Film Review: “The French”

  • THE FRENCH
  • Starring: Bjorn Borg
  • Directed by: William Klein
  • Ratied: unrated
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 10 mins
It was the Spring of 1981. A former Hollywood actor was the new president. The Soviet Union was a threat to world peace. (Some things haven’t changed.) Tennis rackets were predominantly wooden, but the sport itself was alive and thriving in what was truly a golden age. Originally released in 1982, “The French” is a re-released documentary that gives us unfettered access to some of the greatest legends of tennis as they make their way through the French Open tournament. Thanks to filmmaker William Klein, who is now 96 years old, tennis enthusiasts can bask in the nostalgia of watching the likes of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, and Ivan Lendl during their peak.
Taking placed from May 25th through June 7th, 1981, the 85th French Open was held per tradition on the outdoor clay courts at Roland Garros in Paris. Klein gives us a backstage pass that allows us to watch private interactions between players as they warm up or as they hang out in the locker room. Better than any “Hard Knocks” episode, “The French” is honest without any frills. We get a true sense of the almost happy-go-lucky nature of Yannick Noah compared to the somber, cool, and determined Borg.
This was an age of tennis when there were all sorts of personalities involved, and the game was played in a much purer form rather than today’s version where titanium rackets smash tennis balls at over 100 mph. The film’s pacing barely hits the speed limit, though, as it often drags along with way too many elongated shots of the crowd rather than focusing more on the players. Furthermore, “The French” focuses most of its time on the men while the female greats are left as almost an afterthought with Evert getting the bulk of the screen time.
The film’s biggest highlight is when McEnroe faces off against Lendl in the quarterfinals. Younger generations have no clue about his legendary tirades on the court and McEnroe does not disappoint during his match. Overall, the lone notable fact about the 1981 tournament is that it was Borg’s 11th Grand Slam title and would ultimately be his last.
Overall, “The French” is a neat look into a time capsule, but will be most enjoyed by tennis fanatics with little appeal beyond that.

Film Review 2: “Top Gun: Maverick”

 

  • TOP GUN: MAVERICK
  • Starring:  Tom Cruise, Miles Teller and Val Kilmer
  • Directed by:  Joseph Kosinski
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 11 mins
  • Paramount

 

In April of 1986 I was in the movie theatre business.  I had begged the home office – and convinced them – to give me “Top Gun” as one of my summer pictures.  I displayed the posters and ran the trailers, listening to the audience’s excitement when the preview ended.  I was set.  Then, during the first week of May, our company Vice President visited me in my office.  To get the full picture in your head, I’ll preface his comments by letting you know that he sounded an awful bit like Fozzie Bear.  “Michael,” he said, “I’ve just come from seeing what will be the biggest film of the summer.”  “Top Gun,” I asked.  “No, “Cobra.”  You’ll play it for months!”  “So I’m playing “Cobra” AND “Top Gun?” – my theatre was a twin – “Top Gun”??  That won’t play through June.  Believe me, my friend, you want “Cobra.””  So I played “Cobra,” which fizzled out after 2 weeks.  The other theatre in the area got “Top Gun.”  It played through August!

 

As his jet rockets through the sky, Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Cruise)begins a difficult maneuver and, as he often does in these situations, quietly whispers “talk to me Goose.”   It’s something he’s done for the past three-plus decades and it’s always seemed to work.  Will it work this time?

 

Packed with wall -to-wall action, “Top Gun: Maverick” finds, well, Maverick, back as an instructor at the Fighter Pilot Training School, where he is asked to get 16 of the best pilots ready for a mission.  He balks at first at the assignment, stating his preference to be a part of the mission itself, but is told in no uncertain terms by his commander (Jon Hamm) that he’s just there to train and evaluate.  However, things get a little more difficult when he learns that one of the students, call sign Rooster (Teller), is the son of Maverick’s late friend Goose, a young man who blames Maverick for many things, including, of course, the death of his father.  Can you say tension?

It has been 36-years since “Top Gun” hit theatres, and I’ll have to admit that I was a little wary when I heard they were making a sequel.  Anticipation grew as COVID delayed the film’s release – originally scheduled for May 2019 – for almost two years.  Let me just say, it was well worth the wait.  Combining several familiar themes from the first film, with an amazing amount of aerial action, “Top Gun: Maverick” delivers the goods.  Cruise is his usual cocky self, and that self-assurance is multiplied several times by the assortment of hot shot pilots he is given to mentor.  Teller, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the young Goose, plays a young man who should be confident of his skills but isn’t, causing him to hesitate at times he shouldn’t.  Jennifer Connelly is Maverick’s love interest this time around, playing – if my memory serves me – the daughter of a former Admiral – a daughter that Maverick may or may not have taken advantage of.  Jon Hamm and Ed Harris are well cast as the authority figures that just don’t seem to understand Maverick’s ways and it’s a genuine treat to see Val Kilmer back on the big screen.    Director Kosinski keeps the film moving at a rapid pace, while the aerial action is downright dizzying.

