Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I've been a lazy blogger this month, I admit it. Despite my curmudgeonly ways, I still get caught up in the holiday season, which is as time-consuming as everyone says it is. So I wish everyone happy holidays and I'll try to get back to regular posts in the new year. As an apology for my slacking, here's a photo of Capote looking classy:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Trailer Review: Shrek Forever After

Release Date: May 21, 2010

Website: Official Shrek website

Starring: Voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas

My Review: Despite the fact that Shrek the Third was a pretty solid conclusion to the Shrek story, Dreamworks is offering a fourth installment, which they insist is the final chapter. Unless it’s wildly successful, in which you can expect to see Five Golden Shreks in theaters next Christmas.

In a short teaser for Shrek Forever After, it seems that all is not well in Far Far Away. Shrek is under a curse that turns his happy swamp life upside-down; Fiona is wanted by angry villagers, Donkey has no idea who Shrek is, and Puss is no longer the svelte, debonair cat he once was, instead is favoring a life of blissful (and fat) domesticity. Can Shrek save the day and return everything to how it once was?

The usual band of voice talent returns for Shrek Forever After, including Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas. Even Eric Idle as Merlin and Justin Timberlake as Artie are back for more adventure. Rumpelstiltskin is the newest fairy tale character to join the cast, voiced by cartoon writer/animator, Walt Dohrn.

All snark aside, I did enjoy the first three Shrek movies (the second one being my personal favorite), so I’ll eventually see Shrek Forever After. I just wonder how necessary it was to milk four movies out of the premise. The third movie was already clearly struggling to live up to the first two, so is there enough magic left in Dreamworks’ bag of tricks to make this fourth (and final?) chapter worthwhile?

Would I Pay For It?: I’m pretty sure this will be a rental for me. Unless I get passes to a free screening like I did for Shrek the Third. Or I’m just really bored over Memorial Day Weekend.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Bet I Can Pick More Golden Globe Winners Than You

The 67th annual Golden Globe nominees were announced today, which means there’s another awards show for me to blindly choose winners for since I haven’t seen most of the nominated movies (the TV nominees I’m at least somewhat familiar with). I usually take some time over the holidays to catch a few of the most buzzed about movies, but that won’t stop me from making winner guesses now.

And when I turn out to be wrong on about 80% of my picks when the Golden Globes air on January 17, I won’t particularly care due to the undoubtedly awesome hosting skills of Ricky Gervais. But don’t worry, Gervais; no pressure.







I know Up in the Air is getting oodles of positive feedback, but when going up against the drama-bomb that is Precious, I wonder if it’s going to look too lightweight. I heard The Hurt Locker was also fantastic, but I don’t know if it was mainstream enough to be seriously considered. Avatar and Inglourious Basterds…no. I’d put my (metaphorical) money on Precious winning.







I’m going to say Gabourey Sidibe all the way. Even people who were put off by every other element of Precious had nothing but raves for Sidibe’s breakout performance. Plus she is a hoot on talk shows (check out her interview on The Tonight Show), so I’d love to see her doing the post-Golden Globes chat circuit.







Probably Colin Firth, with George Clooney being a close second. Again, I think Up in the Air will be seen as too comedic when up against something like A Single Man.







Well, The Hangover was by far the funniest of the bunch, but do the Golden Globes really want to award the funniest comedy, or the most poignant comedy? Depending on which way the wind blows, I could see (500) Days of Summer winning, but The Hangover really should.







So Sandra Bullock got nominated for roles in both comedy and drama…that’s…interesting, I guess. But Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia has to win this. Her Julia Child was funny, touching, and a spot-on impression without feeling like a caricature. And it was enough to make up for the soppy Amy Adams half of the movie.








It’s too bad Up in the Air isn’t considered a comedy, because Clooney could win here no problem. Everyone loves to give Daniel Day-Lewis awards (not that I’m complaining), but so far Nine has gotten mostly mediocre reviews. I’d still give him my pick, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt got a lot of positive attention for (500) Days of Summer, and this may be the only category in which the beloved indie movie has a chance of taking home a prize.







Only an idiot bets against Pixar at this point. And Up was amazing, so no complaints here.







With all those big names up there, is it wrong that I would pick Jason Reitman to win? Well, who cares? It’s not like anyone is reading this anyway.







