Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Happy Birthday, Shane!

Look who's 8! (Dig that smile.)
Shane Bernier's birthday wish for "lots" of birthday cards has netted, as of this writing, over 1 million cards! (Actually, given that Shane's native language is French, the wish may have, in fact, been for "beaucoup" cards.)
Now, I don't know where that puts Shane in terms of world records, because Guinness doesn't seem to want to acknowledge it (wankers), and I think the current record is for "Get Well" cards and accumulated over a greater expanse of time. However, I get the impression that the whole "world record" idea was something that was tacked on later by ambitious well-wishers.
Shane just really likes getting cards. And get them he did. I imagine they'll still be counting them for a while to come, and they will probably update the numbers at this site here.
Also on that site you will find links with more information about Shane and about childhood leukemia, as well as ways that you can help.
Over a million birthday cards! See what we can do if we put our minds to it, piggies?
Now it's time to change the world.
Here are some places to start:
Rosie's For All Kids Foundation
The Gabby Krause Foundation
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Or find a cause that means something to you personally over here.
(And if you find one or know of one that you want to share, by all means, list it in the comments.)

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Movies: Seraphim Falls, Crackerjack, To Catch a Thief

Seraphim Falls(2006)

The plot (from IMDb): At the end of the Civil War, a colonel (Liam Neeson) hunts down a man (Pierce Brosnan) with whom he has a grudge.

I have to admit that this is a film that slipped under my radar, which is pretty rare for me where Pierce Brosnan movies are concerned. Plus there's Liam Neeson, and it's a Western, so the minute I heard about this movie, I sought it out to rent.
As is to be expected, the performances in this film are terrific, and the action sequences are very impressive. (No CGI as far as I could tell.) It's a brutal film in just about every sense of the word, and it's not your typical Western. Some movie-goers may take umbrage with the last fifteen minutes of the film, but to them I would say, "Open your mind."
I liked this movie, but I knew that I would going into it.

Crackerjack (1938)
The plot: Gentleman thief Jack Drake is a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the needy.

This is a charming film, but I was hoping for a bit more of a swashbuckler myself. Still, it's witty and fun.

To Catch A Thief (1955)
The plot (from IMDb): Stars Cary Grant as a former thief suspected of a new series of crimes and Grace Kelly as the woman who romances him.

In the "they-don't-make-em-like-they-used-to" category, this Hitchcock thriller is high on the list. This film marked Cary Grant's return to acting, and he is as dashing as ever. Grace Kelly is much more than just another very, very pretty face, herself, as she absolutely sizzles on screen.
Humor, suspense, romance, and some of the best dialogue you'll hear on film make this movie a must-see for anyone who likes to consider themselves a film buff. A really, really great movie.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Far Better Memorial Tribute Than I Could Write

William Shakespeare's Henry V
Act IV, Scene 3

King Henry V:

If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Back to the Future was very successful. It was so successful, in fact, that the decision-makers involved with the film felt that it warranted not just one, but two sequels, which were filmed concurrently. They took us some odd places with the characters, but, ultimately, they gave us the happy ending that we were promised in the first film.
The Matrix was very successful. It was so successful, in fact, that the . . . okay, you get the idea. However, the Matrix trilogy took the cool ending we had enjoyed in the first film and basically threw it in the garbage, leaving many of us, who were so amped up by the potential hinted at in the second movie, leaving the theaters shrugging our shoulders.
In both cases, the studios, and all parties involved, made money hand over fist. In the former of the two, fans of the series were not let down. In the latter, they most decidedly were.
So the "simultaneous sequels" experiment works out very well for the studios and somewhere between "fair" and "not at all" for the fans.
Disney, the home of the "totally-unnecessary-straight-to-video-sequel" (Lady and the Tramp 2, Cinderella 2 & 3) made the obvious choice.
As a result, the third Pirates movie is over-long (2:45), entirely too fond of its own cleverness (hey, let's shoot the monkey out of a cannon!), and so full of absurd character developments and bizarre twists that it makes "The Days of Our Lives" storylines (or at least my best friend's unsolicited descriptions of them) look like an after-school special.
In short, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is a disappointment.
It's also surprisingly brutal for Disney, and maybe even for a PG-13 movie. American morality: crushing human skulls, mass hangings (including a kid), and multiple eviscerations are still family fare, as long as there are no naked boobies. (I would say this even if I weren't the president of the American Lobby for Naked Boobies.)
The positives: the ship battles are still pretty cool (though increasingly reliant on CGI effects), and there are lots of great little "moments" throughout. Though, again, the whole is somewhat less than the sum of its parts.

