Film Review “Still Alice”

Starring: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin
Directed by: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 41 mins
Sony Pictures Classic

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

“Still Alice” – based on the novel of the same name by Lisa Genova – is a finely performed, well-paced film, and while it may strike some emotional chords with a female demographic, I found it to be extremely hard to relate to. However, that’s primarily the only flaw I had with this film.

Alice Howland (Moore) is a renowned linguist whom after a few strange episodes of forgetting words, and not remembering where she is, discovers that she has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The film rests solely on Moore’s performance, which works well. She is in every single scene of the film, and all the other actors seem to be there just to back her up. Alec Baldwin gives a fine performance as Alice’s husband. And although she was only in a few scenes, Kate Bosworth was able to bring some emotion to this story. On the other hand, Kristen Stewart blinks and stammers her way through scenes as she is accustomed to doing. I don’t dislike Kristen Stewart, but in my opinion it’s unwise to have her acting opposite Julianne Moore in a scene. Most of the emotional scenes take place between Moore and Stewart, and Stewart does not deliver at all.

Moore’s performance is so subtle, while also being erratic at times, that you can’t fully see the change she makes with her character, until toward the end of the film. Alice Howland, after discovering her disease, leaves a video message for herself on her computer; and when she watches it months and months later, you’d believe it was two different women. That moment alone is deserving of Moore’s recent Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

As stated before, I found this film hard to relate to, and that stems from the writing. The story falls into too many of the generic character ruts that we’ve seen all too often. The talented, independent woman, with the brainy, and handsome husband. Three adult kids: a son who is a doctor like his father, a daughter that is married and perfect, yet struggling to have children; and the youngest daughter with her dreams of acting while not contemplating college. As this disease sets in, Alice is able to quit her job and move out to their family’s house on an island as her husband contemplates taking a year off from his job in academia and being with her. I’m sure people like this exist, but to a Midwestern man, I can not relate to it. Although I can quite easily relate to the heartbreaking reality of family members living with Alzheimer’s.

As a whole I liked the film, and it did get to me on an emotional level once or twice. Julianne Moore once again reminds us of the talent she has, and the story itself points the finger at a disease that not enough people are talking about.

Blu-ray Review “Super Duper Alice Cooper”

Actors: Alice Cooper
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Eagle Rock
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Run Time: 127 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

“Feed Me Frankenstein”! Watching “Wayne’s World” was one of my first exposures as a kid to the legendary Alice Cooper. “Super Duper Alice Cooper” is the first ever “doc opera” around the rock star. What really drew me to the film was the it is not your typical interview after interview doc, this contains of a great blend of documentary archive footage, animation, and rock opera. What makes this even cooler is that it is from Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn of Banger Films. They guys produced other great music documentaries like of “Iron Maiden: Flight 666” and “Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage”. If you are an Alice Cooper fan, this is definitely a much purchase. If not just wait till it airs on VH1 Classic this September.

Official Premise: Super Duper Alice Cooper is the first ever “doc opera” – featuring a blend of documentary archive footage, animation and rock opera that will cement forever the legend of Alice Cooper. The film is the twisted tale of a teenage Dr. Jekyll whose rock n’ roll Mr. Hyde almost kills him. It is the story of Vincent Furnier, a preacher’s son who struck fear into the hearts of parents as Alice Cooper, the ultimate rock star of the bizarre. From the advent of Alice as front man for a group of Phoenix freaks in the 60’s to the hazy decadence of celebrity in the 70s to his triumphant comeback as 80s glam metal godfather, we will watch as Alice and Vincent battle for each other’s’ souls. Alice’s story is told not only by the man himself, but through exclusive interviews with members of the original Alice Cooper band, Elton John, Iggy Pop, John Lydon, and Dee Snider.

