Saturday, September 23, 2017

Fischer Conducts Saint-Saens & Dvorak

Last night I spent another lovely evening at Abravanel Hall listening to the Utah Symphony play works by Berlioz, Saint-Saens, and Dvorak.  For those of you keeping score at home, this was the third Friday in a row that I found myself similarly occupied and, honestly, I could spend every Friday night at Abravanel Hall (next week I will be out of town).  The orchestra played Roman Carnival Overture by Hector Berlioz, Symphony No. 2 by Camille Saint-Saens (which was recorded for commercial release!), and Concerto for Cello and Orchestra by Antonin Dvorak with Harriet Krijgh as the soloist.  All three pieces had beautiful and lively melodies and I found myself swept away by the music.  Over the years I have come to love the music of Saint-Saens more and more so I really enjoyed hearing a piece I wasn't familiar with (I really love his Organ Symphony which will be performed in December!) and I was so impressed with Krijgh's performance of the Dvorak piece because she was so expressive.  I highly recommend getting a ticket to tonight's performance of the same program (tickets may be purchased here).  I guarantee a lovely evening of beautiful music!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

U2 in Phoenix

I was nineteen when U2 released their seminal album The Joshua Tree and to say that it affected me would be an understatement.  I had been a U2 fan already but this album rocked my world, literally and figuratively.  I was wide awake, for maybe the first time in my life, and I was deeply passionate about history, philosophy, literature, politics, and activism.  Bono was my guru and I worshiped at the altar of his poetry.  So when U2 announced a tour in commemoration of its 30th anniversary, I was really bummed when I noticed that SLC (or even Denver) was not on the schedule.  The closest city to me was Phoenix and since it is completely crazy to drive ten hours just for a concert I tried to put it out of my mind.  After all, I had seen them in concert so many other times.  I held out until mid-August and then, in a moment of madness, I bought a ticket.  You see, whenever I do crazy things like drive ten hours just to see a concert I am always so glad that I did it when it's all over.  Experiences like this become some of my best memories!  The concert was absolutely amazing!  Bono's voice is definitely not what it was but I've never really considered him to be a virtuoso.  Rather, I have always thought of him as an incredibly passionate performer and he gave an epic performance on Tuesday night!  Bono somehow has the ability to make a venue like the University of Phoenix Stadium feel intimate and that, out of a crowd of 50,000, he is singing just for you!  I love Bono.  I love him unabashedly!   The stage featured a massive panoramic video screen with an outline of a Joshua tree and a runway leading out to the floor with a smaller stage that also looked like a Joshua tree.  When the house lights dimmed, it looked like someone was walking along the runway and it turned out to be Larry Mullen, Jr. who began the instantly recognizable militaristic drumbeat of "Sunday Bloody Sunday."  The Edge and Adam Clayton soon joined him on guitar and bass and then the crowd went into a frenzy when Bono started singing.  They continued with "New Year's Day," "Bad," and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" out on the small stage.  Then the the screen turned red with the giant Joshua tree in black and I had goosebumps when I heard the opening notes of "Where the Streets Have No Name."  U2 played The Joshua Tree in its entirety track by track, in order!   The videos accompanying each song were shot by Anton Corbijn, who did all of the iconic photography for the album.  The images were dazzling.  My favorite songs were "With or Without You" because it is my favorite song on the album, "Bullet the Blue Sky" because it always gets me riled up, and "One Tree Hill" because it is rarely performed and Bono gave such an emotional performance of it (it was written for his friend Greg Carroll who died in a motorcycle accident and Bono dedicated it to him before singing it).  Honestly, it was worth the ten hour drive just to hear that song!  For the encore, the band sang "Miss Sarajevo," "Beautiful Day," "Elevation," "Vertigo," "Ultraviolet," and their new song "You're the Best Thing About Me."  They ended the evening with a mind-blowing performance of "One."  All of the lights were turned off and the audience used their phones to light up the arena.  I will never forget that!  It was a crazy thing to do but I am so very glad that I drove ten hours to see this concert!

