Author Archive

Movies For A Rainy Day

Unseasonably cool weather has taken over the Midwest the last few days and with rain Friday night and for much of Saturday, here are a few movies suggestions if you’re in the mood to rent movies and just listen to the falling rain.

“THE IMITATION GAME”

“The Imitation Game” was a fantastic lesson of one of the true heroes of World War 2 that few know.

It’s tragic how pathetic British laws were back in the 1950s persecuting people for just being themselves. Benedict Cumberbatch was very touching as a tormented genius that helped to bring the Germans down.

While definitely an Oscar worthy performance from Cumberbatch because I couldn’t take my eyes off him, I still think that Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” deserved the Best Actor Oscar and I’ve seen 4-of-the-5 performances.

GRADE: A

“THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING”

Speaking of the Oscars and Eddie Redmayne, I’ve seen four of the five Best Actor nominees from last year.

Without seeing Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper” and as much as I love Cumberbatch, Eddie deserved his Oscars hands down playing ALS-stricken theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

Eddie was so believable as Hawking as he met the love of his life that would become his wife and then find out that the debilitating disease would, in just years, take his life.

The most heartbreaking scene in the movie for me was a dinner scene with Hawking, his wife, and close friends, but I won’t spoil it for you by describing it.

Redmayne succeeds and Hawking was a winner in real life.

GRADE:  A-

“BEYOND THE LIGHTS”

When this musical drama came out in theaters late last year, I didn’t have any desire to movie house prices to see it.  I guess America didn’t either.  The $7 million dollar movie earned only $14.6 million at the box office.

However, I definitely wanted to see it on DVD and what a pleasurable movie it is.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who earned rave reviews in the 2013 period piece, “Belle”, was excellent as pop star Noni Jean, who just won a Billboard Music Award and is getting ready to release her debut album.

But, an incident on a hotel balcony railroads her path to success.

“Beyond The Lights” has great music, a good storyline, a hot love interest played by hunky Nate Parker, and an incredible performance by Minnie Driver as an obsessive stage mom.

If you’re like me, it’ll be hard to watch some of the movie and not see Rihanna (and Chris Brown).

GRADE:  B

“MAPS TO THE STARS”

2014 was a great year for Julianne Moore.

She won rave reviews, her first Oscar, and a Golden Globes award for “Still Alice”.  She also won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for another Golden Globes award for “Maps To The Stars”.

In this satirical drama (although Moore was nominated in the “comedy” category for the Golden Globes) from acclaimed director David Cronenberg, Moore plays an aging actress, who’s trying to win the dream role of playing her late mother (a famous actress) in a movie remake.

Needless to say, Moore’s Havana Segrand is messed up and out of touch with real life.  I’m not saying all in Hollywood are. :)

But, she’s calm and collected compared to Agatha Weiss, played with perfection by Mia Wasikowska (who also played Moore’s daughter in 2010’s “The Kids Are All Right”).  She has many issues, as does most everyone in this movie.

“Maps To The Stars” is a very strange, but riveting movie.

GRADE:  B

“A MOST VIOLENT YEAR”

New Year’s Eve may not be the best time to release a movie if you want people to see it.

This drama takes place in early 1981 New York City during a very violent period when several oil trucks were being hijacked.

Oscar Isaac, who was amazing in the much better “Inside Llewyn Davis” that I wrote about earlier this year, is the owner of Standard Oil, an up and coming oil company.  Several of his trucks are taken and one of his drivers is almost beaten to death.

The movie follows his quest to find out who’s behind the violence.  At the same time, he’s being investigated for price-fixing, tax evasion, and other charges by the city’s assistant district attorney.

Academy Award nominee and Golden Globes winner Jessica Chastain, played his powerful, domineering, and heartless wife, Anna, the daughter of a mob boss.  She’s incredible and needed to be in the movie more.

GRADE:  B-

“INTO THE WOODS”

My 13-year-old daughter has seen this Disney musical, from the man who brought us the Oscar-winning 2002 musical, “Chicago”, several times and she loves it.

I, on the other hand, did not care for it.

It was too long and tried to serve too many children’s stories without much cohesiveness.

When Meryl Streep was on-screen as “The Witch”, the movie soared.