Thank You, Mr. Newman

Paul Newman has announced that, at 82, he is retiring from acting because he feels that he cannot maintain the level of performance he would like.
According to Mr. Newman, at his age "you start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention."
I don't know; even without those things, it seems to me that Paul Newman is a better performer than two-thirds of the current big movie stars. I won't mention any names.
At this time of the morning, most of the newspaper links to the story are overseas. Here's an article in the Herald Sun from Australia. (How cool is that?)
Thank you, Mr. Newman, for some of my favorite movies:
Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Sting, Cool Hand Luke, The Drowning Pool, The Verdict, The Color of Money, Nobody's Fool, The Hudsucker Proxy, Road to Perdition, The Mackintosh Man, Fort Apache the Bronx, Fat Man and Little Boy, Hombre, Harper, and Slap Shot.
In America, we don't bestow knighthoods upon our actors, but I will always think of you as Sir Paul Newman.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Red Herring and Upcoming Shows

What a fun show! Farce ain't easy, but all of the talented folks involved with Firehouse Theater Company's Red Herring sure made it look like it was. It's a shame a show like that can't run a little longer, but it's hard to predict how sales are going to go, and in the case of this show, I'm told there wasn't a big rush for tickets until the final weekend. Plus, most of the actors and techs in any show are usually lining up their next project. Nature of the beast, I guess.
If anybody out there knows what the next project for any of the members of this talented cast or director Christopher Leo will be, please feel free to chime in on the comments.
Firehouse Theater Company's 2007-2008 season will have
Some Girl(s) (10/6-11/10), Music From a Sparkling Planet (1/12-2/16 and directed by your friend and mine, Bernie Cardell), and Tom Stoppard's Arcadia (4/12 - 5/17) helmed by Herring director, Christopher Leo.

Here are some of the current and upcoming shows on my "to see" list:
Empire Lyric Players are presenting The Mikado through June 10
th at the Schwayder.
THAC's My Fair Lady, featuring David Ambroson and Chris Boeckx runs through June 24th.
Dog Sees God at The Avenue plays through June 9
th. That highly-acclaimed show includes the lovely and talented Missy Moore and Elgin Kelley and is directed by the equally lovely and talented Nick Sugar.
Lobby Hero, directed by Terry
Dodd, runs through June 17th at Miner's Alley Playhouse.

Coming up:
Spotlight Theatre Company will open Run for Your Wife by Ray Cooney June 9 and run through June 30. That will be directed by Pat Payne and feature Bernie Cardell and comic kitten Haley Johnson. Spotlight will follow Wife with its sequel,Caught In the Net, featuring the same cast July 12-August 4th.
Just a bit farther off is Performance Now's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat which runs June 22- July 1st at the Lakewood Cultural Center. I mention it now because the show runs only two weekends and current ticket sales indicate that they will most likely be sold out. Get your tickets soon. I already got mine. (No, I won't tell you what night. You can't avoid me forever.)

Okay, that's it for now, piglets. If you want to mention your show or a friend's show, be it in Denver or anywhere else in the world, feel free to do so in the comments. Spread the word. Support quality theatre, locally or abroad.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Red Herring selling fast!

I went to see Firehouse Theater Company's Red Herring last night, and I found myself having to be wait-listed to get in. After a few minutes, local playwright and my good friend, Marcus France (also author of The Dynamic Center blog) walked in the door. Marc, too, did not have reservations, so we both waited. They were just about to squeeze us in when someone showed up whose reservations had apparently been lost. Marc and I elected to give up our seats (since we had both just "dropped in" anyway), and we made reservations for tomorrow night's closing performance. Tomorrow night, too, is selling very well.
So, if you have not seen the show yet, you are going to want to make your reservations as soon as possible, and, since I believe that they're doing general seating, get there early. Show is at 8pm at the John Hand Theater located at the Colorado Free University Building in Lowry. (7653 E. 1st Place) For reservations, call 303-562-3232.
Maybe I'll see you there.

Happy Birthday, Obi Wan!

Hey, did you know that 30 years ago today the world was introduced, for the first time, to a wise-cracking space smuggler, his big, hairy sidekick, and a few more soon-to-be icons of popular culture? That's right. Star Wars opened in theatres on May 25, 1977 and eventually broke current box-office records. Two sequels, three prequels, and one of cinema's most retrospectively creepy romances would follow.

Okay, in keeping with my "new rules," here are some shows around town that I haven't seen yet, but I am willing to call "safe bets" for quality theatrical entertainment. Follow the links for more info.
Firehouse Theatre Company's Red Herring closes this weekend (featuring the sparkling Corwin Christie.) It looks like a lot of fun. (The link is to the Colorado Theatre Guild's info on the show.)
Empire Lyric Player's presents one of my favorites from Gilbert and Sullivan, The Mikado, through June 10th at the Schwayder Theatre.
Lobby Hero, directed by Terry Dodd and featuring Jude Moran (last seen in Jonson Kuhn's Denver) is currently playing at Miner's Alley Playhouse through June 17th.
David Ambroson has once again stepped into Henry Higgins's slippers in Town Hall Arts Center's My Fair Lady. The inimitable Chris Boeckx is there, too, as Freddy. (Through June 24th.)
Last, but not least, Dog Sees God, runs at the Avenue Theatre through June 9th, directed by Nick Sugar and featuring two very talented actresses I've known since before I moved to Denver, L. Jennifer (Elgin) Kelley and Melissa (Missy) Moore.
Once again, I invite any of you reading this blog to add any positive info you would like to about these shows or others in Denver or wherever you are.
Support quality local theatre, and may the force be with you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

New Rules

In light of recent events here in Denver, and, in the interest of following my own advice, I am going to announce some changes here in the way that I handle my theatre recommendations on this blog.
In the past, my criteria for recommending - or, rather, not recommending a show - have been:
1. I haven't seen it.
2. I've seen it, but didn't like it.
3. I've seen it and liked it, but it's now closed.
4. I've seen it, liked it, and it's still running, but their accessibility for persons with disabilities is either ridiculous or non-existent.