Note:  The opening act was Beck.  I have always wanted to see him so this concert killed two birds with one stone!  He also put on an amazing show because he is just so damn cool!  My favorite songs were "Loser," "Where It's At," and "Wow."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Cool Hand Luke

The next movie in the Silver Screen Classics series was Cool Hand Luke.  It has been a really long time since I first saw it and I was thrilled to see it again on the big screen.  It is awesome to revisit a film and see something new which is what happened to me last night.  I appreciate this film so much more upon a second viewing many years after the first.  Lucas Jackson (Paul Newman) is sentenced to a Georgia road gang after some petty vandalism and disorderly conduct.  He is a devil-may-care sort of guy with a ready smile and a penchant for talking back to the guards.  He wins the respect of his fellow prisoners by standing his ground in a fight, winning a round of poker by bluffing (which is how he gets the nickname "Cool Hand Luke"), eating 50 hard-boiled eggs in an hour, and getting a road tarred two hours early.  He becomes a reluctant hero to the men by repeatedly trying to escape but after the third such escape the guards break him with beatings, solitary confinement, and other forms of torture.  When he begs for mercy, the men lose hope in him. After his final attempt to escape, he is shot by the guards but dies with his mischievous grin on his face, thereby giving some hope back to the men.  In my opinion, Luke is a Christ figure who willingly sacrifices himself for the men so they have the will to go on.  He has a dramatic scene in a church at the end of the film where he asks God why he has forsaken him and there is even a Judas figure who betrays him by bringing the police to him and arranging a deal for surrender.  I never really noticed any of that the first time I watched it.  Of course there is the now iconic line, "What we've got here is failure to communicate."  When I mentioned that I would be seeing this film to my Dad, he immediately quoted that line to me!  I loved Paul Newman in this role because he is so charismatic that it is easy to see why the gang comes to admire him so much.  That smile!  I also really enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces in the supporting cast, especially Harry Dean Stanton (who recently passed away), George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper, Ralph Waite, and Wayne Rogers (from TV's M.A.S.H).  It is a true classic and, as ever, I am so happy I had the opportunity to see it on the big screen as it was meant to be seen!

Monday, September 18, 2017

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

September has been Spielberg month for me!  Earlier in the month I saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind for its 40th Anniversary, a few weeks ago I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark with the score played live by the Utah Symphony, and I got to see E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (celebrating its 35th Anniversary) yesterday thanks to the TCM Big Screen Classics series.  Seeing this wonderful movie on the big screen once again was such a delight and I loved every minute of it.  I remember two things very distinctly when I saw this movie for the first time.  The design of the alien was keep very secret until the movie was released and I was so excited to see what E.T. looked like.  I thought he was adorable!  I also remember that my sister threw up during the movie and we always reminded her of this every time we watched our VHS copy of it!  The story of the relationship between an alien accidentally left on Earth and a lonely boy dealing with his parents' separation is so lovely.  There are so many fun and iconic moments in the movie that made me cheer once again (there were many kids in the audience seeing it for the first time who squealed with delight at these same scenes): when Elliott uses Reese's Pieces to lure E.T. out of the woods, when Gertie dresses him up, when Elliott releases all of the frogs at school, when E.T. first says "E.T. phone home," when Elliott's bicycle is lifted in the air on the way to the mountain, and when E.T.'s heart lights up after it appears that he has died.  While E.T. needs Elliott to help him get back home I think Elliott needs E.T. just as much and their goodbye at the end of the movie made me tear up just a little bit!  Like Close Encounters, this movie was just as magical as it was the first time I saw it on the big screen and I'm glad I had the opportunity to do so again.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mother!

