June 29, 2007

Summer of Groovy Tunes

My apologies for the lack of posts recently - it's been a busy time traveling for work. Things are starting to calm down, fortunately.

It may be a busy summer, but nothing makes summer more bearable than some great music! And I've been hearing a lot lately. Here are a few recommendations for you to check out.

Erasure - Yeah, OK, so they've been around for decades. But we had the chance to rediscover how great they are at a recent True Colors concert. The whole show was fun (well, except for Deborah Harry), but Erasure turned the amphitheater into a party palace! I can't wait to see them in concert again soon. What songs should you listen to? Pick one! A good place to start is the classic album, The Innocents.

The Gossip - The opener for the True Colors show was this group that I hadn't heard before. Turns out they are great fun with killer beats and a hard-edged sound. Their latest album is called Standing in the Way of Control. My favorite cuts are the title track, and "Listen Up!"

Once - I mentioned it in my previous post, but the soundtrack for this movie is a winner.

Rihanna - I've been a fan of her singles for awhile, and this chanteuse from Barbados keeps coming out with a hit for summer each year. Past favorites have been "SOS" and "Pon de Replay," but this summer it's all about "Umbrella." (And check out the video - gotta give a girl props for dancing en pointe.)

Mika - ScottE had been looking at this guy for awhile, but it's thanks to our friend in Wisconsin that we got the album. And it's definitely good. He's a mix of Jake Shears, Freddie Mercury and Robbie Williams. For fun you can groove to "Love Today" and for more spiritual moments you can sing along with "Happy Ending."

June 19, 2007

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time there was a magical film from Ireland named Once. It was lovely, and ScottE and I enjoyed it very much. Well worth seeing, but here are a couple guidelines for viewing:

1. Accept that the camerawork is varied and often times much like a home movie. But it doesn't matter.

2. You don't know the main characters' names. It doesn't matter.

3. The main actors are not normally actors. That doesn't matter either.

4. The pacing is cautious, yet deliberate. Relax and let the movie wash over you.

This is really a film about the creative process of making music. Two musicians coming together to create something unique and pure. Any type of artist will find the process both familiar and exciting.

It's a wonderful little movie, and I do hope you'll check it out. The soundtrack is available on iTunes. Not sure if you want to see the film? Listen to the song "Say It To Me Now," and you'll be convinced.

June 13, 2007

Syrupy Sweet

How do you define a guilty pleasure? Is it something so bad that you're ashamed to love it? Or something so darn cheesy that you know people might laugh at you if you admit you own it?

In the category of the latter, I admit to a recent acquisition. I had a memory of my favorite TV movie ever, and decided I had to have it. Sadly it's only on VHS, but through the wonders of eBay, it is mine.

The film is called Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris, based on the book by Paul Gallico. It stars Angela Lansbury, Diana Rigg and Omar Sharif. Hello! That's enough goodness to make you watch right there!

It's a sweet story of a poor working class Englishwoman who falls in love with a dress by Christian Dior. She scrimps and saves and overcomes a bunch of obstacles to get her dress. Along the way she makes many friends and solves some problems, too.

It is so sweet that you can get a cavity just by watching it. But I love it! What can I say?

So what are some of your guilty pleasures?

June 11, 2007

Short DVD Reviews - Part 2

As always, I promise you reviews of our latest Netflix rentals in 25 words or less!

The History Boys - A successful Broadway play does not a good movie make. Dead Poet's Society gone bland.

Live Flesh
- Almodovar movie about men's obsessions and jealousy. He's so much better focusing on women. Javier Bardem isn't bad.

Dark Habits - Almodovar again. This time it's a bunch of bizarre nuns who do things like heroin and raising a tiger. Sadly this was a yawner.

Eating Out - Broad comedy is bizarre but becomes so bad it's actually funny in this gay farce. Hey, at least the phone sex was hot.

June 10, 2007

The Subscriber's Lament

I haven't done much discussion here about local theatre, but we do see quite a bit whenever we can. This year we decided to be season subscribers for the first time. Based on the strength of last season's smash Assassins, the natural choice seemed to be Signature Theatre. Besides, they were opening a new space, and it would be exciting, right?

Well what we ended up with was a real mixed bag.

First up we had the last show that would be in the old "garage" space - My Fair Lady. It was quite honestly horrid. The leads were annoying, the costumes had bizarre quirks, and can we talk about the neon purple runway? Don't get me wrong - it had its moments - the Ascot scene was well done. But on the whole it was just too long and dull.

