Archive for the 'Popcorn Reviews' Category


Broadway Babies

I am clearly no professional critic, but I have no problem stating my opinions! For you, my loyal readers, I’ll even give you my reviews for free! You can listen to me or not, but I am an honest judge and know not every show or movie is for everyone.

If you like theater the way I do, then you’re pretty much open to everything and anything. Sometimes this works to my advantage because I see some fantastic performances, and sometimes it backfires and I say to myself that I’m going to have to be more discriminating in what I decide to spend my time and money on.

Recently though I feel I was four for four and being that I try to keep this a positive blog, let’s talk before I see something that makes me want to protest theater like the stagehands.

First let’s take Cyrano de Bergerac staring Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner. I’m sure you remember Roxanne, the Steve Martin movie, well this is the story that movie is based upon. Kevin Kline plays Cyrano, a man with an uncommonly large nose, who believes because of his unique features, he is destined to live a life without love. He lends his mind, wit and extraordinary poetic ability to another man who acts as a puppet repeating Cyrano’s words to the beautiful Roxane. It’s the words that are most important to Roxane, but when she finds out that Cyrano is the real voice behind the words of love, it is too late.

It’s a comedy and drama in one and as usual Kevin Kline is stellar, here playing Cyrano. I also was pleasantly surprised by Jennifer Garner’s stage acting ability. She did not overdo it, nor was she understated and I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we see her, Ben and Violet here on the Great White Way.

Second, is Pygmalion, closing this month, George Bernard Shaw’s classic about an upper-class phonetics teacher taking a common flower girl under his wing to make her a woman of society. Although sometimes difficult to understand, Claire Danes was fantastic and you could see her struggle when she realizes she “sold” her real self in order to become part of high society. Is she forever in debt to the professor? Does she stay? This version of Pygmalion leaves the answer open-ended and although I feel she probably leaves him, it’s up to you to decide.

Third, Aaron Sorkin’s the Farnsworth Invention. Who knew there was this much drama not ON television, but ABOUT television. Really, who invented TV? According to Philo Farnsworth, he did in 1920 when he showed his science teacher his idea, but how can you develop something so intricate without money and a solid company to back you up? That’s when a Russian immigrant who worked his way out of the Shtetl to the head of RCA comes in and says his men developed the modern day technology. Business, especially during the Great Depression, was and is about money and greed, the kill or be killed theory and there is nothing too dirty or spiteful about playing hardball.

Finally, in the Christmas spirit, I have to encourage you all to go see the Radio City Spectacular. I have seen it every year for the past five years and this being the 75th Anniversary, was sincerely SPECTACULAR. There have been many changes to the show, including more of the famous Rockette dancers, more dance scenes, fireworks, 3-D displays and a major ode to New York. Being in Radio City Music Hall and watching the world famous, long limbed dancers, seeing Santa and watching hundreds of excited small children really takes the humbug out of even the biggest Scrooge.


I’m Not There – Was Dylan Ever Anywhere?

After seeing the movie I’m Not There, the biographical film reflecting the life of the legend Bob Dylan, I realized that most of his life, Dylan was a lost soul.

The movie shows clear distinct phases in Dylan’s life portrayed through six different character actors ranging from young to old, black to white, male to female. Cate Blancett depicts the political, rebellious Dylan, Richard Gere, the “Billy The Kid” type recluse, Christian Bale, the preachy Pastor-like Dylan, Heath Ledger, the rock star dabbling in sex and drugs, Marcus Carl Franklin, representing his childhood, and Ben Whishaw, the analytical Dylan.

 Obviously all very different types of actors/actresses and all representing a different phase in life that Dylan went through.  If there is an Oscar buzz about any of these characters, it would be Blanchett, but wouldn’t it be interesting if she gets the Best Actress nod while another one of the male characters gets the nod for Best Actor.

It was an interesting movie from an artistic point of view. Watching a single man’s life unfold before us from six different perspectives certainly was a new way to tell a story and it was obvious how well the movie was directed and edited.

Some things to contemplate before you see this film.  First, are you a lover of Dylan?  His songs are on in the background the entire 2 ½ hours and although some songs are his classics, there are some more obscure songs that even the biggest Dylan fan may not know.  The answer is I don’t think you have to be a fan in order to appreciate the movie. Being familiar with his sound would only enhance the movie’s effect on the viewer, but I’m not a big Bob Dylan fan, sometimes find his music too preachy and whiney, yet thoroughly enjoyed the film.

Second, do you have to know a lot about the history of Dylan and growth of music from the 50’s to today?  To be honest, it would help, but I didn’t. I learned a lot from this movie about the development of “rock and roll” from folk music and how politics really helped to construct the music industry.

I highly recommend I’m Not There as a movie of the history on one man’s life viewed through a crystal, development of “rock and roll” and how one man could actually be so many different people in one lifetime.

And while you’re at the movies, if you’re in the moode for an outrageous story about a dysfunctional family, sex, murder, jealously and neglect, I recommend Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. This is a story of two brothers’ struggle to get by in the world at the expense of everyone else around them, including their own family. It’s a terribly sad movie, exceptionally humorless, and a bit depressing, but it’s also Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke at their best!



1975 was just about the time when addressing sexuality in public became almost politically acceptable and no one did it more outrageously than Terrence McNally in his Broadway hit musical “The Ritz”. He set his stage in a gay bathhouse in Manhattan where mostly naked men strutted around in mini bath towels, touching one another and baring more than just their chests.

The concept at the time was daring because it wasn’t common that homosexuality was discussed openly and outwardly, let alone acted out, live and in our faces. In 1975 this was a new idea and must have received shocking reviews, but now the concept is kind of old and played out.