I debated with myself back and forth about whether I should see the film mother!  Darren Aronofsky is very hit or miss with me (I liked Black Swan and couldn't stop thinking about it for days but I thought Requiem for a Dream was one of the worst films I've ever seen) and the polarizing reviews did little to help me make up my mind.  Ultimately, I decided to see it Saturday afternoon and, now that I have, I honestly don't know what to make of it.  I appreciate the message about destroying Mother Earth that Aronofsky is practically hitting the audience over the head with and the Biblical allegories about creation are quite brilliant but many of the images on the screen upset me deeply.  The first two-thirds of the film are about a writer (Javier Bardem) and his wife (Jennifer Lawrence) who live in a house, which they have rebuilt after a devastating fire, in a remote and isolated area.  A man (Ed Harris), thinking that their house is a bed and breakfast, arrives and is invited to stay by the writer despite his wife's objections.  Next, a woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives and completely takes over the house, even trying to see a room which is forbidden and breaking a priceless artifact.  Soon, their sons arrive (Brian and Domhnall Gleeson) and, arguing over an inheritance, one kills the other.  More and more people come to the house and begin destroying it until the wife demands that the writer force everyone to leave.  The references to the Garden of Eden are obvious and, despite my extreme frustration at the wife's subservience and powerlessness, it worked for me as a taut and intense psychological thriller.  The close-up camera shots which track Lawrence's character from room to room as she becomes increasingly more desperate create a tension which just keeps building and building.  Pfeiffer gives one of her best performances to date, dominating each scenes she appears in.  In my opinion, the film should have ended there but it doesn't.  The third act descends into a visceral, disturbing, and surreal mess which, at times, made me sick to my stomach.  The Biblical allegories continue but I didn't like the portrayal of God as vain and selfish and His followers as fanatical and destructive (It should be noted that this is my interpretation and others may view it differently).  I don't consider myself to be a very religious person but this just seemed very offensive to me.  I was also disturbed by the portrayal of the destruction of Mother Earth because the way Lawrence's character is treated was too much for me to watch.  There is one particular scene where she is literally thrown to the ground and beaten that had me sobbing and don't get me started on the scenes with her baby, which are horrific  Again, I appreciate the message but the images are so repulsive.  I guess you could say that I really liked mother! until the main character became a mother!

An Awesome Sack

All of a sudden it feels like fall in the Salt Lake valley.  One day I had my air conditioning on and literally the next day my furnace came on!  I am incredibly happy about this change in the weather because I absolutely love fall.  I love the cooler temperatures, the smell of decomposing leaves, wearing sweaters, everything pumpkin flavored, Halloween, and watching football.  Yesterday was the perfect day for football because the sky was a crystal blue, the temperature required a hoodie, and I started to notice some of the leaves changing!  Sean's team is struggling this season but I sure do love watching him play.  Even though the Braves lost to the Kearns Cougars, Sean played very well and got an awesome sack (he told us later that he could hear us cheer on the field).

Note:  His Dad gives him $5.00 for every sack so he was pretty excited!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Augustin Hadelich Performs Beethoven's Violin Concerto

Last night I found myself at Abravanel Hall for the second time this week and, since I love the Utah Symphony, this was a very happy circumstance!  Last night was the opening concert for the 2017-2018 Season and it featured works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss which, in my opinion, was a great way to start what looks to be a great season.  The orchestra began with the Overture to Don Giovanni by Mozart.  Why yes that is my very favorite opera so, as you can imagine, I definitely enjoyed this piece.  The music is so dramatic and it gave me goosebumps.  Next, Augustin Hadelich joined the orchestra for Beethoven's Violin Concerto.  I always enjoy it when he comes to town and, once again, his performance was simply brilliant!  He was so passionate and the speed with which his fingers moved in the third movement was mind-blowing.  The audience immediately jumped to their feet in a thunderous ovation which prompted Hadelich to perform Paganini's Caprice No. 21 to everyone's delight.  After the intermission, the program concluded with two tone poems by Strauss.  Don Juan was very tempestuous and I particularly enjoyed the theme played by the horns.  Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks was lighthearted with fun and playful themes by a solo horn and then the woodwinds.  I really enjoyed myself this evening and I am definitely looking forward to many amazing concerts during the upcoming season.  This program will be performed again tonight and tickets may be purchased here.

