Monday, September 28, 2009

MusicMonday -- Hot Viral Video, Free Downloads

Hot Viral Video

Students from the L'Université du Québec created an amazing one-take video to the Black Eyed Peas' chart-topper, "I Gotta Feeling." Click on the video screen above to view.

Free Downloads

Don't forget to continually check the following sources for free downloads -- new songs are added frequently. Just click on the links below and enjoy some new tunes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office


  • Reviews of The Informant! and 9 can be found here.
  • Click on the chart to enlarge.
  • All figures are industry estimates. Actual figures are released on Monday.
  • Sources: Nielsen EDI,

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Free REDBOX Codes for Your Weekend

The weather is turning cooler, beach days for most of us are over. So you're inside more with nothing to do? How about renting a free movie? There are quite a few Redbox codes available now for FREE rentals. Remember, you can only use a code once -- so write down this list and then cross off the ones you've used. No expiration dates have been attached to these codes yet:

  • 9HB6MP22
  • SMR8DVD (McDonald's only)
  • DVDATWAG (Walgreen's only)


  • Click on the Redbox picture below for more details -- including where to find a Redbox near you.
  • Remember to check back on the first Monday of each month for a code good JUST for that day only.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Movie Reviews: Two Recommendations

The Boys are Back

Based on a true story, this Australian film is a touching portrait of fatherhood. Clive Owen (Closer, Children of Men) plays Joe Warr, a busy sports writer who becomes a single father after his wife suddenly becomes ill and dies. With no time to grieve, Joe struggles to find a way to sort out rebuilding his life in unfamiliar territory. His focus is on bringing joy back to his six-year-old son (Nicholas McAnulty) -- so he utilizes a "just say yes" philosophy that leads to mixed humorous and dramatic results. Things get a whole lot more complicated when another son enters the picture -- a teenager (George MacKay) from a previous marriage, who Joe long-abandoned to start life anew with his second family.

Owen delivers a moving performance in a modern-day story of an unconventional family. You'll feel the love Joe has for his boys -- as all three bond in new ways. Director Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling on Cedars) has shot a beautiful film -- with his homeland of south Australia as a backdrop -- and strong turns by Owen and the boys in the forefront. Based on the acclaimed 2001 memoir by Simon Carr, The Boys Are Back In Town. [Rated PG-13; opens in limited release today, wider next month]

Grade: B+

Bright Star

Based on the last three years of the life of English poet John Keats, Bright Star is a must-see for fans of romantic period dramas. The film stars Ben Whishaw (I'm Not There, last year's Brideshead Revisited remake) as Keats -- and Abbie Cornish (Stop-Loss) as his muse Fanny Brawne. It's no secret that Keats died young and penniless -- thinking he was a complete failure as a poet. Not until after his death would he be lauded as a key figure of the Romantic movement -- and a strong influence to others that followed. The film's point of view is not on Keats, but rather on the source for much of his writings -- his neighbor Brawne.

Brawne is an independent young woman -- far ahead of her time -- out-spoken and capable of earning an income as seamstress. Keats on the other hand has no income -- and therefore not a candidate to marry. The unlikely pair begin at odds, he thinking her a stylish minx, while she being unimpressed not only by his poetry but also by literature in general. But as we see in 1818, there isn't much to be entertained by. Try for a moment to think of a world without movies, tv, computers, iPods, etc. Sure we see glimpses of dance and music -- but the written word is what's most highly-regarded in the day. And what eventually leads them to a romance -- only to be tragically cut short by Keats' illness and ultimate death at the age of 25.

Much Oscar-buzz has deservedly surrounded Cornish, who excels in a complex role that showcases a full range of emotions -- from joyful, playful giddiness to deep heartache. But the accolades deserve to go further -- as the entire cast is excellent -- including Paul Schneider (TV's Parks and Recreation) as Keats’ meddling best friend, Charles Armitage Brown. Oscar winner Jane Campion (The Piano), who directs and also wrote the screenplay, captures the time period to near perfection as the costumes and settings bring you back to the early 1800s. It's a poetic story of how romance used to be -- but one that may seem a bit too slow and simplified for today's action-hungry audiences. [Rated PG-13; opens wide today]

Grade: B+

  • Click here for an alphabetical archive of all movie reviews.

