October 29, 2009

Blue Giants!!!

The new Avatar trailer can be summed up in two words: pure awesome! All you naysayers who said that the first one was underwhelming and didn't show off the genius special effects utilized by Jim Cameron and crew are now speechless!

October 24, 2009

A Post About Theatre? What?

So, last night I treated a few friends to American Idiot at Berkley Repatory Theatre, meaning, I paid for half their tickets. I'm not exactly rolling in Benjamin's here. $85 tickets is a little expensive for anyone! Anyway, back to the point, American Idiot. Unless you've lived under a rock for the last 10 years, you're probably aware of a little band called Green Day. Now, I personally like these guys. Their simple, yet powerful sound is quite appealing to me when I just want to relax and not marvel at the complexities of the artist I'm listening to. That being said, I think Billie Joe Armstrong's voice is really annoying. A lot of people hate them however, i.e. most of the followers of this blog, which may make you wonder why I'm even posting this. Well, I'll tell you. Because, regardless of what you think of the band, you will find something to like in American Idiot, the musical. The songs that the band and Michael Mayer, who directed, chose to include lend themselves well to the show, since they already have an underlying narrative to them as is. The music is just as powerful and loud as you know it, which is just fine. It's been awhile since we've had a true rock opera, and before you give me crap about that last statement, let me finish. Rent and Spring Awakening do not count as rock opera, due to the music in those shows being more rooted in pop and traditional Broadway ballads. American Idiot is a full on rock opera! The songs do a good job of driving the almost non-existent plot forward, which is good, since there is almost no dialogue, with the exception of headliner John Gallagher, Jr. monologuing to the audience. Speaking of him, he does a great job, as does the rest of the cast. The plot focuses on three guys from the ass end of society, two of which move to the city while the other one stays behind to be with his knocked up girlfriend. One of them goes off to war, while the other one self-destructs thanks to drugs, drink, and the punk scene. The songs are the only things moving this bare bones plot forward, but, it's not that big of deal. Like I said, the album itself tells more or less the same story on its own. The cast does a great job injecting energy and fury into the play, thanks in part to some really cool choreography by Steven Hogget. The stands out, in my mind, are Gallagher, Jr., who does a great job leading this pack of lowlife rejects, Matt Caplan, who boasts the best voice in the entire cast, Theo Stockman, who was just recently on Broadway in Hair, and who is always a pleasure to watch, and Tony Vincent, who, even though he looks like Marilyn Manson, does a great job as the quasi-antagonist St. Jimmy. That, and his voice can go to Adam Lambert levels of high! I hope that most of this cast stays with it when it moves to Broadway.
That being said, this play needs a lot of work if it wants to have any chance of surviving on that coveted strip of asphalt in Times Square. For starters, the plot is terrible. There is no real sort of character development, and a lot of the songs feel a little out of place with what the characters are going through. The story and book are the main problems, but there are some other ones. Some songs feel unnecessary, like when St. Jimmy starts crooning "Know Your Enemy". My last gripe is with the finale. The second to last number ends on such a show stopping note, that I was ready to give my standing ovation. But, no! There's one more song, which is a bit of a let down as a finale. Albeit, it is loud, and the cast gets physical, but, it just didn't sit well with me. It's like "Song of Purple Summer". Good song. Terrible for a finale! But, all these gripes are for naught! I am positive that Armstrong and Mayer will rework the hell out of this show before it goes to Broadway. They have the body of a great musical already! Now they just need the heart! B-

October 16, 2009

Eat It Up!