But, I don’t know everything.  The $50 million production has now grossed more than $204 million worldwide.

GRADE:  C

“NIGHTCRAWLER”

I was excited to see “Nightcrawler” with Jake Gyllenhaal, but I had to suspend belief while watching it since I’m in the news business.

A casual viewer would rate the movie higher.

However, I know it’s IMPOSSIBLE to just walk into the news studio of the #2 market in the country saying you have video and seeing the news director working with the editor on how to put a story together.

The movie paints the news business as very unscrupulous (and some stations and networks are, hi Fox News!).

Gyllenhaal is so creepy in the movie, it could have been called “NightCreeper” or “CreepyCrawler”.

GRADE: C- (to a non-news person: C+)

“RABBIT HOLE”

Here’s a fantastic flashback if you can find it.  It only took me more than four years to finally see it.

This little seen 2010 movie directed by the incredible John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “Shortbus”) stars Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and a younger Miles Teller (“Whiplash”).

The drama follows the lives of husband and wife, Howie and Becca (Eckhart and Kidman) after their 4-year-old son was struck and killed by a car when he ran out into the street chasing their dog.

Kidman earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her sad and incredible performance.

Not a happy movie, but very powerful.

GRADE:  B+

Enjoy your weekend!

Anthony

A Special Day for Three Lovely Ladies

If today is your birthday or anniversary, I hope you have a happy one and that the next years are incredible.

Rainbow Cake

It’s March 28th.  Today is the 87th day of the year and there are 278 days left in 2015.

It’s going to be a great day for celebrations today in the Quad Cities, but on this day back in 1920, there was a major Palm Sunday tornado outbreak in the Great Lakes and the Deep South;  in 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania partially melted down; and in 2005, an earthquake rocked Indonesia with a magnitude of 8.7.  This was the fourth strongest quake since 1965.

But, let’s get back to birthdays and celebrations.

60 years ago today, my idol, Reba McEntire, was born in Kiowa, Oklahoma.

Reba Love Somebody

While she has been very busy over the past years, she hasn’t had a new album out since November 2010.

That changes soon!  Her new album, “Love Somebody”, comes out on April 14th, and it features her new single, “Going Out Like That”, which is getting some country music airplay.

“Rolling Stone” says this of the new song, “The country music icon is known as much for her empowering songs as her breakup numbers, and her latest single combines both.”

lady-gaga-born-this-way-ball-2-435x580

Also celebrating her birthday today, number 29, is recently engaged Lady Gaga!

And, back in 1964, 51 years ago today, my parents married.

Dessie-Hollie-Anthony -- Fall 1964

Later that year, she’d give birth to a baby boy six weeks premature.  Yes, it’s yours truly.

Happy birthday Reba and Lady Gaga, and Mom, happy anniversary.

Champagne

Here’s some cake and a mimosa in your honor.

Anthony

“Motion” By Calvin Harris Gets Better With Each Listen

When I make haste decisions and I’m wrong, I fess up!  At the end of 2014, I ranked Calvin Harris’ new CD, “Motion”, as my 14th favorite album of the year.

However, I did the 31-year-old Scottish singer and record producer a huge disservice and I felt I had to let you know that the album, on recent listens, should have placed much higher in my 2014 year-end countdown.

So, I’m writing this blog today about the album, so more people become aware of how fantastic it is.

Calvin_Harris_2012

Calvin Harris is still becoming a household name in the United States.

However, in the dance club world, he’s a hit-making God. “Forbes” magazine reports that he’s the highest-paid DJ of 2013 and 2014 and he’ll likely make 2015 a three-peat.

I bought my first Calvin Harris CD, “18 Months”, in the fall of 2012, and it quickly became one of my favorite CDs.  It ended up being my third favorite album of 2012.

CalvinHarris18Months

Here in  America, people know the inescapable worldwide smash, “We Found Love” featuring Rihanna that spent ten weeks at  number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

However, the album also featured “Feels So Close”, which Harris sang lead vocals on.  It reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Along, with the aforementioned Rihanna song and “Feels So Close”, “Let’s Go” featuring Ne-Yo ,”I Need Your Love” with Ellie Goulding, and “Sweet Nothing” with Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, also became huge radio hits in America and each of those songs reached the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In all, ten of the album’s fifteen songs charted on the official U.K. singles chart with nine of them reaching the Top Ten.