From now on, I will make an effort to announce the upcoming shows of theatres that I think are pretty consistent in their quality, even before I've seen them. This includes companies like Paragon, Performance Now, and NextStage (even though I wasn't crazy about Chess.)
I will also recommend shows, sight unseen, that have performers of consistent quality and effort in featured roles: Michelle Merz, Melissa Benoist, Emily Paton-Davies, Wade Wood, Bernie Cardell, Courtney Capek, Gene Kato, Brian Hutchinson, Janelle Christie, Gregory Adams, Michelle Paul, Leonard Barrett, Regan Linton, and many others.
Same goes for directors and other artistic staff like: Terry Dodd, Gary Hathaway, Donna Debricini, Bernie Cardell, Amanda Farnsworth, Kelly Kates, and others.
If I see it and like it, I will still make every effort to write an additional "See? I was right," kind of recommendation, provided that the show isn't closed.
I will, somewhat begrudgingly, now include theatres with accessibility issues, but I will mention those issues in any recommendations, and I will seriously dog them on it.
Folks: Offering to "carry someone down stairs" is not an appropriate solution to accessibility problems, and you need to stop thinking that it is. A person in a wheelchair should also not be subject to sight-line issues just because he or she is in a chair. There's ADA compliant and there's Big Bad Wolf compliant. Work on it. You are excluding potential audience members, and I think you're smarter than that.
I still won't recommend shows that I've seen that I didn't like. I also won't put out notices for upcoming shows from companies that I feel don't deliver with any consistency.
I'll leave the writing of negative reviews to Lisa Bornstein. She seems to relish in them, anyway.
I would encourage you readers of this blog to use the comments section to "chime in" about a show that you saw and enjoyed. I know some of you aren't in Denver. (Some of you aren't even in the U.S.) Go ahead and recommend a show in your town, if you want. I am constantly surprised at where and by whom this blog is read.
Let's stick to recommendations, though, if you please. Feel free to write bad things about me if you must (I call you "piglets," after all, I should expect it), but let's try to keep everything else on a positive note.
Okay, so that's the "new deal." (Now I'm going to have to work harder, aren't I?)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Call to Action

Denver theatre has hit a couple of bumps in the last week.
First there is the eviction and apparent dissolution of Theatre Group from their home at Theatre On Broadway.
This is followed by the sudden closing of Country Dinner Playhouse, a dinner theatre that has entertained Denver audiences for over a quarter of a century.
These troubles are not unique to Denver. The Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, one of the country's most highly-acclaimed and respected regional theatres is encountering a few struggles of its own lately.
Unfortunately, modern live theatre has struggled to carve its own piece of the audience pie away from the T.V., movies, and sports.
We can either lament this fact, or we can start to do something about it, one ticket, one seat at a time.
We all have those friends who say, "I won't go to live theatre." Ever ask them why? Odds are they don't even remember. They probably saw some badly-realized production of a Neil Simon play. Take them to see a show by a theatre company that you know consistently delivers a quality show.
Maybe they saw Waiting for Godot, and didn't get it. Hey, you can't always start theatre-newbies off with absurdism. Take them to see a Ray Cooney play. Maybe they think musicals are just silly and pointless. Take them to Assassins.
We've all seen bad movies. Do we stop going to all movies? No. Don't let your friends and family off so easily when it comes to this art you love so much. Convert them. It can be done.
How many of us know somebody out there who has never been to a live theatre production. Take them. This weekend. Let's get proactive here.
Give away theatre tickets for birthdays and holidays. (Hey, theatre companies: if you're not offering gift certificates, you're missing out on an opportunity here.) If they don't get used, well, at least, the theatre company gets the ticket income. If they do get used, there's a chance that those companies will get life-long audience members.
If you read this blog regularly, you're probably at last a mild theatre buff. As a devotee of the theatrical arts you know what a unique experience a live production can be for its audience. Spread the word about that.
I'm not saying that you should stop going to the movies, or stop watching your favorite T.V. shows or even stop going to Rockies' games, but, if you seriously believe in the value of live theatre, make sure you factor as many plays and musicals into your recreation as you can, and take your friends and family.
I set a goal for myself to see 52 plays and musicals this year. I've seen over 30 as of this writing. I'm not independently wealthy. I look for bargains. I work live theatre into my budget.
Go see a play this weekend. Don't know what to see? Check out Colorado Theatre Guild. There's always a pretty comprehensive list complete with weblinks. During the schoolyear, check out the local colleges and high schools. When I see a good show that's still running, I'll write about it here. The opportunity to see quality live theatre is out there. Seize it. Theatre only becomes a "dying art" if we let it. Get active.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Movies: Happy Feet, Spider-Man 3, Man of The Year

I try to use this blog to talk about lesser-known or older movies, because new releases tend to get a lot of press elsewhere. Also, I'm a believer that some of the best movies are either from over thirty years ago or, if recent, are not necessarily given a wide, media-blitzed studio release.
However, I do see newer, popular movies from time to time, and they aren't all bad (like Ghost Rider. Ughh!)
Here are three that I saw fairly recently:

Happy Feet

Plot: A dancing penguin saves his colony. Do you really need to know more? DANCING. PENGUIN. On those two words alone you'll either skip it or immediately go out and rent it.

