Monday, September 6, 2010

Who likes cats?

Filmed at the Adelphi Theater in London. Directed by David Mallet. Starring Elaine Paige, John Mills and Ken Page. Polygram Video. 115 minutes. $24.95. 
Is it a vaudeville show? An oratorio? A singing and dancing storybook? A live-action cartoon? An environmental theater piece? A pretentious pop allegory (with Christian symbolism) that compares the feline condition to the human one?
At various times, ''Cats,'' the indestructible Andrew Lloyd Webber megahit, is all of the above. With its silly cat costumes that make the actors look like singing and dancing carnival trophies, striped makeup that suggests a 1976 Kiss concert, and lumbering burlesque-show choreography, ''Cats'' is also the epitome of a garish kitsch pageant.
Restaged for home video by David Mallet, does ''Cats,'' which will be shown tomorrow night at 8 o'clock on PBS, work on the small screen? Yes and no. Theater, especially when it involves elaborate musical staging, is awfully hard to bring to life in another medium unless the work is totally reconceived. And ''Cats'' has not been. It is a more athletically directed and staged elaboration of the show that opened on Broadway 16 years ago (minus the Siamese cat pirate sequence).
Scenic effects that you accept in a theater -- especially Grizabella's ascent to heaven -- look mechanically contrived and ungainly on video. In long shots of the production numbers, the dancers blur into unkinetic blobs of motion bathed in bright blue light. The spontaneity of live performance is compromised by the obvious overdubbing of most if not all of the singing.
Where the home video has the advantage is in creating intimate portraits of the felines who prowl around the junkyard set and in magnifying the acrobatics. Grizabella, the faded Glamour Cat played by Elaine Paige, has more pathos here than on the stage because the camera can gaze close up into her sad, ruined face. You want to crawl onto the lap of wise, bearish Old Deuteronomy (Ken Page). With his shaking paws and frightened eyes, Gus the Theater Cat (John Mills) is a plaintive ruin of a once-elegant figure.
But the sentimentality of ''Cats'' can become strained. There are moments when the actors staring soulfully out of those cartoonish cat faces suggest the pleading gazes of the lost children in Edward Keane paintings.
Musically, ''Cats'' is a one-hit show. Although that hit, ''Memory,'' has been maligned as ersatz Puccini, it still beats every other Lloyd Webber ballad in sheer melodic clout. To her credit, Ms. Paige, who originated the role in London, stays within her character and doesn't use the song to flaunt her technique.
As for the rest of the songs, based mostly on the 14 poems from T. S. Eliot's ''Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats,'' the music is overwhelmingly clangy, but at least you can discern the words of Eliot's verses. If the gentle whimsy of Eliot's poetry has been trampled, the characters in the feline portrait gallery come through.
They are pop stars on parade.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Knowing" review

In the fall of 1959, for a time capsule, students draw pictures of life as they imagine it will be in 50 years. Lucinda, an odd child who hears voices, swiftly writes a long string of numbers. In 2009, the capsule is opened; student Caleb Koestler gets Lucinda's "drawing" and his father John, an astrophysicist and grieving widower, takes a look. He discovers dates of disasters over the past 50 years with the number who died. Three dates remain, all coming soon. He investigates, learns of Lucinda, and looks for her family. He fears for his son, who's started to hear voices and who is visited by a silent stranger who shows him a vision of fire and destruction. What's going on? Written by <>
In 1959, a group of primary school students draw pictures for a time capsule of what they think the world will look like in 2009. One of the children, Lucinda Wayland, doesn't draw a picture but completes a long list of numbers. In 2009, the school opens the capsule and distribute the pictures to the students with Caleb Koestler getting the page with all the numbers. Caleb's father John, a university professor and astrophysicist, is intrigued and in managing to decipher the code, realizes that the numbers represent the date, location and number of people killed in major catastrophes, some natural and others man-made. He also sees that there are 3 disasters that have yet to occur. Lucinda Wayland has died but John contacts her daughter Diana and together they try to warn officials of what is coming. The last of the three disasters may be unstoppable however. Written by garykmcd
In the year 1959, a frightened and disturbed little girl named Lucinda was in school when her class was drawing up pictures for the school's time capsule, but Lucinda drew up a weird system of numbers and even was scratching at the school janitor's door. Now, 50 years later, John Koestler an astronomer and a professor at MIT is at his son, Caleb's school to open up the time capsule and was given Lucinda's system of numbers. When John was looking at the numbers, he quickly realized that it was some type of code that predicted the month, date and year of a specific disaster, and how many people died in that particular disaster. After witnessing a plane crash at Logan International Airport, and saving people from a freak New York Subway accident, John realizes that the last disaster on the code is the end of the world when one of the Sun's solar flares will scorch the Earth. Meanwhile, Caleb witnesses strange people who stalk him, and a little girl named Abby and her mother named Diana. Now, John and his son Caleb along with Abby and Diana must save as many people as they can from the Sun's solar flares while trying to find out about the strange people. Written by John Wiggins
A lecturer finds dire warnings in a series of numbers written 50 years ago in a time capsule at his son's school. Some events have already occurred. Others are yet to happen, and very soon! What follows affects his son and himself directly. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Never Shout Never Review