Brace yourselves! I'm about to delve deep into myself in yet another one of my many attempts to show you that I have a soul! I know you don't want to believe it, but come on! Give credit where credit is due! I just got out of Where the Wild Things Are almost on the verge of tears. I didn't actually let a teardrop go, as I was with friends, and that would have looked weird. But, that still didn't stop me from feeling an overwhelming sense of wonder and emotion with Where the Wild Things Are. Indeed, this is easily one of the best movies of the year, and, as my friend so succinctly put it, the first book-to-movie adaptation that is actually better then the source material on which it is based!
If you have read Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, then you already have a general idea of what this movie is about. If you haven't read it, then close out of this page, turn off your computer and do so. For those of you who don't read, it boils down like this. There's a kid named Max, who is going through that phase of childhood, where everything he does is misunderstood, where the smallest things can lead to huge confrontations, and where the imagination is an untamed and wild beast! One night, Max is sent to bed without dinner. Instead of following his mother's orders, he runs away to the ocean. There he finds a small boat, which takes him to a far off island. Upon landing on the island, Max discovers that it is inhabited by giant "wild things", who, upon close inspection, are not that different from himself. He makes his presence known and is soon crowned the king of the wild things. As he befriends and plays with the creatures, he let's his own fantasies play out like he never could back home! The book Where the Wild Things Are was only made up of ten sentences. Co-writer/director Spike Jonze was faced with the, almost, impossible challenge of adapting the book into a feature length movie. Boy, did he live up to the task! To say that Where the Wild Things Are stays true to the spirit of the book is a gross understatement. It is such a beautiful story that is so masterfully written... I can't think of anything to say that will do it justice!
Max Records plays Max (go figure). This performance will probably go down in the annals of exquisite performances by a child actor. Records so brilliantly captures the juvenile spirit that made Max such and interesting character in the book, and does a great job translating it to the screen. He is simply wonderful! The rest of the cast is made up of, primarily, voices from the likes of James Gandolfini as the main and most troubled wild thing, Carol, Lauren Ambrose as the carefree and kind KW, Forest Whitaker and Catherine O'Hara as lovebirds Ira and Judith, Paul Dano as the lonely, sad Alexander, Chris Cooper as the yes-man Douglas, and Michael Berry Jr. as the quiet and shutoff Bull. All the voice actors do a great job, with Gandolfini and Ambrose shining the brightest! The layers of emotion that the voice actors give to their characters is so unique these days, it makes wish more people would give a damn! Catherine Keener and Mark Ruffalo show up briefly as Max's mother and her boyfriend, respectively. This is one of the best acted movies of the year! No question about it!
Back to Spike Jonze. Here is a director who has consistently turned in wonderfully quirky, very heartfelt films, from Being John Malkovich to Adaptation. Where the Wild Things Are is a big change of pace for him, but he handles the project as if he had been making movies like this for decades. He stays so true to the message and ideas of the book, whilst expanding the plot so that it would be interesting on screen, it is mind boggling! He so masterfully captures what is like to be kid, and all the confusion, imagination, innocence, playfulness, and mystery that goes with it! Despite this movie being a "fantasy" tale, it is very realistic. I don't think anyone can walk out of this movie and say that they didn't relate to Max at least once throughout the entire screening. They would be lying! Everything that we see Max contend with on the island with the creatures is a reflection of what every kid goes through at some point in their lives. Good luck not feeling that hard to find swelling in your chest when the movie reaches its heartbreaking-uplifting-at-the-same-time ending!
Words cannot adequately express how good Where the Wild Things Are is. I could talk all day about how great the cinematography is, how the almost dialogue free opening scenes are sublime, or how the mix of costumes and CGI to create the wild things could not have been done better. But, then you'd still be reading this and not going to see Where the Wild Things Are. So, that's all I have to say! Close out of this page, turn off your computer, and go see Where the Wild Things Are! To quote KW, "I could eat [it] up, I love [it] so!" A

October 9, 2009

Moving Is Living!

Suffice to say, I'm excited as hell for Up In The Air to come out later this year. Not only does it star the likes of George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman, JK Simmons, and Zach Galifianakis, but it also directed by Jason Reitman, who is, of course, responsible for the likes of Thank You for Smoking and Juno. The film received rave reviews from the lucky bastards that got to go to the Toronto Film Festival, and seems to be destined for Oscar glory. Keep your eyes open!

October 2, 2009

It's A Disaster!

"When they tell you not to panic, that's when you run!"

Now, is it just me, or does this look like a comedy?