Monday, September 21, 2009

MusicMonday: New Pearl Jam and Free Downloads

Pearl Jam

  • The band's ninth studio cd, Backspacer, was released yesterday. You can grab it at Target, some small independent shops, and iTunes.
  • Fans received a great gift from the band this past weekend -- as the full CD was steamed online at Pearl Jam's fan club MySpace page. The full treat has been pulled, but you can still listen to the song "The Fixer" on the page here -- or catch the video for the same song here. Tuesday 9/22 update -- you can listen to the full cd at here.
  • The reviews in the mainstream press have been positive! Rolling Stone = 4/5; Spin = 8/10, Philadelphia Inquirer =3/4 and Entertainment Weekly = B.
  • My grade: B+ -- Clocking in at only about 35 minutes, top on my wish list (pun intended) would be the addition of another song or two. But there's something for everyone on the breezy album -- as the band mixes things up with harder rock tunes ("Got Some"), radio-friendly poppier ditties ("The Fixer") and quieter acoustic beauties such as "Just Breathe"-- reminiscent of Eddie Vedder's solo masterpiece, the soundtrack to Into the Wild.
  • Speaking of "Just Breathe" -- click on the video screen above to listen to one of my favorite songs on the cd.

Free Downloads

  • Spin and Rhapsody are offering 15 free dowloads here.
  • The first 50,000 who sign up for Dollar General's email club here will receive Trace Adkin's "Without Even Tryin'."
  • Don't forget Walmart's weekly freebies -- this week's artists include Jet -- click here.
  • And as reported last week, AbsolutePunk's free music forum is continually updated here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office

  • Reviews of some movies in the top 10 can be found here.
  • Click on the chart to enlarge.
  • All figures are industry estimates. Actual figures are released on Monday.
  • Sources: Nielsen EDI,

Friday, September 18, 2009

Movie Reviews: Have the Oscar Races Begun?

With the summer movie season over, it is now time for higher quality films to premiere. And two early fall entries showcase some impressive acting performances that may be considered when Oscar nominations are named early next year.

The Informant!

From Steven Soderbergh, the director of Oceans 11, 12 and 13 -- and his Oscar-winning Traffic -- comes this dark comedy based on a true story. Matt Damon stars as Mark Whitacre, a rising star at an Illinois-based food processing company who wound up blowing the whistle on the organization’s price-fixing tactics in the early 1990s. I have to admit, it actually felt like I was watching a 1970s period piece instead. The film has a hokey score from composer Marvin Hamlisch -- whose strongest work came in the 1970s -- and equally dated graphics and styling. So at the onset, I wasn't really connecting with the quirkiness -- especially when Damon was delivering meandering narration.

But then something happened about 20 minutes in -- I began to realize that Damon was turning in an excellent performance in a unique story. And my whole attitude changed -- I even started to appreciate the importance of the narrations. Damon gained 30 pounds for the role -- and sports a wig and moustache. But he does much more than pull off Whitacre's doughy appearance. He also manages to channel Whitacre's bizarre personality that lead him to gradually believe that he was a true secret agent. TV's Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) and Joel McHale (The Soup, Community) co-star as the real FBI agents - who are also portrayed as somewhat bumbling. But it's Damon who commands the screen as we learn that something more unbelievable than price-fixing is at the heart of this story.

I do think that Soderbergh took satirical liberties a bit too far at times -- and the subtle humor style may disappoint some viewers expecting a raucous comedy. But this film is worth your time to see a powerhouse performance by Damon -- in quite an unusual story. [Rated R, opens today]

Grade: B

The Burning Plain

Written by Guillermo Arriaga (Amores perros, 21 Grams and Babel), this gripping drama is also his directorial debut. Once again, Arriaga uses multi-part story strands woven together like in his previous screenplays -- and I could sense from the audience that some were having difficulty following the non-linear style. But fear not, just knowing the story-telling approach ahead of time will ease any confusion. And you'll be captivated to see how all the pieces come together.

