Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve with the Colorado Symphony!

For the fourth year in a row, my wife and I have enjoyed New Year's Eve with the symphony. It's a great way to ring in the new year, and the orchestra sounded great as always. Every year the theme has been Vienna, but this year there was an emphasis on Mozart in the first half. It was a nice departure. Also different this year was the choice to use vocal soloists, which was a nice addition. There was a slight pandering to the audience with the Toy Symphony and a few other goofy choices, although they were still quite enjoyable.

And for the fourth year in a row, we loved it!

Friday, December 30, 2011


BUGS BUNNY AT THE SYMPHONY (redux) is our second visit to see this show. The first time was at the Hollywood Bowl three years ago, at which they announced that they were retiring the show for a year to re-conceive it. The show had been on for 19 years, so it was time for a break, although it was a blast to see it at the bowl because so many of the cartoons take place there.

Tonight was performed on New Year's Eve's Eve, to a large crowd in Denver with the Colorado Symphony. The show was just as enjoyable as before, although I'm sorry they did not show ONE FROGGY EVENING. Like before, only about half the show is live orchestra, the rest is the original cartoons with the original performances of the music. Perhaps the highlight of this live performance was a Road Runner cartoon, which showed off the orchestra's incredible abilities. Carl Stalling was insane, that's all I have to say.

The lowlight of the evening were three pieces for Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo and the Flintstones. The Tom & Jerry short probably would have been OK if we had not just seen two VERY similar (and much better) Bugs Bunny cartoons. The other two montages were clearly aimed at the youngest audience members. I have to admit it was great to see so many kids laughing at the WB cartoons decades after I discovered them, which was already decades after they were made. If you get a chance, see this show. You will love it!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


THE DESCENDANTS is quite a fine film from director Alexander Payne, whose film SIDEWAYS is one of my favorites.

The film is extremely well written and full of real complex characters and emotions. I like going in to a film knowing nothing about it, and the film was full of interesting but believable plot turns. Clooney gives perhaps his best performance yet. The rest of the cast are relative unknowns and are all stellar.

Highly recommended.


I saw THE HELP last summer but neglected to review it. To be honest I was afraid to write a negative review. The truth is it is certainly watchable and has some great performances, but overall it is a forgettable film, which is kind of surprising, considering the subject matter. Very little about the film rang true to me, it seemed contrived an manipulative, and a very Hollywood, sanitized version of how difficult it must have been to grow up black in the south, working for white families.

I'd love to see a real, personal film about this topic some day, written by someone who really experienced it from the black people's side of the story.

Monday, December 26, 2011


LOTUS EATERS is the longest 75 minutes of my life.

The term refers to hedonists. The self-indulgence shown by the characters in this film is outdone only by the self-indulgence of the filmmaking. The characters are so despicable that I would have preferred they all be killed by a bomb 15 minutes into the film. This would not only have been a more satisfying ending, but staring at a black screen for another hour would have been better than watching this drivel. I have no idea how or why it got into the respectable Tribecca Fest.

The characters are a bunch of teenagers who do drugs and have sex all the time. Yeah, I've never seen that before in a film. The characters never  go to work, but they also do not appear to be rich. They seem to have no life commitments other than getting stoned and partying. These are people that I do not now nor have I ever had anything in common with. Even when I was young, I never lived like this. Granted, I knew people who were rich and people who partied. Some of them I cared about for various reasons, but this film does not take even a moment to make the audience care about the characters.

The film encapsulates just about everything I hate about cliched independent films. God knows I love black and white photography, but it's hard to imagine a film for which it is less appropriate. The characters already look enough alike; remove hair, skin, and clothing tones, and it makes them all interchangeable.

The soundtrack is a complete mess. It's like something Charles Manson would have put together as a mix tape to seduce a French whore.

In case you haven't figure it out, I do not recommend this film. Unless you are trying to get rid of company.

Friday, December 23, 2011


THE GUARD is a very well written and well acted cop comedy from Ireland. Brendan Gleeson has a field day playing an eccentric older cop who has to deal with a young new partner and an FBI agent played by Don Cheadle. All of the performances are quite good, and the writing is spectacular for the characters. The movie occasionally gets a little self-referential (one character makes a reference to Ned Kelley, which was written by John Michael McDonagh, the director of the film), but it doesn't hit you over the head.

I would not be surprised if Gleeson pulls a nomination for his performance, assuming enough people saw the film. Also the art direction and wardrobe were appropriately hilarious. It's a very smart yet moving film. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


ALBERT NOBBS is a fine film starring Glenn Close as a woman who choses to live her life as a man. Early WOM on the movie was that Close would be a sure thing as an Oscar nominee. She is quite good in the film, but the film does have flaws, and enough of them that the movie may get overlooked for awards.

The story is pretty straightforward, which may be part of the problem. To spice it up, there is a secondary story that is pretty much unrelated to the main characters, and it just slows the film down and makes it lose focus. The acting in the main story is outstanding, but the script is really weakened when it veers from those characters.

Most of the actors are very well cast, especially Janet McTeer, whom I think gives a better performance than Close. Brendan Gleeson is always reliable as well. Mia Wasikowska has a tough time with a simple role in the secondary story that is not very well fleshed out.

Close co-wrote the screenplay, but all this does is put more of the blame on her for the structural weaknesses, again implying she will not get nominated. The film was based on a play she had done, which in turn was based on a short story.

Even with this weakness, I did find the film worth my viewing time, and I would recommend it to people who find the subject interesting. It's not exactly a story you are going to see every day. I just wish the audience had gotten to know the characters a little better.

Friday, December 02, 2011


I am a huge baseball fan, and a pretty big stats geek, so I read the book MONEYBALL when it came out with great interest. It's a great non-fiction book about the 2002 Oakland A's and their fantastic run, thanks mostly to a new interpretation of selecting players based on some fundamental changes in statistics. Those stats had been proposed much earlier by Bill James, but no one took him seriously because he was not a player. The book is really a fantastic read, but I had no idea how they would make it into a movie. It had failure written all over it. Baseball movies almost always tank. And to make it even less interesting, it's about baseball statistics.

For the most part, some good writing manages to fix all of those problems with very smart characters and dialog. I think it also helps that with THE SOCIAL NETWORK, geeks are pretty much box office heroes now.

All of the acting is excellent. Brad Pitt is surprisingly believable as Billy Beene, and most of the ballplayers have at least a passing resemblance to their real-world counterpart. Perhaps the best performance comes from Christ Pratt as Scott Hatteberg.

Perhaps the biggest weakness of the film is the ending.


It's hard to make a sports movie (or a sports season) where the team you are rooting for loses the last game of the season. But they did a good job making the final act exciting. My real problem comes after that, when they insist on going into the fact that Beene turns down a $12M contract to become Boston's general manager, rather than focussing on the fact that Beene had found the perfect place to be, where he could spend time with his daughter. Sometimes money isn't the only thing, even when it's in the title of the movie.