Search This Blog

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Crippled Critic Concert Review: Jonny Lang @ The Roseland 7/14/09

Sometimes it pays to bring your own chair. In a standing-room only situation, the cripple is king. I was able to make a beeline for the front and position myself so that my footplates were touching the stage. It doesn't get any better than that. Or maybe it does, if you count the bonus of the mental chuckle I had watching the poor suckers around me having to stand for about 3 hours as I sat in a seat molded by computer to my back and butt.

I've wanted to see Jonny Lang for many years, but it never happened. I'd always talk myself out of it by remembering that the only Jonny Lang song I knew was "Breakin' Me."

In the intervening years, Jonny Lang released "Turn Around" which contained some wonderful songs. For some reason, he did not play the "hit" of the album, "Anything is Possible." This angered the critic from The Oregonian who gave this concert a lukewarm review. Although I too was eagerly awaiting "Anything is Possible", its conspicuous absence was far from a deal-breaker. He also didn't play "Breakin' Me" which was a shock, but still did little to dampen my enthusiasm for the show. Why? Because Jonny Lang's interaction with his band is amazing. If you can not appreciate "synchronicity" personified, than I pity you. (This was especially true in the largely instrumental encore.) Besides, watching Jonny Lang's face contort into expressions one would swear were only possible in animation is worth the price of admission all by itself...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"The Hurt Locker"

The cinematic treatment of the Iraq War has been a losing battle, even prompting jokes from Jon Stewart at the Oscars. The mildest of these was "Stop-Loss" which I thought let the government off the hook in the end. "The Valley of Elah" was well-made, but broached difficult territory perhaps best left until the real declaration of Mission Accomplished. Until "The Hurt Locker," my favorite of the Iraq War films was the unjustly maligned "Lions for Lambs" which made the simple but very true point that no matter which side you take in the argument about the war, brave soldiers are dying while the rest of us try to work it out.

"The Hurt Locker" decides not to burden itself with cumbersome, overt ideology. Instead, it opts to show the exhilaration of battle, and let the horror that accompanies that exhilaration speak for itself.

Call me prejudiced if you must, but I am dumbstruck that the most honest and brisk film about the Iraq War would come from the woman who brought us "Point Break." Yet, maybe that's precisely why it works so well. It's an action film, yes, but one that is unapologetically imbued with nightmarish realism. It is not hampered with the staginess of "Lions" nor the politicization of "Elah." The absence of these things allows "The Hurt Locker" to bring The War into a focus so sharp that it leaves a scar.

Note: As of this writing, "The Hurt Locker" is playing exclusively at Fox Tower 10 Cinemas. The wheelchair seats are wonderful in all auditoriums.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Why does the Ratings Board have an NC-17 rating if they will not use it? If "Bruno" does not have enough depravity to merit it, than such a film does not exist. There are scenes in this film that can not be sufficiently described with phrases like "unbelievably disgusting" and "instantly nauseating." Such phrases are laughable understatements. It is impossible to warn you adequately about the things you will see in this film. I will not attempt to prepare you. I will certainly not delve into detail, doing so would require me to recall specifics, and I am trying with all my mental might to forget what I have just seen. Will you laugh? Uncontrollably. Is it worth it? Absolutely not!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Public Enemies"

The anticipation factor behind "Public Enemies" was sky-high. The trailer alone was almost worthy of applause. Was "Public Enemies" as advertised? Not quite. While your expectations need not be lowered, they may need calibration. When one mentally combines director Michael Mann and John Dillinger, what leaps to mind is "Heat" in the 1930's. Mann loves cat-and-mouse games and urban cityscapes, this project would seem tailor-made given his visual style and favorite themes. He specializes in making us like the bad-boys, and this isn't his first fact-based caper film. What is different here is that Mann is no longer satisfied with making us admire a criminal's cunning and skill. This time he wants us to study him and have deep sympathy for him. Mann moderately succeeds, the audience will gain a greater understanding of the man behind the legend, but it will come at a price. The mood and tempo of the film is rather downbeat. It recalls films like "Bonnie and Clyde." "Bonnie and Clyde" was a great film, but Mann isn't Arthur Penn. We expect more of a spark from him. As such, "Public Enemies" is sort of like a gorgeous ill-fitting suit.

Note: After staring dismayed at Tigard and Bridgeport's listings and finding that neither had it playing in a theater labeled as "Big Screen" I decided to make the trek to Lloyd Cinemas and its much-touted 67-foot screen. I hadn't been there since seeing a small film that was playing an exclusive engagement. I chalked up its inferior seating to the relatively small size of the theater. Surely, they would have modified the flagship auditorium?. Not so! In this HUGE, nearly-empty theater, the wheelchair seats are still in the very front and very back. I defiantly sat in the aisle. Lloyd Cinemas receives the dreaded Ramp of Shame!