Charlize Theron bares all (both literally and figuratively) as a beautiful Portland restaurant manager whose cool, professional demeanor masks the haunting pain within. When a stranger from Mexico confronts her with her mysterious past, she is launched into a journey through space and time that inextricably connects her to others who are grappling with their own complicated lives. In Mexico, a young motherless girl lives happily with her father and his best friend until a tragic accident changes it all. In the New Mexico border town of Las Cruces, two teenagers find love in the aftermath of their parents’ sudden deaths. In an abandoned trailer, a troubled housewife (Kim Basinger) embarks on a passionate affair that will put all the others on a collision course with the explosive power of forbidden love.

The film is an achievement for Arriaga and his female stars. Theron (Monster) and Basinger (L.A. Confidential) both prove again why they deservedly won their Oscars - in very raw, moving performances. And keep your eye on the young Jennifer Lawrence who also delivers a moving performance as the conflicted teenager. The Burning Plain is a compelling story of women dealing with much pain while searching for love and redemption. [Rated R; opens today]

Grade: A-

  • Click here for an alphabetical archive of all movie reviews.

Monday, September 14, 2009

CDU: Patrick Swayze Dead at 57

Actor Patrick Swayze, best known for his roles in the movies Ghost and Dirty Dancing, died today after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57. To lighten the mood, click on the video below to watch Swayze and the late Chris Farley in that hilarious Chippendales skit from the October 27, 1990 episode of Saturday Night Live. RIP -- both of you.

MusicMonday: VMAs Recap, Free Downloads and More!


  • The 26th annual MTV Video Music Awards were held last night in New York City -- and once again, it was less about the awards and more about the spectacles. Obviously, Kanye West made the biggest spectacle out of himself by interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech to announce who he thought should have won (Beyonce). Does anyone care what you think, Kanye? What a total disrespectful move to a fellow artist. Let's hope that IF you ever win another award in your life, that the presenter just throws it at you and the producers refuse to allow you time to speak. How would YOU like that?
  • Did you catch the premiere of the This Is It trailer on the show last night? If you missed it -- you can catch it here. The Michael Jackson documentary will have a limited 2-week run in theaters starting October 28. Tickets go on sale September 27.
  • The other big trailer debut last night was for the Twilight sequel. See yesterday's post on New Moon below. You can view the trailer and take a poll on it at left.
  • So, was the Kanye moment the most memorable? A trailer's debut? A performance? Or was it something else? Take the poll at left.
  • Early ratings results indicate that 8.97 million tuned in to watch the telecast -- an increase of 6% over last year's telecast -- and the best for the show since 2004. The broadcast was the #1 cable offering this year for the 12-34 demo that MTV covets.
  • Meanwhile, if you are interested in who actually won the awards...just click on the image above to see the list.

Other Music Polls

  • There is still time to vote on two other music polls at left. Voice your opinion on Ellen DeGeneres being named the new American Idol judge. And then scroll down to the post from last Friday to see Whitney Houston's new video -- and vote on whether or not you believe it is a worthy comeback.

TV Reminders

  • Speaking of Whitney Houston -- did you remember to watch her interview with Oprah today? If not, check your local station's overnight listings -- many markets rerun her show late at night. Otherwise, I am sure you can find a copy online -- and don't forget to watch part 2 on tomorrow's show.
  • Also, don't miss the debut episode of The Jay Leno Show tonight at 10pm ET/PT -- his first musical guests are Jay-Z, Rihanna and guess who -- Kanye West. NBC has now announced that West will not only perform, but will also chat with the host. Stay tuned!

Free Downloads

  • What would MusicMonday be without some free downloads? Have you ever checked out The site has a great forum with tons of freebies listed. Included now is Panic! at the Disco's new single, New Perspective. Here is the link to download that song and MANY more. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

View the New Moon Trailer -- and Vote!

The new Twilight Saga: New Moon trailer scheduled to premiere during tonight’s MTV Video Music Awards has leaked online. View by clicking the video screen below -- and then vote in the poll at left!


Please vote in this week's other polls as well -- all found at left:

  • Most memorable moment of the VMAs
  • Rate Whitney Houston's new song/video
  • Was naming Ellen DeGeneres as new Idol host a good move?

Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office


  • Reviews of some movies in the top 10 can be found here.
  • All figures are industry estimates. Actual figures are released on Monday.
  • Sources: Nielsen EDI,

Friday, September 11, 2009

View Whitney's New Video -- and Vote!