That put Calvin ahead of Michael Jackson in U.K. music history with the most Top Ten singles from one studio album.

MOTION CALVIN HARRIS

After ten international hits from “18 Months”, Calvin followed it up two years later with “Motion” on Halloween 2014.

It’s a superb album and sadly, with me getting caught up in the holidays, vacations, and real life, I failed to give it a fair shake in my countdown of my favorite albums of 2014.

The album is already on its sixth hit in the U.K. with the first three, “Under Control” (with Alesso and Hurts), “Summer” (with Calvin on vocals), and “Blame” (John Newman on vocals), all topping the chart.

Here in the U.S., “Summer” reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and “Blame” reached #19.

“Outside” featuring Ellie Goulding is currently one of the ten most played songs on American Top 40 radio now.

“Pray To God” featuring the Haim, an American rock group made up of three sisters, is currently one of the hottest songs in U.S. dance clubs and I hope Top 40 radio welcomes the song after “Outside” starts its move down the chart.

Two more favorites of mine are “Open Wide” featuring Big Sean (WARNING: the lyrics are adult in nature – NFSW) and “Dollar Signs” featuring Tinashe.

Calvin Harris

Outside of the hits, “Faith” and “Love Now” are perfect pop songs and “Slow Acid” is instrumental bliss, just as “Awooga” was on “18 Months”.

Harris keeps the beats pulsing on “It Was You”, “Overdrive”, and “Burnin”

And, there’s also an incredible ballad, “Ecstasy” featuring Hurts, who also sings on the first release, “Under Control”.

And, just as Florence Welch and Ellie Goulding did on “18 Hours”, Harris provides star power on “Motion” with Gwen Stefani on “Together”.

MOTION CALVIN HARRIS

Now that I’ve listened to “Motion” on what seems like repeat lately, it’s definitely one of my favorite albums of 2014.  It’s not too late to check it out and make it a part of your collection.

And, if club music and dance beats aren’t your thing, there’s something else that Calvin Harris works very hard on  — his body!  That’s why he’s a model for Armani.

Calvin Underwear

Calvin 2

MOTION CALVIN HARRIS

CALVIN HARRIS’ “MOTION”  — GRADE:  A

Anthony

Still A “Rebel Heart” and an “Unapologetic Bitch” 32 Years Later

It’s hard to believe that Madonna’s first album, “Madonna”, came out almost 32 years ago.

Madonna 1983 Album

Just this week, she released her 13th studio album, “Rebel Heart”.

Madonna Rebel Heart

At 56, she still has a lot to say and she still brings relevance to pop music even though most radio stations in the United States and England are blatantly ageist and won’t play her new music.  That’s the only reason that I mentioned her age.  It appears that if you’re a woman of a certain age, it doesn’t matter if the music is good or not, you have no place on today’s Top 40 radio.

This isn’t my opinion, this is fact.

BBC Radio1 in the United Kingdom wouldn’t add Madonna’s new single, “Living For Love”, the first release from “Rebel Heart”.  However, it was added to BBC Radio2 stations.  That’s the U.S. equivalent of not being hip enough for MTV, but okay for VH1 — when they were music video stations.

Madonna

Last year, BBC Radio1’s George Ergatoudis, who programs the station’s playlists, stated they were going for a younger audience, ages 15-30, “The vast majority of people who like Madonna, who like her music now, are over 30 and frankly, we’ve moved on from Madonna.”

So, is Rebel Heart” worthy of radio airplay in the U.K. or the U.S., two of most influential countries in the world of music?  The first single, the Diplo-produced, “Living For Love” is incredible and it became Madonna’s 44th number one song on the Billboard Dance Club chart.

There are several versions of the album available.  Here in the U.S., there’s the standard 14-song collection and a 19-song deluxe version, which I bought and I’m talking about today.

While I think that Madonna and Reba McEntire are the two of the greatest entertainers in music and I’m huge fans of both, I’m not one of those people that think every song and every album they release is the best thing ever.

Madonna is putting that to the test this week and Reba’s first album in more than four years, “Love Somebody”, comes out on April 10th.