Like most if not all of Eagle Rock’s Blu-ray’s, “Super Duper Alice Cooper” is presented in 1080i, so not full HD. It still looks impressive I have to say, but I don’t know how they get it in line with the rest of the standard Blu-ray specs. Besides teh film, there is also tons of bonus deleted scenes included. There are Alice Cooper interviews from the VH1 Classic series “Metal Evolution”. There is also additional rare footage included. Even though Eagle Rock doesn’t love Media Mikes enough to hook us up with the Deluxe Edition of this release, I am still going to give it a plug since it is quite rad. It features not only the film but also a second DVD of previously unreleased concert footage from Montreal University in 1972. There is also a CD included of Alice Cooper’s performance at the 2009 Montreux Jazz Festival. The deluxe edition comes all together in a huge LP-sized box with 60-page hardback photobook. Now that is the real must for hardcore fans.

Theatre Review “Alice Lost in Wonderland” Garden Theatre – Winter Garden, FL

“Alice Lost in Wonderland”
Writer/Director: Rob Winn Anderson
Garden Theatre
160 W. Plant St, Winter Garden FL
October 20, 2013

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Since I moved from New York (and missing Broadway), the Garden Theatre, located in Winter Garden, FL, has been my answer to fill that void. When I saw they they were going to be presenting a darker take on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”, I knew I had to see it. The play “Alice Lost in Wonderland” made its world premiere this weekend and I was left quite speechless while leaving the theatre. I am a sucker for this classic story and always jump at the chance to see it portrayed in a difference view. The story was unique and backed with very impressive performances from the cast.

Official Premise: “Alice Lost in Wonderland” uses Lewis Carroll’s classic book to inspire the story of a woman frantically searching for what she has lost. Years of falling in and out of mental institutions have broken her and now she finds herself in a terrifying situation where chances are final and journeys into dark places are both wonderful and haunting.

This show is definitely not for kids. It is quite intense and contains some very mature themes. In terms of visual, the show consisted of only one set. So there wasn’t much of a visual “wow” factor. So the weight of the show rested on our cast of performers…and luckily like I mentioned they all were very impressive. I have seen plenty of local theatre productions and you always have talent that just isn’t quite up to par. Well, not at this theatre, the performers all pulled their weight and gave great performances.

If you are drawn in like myself to see a twisted production of “Alice in Wonderland”, you should be enjoy this quite a bit. The use of light and smoke in the show is very effective and add great atmosphere. It kept my interest the whole production and had me guessing as well to where they were going to take it. I have seen plenty of shows where I lose interest, but not here. Highly recommended to catch this play during its world premiere at the Garden Theatre (just leave the kiddies at home).

Cast of “Alice Lost in Wonderland”
Jane- Becky Eck
Alice/Dr.Alice/Cheshire Kitten- Taylor Anderson
Queen of Spades/Dr. Barb- Meaghan Fenner
White Rabbit/Mr. Gwynn- Alexander Mrazek
Ducky/Duchess/Crumpet/Pigeon- Julie Snyder
Mouse/White Knight- Erik Nelson
Carter/Mad Hatter- Wesley Slade
Louis/Sir Time/Tweedle/Gardener- Mike Deaven
Bill/Caterpillar- Tod Caviness
Campbell/Mock Turtle- Nicholas Bethencourt Neto

When: October 18th-November 3rd
Where: Garden Theatre, 160 W. Plant St., Winter Garden
Tickets: $25; $21 students and seniors
Call: 407-877-4736
Online: gardentheatre.org

Garden Theatre Announces “Alice Lost in Wonderland”

GARDEN THEATRE ANNOUNCES ALICE LOST IN WONDERLAND

Original World Premiere of Psychological Drama

WINTER GARDEN, FL (Oct 2, 2013) – The Garden Theatre announces the original world premiere of Beth Marshall Presents’ production of Alice Lost in Wonderland, written and directed by award-winning playwright Rob Winn Anderson with producing artistic direction by Beth Marshall, October 18 – November 3, 2013, at the Garden Theatre (160 West Plant Street, Winter Garden). Alice Lost In Wonderland is sponsored by Insight Credit Union. The Garden Theatre’s 2013-2014 Season is presented by CenturyLink.

In this original world premiere, Alice Lost in Wonderland uses Lewis Carroll’s classic book to inspire the story of a woman frantically searching for what she has lost. Years of falling in and out of mental institutions have broken her and now she finds herself in a terrifying situation where chances are final and journeys into dark places are both wonderful and haunting. This whimsical psychological thriller steps out of reality and into a shattered mind to create a classically creepy and intriguingly creative journey through wonderland.