The animation is impressive. The music is a lot of fun. Tap-master Savion Glover's dancing translates surprisingly well into the body of an animated penguin. The premise should provoke environmental awareness in your kiddies (and you, too, you big softies) even if the resolution is a bit . . . bizarre. All in all, it's fun for kids and fun for adults, and easily worth a trip to the video kiosk.
On a side note, for some great tap-dancing and a look at a very young Savion Glover, check out one of my favorite movies, Tap (1989), featuring late dance greats Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis, Jr. (The plot's a little thin, but the dance sequences make up for it.)

Spider-Man 3

Plot: Spider-Man wrestles with his demons as well as three super-powered baddies and an alien costume in Sam Raimi's third outing as director in this highly popular series.

Deftly skirting the "too many villains" curse of movies like Batman Forever, and, for the second time, the curse of the super-hero sequel, Spider-Man 3 once again captures the spirit that has made the wall-crawler one of comicdom's most beloved superheroes: his vulnerabilities.
Some of Raimi's quirkiness as a storyteller manifests itself in this film more so than in the previous movies, and you'll either love that or hate that. (I love it.) This means you can also expect a scene-stealing cameo by cult favorite Bruce Campbell.
I hope that for Spider-Man 4 (which is already being talked about), director, cast, and crew should be kept in place. I shudder to think what someone like Joel Schumacher would do to this beloved franchise.

Man of The Year

I resisted seeing this movie. From the marketing campaign of this movie, it looked like a silly bit of political slapstick from Robin Williams, and I feel he is above that.
Still, I decided one day to give it a look.
What a surprise! This is a very smart black comedy about the political process. Williams's one-liners are well-placed, and are hardly what the movie is all about. There is intrigue, suspense, and dark social commentary throughout. This is a far, far better movie than its packaging would suggest. I really liked it and recommend it highly. Also, it's not every day that you see a movie work Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" into its soundtrack.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Welcome, M.J. France!

It is with great pleasure that I welcome a good friend to the new world of blogging. Denver playwright M.J. France has started his own blog here at called The Dynamic Center.
M.J. France (or Marc as I know him) is a history buff, a theatre buff, a prolific writer, and a great supporter of the theatrical arts here in the Denver area.
Marc has an erudite and coherent mind, and his thoughts on the world of theatre, both locally and globally, are of great merit and ought to be read by as many people as possible, theatre-lovers and otherwise.
I encourage all of you who visit my blog to drop by The Dynamic Center for a far more scholarly perspective on the world of theatre.
Welcome, Marc! (Try not to show me up too much.)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

How About a Ban on Whining?

I stated in my last entry that I applaud George Clooney's choice in Good Night and Good Luck to accurately portray Edward R. Murrow and his associates as they were - cigarettes and all - rather than bow to anti-smoking lobbyists who would rather not have smoking "glamourized" on film. Now, that apparently meant to a couple of you that I am a smoker. I'm not. Outside of religious ceremonies, I've never smoked so much as a light menthol filter.
When I was a kid, I watched the original Battlestar Galactica, and Starbuck (played by Dirk Benedict) puffed on cigars with aplomb. Then, in one episode, the Galactica caught fire and Boomer and several other passengers nearly died of smoke inhalation. In the next episode I saw, there was Starbuck again, sucking smoke out of a cigar. I decided then that, cool as Starbuck was, his smoking habit demonstrated that he might not be the shiniest Viper in the landing bay.
So, let's see, Battlestar aired on television when I was about five. Yeah, I don't think I'd read the Surgeon's General warning at that point. I just sort of figured that out on my own.
Now, of course, there is a wealth of evidence to demonstrate to people of any age or intellect that smoking is very, very bad for the human body.
Now am I saying that people who smoke are not very bright?
Yep. That's pretty much what I'm saying. Modern-day smokers are sitting in the back of the proverbial class with the non-helmet-adorned motorcyclists, the non-seatbelt-wearing motorists, and anybody that paid over six bucks to see Anchorman in the movie theater. However, their imprudence ought to be their right, afforded them by the founders of this nation.
Like most rights, however, they end right at the point where their neighbors' begin. For example, I have the right to swing my fists around violently as I please, but my right to do that ends where your right to keep your nose shaped the way it is begins. Likewise, an individual's right to suck burning ash into their lungs ends where my right to breathe clean air begins.
The thing I most remember from civics class in high school was, well, Holly Finchum's penchant for wearing tight-fitting jeans. What I remember secondmost, though, is the phrase "Majority rules; minority rights."
Therefore, I support the ban on smoking in certain public areas, specifically those where people don't have the choice to get away from someone smoking: the DMV, courthouses, etc. I have a friend who is very allergic to cigarette smoke. I believe that, even if a majority of the population wants to smoke wherever they want, it is my friend's right to be able to conduct the necessary business of his life without having to breathe in someone else's expelled airborne ash.
I do not, however, support a government ban on smoking in private establishments. If I or my friend don't want to breathe in smoke, we won't go to smoke-filled bars or restaurants. We certainly won't stand at the front entrance and demand that everyone else stop smoking so that we can come in to the place. We would just go someplace where there is less or no smoke.
Before the ban here in Colorado, my money got spent where smoking was curbed or disallowed altogether by rule of the establishment itself. If one does not exist, it will eventually be created as more and more consumers choose to avoid the smoke.
Now, I know that the smoking ban was a function of the majority, but how many of the people who supported this ban frequented the establishments which would be affected?
The fair thing, I think, would have been to allow the law of supply and demand to work the problem out on its own. If enough people want a smokeless bar as a hang-out, one will be supplied by an entrepreneur who recognizes the demand and the financial benefits to be reaped by fulfilling that need. At the same time, there will still be smoky watering holes for those who stubbornly wish to continue their ill-advised habit. If you, as a smoker, and your friend, as a non-smoker, wish to hang out in the same bar, then you have two options. He can choose to put up with the smoke in your establishment of choice, or you can elect to go to his bar and take periodic trips to the parking lot for a drag or two. If you can't decide, then flip a coin, with the one rule being that, heads or tails, the loser doesn't get to whine.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Movies: Good Night and Good Luck