Reba Love Somebody

Rebel Heart

Back to “Rebel Heart” which is likely to debut at #1 in the U.K. becoming her 12th number one album.

In the U.S., it’s in a neck and neck race with the “Empire” television soundtrack to top the Billboard 200 chart.  If “Rebel Heart” does top the U.S. chart, it’ll be Madonna’s ninth number one album and her sixth consecutive chart topper dating back to “Music” in 2000.

Of the 19 songs on the deluxe album, eight are absolutely flawless (“Living For Love”, “Devil Pray”, “Ghosttown”, “Bitch I’m Madonna”, “Joan of Arc”, Holy Water”, “Inside Out”, and “Rebel Heart”).  Those all are A+ songs.

“Ghosttown” has already been picked as the second single from the album.

Religion still plays a big part in Madonna’s music and here’s a warning:  “Holy Water” really isn’t about what you’d think is.

It’s a song about sex and it’s very graphic with lyrics that would make me blush!  Oh, who am I kidding?  It’s my favorite song on the album, but listen at your own risk!

“Holy Water” sounds like a continuation of her 1993 “Erotica” album and it’s fun and very sexual.

And, Madonna gets points for smoothly working in her 1990 hit “Vogue” into “Holy Water”.

Seven more songs are great and would still rate an “A” or “A-” (“Unapologetic Bitch”, “Illuminati”, “Iconic”, “HeartBreakCity”, “Wash All Over Me”, “Veni Vidi Vici”, and “Messiah”.

That leaves four songs that are just okay.

Honestly, there’s nothing really wrong with “Hold Tight”, “Body Shop”, and Best Night” because I love Madonna’s voice on them.  However, for a woman who’s had more Top Ten songs on the Billboard Hot 100 than the Beatles, those three of the four weakest songs on “Rebel Heart”.

Madonna Boob

Obviously, Madge still loves sex and is not shy singing about it.  I love it that Madonna is still a very sexual woman and that she still wears what she wants and loves showing off all of her amazing assets (if you know what I mean).

The final song that I haven’t mentioned, “S.E.X.” is the opposite of the sexy she exudes on “Holy Water”.  It’s sounds very juvenile and unsexy.  Maybe it’ll take more listens before it arouses my musical curiosity!

I want to feature a few of songs that I deemed “A+” and “absolutely flawless” before I share my final grade and some parting thoughts about “Rebel Heart”.

In the fun category and with a little help from her friend, Nicki Minaj, “Bitch I’m Madonna” took me back to the zaniness of “I’m Going Bananas” from “I’m Breathless”, music from and inspired by the movie “Dick Tracy”.

The fun doesn’t stop there on “Devil Pray”, the second song on the album.  It sounds rooted in bluegrass and would compliment “Don’t Tell Me”, Madonna’s hit from the 2000 album “Music”.  “Devil Pray” will likely play prominently in the fall “Rebel Heart Tour”.

While Madonna is known for her ability to fill dance floors, she excels at ballads and that is so clear on “Joan of Arc”.  I could listen to that song all day!

If you buy the standard version instead of the deluxe version, you’ll miss out on the title track, which is one of the most autobiographical songs of Madonna’s career.

FINAL SNIPPETS ABOUT SOME OF THE SONGS

“Unapologetic Bitch” has a very reggae sound.

“Illuminati” name checks everyone from President Obama to Oprah Winfrey and from Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga.  Is it the new “Vogue”?

“Iconic” opens with boxing legend Mike Tyson and features a very weak rap by Chance The Rapper.

“Wash All Over Me” is a beautiful, subtle ballad.

“Veni Vidi Vici” features many Madonna song titles as lyrics and a poignant and time sensitive rap by Nas about rioting in Ferguson.  Too bad that Nas didn’t rap on “Ironic”, too!

Madonna Rebel Heart

Age should not be a factor when of the top-selling music artists of all time releases a new album.

“Rebel Heart” shows that Madonna is still relevant and that she still has her finger on the pulse of pop music.  After all, she is and will always be the “Queen of Pop”.

Sadly, radio groups saturate their playlists with artists that appeal to teenagers and young adults.

It would be nice if these people could experience the music of in icon that has changed with the times and refused to act her age.  After all, age is just a number and Madonna is a “Rebel Heart” and some things will never change.