 

The film is lovingly dedicated to the late Tony Scott, who directed “Top Gun.”  I’d like to think that he would give a thumbs up and a salute to “Top Gun: Maverick.”

Film Review “The Bob’s Burgers Movie”

Directed by: Loren Bouchard, Bernard Derriman
Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, Larry Murphy, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal
Distributed by: 20th Century Studios
Release date: May 27, 2022
Running time: 102 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It’s crazy to this that “Bob’s Burgers” has been on the air is 2011. 11 years this show has been on Fox spanning 12 seasons and over 230 episodes. If you haven’t watched this show, I highly recommend it. It is one of those shows that you will watch and not want to miss a single line of dialogue because literally each word is gold! “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” works as a long episode of the show and delivers some great laughs. I got to admit, I was nervous if the show would hold up as a feature length film but the jokes don’t get tired and the musical acts in the film carry along everything together.

Official Premise: A ruptured water main creates an enormous sinkhole right in front of Bob’s Burgers, blocking the entrance indefinitely and ruining the Belchers’ plans for a successful summer. While Bob and Linda struggle to keep the business afloat, the kids try to solve a mystery that could save their family’s restaurant. As the dangers mount, these underdogs help each other find hope as they try to get back behind the counter.

If you are wondering how can I see “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” if I have never seen “Bob’s Burgers” the TV show, well you definitely can that’s for sure. My wife came along to the screening, who has many seen a few clips of the show and had an excellent time throughout laughing and enjoying this movie. Also all the original cast is back for the movie, which is great because they all crack me up. If you are looking for something alternative to see this summer, this film is a great option since it is fairly family friendly and packs some fun songs and non-stop jokes.

Film Review “Top Gun: Maverick”

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Charles Parnell, Bashir Salahuddin, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis with Ed Harris
Paramount Pictures
Release Date: May 27, 2022
Running time: 131 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Top Gun” is one of the essentially movies to watch of the 80’s. I have seen it MANY times and even on 3D Blu-ray, which is an incredible way to view it. So here we are 36 years later and we have “Top Gun: Maverick”. You got to be a little nervous revisiting such an important film as this but this sequel stands up on its on and even surpasses the first film in some areas. “Top Gun: Maverick” also packs a punch of nostalgia and is surprising funny…I mean like belly laughing funny. This was a pleasant surprise as well. The most shocking factor of this sequel is the fact that Tom Cruise hasn’t aged in the last 36 years and delivers one of his best performances. I see this film having a very healthy run at the box office. A must see for sure this summer season!

Before we get too deep into the movie, I need to provide y’all with three important reasons to experience this film in IMAX!!! The first reason is an easy one…with IMAX you get to experience 26% more picture that in standard theaters. A lot of films these days are shooting with these specific IMAX cameras and it’s no joke you get to see more of the movie, so it’s a no brainer. Second, is that you literally fear the roar with IMAX sound. The sound easily rumbled the entire theater. The last one I didn’t know till after I saw the film, which is that there was six IMAX cameras located in each of the cockpits. This was why the aerial shots were so stunning and heart-pounding for sure.

Official Premise: After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of TOPGUN graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose”. Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.

I have to give Jennifer Connelly props for nearly taking my breath away…she looks stunning in this movie (and she is another one that doesn’t age). Her and Cruise have great chemistry and I loved their love storyline that they had together. It was cool getting to see Val Kilmer show up again as Ice Man. The aerial scenes were absolutely stunning, like I mentioned above about the sound, the seats were literally shaking in the theater. I don’t know how Tom Cruise continues to out due himself with these films but the guy is a legend and literally wins you over even if your not a fan. Looking forward to a second viewing of this film because I feel like there is so much happening that you could benefit from multiple viewings.

