“Odd Couple” nostalgic and fun to watch

It’s been a looong time since I saw “The Odd Couple” movie and nearly as long since I watched the TV series.
So I was pleasantly surprised by the Abilene Community Theatre’s production.
I went to the final dress rehearsal on Wednesday, which meant a scarce crowd. The applause was light due to the number of people, but the laughs and giggles rang out in the empty space.
For those not familiar with “The Odd Couple” (is there anyone?), it’s a Neil Simon play about two best friends, Oscar Madison, a good-natured slob, and Felix Unger, an uptight, uber tidy hypochondriac. After Felix’s wife kicks him out, he moves in with Oscar.
I didn’t remember how much Oscar (Rodger Brown) cared for and worried about Felix (Tony Redman). And how kind and concerned the poker buddies — Murray (Eddie Templeton), Speed (Steven Suchey), Roy (Bill Martin) and Vinnie (Don Connel) — are about the supposedly suicidal Felix (he sent his wife a suicide telegram).
The guys’ relationships were very touching and not the norm these days.

When the curtain opened, it solicited an immediate laugh. Trash lay strewed across the floor and the tables; there was a tie that had been tossed on a wall clock and empty bottles and glasses everywhere — the perfect Oscar Madison decorating theme.
The two leads did a good job capturing their characters. I’m not sure what kind of housekeeper Brown might be in real life, but he plays a slob very well. Redman told me earlier that he was just about as far across the tidiness spectrum from Felix Unger as he could be, but he sure did the fussy, whiny Felix justice.
Director Mike Stephens knows his stuff. When I went to ACT last week to talk to him, Brown and Redman, I walked into the theater and got to watch him talk with his cast following rehearsal.
Everything he asked of them or talked to them about was fixed by the time I saw the full show.
When the second act opens, the now-shared apartment of Oscar and Felix is spotless.
As expected, the slob and the neatnik go together like polished furniture and a coaster-free, drippy glass.
Brown nails Oscar’s slow burn of frustration and anger which seems obvious to everyone but Felix. Redman’s character just dusts and wipes and serves away, completely oblivious.
The four poker buddies showed equal parts disgust and frustration with Felix’s fastidiousness. With the possible exception of Connel’s Vinnie, who revels in the tasty dishes Felix prepares for the poker party. Templeton’s Murray gets in on a little of that action, too.
Suchey does a great job of stomping around and grousing about Felix. Martin plays Oscar’s accountant who gives him bad financial advice and then loans him money to play poker.
The play gets even funnier when the Pigeon sisters, Gwendolyn (Stephanie Phillips) and Cecily (Tasha Diamond), join the cast. Or is that Cecily and Gwendolyn?
Phillips and Diamond relish their roles as the flirtatious and slightly naughty Brits from upstairs. They delivered the double entendres in British accents with little giggles. Spot on.
The jokes are still funny, even nearly 40 years later.
There are 7:30 p.m. performances Friday, Saturday and Nov. 6-8 and a 2 p.m. performance this Sunday.
It’s a fun evening at the theater. Head to ACT and revisit 1965. You’ll enjoy it.