To borrow a line from the best, she “ICONIC”.

“REBEL HEART” gets an…

A

After just the first few listens, I haven’t decided if “Rebel Heart” will be of my favorite Madonna albums of all time and replace “Like A Virgin” in the Top Five.

For right now (and in April 2012 when I first blogged this), Madonna’s self-titled debut is still my all-time favorite:
#5  “Like A Virgin” (1984)

#4  “MDNA” (2012)

#3  “True Blue”  (1986)

#2  “Confessions on a Dance Floor” (2005)

#1   “Madonna” (1983)

Anthony

“Foxcatcher”, “St. Vincent”, “Dear White People” & More

It’s time to share a few more reviews of recent DVD releases in case you’re caught up on your television viewing or you want suggestions for movie night.

“ST. VINCENT”

I’ve never been of “Saturday Night Live”, so I never followed Bill Murray’s movie career.

As a teenager, I saw “Meatballs” and I enjoyed it.  I also loved “Tootsie” and “Zombieland”, but not so much for Murray.  And, I’ve also seen Murray in “Groundhog Day” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and I’m indifferent about both.

So, I rented “St. Vincent” with reservations.

I’m so glad I checked it out!  While his character was severely flawed, he played the lousy neighbor with precision.

I’m also not a fan of Melissa McCarthy, but her straight performance in this dramatic role as a divorced parent trying to make a new life for her and her son was refreshing.

The real standout in the movie is Jaeden Lieberher, who played the 12-year-old neighbor that Murray’s alcoholic Vincent MacKenna was responsible for watching after school.

Two-time Oscar nominee Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”) was also funny as Vincent’s pregnant, pole-dancing/prostitute girlfriend, Daka.

A very touching movie that’ll make you laugh and cry.

GRADE:  A-

“FOXCATCHER”

While captivating, “Foxcatcher” was more than two hours of pure creepiness and awkwardness.

“Best Actor” Oscar nominee Steve Carell was incredible behind his prosthetic nose and teeth. His portrayal of John du Pont’s loneliness was sad to watch, but you couldn’t turn away.

And, I believe that Oscar gave the “Best Supporting Actor” nominee to the wrong person.

I love Mark Ruffalo as an actor, but Channing Tatum was the real star with the most pain expressed on-screen.

The movie could have been about thirty minutes shorter!

GRADE: B

“THE DROP”

This little seen Brooklyn crime drama marked the final movie appearance by the late James Gandolfini.

Gandolfini played Marv, the former owner of a neighborhood bar called “Cousin Marv’s”.  He had turned over ownership years earlier to a Chechen mob and is still making payments to them — by laundering money that the bar makes each day.

Tom Hardy was fantastic as slightly challenged bartender, Bob, who rescues a pit bull puppy from a trash can in Nadia’s yard.  Nadia is played by Noomi Rapace (from the Swedish “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” movie series).

While an enjoyable movie that kept you guessing, it was pretty cookie cutter as a crime caper.

GRADE:  B-

“BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP”

You’d think a mystery thriller with Academy Award winners Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth would be incredible.

While the performances were great, the story of a woman who forgets everything about her life each night when she goes to sleep tired quickly.

Kidman’s Christine Lucas memory loss is the result of a brain injury she suffered ten years ago in a car accident.  Or, is it?

She gets a mysterious call from a doctor that informs her to start recording her thoughts each day.  That way, when she wakes the next day, she’ll have somewhere to start in piecing together who she was and if she was really injured in a car accident.

There is a dramatic scene between Kidman and Firth toward the end of the movie that redeemed it from a failing grade to average.

GRADE:  C

“COLD IN JULY”

I’m a huge Michael C. Hall fan.

Dexter-michael-c-hall

I could watch all eight seasons of “Dexter” on repeat.  He was mesmerizing and insanely sexy as everyone’s favorite serial killer on the Showtime series.

I even traveled to New York City in January to see him on Broadway in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, in which he plays fame-seeking East German transgender rocker, Hedwig.

While he’s a Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild winner and an Emmy nominee, movie stardom has eluded him.

That trend continues with “Cold In July”, which only made less than one-half million dollars last year in theatrical release.

