Categories of the Sports Fan: Super Bowl Mania

s1600_Super-BowlThe biggest event in American sports takes place in a little over a week. Whether you like football or not chances are that you will see part of the game or at the very least hear about it. I am of course talking about the Super Bowl. I have found several things to be true about those who watch this game. Most people fall into one of a few categories of the Super Bowl audience. Continue reading Categories of the Sports Fan: Super Bowl Mania

Into The Woods: Great if You Like Woods

Into the WoodsThis is a rave review for a movie that a lot of people did not like. It’s based on a musical I loved that a number of people did not like. The music was composed by a genius who leaves a lot of people cold. Such is the magic and mixed reviews of INTO THE WOODS.

     Here are the three biggest complaints I hear from people about the movie: 1) It’s too long. 2)  It’s too short.  (They cut stuff out.) 3) There is too much singing (it is a musical… shocking)

Several songs from the musical were absent from the movie (notably the reprise of “Agony”) but a Broadway production can last more than 2 ½. And there’s an intermission in there too. Gone are the days that a motion picture features an intermission. (Gone with the wind) So trims had to be made. Composer Stephen Sondheim wrote an original song for the movie and even that got tossed. There goes the Oscar.
Johnny-Depp-Into-the-Woods
The length issue usually stems from the second act suddenly turning very dark. If you’re not on board with that creative choice you’re in for a squirmy forty minutes. If you want a happy ending, don’t stay until the end.

SIDE NOTE: In the musical, act one ends with everyone seemingly living happily ever after. Act two spins all that on its head. When the musical was first tried out in San Diego, people thought the end of the first act was the end of the show. Sondheim himself had to go out to the parking lot every night and tell people to go back to the theater, there was more.

Sondheim’s music is intricate and I have to say that for me, personally, there are times when I’m awestruck by his work and other times when there are songs I do not like very much. And then a song like “No One Is Alone” comes along and he tears my heart out like no other song has.

In the case of the movie version of INTO THE WOODS, none of the basic complaints bothered me. I knew the story going in; I knew it was more song heavy than most musicals, so those weren’t concerns.  


But I had my own trepidations before seeing the film. I always hate that studios insist movie stars be cast in musicals, even if they’re not as good or as right as the Broadway cast. Russell Crowe in LES MIS…. seriously? And I saw that Meryl Streep was playing the witch. Of course she was. Hollywood thinks Meryl Streep can just do anything. Who cares if she can sing? Her singing in Mama Mia, though not bad by any means, was also not overly impressive. But you know what? She can sing. Beautifully. And she found just the right tone of humor and heartbreak. She made every moment work. Damn her. She CAN do anything. Her voice knocked me over.

Into the woods castThe rest of the cast was equally sparkling. Emily Blunt – wow. Anna Kendrick – give me her over Anne Hathaway. James Corden – what the hell is he doing giving up a movie career that’s about to take off to do a late night talk show on CBS? Chris Pine – a pleasantly decent musical comedy surprise. Tracey Ullman – another one who has so much talent and skill that she can do whatever she feels like.

The other concern I always have going into film adaptations of musicals is how weird it sounds when people on screen just break into song. On the stage there is a certain theatricality that allows you to buy it, but the harsh reality of being in the real world in movies often turns the film into something awkward really fast. The badass Sharks and Jets singing show tunes and pirouetting in WEST SIDE STORY looked ridiculous.
 

But since INTO THE WOODS is set in a fantasy world, the singing felt organic. I bought it. And the fact that I love the songs themselves also helped I’m sure.stars.png

I find the storyline brilliant. There is so much underneath the clever narrative about parenting and relationships and abandonment. Witches can be right. Giants can be good.

     Rob Marshall, who did an amazing job of adapting CHICAGO for the screen, was the perfect director for this project. And James Lapine, who wrote the libretto did the screenplay. What a concept – letting the writer who best understands the material write the movie.

     So I loved the film.  And I recommend it… to people predisposed to love it too.  

8 Things to Know About Frasier: 11 Years of Excellence

s1600_Frasier Normally, when a television show has been off the air for 10 years it is not blog-worthy material anymore. However, when it has been one of the most successful comedy shows of all time, like Frasier is, it makes it worth talking about.