Philharmonic sends me down memory lane

On Thursday morning, I went to the Abilene Civic Center to cover the Discover Music Series.
If you don’t have children attending school in Region 14, you might not know what that means.
The series is an annual event presented by the Abilene Philharmonic. Some 6,500 children in third, fourth and fifth grade from all over Region 14 get on school buses and travel to the Civic Center to watch a classical music concert designed just for them.
The Philharmonic performs a number of times during the week so all the children have the opportunity to attend.
Maestro David Itkin and his crew created a delightful little concert themed “Small but Mighty,” which was about “all things small.” That included a smaller orchestra, smaller instruments, smaller notes and even small musicians.
As I heard the voices of hundreds of children echo through the auditorium, I thought back to my own third-grade class and our field trip to the Saroyan Theatre to hear the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra.
I remembered sitting in the darkened theater hearing the musicians tuning up. I absolutely love that sound. It’s discordant and rough, but it holds the immediate promise of the amazing music to come.
Like most school trips to see a philharmonic orchestra back then, the program was Serge Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”
The conductor pointed out each character in the story and what instruments represented that specific character.
The bird is played by a flute, the duck by an oboe, the cat by the clarinet, and so on.
I remember listening very carefully to hear all the different instruments during the telling of the story.
The conductor also taught us how to lead the orchestra with a simple four-count movement. Then he “let” us conduct and the orchestra followed our directions.
I remember feeling so powerful.
The memory made me smile.
Back in the Abilene auditorium, the children were so well behaved. It was impressive.
When the orchestra began playing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the children began to sing.
It was so beautiful to hear all those voices join together to sing the anthem, it brought tears to my eyes.
It brought to mind another memory, back when my children were in elementary school and recorded the entire school recorded Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to be an American” to send to soldiers fighting in Desert Storm.
There is something incredibly moving about children singing together.
I’m grateful of the reminder I received Thursday. Thank you to the Abilene Philharmonic.

Firehouse Subs well worth a visit

1016 blog pic

I have found soda nirvana.
A recent visit to the new Firehouse Subs on Ridgemont Drive near Target introduced me to a whole new world.
Iced tea is my usual fallback drink when dining out, but I can only drink one glass in the evenings unless I want to be up all night. I’m not joking — all night.
Last Saturday, I had a full-caffeine soda around 7 p.m. and didn’t get to sleep until 6 a.m. the next morning.
And I can’t go with a 7-Up or Sprite or Sierra Mist because I can’t drink sugared sodas.
Finding a decaffeinated sugar-free drink in any of the restaurants, bars, movie theaters or even convenience stores in Abilene and the Big Country can be a fruitless search; though I have found one on rare occasions.
Nobody thinks about the sugar- and caffeine-challenged when stocking shelves or filling the soda machine.
Until now.
Walking into Firehouse Subs, we immediately gravitated to the photos of the various sandwiches on display, all of which looked delicious. It was a little difficult to make up our minds.
I went with the meatball sub, a hot and tasty choice and my friend enjoyed his build-your-own roast beef sub.
But as good as the sandwiches tasted, they aren’t what caused my moment of joy.
It was something called the Coca-Cola Freestyle.
This magic machine allows patrons 120 different drink choices.
That’s right, 120!
The Freestyle offers 19 base sodas ranging from Coke, Diet Coke, Caffeine-free Diet Coke, Sprite Zero, Dr Pepper, Fanta, Barq’s Root Beer and Dasani Lemon. So right off the bat, there are sugar-free and caffeine-free choices.
But here comes the magic. Each of those drink choices features at least one and up to seven flavor add-ins to fully customize your beverage.
I tried a Cherry Sprite Zero first, then a Vanilla Caffeine-Free Diet Coke.
Hallelujah, my thirst was quenched.
They also offer their “exclusive Cherry Lime-Aid,” sparkling water and fresh brewed iced tea.
I’ll definitely be back to Firehouse Subs and not just for the beverage choices.
The sandwiches get a treatment I’ve not seen in Abilene before.
They get steamed. Just long enough to make the bread taste freshly baked and to add a nice heat to the sandwich.
The menu offers 16 different sandwich choices, six of which are under 500 calories, salads, soups and, of course, Firehouse Chili.
The sandwiches are served “fully involved,” which means mayo, deli mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and a kosher dill spear on the side. They offer white or wheat rolls and a veggie sub option.
Picky eater? They offer a variety of meats and cheeses so anyone can custom make a sandwich with only the ingredients desired.
By the way, I learned that Heff’s Burgers at 2642 East Lake Drive also has a Coca-Cola Freestyle. Whoo hoo!

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is Shakespeare on speed, in a good way

Midsummer
Samuel Cress as Bottom in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” at HSU.