Hall plays a Texas man who shoots an intruder in his house in the middle of night.  While the police say it’s an open and shut case, the victim’s father comes back for answers and revenge after being released from prison.

It turns out there’s more to the story of who the victim is and why police closed the case so quickly.

While I only watched the movie to see Hall, it was great to see Don Johnson (“Miami Vice”) again in a comedic/dramatic role.

GRADE:  C

“DEAR WHITE PEOPLE”

In a perfect world, a movie about racism would be something that would take you back to pre-1960s America.

However, the world is not perfect and this satirical dramedy is very poignant in pointing that out.

Samantha (“Sam”) White is a mixed race student in a predominantly white college that uses her radio show to criticize white people and their racism and the school administration.

There’s a scene in the movie where the school president’s son is behind a very racist-themed party to retaliate against Sam’s views and her radio show.

In light of the recent racist video that surfaced from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma, maybe more people should see this movie and hopefully learn from it.

“Dear White People” stars Tyler James Williams, who’s on the current season of “The Walking Dead”.

GRADE:  B

Soon, I’ll post a blog of three movies that I just watched years after their release that definitely deserve a second look since not many people checked them out the first time in theaters.

Anthony

More Movie Rentals To Check Out

You know I love watching movies and sharing my thoughts on them to let you know if you should hurry and rent something or don’t waste your time.

Here are some of the recent ones that we’ve watched.

“WHIPLASH”

This Academy Award-winning movie is a must-see!

I’ve now seen three of the 2014 performances for “Best Supporting Actor”.

While Robert Duvall was incredible in “The Judge” and Ethan Hawke put in a great performance in “Boyhood”, J.K. Simmons rightfully took home the Oscar for his sadistic music teacher.  I wonder if I’ll change my mind once I see Edward Norton in “Birdman” and Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”?  Oscar voters didn’t!

While he wasn’t nominated, Miles Teller was very compelling as a first-year jazz student that pushed himself to bloody pulp to excel at drumming to try to impress his cruel conductor.

GRADE:  A-

“LILTING”

This British drama and love story from Cambodian-born British director Hong Khaou is heartbreaking and touching.

It’ll make you want to hold your loved one tighter and even call your mother-in-law to let her know that she’s loved and needed.

The movie featured incredible performances from legendary Chinese actress Cheng Pei-pei and English actor Ben Whishaw.

Whishaw is best known for his role in the James Bond film, “Skyfall” and its upcoming sequel, “Spectre”.  He also voices Paddington Bear in the recent film, “Paddington”.

In “Lilting”, he’s so charming and adorable.

GRADE:  A

“JOHN WICK”

“John Wick” is a kick-ass American crime caper starring Keanu Reeves.

After his wife dies, he gets a present delivered that she arranged to help him cope with his sadness.  It’s a cute little Beagle named Daisy.

At a gas station, the leader of a trio of Russian thugs asks John how much he’d take for his vintage car, which isn’t for sale.

Needless to say, that’s not the last we see of them and things go badly and then John Wick is out for revenge.

The movie is violent and bloody, but very entertaining.

GRADE:  B

“THE EQUALIZER”

This movie, which stars Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington, is basically “John Wick” with more acting pedigree.

“The Equalizer” came out a month before “John Wick” and grossed about three times the money ($192.3 million to $78.7 million).

Like John Wick, Washington’s Robert McCall, a retired black ops government operative, goes up against the Russian mafia.

However, the circumstances are different — it’s sex trafficking in this movie when McCall befriends a teenaged prostitute played by Chloe Grace Moretz.

Other than the violence and the Russian bad guys, that’s where the real similarities end.

While Washington is hands down a better actor than Reeves, this movie is 31 minutes longer than “John Wick” and it definitely could have been edited down to tighten it up.  It dragged and wasn’t as much fun (for a crime thriller).

GRADE:  C

“HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH”

Hedwig, the East German transgender rock musician, has been around since 1998.  That year, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” made its Off-Broadway debut and won the Obie Award and the Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Off-Broadway Musical.

It was adapted into a movie in 2001 by star and creator, John Cameron Mitchell and Mitchell was named “Best Director” at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and he was nominated for a Golden Globe that year as Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.