There were so many things to like about this movie that briefly chronicles the battle between uber-journalist Edward R. Murrow and Communist-hunter Senator Joseph McCarthy. David Strathairn is brilliant as ever as Murrow, with George Clooney doing quadruple-duty as director, co-screenwriter, producer, and on-screen in the role of Fred Friendly, Murrow's producer. Rounding out the cast are heavy-hitters Frank Langella, Patricia Clarkson, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey, Jr., and the often under-rated Ray Wise in an inspired and subtle turn as the tragic Don Hollenbeck.
Wisely, Clooney chose to let McCarthy play himself via archival footage. If anyone else had read those lines, we'd have thought them to be ridiculous fiction and a parody of the truth. (In fact, test audiences of the film didn't realize that archive footage was being used and said that they felt the actor playing McCarthy was over-acting.)
Murrow's final speech in an address to fellow broadcasters (taken almost word for word from an actual address given by Murrow) warns of the danger of using television strictly for entertainment and of ignoring the instrument's potential for public education.
One wonders what Murrow would think of the present news media's continuous coverage of stories about Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith, and Britney Spears.
If I have one complaint about this movie, it is that, at only about 90 minutes in total length, it seemed entirely too short. I wanted more. I wanted to know more about Murrow and Friendly, but Clooney obviously made the decision that less is more, and I respect that.
Clooney made another choice that I also respect, and that was that, in the way of accuracy, everybody smoked. It was a TV newsroom in 1953. Of course everyone smoked!
There is a group now lobbying Hollywood that wants any movie depicting smoking on screen to receive an immediate R-rating. They feel that it unduly influences children to take up smoking.
Those of you who know me outside of this blog page have heard me say this before, but I feel that it bears repeating:
If a character on a movie screen has more influence on your child than you do, then the blame does not belong with the movie.
I do not know where the expectation has arisen that Hollywood is in some way partially culpable for raising everyone's children. If your kid breaks his arm riding a shopping cart down a hill and into a pond, it is not, in fact, because he saw it in Jackass: The Movie. It is because somewhere along the line someone didn't instill in him that being a jackass is not something to which one should aspire.
Hollywood's children are Lindsay Lohan, River Phoenix, and Todd Bridges. If you can't recognize that Tinseltown is not a good babysitter for your kids, then maybe you shouldn't have any.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Movies: Casino Royale

