Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Posts, or lack of...

To my loyal readers (you both know who you are...) I'm terribly sorry for my lack of posts lately. I have been out of town, but have lots to chat about now. So keep your eyes open for some new posts about the following:

1) 9 to 5 the Musical - I am seeing this tonight with fellow blogger Vance!

2) So You Think You Can Dance Tour

3) TV update - I haven't posted a thing about the return of several shows, including The Office, Grey's Anatomy, and Chuck. By the time I write it, I can probably include Pushing Daisies and Friday Night Lights in my post!

4) Massive movie update - I have watched a TON of movies on DVD lately and they deserve at least a quick blurb.

Movie: Burn After Reading

Last week, we caught a showing of Burn After Reading. I don't think I am wrong in saying that this movie was quite hyped, and therefore my expectations were high. I guess I was a bit disappointed. Consistent with other Coen brothers movies, the plot was odd, seemingly random, quirky, (what is another word for what I am thinking?) etc. There are lots of laugh out load moments, especially including Brad Pitt. I found it funny to imagine his personality to be like this in real life, for some reason. I just found all the characters to be pretty much completely unlikable so I didn't have anyone to root for. If you don't go to the movies much, I would save this one for rental. If you do go often, you have probably already seen it...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Book: The Memory Keeper's Daughter

I finished up Kim Edwards' The Memory Keeper's Daughter this morning. It was a tough read. It wasn't slow or boring or anything like that. Just really hard subject matter, and it didn't really get easier as I progressed through the book. This book had been recommended to me from a couple of different people, so I wanted to give it a try. Emily told me she had thought of reading it, but the subject matter was a bit heavy for someone with a 6 month old. Let me go ahead and let you know. This book is DE. PRESS. ING. Especially if you have a child, have lost a child, have a child with Down syndrome. Here is why:

David Henry is a doctor who is forced to deliver his wife Norah's child in a snowstorm, with only his nurse Caroline to help out. Norah delivers a healthy baby boy, but then there is a surprise second baby, which Norah delivers while drugged up and passed out. This second child is a girl with Down syndrome. Dr. Henry gives the child to Caroline to take to a "home" for children like this, believing he is preventing Norah from dealing with great pain. He tells Norah that the second child had died. Caroline decides against leaving her at this "home" and takes her as her own instead. And that is only the very beginning. Dr. Henry's actions in regards to his daughter lead the characters down a painful and difficult path.

Norah deals with the loss of her child. Kim Edwards does an excellent job of portraying the massive pain and heartache that Norah feels due to this loss. As a result, it is taken out on her family, her marriage, and her own heart.

David deals with having lied to his wife about something so huge. There was never a chance to go back because he so fully committed to his lie. And as a result, his guilt led to a complete breakdown of all of his relationships.

Caroline deals with raising a child with disabilities in a time period where such child is considered useless. The things that people say to Caroline about her child (Phoebe) are so atrocious that I wonder how people would ever consider a child with disabilities to be lesser than someone else. It was heartbreaking, but Caroline fights back to get things for Phoebe that other children get automatically, such as education.

Paul, Norah & David's healthy-born son, deals with the knowledge that he is incomplete without his twin sister. He also has to find himself while watching his family fall apart.

The characters were really well-developed and Edwards certainly knew how to write the subject matter. But it was just a really hard and sad read. If you are up for that, this is a great book. But consider yourself forewarned!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Theater: Assassins

I have never seen Sondheim on stage before. I have watched the film version of Sweeney Todd and I have the cast recording of Company. I hopped over to the El Centro Theatre in Hollywood today to see the West Coast Ensemble's production of Assassins, which has been playing there since July, and will end later this month. The theater is quite small (about 100 seats), and my neighbors were glad to chat me up about the show beforehand.

I can easily say whether I enjoyed the show (immensely), how the acting was (great), what could have been improved (only a few things), but I have been trying to wrap my head around the content. I tried to identify the feeling I got from seeing it. Depressed? Not quite right. Amused? It was funny, but that isn't it either. Disturbed? Very much.

If you aren't familiar with Assassins, it is a story revolving around all the persons that assassinated or attempted to assassinate American presidents throughout the years. They all dress and act in accordance to their time periods, but interact with each other. So needless to say, watching these characters come to the conclusion they must kill a president is kind of messed up. The characters are portrayed as damaged by the world and their lives, and then along comes John Wilkes Booth (the original presidential assassin) to let each of them know that their problems might be solved if they would just kill a president (and, therefore, it wasn't their own idea, but doggone if it didn't sound like a fine idea). So needless to say, while the content of the show is tough, it is so well-written and portrayed, that you feel like laughing and being sad and angry all at once.