Since the Garden Theatre re-opened in 2008, there were talks about Beth Marshall Presents producing an adaptation of Alice In Wonderland, and so the idea shifted. “The concept of the show morphed into numerous forms throughout the years,” said producer Beth Marshall. “But I always knew that it would be from a strong female view point, giving the production an even darker and more adult feel. At this point the play went from being an adaptation to more of an original take.”

This play is written and directed by Rob Winn Anderson, an Orlando resident and nationally acclaimed director and playwright who’s other plays have been featured at Kennedy Center Playwrighting Intensive. Anderson is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America Inc., Chicago Dramatists, SAG, and many more.  Anderson most recently directed Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues and his fresh take on The Wizard of Oz at the Garden Theatre last season. During Biloxi Blues, Marshall presented him with her vision of Alice Lost In Wonderland and asked if he would write and direct the show. The next six months were brainstorming ideas, sharing images, songs, writings, research. “It feels like we’ve been through a million rewrites,” says Marshall. “Now here we are in our own wonderland.”

Beth Marshall plans to get two tattoos inspired by the show. The first tattoo, which she intends to get before opening night, will be the White Rabbit mask, and right below it the line from the play, “Even nonsense has sense in it.”  The second tattoo is an original design by set designer Tom Mangieri, a playing card of The Queen of Spades, which Marshall intends to get before the show closes.

Show times are Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm & 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $25 for adults ($21 for seniors/students).  There will also be an Industry Night on Monday, October 28 at 8pm.  This show is open to the public, with $15 ticket for those in the theatre industry.  Note: This show contains mild drug and mental illness references, and mild language. For tickets, visit gardentheatre.org or call the Garden Theatre Box Office at 407-877-GRDN (4736).

ABOUT BETH MARSHALL PRESENTS

Beth Marshall Presents is an independent production company based out of Orlando, Florida, producing theatrical, dance, music, multi-media performance art and all things creative in arts & entertainment with a special focus on original works and touring festival circuits. This is Beth Marshall Present’s ninth show produced at the Garden Theatre, including previous shows L’Ange Avec Les FleursOur TownCrimes of the HeartDriving Miss Daisy, A Christmas CarolThe Diviners, Biloxi Blues, and Children of a Lesser God. Visit bethmarshallpresents.com for more information.

ABOUT THE GARDEN THEATRE 

Located in the heart of historic downtown Winter Garden on Plant Street, the Garden Theatre is a not-for-profit community organization committed to enriching, engaging, and entertaining through creative experiences. The theatre, which reopened 2008, showcases an atmospheric theatre in a Mediterranean Revival style venue. The Garden Theatre hosts live plays, concerts, movies, and more to the residents of and visitors to the city of Winter Garden. For tickets or additional information, contact the Garden Theatre Box Office at 407-877-GRDN (4736) or visit the new Garden Theatre website at gardentheatre.org.

DVD Reviews "Alice Through the Looking Glass (1973) & Alice in Wonderland (1986)"

Actors: Brenda Bruce, Freddie Jones, Judy Parfit, Geoffrey Bayldon, Kate Dorning, Ian Wallace, Jonathan Cecil,
Directors: Barry Letts, James MacTaggart
Rated: Unrated
Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: March 12, 2013
Run Time: 66 minutes / 120 minutes

Alice Through the Looking Glass: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Alice in Wonderland: 3 out of 5 stars

When it comes to “Alice in Wonderland”, I am first in line.  BBC is known for their classic productions of “Alice Through the Looking Glass” from 1973 and “Alice in Wonderland” from 1986.  I was never a huge fan of the “Looking Glass”, the production is extremely low and not as friendly as “Wonderland”.  I love the songs in “Alice in Wonderland” it’s not Disney quality but still fun for what it is. Both films definitely show their age but having watched them growing up they have that certain charm that still draws you in.  If you did the same then I would recommend checking out at least “Alice in Wonderland” again for sure.