Film Review: “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” – REVIEW 2

 

  • DR. STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
  • Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olson
  • Directed by: Sam Raimi
  • Ratied: PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 6 mins
  • Walt Disney Studios
Second only to the Oscar-nominated “Black Panther” of 2018, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is the best Marvel film to be released to date. Having made over $230 million domestically in its first seven days of release (Box Office Mojo), the Sam Raimi-helmed story about everyone’s favorite doctor of mystical arts is a visual spectacular with plenty of excitement, great acting, and a complicated story that demands your full attention. It is nothing short of marvelous and easily the finest since “Avengers: End Game.”
(For those who have yet to see the newest “Doctor Strange” don’t worry, you won’t find any spoilers here.) We are instantly thrust to a weird place in between universes where a pony-tailed version of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and a teenager named America Chavez (Xochitil Gomez) are chased by a demon as they try to reach a powerful spell book. The incredible situation goes from bad to worse before America, who has the ability to travel across the multiverse, ends up in “our” universe where she is saved by Strange and Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong).
After realizing there were witchcraft runes on the demon that chased America, Stephen finds Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olson) to request her help. He soon discovers, though, that what transpired during the events of “WandaVision” have left Wanda psychologically imbalanced. In fact, she reveals her full embracement of her dark alter ego – The Scarlet Witch. She demands Stephen turn America over to her so she can be with her children in an alternate universe. This leads to an epic magical showdown at Kamar-Taj from which Stephen and America flee across the multiverse to another Earth that is governed by a powerful group named the Illuminati.
Stephen does not receive a warm welcome from the Illuminati council despite his grave warnings about the impending arrival of the Scarlet Witch. Ultimately, he must rely upon his ex-romantic partner Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), who on this version of Earth is an expert on the multi-verse, to help him and America defeat the increasingly unhinged Scarlet Witch.
Cumberbatch gets to explore many more facets of a character who when first introduced to us was an egotistical narcissist on the same level as Tony Stark. However, Stephen grows significantly in this newest story and becomes a hero that can be fully embraced and understood. (A stark contrast to Peter Parker who never seems to mature past be a mistake prone, bumbling stumbling man child.) Stephen Strange may still have elements of over-confidence, but with Cumberbatch’s undeniable skill and some solid writing, he becomes fully developed hero in this second film devoted to the Master of Mystic Arts.
“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” easily has some of the best eye candy of the entire Marvel collection with dazzling special effects and colorful imagery. It is also has some moments of brutal violence, hence the PG-13 rating, as it alternates between dark moments of despair and flashes of levity that we have come to expect in all of the Marvel flicks. The assembled cast is nothing less than fantastic with particularly stand-out supporting performances from Olson and McAdams.
In the end, “Doctor Strange and Multiverse of Madness” is the best entertainment you will find currently at any cinema.

Film Review: “The Northman”

 

Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Anna Taylor-Joy
Directed by: Robert Eggers
Rated: R
Running Time: 2 hrs 17 mins
Focus Features

If you have not seen the Viking action/drama “The Northman” yet, then you are missing out on a classic work of historical fiction by director Robert Eggers (“The Lighthouse,” “The Witch”). Headlined by a superb performance from Alexander Skarsgard, “The Northman” is based upon a Scandinavian folktale written by Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1150-c. 1220), which served to later influence William Shakespeare’s writing of “Hamlet.” Eggers’s glorious cinematic take on the ancient story of Amleth is violent to the core with an emphasis on historical detail and Viking mythology.

The story, which is a tad slow occasionally, begins in the year AD 895 when King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) returns to his island kingdom of Hrafnsey. A celebration, organized by his wife, Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman) is held to honor his triumphant return. However, King Aurvandil, who bears a terrible wound, refrains from too much revelry as he is focused on preparing young Amleth to be his successor. As such, they participate in an ancient ritual overseen by the king’s jester, Heimir the Fool (Willem Dafoe).

During the morning after the king’s return, he is betrayed by his brother, Fjolnir the Brotherless (Claes Bang, “The Square”) and Amleth must flee the island to stay alive, but not before he vows repeatedly to get his revenge. This fire within serves him well as he is taken in by Vikings who raise him as a berserker. During one of their forays into the lands of the Rus people, which encompasses parts of modern-day Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, Amleth (Skarsgard) learns that his uncle was overthrown by King Harald of Norway and lives in banishment in Iceland.

Seizing the opportunity to get his vengeance and rescue his mother, Amleth disguises himself as a slave before slipping onto a ship bound for Iceland. It is during the voyage that he meets a Slavic slave named Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy, “The Queen’s Gambit,” “The Witch”) who claims she is a sorceress, something she proves later. A connection develops between them as Amleth bides his time while continuing his ruse under his uncle’s nose.

Skarsgard, a native of Sweden who had long wanted to do a film about Vikings, is a powerful, physically imposing presence on the screen. He makes Thor the God of Thunder look weak and insignificant and could have possibly been a better choice for that role as he immerses himself into Amleth as seamlessly as Daniel Day Lewis on his best day. The one quibble with his performance is that sometimes it is a little difficult to understand his dialogue.