I’m not sure who had the most fun Thursday night, the audience or the cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
I love Shakespeare. I’m always up for a good production, especially of my favorite, “Midsummer.”
I mean, who can resist an evening filled with fairies and young lovers and a donkey-headed man. Really, who?
When I interviewed the Hardin-Simmons University cast for the preview article, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical.
Director Lee Trull (director of new play development at Dallas Theatre Center) required some of the actors to cut, color or bleach their hair for the roles. I heard mention of a Bob the Builder tent (BtheB is a children’s TV show) and umbrellas for flowers.
But after seeing the show, I acknowledge Trull’s brilliance and applaud the actors’ complete immersion into their characters.
This was a balls-to-the-walls, no inhibitions, no self-consciousness, a heart-and-soul imbued production that sent joy dancing through my veins.
I convinced a friend, who really didn’t want to come (he’s very picky about the Bard, especially this show), to accompany me.
He loved it as much as I did. On the drive home, that’s all we talked about — the director, the set (or lack thereof) and the way the actors completely wrapped themselves into their roles.
For those who haven’t seen “Midsummer” before, it focuses on four young lovers in Athens, including two whose passions are not returned, who travel to a nearby forest to get away from the negative voices from parents and such.
There’s also a traveling theater troupe planning their next performance in the same forest.
Then there are the forest’s denizens — the fairies, including Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies.
Much fairy magic and hilarity ensue on this summer night in the wild woods.
Ellen Eberhardt plays Helena, one of the unrequited lovers. She was phenomenal. She uses her entire body throughout the play. She flings herself at the audience’s feet, falls to the ground and clings to the leg of her beloved Demetrius (Colby Savell). When she rants about love, she does it from tip to toe. One scene with Lysander (Dakota Davis) had the entire audience roaring with laughter.
My friend thought she was the star of the show.
I’m sad that she’s a senior because it means only one more school year to see her in plays here. I hope to see her on another stage or screen soon.
Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck, is played by Debbie Crawford, a recent Hardin-Simmons University theater grad.
She had an absolute blast with this role. She was gleeful, exuberant and just plain delightful. I laughed watching her dash and leap. She made me want to jump down and play with her.
Yes, jump down. The floor of Van Ellis Theatre is the stage and the audience is seated on risers in a U-shape around the big open space. The actors use the risers, the stairs, etc., during the show. Looking down at the actors offer a different perspective and I loved it, especially as we sat in the front row.
I loved the fairies’ dancing to the music of Regina Spektor. It was amazing and entertaining and immediately conveyed the contemporary nature of this production to the audience. The music added a whole new vibe.
Reagan Dyer, as Peter Quince, the leader of the craftsmen, made the most of little moments, such as when Flute (Brenna Sheridan) and Bottom (Samuel Cress) perform their play for Athenians. Dyer sits on the stairs shaking her head, making faces and sobbing. Brenna Sheridan went from loutish Flute to alluring Thisbe seamlessly.
While I agree that Eberhardt was, without a doubt, the best Helena I’ve ever seen, it’s a tossup for me as to the best performance.
Sam Cress amazes me in everything I’ve seen him in. His characterization of Bottom was dead on, from his crazy eyes and rambunctious movements to his costumes and hair.
I’m not sure who’s responsible for corralling Cress’ long curly hair into donkey ears, but it was a thing of beauty.
At one point, Cress is speaking out and stands next to the risers and staring upward. I know that more than once, his eyes made direct contact with mine, but nary a flicker crossed his face. That’s good acting.
Cress is also a senior, so his time at HSU is short. But with his talent and ability, I expect to see him on a stage, screen or TV in the near future.
So KUDOS to Lee Trull and his amazing cast. Only three shows left, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Get yourself to the forest.

“Frontera” takes border issue to personal level

Ed Harris as Roy in "Frontera."

Ed Harris as Roy in “Frontera.”