I’m sort of dumbfounded that Breaking Bad isn’t nominated, since that was by far and away the best drama I saw last year. So I’ll say Mad Men, also beloved and excellent, but Breaking Bad deserves a write-in vote.








Of all these shows, I only watch Mad Men, and January Jones is about as wooden an actress as everyone else says she is. So I’ll guess Glenn Close.







What the mother-f??? Where is Bryan Cranston? I can almost understand Breaking Bad being overlooked as a series, as some people (read: morons) are turned off by the grittiness of the show, but how is Cranston not nominated for his role? And that douche from The Mentalist is? Whatever, Golden Globes. Jon Hamm for the win.







It’ll probably be 30 Rock. I still love The Office, but it’s steadily losing steam and isn’t the great comedy it once was. Entourage hasn’t been even remotely funny for the past two years, so I don’t know what the fuck there. I enjoy Glee, but as a fun, mid-week brain break; there are way too many plot holes and sloppy production values for it to be awards material. Modern Family is really funny—probably the funniest new comedy this year—but 30 Rock is a favorite and is pretty consistent with the laughs, so I have to give it to them.








I would say Tina Fey, but Toni Collette walked off with the Emmy for this category. Screw it, I still say Tina Fey.








I wasn’t aware that anyone even watched Hung…but I digress. Alec Baldwin will mostly likely win.

So there are my 2010 Golden Globe winner picks. Hopefully within the next month I’ll see a few more of the nominated movies and be able to back up (or change) my choices. And get myself geared up for the Oscars. Oh how I love this pompous, overblown time in the entertainment world—truly the most wonderful time of the year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Trailer Review: The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond

Release Date: December 30, 2009 (limited)

Website: IMDB page

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Evans, Ann-Margret, Mamie Gummer, Jessica Collins, Ellen Burstyn

My Review: Nobody does overwrought Southern drama quite like Tennessee Williams. And despite the fact that the man has been dead for over 20 years, we’re about to get a brand-new work from him.

Williams’ screenplay for The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond was written shortly before his death in 1983 and somehow managed to disappear. Until now. Some tenacious worker bee in Hollywood managed to uncover it and what producer would say “no” to creating a never-before-seen work by a beloved literary genius?

The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond stars a nearly unrecognizable Bryce Dallas Howard (she’s a brunette!) as a feisty Southern belle who cares little about social conventions (the best kind of Southern belle there is). Her wild ways and shunning of conformity have made her a bit of a pariah in her affluent social circle, so she hires a handsome-but-poor boy to act as her escort to various functions. And as if that wasn’t scandalous enough, she actually falls in love with him—and isn’t shy about voicing her jealousy when his interests start to turn elsewhere.

Then there are these diamond earrings that have been in her family for generations and are worth as small fortune. When her aunt reluctantly lets her wear them to a party, and one goes missing, you can imagine how easily and quickly the accusations start to fly.

Judging by the trailer alone, it seems pretty clear why The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond took so long to resurface; this obviously isn’t going to be a classic like A Streetcar Named Desire or Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. Some might even argue that it would have been wiser to leave it buried, rather than have it mar Williams’ name by being his last known work. But when you have the extensive repertoire of Tennessee Williams, tacking a mediocre melodrama at the end of it isn’t going to do anything to sully that name.

Would I Pay For It?: No, but I’m sure I’ll eventually rent it. Sometimes a brooding Southern drama is just the thing my Yankee soul needs.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Theater Review: The Lion King

Location: Minskoff Theatre, 200 W. 45th Street, NY, NY

Website: Official The Lion King site

Starring: Dashaun Young, Derek Smith, Nathaniel Stampley, Danny Rutigliano, Tom Alan Robbins, Ta’Rea Campbell, Tshidi Manye, Cameron Pow

My Review: Yes, The Lion King opened on Broadway over 10 years ago, but it’s taken me this long to go see it. And the only reason I finally saw it was thanks to the good people at who gave me a free pair of tickets through a drawing they had on Twitter. Rarely, if ever, has The Lion King offered discounted tickets, and I couldn’t justify going to see a show where orchestra seats go for around $125, especially a show I felt ambivalent about due to my ambivalence towards its source material (Disney’s animated film, The Lion King). But oh, how people loved The Lion King on Broadway. The puppets! The sets! The majesty of it all! So I know I’m sure to be vilified when I say that after finally seeing it, I feel just as underwhelmed as I thought I would.

