Thursday, May 27, 2010

I really need to start watching movies again.  This has been an abysmal year for flicks and my movie consumption (or lack thereof) reflects that.  Nonetheless, where's the classic movies?  Where's the journey through the Disney oeuvre?

Hopefully, June'll kick things into gear...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Best Show on Television?


I can't deny that this final season of Lost has been a little disappointing, but the inevitable moderate let-down was a given.  Expectations were sky high and this funky parallel universe storyline just seemed to go nowhere -- my faith is high that the subplot will come to some spectacular conclusion on Sunday evening, as will the series as a whole.

There was something incredibly emotional seeing Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sawyer crawling up onto the beach after the submarine explosion episode two weeks ago.  These four folks who we've come to know and care about for six years were breaking down in tears at the loss of their friends Jin, Sun, and Sayid, and it was impossible for us as an audience to not feel their pain.

And that's where Lost succeeded where many other television dramas fail.  Yes, the twists and the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo kept the plot flowing, but it was the characters that made the show a success.  Never have I felt so gut-punched from a tv show when Libby got shot by Michael, or Charlie drowned, or Juliet succumbs to her injuries (after she saved the day, of course).

From Jack and Kate and Locke all the way down to Rose and Bernard (let's forget about Nikki and Paolo), the show's success lies in the writers' abilities to allow us to emotionally connect with these flawed people.  So, no matter how this thing wraps up, it's been a fun journey that I don't regret taking in the slightest.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review - Paranoia

Paranoia (2004)
by Joseph Finder

Keeping this brief...

Adam Cassidy is a young low-level worker at Wyatt Industries, a communications development firm.  One day, he sneaks into the company funds and throws a massive party for a retiring maintenance worker who has treated him kindly over the years.  Adam gets caught and, instead of being prosecuted and sent to jail, agrees to go undercover at Wyatt's competitor, Trion, gaining as much scoop as possible and reporting it back to his bosses at Wyatt.  Adam's "double agent" status is tested many a time, but he soon begins to enjoy working for Trion.  However, his attempts to leave Wyatt behind are much more difficult than he could have ever anticipated.

This was an incredibly readable book.  I whizzed through the 425 pages quite quickly.  That being said, I can't exactly say it was well written.  When the term "bodacious tatas" was used, I literally laughed out loud and rolled my eyes.  Still, while the author may not be the most eloquent, it was a decent read.  The characters felt fully realized and I enjoyed the moderately twisty ending which seemed completely logical (for the most part).

All in all, it was certainly worth the bargain bin price from Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Movie Review - 2012 (2009)

2012 (2009)
Starring John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, and Woody Harrelson
Directed by Roland Emmerich

Most disaster movies are horrendous.  Characters have one specific attribute or mannerism to distinguish them from the hordes of other characters, none of whom you can even remember their names after the movie is over.  Crowd scenes are set up with the sole purpose of creating mass destruction.  Dialog is silly.

All of that is true in 2012, but for some insane reason, I wasn't the least bit bored watching this.  Yes, I laughed out loud at the ridiculous first ninety minutes when loving father John Cusack (as I mentioned above, character names are irrelevant here) and his family utilize a variety of modes of transportation to narrowly escape exploding volcanoes, huge tremors, and giant clouds of smoke.  Yes, the scene where the President of the United States gets mowed down by an aircraft carrier was inane.  Sure, the scientific technobabble blabbed by geologist Chiwetel Ejiofer was mind-numbingly ludicrous. 

But, this movie is what it is.  It's a disaster movie along the same lines as The Poseidon Adventure and Armageddon, and while no one would call those two films cinematic masterpieces, I'm up for their silly fun every now and again.  (Unfortunately, the special effects in those two aforementioned flicks were much better than what was on display here.  In fact -- and this is a huge detriment to this film -- the fx were really awful.)

Certainly helping 2012 is the fact that I actually enjoyed watching several of the actors (despite their idiotic dialog and the impossible situations they finagle out of).  Cusack, Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, and Thandie Newton all did the very best they could with what they were given.  Certainly, there were some actors -- Oliver Platt and Woody Harrelson -- who chewed up the scenery with their over-the-top antics, but overall, the acting was better than it needed to be.

Is 2012 a good movie?  No.  Will I ever watch it again?  Probably not.  Would I recommend this two-hour-and-forty-minute flick to anyone?  Not a chance.

But I still had a moderately enjoyable time watching it.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Book Review - Under the Dome

Under the Dome (2009)
by Stephen King

I started reading this book during the last week of December.  I just finished it today, May 8.  Granted, it was 1072 pages, but that either tells you that (a) I'm a slow reader (and I think that my reading of a book a week last year disproves this), or (b) it's just not that good.

The answer is certainly (b).  A cast of characters awakes one morning in their little rural Maine town only to discover that a giant clear dome has been placed over their whole community (a la The Simpsons Movie).  What happens underneath the dome is a power struggle and, in usual King fashion, evil rears its ugly head.  We've got the sexual deviants, the smarter-than-normal kids, and the normal folk who get sucked in to the chaos.  And chaos certainly reigns.

