Dec 20, 2013

Movie Reviews

Ender’s Game – This movie was pretty cool. I’m not sure I can imagine them doing the book much better. Which still means it’s not near as good as the book, but I don’t feel like a movie was going to be able to do much better. It is much shorter, of course, it’s been long enough since I read it that I don’t really remember, but it felt very rushed. Especially the training, especially Ender winning battles up toward the end. I feel like the ending suffers for that story not playing out in more detail. The performances are mostly good. Surprisingly most of the kids are fine. Ender is solid throughout, and then falls apart when it’s most important that he deliver, which was a bummer. Visually the movie is fantastic, and at the end of the day, that was the whole point. They could have borked the entire thing, we all just went to see the battle room and the space battles. Both of those they did extremely well, and made the movie worth it. Odd that they are setting up for the 2nd book. The second book is so different from the first, it’s not even the same category of movie, but it might be cool to see anyway.

Cabaret – Had to go see this because we saw the stage version. It was good, but not great. I actually liked the story of the stage version much better, which was a surprise. The stage version had acting/singing problems, but the way they handled the story was much better. I’ve never seen a Liza Minelli movie, I don’t think I like her voice very much, but that’s just a preference. I really like the music, but that’s a surprisingly small portion of the movie.

The Hangover 3 – Yeah, I know, why did I bother. Like everyone else, I thought the first one was fantastic. I went in ready to hate it and I loved it. The second one was a disaster. This one is also a disaster. There’s some funny stuff, I’m not saying I never laughed. But it’s just so over wrought attempting to shoehorn this ridiculous stuff in, it’s just kind of a bummer.

Oz: The Great and Powerful – Also not good. I like the idea, I like the story, but the execution is pretty bad. The acting isn’t great, the writing is borderline horrible. The visuals are sometimes really beautiful and sometimes trying way too hard and looking super fake. I mean, it’s a fantasy land, it’s not going to look realistic, but it just looks crappy. I liked it more toward the end, mostly because I kind of like the story. But jeez.

World War Z – I was actually pretty impressed with this movie. I’ve never read the book, so I have no source of disappointment there. And everyone bitched so much about how bad it was, I went in not expecting much. So then I kind of liked it. It feels super rushed, and things happen in an awful convenient order. But I enjoyed the ride and the 28 days style zombies are pretty cool.

White House Down – Wow, this is so much like Olympus Has Fallen. I mean, I get it, they are both die hard in the white house. But god damn there was one scene where I convinced myself for about 2 minutes that I had already seen this die hard white house movie because I’ve definitely definitely seen this scene. I was wrong, but jesus.

The Master – I wanted to like this movie, but it was a snoozer. Like all Paul Anderson movies, it’s effing weird. But I figured I’d see a couple of amazing performances from Phoenix and Hoffman and it’d all be worth it. Nope. They do put in some pretty great performances, but the movie is too long by half, and completely absent of compelling story. I know people liked this movie, so I guess it’s just me, but I did not.

Starlet – This is a weird one. It’s about some young chick in LA (I assume, I don’t remember). Doesn’t have much of a life, I think she’s a porn actress. She buys something at a garage sale and then finds a ton of money in it. Not sure what to do, she tries to befriend the old lady who sold it to her, who is a nasty old woman, to judge whether she should give the money back I guess. It sounds pretty horrible, it’s not that bad. It’s a different story, I’m pretty sure no other movie has that plot. It’s nothing great, but it was kind of worth a random Netflix watch.

Arbitrage – This is a strange movie, but it’s decent. A pretty shady business dude makes some spectacularly bad choices and spends the next 2 hours trying to fix them. It’s a little bit unrealistic, like many of these movies where everything has to fall into place in a certain way. But it actually is done decently well. Not super unique or anything, but done well enough.