While Hawke is delightful in his role, his performance is all too brief, and it feels like he was underused. Kidman enjoys a little more screentime, but her presence is overshadowed by Taylor-Joy’s who is enchanting. While Olga may have some magical abilities, Taylor-Joy doesn’t let it be the defining characteristic of her pivotal role.

Eggers’s work is genuine homage to Viking culture and lore without losing itself in special effects-generated magic. Sure, you can sense a pinch of “Conan the Barbarian” and even “Lord of the Rings” in parts of “The Northman,” but in the end it remains true to itself and retains its own special identity.

Concert Review: “New York United 2022” Agnostic Front, Sick of It All, Crown of Thornz. Syracuse, NY

“New York United 2022”

Agnostic Front, Sick of It All, Crown of Thornz
Friday, May 6th, 2022
The Lost Horizon, Syracuse, NY

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Veteran NY hardcore bands Agnostic Front, Sick of It All and Crown of Thornz made a stop at the intimate Lost Horizon in Syracuse, NY on May 6th as part of the co-headlining “New York United” tour. Originally slated for Spring 2021 but cancelled due to the Covid-19 Pandemic the tour brings together three of the biggest names in hardcore music.

Taking the stage first were Queens NY natives Crown of Thornz. The Danny Diablo (Skarhead) fronted group wasted no time letting the audience know that they were taking no prisoners as the band ripped through songs like “Head Check”, “Icepick”, “Mental Masquerade” and “Juggernaut”. Diablo and company worked the crowd to a steaming simmer often taking time to share the mic with fans (many of whom didn’t miss a beat filling in the correct lyrics) energizing the room further before bringing their set to a close. Sick of It All would be tasked next with keeping the nights energy going and they quickly got to it by launching into the tracks “Injustice System” and “Clobberin’ Time” both from the band’s debut 1989 release “Blood, Sweat and No Tears” before taking a brief pause which allowed vocalist Lou Koller to catch his breath and to address the Syracuse crowd. As the set stretched on through songs like “Good Lookin’ Out”, “World Full of Hate” and “Pushed Too Far” Bassist Craig Setari, guitarist Pete Koller and drummer Armand Majidi pummeled the audience song after song with impressive cohesiveness and a percussive attack which obliterated your senses.

Hardcore legends Agnostic Front would close out the evening in signature NYHC style kicking off their twenty plus song set with the title track from their 1984 debut “Victim in Pain”. Vocalist Roger Miret fresh off a bout with cancer in late 2021 commanded the audience’s attention over the course of the night pausing only briefly to share his thanks for the support during recent health troubles and to announce the start of tracks like “New Jack”, “For My Family” and “Crucified”. Guitarist and founding member Vinnie Stigma sneered, snarled, and smiled at the crowd as he made his way around the cramped stage pausing from time to time to address the crowd in his thick NY accent which garnered loud applause and cheers of “STIGMA, STIGMA”. The band closed out the evening with a spot-on rendition of the classic Ramones song “Blitzkrieg Bop”. The punk staple had those in the crowd expelling any energy they may have had left before being basked in the grow on the house lights which signaled the end of the evening.

Despite reschedules, cancelations and a very serious medical scare the power of hardcore persevered as fans are now able to see some of the biggest names in the genre back up where they belong. All three bands give their all to make sure no one goes away unhappy. With East Coast dates running through May and a West Coast leg of the tour kicking off in September do yourself a favor and grab a ticket to one of these shows and get in the pit!

Sick of It All Set List:
1.) Injustice System
2.) Clobberin’ Time
3.) Take the Night Off
4.) Rat Pack
5.) Us vs. Them
6.) Inner Vision
7.) Good Lookin’ Out
8.) World Full of Hate
9.) Pushed Too Far
10.) Friends Like You
11.) Sanctuary
12.) Uprising Nation
13.) My Life
14.) Road Less Traveled
15.) Machete
16.) Bull’s Anthem
17.) Busted
18.) Scratch the Surface
19.) Step Down

Agnostic Front Setlist:
1.) Victim in Pain
2.) Your Mistake
3.) Blind Justice
4.) Last Warning
5.) With Time
6.) The Eliminator
7.) New Jack
8.) Strength
9.) For My Family
10.) Friend or Foe
11.) Discriminate Me
12.) Crucified
13.) United Blood
14.) Fascist Attitudes
15.) Peace
16.) United & Strong
17.) Power
18.) Gotta Go
19.) Police State
20.) Hiding Inside
21.) Society Sucker
22.) Blitzkrieg Bop

Film Review: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”

 

 

  • DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
  • Starring:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen and Xochiti Gomez
  • Directed by:  Sam Raimi
  • Rated:  PG-13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 6 mins
  • Walt Disney Pictures

 

Let me preface this review by stating that, while I have seen a majority of the MCU films, I have not seen “Doctor Strange” or the “WandaVision” series.  I say this because “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is the first film I’ve watched from the MCU where I think having seen previous adventures would have been helpful in discerning the story.  That being said, I found “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” both dark and intriguing.