The cast standouts to me were Samuel Byck (played by John O'Brien), the Balladeer (cast as female Dana Reynolds), and John Wilkes Booth played by Christopher Davis Carlisle. Also, Shannon Stoeke stood out as the very angry Lee Harvey Oswald (and the Proprietor). The only things that I would improve if I could are 1) the size of the venue (it really limits the show as I imagine it could be in a larger place) and 2) the accompaniment (would love to hear it with a full orchestra).

If you haven't seen Assassins, check out this (or any) production and let me know what you think of the story!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lovin' On My Fellow Bloggers

This week I was honored by Stella at Well Above Average with some blog love. Imagine my surprise (and excitement that people ever read my blog...)! So here is how this thing works. I nominate 7 of my favorite blogs, and those bloggers get to

-Display this pic on their blog!

-Link to the person that nominated their blog.

-Nominate 7 of their own fave blogs to do the same.

-Notify your nominees of the honor!

And here are my nominees:

Eclaire Fare
- enjoying pop culture, one bite at a time. And Emily is one of my best friends.
Nehers in Nebraska - finding the meaning in the in between. And Julie is my sister. Also see her cute baby accessories here... (shameless family plug)
Tapeworthy - feel free to judge him on what he likes to watch, because he is judging you. And Vance shows me that one can be friends with people you meet on the internet without seeming creepy.
All and Sundry - she's artsy, she's unique, and she is a good soccer player.
Tumbleweed - really random thoughts. And Matt is my brother-in-law.
Movie Junkie - the name says it all. We trade thoughts on movies (among other things). And he has a handy rating system. And from what I can tell, he watches all types of movies (and some TV).
Give Me My Remote - Even though Kath over at GMMR is a big time TV blogger now, hers was the first blog I read on a regular basis and deserves to be nominated here!

It should be noted that there is a bit of blog incest that goes on, and as a result, I would have chosen a couple of Stella's nominees. I will give them honorable mention here: Holliewood and Gratuitous Violins. In addition, I would have chosen Well Above Average!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trailer: The Soloist

I rarely commit to seeing every movie a certain director makes. But so far, Joe Wright hasn't failed me. Pride & Prejudice and Atonement both had their faults, but I thoroughly enjoyed both, and give most of the credit to Joe Wright. Of course, a good deal of the credit goes to story (thanks Jane Austen and Ian McEwan) and actors (Kiera Knightley, Mathew McFadyen, James McAvoy).

If those are the requirements of good movie, The Soloist shouldn't have any problems. One, Joe Wright is directing. Two, you couldn't ask for a better, more committed (more popular) actor right now than Robert Downey, Jr. In addition, this looks to be the movie where Jamie Foxx proves Ray wasn't the only performance of a lifetime. Based on the trailer, the story looks touching. I look forward to its release.

See the trailer here:

Monday, September 08, 2008

TV: True Blood

I just finished up the first episode of HBO's new series True Blood. If you read my blog much, you might already know about my interest in vampire lore and how different creative minds choose to portray the different aspects of legend. Anyone who has watched Six Feet Under knows that Alan Ball seems to have some sort of morbid fascination with death, but how about with the undead. His new series is quite interesting, in my opinion.

True Blood takes place in a small southern town, at a time when vampires are known and living among humans (but still not quite accepted by all). But Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and the other locals have never seen one in person before, until Bill (Stephen Moyer) arrives at the local diner. Did I mention Sookie has the gift of hearing people's thoughts (a la Edward Cullen) but can't read Bill (a la Bella Swan...).

There is a lot to like about the show, or what I have seen so far. Paquin is a good actress, and pretty likable as the sweet and somewhat naive Sookie. She has great chemistry with Bill. Ball sticks with the general vampire legend, including only coming out at night, fangs, etc.

There were some things that were not so great. What in the world were some of those accents? While I liked the idea of Tara (played by Rutina Wesley), her accent was very forced. Having lived in several different places in the South (while getting by with very little accent), I just was appalled at some of the poorly done southern accents.

As is usual, the vampire stories are over-sexed. I wonder what the vampire obsession with sex is. Because they are immortal, are they just bored with normal stuff? Is it the power? I don't know. But having watched Six Feet Under, I knew there would be some pretty raunchy sex scenes in this, and they delivered on that expectation very early on. I can't help but feel like I am seeing WAY too much of that. Yes, there are people who don't need to see all that.

