Just a blog about movies, sandwiches and a bunch of other random stuff.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


It's been a long time since I've posted anything, and even longer since I've posted about a sandwich. But my lunch yesterday at Straight Wharf on Nantucket brought me out of sandwich blogging retirement. A simple BLT served on Something Natural herb bread was my sandwich of choice and by grace of god, if this wasn't the best sandwich that I've had all summer (not a title given lightly considering I have had a sandwich from Something Natural for lunch about 5-6 times every week).

Back to the sandwich, it was three slices of bread all grilled and drenched in butter cut perfectly to match the other ingredients. The lettuce was lightly seasoned with some type of vinegar or vinaigrette dressing to add a accent of flavor to the crisp leaves. Combined with fresh, juicy tomato slices, the vegetables made up the top portion of this decadent creation. On the bottom half of the sandwich, along with a copious amount of mayonnaise, was crispy bacon that completed the B of the LT. From the first bite to the last, this sandwich was flavorful, filling and most of all incredibly delicious. If you're on Nantucket for Labor Day weekend, I insist that you check this culinary creation out.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

LOVE Is A Four Letter Word

I wanted to hold off reviewing Jason Mraz’s new album “LOVE Is A Four Letter Word” until I had listened to it at least a couple of times. Unfortunately, I’m afraid the time spent with the album has made me a bit more critical of it. Let me start by saying that it is an incredibly happy album, and I do like it, quite a lot actually, regardless of what it might seem like at the end of this review. So let’s break it down and see what Mr. A-Z has done right and what he has done wrong.

My first thought about this album is its simplicity. Even the title is like the simplest thing ever, it literally says  how many letters are in the word “LOVE.” It doesn’t say anything about love being good or bad, just that it’s a four-letter word. It’s one of those cute things that’s nice at first look, but when you think about it, it means absolutely nothing. I personally think Jason came up with it one day and just got it stuck in his head so that’s how it ended up as the album title. But the simplicity goes to more than just the title, a fair amount of the music and even lyrics are quite cliché and basic (I’m looking at you “Living In The Moment”). Not to say that it’s a bad song, just that someone who has come up with songs like “On Love, In Sadness” or “A Beautiful Mess” should be writing better songs than this.

The simplicity carries over into the recording of the songs. With the exception of the lush “5/6”, the tight “Frank D. Fixer” and the enveloping “The World As I See It”, there really does not seem to be emotion in these songs. The album feels like Jason went into the studio with some of the chords and the lyrics and had the studio musicians at his disposal finish the songs for him. Never is this more evident than on “The Woman I Love” and “93 Million Miles”, two songs that blew me away when he performed them live, but are thoroughly underwhelming on the studio cuts.

I also worry that the label had a little bit too much input into what songs made the final cut. It seems to me that a few songs, like “Living In The Moment” and “Everything Is Sound” were thrown on to be radio singles, sacrificing the quality of the entire album as a cohesive group of songs. On this same note, I’m glad that “I Won’t Give Up” didn’t lose any of its luster in the studio and that it’s performing well on the radio. But still, I would have much rather seen “You Fckn Did It”, “Rescue” or the hidden track “I’m Coming Over” get the official album treatment.

Jason also pretty recently came off of a bad breakup, so there needs to be those quintessential breakup songs. We get that in the form of “In Your Hands”, Jason’s most cliché and arguably worst song of all time. It’s really disappointing to see such a master of lyricism fall into comparisons of two-seater bikes and the Eiffel tower in a song that should be as emotional as this. Listening to Jason’s forced vocals on this track, one thinks that either he was so hurt by this breakup he can’t stand to sing about it, or that it didn’t hurt nearly enough for him to care. The penultimate track is the lounge feel of “Be Honest.” Again, this is by no means a bad song, but it is one that is easily relegated to the background of cruise ship lounges or beaches.