 

Time has passed since Spider-man found his way into the Multiverse.  We are quickly drawn into a horrible scene involving our hero (an excellent Cumberbatch) trying to save a young girl (Gomez) from a pretty scary creature.  Try as he might, he cannot get the upper hand.  WHOA!  Thank goodness it was only a dream.  Right?

 

Full of everything that makes the MCU one of the best made, and received, film series in history, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a roller-coaster ride of action and emotion.  The girl in the dream, with the great character name of America Chavez, has been searching for her family, jumping from Multiverse to Multiverse without incident.  Everyone in these films has a superpower of some sort and America’s is being able to move through the Multiverse without incident.  There are 862 Multiverses, she tells Doctor Strange, all of them very similar.  And different.  When the Scarlet Witch (Olsen) pops by on a mission of her own, things get a little hectic for our heroes.

The one thing I dislike about reviewing a film like this is that, as much as you’d like to, it would be a betrayal to the reader to spoil key scenes or characters that arise.  That being said, if you’ve seen the television spots for this film, you know at least one new face shows up in the MCU.

 

The script is an excellent combination of action and humor, with Cumberbatch in great form as the pompous Doctor.  Olsen is equally strong in a role that shouldn’t play as sympathetic but, thanks to her performance, does.  And young Miss Gomez holds her own on screen against these two talented performers.

 

So great to see Sam Raimi, the director of the first Spider-man series with Tobey Maquire, back at the helm of a superhero film and he puts his trademark eye for pacing and character development on full display. 

 

All in all, even without a lot of background on the good Doctor, I found “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” amazingly good. 

Theater Review: “Jesus Christ Superstar” – Kansas City

 

  • JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
  • The Kauffman Center – Kansas City, Missouri
  • March 29, 2022

 

I have a very special place in my heart for the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.”  I’ve had it since I was 13 years old when, while visiting my grandfather – who I called Bapa, which is now how my grandchildren refer to me – in Florida, I asked to go see the movie, which was playing at a nearby theatre.  A quick phone call to my parents to make sure it was ok with them, and off I went.  For those of you who may not have seen the film, I won’t let on how it ends.  Let’s just say the ending haunted me on the way home and evolved into a long conversation with my Bapa.  Years later I had the opportunity to see the show a couple of times with both Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson, who played Jesus and Judas, respectively, in the film.  I was a guest backstage when I met both of them.  I told Ted Neeley about my conversation with Bapa and his thoughts and kindness will remain with me for the rest of my life.

 

Rolling into Kansas City this week is the 50th Anniversary Tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and it is a fine addition to the show’s great history.  A totally sung dramatization of the last week of Christ’s life, this production is very barebones, with an almost empty stage.  Also, while normally presented in two acts, there is no intermission here.  It’s a quick 80 minutes or so, but if you like to stretch your legs you’re out of luck.

 

The cast was excellent, both vocally and physically.  There is a lot of dance and movement here and nobody missed a beat.  Vocal standouts include Omar Lopez-Cepero (Judas), Jenna Rubaii (Mary) and Alvin Crawford (Caiaphas), whose amazing baritone shook the house.  The score is one of the best ever written and the orchestra, perched high above the stage, was outstanding.  Even the guys in the sound/light area could be seen grooving to the music.

 

The show continues in Kansas City at the beautiful Kauffman Center through Sunday, April 3rd.  If you’ve never seen the show, I urge you to take a chance.  If you have, see it again.  You won’t be disappointed.

Concert Review: All Star Tribute to “Rubber Soul/Revolver” – Kansas City

 

  • ALL STAR TRIBUTE TO “RUBBER SOUL” and ‘REVOLVER”
  • The Kauffman Center, Kansas City, Missouri
  • March 27, 2022

 

In October 2019, I had the great pleasure of attending an all-star tribute concert to celebrate the Beatles White Album.  With a top notch band including Todd Rungren, Micky Dolenz, Christopher Cross, , Chicago’s Jason Scheff and Joey Molland from Badfinger, the show was an amazing celebration of music.  Not only did they deliver the goods on the Beatles music but each one also performed a couple of their own hits.  I should also note that, in my review, I lamented how Todd Rungren was not a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I also started an on-line petition to correct this error.