Michael Peña as Miguel in "Frontera."

Michael Peña as Miguel in “Frontera.”

I love independent films. They usually tend toward edgy and gritty or funny and irreverent.
And more and more, they’re making their way to Abilene.
And that’s a bonus for me because the promoters/directors/stars are looking for publicity and are happy to set up interviews. In turn, I share the interviews/reviews with you, my readers.
“Frontera,” starring Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Eva Longoria and Michael Peña, opens Friday at Premiere 10 Theatre in the Mall of Abilene.
I chatted with director Michael Berry about the movie, which focuses on a small part of the Arizona border with Mexico. Berry cowrote the movie with his friend, Louis Molinet.
The idea for the screenplay came from Molinet, who grew up in an Arizona border town. But Berry said he came on board and just ran with it.
“It’s one of the most personal projects I’ve ever done,” Berry said in a phone interview. “Ed and Amy are based on my parents.”
The actors who inhabit these roles were on his list from the beginning.
“The only actor I ever wanted to play Roy was Ed Harris,” Berry said. He also wanted Madigan as Roy’s wife. “I had a plan for that. I needed them to show a 30-year relationship in seven to eight lines.”
Harris turned Berry down the first time he asked, but Berry persevered and won him over.
This is not a jump-up-and-down in-your-face movie taking a side in the border issue. It’s a story of two families who intersect near that invisible line.
Harris and Madigan, who have been married since 1983, play Roy and Olivia. He’s a former Arizona sheriff and she’s his wife. They live on a ranch north of the Mexico border.
Harris, as usual, becomes his character. He says so much, without ever saying a word. His eyes, his expressions portray it all.
“He has a gigantic presence,” Berry said. “He’s generous and respectful and lovely, but he has a presence”
The interplay between Harris and Madigan feels genuine, which isn’t always the case with spouses on screen. “Eyes Wide Shut” anyone?
Spoiler: Olivia’s death early in the movie sets into motion events leaves scars etched on many of the characters.
I think the biggest surprise was Eva Longoria as Paulina, who is married to Miguel (Peña). There wasn’t a hint or trace of Gabrielle Solis, her character on “Desperate Housewives.”
Her worried, pregnant wife looked worn down and weary. There is a horrific scene in the movie where every word she said, every scream she hurled out made me wince, it was so real.
Peña plays a man who understands his situation all too well. I could see the burden he carried, from the weight of him obligations to the idiot he must take on his journey.
While Peña and Harris carry the majority of the movie on their shoulders, many of the secondary characters stuck with me, as well.
Seth Adkins, Evan Adrian and Tony Ford play three teenage boys with limited screen time, but major impact.
Aden Young’s Sheriff Randall Hunt leads the investigation into Olivia’s death and faces some difficult challenges.
“I like showing the flaws in people,” Berry said.
Whether those people rise above those flaws depends on the script.
There is one particularly violent scene in the movie. Berry was careful how it was shot. The audience sees the lead-up to the violence, but the actual violation is never seen.
“Violation is violent. I don’t have to show it,” he said. “I never want to glorify it.”
The quality of the film is top notch and the pacing doesn’t lag.
On a daily basis along the border of the United States and Mexico, people put themselves in harm’s way to strive for the dream that is America.
By aiming its spotlight on these families, “Frontera” makes it easier to understand and empathize with the participants, no matter which side of the border they inhabit.