Just like the album, I want to end on a good, strong note. Easily my favorite song on the album, “The World As I See It” is a gorgeous track that is perfect in essentially everyway. It’s a beautiful song that is simultaneously a world celebrating anthem and a tender love song. “LOVE Is A Four Letter Word” is not a bad moment, and has its moments (“Freedom Song”, “I Won’t Give Up”, “5/6”, “Who’s Thinking About You Now”), but I wish that every song would be at the same caliber of the closing song, “The World As I See It.”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Not So Silent House

I'm not really a fan of the horror genre, but I am a fan of original and creative filmmaking, which is why I was attracted to "Silent House" in the first place. Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (Open Water) both sit in the director's chair for this new indie horror flick starring the new indie darling, Elizabeth Olsen. What intrigued me the most about this film is the marketing campaign where all that I heard about it was that it was 88 minutes long and in real time. It's supposedly "one cut" too, but there are several times where it noticeably cuts. I knew nothing about the plot before I saw it, and I think that's the best way to view this (and every other horror/thriller movie).

It is interesting to choose a real-time, virtually-no-cuts route with a movie. One of the greatest strengths of cinema is its ability to manipulate and influence time or, at least, the audience's perception of time. For a horror film, especially, editing strategies such as quick or dramatic cuts are used to heighten suspense. So the fact that the filmmakers deliberately cut out one of the biggest fear-inducing aspects of horror filmmaking is fascinating. This also means that without editing, they need some really good actors.

The acting is by far the strongest part of this film. The story is okay, but the ending leaves a lot to be desired. Same with the direction, I mean if you're going to have "no cuts" in your movie, once the cameras start rolling your job is pretty much done. It's really all about the actors in this one and Elizabeth Olsen, a.k.a. the best Olsen sister, proves herself as an impressive actress. The only other wide release movie she has been in so far is "Martha Marcy May Marlene", a role she won widespread praise for, but don't worry about her, she has a solid list of movies lined up over the next two years.

It's by no means a bad movie, but unless you're a fan of the horror genre or Elizabeth Olsen, I'd sit this one out.

Silent House: 6/10

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Something's Missing

I still got some movies left to review from the 2011 Nantucket Film Festival (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing). “The Lie” is a (relatively) new movie from writer-director Joshua Leonard (who you might know from “The Blair Witch Project”) and co-stars Mark Webber (who you might also know from “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”) and Jess Weixler (who you will know from “Free Samples” which comes out later this year). It’s a story that we all know, a man tells a lie to get out of work for the day and his life dramatically changes as a result.

It is by no means a bad movie, but equally it is by no means a great one either. At times the film does seem a little slow, but that isn’t what holds it back. The acting is decent and a surprise cameo from Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) made my day. In fact, Leonard who participated in a Q&A afterwards really loves the project and it shows. Technically it is a good film, but the whole time it is just missing something that stops it from being great. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is one of those movies that feel like if you could change one thing about it, it would be a festival and indie standout.

And speaking of the Q&A afterwards, Leonard did a great job and seemed to have a lot of fun with this movie, but I don’t know if it’s just Nantucket or film festivals as a whole, but the majority of those in attendance are the kind of people that want to be movie buffs and think they are, but are too thick and pretentious to ever be. Yes, I know how incredibly stupid and pretentious I sound, now, by saying that, but it’s true! Seriously, I apologize to Joshua Leonard for some of the questions he had to endure (including some that weren’t questions at all, just criticisms of the movie and what they would change about it). And I think I speak for Leonard and myself when I say, if they think they could make a better movie, go out and do it! But I don’t think they can.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Stole Me Away

The 2011 Nantucket Film Festival has come to a close, but it was a good week while it lasted. Standouts included “Cars 2”, “Being Elmo” and of course the All-Star Comedy Round Table presented by Ben Stiller with Seth Meyers, Jerry Seinfeld, Colin Quinn and Aziz Ansari. One film that managed to slip under the radar was the astonishingly beautiful “Thief”, a short film about a boy who meets Saddam Hussein in 1959 and then once again forty years later when the two are old men.