The story is the same story we all saw back in 1994: Mufasa the lion rules over the animal kingdom in Africa and looks forward to the day when his young son, Simba, will grow up and take his place as the new king. Mufasa’s evil brother, Scar, is jealous of Simba, longs to be king himself, and plots to make that happen. So he arranges to have Mufasa killed, tells Simba it’s all his fault, Simba runs away, Scar becomes king and leads the kingdom to ruin. Years go by, Simba grows up and hears about what his uncle has done. Can he go back home to fight his uncle, face his past, and claim what is rightfully his?

As I said before, I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie The Lion King. I liked it in the sense that I like all of Disney’s animated features, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. But the big draw The Lion King the stage musical has is the direction and puppet design of Julie Taymor. And I’m not denying that the puppets are amazing. The opening number—“The Circle of Life”—is an incredible sight to see, as elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, antelope, and giraffes all process through the theater aisles to join the onstage celebration of Simba’s presentation to the kingdom. But once that scene was over and I was used to seeing both the puppets and the actors who manipulate them, I was left wondering, “What else does this show have to offer?” Sadly, not much.

I’ve always found the story of The Lion King to be a poorly watered-down version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and that’s no exception in the stage show. The acting abilities of the performers are uneven, with some being remarkable (Tshidi Manye as the wise monkey Rafiki), some being overly labored (the child actors playing young Simba and Nala), and most merely mimicking the characters from the movie (Danny Rutigliano and Tom Alan Robbins as Timon and Pumbaa). All of the original music from the movie is there, as well as some new songs (also created by Elton John and Tim Rice, who did the movie music), but none of the new additions flow well and feel like exactly what they are—filler to make the show longer than 80 minutes.

I realize that The Lion King is primarily a show meant for families—a “safe” show to see to introduce children to live theater, and for that I give it credit. It stays so faithful to the movie, so any kid who enjoyed that is bound to enjoy the stage production. But any adult who is looking for more in their theater experience than impressive sets and costumes, should really look elsewhere.

Bottom Line: After so many years of hearing how “amazing” The Lion King is, I’m glad I finally saw it. But I’m really, REALLY glad I saw it for free.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Theater Review: Love Child

Location: New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, NY, NY

Website: Official New World Stages Site

Starring: Daniel Jenkins, Robert Stanton

My Review: Love Child is a nearly impossible play to summarize and review, so I’m going to cop out and say you just have to see it for yourself.

Love Child stars only two men—Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton, who also wrote it—but there are at least 30 different characters. Using minimal props and their own talent they tell a hilarious tale about the production of a terrible play that leads to the uncovering of a 40-year old family secret. The action shifts from the backstage drama, to the performance itself, to the goings-on in the audience, and back again at a lightening speed, so you have to be on your toes to catch everything. The character changes happen even faster, as each actor transforms himself into someone new with the slightest gesture or a change of expression.

The story they’re telling is highly entertaining, but half the fun of Love Child is trying to keep up with production. The first few minutes go by in a blur as you try to connect the pieces, then when it all clicks into place, you’re on the edge of your seat for the next hour, watching what is essentially a theatrical tennis match as Jenkins and Stanton work like a pair of pros to keep the ball in the air. And they never once let it drop, which is obviously no easy feat as both men are sweating and gasping for air by the show’s end, but it makes for an incredible night of theater for the audience.

Bottom Line: I’ve never really thought of live theater as an athletic event, but Love Child seems to be straddling the line between art and sports. And it’s great fun for everyone involved, both on and off the stage.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Trailer Review: The Young Victoria

Release Date: December 18, 2009 (in limited release)

Website: Official The Young Victoria site

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Mark Strong

My Review: I kind of dig “boring” movies. If you ever saw a trailer for a movie that featured nothing but long conversations and tortured relationships between the characters, and wondered to yourself, “Who would watch this?”, chances are I would. Add some high-concept period costumes and British actors to the mix, and I’m sold.

The Young Victoria is a historical drama that focuses on the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign. I don’t know much about most monarchs, and Victoria is no exception, but according to the trailer she was a spirited young woman who refused to compromise herself to please others and wasn’t afraid to follow her life’s passions, primarily her love for Prince Albert. So it sort of feels like a girl power movie, done 19th Century style. And as long as it never claims to be an accurate historical portrait, I’m OK with that.