Never Shout Never may very well be the next Ashley Parker Angel. His name is Christofer Drew (aka Never Shout Never) and his music gives acoustic-pop a blast of emo-punk with his 4-track release The Yippee EP. The catchy rhythmic grooves and melodic hooks in his tunes have the appeal of the gripping emo-stanzas of Bryce Avary (aka The Rocket Summer) and the cheery vocal phrasings of Luis Dubuc (aka The Secret Handshake). The melodies are well-lit and move to the beating metronome of a man driven by feelings of love while letting those emotions take over his control. The album isn’t bubblegum pop but that audience would find Christofer Drew’s melodic esthetics attractive, as well as those embracing the early stages of punk. 

The track “Big City Dreams” is steered by positive emo strokes and a catchy groove that drenches audiences in a natural high. The EP should come with a warning label that the music will gobble up audiences in its optimistic synergy. It is like a pure shot of sugar cane running through your veins. The cheery phrasings of “Smelyalata” and “dare4distance” are infectiously bubbly, and the conjunction of acoustic and rock elements along “heregoesnothin” create movements that cast and reel in along the melodic transitions while affixed to a sunny pop vibe. Teardrops are turned into lush flowery clovers that rain down on the melodies like a shower of velvety petals.

I remember my girlfriend telling me how much she enjoyed Ashley Parker Angel performing live with just his acoustic guitar in his lap and singing a set of tuneful melodies. When I heard The Yippee EP for the first time, I could just imagine Christofer Drew doing the same. His music is tuneful with acoustic-pop shimmers and emo-punk throbbing that grazes the melodies with a sunny-pop array of hues. It is music for the emo-punk fan and acoustic-pop enthusiast, or simply for anyone who likes melodic droplets in their music.

Lord of the rings! :)

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy consists of three fantasy-adventure films: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003). The trilogy is based on the three-volume book The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. While they follow the book's general storyline, the films also feature some additions to and deviations from the source material.
Set in the fictional world of Middle-earth, the three films follow the hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) as he and a Fellowship embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring, and thus ensure the destruction of its maker, the Dark Lord Sauron. The Fellowship becomes divided and Frodo continues the quest together with his loyal companion Sam (Sean Astin) and the treacherous Gollum (Andy Serkis). Meanwhile, the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Aragorn(Viggo Mortensen), heir in exile to the throne of Gondor, unite and rally the Free Peoples of Middle-earth, who are ultimately victorious in the War of the Ring.
The films were directed by Peter Jackson and distributed by New Line Cinema. Considered to be one of the biggest and most ambitious movie projects ever undertaken, with an overall budget of $285 million, the entire project took eight years, with the filming for all three films done simultaneously and entirely in Jackson's native New Zealand. Each film in the trilogy also had Special Extended Editions, released on DVD a year after the theatrical releases.
The trilogy was a great financial success, with the films collectively being the fourth highest-grossing film series of all-time (behind Harry PotterJames Bond and Star Wars). The films were critically acclaimed, winning 17 out of 30 Academy Awards nominated in total, and received wide praise for the cast and for the innovative practical and digital special effects.[1][2][3]