I have waited to review this film because I wanted to give myself time to process it a little bit.
I am a fan, sometimes begrudgingly, of the James Bond franchise of films. I am also a big fan of Pierce Brosnan, and I don’t care for the manner in which he was “let go” from the series. As I understand it, he had to find out from a reporter. This is not the way that you treat the man who basically revived the series that had floundered with an aging Roger Moore and an oddly uncharismatic Timothy Dalton. Now, Mr. Brosnan had said that he only intended to make one more Bond film anyway, and, upon finding out that his services would no longer be required, expressed disappointment but also relief at no longer having to say all of those cheesy one-liners.
The internet was a-buzz with rumors of the Bond successor: Clive Owen, Adrian Paul, Hugh Jackman, Colin Farrell, and many other names were bandied about.
Finally it was announced that the plan was to go the Batman Begins route, and take us to James Bond’s very first mission as a “double-o,” adapting the first Ian Fleming novel about the dashing 007, Casino Royale. (Casino Royale had only been previously utilized in a TV screenplay in which James Bond was an American, and in a 1967 spoof of the Bond films starring Woody Allen, David Niven, and Peter Sellers.)
A younger, less-experienced James Bond? Cool. Orlando Bloom’s name started to circulate. Christian Bale’s and Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s names came up as well.
Then, at last, the announcement came. The new James Bond would be Daniel Craig. Daniel Craig? Bond fans were up in arms.
“He’s too short!” they cried. Craig is 5’ 11,” which does put him a couple inches shorter than the average Bond.
“He’s blond!” they exclaimed. Well, in that Casino Royale teleplay I mentioned, Bond was a blond. Also, Roger Moore definitely qualified as a “light brunette.”
“He’s ugly!” Okay, that’s just not nice. But I get their point. Ian Fleming had written Bond as strikingly, dashingly handsome. Craig, while ruggedly good-looking, has more the look of a pugilist. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a sexy leading man, but I do think that it means he shouldn’t be Bond.
What troubled me was, that if this was to be an “origin” story, there were two glaringly obvious flaws.
First, Dame Judi Dench was still going to play M, even though she was introduced in GoldenEye as a successor to the previous M.
Also, Daniel Craig was 38, and looked it -- at least. Pierce Brosnan had been just 42 (and looked much younger) when he assumed the role in 1995. By the time Connery was 38, he had made five Bond films and “retired” from the role. He had to be begged back to make Diamonds Are Forever when he was 40. (Never Say Never Again was made outside of the official Bond franchise as a response to Roger Moore’s lackluster and, frankly, silly interpretation of the role. Even then, Connery was just 52, and didn’t look it.)
To say that I was reticent to see this movie would be something of an understatement. It was the first Bond film since I was able to buy my own ticket that I did not see on its opening week-end.
First, let me say what I liked about this movie. I liked that the “cheesy one-liners” had been minimized. I really liked that the CGI-heavy effects of Die Another Day had given way to more traditional stunts, particularly in the spectacular chase scene through a construction site. I liked the tighter feel of the film. There was a lot less “grand-standing” in terms of set design and action sequences.
What didn’t I like? Not much, really. There was a slightly prolonged and maudlin sequence after the torture scene, but, overall, I thought this was a very good movie. I just didn’t think it was a James Bond movie. Daniel Craig is an intense and charming actor (though a bit mush-mouthed at times), but is just too brutish to be Bond. The movie itself was a bit too dark and barbarous to really be effective as a 007 film. This might as well have been a gangster film about a hit man for the English mob.
Minimizing the cheesy dialogue and the corny effects was a step in the right direction. I don’t see why they couldn’t have simply done that with the next Pierce Brosnan film. I liked the idea of the “origin” film, though, too. I wish that they had really followed through on that idea. I don’t consider casting an actor six years older than the Dr. No Sean Connery as “following through.”
My advice? Put the Bond franchise to bed for a little while. The six-year gap between License To Kill and GoldenEye was just the break that audiences needed to forget how lousy Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton had been and how silly the series had become. Don’t alter the character and the feel of the films just because movies like Layer Cake and Sexy Beast have been so popular. Give us time to miss James Bond. Then bring him back as the icon that Sean Connery made him with an actor who embodies the character as well as Pierce Brosnan did.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Kids. What Are You Gonna Do?

Here's a bit of fun:

A first grade teacher had twenty-five students in her class. She presented each child the first half of a well-known proverb, and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb.
Here's what she got in return:

1. Don't change horses..................until they stop running.

2. Strike while the..........................bug is close.

3. It's always darkest before ...............Daylight Saving Time.

4. Never underestimate the power of .........termites.

5. You can lead a horse to water

6. Don't bite the hand that..................looks dirty.

7. No news is................................impossible.

8. A miss is as good as a.....................Mr.

9. You can't teach an old math.

10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll .......stink in the morning.

11. Love all.

12. The pen is mightier than the ............pigs.

13. An idle mind is..........................the best way to relax.

14. Where there's smoke there's..............pollution.

15. Happy the bride who......................gets all the presents.

16. A penny saved is.........................not much.

17. Two's company, three's...................the Musketeers.

18. Don't put off till tomorrow put on to go to bed.

19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry have to blow your nose.

20. There are none so blind as ..............Stevie Wonder.

21. Children should be seen and not..........spanked or grounded.

22. If at first you don't succeed............get new batteries.

23. You get out of something only what you..................see in the picture on the box.

24. When the blind lead the blind............get out of the way.

And last but certainly not least:

25. Better late than........................pregnant.

There's some wisdom in there, wouldn't you agree?

Speaking of kids: Shane Bernier's 8th birthday is right around the corner. If you haven't mailed your cards yet, do so as soon as possible. Remember: they need to get to Canada by May 30th.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Avenue Quatsch

I mentioned this on my MySpace Blog, but, the more I thought about it, the more it annoyed me, and, when I get annoyed, I like to have a big audience. That means you, piglets. (That’s “big,” collectively speaking, of course. Those pants are very slimming on you.)
Anyway, I got some news recently that Music Theatre International, the company that owns the production rights to Avenue Q has announced that they will eventually be making the
Tony-award-winning musical about foul-mouthed, sexually promiscuous puppets available in a school version.
Yes. You read that correctly.
Additionally, the full version of the musical will be made available with . . . oh, hell . . . here’s the release, read it for yourself:

We’re delighted to announce that MTI has acquired the rights to represent the exciting and edgy hit musical AVENUE Q! While it is not available for general release at this time, we wanted you to know that in conjunction with the authors, the plan is to release two versions of the show: AVENUE Q School Edition (suitable for High Schools to perform, with any material that might be deemed “questionable” for a general audience altered or removed) and the full version of AVENUE Q, with variations for sections/songs/lyrics that will allow a production to retain as much of the original as possible, but be flexible to allow theatres to amend it within author-approved guidelines for various community standards.