Continue reading 8 Things to Know About Frasier: 11 Years of Excellence

Photos of Actors Behind The Scenes That will Change Your Perspective Forever

It is when the cameras stop shooting that these movie stars really finally get to unwind and enjoy their break time resulting in some pretty great pictures. These behind the scenes photos of actors on set my just change your mind forever on the characters they play…. then again, some really are not surprising.

 MGM Lions1600_MGM-LionThis just seems like a whole bunch of bad ideas done at once.

Star Warss1600_Muppets-Star-warsWho knew the land of the Muppets was so close to the Dagobah system?Empire-Strikes-BackPrincess Leia and Chewbacca are actually BFF’ss1600_Star-Wars
Even R2D2 needs a snack break from time to time.
Titanics1600_Sunck-Titanic=RaftThis settles it… they both can fit on the piece drift woods1600_The-Titanic
Apparently a sinking ship can be surprisingly relaxing…
The Shinings1600_The-ShiningLisa Burns and Louise Burns look far less creepy between their hallway haunting

Silence of the Lambss1600_Silence-of-the-lambsNo one can say no to French Fries!
 
Fantastic Mr. Foxs1600_Fantastic-Mr-FoxNaps are vital, regardless where you are sleeping
 
 Frankenstein s1600_Frankenstien
Who says monsters cant be refined?
Harry Potters1600_Harry-snape
Who says Harry and Snape can’t get along?s1600_Maggie-Smith
Maggie Smith relaxing between scenes. Amazingly, she participated in this filming while going through chemotherapy.Harry-potter
Apparently you can make friends with anyone. Voldemort and Dumbledore laughing between takes.
Ben-Hurs1600_Ben-HurApparently the ancient Romans had Vespa’s. They were way ahead of their time.
Final Thoughts
     It is pretty cool to see how the magic happens, and how believable movies manage to be despite the reality of their production.

The Imitation Game: Too Good to Ignore

This week I was ready to post s1600_The-Imitation-Gameyour traditional holiday blog post. I had it almost entirely written and ready to go with lots of cheery feel-good moments to fit the season. This is until I saw a movie that made me scrap that entire post. I know that writing about a World War II period piece movie is not very fitting for the holiday season, but sometimes there are those things that are just so good, that they deserve to be written about and read, regardless of the time of the year.
The Imitation Game-     For those of you who have not heard of this movie, that is not a surprise. Films such as this one do not have big advertising budgets, epic battle scenes, big explosions or superheros. Now I am not saying there is anything wrong with the big budget- Marvel-esque films, quite the contrary, I usually enjoy them immensely. But we seem to then overlook the really well done, well acted, important true stories that some films talk about. The Imitation Game had a limited release because of this reason. We love our true stories that end in heroism. But what about the other, equally important stories? Even with big stars like Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly, the movie was not picked up by a large number of the major theater chains. This, to me, is very upsetting.

     Based on the unbelievably true story, s1600_Kiera-KnightlyBenedict Cumberbatch proves once again why he is Hollywood’s new golden boy as he portrays the brilliant Alan Turning. Turning is the unquestioned premier mathematician of the 20th century. In Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turning, he gives us a peak into a man who is painfully awkward, brilliant, arrogant, rude, lacking in patience and any semblance of understanding of social interaction but also managing, somehow, to be endearing and relatable.
     Alan Turning, was the key player in the cracking of the German Enigma code and it is estimated that his work ended WWII as much as two years earlier saving an estimated 12 million lives. The Imitation GameBenedict-Cumberbatch is a war movie where no battlefields are shown and no guns are fired. It illustrates the important concept that, even in the 1940’s, scientists, engineers, and mathematicians fought on a hidden front that eventually changed the tide of battle. However, Turning also faced moral predicaments associated with his major role in turning the tide of the allied forces. In the end, however, the genius behind all the innovations he made was destroyed by the pettiness of the society that didn’t understand him. The Imitation Game doesn’t hide this dark aspect and it makes the production enthralling, engrossing and sobering.
     In a day and age where we are trying so hard s1600_Alan-Turingto right the wrongs of our past as people and as nations– while still very much reminded by current events how far there is still to go — stories like these need to be seen, remembered and internalized so that we are not blinded by our own shortsightedness of the realities and fragility of  human life. By remembering that embracing our differences and individuality across ethnicity, cultures and genders, regardless of personal belief we could really make some much needed change in this world.five-stars.png
Final Thoughts
The Imitation Game is an extremely well done film. The acting and writing is superb. It has enough humor at appropriate moments to stop the film from being too weighty, but enough seriousness to drive home the important aspects of the movie. Even if you are not fond of history, I would highly recommend that you give this movie a chance. It’s message is important and I promise that if you give it a chance, you won’t regret it.

