Good Morning Everyone! This week, filled with the holiday cheer, I opted to see Disney’s heart-warming comedy, Frozen. Princess Elsa has the gift to manipulate ice; a power she perceives as a curse and hides from the entire kingdom, even her sister Anna. On the day of her coronation as queen, Princess Elsa’s powers go a bit haywire and she accidentally traps the kingdom in eternal winter. Oopsie, Fearful of the townspeople, Elsa flees to the woods to escape. Now it’s up hopeless romantic Anna to track her sister down before it’s too late. Will Anna, along with a goofy Nordic man, a reindeer, and a snowman, be able to save the kingdom from a wintery grave?
Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s be honest, Frozen is like the movie Tangled, but with less hair and more ice. I mean, come on. Girl trapped in castle, wishing to explore the outside and fall in love, teams up with awkward yet attractive male hero with his adorable animal sidekick, all the while singing songs about their feelings. That being said though, I freaking love Tangled, and I LOVED Frozen. It didn’t even matter if it was a recycled ripoff, I ate it up like Thanksgiving dinner! I of course, like with any Disney musical, desired more songs, but LOVED the soundtrack I immediately downloaded it upon exiting the theater. Ahhhh Idina Menzel, Jonathon Groff, and Kristen Bell, my Broadway cup runeth over. Idina Menzel is everything to me in this movie. I give Frozen 4 Xs out of 5; I would have given it 5 if they had more songs for me to sing along to.
This week, I, along with majority of humanity, went to the premiere of the second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire. The games may be over but Peta and Katniss are still dealing with the consequences of surviving. President Snow, fearful of the uprising caused by Katniss’ actions, takes drastic measures. For the 75th annual Hunger Games, Snow decides tributes will be pooled from existing victors, putting Katniss and Peta back into the arena. However, will Snow’s vain attempt to squash the revolution backfire in his face.
This week, I eagerly saw the latest romcom to hit theaters this holiday season, About Time. Timothy, an awkward British Ginger mans, learns that the men of his family share a deep secret; they are time travelers. With the sky as his limit, Timothy decides to use his new found gift to secure himself a girlfriend. He soon meets Mary, an endearing, slightly homely, American and sets out to win her heart. His uses his time travel to erase all embarrassing or uncomfortable moments, in essence, making him seem perfect in the eyes of Mary. However, Timothy soon learns that his new talent comes with a price; the inability to fix the lives of those around him, as with each change he makes in the past, causes changes in his present life.
It’s about time that Hollywood produced a romantic comedy that did not make me want to projectile vomit everywhere. And finally, there is a movie that features a mother-loving GINGER as our male lead; I nearly hit the floor with the plethora of Gingers represented in the film. About Time is a smart romantic comedy, in that it didn’t waste my time with ridiculously contrived dramatic situations for the sake of entertainment. The likable characters and witty dialogue certainly overshadowed the plot holes and inconsistencies in the story. Rachel McAdams, who has been hit or miss as of late with her acting, shines as down-to-earth Mary. Bill Nighy stole the show and stole my heart with his witty charm. The ending was perhaps a little cheesy, but I was so thoroughly amused by the whole production, I could easily overlook the “hey it’s the end of the movie, so why don’t we leave you with some poignant moral to make you examine what is really important in life thang”. I give About Time 3 Xs out of 5; a refreshing romantic comedy, perfectly suited for a date night with family, friends, or a partner.
Apparently, I have difficulty articulating names at times and have tendency of combining words together to form whole new words …
Want to be the coolest boss ever in the history of work? Want to impress colleagues with your hipness? Want something different than the same old sad, borning Holiday parties, attempting to make small talk with people you really don’t like, while pretending to enjoy the non-alcoholic eggnog that Joanne brings to every staff party?
Then might I suggest that you treat your employees to a night of hilarious, live comedy courtesy of The Utility Players, Reno’s Best Bet for Comedy. Book us either for a private engagement, just you and your staff, or head down to the Pioneer Underground, every second Thursday of the month. Check out our website here for booking information
We promise you that your faces will hurt from laughing by the end of the show. Check out the game “Soap Opera” from our last show. Be warned the video features some strong language.