Two giants face off to talk of God

Freud set

 

Covering community and university theater programs means seeing the some of the same actors and actresses over and over in different roles.
It’s so fun to see young actors in their first college plays and then watch them grow and learn over four years.
The same goes for community theater. I’ve seen many actors in their first play and then in other parts over the years.
Some actors stick with comedy or drama, while others mix it up.
A friend of mine says that the folks in Hollywood are divided into two categories: “movie stars” and actors. Actors become the role, making us forget it’s just a movie. Others can be counted on to take the same sort of roles and shine in them.
Meryl Streep is an actor; Kate Hudson is a movie star.
What I saw in the Culp Theatre at Abilene Christian University on Friday night were two actors in an intriguing play.
Adam Hester, chairman of the ACU theater program, and Jacob Alexander, a theater major, faced off in “Freud’s Last Session” which places Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis in the same room. It’s never been proven the two men met, but there’s a faint possibility.
Hester slipped into his role so smoothly and easily, I’m not sure when it happened. He was just Freud, with nary a hint of Hester’s voice, mannerisms or look.
Alexander, who’s done roles from Javert in “Les Misérables” to the cross-dressing Jean-Franois Millet in “Is He Dead?,” brought a gravitas to his C.S. Lewis role a gravitas that belies his age.
The two men shared the small set of Freud’s office, which is filled with all sorts of interesting items. The intimate space made me feel as if I were a fly on a wall.
Most of the dialogue between the Christian professor and the atheist psychoanalyst revolved around their biggest difference: the belief or lack thereof in God. The interplay between the two was fascinating.
Alexander has a moment where his character breaks down, weeping and shuddering. I wanted to cry with him.
Directer Gary Varner and the two actors created a triumvirate of theatrical magic.
“Freud” is set in 1939 war-torn London, a week before Freud’s death. He was suffering with oral cancer and Hester portrayed his pain and frustration without overdoing it. When he coughed and choked, I believed every spasm.
The play ran roughly 75 minutes, with no intermission. I was surprised when it was over. It went so quickly. I wanted more.
There was a talk back after the show with a panel of experts who answered questions and spoke about the two men.
Hester explained that each night’s performance was different, depending on a number of factors including the actors’ states of mind. The talk was worth the extra 20 minutes.
Tonight is the last night of “Freud.” It’s in the small Culp Theatre, with limited seating. The performance is sold out, but there’s an off chance of a seat or two being open at the last minute.
I wish it had two or three more weekends. I’d go see it again and again.

ACT’s latest play, ‘Steel Magnolias,’ benefits from fantastic director and cast

Perfect casting, great direction and fantastic acting made “Steel Magnolias” a delightful night at the theater.
The first play on the stage of the Abilene Community Theatre in nearly a year, “Magnolias” delivered and then some.
When performing such an iconic piece of work that so many people saw as the film starring Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton and Olympia Dukakis, comparisons are inevitable.
But after just a few minutes, those comparisons faded away.
When I interviewed the cast a couple of weeks ago, Loretta Leach (Clairee) told me she had auditioned for M’Lynn. Brilliant casting by director Ginger Vinson — Leach did a fantastic job as Clairee. She played the part with a strong blend of proper Southern woman and a widow finding her own way.
And I think Cindy Underwood was the proper choice for M’Lynn. Her portrayal of the controlling, worried mother rang true.
She was so good in the final act — it felt so real. Just in case I have readers who don’t know how the movie ends. I’ll stop there. No spoilers here.
Tracy Pugh embraced the sassy, outspoken Truvy and made the role her own. She snapped out her lines like a diner waitress snapping gum.
Pam Joines’ Ouiser was caustic and sharp and loud. She was also spot on, right down to the baggy denim overalls.
Anelle is a newcomer to Chinquapin, Louisiana, and to Truvy’s beauty salon. The character goes through a number of life changes and Rose McKean did them all justice. She took Anelle through shyness and clumsiness to her growing sense of confidence and her finally realized cheekiness.
And Shelby, whom so much of the play revolves around, was played by Rachel Johnson who knew when to be cute and perky and when to show the sometimes tenseness of the relationship with her mother, M’Lynn. Much of that conflict is caused by M’Lynn’s worry and concern about her only daughter and her health issues.
I’ve sure every parent in the audience sympathized with M’Lynn’s battles with her stubborn daughter. I related both as a daughter (stubborn is a family trait) and as a mother with her own daughter (who also inherited the family trait).
The six characters share a dynamic based on empathy, friendship and love. Each actress made the friendships come alive. Though the setting, Truvy’s salon, never changes, the women go through many changes and experiences.
There are only two shows left, Friday and Saturday, and tickets are scarce. Make the time to go see it. It’s well worth the two hours.