Interesting reading, no? I myself have only read it the once as subsequent readings compel me to repeatedly stab myself in the eye with a spoon.
“Questionable for a general audience?”
Amendable “for various community standards”?

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. The authors of Grease are finally bowing to years of community and high school theatres’ continued royalty violations by now officially replacing the original production songs with the more popular movie versions “Hopelessly Devoted” and “You’re the One That I Want.” For all I know, they may have cleaned up the language as well. Maybe Rizzo’s hymen will remain intact and the song “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” will be about voting for Ralph Nader.

Look, Avenue Q is not meant to be performed by St. Mary’s Academy of the Sacred Virginal Knot High School. It’s just not. Sanitizing it to that end simply for the sake of lining one’s pockets is called “selling out.”

Spring Awakening just received 11 Tony nominations and is poised to be the next Best Musical winner.
Does that mean that four years from now we’ll be able to see it performed by the 1st Community Baptist Players singing the tunes “The Shucks of Living” and “Totally Inconvenienced?”

Auugh!!!!! Where’d I put my spoon?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dramatic Mayhem at the State Capitol

Well, that was fun. It really was.
As I mentioned before, 365 Days/365 Plays found itself without a theatre company to perform week 26 in our state’s cycle, so the Colorado coordinator, Brenda Cook, sent out a call for actors earlier this week to help perform the 7 plays in front of the state capitol.
Well, I decided that this sounded like a lot of fun, so I made my way to the capitol today and, with Brenda Cook and two more intrepid performers, Flavia Florezell and Stephen Pierce, performed in seven short but insightful plays by Susan-Lori Parks. We didn’t take even a moment to read over the scripts beforehand. Brenda quickly assigned parts and, at Stephen’s suggestion, we just dove right in to the coldest of cold readings that I’ve ever been involved with. What fun! While my companions were far more adept than I, it was a unique exercise, both dramatically and physically, as we leapt over railings, stood atop benches, and scaled stairs in what just might be the most acrobatic reading of shows in this entire cycle. I had a blast, and I would like to thank Brenda, Stephen, and Flavia for the one-of-a-kind experience. Well let’s hope it was "one-of-a-kind," anyway. I think that the remaining 26 weeks are pretty well covered. Next up is Single Carrot Productions (formerly New 22) in Boulder.

There's still time to get those birthday cards in the mail to Shane Bernier, let's keep putting smiles on that little guy's face.

And, speaking of birthdays, I'd like to send out best wishes to my dear, irrepressible Miss Binks. Happy Birthday, kitten.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Movies: a.k.a Cassius Clay

a.k.a. Cassius Clay (1970)

I stumbled across this documentary about Cassius Clay/ Muhammed Ali in a discount DVD bin a few months ago, but only finally got around to watching it last night.
a.k.a. Cassius Clay
was made in 1970 during the time that Muhammed Ali was not allowed to fight professionally because of his conviction for refusing to be inducted into the army to serve in the Vietnam War. He had also been stripped of his championship title.
This was a tough time for Ali as he was unable to box, he faced a five year prison term (which he was appealing) and his alignment with the Nation of Islam had him in poor favor with the general public.
There is plenty of history in this film, particularly through the use of lot of footage of Ali’s early fights, training, and frequently over-the-top antics both in and out of the ring. Additionally, there is some footage of Ali with legendary trainer Cus D’Amato as the two debate Ali’s ability or inability to defeat boxers from an earlier era like Joe Louis. These segments also contain a lot of rare fight footage of Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, and Jake LaMotta among others, so if you’re a boxing aficionado, there are a lot of treats in this film.
The documentary is a bit disjointed at times, particularly as it jumps back and forth between the early rise of Cassius Clay and his present (in 1970) struggle with his public image as Muhammed Ali.
The best thing about this documentary is the use of historical footage. There’s Ali clowning with the Beatles, there’s Malcolm X delivering his famous speech about “house negroes” versus “field negroes,” but, mostly, there’s lots of boxing. Classic boxing. No ear biting. (That we can see.)
Of particular interest to me was some very brief footage of Ali performing in his short-lived (7 performances) Broadway debut in the musical Buck White.
If you’re into boxing or just interested in Muhammed Ali, a.k.a. Cassius Clay is a real gem.