I am a principal player in Reno’s funniest comedy troupe, The Utility Players; a short-form improv group of comedians that perform monthly at the Pioneer Underground in downtown Reno.v This morning, our producer, received a “fan letter” submitted via our website. The letter was too good not to share:
Your Name: Amy
Subject: I don’t understand
Message: I came to your website through a Reno events site and I don’t understand…..you guys are in no way funny. In fact, you are ridiculously bad. You are no better than moronic teenage high schoolers goofing around and giggling at your own antics. It’s a bit funny you “teach” classes. I wish Reno had a legit professional improve group but it looks like all we get is a bunch of balding gay boys and fat fag hags
Or lovely producer responded to the message with this:
Thank you so much for your kind, poignant words. We were not aware there were homosexuals in the group! And unfunny ones, at that. We have hired some private detectives to alert us to those gays, and, if found in collaboration, the fag hags will be let go of as well. We also wish Reno had a legit professional “improve” group. Please do not tell the 175+ paying fans about any of this. If we’re found out, we may have to get real jobs.
You know you have made it when …
This week I went to see the next saga of the man beast thunder god Thor. New York is safe and Thor returns to Asgard having brought peace to the Nine Realms. However a new threat emerges, when a once thought extinct race known as the dark elves threaten to cast the nine realms into Shadow. And at some point Natalie port mans life becomes threatened and Thor has to do some treacherous traitorous hero bullcrap in order to save her.
Now the main reason I went to see Thor was to bear witness to Chris Hensworth’s chiseled marble chest – check took care of that within the first five minutes of the damn movie. Ohh lawdy, that was worth the price of admission. My other reason for going was to see Tom Hiddleston in all of theatrical brilliance as Loki, who once again carries the entire film.Thor: The Dark World is a surprisingly engaging film; it’s
slightly more intriguing than your average, run-of-the-mill superhero flick. I believe this is because The film presents itself as a Star Trek like movie. The pacing is slower, there’s more character development, and more time is spent off on Earth giving the movie a nice intergalactic feel to it. My main criticism is the lack of strong,
female characters – they are there, Rene Russo became my favorite character of this film, but their moments are few and far between – . My other main criticism is how Odin transformed from a wise, kindly father figure in the first film to a grumpy, ornery, stubborn old fool for seemingly no reason. I’m so over Odin. I give Thor: Dark World 3 and a Half Xs out of 5, a satisfactory sequel of what I am sure is to be a long line of Thor related movies
This week, I went to see the film adaptation of one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time, Ender’s Game. Earth, having barely survived their last encounter with bug-like alien race the Formics, begins to recruit the brightest and smartest children to serve as soldiers in the last Great War. Earth’s great hope for survival is Ender, a strategic genius, specifically chosen to lead Earth’s army in the coming battle. He spends his waking days studying flight simulations, battle strategies, and attempting to understand his enemy’s actions and behaviors. However, will the path to understanding his enemy mean Ender will lose himself and all that he holds dear in the process.
Films based on a novel are always tricky and usually result in me banging my head against wall, crying out to the cinematic gods in the sky, to explain why some stupid ass producer has decided to ruin another remnant of my childhood. This, is not one of those times. Is the film a carbon copy of the book? Certainly not. But the changes the director made were understandable and smart, and did not impact the overall tone or meaning of the film. The film is brilliantly cast and beautifully shot bringing the imaginative world of Orson Scott Card to life. I think the film comes at interesting juncture in out society. Ender’s Game is the first if two films set to release this month that focuses on children exercising extreme violence in simulations designed and implemented by adults for a greater cause; the preservation of society. However both films cause us to examine what are we willing to sacrifice and do in order to survive. I give Ender’s Game 4 Xs out of 5, not quite as fantastic and original as the book, but pretty phenomenal in its own right.
This week, I went to see Jackass entertainments latest theatrical contribution, Bad Grandpa. Half fictional tale, half surreal social psychology experiment, Bad Grandpa follows Irving, a recent widower, who’s saddled with carting his adorable grandson billy across the country, in order to drop him off with Billy’s estranged, deadbeat father. Along the way, the two get into a number of ridiculous and outlandish situations, including ladies night at a strip club, competing in a little miss pageant, and crashing a stranger’s wedding. The situations are staged in such a way that bystanders believe it’s real and camera crews are laying in wait to capture all the hilariously awkward glory.
Audiences are in for a rare treat as we are privy to people’s authentic reactions to horribly uncomfortable situations. Some are touching and will re-instill your faith in humanity while others will make you cringe at the mere sight of them. But like a 18 car pile up, you can’t help but watch watch unfolds. You’ll either like it or not; you will either find the antics humorous or vulgar and in poor taste. The film is nothing groundbreaking; in fact it really is just the awkward love child of Candid Camera and every other Jackass movie ever been made. The vague plot they slapped onto the film is meant to distract you from the fact that you are watching 90 minutes of candid camera. Although, there is something amusing in watching people’s horrific reactions to these contrived situations, after a while I became slightly bored and overwhelmed by the social anxiety the movie was producing within me. I give Jackass 3 Xs out of 5, shoot, if I want to see awkward people’s reactions to highly charged situations, I’ll just head down to the DMV and people watch for Free 99 and save myself the money.