And the winners are …

OTNB

The nominees of the 66th annual Emmy Awards find out Monday night if they’re taking home the golden statuette or if they have to sit in their seats, smiling as the competition walks up on the stage.

The Emmys are awarded by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to recognize excellence in the TV industry.

I’m looking for some shake-ups on Monday. To see actors who really do a great job, but might not be in a hit or a big part.

The Creative Arts Emmys, generally considered the “technical” awards were presented last Saturday and included the Outstanding Guess Actor and Actress awards.

I was so happy Uzo Aduba won for her work as Crazy Eyes on “Orange is the New Black.” She faced some tough competition – Melissa McCarthy, Tina Fey and Joan Cusack.

But it boggles my mind just how many Emmys get passed out. There’s one for hair, another for makeup and there are four different categories for Outstanding Art Direction and six for Outstanding Directing. Single camera shows, multiple camera shows, three Outstanding Casting awards and even an Outstanding Commercial prize.

Does that make the television industry narcissistic or just plain needy?

Can you say “both?”

Reviewing the nominee list, I realize there are far too many shows I haven’t watched. Nothing on Showtime, HBO or Starz – I don’t have premium cable.

Thank goodness for Netflix, I’ve watched both seasons of “OTNB” and three seasons of “Breaking Bad.” That’s as far as I got before I had to take a break. It’s a very intense show to binge watch.

I hope at least some of the shows I like nab the golden girl.

“The Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family” are wonderfully funny shows, but I hope to see “OTNB” take the Outstanding Comedy Series. Those other two shows have received so much recognition.

As far as Outstanding Drama Series, “Downton Abby” is the only show that I’ve seen every episode. But I’ve heard great things about “House of Cards” and “Game of Thrones.” Both are on my must-watch list.

Monday night should prove interesting; I’ll be watching to see who wins.

Sometimes, beauty is in the mouth of the beholder

My blog focuses on finding beauty wherever it might be. Sometimes, it can be found in the most unexpected locations.
For example, I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t look for it in a dentist’s chair, but that’s where I found it this week.
A toothache is no laughing matter. It’s major pain. Seriously.
Almost two weeks ago, one of my molars felt funny to my tongue, like it had shifted or had a piece broken off.
Then it started hurting and just kept got worse.
My childhood dentist didn’t believe in giving too much Novocaine. As a kid with a number of cavities, the dentist’s office came to be something to fear. I finally broke down and made a dentist appointment (Thank you Dr. Glen Hall for seeing me so quickly) to have it checked.
The prognosis? A cracked tooth — there are two words you never want to hear together.
This particular tooth had a filling and the good doctor thought replacing the filling might work, so we set an appointment for Wednesday and he gave me something for the pain.
At first, I got through the work day with Tylenol and ibuprofen and maybe a pain pill before bed. Never having had a toothache before, I had no idea how much it would eventually hurt before Dr. Hall was able to fix it.
By Tuesday night, I was applying an ice pack to the entire right side of my face. Ice worked way better than heat. This pain was no joke.
On Wednesday, Dr. Hall gave me a shot of anesthetic and got a closer look after removing part of the old filling. He said I needed a crown and got busy preparing the tooth for a temporary crown.
I was quite calm, thanks to the pink rubber mask on my nose pumping nitrous oxide, that stuff also referred to as “laughing gas.” My second dentist introduced it to me and dental visits became much less dreaded.
Luckily, Dr. Hall is a kind and compassionate fellow and offers it to his patients.
That’s where I found the beauty on Wednesday. It turned an hour of distress and apprehension into a bearable experience.
I wouldn’t call it fun, but at least I wasn’t a huddled mess of nerves in the dentist’s chair.
I call that beautiful.

