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Archive for July, 2010
27 Jul

A Blip of a Movie Review: “Inception”

Alternate Title: “All I Have to Do Is Dream…and Dream…and Dream…”

Short Plot: Leo Dicap is made an offer he can’t refuse from a corporate bigwig to lead a rogue team of experts into the mind of the son of a dead empire mogul. Usually, they “extract,” well basically steal, secrets from the dreams of their targets. Ah, but here is the catch – instead of stealing, they are there to drop a hint (“inception” – an unproven technique) in the son’s dreams that will eventually lead to corporate upheaval. Umm, that’s about as much as I can really explain. I’m sure the cliff notes will be out soon.

Pros: Pretty nifty idea, a complicated plot that can get you to see it again for further details, some great special effects, a frightening Marion Cotillard, an ending you can talk about at the water cooler.

Cons: Not for the easily distracted crowd (ya gotta pay attention on this one, peeps), a tidge long, Leo’s love story has no emotional impact, your brain might explode keeping up with the plot.

Verdict: Yes, as you will hear this is not an easy story to follow but I was just fine with it and had a good 85% understanding level, which was way more than enough to keep me fully interested in the film. I really liked that it challenged my brain while entertaining me at the same time – something summer films rarely do if ever these days. The effects were quite spectacular, especially the scenes involving a zero gravity hallway fight. There were some minor plot flaws and it could have been better if the Leo/Marion relationship had more impact on me, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed the film and it has kept me thinking even days after seeing it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Blips  ••••

Categories: Movies, Review Tags:
24 Jul

I Got the Bleu’s

I did something impetuous and a bit on the crazy side (for me). Some folks know that back in the day I used to write pop songs. This stems from my days at Berklee College of Music in Boston where I was studying music production and engineering. I was forced to write a song for a class – something I had never done before. To my surprise I got the highest grade in the class for my song and encouragement from the professor. That inspired me to keep at it and continue to write. For the most part, I would write and record songs at home for myself and not really share with anyone. But secretly I really wanted to record some songs in a studio with real musicians. However, the dream of doing this has faded over the years and I have become more afraid of taking the leap and just doing it.  Well, that is about to end – at least for one song.

One of my favorite artists is a guy named Bleu. He is an outstanding songwriter and musician with an impressive list of credits outside of his own terrific work. I’ve followed him ever since his CD “Redhead” crossed my desk at work back in 2003. For his upcoming independent release he chose to do what some other artist have successfully tried – raise money online to support the recording. For Bleu’s donation drive he has created levels of support with “rewards” attached. Anything from autographed CDs to an in- home performance has been made available. Obviously, being a fan I wanted to donate. I checked through all the reward packages to see what might be interesting. I wasn’t planning on spending a lot of money, but then came Reward #19. This reward gets you 2 days of studio time in Boston with Bleu recording your own song. That one really caught my attention. I have always wanted to do this and then to add working with a true musician that I really admire and respect was too much for me to ignore. So I went for it and bought the package! I still can’t believe I did this. I’m not really sure what will come out of the sessions or what will happen, but I finally have the opportunity to really pursue a dream of mine.

So sometime in the next few months I’ll be headed off to Boston to record a song with the amazing Bleu. Although I’m excited and nervous already, I still don’t think it has fully sunk in yet. It still feels unreal right now. That will definitely change the day I walk in that studio! And I hope it inspires me to continue working on music – something I have not done for a very long time. I have to say that if you read my previous post on “Harold and Maude,” the inspiration for just diving in and going for this came from Maude. So thanks to Maude, and many thanks to Bleu for all the music and for offering this great opportunity.

Here is one of my favorite Bleu songs. If I could do something one-tenth this good, I’d be ecstatic…

Categories: Music Tags:
22 Jul

A Blip of a DVD Review: “Let the Right One In”

Alternate Title: “Swedish Kids Do the Darndest Things!”

Short Plot: Oskar is a 12 years old who gets bullied at school and collects clippings about gruesome murders. A mysterious girl, Eli, moves into the apartment next door and the two kids slowly begin a relationship that is both strange and moving. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that Eli is a vampire and that people around town are getting murdered?

Pros: The kids were great, the relationship surprisingly affecting, it is filmed beautifully, not all plot points are fully fleshed out or explained (and don’t need to be), one of the last scenes in a pool was brilliantly staged, it is not your standard horror flick, and if Ingmar Bergman had made a vampire film, this would be it. Oh, those Swedes! (This is a foreign film, kids, so suck it up and read the subtitles!)

Cons: A couple of special effects sections (one involving cats) were below par, if you are looking for a big action horror extravaganza you need to look elsewhere,  there is an American version in the works that I’m sure they will totally screw up as usual.