The Hobbit:The Battle of the Five Armies- The Last Film…Finally

  The-Hobbit For all you Lord of the Rings/Hobbit/J.R.R Tolkien fans out there, this is it. After this, there is nothing more anyone can make regarding this story. Four books and six movies later we have the very last installment of J.R.R Tolkien’s epic set in Middle Earth. This has been a highly anticipated film for me the last few months, but I will confess that I am very glad that I knew what to expect going in to the theaters.
For those fans out there who have read the book, I am sure you know by now that the first two movies have been very different from the original story. This last movie is no different. Though the movie stays true to the major plot points in the book, there has been a TON of subject matter that has been added to the film. My friends call this creative license… I say they just made shit up that they thought would go over well. My advice for this is to compartmentalize the two in your head. Separate the book from the movie completely. The book is a great story on its own, the movie is a great action film on its own, but the moment you try to compare the two, you will hate it. Just approach this film as a quality action movie and you wont have any issues with it.

The vast majority of the film The-Hobbit-Armyis a battle…. hence the name of the movie. If you do not like war movies, then this is not the movie for you! This movie is more battles, more creatures, more not-quite-comical asides, more stern speeches and more elaborate action set pieces. If you have been enjoying “The Hobbit” so far, you’re in for a treat. But if you were hoping for something extra or different this time around-like more plot- then ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ may leave you wanting.

The-Hobbit-Elf-Army   Luckily however, Jackson’s singular talent for massive-scale insanity hasn’t deserted him, and the hour long smackdown that crowns the film gives him ample opportunities to indulge in it. With what feels like a lot more than five armies involved — I counted elves, dwarves, men, orcs, trolls, goblins, eagles, evil bats and weird giant earthworms — it is one of the grandest sequences Jackson has ever shot. And if there is a hint that his imagination is, if possible, even bigger than his special-effects budget – some of the busier shots were a bit murky — that’s perhaps inevitable when you’re working on a bigger scale than any other director has ever attempted.three_half-stars_0.pngThere are flaws in this final film with some overly ambitious effects, being somewhat overwhelmed by its own spectacle. However, with Jackson’s six-film Middle Earth series finally coming to a close, it’s also a fitting tribute to his dedication and ambition as he managed something no other director would even attempt to tackle. The Battle of the Five Armies ends Peter Jackson’s second Middle-Earth trilogy on a satisfying note.

Don’t Be Stupid, Watch Classic Movies: Psycho


The other day I was speaking to a co-Alfred-Hithcock-Psychoworker about the fact that I like old movies. She then proceeded to tell me that she loved old movies as well and, silly me, I got really excited that there would be someone I could talk to about the classics like Casablanca, Some Like it Hot and All About Eve. To my dismay however, when she said she loved “old” movies she meant movies from the 80’s. Since when did films from the 80’s become the classics?
One of the first non-animated movies I ever watched as a kid was the thriller/ mystery film Psycho. And to answer your next question, “Why did your parents ever let you watch such a scary movie as a kid,” the answer is (As you might have guessed) they were out of town for the weekend and I was being babysat by my older siblings and they saw no issue with letting a 5 year old watch Alfred Hitchcock’s- Psycho. I am pretty sure they regretted that decision later that night when I forced one of them to hold my hand and walk with me everywhere (literally to the fridge from the living room).
If you are one of those out there who hasn’t viewed a movie made before the 80’s, then get your
head out of your butt and take a look at some of these great films that are worth watching. Starting with one of the all time greats.