Quick reminders:
>There’s still about two-and-a-half weeks until Shane Bernier’s 8th birthday, so really only about a dozen or so days left to get your cards in the mail.
> 365 Days/ 365 Plays needs readers for Saturday, May 12th.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Cinco de Mayo, Nancy Goodwin, Update on Shane

Hola, cochinillos!
It's Cinco de Mayo, a day to celebrate Mexican-American culture and its many contributions.
It is not, as is commonly believed, Mexican Independence Day. That's September 16th.
The original significance of Cinco de Mayo was to commemorate the victory of the Mexican militia over the French Army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It signifies a triumph over great adversity, and has been adopted as an unofficial cultural holiday by Mexican-Americans. (Outside of the state of Puebla and Puebla, Puebla - where the battle was fought - Cinco de Mayo is not very widely celebrated in Mexico.)
Like St. Patrick's Day, Oktoberfest, and Columbus Day (controversy aside), Cinco de Mayo honors the Mexican contribution to the American cultural landscape. Also like the aforementioned days, it's a big ol' excuse to whoop it up.
Now, I know that there's a pretty hot debate going on in this country regarding Mexican immigration, and, I don't believe it's a debate that should be ignored. However, I believe that it's a debate that can be set aside for a day or two while we reflect upon the many positive things brought to this country from Mexico: exotic food, beautiful music, lively dancing, and, perhaps my favorite contribution, Salma Hayek. (VIVA MEXICO!)
So go out today and take in a little bit of Mexican-American culture. (Taco Bell does
not count!)
We can go back to politics on Monday.
Producer/Director/Choreographer/Actress/Singer Nancy Goodwin passed away on Thursday after a hard-fought battle with breast cancer. The loss to the Denver theatre community is significant. Denver Theatre critic and columnist, John Moore wrote a very nice tribute here, and
many Denver performers have added their remembrances of Nancy here. There will be a celebration of Nancy Goodwin on Sunday night in the Caboose at the Denver Chophouse at 19th and Wynkoop downtown from 7pm to 10pm. All are invited.
Here is a link to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation for those of you who are as frustrated as I am by the ravages of this terrible disease, and want to know if there's anything that you can do to help.
In happier news, Shane Bernier has now received over 125,000 birthday cards from warm-hearted people all over the world. There's still 24 days until Shane's 8th birthday on May 30th. Keep those cards rolling in. Here's a site where you can check on the progress of the birthday card campaign and read a little more about Shane.
Finally, a quick reminder: 365 Days/365 Plays needs readers, actors, or just warm bodies for Week #26 here in Denver. More here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

365 Plays/365 Days Needs You! (No, not you, the guy behind you . . .)

Here's an opportunity to be involved in a rather unique experience:

Hey friends -

After last night's amazing spontaneity at FREAK TRAIN, we have another opportunity to be spontaneous with 365!

The plans for the upcoming Week #26 have fallen through and so I need YOU to help me get those words out there.

Meet me at the Capitol Building - on the steps facing Civic Park - on SATURDAY, MAY 12 at 3:00pm for a spur-of-the-moment reading of Week #26.

I'll be handing out roles as people arrive, or if no one comes to read I'll be reading the whole week myself (which could be worth the trip over!)

Thanks all -

Brenda Cook

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the 365 Days/365 Plays project here is the MySpace link for the Colorado cycle of 365, and this is the 365 Days/365 Plays official site.

It sounds like fun, and it should at least make for interesting cast-party stories for weeks to come. (I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but everybody's sick of hearing how you almost lost an eye playing El Gallo . . .)

Music: Evil Dead -The Musical

Oh yeah. You read the title right. Sam Raimi’s first two Evil Dead films (and bits of the third) have been combined into a full-scale off-Broadway musical (now running in Toronto), and there is now a cast album to prove it. (And, of course, in this day and age there’s a website or two, as well.)
Just as the Evil Dead franchise is a spoof of the typical 1980’s horror film, Evil Dead: The Musical lampoons not only horror films, but also just about every convention of musical theatre in the last 40 years.
Foul-mouthed and irreverent, Evil Dead: The Musical is about as far from the Disney-inspired (and frequently sponsored) typical Broadway musical. (Although it does have a talking moose head.)
If you aren’t familiar with the Sam Raimi films that launched Bruce Campbell to legendary cult-hero status, then . . . (apologies to Rod Serling):

Picture, if you will, a group of pheromonally-motivated attractive young people off to a secluded cabin for a lively weekend of, well, you know.
Something evil in the woods turns the group one-by-one into zombie-like Candarian demons, save for Ash, the intrepid and wise-cracking S-Mart employee who dispatches the monstrous creatures with a chainsaw and a shotgun, which he affectionately calls his “boomstick.”
Pop-culture references abound, and no one, not even Henry Winkler, is safe from the clever and biting lyrics of songs like “Do the Necronomicon”, “Bit Part Demon”, “Housewares Employee”, and, my personal favorite, “What the F*** Was That?” (Censored here but not on the cast album.)
As I listen to the CD, I become increasingly envious of the audiences who got to see the show during its three-and-a-half month Off-Broadway run, and I am contemplating a trip to Toronto just to catch the production live . . . and, of course, to drop in on some relatives while I’m in town. (My mom reads this blog.)
One person who did get a chance to see the original production is Bruce Campbell himself, and here’s his endorsement directly from the CD jacket:
Evil Dead: The Musical was everything I hoped it would be: outrageous, high-energy, and really f***in’ funny.”

The Shane Bernier birthday card campaign seems to be progressing well from what some of you who have e-mailed me and stopped me on the street have told me. The employees at the card shop where I bought my last batch of cards and the ladies behind the counter at the post office have all now asked me for the address, so, record or no record, it looks like the Mile High City will be well-represented on Shane’s wall and in his heart.
For those who have been moved to further action by Shane’s story, here is a link to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, where you can learn more about the disease and what can be done to help Shane and kids like him.