To open the new space we had Into the Woods, which is what I was most looking forward to. I've seen it twice (plus the Broadway video) and was never disappointed. This one was a bit uneven but mostly pretty good. The set was really amazing and well thought-out. And some of the performances were strong - I really liked Eleasha Gamble as The Witch and Donna Migliaccio as Jack's Mother. Others disappointed, though - The Baker in particular. (It's my belief that for the show to be successful one has to be fully convinced of the love between the baker and his wife.)

Next up was Crave in the smaller black box space. It was really just an hour of four people moving around and saying random things that had little if any relation to anything. The lighting was good, but that's really the only positive thing I can say. It was suddenly over and ScottE and I turned to each other and said, "That's it? Seriously?"

The big surprise came when we saw Saving Aimee, a musical written by...brace yourselves...Kathie Lee Gifford. I know! The surprise was that it was good! Actually quite compelling! It's a biographical musical about the life and loves of Aimee Semple McPherson, who was like a precursor to today's televangelists. The strength of the show was really the lead, Carolee Carmello, who was a powerful presence. (Her voice had too much vibrato for my taste, but I was able to overlook it.) Another star turn came from E. Faye Butler, who portrayed a former madam that Aimee converts to Christianity. The set was really well done, and most of the songs were entertaining. Not an amazing show, but we were still pleasantly surprised how much we enjoyed it. (Oh, and Kathie Lee herself was sitting just two rows in front of us. Very gracious and very skinny.)

The last show was to be Nest, but we ran into scheduling issues. First we exchanged our tickets to a later performance in the run due to a time conflict from work. Then they cancelled that show, and we were only left with a couple of performances to choose from, none of which we could do. So in the end we just had to donate back the tickets. It was pretty much crap.

So the lesson from all this is that a season subscription is a leap of faith. There's a good chance that there will be something you won't like. But you may also end up seeing a treasure you never would have chosen to see otherwise. Try it out - it can be fun! We decided to pass on renewing for the next season, but may try a different theater in the future (probably something closer to home).

Photo courtesy of playbill.com by Joan Marcus.

June 09, 2007

Third Time Isn't The Charm

As you are well aware, this is the summer of sequels. Spider-Man, Pirates and Shrek. We decided to see Shrek the Third mainly because it was showing at the right time for our plans.

The best way I can describe this is that it's just like when they take a funny 2-minute SNL sketch and end up stretching it to 8 minutes. There's a nugget of strong humor, but just not enough plot to support it.

Appropriately then, the best part of the film is the cadre of fairy tale princesses that accompany Fiona - who are all voiced by some of our favorite SNL actresses. First they give her a shower, and then they become all Charlie's Angels and kick some ass. So kudos to Cheri Oteri, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Amy Sedaris (not SNL, but close enough - she did a scene on Sex and the City with Molly Shannon).

June 02, 2007

Go See This Movie

I know I'm not normally that to-the-point in my movie reviews. But this one was easy.

The film is Knocked Up. It is a movie directed by Judd Apatow, who brought us the hilarious 40 Year-Old Virgin.

It is hilarious. No, not hilarious. FUCKING hilarious. Like rocking-in-your-chair-I-gotta-pee funny.

The concept of the movie is simple, and the dialogue is mostly improvised. Yet it retains a tender heart that will turn even the most hardened heart into a baby-lover.

What really makes the movie shine is the cast. It's just brilliance all around! Seth Rogen is the loveable Jewish shlub, and I'm not ashamed to say I think he's sexy. He has a bevy of pothead buddies, led by Jason Segel, our own Marshall from How I Met Your Mother. And he gets naked! And then there's the always adorable Paul Rudd, who just oozes comic intelligence.

But if anyone steals the show, it's the ladies. Katherine Heigl sheds any memory of Izzie, playing the kind of woman who can hang out with the guys and still be cool. She plays off of Leslie Mann, who portrays the sister, and in real-life is Apatow's wife. Her comic sense is genius. Heck, even the little girls are adorable and funny (and they are Apatow's kids - talk about nepotism).

My favorites, though, have to be the bit parts. Kristen Wiig of SNL is hilarious as a TV exec that can't hide her jealousy. And how can you not love Charlyne Yi as a stoner girl? I can't repeat any of her lines - you have to see her to believe her!

So in summary - the movie is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. Go see it. Do it now! You won't be disappointed.

Just don't take your parents - trust me.