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” – Official Synopsis: Join Alice on her journey through the mirror in BBC’s fanciful adaptation of Lewis Caroll’s classic novel! In an alternate world, just on the other side of the mirror’s reflection, Alice finds herself in the middle of a life-sized chess game, where she encounters a variety of surreal scenarios and fantastical characters, including Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Humpty Dumpty, the Red Queen and others. To be crowned queen and return home, Alice must traverse all the ranks to the end of this massive chessboard-but will she make it?

“Alice In Wonderland” – Official Synopsis: This classic BBC production of the family favorite tale begins one summer afternoon as Lewis Carroll regales his picnic companions with the tale of young girl named Alice who sees a fully-dressed, talking rabbit run past her. She follows the rabbit down a hole and enters a nonsensical world where it seems the normal rules of logic do not apply. In Wonderland, Alice participates in a winnerless race, alternates between being tiny and giant, hears riddles at a “mad” tea party, plays croquet with live flamencos, and attends a trial where the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts. Featuring Doctor Who’s Elisabeth Sladen as the Dormouse, and filled with memorable characters and songs, this is a version the whole family is sure to enjoy.

I do not remember “Alice Through the Looking Glass” looking that incredibly cheap.  They even have scenes that don’t match up with the overlay on the characters. The production on “Alice in Wonderland” is decent improvement on “Alice Through the Looking Glass” but that could have also been the 13 years between the two. Both films are presented in full frame with a 4×3 aspect ratio.  The audio tracks included are a standard DVD stereo track, which works for the age of the films.  Wasn’t looking for a DTS Surround track here.  There are no special features includes on these DVD releases, which is a little bit disappointing overall. Nostalgia is going to determine the success of these release since  time has revealed both of their ages.

Neal Smith talks about Drumming with Alice Cooper and New Solo Album

Neal Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of Fame in 2011 for his role as drummer in the Alice Cooper Group. Besides working with Alice Cooper, Neal has also played with The Plasmatics and, Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult. Media Mikes had a chance to speak with Neal recently about his career in the music business and his new solo album titled “Kill$mith Two”

Adam Lawton: What initial sparked your interest in becoming a solo artist?
Neal Smith: The original Alice Cooper band broke up in the 70’s. After that I played in a few different bands as well as doing an album with The Plasmatics and Buck Dharma. When I was working with Buck I co-wrote the song “Born to Rock” which got play on MTV. Through the 80’s I got interested in real estate and ended up getting my real estate license in the state of Connecticut. I kept writing over this time and worked on a couple projects. One of the projects was to play some shows in Texas with Mike Bruce and Glen Buxton from the Alice Cooper band. We brought in Richie Scarlett to play as well. Sadly 6 days after the project wrapped up Glen passed away. It was around this time that I decided to finish up a lot of things I had sitting on the back burner. In 1999 I released my first solo album. The album was originally recorded in 1975 and titled “Platinum God”. I got a great response to that album and afterwards put together a group with some friends called “Cinematic”. We were doing shows in New York City and while there I saw bands like Kings X, Pigface and Tapping the Vein. These bands were playing this really hard edge industrial metal. I liked the power of the material and wanted to come up with something that had the early rebellious image of Alice Cooper along with the macabre side. In 2008 we released the first Kill$mith album titled “Sexual Savior”. I was really inspired by all these newer bands that were beyond grunge. We just released “Kill$mith Two” a couple months ago.

AL: What do you think was the hardest part of transitioning from drummer to solo artist?
NS: I have always written. Even before the Alice Cooper Group I was a stand up singer in a band. I have always sung a little bit. I have always been very comfortable in any position even though drums are my forte. It was more of a new challenge. I jumped in over my head and learned everything I could. I had some great teachers and inspiration. Things weren’t difficult but there were some challenges. I think the biggest challenge though for me is coming up with songs that I like. I am the type of writer that writes when I am inspired. I can go for months or even years without being inspired to write a song. However when I am inspired the ideas come like a tsunami. The new album features 12 really solid songs. I don’t think there is any filler on this album. Alice Cooper and producer Bob Ezrin heard the demo for a song on the new album titled “Evil Voodoo Moon” and re-wrote it for Alice’s album “Welcome to my Nightmare 2”. The song is actually the first single off that album titled “I’ll Bite Your Face Off”.