Emily Blunt, in her first really big leading-lady role, is Victoria, and I think a very interesting choice. She’s already proven she can do persnickety British acting very well (The Devil Wears Prada), so it should be interesting to see her take on a more refined character. The rest of the cast is made up of some impressive “who’s who” of British cinema, including Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, and Jim Broadbent. Such a sumptuous-looking movie is almost enough for me to forgive Blunt for stealing my celebrity crush, John Krasinski. Almost…

Would I Pay For It?: I probably wouldn’t run to see this in the theater, but I would rent it for a cozy afternoon with a “boring” movie.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Trailer Review: Ricky

Release Date: On IFC On Demand December 16, 2009, with a wider theatrical release planned for some time in 2010

Website: Official Ricky site (Warning: It’s in French)

Starring: Alexandra Lamy, Sergi Lopez

My Review: Ricky is a French movie that appears to be suffering from genre identity issues.

It tells the tale of a working-class single mother Katie who meets Paco and falls in love. It’s a romance!

They eventually have a baby boy, named Ricky, who never stops crying and begins to show signs of abuse when mysterious bruises appear on his back and bloodstains show up on his bedding. Naturally, Katie assumes Paco has something to do with this. It’s a family drama!

Ricky apparently has magical, mystical powers that initially alarm his mother, but win the hearts of all the townsfolk. It’s a supernatural fantasy!

But Ricky’s father is greedy and wants to exploit his magical son for his personal gain. It’s an extortion thriller!

The trailer for Ricky plays like a puzzle that I’m just too disinterested to bother solving, seeing as everything in it escaped my memory as soon as I watched it. I had to watch the trailer three times just to cobble together this post, and I grew more bored with each viewing. Which—correct me if I’m wrong—is the exact opposite effect a movie trailer is supposed to have.

Would I Pay For It?: No, I’ll think I’ll pass on this hot French mess.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Trailer Review: Date Night

Release Date: April 9, 2010

Website: 20th Century Fox Movies site

Starring: Steve Carell, Tina Fey, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Mark Wahlberg

My Review: I know it’s cool to hate on whatever is popular, but I’ve never been cool a day in my life, so I’ll just say it: I love Tina Fey and Steve Carell. I think they’re funny without being juvenile, clever without being inaccessible, and attractive without being scary. And since The Office and 30 Rock continue to be two of my favorite TV shows, I’m thrilled to see these two teaming up in a movie.

In Date Night, Fey and Carell are the Fosters, a married couple living in NYC and caught in a typical marriage rut. Then when they pretend to be another couple to get their reservation as a fancy restaurant, their marriage gets an unexpected jolt of life. Turns out that the couple whose reservation they stole are wanted by some shady characters who refuse to believe that the Fosters are who they say they are. After narrowly escaping an alleyway attack, the Fosters are on the run, trying to find safety, clear their name, and find out why exactly this other couple is in so much trouble.

Fey and Carell seem to play off of each other well in the trailer, and the supporting cast also looks great, with James Franco and Mila Kunis as the mysterious reservation-ditching couple and Mark Wahlberg without a shirt. I don’t deny that Fey and Carell’s movie careers so far have been hit-or-miss (Baby Mama and Get Smart were lackluster, but Mean Girls and The 40-Year Old Virgin were excellent), but it will be fun to see them taking on an action comedy which will give them more to do than sit around trading witty banter (not that that would necessarily be a bad movie, either…).

Would I Pay For It?: I’ll most likely wait to rent it, but if I hear it’s incredibly hilarious, I might actually shell out the money to see it in the theater.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Quest for the Best: Street Sweets Review

Location: Varies. Follow them on Twitter for up to date info on where they’re at.

Website: Official Street Sweets site

Price: Around $2 per treat

Atmosphere: Street-tastic. But their blue truck is adorable; one of the best street food trucks I’ve seen.

My Review: Another day, another dollar lost to a truck offering me freshly made baked goods. Sometimes I wonder if I would be sensible enough to say “no” to a guy in a windowless van offering me free candy.