PSYCHO- 1960
     By its name and reputation, Psychoyou might be a little apprehensive to try this film. There tend to be two, very different, reasons that modern day viewers don’t bother to see the movie.
1. You may think it is too dated and therefore not worth your time.
2. Or perhaps, you assume that it is a scary movie, and if you are like me, you HATE scary movies- not wanting to spend money or waste time being voluntarily terrified.
If either of these excuses are the reasons that you have not seen Psycho then let me dispel those misconceptions for you.
     Psycho, like most of Hitchcock’s films, is not gory or scary. It is not meant to terrify or startle the viewers. Hitchcock’s films are thrilling, creepy, psychologically challenging and suspenseful. This film will have you on the edge of your seat. Caught up in the building suspense of the mystery that surrounds the story and its characters.

Though I willHitchcock-Psycho not deny that Psycho is obviously dated, the film was made in 1960, and is in black and white. With this in mind the setting is obviously a little old. However, there are no movie affects that really make the age disparity noticeable. Because of the strength of the story, its director and its actors, Hitchcock’s most famous film, Psycho, has aged the most gracefully of almost any film from that time. The thrilling, exciting twists and turns of the movie are just as relevant and exhilarating for audiences today,
Final Thoughts —
I know this film is old and that modern day viewers have biases against old movies, especially black and white ones. But there is a reason Psycho is still referenced, copied and emulated in modern day movies. It is exciting, enthralling and entertaining.
(There have been several remakes over the years. The remakes are gory, and poorly done. Don’t waste your time on any except the original)

Jurassic Park: Awesome Things You Need To Know

s1600_Jurassic-Park     I am pretty sure I am not alone in saying that even though I am an adult I am ridiculously excited for the upcoming new film Jurassic World. Last time I checked, 40 million people have watched the new trailer on YouTube. Although I am excited, I am also nervous because I so badly want it to be good and not disappointing after all this build up. Because lets be realistic, even the biggest Jurassic Park fans admit that the third film in the series was total crap.
So in preparation for the newest installment of the classic franchise lets take a look back at the film that started it all.

Jurassic Park

1. Nerdy Dreams Can Come Trues1600_Jurassic-World
When director Steven Spielberg and author Michael Crichton were working on a screenplay that would eventually become the television show ER, Spielberg asked his fellow writer about the plans for his next book. Crichton told him about Jurassic Park, and Spielberg apparently fangirled so hard over the idea that he immediately convinced Universal to buy the film rights in May 1990– before the book was even published. He was so excited that he began story-boarding scenes from the book, even though there was no screenplay written yet.
2. Without One, There Would Be No Two

s1600_Steven-Spielberg-Schindlers-List    Though Spielberg was excited at the idea of Jurassic Park, he wanted to direct a film he thought far more crucial–Schindler’s List–first. But MCA/Universal President Sid Scheinberg refused to greenlight Spielberg’s Holocaust film unless the director agreed to make his dinosaur picture first. Both films were released in 1993; Jurassic Park in  June, and Schindler’s List at the end of the year.
3. A New Excuse To Go To Theme Parks
Spielberg’s original plans to bring the dinosaurs to life were inspired by the universal studios “King Kong Encounter” ride. On the ride, Kong is designed as a full sized animatronic. Because the dinosaurs couldn’t be life-sized recreations, Spielberg had to think a little differently. Some creations, including the T. Rex, were full dinosaurs, but most were just upper half–including the head and torso of the dinosaur– while others were just bottom half, including the legs and claws. –That would have been a really weird set to walk onto with just random dinosaur half’s all over the place.
4. Less isn’t More… it’s Less.