Six-time Grammy winner Whitney Houston's comeback album, I Look to You, was #1 on this week’s Billboard 200 chart after selling 305,000 copies. Not an amazing figure -- but it’s considerably more than the underwhelming 205,000 that her last album managed in its first week. And it's Houston's first studio album to reach #1 since 1987's Whitney.

Now the title track video has been released. So what do you think -- after seven years away -- is it a good comeback? Click the video below to view -- and then vote in the poll at left.

  • Watch Oprah Winfrey's two-part interview with Whitney Houston on the talk show's season premiere this coming Monday and Tuesday. The interview is billed as "the most anticipated music interview of the decade."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Movie Review: Whiteout

Director Dominic Sena (Swordfish, Gone in Sixty Seconds) brings us yet another film based on a comic book, Whiteout. Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale), the only US deputy marshal assigned to Antarctica, must investigate the first murder on the frozen continent. But she only has a few days before the long winter begins and all flights are shut down for six months. She crosses paths with UN operative Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht), also investigating the murder. Tom Skerritt co-stars as a physician nearing retirement. And together, they go through a series of laughable and mostly non-suspenseful twists and turns as fatalities pile up and the killer tries to stop the investigators before they get to the killer.

The action doesn't all take place in the present. Somehow, another incident that happened on the continent over 50 years ago ties in. And, of course we have the obligatory flashbacks to an occurrence that shook up Stetko so badly that she questions her abilities and has trouble trusting anyone. So is everyone who they seem in the current day? You know the answer.

A major problem I had with this "thriller" is that Beckinsale (Serendipity, Pearl Harbor) is miscast in the role. She definitely is better suited for comedy and romance. Overall, the acting is pretty poor -- but you cannot totally blame the stars with the material they've been handed. The script has so many holes, I was thinking that maybe the four writers (yes, four) were sniffing some whiteout? Or maybe the whiteout spilled all over the script and blocked out the better parts? Early on, we learn that it is so cold on Antarctica that you can die outside within five minutes. But you'll have fun counting how many times the writers forget that fact. I only wish I left after the first five minutes of the film. If you're keeping track, I recommend that you see any movie I grade as a B- or higher. So, as you see below, do yourself a favor and skip this one. [Rated R; opens tomorrow]

Grade: C


  • Click here for an alphabetical archive of all movie reviews.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Movie Review: 9

Have you noticed that more and more movies are opening on Wednesdays instead of Fridays? Originally, the Wednesday premieres only occurred before long holiday weekends. But now it's a marketing ploy to be had during other weeks, too. So opening today, 9/09/09, we have the latest animated movie -- 9. Oh, and by the way, it's a Wednesday in September, both of which have 9 letters. Today is also the 252nd day of the year. 2+5+2=9. But I digress.

The sci-fi/action film is directed by Shane Acker -- and is based on his 2005 Oscar-nominated short film. Famed director Tim Burton serves as producer. Sound familiar? Well it was just this summer that director Peter Jackson served as a producer of another sci-fi film, District 9 -- based on director Neill Blomkamp's own short film.

Set in a near future, but with nods to evils of the past, 9 shows us that the world's machines have turned on mankind and decimated the human population. But a scientist, in the final days of humanity, had a plan to save civilization by creating a small group of numbered rag-doll like "stitchpunks." When our protagonist 9 comes to life, he must work with the others to find a way to beat the machines and survive. Sound familiar? Well we did just have another post-apocalyptic feature with men fighting machines in the future (Terminator Salvation) -- and let's not forget that men and machines shared (way too much) screen time in the Transformers sequel, too. Well fear not, this movie is better than those.

The strongest animated movie of the year remains Pixar's Up -- but I liked 9 more than the last release in the genre. Unlike the over-rated Ponyo, the appeal of this film goes well beyond the animation. The adventure story, although not completely original, moves quickly and holds your interest. And the voice cast is strong -- lead by Elijah Wood in the title role -- and including John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover and Martin Landau. [Rated PG-13; opens today]

Grade: B+


  • Hung up on all the numerology fun based on 9? Click here for more!
  • You'll have to hang on until November when Nine, the film version of the stage musical, opens.
  • Click here for an alphabetical archive of all movie reviews.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Top 10 at Weekend Box Office

  • Reviews of some movies in the top 10 can be found here.
  • Click on the chart to enlarge.
  • Sales cover 4-day holiday weekend (Friday - Monday).
  • All figures are industry estimates. Actual figures are released on Tuesday.
  • Sources: Nielsen EDI,

MusicMonday - Last Day to Vote in Polls

Per last week's note, I am taking the day off from my weekly MusicMonday column. HAPPY LABOR DAY, everyone!

