Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Review Roundup

Here are some brief reviews of some things I've watched/read/attended recently and been meaning to post about, but haven't.

  • As mentioned below, last night I saw Wilco play at Tanglewood out in western Mass. It's funny, although Wilco's been around for a while, I only got into them a couple of years ago. I loved their most recent album, Sky Blue Sky, but I wasn't sure how they'd be live. I caught them on Saturday Night Live a couple of months ago, and lead singer Jeff Tweedy looked like he'd been ridden hard and hung up wet. The guy has been through a lot- chronic migraines, drug rehab, etc.- but he remains the heart and soul of the band and, as I can now attest, puts on a fantastic live performance. Wilco sounded great, both on their guitar heavy rock songs as well as the lighter ones that feature Tweedy's vocals. He played up the location as well, making references to James Taylor and asking the crowd if they shout out requests at the BSO. They played a satisfying mixture of old and new songs, including my two favorites from their newest album: Hate it Here and Walkin. It seems like Tanglewood might be testing the waters for more rock concerts, and I did like the venue- it's like a nicer, more distant version of Great Woods (or whatever they call it now). We sat in the shed, which puts you a lot closer to the stage, but they do allow people on the lawn to bring in their own food an alcohol. So if you're willing to take a gamble with the weather, lawn seats could be a lot of fun. Here's a review of the show.
  • Last week, I caught Gnarls Barkley at the Wilbur Theater. They sounded good live and played a high-energy set full of songs from their first two albums, and even threw in a Radiohead cover. Here's the Globe review. Only one complaint- no alcohol sales at the Wilbur. Dude! Gnarls Barkley plays party music! The people want beer! So, a solid B+ for the show with a D (needs improvement) for the venue.
  • Onto movies...while I was recovering from my mystery cold/flu illness, I watched two DVDs. The first was All The Pretty Horses, Billy Bob Thornton's 2000 adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel. I've definitely covered this on DCoE before, but Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite authors, and the border trilogy, of which ATPH is the first installment, is my absolute favorite of all of his works. Best books ever, people. So, even though the movie got crappy reviews, I still wanted to see it. And it was actually pretty good. A lot better than I had expected. Set in the 1940s, young Texas cowboy John Grady Cole heads to Mexico with a buddy looking for ranch work. Matt Damon does a fine job as the lead, and Penelope Cruz plays the rancher's daughter/love interest. Maybe some audiences found the plot confusing or thought it moved too slowly, but I enjoyed it. If you like Westerns or are a fan of the novel, it's worth checking out.
  • Next up, Dan in Real Life stars Steve Carell as Dan, a widowed father of three girls who writes an advice column, even though his own personal life is a mess. His daughters can't stand him, and when he finally meets a woman he likes, she turns out to be his brother's new girlfriend. This movie isn't one of Carell's typical comedies; if anything, it's a family drama with a few funny bits mixed in. You know when a friend who you honestly like is acting like a big jerk, and you're all "geez, what is his problem lately?" That essentially sums up the movie: Dan is acting like a jerk and his whole family is wondering what the deal is. Good acting, good cast, realistic interactions, fairly predictable.
  • Lastly, a book. March, a novel by Geraldine Brooks, gives a fresh perspective on a familiar family. Louisa May Alcott's Little Women tells the story of a mother and four daughters whose father has gone off to fight in the Civil War. March tells the story from the point of view of the absent patriarch, Mr. March, focusing on the harsh realities of slavery and combat in the South during the Civil War. The book won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but I think the committee must have a soft spot for Civil War era historical fiction (see my review of The Known World). I liked March and found it an interesting read, but didn't love it. The appearance of actual historical figures like John Brown, Emerson, and Thoreau fluctuated between intriguing and gimmicky, and honestly, I could have done without the Marmee and Mr. March love scenes. But it is well-written and informative. I guess after the Known World, Cold Mountain, and now this, I've had my fair share of Civil War fiction. (FYI, of the three, I definitely recommend Cold Mountain.)

So, let me know if you've seen, heard, or read anything good lately!


danimal said...

You should check out the documentary about Wilco "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart"-- all about the band's issues during the recording and release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Very candid, rare look at a modern indie band, as Tweedy asserts that Wilco is his band and kicks out a member. His solo concert DVD Sunken Treasures is very stellar as well. I too am a big fan of ATPH novel, and I really dug the movie, really well done imo. You ever post a review of the Hold Steady? Just curious, I'm loving the new album.

Sugarmouth O'Riordan said...

In case you haven't been by in a while, I've posted my review of The Dark Knight.

eileen said...

Dan- no, I never did post about the Hold Steady. I got to the show pretty late so only caught the last half of their set. The crowd was really into it- mostly drunk guys around 24 year old. They were pretty good but you can see why their known for their lyrics- Craig Finn's vocals are really monotone live.

Sarah said...

I also just saw Dan In Real Life and loved it. I think Juliette Binoche is so cute.

I just read All Souls by Michael Patrick McDonald and it was quite good. Very sad, but I really enjoyed it.