    Even with his animatronic Steven-Spielberg-and-Dinosaur-postreconstructions Spielberg was not happy with how choppy the filming had to be with only a few completely built dinosaurs and mostly half built creatures to work with. He decided on a bold move (at the time) using CGI in a movie in order to be a compliment and to smooth as well as to fill in the gaps that the animatronics couldn’t. The other added element was to actually build all the raptor suits that the crew climbed into and operated from the inside. Combined, all of Jurassic Park’s CGI dinos have just 6 minutes of screen time, while total dinosaur effects shots make up only 14 minutes of the 127 minute film. This, in my opinion, is why the first film as stood the test of time. Nothing dates a movie more than old, obviously older, CGI work.
5. What If…
Casting is really everything in a film. Other possible candidates for the roles in the movie included William Hurt and Harrison Ford as Alan Grant, Christina Ricci as Lex, Sean Connery as John Hammond, and Robin Wright or Juliette Binoche as Ellie Sattler
6. Who Can Say No To The Devil…or Dinosaurs?

s1600_Richard-Attenborough-Steven-SpielbergRichard Attenborough, who plays CEO John Hammond was on a 15 year hiatus from acting when Spielberg approached him about taking a role in Jurassic Park. Attenborough had been directing at the time but he said he agreed to end his semi-retirement because Spielberg had “the charm of the devil.” (Fun fact. When Spielberg approached him to do the film, Attenborough was directing Gandhi which beat Spielberg’s E.T. for Best Director and Best Picture at the 55th Academy Awards.)
 7. Everything In Perspective
Jurassic Park shot on location in 1992 on Hawaii’s Kauai Island. Hurricane Iniki, the most powerful hurricane to hit Hawaii in recorded history, hit during filming. Attenborough apparently slept through most of it. When asked by cast members how that was possible, he replied that it was nothing — after all, he had survived the London Blitz during World War II.
8. Grant and Lex Would Have Been T. Rex FoodJurassic-Park-T-Rex
  Even though the T. Rex could have hunted based on smell, at the time Jurassic Park was made, it wasn’t known for sure whether the giant dinosaur’s vision was based on movement. During filming in 1992 this fact was assumed as a possibility since some reptiles are known to exhibit that trait. However, more recent research suggests that the T. Rex probably had pretty excellent vision…. oops.

Grease Lightning: Not a Family Friendly Movie

Today I was going through all our old VHS video tapes, why we still have them? I havs1600_Greasee no idea. Among the pile of Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, I found Grease. I completely forgot that we had ever owned Grease. For old time sake I decided to literally dust off the VHS player and watch this classic movie. I learned a couple things —
     — Whoever did the casting has no idea what teenagers look like. Everyone in this movie looks way to old to be a high school student.
     — When I first saw this movie my parents must not have known I was watching it because it is SO not appropriate for an 8 year old to watch. It is just a good thing I had no idea what they were talking about half the time.
In light of these observations I decided to do Google research and found some of the things I came across interesting.

1. Age Doesn’t Matter—

As I alluded to eas1600_Grease+Castrlier, Grease was set in high school, but what you may have guessed (just by looking at them) was that most of the cast was well beyond their high school years. John Travolta (Danny) was 23 and Olivia-Newton-John (Sandy) was 28 when filming began. Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) was 26, and Stockard Channing (Rizzo) was the oldest in the group at 33.
2. Plastic Wrap Innuendo—

The original stage play of “Grease” has more sexual references than the censors would allow in the film. One of theses1600_John+Travolta was the use of plastic wrap as a condom. The censors made the filmmakers take this out during the production of the movie, but John Travolta found a sneaky way to put it back in. During the song “Grease Lightning” you can see Danny Rubbing plastic wrap on his junk during the dance number… classy.


3. Dancing in the Heat—

The dance contest ds1600_Dancing-Greaseuring the movie had to be filmed during the summer when the school was closed. They gym wasn’t air conditioned, and the doors had to be kept closed to control the lighting. The gym became so hot that several of the extras had to be removed and given medical treatment for heat exhaustion.

4. Real Life Addiction—
     According to an interview conducted on “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” Jeff Conaway (Kenichie) stated that he first became addicted to painkillers during the filming of “Grease.” He said that during the “Grease Lightning” song and dance number, a fellow cast member dropped him and he injured his back.


5. Kenickie’s Song—
  The song “Grease Ligs1600_Grease-Lightinghtning” was supposed to have been sung by Jeff Conaway’s character, Kenichie. But apparently before shooting John Travolta had a temper tantrum because he wanted to sing the song. At first, Conaway refused to let him sing it, but after awhile, he was forced to concede. In the stage version of “Grease,” Kenickie sings the song.