The Street Sweets truck offers a lot of breakfast options; muffins galore, quiches, yogurt, coffees and teas, and croissants with your choice of fillings—just let them know what you want, and they’ll stuff your croissant for you while you wait (it’s not as dirty as I just made it sound). If you’re into savory and more health-conscious flavors, there’s spinach and ham & cheese. If you’re a sugar addict like me, there are a ton of sweet pastry fillings to choose from, like Nutella, almond butter, peanut butter, and chocolate cream. I went with a marshmallow cream filling, hoping it would be like marshmallow fluff. The filling they used was a bit runnier than fluff, and naturally turned my hands, face, and everything within a foot of me into a sticky mess. It felt like being in elementary school again, in the best possible way.

As for their dessert options, there are many, and everything is made with all natural ingredients, so if you’re the type to feel guilty about snacking, you can feel a modicum less so. There are a variety of cookies, cupcakes, whoopie pies, and brownies to choose from—and with the brownies they ask if you prefer a corner, side, or middle piece, which I love. Their flourless chocolate walnut cookie is a signature treat, and while tasty, it was also a bit bizarre. How you make cookies without flour I don’t know, but the end result comes out almost like fudge rather than cookie-like. The chocolate cookie was incredibly soft, pliable, and sticky, and felt like I could roll it into a chocolate ball if I wanted to. But I ate it like a normal human, and it was deliciously rich in its chocolate goodness and the walnuts added a satisfying crunch.

But the pièce de résistance is Street Sweets’ latest creation which is garnering a lot of attention: The macarella. It’s not an insipid dance craze from the mid-1990s, but a sandwich cookie that consists of two chewy coconut macaroons, flattened, and stuck together with a layer of Nutella. It looks a bit ungainly, since macaroons are meant to be ball-shaped and the flattened version is just odd to see, but when it tastes this good, who gives a crap what it looks like? The macaroons are delicious on their own, and very coconutty—they’re definitely not adding filler ingredients here. But turning them into a sandwich with Nutella was a stroke of brilliance on somebody’s part. The nutty, chocolaty spread works well with the coconut flavor, and they don’t glob it on, so the flavors all complement each other rather than competing against each other. It’s so good, I totally forgive them for giving it a goofy name.

Bottom Line: As far as desserts off the street goes, Street Sweets is a leap above Cupcake Stop and a short step below the Treats Truck (the caramel crème sandwich cookie from the Treats Truck is my new drug of choice). The staff who work in the Street Sweets truck are incredibly nice and accommodating and don’t make you feel like you’re being a pain when ordering one of their custom-built creations. With a wide and varied selection, treats that are both tasty and unique, and a friendly staff, I’ll definitely be visiting their crazy blue truck again soon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Movie Review: Fix

Rated: TBD

Website: Official Fix site

Starring: Shawn Andrews, Olivia Wilde, Tao Ruspoli, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Jakob Von Eichel, Dedee Pfeiffer

My Review: I still find it amazing what some filmmakers can accomplish with a few dollars and a camera, while others have millions and a full crew and can barely scrape together a cohesive story.

In Fix, director/co-star/cameraman/co-writer Tao Ruspoli truly pours his heart and soul onto the screen, giving new definition to the phrase “labor of love.” Based on a real experience with his brother, Ruspoli tells the story of Milo’s quest to get his troubled brother Leo into rehab. Leo has been arrested and has until 8:00 that night to get to rehab, or else he’s looking a several years behind bars. Milo and his girlfriend Bella are working on a documentary in San Francisco, but once he gets the call about Leo, without a second thought Milo drives down to Los Angeles to pick him up in the wee hours of the morning to transport him to rehab (with a warily supportive Bella in tow). What starts out a simple drive from Point A to Point B gets complicated when Leo informs them that he needs $5,000 cash to get into rehab, which means making a few stops along the way to collect on some old debts. As they race against the clock, the trio meet up with several characters of varying degrees of shadiness, with Milo capturing the entire day’s escapades on film as he tries to both understand and reconnect with his brother.

Since Milo and Bella are documentary filmmakers, Fix is shot documentary-style with a handheld camera, primarily from Milo’s point of view. The shaky-cam feel of the movie is reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project, which in this case is a good thing, as it adds to the grittiness of the story. The Los Angeles these three are traveling through is not the Los Angeles you usually see in movies; they make stops in various undesirable neighborhoods—including chop shops, housing projects, and crack dens—which opens Milo’s eyes as to what sort of life his younger brother has been leading.