The short is directed by Julian A. Higgins and written by Higgins and Matthew Wieland. No other film had me as deeply involved as this the entire festival. During the climax of the short (again, the climax of the short) I could barely breathe with excitement over the intensity of the film. A product of the American Film Institute, Higgins is a skilled filmmaker with only one feature length film and one other short to his name before tackling this project. Higgins handles tension in film with great aplomb and the sense of urgency and tension created in the climax of “Thief” reminded me of the feeling felt at times in Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” (coincidentally, both films take place in Iraq).

If you are attending a festival where “Thief” is screening or have the opportunity to view it, do so. It is a gem of a film and I cannot wait for more from Mr. Julian A. Higgins.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Name's Mater, Tow Mater

Pixar is back (as they are every summer now) with their sequel to the highly successful and critically lauded “Cars”. The whole gang is back with a few additions. Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy return as Lightning McQueen and Mater, respectively, and Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer and Eddie Izzard have been added to the impressive cast. Here’s the deal, Lightning McQueen is about to take the summer off racing and return to Radiator Springs when he’s challenged to a “World Grand Prix” by a flashy Italian racecar. Lightning and Mater (with a few other Radiator Springs residents in tow) jet off to Japan, Italy and England to take part in the race. While in Japan, however, Mater is mistaken for a world-class secret agent by Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (voiced by Emily Mortimer). Without giving too much away, it becomes more of a spy movie with races in the background and a buddy movie between Lightning and Mater.

One of my favorite parts of this movie is the ability to explore the Cars world much more than we did in the original. The artists at Pixar did a tremendous job of creating real world locations in their digital format. It is fun to see how all the Cars inventions work, whether it is the bathrooms, the restaurants, the hotels, the planes because honestly, I was wondering how they did so much without hands in the first one. (Also, speaking of the Pixar world, during the Paris scene, keep a lookout for a shout out to another Pixar movie.)

It’s being released in 3D and IMAX, but I’m not sure how much more that will add to the movie. It was good enough in plain old 2D, but I could see the 3D depth technique that Pixar has perfected adding to the numerous racing and chase sequences. Either way, it’s Pixar so of course it’s good, and it’s definitely worth a trip to the theater to see it.

I was lucky enough to catch "Cars 2" at a screening at the the Nantucket Film Festival with Ben Queen, the screenwriter, in attendance. In a Q&A afterwards he really demonstrated the love that went into this movie and the immense attention to detail on the project. Illuminating on the pixar process he said that they do not focus on writing a movie towards children or adults, that thought does not even cross their mind while making the movie. What they do is make the movie they want to see. And that's awesome.

The Tourism Industry Is Suffering

Usually when a movie is bad it’s easiest to blame the studio for whatever reason; they didn’t allow the director creative control, the budget was too small. Unfortunately for writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck this is simply not the case (on a side note, I think von Donnersmarck also wins the award for worst name in Hollywood). I was really excited about this movie, Angelina Jolie at one point or another was a respected actress and who doesn’t love Johnny Depp? It was a big let down when I finally watched it and as much as I didn’t want to admit it, it’s pretty bad.

The direction is terrible, I mean, it takes something special to make Johnny Depp look like a bad actor and von Donnersmarck has it. Set in Venice, it is clear that von Donnersmarck has seen "The Italian Job" and tries to imitate several sequences but he really did not capitalize on shooting his movie in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But forget von Donnersmarck, every so often there is a writer-director that tries to be artsy but in reality is just supremely awful but somehow continues to make movies (Dito Montiel comes to mind as well) and there's nothing we can do about them. The real question is why Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie agreed ot be in this movie. Sometimes the paycheck is just that big, but generally Depp picks excellent movies and even his not so great choices (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory) turn out okay. Angelina Jolie I don't get. How can Brad Pitt be choosing movies as good as "The Tree of Life" and the forthcoming "Moneyball" while Jolie is starring in "The Tourist" and "Wanted"? Well, whatever I say isn't going to change her decisions, so let's just forget it. And let's just forget this movie ever happened, I think it's the best decision at this point.