6. Actor’s Porn Past Loses Him the Role—

To cast the role of the coach the director s1600_Sid-Caesar-Greaselooked to Harry Reems, a previous porn star, to play the part. Reems was cast and ready to begin filming when protests over the Star’s porn past began surfacing, threatening the movies success. Paramount relented and gave the role to Sid Caesar.


7. Stagnant Water—
The filming of ts1600_Race-Greasehe scene where the cast is near the bridge after the car race made several cast members and extras very ill. The water on the ground was stagnant and filled with trash. Apparently no one knew this until it was too late.

8. Lucie and Rizzo—s1600_Rizzo-Grease
     Although fans of the movie couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the role of Rizzo other than Stockard Channing, she was not the studio’s first choice. Paramount wanted Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball, to play the part. Lucy allegedly called the studio and said “I used to own that studio; my daughter is not doing that screen test!” The part then went to Channing.

Final Thoughts
Don’t misunderstand me, I love this movie. It has a very random place in my heart and I have the choreographed, made up, dance moves from when I was 10 to prove it. I Just find it interesting to look back on these things as an adult.

Movie Music- How Movie Audiences are Manipulated

     Most things about movies are Movie-Musicnot subtle. They are supposed to be in your face, visible and acknowledged. But one of the most important elements of movies is its music. Movies without music would be total crap. Music is one of the most underrated elements in movies because its entire purpose is meant to be unconsciously registered by the viewers. Music is the emotional nudge that movies include to prompt the viewer into the correct emotion or reaction to what is happening on screen. There are two major styles of music found in movies-


1. Subtle emotional manipulation     -This seems pretty self explanatory. Movies would not have any kind of emotional punch without music. A triumphant movie moment would have no euphoria without the slowly escalating jubilant swell of a symphonic orchestra to accompany it.  
2. Leitmotif-
     – This is just a fancy word for a short, constantly recurring musical “theme” that is associated with a person, place or idea (don’t worry, if this is kinda confusing I will explain).

– Emotional  Manipulation
     Music in movies helps you know how and what to feel at any given moment. Whether that feeling is making you want to stand up and go fight an army single handed or like you could run a mile (maybe some of you could legitimately run a mile, I cannot).
      I am not trying to take any credit away from actors and their fine performances, but lets face it, without the music in sad moments (or heroic moments) you would not have that old lady crying next to you in the theater because it just doesn’t deliver the same punch.
————————————————————————————————————————-
Clip #1

(CLIP 1 COMMENTARY)
All the words spoken in this entire scene have been edited out (there were only a few to begin with in the first place). So why are you still bawling like a baby at the death of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings? It is that slow, mourning singing. That beautiful music rips your heart right out of your chest. Watch the same thing on mute, and you will be totally fine. –I am telling you, composers are ninjas of emotion.  
——————————————————–

  – Leitmotif
   This style of movie music is a tad different. This deals with music directly linked to specific characters or events. What I mean by this is when you, as the viewer, hear a specific melody, it makes you think of one particular person/place or thing. Clip #2 is a perfect example.
                                                                Clip #2

This is the Darth Vader leitmotif. It is his theme, a short melody that, whenever played, means this character is present, or is about to be present. This is the same with the Jaws theme, the Indiana Jones theme, the Jack Sparrow- Pirates of the Caribbean theme and many others. If you hear the music, you associate it with a specific character.
———————————————————-
In films, music goes generally unnoticed. And rightfully so. The composers goal is to be the puppet master behind the scenes pushing and prodding you to feel a certain way without realizing that it is happening.
— As a viewer how can you know that Darth Vader is coming without having seen him yet? His theme is playing. Almost the entire movie of Jaws goes without the viewer ever seeing the shark. How do you know it is coming? Because the Jaws theme (leitmotif) is playing.
Final Thoughts
     I have decided that music composers are magicians (or have sold their soul to the devil to gain unnatural power. I am not sure what I have settled on yet). How do they write music to make an entire viewership feel and react how they want them to? I have no idea, but I greatly enjoy the result.
—– What movie music do you like the best?