Tonight the band was back together, celebrating two other of the Fab Four’s classic albums, “Rubber Sou” and “Revolver.”  Dolenz didn’t make the trip this time, but he was ably replaced by Moody Blues and Wings co-founder Denny Laine.  Again, the Beatles music was great to hear live, but the real treat was getting to hear some of the other hits the musicians had been a part of.  Two of the non-Beatle highlights were Laine’s rendition of “Band on the Run,” with a vocal that rivaled Maccas and a blistering “25 or 6 to 4” with a guitar solo that would have made Terry Kath proud.

 

The music was infectious, and the crowd responded by dancing in their seats and giving a well deserved standing ovation at the concert’s end.  They also stood after the afore mentioned rendition of “25 or 6 to 4” and after a sing-along to Rungren’s “Hello It’s Me.”  As I left the show, I was already praying that next year brings an “Abbey Road/Let It Be” tour!

 

Incidentally, this time around Todd Rungren IS a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Just saying!

 

SET LIST

 

Drive My Car, I Want to Tell You, Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, If I Needed Someone, Go Now, Band on the Run, I’m Only Sleeping, No Matter What, Baby Blue, Good Day Sunshine, In My Life, AYou Won’t See Me, Sailing, Ride Like the Wind, And Your Bird Can Sing, Here, There and Everywhere, Girl, Michelle, I Just Saw a Face, Norwegian Wood, Hard to Say I’m Sorry, 25 or 6 to 4, For No One, Nowhere Man, I Saw the Light, Hello It’s Me, Dr. Robert, Got to Get You Into My Life, Tomorrow Never Knows, The Word, Yellow Submarine. 

 

Film Review: “The Lost City”

 

  • THE LOST CITY
  • Starring:  Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum and Daniel Radcliffe
  • Directed by:  Aaron Nee and Adam Nee
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 52 mins
  • Paramount

 

 

Fun.  That’s the first thing I thought of as the credits rolled on “The Lost City.”  This movie was Fun!

 

Following the death of her husband, romance/adventure author Loretta (Bullock) is struggling to finish her next book.  She has the action.  She has the romance.  But she just can’t find an ending.  However, when Loretta finds HERSELF in peril, the story almost writes itself.

 

I have to admit that when I sat down I was expecting a watered-down retelling of “Romancing the Stone.”  Nope.  “The Lost City” is a film with great characters, rich locations and, darn it, here’s that word again…fun.  I had no idea that Sandra Bullock was such an amazing physical comedienne.  Whether traipsing through the jungle in a spangled jumpsuit or caught in the middle of a high-speed chase while tied to a chair, she effortlessly uses the situation to the audience’s benefit.  She is joined by Tatum, who longs to be thought of as more than Ash, the cover model of Loretta’s novels.  Radcliffe is also well cast as the villain of the piece, who is searching for a long-lost treasure.  You may even spot a very familiar face who is enlisted to help track down the missing Loretta.

The is witty and adds a few surprises to the normal tropes found in a film like this.  The pace is fast, but never hurried and the locations are lush and exotic.  The musical score, by Pinar Toprak, helps set the mood and keep the story moving.

 

To sum it all up, “The Lost City” is a fun way to usher in the spring movie season.

 

 

Theater Review – Mean Girls: The Broadway Musical” – Kansas City

 

  • MEAN GIRLS
  • The Music Hall
  • Kansas City, Missouri

 

“Mean Girls” captures the pitfalls of trying to fit in
Since its release as a feature film in 2004, “Mean Girls” – starring Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried and Lindsay Lohan – has achieved and maintained a cult following during the years since its moderately successful theatrical run. Nowhere was this more evident than on Tuesday night at the Music Hall in downtown Kansas City, Missouri where an abundance of teen to twentysomething women were dressed like characters from the Tina Fey-written comedy.
Based partly on the 2002 book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” by Rosalind Wiseman, “Mean Girls – The Broadway Musical,” also written by Fey with music by Jeff Richmond and lyrics by Nell Benjamin, begins with North Shore High School students Janis Sarkisian (Mary Kate Morrissey) and Damian Hubbard (Eric Huffman) breaking the fourth wall with powerful voices to invite us on a “cautionary tale.”
As in the original film version, young Cady Heron (Danielle Wade) moves from Kenya to Chicago with her parents when her mother gets a new job. Being the new girl in a large high school, Cady has a hard time fitting in, something anyone who was a teenager can identify with. She is helped, though, by Janis and Damian, a pair of loners who take her under their wing. The song “Where Do You Belong?” punctuates the process of finding out which clique she belongs to and is a poignant reminder about what those days were like.
As belted in “APEX Predator” by Morrissey, the one group they don’t want Cady to join is a trio of girls known as “the Plastics.” Consisting of the most feared girl in school Regina George (Nadina Hassan), her keeper of secrets Gretchen Weiners (Megan Masako Haley), and the stereotypical dumb blonde Karen Smith (Jonalyn Saxer). They are intrigued by Cady and she is invited to join them for lunch, something that never happens to anyone else in school.
Janis sees this set of circumstances as a means to get revenge on Regina for a past transgression. So, she convinces a reluctant Cady to spy on Regina for her. Mix in competing affections for a dreamy boy named Aaron Samuels (Adante Carter) and the stage is set for a chaotic series of events that cause nothing but heartache and ruined friendships. However, can simple, heartfelt apologies overcome the emotional damage and allow them to accept each other’s differences?
Overall, the production value was what you would expect from a Broadway touring show – nothing but solid. Good performances were sprinkled throughout the well-written show, highlighted by Morrissey who dominated the stage with her power vocals. Additionally, the entertaining Hubbard played off her with ease as the duo shared the best onstage chemistry of the entire cast. The other cast member who often stole the show was Saxer who absolutely nailed the role of Karen and generated some of the night’s biggest laughs.
Whether it’s in Kansas City or some other city on its current tour, “Mean Girls” makes for a fun night of entertainment.
“Mean Girls – The Broadway Musical” will run through March 20th at the Music Hall.