Nothing about gay, naked men is shocking on Broadway anymore, especially after “Take Me Out” won the TONY in 2003 and shows like Spring Awakening, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and History Boys put sex, nudity and sexual abuse, in our faces.

Back in the day, I’m sure “The Ritz” was an over the top comedy where the lead character needed to hide from his mobster Brother-in-Law, and ended up at the gay bathhouse. Here he found himself sexually assaulted by the men at bathhouse as well as the one woman who resides there as the entertainment.

In today’s version of “The Ritz,” the Latino female entertainer is Rosie Perez, and due to her high pitched vocal tone and her fast paced speaking, she was extremely difficult to understand. Both Latino women and homosexual men are completely clichéd in this production and due to the recurrent nature of the homosexual theme; the show was a bit dated.

I would have liked to have seen the original back in the day because I’m sure I would have been stunned out of my seat, but this week in 2007 I was a bit bored, thought I was hard of hearing due to the fast paced yelling, and door slamming and was hoping to get more laughs out of the played out antics.


Dinner and a Movie Date Recommendation

Michael Clayton is an intense thriller as opposed to a quirky love story, however, I still recommend it as a great movie date selection. It’s a thought provoking film that will stir great conversation for the rest of the evening.

Upon first reflection, I hated the movie, but after thinking about it, why did I hate it? I hated it because it made me stressed and intense. It rattled me and shook my nerves up so much that I was edgy for two hours straight and desperately needed a drink.

Granted, looking at George Clooney is always comforting, but if this movie didn’t star the most sought after actor in Hollywood, would Michael Clayton have any endearing qualities? Clearly, yes. Any movie that can elicit these types of emotions is apparently a movie worthy of a Hollywood buzz .

Obviously this was an extreme movie, and in the end it made me question a lot of the big business’ I’m familiar with and the people that defend them. Don’t these industries have morals to guide their ultimate decisions? Are “fixers” like Michael Clayton truly necessary to break up powerful companies that are harming our livelihood?

In this powerful thriller perhaps we did, but after thinking about it I realize if it wasn’t for big business we wouldn’t have the food we eat, the medicines that cure us, the people to defend and the education provided to us. I was able to calm my nerves and justify the world in my own head.

But now it’s time for less contemplation, justification and rationalization, and more thought on where to eat and what to drink!

Who else to turn to than Steve Hanson, the restaurateur responsible for the B.R. Guest franchise (Ruby Foo’s, Blue Water Grill, Fiama, Level V). I’m not a big carnivore but I have to say I loved Primehouse because of its twist on the typical steakhouse experience. It doesn’t try too hard to be a “female” steakhouse like STK, but is not overwhelmingly manly like Wolfgang’s.

Although it is an enormous venue, its friendly staff and not too eclectic architecture gives it a homey feel, filled with geometric design and an art deco aesthetic. The menu is a great combination of classic steakhouse offerings with a twist of the chef’s own personal touches.

So in the end Michael Clayton and Primehouse New York was a date combining the best of both worlds. Thought provoking, mindful, reflection and conversation, combined with indulgence, pleasure a slight buzz to lead to perhaps a second date????



Across The Universe

You don’t have to be a Beatles fanatic or a bra burning, anti war activist to appreciate Julie Taymor’s breathtaking movie, Across the Universe.  Although the movie is more like a musical because it’s all set to Beatles songs, it has a plot and dialogue to keep it flowing in sequence.

Unlike any other movie, it has its flaws; however, if you let yourself delve in, you will be swept away by Taymor’s creativity, imagination, and almost “trippy” staging and sets.  Her previous works include the very popular Lion King on Broadway, Frida, The Magic Flute at the Met and now this miraculous work of art.

Set in the 60’s at a time of unrest, we learn, that music is what we can depend on; it’s stable and reliable, unlike society which at times can be turbulent.  Before you shun the idea of another movie about Vietnam, this movie isn’t all war and peace rallies.  The way the Beatles formed a group, a group of friends was born, love was discovered, friendships jeopardized and hearts were broken. Although perhaps obvious at times what famous song was going to be sung, it’s amazing how a view or meaning of a song can change when a person of a different gender, color or race is singing.

Jon, Paul, George nor Ringo could never have imagined how significant and impactful their own words were and how without meaning to, they told a story of love and peace during a time of rebellion and war. Their music was intentional, in terms of individual songs about love, war or changing the world, but Julie Taymor was able to bring those independent musical miracles, into choreographed genius. Every step the actors took was intended and the beauty of the movie goes beyond the music. It’s the dance, the colors, the sets, originality and the inventiveness.

What was the take home message of Across the Universe?  It may be trite, but it’s unarguably true, “ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.”


Date Movie or Not, It’s A Four Star Winner

There are good movies, there are great movies and there are remarkable movies. What’s the difference you ask? A remarkable movie unearths an emotion in your mind, impacts your emotional state and makes you contemplate your thoughts and viewpoints. Remarkable movies are not necessarily the most romantic “date” movies, but they are certainly the type of films that usually require a drink afterwards and can lead to engaging dinner conversation.

In the Valley of Elah is the kind of significant movie that makes one reflect on our current situation in Iraq. Tommy Lee Jones, even in a very quiet role, has a loud and large impact. He’s playing the roll of a retired Army Lieutenant searching for his AWOL military son. Without giving anything away, it’s a movie about relationships, secrets and war, and the emotional toll the current situation in Iraq is having on our soldiers and Veterans.

Since the Fugitive, I don’t think we’ve seen Tommy Lee Jones as incredible and understated in such an overt way. It’s clearly HIS movie as he is in almost every scene, but a supporting cast including Susan Sarandon and Charlize Theron, and a director like Paul Haggis (Crash), can’t hurt either.