The most impressive element of Fix is how likeable Leo is (played by Shawn Andrews). The guy has basically nothing going for him—he’s been arrested twice, has a drug problem, has no money or home, doesn’t hesitate to steal whatever he feels is owed him, and is heading to rehab as a last ditch effort to get his life together—yet you can’t help but find him charismatic and charming. As they make their stops along the rehab route, you see how beloved Leo is in his circle of friends. Sure, said friends may be undesirable company to most, but in the world that Leo has created for himself, he’s a superstar.

A lot of the time, Milo and Bella (played by real life husband and wife Ruspoli and Olivia Wilde) seem like secondary characters in what is essentially The Leo Show. Milo remains behind his camera for most of the movie, leaving Bella to play the role of the responsible adult, which she isn’t thrilled about and wonders why they’re going so far out of their way to help a guy who doesn’t seem to really care about helping himself. Naturally, Leo manages to wear her down, and as they draw closer to their 8:00 deadline, Bella concedes to getting the $5,000 any way they can, which involves some ambiguous dealings and some outright illegal actions.

While as a whole Fix is a compelling story of attempted redemption—both Leo’s and Milo’s—there are some elements that don’t seem to come together. Milo is granted access to film every stop they make, and while I don’t have much experience with drug dealers and other criminals, I would think they wouldn’t be cool with having their transactions recorded. Bella’s turnaround also seems a bit unrealistic as it happens to quickly. She begins the movie reluctant to get involved and annoyed with what Milo asks of her, but after one encounter with a friend of Leo’s that she finds amusing, she hops on board with plans that involve selling stolen goods and dealing pot on the streets.

Though dark and gritty in its overall tone, Fix also manages to be darkly funny at times, especially with its casual acceptance of the criminal activities that take place all in the name of getting Leo rehabilitated. Then it turns around and is frustratingly heartbreaking as you see the sort of life Leo leads and how comfortable he seems in that life, and you wonder how serious he is about getting himself back on track. Milo and Bella compromise themselves in multiple ways to help him out, but you’re never safely sure it’s all going to be worth it in the end.

Bottom Line: Ruspoli has been a documentarian up until this point, and Fix is an incredibly well-done first feature film (the fact that it’s shot documentary-style helped, no doubt). The story he’s telling is deeply personal to him, and a shoestring budget and lack of major studio backing wasn’t going to stop him from telling it. Fix is the very personal journey of a truly formed character, and will hopefully pave the way for Ruspoli to bring more of himself to the screen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TrailerSpy Mobile is Here!

For the most part, I don’t usually care that I don’t have a fancypants iPhone and that my phone is just…well, a phone. But then cool apps like this become available and I get tech envy.

TrailerSpy Mobile is an app for your iPhone or iPod Touch that will allow you to watch all of the videos you can find on the TrailerSpy website. The site is continuously updated (I should know, I help work on it), so no matter where you are, you can see the most currently available movie, TV, video game, and book trailers. We also offer fun “extras” like clips, interviews, featurettes, behind the scenes looks, and deleted scenes. You can also easily search for older trailers from within the app if you want to check out something that came out awhile ago.

So if you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch and you’re a movie, TV, game, and/or book junkie, download the new TrailerSpy Mobile app. Then come over to my house so I can check it out, too.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Quest for the Best: Cupcake Stop Review

Location: Varies. Follow them on Twitter for updates on their location.

Website: Official Cupcake Stop site

Price: $1 for mini cupcakes, $2.50 for regulars

Atmosphere: It’s a truck on the street, so don’t go for the ambiance.

My Review: New Yorkers love mobile food and cupcakes. So when the two are put together, it’s pretty much a guaranteed success. And with a rabid following on Twitter, a wide variety of flavors (both classics and new creations), and frequent contests and giveaways, Cupcake Stop has quickly become one of the “it” places for a quick sugar fix.

They only sell five of their flavors each day, but when they list their location on Twitter, they also list that day’s menu. On the d

ay I went I figured I may as well sample all of the day’s choices (oh the sacrifices I make), and got carrot cake, cinnamon bun, red velvet, chocolate vanilla, and vanilla chocolate. And just like the flavors themselves, the results were a mixed bag.