 

Film Review: “The Batman”

 

  • THE BATMAN
  • Starring:  Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright
  • Directed by:  Matt Reeves
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 55 mind
  • Warner Bros.

 

 

 

Hey everyone, guess what?  Batman is back!  Only now he’s THE Batman.  He’s a lot meaner this time around, but you’ll be happy to know that he’s still the brooding loner we’ve come to love.

 

It’s Halloween night in Gotham City, a few days before the city elects it’s next Mayor.  A raspy voice tells us that it’s only been two years since he began donning the cowl and dealing with the scum of the city.  He is referred to in the media as “the Vigilante,” but we know him as Batman.  Or, rather, THE Batman.  Whatever you call him, his presence is embraced by Detective James Gordon (Wright), who angers his superiors by giving the Caped Crusader access to crime scenes.  After all, he IS the World’s Greatest Detective!

 

A local politician has been brutally murdered and a calling card has been left on the body in the form of a riddle addressed to the Batman.  This sets up the next chapter in the revolving Batman saga.

 

Dark, both in theme and presentation, “The Batman” is the latest attempt to bring the character into the 21st Century.  Director Reeves thankfully spares us his vision of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, apparently assuming that everyone knows that Thomas and Martha Wayne were murdered in front of their young son, thereby creating the impetus that makes him a crime fighter.  Of course, with a running time of almost three hours, perhaps Reeves shot the scene but cut it for time.  Thank you. 

In this Gotham City the sun rarely shines, it constantly rains and the best way to see ANYTHING is with a flashlight.  If I lived there I would be the very wealthy proprietor of a chain of FLASHLIGHT WORLD stores.  The darkness spills over into the tone of the film.  This Batman reminds me of the character from the 1940s comic books, someone not afraid to brutally punch a criminal in the face until his arm gets tired, or kick one off a roof for being naughty.  “I’m Vengeance,” the Batman remarks early in the film.  He isn’t kidding. 

The film is full of familiar characters with slightly different spins, including Selina Kyle (Kravitz), Alfred (Andy Serkis) and Oswald Copperpot, played by a brilliant and unrecognizable Collin Farrell.  It also has some much needed humor, something that was sorely missed in the recent Zack Snyder/Ben Affleck incarnation.  The humor helps offset some of the more darker moments.  The action scenes are intense and well choreographed, but the film eventually falls victim to its own running tine.  Sometimes too much is…well…TOO MUCH. 

 

The cast is fine, with Pattinson adding his own touch to a role now undertaken by six different actors in the past 30 years, seven if you go back to Adam West and the original television show of the 1960s.  If you only think of Pattinson as Edward from the “Twilight” series you are selling a very talented actor short.  The supporting cast is equally engaging and the new character arcs are a nice change. However, I think the film could have dropped 45 minutes and created a much tighter story, which is why I’m not as high on the film as I’d like to be.     

Theater Review: Disney’s “Frozen” at The Dr. Phillips Center – Orlando, FL

FAIRWINDS Broadway in Orlando Presents: 

Disney Frozen The Hit Broadway Musical

February 24 – March 6, 2022

Walt Disney Theater

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Ice and cold? In Orlando? And people are enjoying it? That can mean only one thing! Disney’s Hit Broadway Musical Frozen is in town. With 14 performances, of which most of them are sold out, Frozen breaks a record with more performances than any other show in The Walt Disney Theater’s history. 

