Cinerina

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog Live: GO SEE IT

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Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog Live:  GO SEE IT

As of now, I’ve seen Dr. Horrible LIVE twice.  My companion and three friends enjoyed opening night, and then we came with four other people at the end of Gam3rCon.  It’s a testament to this show, itself an adaptation of an internet phenomenon, that it has so much to offer from multiple viewings.

My Constant Readers know me as a film critic, but I also dabble in local community theatre.  This show has the do-it-yourself energy and sense of ensemble that community theatre fosters.  It also has an immensely professional production staff.  As I previously reported, this is a stage creation assembled from a web sensation.  Designers David F. Weiner, Michael Lowe, Chris Rynne, Paul Peterson, Karen Li, and Jannifer Mah created a vivid world in the tiny 10th Avenue Theatre space out of walls, light, and shadow.  Pianist/conductor Korrie Paliotto’s crisp direction belies the fun energy the band brings.

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Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog LIVE: Accepted into the Awesome League of Awesome

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Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog LIVE:  Accepted into the Awesome League of Awesome

Joss Whedon created the online sensation Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog in 2008, proving independent television online is feasible while simultaneously thumbing his nose at the establishment. In defiance of limited resources and frustrating studio politics, Whedon proved you can produce good product cheaply, distribute it for free, and still make money – Dr. Horrible was a huge hit.  It was a new paradigm and one that inspired rabid fan response.

Cut to 2010.  Director Andy Lowe of Chinese Pirate Productions fretted, “Why doesn’t someone do a live Dr. Horrible show?”  Finally someone asked, “Andy, why don’t YOU just do it?” He licensed the title from the surprisingly laid-back and gracious Time Science Blood Club (managers of Mutant Enemy properties), found musical director Brian Hammond via the San Diego theatre scene, and the rest is more than crazy random happenstance.

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Bridesmaids

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Bridesmaids

Matinee with Snacks

What’s that noise you hear?  That’s Hollywood falling all over itself in surprise that vaguely raunchy, somewhat scatological female-relationship-driven R-rated comedy is a huge smash.  Hello! We poop and love and chortle — and see movies with stories that interest us –  just as much as men do.

I know this movie wouldn’t have been made if it hadn’t had Judd Apatow as producer.  With two of the leads being SNL alumni (even ones as big-screen reliable as these two), the movie could have been a disaster.  However, the Not Ready For Prime Time Players in question are Kristen Wiig as our relatable lead and Maya Rudolph as the bride.  The titular matching-dress ensemble is flled out by Reno 911’s Wendi McLendon-Covey, The Office’s Ellie Kemper, the unpredictable Rose Byrne, and Melissa McCarthy.  This is a fantastic ensemble thrown into a movie that goes beyond just the bachelorette Hangover.

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Thor

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Thor

I am certain no two people in the theatre were more ignorant of the Marvel comic title Thor than my companion and I. We gamely let the film unfold before us with zero preconceptions and (to be honest) pretty low expectations. The fans around is seemed to feel pretty good about it as a whole, and we both found it entertaining and pretty well self-contained.

The story takes place in two worlds: ours, and the far-off realm of Asgard, where the personages of Thor (Chris Hemsworth(, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Frigga (Rene Russo), and Heimdall (Idris Elba) live. The presence of these space gods in our Norse folklore is explained as long-ago visits to Earth where their advanced science seemed magical. Naturally, back in New Mexico, we have Stellan SkarsgÃ¥rd as a Swede who knows the stories, though a children’s book is still needed to explain the extra bits.

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Exporting Raymond

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Exporting Raymond

I have often referenced “Everybody Loves Raymond” as the sort of tepid, mediocre sitcom that muscles out the hipper cool ones I love that get cancelled.  It’s not terrible, it’s inoffensive, but, in my mind, pedestrian.  I never watched it — I saw scenes here and there, even referenced in other movies, and just never took a shine to it.  This is not true for many millions of American TV viewers.  After seeing this film, my similarly-biased companion and I agreed that we had a newfound appreciation for what Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal was doing and what he achieved in the nine years that Everybody Loves Raymond was on the air.

