continuation from the first film, featuring the same bickering, multi-course meal montages, and Michael Caine impersonations that made the first trip so enjoyable…this time with a side of Italy and a pinch of emotional depth.

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The Offspring are coming to town on Sunday!

The Offspring are coming to town on Sunday!

Summer is nearly over, but there is still plenty to do. Including two really inexpensive, all day music events in the Bay Area for you to celebrate this holiday weekend.

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Bond he is not. Bourne he is not. Hunt he is not. Ladies and Gentlemen, The November Man!

Keeping cool when the heat is on.

Keeping cool when the heat is on.

Pierce Brosnan attempts a return to the spy game in Roger Donaldson’s spy thriller, The November Man.  The film is based on the novel There Are No Spies by Bill Granger.  And, wouldn’t you know it, the spies in this film don’t resemble spies at all.  They run through public streets with guns blazing, have no issues killing off members of any agency (even their own), and are incredibly oblivious to the most blatant clues and plot twists right in front of them.  This is also the first action spy film I’ve ever seen that has no police presence.  No matter how destructive and time consuming the shootouts and chases, there are no basic security or police squad personnel to be seen.  Not even a siren!  Maybe I just missed it and need to rewatch it to notice (I’m not going to rewatch it).  Ultimately, The November Man is a scattered mess, trying to tackle too many plot lines whilst relying on nearly every spy film cliché to move the story forward. If it weren’t for Brosnan’s charisma, The November Man would be a complete dud.

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Stark, Bloody, and two smoking Marvs

Josh Brolin and Eva Green gets black and white and red all over.

Josh Brolin and Eva Green gets black and white and red all over.

It’s a little bizarre that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For took this long to get made.  Creative differences, production and casting issues, and the usual onslaught of headlines and rumors supposedly got in the way of this film getting off the ground.  But nearly ten years later, we have A Dame to Kill For, and there are many disappointing elements that the filmmakers, with ten years to play with, should have gotten right.  The Sin City film franchise nevertheless continues to showcase some of the most impressive visuals in movies — but has the novelty worn off? The black and white psychedelic neo-noir tone is fun, yet a lacking depth of emotion and a shortage of character variety (compared to 2005′s Sin City) spoils the return to Frank Miller’s dark seedy world.

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 Frank

by Carrie Kahn

Frank 2

Michael Fassbender portrays the mysterious rocker Frank.

Loosely inspired by alt rocker Chris Sievey’s stage creation Frank Sidebottom, Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s new film is co-written by Peter Straughan and Jon Ronson, whose memoir details his experiences with Sidebottom. But no knowledge of the film’s backstory is necessary to be utterly delighted by this quirky and very funny film, which chronicles Jon’s (Domhnall Gleeson) induction into, and relationship with, an avant-garde band led by the mysterious Frank (Michael Fassbender). The catch is that Frank wears a large papier-mâché mask not only when on stage, but during all parts of his life (even while showering). What is amazing is that although the mask has just one expression – a crudely drawn, unsmiling, wide-eyed stare, its features seem to change simply by virtue of Fassbender’s tone of voice and body language; his performance is truly remarkable. Why Frank chooses to cover himself this way is one of the film’s central questions; themes of identity, artistic integrity, and creativity are explored with nuanced humor and depth. Does creativity have to stem from inner darkness, the film asks, or can normalcy and happiness drive the creative process just as forcefully? If artistic creations become widely popular, is their worth somehow lessened? With hauntingly beautiful cinematography (many scenes were filmed around Austin) and a weird and wonderful soundtrack, Frank delves into these issues with style, charm, and black humor. Plusses: Unique, intelligent story; brilliant performances by Fassbender and relative newcomer Gleeson. Minuses: Maggie Gyllenhall is slightly grating as fellow band-mate Clara; her range here seems to hover only between fiercely angry and completely insane. Final Analysis: A smart, compelling picture about the inner lives of artists that, frankly (yes, pun intended) may well be one of the best films of the year.

Frank opens today at the Landmark Embarcadero theater in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck theater in Berkeley.

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All photos by Jonathan Pirro

There was a point in my life where The Mars Volta were, in my opinion, the most interesting thing in rock. Those first three full length records, De-Loused In The Comatorium, Frances The Mute, and Amputechture were all in heavy rotation while I moved from my early to mid 20′s. These records were the perfect balance of heavy and creative. Insane records filled with intensity that drew from influences as wide ranging as Fania All Stars, Pink Floyd, Fugazi, and Stockhausen. Delicious albums that I listened to almost daily. Before long, however, it felt like the band kept losing the plot. The records seemed stale, and the live shows also seemed to like some of the “Oomph!” of their earlier sets. When they decided to close up that chapter, it made sense to me. Both Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala found themselves exploring music apart from each other, and made for some awfully compelling records.

The year that they parted ways was 2012. Now, a mere two years later, Cedric & Omar quietly started putting out new material on the web. Under the name “Antemasque.” These were some great, concise tracks. So, the moment they announced a tour, I decided it was worth my while to see if they’ve really re-inspired themselves.

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SF Sketchfest Review: The Benson Interruption of Twilight: Eclipse on 8/16/2014 at Castro Theater

August 19, 2014

The Benson Interruption of Twilight: Eclipse was the second Benson Interruption I have attended, so I know I was in for a lot of silliness and belly laughs from some talented comedians who had never seen the movie before. And that’s exactly what I got, but it was even better and full of even harder belly […]

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SF Sketchfest Review: The Muppet Movie on 8/16/2014 at Castro Theater

August 19, 2014

SF Sketchfest is one of my favorite things about San Francisco. So when I saw that they were doing a Summer Social, and that it involved two of my favorite things: Muppets and Doug Benson, I jumped at the chance to attend.

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Outside Lands Journal: Day 3, 8/10/14

August 15, 2014

Ending a festival is always a little bittersweet. Because you had fun, but you are also tired. So tired that you will end up seeing fewer acts, but it’s OK. Quality over quantity, eh? And these were probably the best sets of the weekend.

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Sketchfest Summer Social Preview

August 14, 2014

The good people of Sketchfest have decided to grace our Summer with another weekend of epic programming at The Castro Theater. Thus proving that you can, indeed, laugh in the Summer as well as the Winter. These four events at The Castro Theater are all going to be wonderful, joyful affairs. (Note: All events are […]

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