First, the worst part of it all: Raisins! Raisins are foul, loathsome, and disgusting things and have no business being in anything that is meant to be delicious. So I was already dismayed when I saw that both the carrot cake and cinnamon bun cupcakes contained raisins. The only good thing about raisins? They’re solid enough to easily pick them out of whatever you’re eating, which is exactly what I did.

The best of the bunch was the carrot cake (once the vile raisins had been removed). The cake was moist and flavorful, and the cream cheese frosting was sweetly tart and creamy. It was even topped with an icing carrot, just like all carrot cake should be. On the other end of the spectrum, the cinnamon bun was the worst, mainly because it wasn’t really a cupcake; it’s essentially a mini cinnamon bun baked inside a cupcake wrapper. Which I guess would be OK (though a bit misleading) if it wasn’t a crappy cinnamon bun; it was dry and practically flavorless, and the sugar icing drizzled on the top was way too scant. Cinnamon buns should be soft, doughy, gooey, and turn your hands into a sticky mess while you eat them, so Cupcake Stop’s version failed on all counts.

The rest of the flavors fell in the comfortable “pretty good” middle ground. The chocolate vanilla (which is just chocolate cake with vanilla frosting) was tasty; the cake was moist and chocolatey, the frosting creamy and sugary. The red velvet was also good, though not remarkable. The vanilla chocolate (vanilla cake with chocolate frosting) was kind of bland, and the frosting tasted like the canned kind you get at the supermarket, making it very reminiscent of having cupcakes at an elementary school birthday party. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I expect a bit more when shelling out $2.50.

Bottom Line: On the whole, Cupcake Stop’s cupcakes are good, but not overwhelmingly so. I also found them to be overpriced for what you get. Every bakery in the city jacks up the prices on their cupcakes, but most will counter balance that by making them a bit larger, using superior ingredients, or piling on mounds of frosting. The ones at Cupcake Stop are obviously made in standard sized muffin tins, some of the cakes don’t taste any different than a box mix, and the amount of frosting is normal, so they’re basically the same cupcakes you could make yourself at home or find at a school bake sale. They do have some unique flavors—I’ll most likely go back once the seasonal gingerbread spice is available—and obviously the convenience factor of being a mobile operation plays in their favor, but unless they start parking right outside my door or lower their prices, I’ll continue to spend my overpriced cupcake money elsewhere.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trailer Review: The Cry of the Owl

Release Date: TBD

Website: IMDB page

Starring: Julia Stiles, Paddy Considine, Karl Pruner, Gord Rand, Caroline Dhavernas

My Review: The Cry of the Owl is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, the same author who created The Talented Mr. Ripley, a taught, clever, and suspenseful psychological thriller. Too bad it doesn’t look like The Cry of the Owl embodies any of those qualities.

Julia Stiles stars as Jenny, a woman who lives in an eerily isolated cabin in the woods, who is being stalked by Robert, an odd man who likes to lurk in the trees surrounding her house and watch her. After an angry confrontation between Robert and her boyfriend, Jenny finds herself drawn to her stalker and then flips the table on their dynamic to become the creepy one as she romantically pursues Robert with unrestrained vigor.

Then Jenny’s boyfriend goes missing and you can probably guess who Suspect #1 is. Robert needs to clear his name, but his history as a stalker and an ex-wife who testifies that he’s mentally unstable aren’t doing him any favors. And Jenny is still behaving like a total nutcase, which isn’t too surprising seeing as she’s a woman who fell for her stalker.

It’s highly possible that everything in The Cry of the Owl could fall neatly into place on screen, but the trailer is all over the place. Plus it seems to drop too many major hints as to how everything ends, which defeats the entire point of watching a crime mystery movie.

Would I Pay For It?: Pay for it? This isn’t even going to make it to the Netflix queue.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Movie Review: Humble Pie

Rated: PG-13

Website: Official Humble Pie site

Starring: Hubbel Palmer, William Baldwin, Kathleen Quinlan, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Vincent Caso, Bruce McGill

My Review: Humble Pie is the story of Tracy Orbison, a severely overweight guy who can’t seem to catch a break. He has a lame job as a clerk at the local supermarket, he still lives at home with his overcritical mother, he admittedly has no real friends, trying to pass his driver’s test is a never-ending quest, and he yearns to be a poet in a middle-of-nowhere town who has little need for poetry since it will never pay the bills. Tracy doesn’t necessarily long for greatness, but he knows he needs to get something more out of life.