Exporting Raymond is Rosenthal’s documentary about the culturally illuminating process of having the Raymond concept be remade as a Russian sitcom.  Many popular American sitcoms get picked up and made over in the native tongues of their new adoring fans.  “The Nanny” was a hugely international phenomenon, with versions popping up all over the globe, East and West.  I don’t mean subtitled reruns, I mean full new productions with native cast, writers, crew, everything.  Unlike “The Office,” which only had to bridge minor comedic & attitude divides between its parent nation of England and its current host America, “Everybody Loves Raymond” ends up going through quite a transformation in order to play to Russian audiences.

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Water for Elephants

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Water for Elephants

When I finished Sara Gruen’s novel, I hugged it before I put it down.  I just loved the feel of it, the story, the characters, and I was sorry when it was over.  When they announced the film, I was pleased — until they announced that Robert Pattinson would be playing Jacob, the lead.  The last time I did not want to punch Pattinson in the face was when Voldemort cut him down in a cemetery in Little Hangleton.  Even with Reese Witherspoon and the two-for-two Christoph Waltz, I was nervous that the main character would not be the lovely man I had loved on the page.  Then Hal Holbrook plays elderly him in the framing narrative, and all was well in the world.  Of course Waltz is as always a freaking genius.  Pattinson and Witherspoon do look strange together, but it’s no matter — the story flows smoothly around them; it’s less about any love among these people than love for the world of the circus, anyway.

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Scream 4

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Scream 4

This review is going to piss some of you off.  It should be stated up front that I am a fan of the Scream franchise.  I love its blend of meta-fiction and real scares, its formula-bending obedience to and rejection of horror movie clichés.  I love that these movies have an increasingly Ourobouros-like tendency toward self-awareness while never abandoning an actual narrative.  I love that the women characters are actually strong people, unlike the objectified faux-strong gals in the Joss Whedon adventures.  Halloween scared the crap out of me because it was just a guy who went nuts and started killing people.  All the folks who have donned the Ghostface mask for the Scream adventures have been real — and smart — people who went bonkers.  Yikes!

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Hanna

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Hanna

Matinee

Hanna is a bit of a mystery.  Played by the ethereal Saoirse Ronan, Hanna is introduced in no time as a cunning huntress, an over-educated killer polygot, and a total naïf.  If you ever wondered what Aliens’ Newt might have grown up to be, see Hanna.

Her father, Eric Bana, has them living off the grid, seemingly in a timeless bubble of held breath and unrelenting strictness.  They huddle together in a small house near the arctic circle, fending for themselves and training, always training, for the inevitable forces that will hunt them down and destroy them.  Until Hanna enters the real world, as you know she must, we have no idea who those forces might be — and through the end we’re not even sure why they would pursue with such lethal intent.  Ultimately, to enjoy the film, that unresolved point doesn’t even matter — what matters is eluding Hanna’s pursuers and showing her the world.

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Source Code

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Source Code

When I first heard of it, I had initially rejected this film out of hand — it looked like Groundhog Day meets Unstoppable (what did we do before we had Groundhog Day to compare movies to?) — but with Jake Gyllenhaal, who sometimes just plain turns me off.  However, enough buzz and recommendations from friends turned my eyes to notice that Duncan Jones directed it, so I plopped into my seat.

I am so glad that I went.

First of all, Source Code is really more like Groundhog Day meets the video game Assassin’s Creed — and it’s this difference that gives Source Code its oomph.  If you don’t know Assassin’s Creed, don’t look it up — the surprise made the store more enjoyable to experience.  If you do know it, this is far better conceived.  What could have been an investigative game of countdown cat and mouse also became a really affecting story about letting go and acceptance and life…and quantum string theory. Read On

Paul

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Paul

Director Greg Mottola gave us Superbad only four years ago, a monster R-rated hit with unlikely elements working together to create a sweet and funny and still raunchy comedy.  His follow-up, Adventureland, had a good idea and supporting cast, but unfortunately relied on two of the least charismatic lead actors out there to carry the comedy and the heart.

Adventureland‘s Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart were only playing a few years older than Superbad‘s Michael Cera and Jonah Hill, but already the chasm of implied acceptable innocence was too great to give Adventureland the young sweetness it needed to plug into the comedy-free holes.

Then comes Paul, a fantastic premise but further along the unfortunate path of “they’re too old for their naïveté to be cute or feasible” (counter-example: Cedar Rapids).  It’s also too random and arbitrarily profane for “random profanity comedy” to really sing like it should.  Read On