I do plan to watch another episode and see where the story goes. I was rather drawn in by the plot and the characters. Let's hope it doesn't disappoint.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Book: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I started and completed a book in one day. In one sitting actually. It seems I am into the Young Adult genre, as that is where I picked up Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan. I had seen the trailer for the film adaptation and, once I realized it was based on a book, I wanted to give it a (quick) read.

The general story is that two strangers (Nick & Norah) in a NYC punk rock club pretend to be dating so they can each avoid unknowingly the same girl (said girl previously dumped Nick and broke his heart, and is a frenemy of Norah from school). In classic Before Sunrise spirit, a journey together around the city ensues, with many bumps in the road.

Having just come off of reading the entire Twilight series, my guess is that, vampires aside, this is just so much more realistic. The feelings teenagers feel, the hormones, the constant use of F-words. I really enjoyed this read and I got a nice feeling from reading it.

The book surprised me slightly as I had already seen the trailer for the movie before picking up the book. Kat Dennings seems a good casting choice for Norah (I liked her in Charlie Bartlett), but Michael Cera didn't really seem rough enough around the edges to play Nick. He is a bassist in a self-described "queercore" band. Also, I adore Michael Cera, but it is so hard imagining him in a role that requires him to be sexy at all. Even the sex scene in Superbad was him acting awkward and rather George Michael Bluth, if you ask me. However, I am hoping this movie shows us he is not too one-note.

Also, the movie has elaborated quite a bit on the story, and has taken the characters a little more mainstream (and not quite so punk). I don't think I mind and look forward to seeing how the movie actually compares (as opposed to judging based solely on the trailer, which is below).

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

TV: 90210

Just a few quick comments on the pilot of the new 90210. Yes, I watched it. I had to see what all the hype was about. And really, I just wanted to see some of the old faves from yesteryear (Brenda & Kelley), along with Rob Estes, whom I secretly love.

The story was cheesy as expected, and full of major drama. I think every possible plot line was addressed in the first hour (drugs, sex, back-stabbing, cheating, fighting, illegitemate children). The acting was so-so...

What school would be allowed to put on Spring Awakening? I don't think so. My high school did Grease and there was a HUGE outcry from the community. Granted, that was Texas, not Beverly Hills, but still... I have been singing Mama Who Bore Me since, though.

While I don't intend to continue watching, I have to say it wasn't quite as bad as I had expected. I think watching The Secret Life of the American Teenager recently really lowered the bar on this type of show. And now I can say with 100% certainty, it was a LOT better than that.

Movie: Hallam Foe

First off, this movie is being marketed as Mister Foe for U.S. audiences. I guess they were worried no one would know what a "hallam" is and wouldn't come to the movie. Either way, I have never completely understood marketing it as one title one place and another title elsewhere, while in the same language (this reminds me of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which could have just been explained in the book). But I digress...

Hallam Foe is a British drama about a teenager named Hallam Foe, played by Jamie Bell, who acts out his response to his mother's death by venturing into a life of voyeurism. We meet Hallam a couple of years after his mother's suicide by drowning, when his father is remarried to a woman he hates. All this contributes to his peeping tom habits, tendency to wear makeup as war paint, and dressing in his mother's clothes (which reminds me of The Mudge Boy, where Emile Hirsch also dresses as a woman and does some creepy spying of his own in dealing with his mother's death). Hallam leaves home and heads to the streets of London, where he discovers an older woman (Sophia Myles) that looks strikingly like his mother. He follows her and sets up camp in locations where he can spy on her daily activities. In the meantime, he becomes convinced that his step-mother is guilty of murdering his mother.

Jamie Bell does an excellent job of portraying the lost soul of Hallam, the need for a maternal figure, the paranoia of how his mother died, his loneliness. Bell is a very talented actor, whom I have adored since Billy Elliot. I am glad to see him taking on a leading role again, as I have only seen him in King Kong and Flags of our Fathers since then.

This was a different type of role for Sophia Myles as well, since I have only seen her in Moonlight and Tristan & Isolde. Her character Kate was certainly edgier than either of those characters. And a little bit more messy. It was a nice change.

The supporting cast was rounded out by Ciaran Hinds as Hallam's father and Claire Forlani as his step-mother.

This was not your average coming-of-age tale, and I definitely recommend it, if you enjoy stories that are a bit on the odd side (which I do).