Based on the 2013 wildly popular animated movie of the same name, Frozen has found a way to capture all the splendor and magic that one expects from Disney for a live audience. Seeing a real-life Olaf and Sven would be a treat in itself, but watching a real-life Elsa summon snow and ice from the palm of her hand or having your heart break as Anna freezes before your eyes, brings a sense of wonderment and excitement that only Disney can bring. 

Caroline Bowman shines as Elsa, emoting beautifully the struggle between wanting to protect your family while also wanting to be yourself.   Alongside her, Caroline Innerbichler mastered the quirky, fun Anna in such a way that made you to be your best friend while also capturing the hearts of all the children (and adults in the theater). Even my 9-year-old bonus daughter left the theater saying she wanted to be just like Anna when she was older. 

You can’t talk about Anna and Elsa, however, without talking about the amazing child stars who captured the youthful excitement and sisterly love of young Anna and Elsa perfectly – Oliva Jones (Anna) and Arwen Monzon-Sanders (Elsa). Their bond on stage, partnered with their ability to bring you in to their world and the emotions they are experience, is far beyond their age. Although Disney did not expand upon their childhood story which was told in the animated film, they did find a way to bring the characters of their childhood to life in a way that kept the spirit of the story alive. 

While it is sad that after its 2018 opening Frozen did not reopen on Broadway after the pandemic, its first national tour is a swirling snowstorm around the nation and a show that is not to be missed. You’ll be singing along to the classic songs from the film like “Let it Go,” while also feeling inspired by new songs like “Monster” which give depth to the storyline. So what are you waiting for? Don’t miss out on, what does Oaken call it?, Hygge and slide over to the Dr. Phillips Center for your tickets now. 

Film Review: “Pursuit”

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Jake Manley and Elizabeth Ludlow
Directed by: Brian Skiba
Rated: R
Running Time: 92 minutes

It’s always easy to say there’s too many cooks in the kitchen when the end product fails. But for a film that has four writers, you would think someone would have eventually read the script and axed some of the characters, trimmed the dialogue and cleaned up the jumbling, bumbling plot. But since that didn’t happen, we’re left with “Pursuit,” a film that’s almost too difficult to explain and even more difficult to care about.

So if I understand the 92 minutes I watched correctly, Rick (Hirsch), a hacker that is the epitome of hacker film clichés, is searching for his wife who has been kidnapped by a mysterious drug cartel, off screen. But while Rick is searching, he is being hunted by Mike (Manley), a New York City detective. Mike actually arrests Rick about a third of the way into the film, setting up the rest of the film which is about Rick potentially offering up worse individuals, including Rick’s father, played by John Cusack, who may have something to do with the kidnapping of Rick’s wife.

It’s sometimes difficult to tell where this movie is supposed to take place, who is working for whom, what characters are actually important to the story and which ones have been created to simply provide an exposition dump, which is funny since the exposition dump’s don’t clear anything up, and instead complicate the plot even further. Even with all the forced twists and turns, there is no payoff at the end for the ridiculousness on screen. It’s almost as if all four writers for “Pursuit” were told four different things about what the story was about.

Compounding the messy story issues in “Pursuit,” is the insane tonal shifts. In the opening sequence alone, the film tries to tell us it’s a techno thriller, but becomes so comically inept, it makes you wonder if one writer was writing a comedy, one writer was taking it too seriously, one writer was trying to figure how many ancillary characters is too many and one writer simply believed there wasn’t enough gun play. So when the film attempts humor, and it does frequently, it comes off jarring. We’re supposed to laugh at a bystander getting shot as some kind of physical comedy, but then in a few minutes we’ll see innocent women and children leaking life force after being shot? Those two things don’t jive well in an entire film, much less in a few minutes of each other.

Almost as if he saw the writing on the wall while reading the writing in the script, John Cusack, who’s predominantly featured in this film’s marketing, seems to be on autopilot as he casually drifts from mundane scene to mundane scene, at least the ones he’s in. I also wonder how much he was actually in it and how many times they just recorded him talking and then had an extra with their back turned for the scene. When we actually know Cusack is the one on-screen, he spends most of his time reacting or talking solemnly on the phone, which tells me his contract most likely stipulated that he would only do the film if they would film it at his house in one day.

Somehow “Pursuit” is equally grotesque and boring with it’s action. As far as low-budget action movies go, “Pursuit” isn’t even worthy of being in a discount bin in Wal-Mart or ran during off-hours on one of Pluto TV’s channels. You’re better off pursuing a different movie, or even a different hobby if “Pursuit” is the only movie you have at your disposal.