Verdict: I found myself mesmerized by this film. It is hard to call this a horror film as the focus is really on the relationship of the two kids. It is their story and it just happens that one is a vampire and some bad things happen. Because of this I didn’t find the film scary at all – more unnerving than anything. And when can you say you have seen a horror film that at the end you are moved and almost crying?  (In a good way, I mean…)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Blips  ••••

Categories: Movies, Review Tags:
20 Jul

How about some oat straw tea and ginger pie?

I watched the movie “Harold and Maude” for the first time in many, many years. I always loved the film – very odd, quirky, funny and sad. When it was originally released it was not a hit and disliked by some critics. But over time it has grown in popularity and is now considered a bit of a classic. If you don’t know the story, it is about a suicide obsessed young man who meets an older lady on the verge of her 80th birthday. They strike up an unconventional relationship that is truly unique and special. Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort are the pair and they are both wonderful in the film.

I think I appreciate this film even more now that I am older. Back in college, this movie was kind of an oddball curio that was just kind of cool to have seen and liked. Now that I’m 20+ years older, I viewed the film from a different perspective. Originally I related to the Harold character and all his obsessions and issues. When I watched this time I connected more with Maude, especially her attitude towards life and her drive to experience something new each day. Her outlook is something that we all could use in our own lives. I can only hope that when I reach that age I can approach life with a bit of the same zest for life.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the film:

Maude: A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life. *Reach* out. Take a *chance*. Get *hurt* even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.

Harold: You sure have a way with people.  Maude: Well, they’re my species.

Maude: Vice, Virtue. It’s best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much *life*. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you’re bound to live life fully.

Maude: Harold, *everyone* has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can’t let the world judge you too much.

Now brew some oat straw tea, get a slice of ginger pie, sing “if you wanna be free, be free,” and try something new each day!

Categories: Commentary, Movies Tags:
18 Jul

The Real Life: Don’t You Love Theatre People?, Pt. 1

For eight years I was fortunate enough to work at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre in Branson, MO. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had at a job. There was always something weird or interesting going on, lots of celebrities to attend to, and wonderful co-workers and friends that made the experience something very special.

Last night when we were out someone mentioned Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop, which is an odd thing to mention when out at the bar! It reminded me of the summer where the theatre hosted her for a series of daytime shows. Part of my job was to take care of the performers that came to the theatre and make sure they were all set with everything they needed or wanted. I had been told ahead of time that Shari was “high maintenance,” which in the entertainment world is a code phrase for “pain in the ass.” Having already dealt with HM celebrities, I was not happy to hear this because this was for a long summer engagement. However, I was surprised when I discovered quickly that Shari and her family (including tour manager, pianist and merchandiser) were truly wonderful and I had such a great time working with them. All of them treated me so kindly and were quick to include me in anything they were doing. If they wanted to see a show, Shari would ask me to get tickets and always said “don’t forget to get a ticket for yourself and come with us.” Or when her daughter came in town for a visit, I was invited to dinner. I was treated as part of their touring family and always felt appreciated and welcomed. I can tell you from experience, this is not the norm.

Shari, her touring family, and me

My favorite Shari story is when I had to take her out to the local theme park, Silver Dollar City. There was a theatre at the park and during the summer they had lots of kid events and shows. For promotion to get the same crowd over to our shows, Shari was scheduled to make a quick appearance with Lamb Chop before one of the kid shows started. I picked up Shari and drove her to the show. Once there, we were escorted to the stage where the curtain was down. On the other side of the curtain was a theatre packed with kids. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen and was ready to leave the stage because I didn’t want to be there when the curtain went up!  But Shari said “no, stay right here – this will just be a couple of minutes.” Then she proceeded to open up her purse, pull out Lamb Chop, waited for an introduction, and then stuck Lamb Chop through the curtain part and launched into the promo. It was quite surreal to be standing next to Shari, purse open and over her shoulder, arm stuck through a curtain with Lamb Chop on the other side, and the voice of Lamb Chop coming right at me.  Then just as quickly as it started, Lamb Chop was done, put back in the purse and Shari was ready to go.

On the back of this photo, Shari's tour manager wrote "Dr. Aaron Latham Puppet Proctologist"

On the way back after the appearance we had a really nice conversation about books. She said her favorite book of all time was “Time After Time” by Jack Finney and asked if I had read it. I said no and she responded, “oh, you must read it!” Two days later, there was a gift at my desk. Shari called someone and had the book bought and sent to give to me. How cool is that? I really appreciated that gesture and it ended up being a fun summer with her. And yes, the book was terrific.