Walking into Reno Little Theater’s production of “All My Sons”, I knew, in typical Arthur Miller fashion, that I would be experiencing an emotionally tumultuous play that poignantly examines the enduring struggle of a classic American family that would invariably pull at my heartstrings. I certainly was not disappointed about what played out.
“All My Sons” relates the story of the Keller family who are reeling from a series of unfortunate tragedies. Joe Keller, a now successful business man, was arrested, along with his business partner Steve Deever, for selling defective parts to the military, resulting in the death of twenty-one soldiers. While Steve languishes in jail, Joe’s culpability in the crime is thrown out by a judge, making him a free man. Though free, the event stains his relationship with those around him. The Keller family is also still coming to terms with the loss of their eldest son, Larry, who has been missing in action for three years. Kate, the matriarch of the family, fervently strives (much to the annoyance of others) to keep the hope of her son’s faithful return in the hearts and minds of those around her. Chris, the youngest of the family and struggling with his own survivor’s guilt after returning from the war, seeks the hand of Ann, Larry’s former fiancée and Steve’s only daughter, as his wife. Much stands in the lovers’ way, as Kate attempts to foil Chris’ proposal, believing it would be disloyal to his brother, and Ann’s brother, George, seeks retribution for his father’s false imprisonment.
Upon walking into the theater, audiences see the back façade of your quintessential 40’s suburban home, one that many of us can relate to in our own lives. I loved the atmosphere and ambiance that the house generated. The two story house looms over audiences, reflecting the gravity of the situations playing out in the picturesque backyard. Like a prison, characters are paralyzed and imprisoned by faded memories, old lies, and buried truths, so that no one can move on with their lives. Each character desperately seeks or subsequently flees from their personal truth, but only by embracing the truth, may they truly heal and move forward.
I struggled with the first act for many reasons. There’s awkwardness that lies in the familial interactions as relationships are established and/or explained. Energy shifts with the appearance of Ann’s brother George, who serves as a catalyst for what unfolds next. However, the final act sells the show, as the entire cast taps into a confidence and rhythm of their characters and motivation. I’ll admit it, I found myself gasping out loud, and embarrassingly holding my hand over my open mouth, with each new revelation and revealed secret. And as the lights dimmed, announcing the end of the show, I dabbed the tears from my eyes; a cursory glance around the room confirmed that I was not alone in my grief and sadness.
It is always a struggle to bring the complex worlds of Arthur Miller to life and director Doug A. Mishler, along with the cast, achieves this with mixed success. I would have appreciated a diversity of mannerisms among characters, as most use clutching, fidgety hands to signify their nervousness and general anxiety. Similarly, though the production is beautifully staged, some of the characters’ movements are mechanical rather than purposeful, as characters at times rotate like hands on a clock, around the stage.
Personally, the cast could have amped the histrionics ever so slightly, especially leading lady Melanie Van Tuyl, as the neurotic, controlling mother, Kate. The cast members take the audience on an emotional journey but never fully commit to the path laid out for us. There is a certain authenticity lacking in the emotional responses of characters to the very real situations happening around them. However, Tuyl’s performance fondly reminds me of Sally Fields in Steel Magnolias, which of course gives many a bonus points in my book.
Scott Tootell does a fine job as our leading man; his endearing charm makes him a likeable and relatable character, as the peacemaking patriarch attempting to keep his family together and create a lasting legacy for his surviving son. For me, Bryce Keil steals the show as naïvely optimistic Chris. Keil beautifully embodies both a childlike naivety about the inner workings of the world and a jaded disillusionment that comes from the crumbling of our false idolized fantasies. His anguish resonates with the pain of discovering our parents are not the saints we believe them to be. Another standout performance is the brief, but impactful, appearance of George – played by Brian Schiedel, whose bitter resentment toward the Keller family is palpable and authentic. Newcomer to the RLT scene, Anna Pidlypcheck, tackles the character of Ann with grace and complexity. The ensemble, especially frank and catty neighbor Sue Bayliss, does a great job of rounding out the rest of the cast.
I give “All My Sons”, currently showing at Reno Little Theater now through November 9th, 4 ENCORES out of 5. There are some truly standout performances that tap into the emotional intensity of Miller’s moving production, but some moments and interactions fall flat and are uninspiring. Ultimately, bring a packet of Kleenex, for you will certainly need them. For more information about the show, to purchase tickets, and read about future RLT productions, make sure to check out their website at www.renolittletheater.org