Dec 15, 2013

Event Reviews @ The Temple

Red Baraat – This is kind of a interesting group. They are definitely a fusion kind of band, with a very strong east indian influence. They are kind of a party band, very dancey music with a strong peace & love vibe. They are pretty reminiscent of Cat Empire, which is to their detriment because they are no where near as good. It’s not that they are bad, though. I had a good time, I had fun dancing (if you can call what I do dancing), it was great. But it doesn’t stick with me the way Cat Empire does. And a lot of the music is pretty samey too. So, in the end, a lot of fun, but kind of temporary. Probably wouldn’t go again, but would tell people to go if they want to dance and have fun.

UA Dance Premium Blend – It’s back! My favorite show of the year. This year was pretty cool. Like last year, it’s not *as* good as the first year, but that’s increasingly likely to just be nostalgia. There were 6 things this year. The first was a kind of boring ballet. Partially I just didn’t like the music. It was the rhythmic equivalent of dissonance, just kind of uncomfortable. The dancing was fine. Then came 3 duets, the first two were really good ideas that didn’t pan out. The dancers were fine, the choreography just didn’t work out. The last one was a beautiful modern thing that was very sweet and had some youthful playfulness to it that was wonderful. Then there was a REALLY cool group tap number to swing music. It was fun and interesting and well danced and just awesome. After the break came more ballet, called Tarantella, but it was fantastic. It was crazy impressive. Even though the girl actually fell over at one point, which was sad, the performance was by far the most individually impressive of the evening. Then more ballet, which was well done, better than the first, but nothing like the 2nd. And just a bit overload on the ballet. Last was a really kooky jazz/hip hop thing. Everyone was dressed like some wacky futuristic thing, the music alternated between slow lyric and really loud, club-like, hard hitting stuff. Though that was kind of annoying, the dancing was super cool and a lot of fun to watch. Besides a bit too much ballet, like last year, it was really good.

Cabaret by The Winding Road Theater – This is one of the little shows at the Temple, which is always fun. I’ve never seen any form of Cabaret, so that was all new to me. The musical I think is really good, and I really want to go see the movie and maybe a professional theater company do it. It’s a pretty powerful story, with a striking juxtoposition of hedonism and the coming of the nazis. When they sing the patriotic song and it fades to black, I got chills. This version was pretty good, but not great. The emcee was without question the best part. I guess he was the director too, but he was very very good. I’ll know more when I see the movie, but I saw a clip on youtube and I think I like this emcee way better. The rest of the cast wasn’t great. The older woman and man were good, and the american was pretty good too. All of them had decent voices. The main cabaret girl was a bit dodgy, maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t like her voice at all. The ensemble was hit or miss. A couple of them were pretty good, a couple of them looked really awkward and I could constantly see them thinking about what their next step was. I feel mean saying it, but there was a definite amateur feeling to at least half the cast. But still, for a small show of young actors, not bad. They had a live band, which was fantastic. It would be so easy to have recorded music, and hell I’m sure they made this on a buck fifty, who can afford musicians. But they had them and it was great. Set and production was good too. I’ve since seen the movie version, and I actually prefer this! Not the performances, the acting and singing in this from a lot of folks was still sub par. But the story and layout and everything was actually better in this stage version.

The Nutcracker – I’ve never seen any form of the Nutcracker, so this was a cool treat. It’s christmasey, which is fun, and it’s culturally iconic, so I should have seen it by now! In the end, I didn’t really love it, but I think it just turns out I don’t love Russian ballet. I didn’t use to like any form of ballet, but some of the UA Dance performances have changed my mind. However, I like the dancing (sometimes). Nevertimes do I like all the pomp and circumstance, and there’s a lot of that in this. It’s cool that they can tell a story with just music and mime, no words. But good lord did they go on. I felt like there was only a couple of dances in the first hour. An awful lots of posing and posturing. When they were dancing, it was nice. Only one or two parts that were really amazing, the rest was just good. There were a LOT of kids, which I didn’t expect. They are adorable, you can’t question that, but it also makes it all feel a bit like a school play. Not fair, but true for me. But even though I’m using some lackluster adjectives, I was really happy to go and had a really good time. It was a special experience.