AL: How would you describe/classify the “Kill$mith Two” album?
NS: I would say it’s definitely in the super hard rock/metal category. This album has more melodic choruses than the previous album. The new album may not be for everybody but it gave me the chance to experiment with some writing on my own and create the “Kill$mith” character. I wanted both “Kill$mith” albums to have a much darker and more macabre edge which is something I feel I was very successful at.

AL: What can you tell us about the new video you just put out?
NS: I wanted to pick a song off the album that was a musician’s song. There are a lot of great players on the album and one of those was Pete Hickey. He did an amazing solo on “Squeeze like a Python” and I wanted to feature a song that was one of the better songs that I really liked. I like to play for musicians and I think this song does that. The video is very sexy and hot. There is a fantasy element that is woven in between the verses of the song. We sort of took a classic approach to making the video. I think everyone did a great job. After having the video up for close to a week now we have received 3,000 hits. I have been amazed by the response.

AL: Can you tell us what the touring plans will be for the group?
NS: We will definitely be doing more videos. That right now is really our thrust to get the word out about the band. There has been some interest in the band going to Europe to play however nothing has been confirmed. As soon as dates start to be set up they will be posted on my website www.nealsmithrocks.com

PS3 Game Review “Alice: Madness Returns”

Developer: Spicy Horse
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Designer: American McGee
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action-Adventure, Platform
Mode: Single-player
Rating: ESRB: M

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Click here to view our interview with the game’s creator American McGee.
Click here
to enter for a chance to win a copy of the game on Playstation 3.

“American McGee’s Alice” has always been one of my favorite games to date. I have been early awaiting the release of this game…so let’s just say that expectations are very high. But worry though, this game comes through well over expectations. The game takes place 11 years after the first game (like in real life between their releases). Unlike the first game which was only released on PC and Mac format. This game is released on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, so it is the first time it is available on console. If you are a fan of the original you will be greatly appreciative to hear that the first game, “American McGee’s Alice” is included for free on the disc of each game. So fans rejoice, 11 years was worth the wait because this game in plain English..KICK MAJOR ASS!

It’s eleven years since Alice left Rutledge (where we left her from the first game) and she is being taken care of by a child psychiatrist in London. She is still fighting the loss of her family and she starts to lose grip reality and returns to Wonderland. Unfortuntely the Wonderland she knew is gone and it is now a completely different place. This time, though, there’s an bigger question fueling her madness is the truth behind the fire that caused her family to die.

The visuals are stunning. The level design is very smooth and well done. The design isn’t the only thing that got an upgrade though Alice also is now about to double jump using twirls, she can also glide after jumping. She has the ability to shrink on demand to get to those hard to reach spots. I have been reading that some people are having issues with the controls and cameras. I find it to be the complete opposite in fact. I thought the cameras track well and the controls are definitely manageable (I just keep forgetting how to get that damn umbrella to come out).

“Alice: Madness Returns” is also heavy on the action and has some really dark gameplay. Alice has many weapons in her arsenal like the Vorpal Blade (can’t beat the classic hack/slash), Pepper Grinder (machine gun-like) and Hobby Horse (melee smash attack). What I also like about this game is that each hit will turn into a combo when combined with other buttons and dodges. I would have to agree pretty well with the games M rating, it definitely pushes the barriers, but that is a good thing. There are a few minor glitches I found the game, mostly when changing rooms or entering keyholes but otherwise, I didn’t noticing any lagging or freezing. The length of the game is decent and leaves you definitely feeling satisfied.  This is a must buy and I can’t wait to replay it again to see things that I missed the first time.

Now like I mentioned earlier the original American McGee’s Alice is included on the disc (unlockable using an online pass at the console store). One thing is though, after playing “Madness Returns” which is so smooth and beautiful, switching back to the original really shows its age. But hey what do you expect…11 years is a long time and games look better today that is expected. Getting to play the original for the first time on a console was really sweet and was a great idea for them to include it on this disc.