His moment of revelation occurs when attending a local theater production starring Truman Hope—a “real” actor whose biggest credit is a three-episode stint on J.A.G.—who also teaches an acting class for the local wannabes. With his trusty notebook of poetry tucked in his pocket, Tracy starts attending the class, longing to filter his artistic side into a new creative outlet and to make Truman his mentor. He also becomes a mentor himself to his new teenage coworker and his group of ne’er-do-well friends, reveling in the feeling that he’s needed and is making a difference in someone’s life. But while everything seems good on the surface, there are inevitable complications that arise from putting too much faith in those who don’t deserve it.

Pulling double duty in Humble Pie is Hubbel Palmer, who both wrote the screenplay and stars as Tracy. He easily conveys everything Tracy is feeling with just a look and a handful of words; he lives in the quietest of desperations, mainly due to the fact that there’s no one in his life who cares enough to really hear him. This is most evident when he’s put in charge of training a new employee at the supermarket and is overjoyed to take the young man out to lunch and share all his wisdom and insights of the world, like how to properly pack groceries and his big artistic plans for the future. For the first time, he sees an opportunity to make a positive impact on someone’s life, which is just the first small step in making a positive impact on the world.

As local thespian Truman Hope, William Baldwin is an inspired casting choice as he manages to unironically portray an actor who is deluded enough to not see that he’s going nowhere. We don’t know if he’s a has-been or a never-was, but that certainly doesn’t bother him. His small classroom of local acting students hang on his every word, and when Tracy approaches him with awe and admiration, you can practically see his ego grow three more sizes. All he’s ever wanted in life is the ability to wow people by just being there, and if remaining the big fish in this incredibly small pond is the only way to do that, so be it.

Where Humble Pie falters is in its lack of direction during the third act. It sets everything up nicely with Tracy’s lousy job and his undesirable home life with his angry mother and weird sister. Then the inevitable downfall when everyone he thought he could trust betrays him is tragic to watch—especially one so-true-it-hurts moment when his boss tells Tracy that his big promotion isn’t quite the big deal he thinks it is. But the final payoff never really happens. Certain gears are set in motion and some resolutions are made, but for the most part it just feels like the last third of the movie fizzles out. We’re not left with a very clear picture of where Tracy is going from here, but a feeling that he’s learned some lessons and knows there’s still some work to be done to achieve his life’s happiness.

Bottom Line: As a first foray into screenwriting, Palmer does a commendable job. His main strength obviously lies in developing characters, as the performances are what stuck with me most after watching the movie. The structure of the story tends to falter in places, and it seems to have trouble deciding what genre it wants to fall into—it’s not uproarious enough to be a comedy, not serious enough to be a drama, and not bizarre enough to fall into the beloved “quirky indie romp” category. But the characters are well-drawn and well-cast, and their situations solidly established, which is more than can be said for a lot of big-budget Hollywood movies. Hopefully in his next project, Palmer will have a story as tight and well-planned as his personalities.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Trailer Review: A Single Man

Opens: December 11, 2009 (limited release)

Website: Official A Single Man site

Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Ginnifer Goodwin, Nicholas Hoult, Lee Pace

My Review: A Single Man is an emotional drama that stars Colin Firth. And that’s about all I need to know to decide that I will eventually be seeing this. For those who need a bit more:

Based on a Christopher Isherwood novel, A Single Man tells the story of one man’s struggle to go on after suffering a great loss. Set in 1962, it follows one day in a British professor’s life in Los Angeles after his long term boyfriend has suddenly died in a car accident. The trailer doesn’t give much away—not even a snippet of dialogue—but there are plenty of shots of longing looks and flirty glances set to a morose tune, so you know that yes, this is an arty film, and yes, there will be plenty of emotional drama.

Rounding out the cast is an impressive, but not ostentatious, group of actors, including Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Nicholas Hoult. A Single Man has already played at several film festivals and received mostly positive feedback from both critics and audience members, with Firth’s heartbreaking performance already creating a bit of Oscar buzz as the awards season starts to gear up. Colin Firth in any role tends to make me a bit swoony; Colin Firth mourning the loss of the love of his life may very well push me over the edge.

Would I Pay For It?: Given the opportunity, yes, but due to its limited release, it’ll probably be rented, and is already in my Netflix queue.