Just a reminder that today is the LAST day to enter the three music polls at left:
  • Michael Jackson's death -- was it homicide?
  • Madonna's new video -- view here and then rate it!
  • Pearl Jam's new video -- view here and then rate it!

MusicMonday will be back next Monday with music news and free downloads!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Movie Reviews: Should You Go to Work or School Over Labor Day Weekend?


In 1999, writer/director Mike Judge gave us a satirical look at work life in Office Space. While not a box office success, the film became a huge cult classic on video. Now a decade later, Judge brings us another workplace comedy in Extract. Jason Bateman (Juno) plays Joel, the owner of an extract manufacturing plant who's dealing with problems both at work and at home. An accident at the plant throws the staff into turmoil -- at the same time Joel is growing increasingly frustrated by a sexless marriage with his wife, Suzie (Kristin Wiig). When a beautiful con artist (Mila Kunis from Forgetting Sarah Marshall) enters the picture, Joel's personal and professional lives unravel even more.

Sporting a slacker look, Ben Affleck has a hilarious turn as a bartender friend of Joel's -- whose plan to help him sort out his problems backfires big-time. Meanwhile, Bateman and Wiig (Adventureland) deliver more reserved comic performances. In fact, Extract is not a laugh-out-loud movie. But I admittedly giggled through most of it -- and when I wasn't laughing, I still felt a huge smirk on my face. Also stars J.K. Simmons (I Love You, Man) and Clifton Collins, Jr. (Sunshine Cleaning). [Rated R; opens today]

Grade: B

World's Greatest Dad

Robin Williams has proven over and over again that he is actually a great actor -- if given challenging material. And that's exactly what he gets here from writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait (yes, THAT Bobcat). Williams returns to the classroom as another high school English teacher (remember Dead Poet's Society?) -- this time playing Lance, who teaches an unpopular poetry class.

Lance has dreamed of being a rich and famous writer, but has never been published. A single dad, his teenage son Kyle (excellently portrayed by Daryl Sabara) is huge prick who doesn't give his father the time of day. Nor does Kyle's actions make him popular with his high school classmates. Meanwhile, Lance is dating another teacher (Alexie Gilmore), but she doesn't want to get serious. Then, in the wake of a freak accident, he suffers a horrible tragedy that gives him the greatest opportunity of his life. Suddenly, the possibility of all the fame, fortune and popularity he has dreamed of could be his -- but can he live with the untruthful way he got there?

Despite a family friendly title, World's Greatest Dad is actually a very dark adult comedy -- at times funny, but at other times difficult to watch. But I recommend you do watch -- to be reminded that Williams has far more to offer than his sillier roles (e.g., the Night at the Museum series). [Rated R; opens wider today]

Grade: B+

  • Click here for an alphabetical archive of all movie reviews.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

View Madonna's New Video -- and Vote!

The video for Madonna’s new single "Celebration" is here! The song is off of her upcoming new greatest hits collection. No matter if you like or dislike her music, you have to admit Madonna is a marketing genius and has amazing staying power in a tough industry.

About two minutes into the video, Madonna's new boy toy Jesus Luz enters. He is playing a DJ, which is his real-life dream. And Lourdes, her 12-year-old daughter, also makes a cameo as a dancer towards the end of the video.

So what do you think -- does the old lady still have it? Click the video below to view -- and then vote in the poll at left.


  • The video is available as a FREE download on iTunes through tomorrow (Weds. 9/2) only. After that you have to pay.
  • Tired of Madonna? Looking for new pop artists? Maybe you should check out Selena Gomez. Download her single "Falling Down" for free with code 'debutselena' here.
  • Pop music not your style? I hear ya. Well there's also still time to view Pearl Jam's new video here -- and share your thoughts on it by voting in the poll at left.