Four movies in a weekend

Some weekends, like the last one, require copious amounts of rest and escapism.
I spent a good chunk of the weekend sleeping and when I wasn’t sleeping, the movie theater called my name. Three times.
The movies shared absolutely nothing in common except some ace special effects in two of them.
The original plan was to see a late matinee of “Lucy” Friday night. But I didn’t get out of work on time, so my friend and I saw “Begin Again,” starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine, instead.
No special effects for this film. In fact, it had the shortest list of credits I’ve ever seen on a movie. Yes, I’m one of ‘those people,” I stay through the credits, which often takes a while, but not for this movie. Sometimes I stay because I want to hold on the movie just a little longer. I wished there had been more credits.
“Begin” is a sweet, ultimately happy little film penned and directed by John Carney, who is also responsible for that other little music film “Once,” which I also really liked.
The movie doesn’t ask you to suspend disbelief (well, not much, anyway), the characters feel like real people and the music is fun. I didn’t leave the theater thinking I had been ripped off or should have waited for a matinee. I really enjoyed it.
And Keira Knightly did her own singing. Impressive.
When we walked out of the theater, we realized we had time to make it to the 10:50 p.m. showing of “Lucy.” After a mad dash to the wrong theater, we made it in time to see the trailers.
Interesting, unusual, interesting, high tech and interesting — it’s a hard one to define.
The whole premise of the movie rests on the myth that humans only use 10 percent of their brains, a notion long refuted by scientists.
But if that little fact is ignored, “Lucy,” played by Scarlett Johansson, takes the audience on a wild ride.
At the heart of the movie is a potentially lucrative new drug that a Thai crime lord wants to get on the market. His men kidnap four people and slice them open to insert plastic bags filled with the drug into their stomachs.
Lucy’s day goes from very bad to so much worse.
Bloody violence sets the tone of the movie within the first 10 minutes.
Pay close attention to Johansson’s face in the beginning, because as the movie goes on, her expression locks into neutral mode and stays there. As her intelligence grows, she loses emotions. Her nonresponsive face adds to the strangeness of the movie, in a good way.
The special effects team delivered a nearly flawless package of images that stick after the movie is over.
The pace never lets up. The men hunting Lucy are relentless, even in the face of her new abilities.
There is a moment between Lucy and Amr Waked’s French cop that reveals Lucy retains a smidgen of emotion.
This movie packs more pow on the big screen. I’d advise seeing it in the theater.
Saturday night, my friend asked if I wanted to see “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Of course I said yes. I remember going to the Tower Theater in Fresno for a “Planet of the Apes” marathon featuring all five movies, in the early 1970s.
However, I did not see Tim Burton’s 2001 or 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
Andy Serkus’ motion capture performance of Caesar, the leader of the apes, is marvelous. Not once during the film did I see Caesar, or any other apes, as anything other than living, breathing creatures.
This movie stays true in the political and social messages imparted in the earlier movies. But “Dawn” leaps above and far beyond when it comes to special effects and acting.
I’m glad I saw it. I’ll be watching “Rise” this weekend.
The last movie we saw over the weekend was “Bad Words” on demand.
Jason Bateman (“Identity Thief: and “Horrible Bosses”) plays 40-year-old Guy Trilby who takes advantage of a loophole and qualifies for a national spelling bee. Kathryn Hahn (“Parks and Recreation,” “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”) plays a web reporter covering the story.
Kids in movies can be too precocious, too cutesy and nothing like real kids. It’s annoying. But Rohan Chand, who plays Chaitanya Chopra, Trilby’s biggest competition, imparted a sense of authenticity in the role.
“Bad Words” marks Bateman’s directorial debut. It’s funny and unexpected.
The upcoming weekend may include more movies or maybe not. We’ll have to see how it goes.