Neil Patrick Harris led the 2014 Broadway revival of Hedwig and won the Tony Award for “Best Actor in a Musical” and his co-star, Lena Hall won “Best Actress in a Musical”.  “Hedwig” also won “Best Revival of a Musical”.

I saw it on Broadway in early January with Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”) and he was incredible.

The movie stars the original Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell.

GRADE:  B+

“KINKY BOOTS”

Here’s another older movie (2005) that is earning rave reviews on Broadway.

In this version of “Kinky Boots”, you’ll see Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years A Slave”) like you’ve never seen him before as sassy, drag queen Lola in those “kinky boots”.

This British comedy-drama also stars a much younger and softer Joel Edgerton.

GRADE: B-

Let me know what you think if you’ve seen any of these.

Anthony

Movie Rental Suggestions

The February chill is sticking around through next week.

If you’re thinking of renting movies to avoid getting out in the cold, here are some that I recently saw.  With my reviews, if you’re on the fence about a movie, I might encourage or discourage you from renting them.

“THE JUDGE”

“The Judge” — fantastic storytelling and excellent acting (Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, and Vera Farmiga).

Duvall is definitely worthy of another Oscar if the buzz for Supporting Actor wasn’t so strong for J.K. Simmons for “Whiplash”.

Before this movie, I’ve never really paid that much attention to Downey Jr.’s acting, but he was flawless. And, he looks amazing for turning 50 this April.

GRADE: A

“CHEF”

A very funny and heartwarming story about a boy wanting to bond with his dad after his parents divorced.

It stars my chick crush, Sofia Vergara, but the standout is 11-year-old Emjay Anthony. His wit and puppy dog looks make you root for him and his dad to get close again.

From a culinary standpoint, pure food porn!

And, you have to watch Amy Sedaris in the deleted scenes. She had me laughing out loud.

GRADE: A

“INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS”

Oscar Isaac plays a Greenwich Village folk singer in the early-1960s.  The movie follows the ups and downs of his life over a week.

Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan co-star.

The soundtrack is incredible.  The interesting, fun tune “Please Mr. Kennedy” was nominated last year for a Golden Globe award.

And, there’s a cat in the movie that steals the show. :)

GRADE:  B+

“THE INTERVIEW”

After all of the fuss and Sony’s major screw-up in cancelling the movie’s Christmas Day 2014 release and then releasing it, “The Interview” is finally out on DVD.

While I enjoyed the movie and its juvenile humor, many of the funniest parts were in the “red band” trailer.  However, that would cheat you out of some very funny scenes in the 90-minute movie.

James Franco and Seth Rogen are a great team and after seeing some almost nudity in the movie, I’m more inspired than ever to eat healthier and lose weight this spring!

My favorite scene climaxes with Rogen’s character asking Franco’s, “what kind of porn do you watch?”

Here’s the more viewer friendly trailer for the movie.  However, while it’s very raunchy, I’d prefer you watch the red-band trailer if you’re grown up or open-minded!

GRADE:  B

“WHAT IF”

This quirky romantic comedy stars a grown-up Daniel Radcliffe (“Harry Potter”).

This is a movie that our 14-year-old daughter, Gretel, wanted to watch.  After seeing it, we told her not to date so casually like Chantry (Zoe Kazan) in the movie.

Ironically, I’ve never noticed Adam Driver (“Girls”) before in movies and now I’ve seen him in three in just the first two months of this year.  He was also in “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “This Is Where I Leave You”.

GRADE:  C+

“SPACE STATION 76″

If you like retro looking space movies that will take you back to your childhood (if you’re of a certain age), the cheesy “Space Station 76″ is for you.

It made me laugh several times, but if you want modern-day CGI, you’ll be disappointed.

GRADE: C+

“THE SKELETON TWINS”

Okay, I didn’t see this movie recently, I saw it at the end of 2015, but I’m featuring it again here because it was simply amazing and one of my favorites from last year.

Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, both of “Saturday Night Live” fame, are incredible as a brother and sister brought together again after not being in contact for ten years.

The movie is funny, sad, and thought-provoking and when Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is featured, I bet it’ll make your “best of” list, too.

Okay, this is not a spoiler, but you still may not want to watch this until you see the movie. :)  This is for those of you that have already seen it.

GRADE:  A

Anthony

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