While the book reads easily, there's fifteen characters too many, none of whom are anything unique.  Too many storylines here to really allow me to care about any of these people.

And I'm not even going to discuss one of the most ridiculous endings to a novel that I've ever read.  I can't tell you how angry I was to have gotten through 1060 pages only to have the book end the way it did.  King had no clue how to end this thing and it shows in what is an awful, awful conclusion.

Had King cut this down by half and crafted a better ending, this might have worked, but as it reads now, it's a dud.

Theater Review - The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
Written by Bertolt Brecht
Directed by Heinz-Uwe Haus
When: Sunday, May 2, 2010
Where: Thompson Theater at the Roselle Center for the Arts
(University of Delaware, Newark, DE)
What: Play, Professional Theater, Drama

The scene: 1930s Chicago.  A mobster known as Arturo Ui wants to rise up in the ranks and will do so by striking fear into the people throughout the city.  Will he succeed?  That's what we'll find out as we watch The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.  

Essentially, playwright Bertolt Brecht wanted to depict how easy it is for people to be manipulated by a powerful figure -- and the parallels Brecht makes between Ui and Hitler aren't exactly veiled.  The director of UD's Resident Ensemble Players latest production certainly makes this case clear in the final scene in which all of the house lights come up in the theater, the actors come off the stage and into the audience, and we, the viewers, are pulled right into Ui's scheme.  Will we follow him or are we brave enough to walk away?

This was certainly the most "off-Broadway" of the plays I've seen put on by the REP at UD.  Between each scene, there were odd singing and dancing interludes that had me shaking my head in confusion and bewilderment.  And the play itself was rather wordy, drawing from Shakespearean verse that, at times, made me feel incredibly dumb for not being able to keep up with what was being said.

Despite the dislike for the play itself, the production was, once again, stellar.  Although there was essentially no set other than chairs and a few moving platforms, the play was visually intriguing in its starkness.  The nearly blank stage also allowed Carine Montbertrand to shine in the title role.  Yes, it was a woman playing the part of the very masculine gangster, but she was quite amazing.  Montbertrand milks the character for all the humor that the role allows (a very funny bit involving Ui and a retiring Shakespearean actor is pretty uproarious), while at the same time managing to exude an incredibly powerful and frightening demeanor as the crooked politician.

So, while this may be my least favorite play I've seen at the REP this year, I once again am amazed at the quality of this theater in our little state of Delaware. 

Theater Review - August: Osage County

August: Osage County
Written by Tracy Letts
Directed by Anna D. Shapiro
When: Saturday, May 1, 2010
Where: Forrest Theater, Philadelphia, PA
What: Play, Professional Theater, Drama

**Pretty big spoilers follow** 

A Pulitzer Prize winning play that racked up Tony Awards when it was released on Broadway, August: Osage County was named the decade's best play by Entertainment Weekly.  I don't know what the heck was so awards worthy about this thing.  It was quite a disappointment (as is unfortunately the case when you go into something with high expectations).

This three-hour-and twenty-minute saga tells the tale of three generations of the Weston family who come together when the patriarch of the clan mysteriously disappears.  We've got the pill-popping mother, the daughter who stayed in town to care for her, the other daughter who managed to get out of the small town with the "ideal" college professor husband, plus many more.

Throughout the play, shocking family secrets are revealed in the silliest of fashions -- this thing played out like a soap opera complete with the requisite audible "oh my's" from the audience herd that ate the thing up.  Don't get me wrong -- there were many moments in the play's much too long 200 minutes that were laugh-out-loud funny.  However, when the multiple shocks were unveiled, I couldn't help but roll my eyes at times.  Daughter sleeping with her cousin...oh no she didn't!  Aunt revealing that the daughter that the cousin she's sleeping with is actually her half-brother?  That's cra-a-a-a-a-zy!  Ugh.

For the most part, the play was well-acted, headed by the only "name" in the cast, Academy Award winner for Bonnie and Clyde Estelle Parsons.  Probably most well-known for playing the acerbic mom to the equally acerbic Roseanne on her eponymous tv show, Parsons is over eighty years old and she was spry, witty, and very funny.  Equally as impressive was Shannon Cochran as "the daughter who got away," Barbara.  She actually reminded me of Laurie Metcalf (the sister of Roseanne on the tv show) for some reason.  Cochran was given both light and heavy material and she handled it quite well.  I also quite enjoyed Libby George as the funny aunt Mattie Fae and Amy Morgan as the newly engaged youngest (and dumbest) Weston daughter.

Unfortunately, the play runs too long and just doesn't work as a whole.  There are moments of brilliance -- Act II is pretty excellent stuff with nearly the whole act taking place around a dinner table in which all the family members banter back and forth.  But, the accolades this play got were completely undeserving if you ask me.