Friday, September 15, 2017

American Assassin

Last night I went to a Thursday preview of American Assassin, based on the novel of the same name by Vince Flynn, and, as a huge fan of the spy genre, I thought it was very standard.  Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) is the victim of a terrorist attack which claims the life of his fiancee.  Consumed by thoughts of revenge, he tries to infiltrate a terrorist cell in Libya which attracts the attention of the CIA Deputy Director (Sanaa Lathan) who then proceeds to recruit him as a black ops agent.  He is sent to train with veteran agent Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) and the two of them are sent on a covert mission to various locations around the world with a mysterious Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to retrieve some plutonium stolen by a rogue mercenary (Taylor Kitsch).  The story has a few interesting twists along the way but it is fairly predictable and more than a little far-fetched.  There are some great action sequences including a fantastic virtual reality training simulation, a car chase through the streets of Rome, a fistfight on a speeding boat, and an epic explosion at sea.  The low lighting and hand-held camera work give it a certain grittiness but I never really felt an edge-of-my-seat tension.  The characters are pretty one-dimensional but O'Brien does a good job as the brooding loner turned operative (I suspect that he will appeal to a certain demographic) and Keaton is an absolute hoot to watch in an over-the-top performance, especially in a scene where he is tortured by a former protege.  This movie is entertaining and fans of the genre will probably like it but it is ultimately forgettable.  There is nothing that we haven't seen a million times before done much better in movies like the Bourne series.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

An Evening with Renee Fleming

Last night I had the incredible opportunity to hear Renee Fleming, one of the most acclaimed opera stars in the world, perform with the Utah Symphony and the Utah Opera Chorus at a benefit concert in celebration of the Utah Opera's 40th Anniversary and to raise money for Utah Opera's education programs.  Wonderful doesn't even begin to describe this concert.  I saw Renee Fleming perform a Christmas concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir several years ago so I knew I was in for a lovely evening when I bought my ticket!  The orchestra began with the Overture to La Forza Del Destino by Verdi and then Thierry Fischer introduced Renee Fleming to thunderous applause.  She sang Four Last Songs by Strauss and, even though I was unfamiliar with this piece, I loved her performance, especially "At Sunset" which was mournful, atmospheric, and gave me goosebumps.  Then the Utah Opera Chorus sang a rousing rendition of "Vedi le fosche" from Verdi's Il Travatore.  I wouldn't consider myself an expert in opera but I definitely recognized this piece and it was spectacular!  Fleming returned to the stage to perform the mad scene from Mefistofele by Boito, "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi (another instantly recognizable piece), and Mattinata by Leoncavallo.  As much as I loved the opera pieces, I think my favorite songs of the evening were "Somewhere" and "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story by Bernstein.  The former was achingly beautiful and the latter was spirited and playful.  Then Fleming told the audience that she really wanted to find a contemporary piece that would work with her voice and, interestingly enough, she found the song "Virus" by Bjork!   Her rendition was awesome!  The final piece brought the crowd to their feet: "Libiamo" from La Traviata, one of my favorite operas, performed with Utah Opera Resident Artist Christopher Oglesby!  I was so sad when this concert came to an end but I am thrilled that I got to be a part of such an enchanting evening, made all the better by knowing that all of the proceeds are going to such a great cause!

Note:  Seriously, listen to Bjork's version of "Virus" and imagine what that sounded like with Renee Fleming and a full orchestra!  Mind blown!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the first film in the Silver Screen Classics series, is one of two that I have never seen before, on the big screen or otherwise, so I have really been looking forward to it.  Based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same name, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof explores one pivotal night in the lives of a wealthy Mississippi family who have come together to celebrate the 65th birthday of the patriarch who happens to be dying of cancer.  Over the course of the evening, many different revelations bring the dysfunctional family closer together in some emotionally charged scenes.  Paul Newman plays the alcoholic younger son who wants to relive his glory days as a football star, Elizabeth Taylor plays his sexually frustrated wife, and Burl Ives plays the patriarch known as Big Daddy.  All three give stellar performances but, once again, I was so impressed with Elizabeth Taylor because her character's loneliness is palpable in every scene no matter what what she is saying.  I think she is a much better actress than people give her credit for.  This film is fraught with so much tension but there are also some highly comedic moments.  I laughed every time Madeleine Sherwood, who plays the wife of the older son (known as sisterwoman), was on the screen, especially when she has her bevy of children perform for Big Daddy to convince him to give her husband control of his fortune when he dies.  Her facial expressions are hilarious!  Even though there is not a lot of action, beyond throwing things in the heat of an argument, I was absolutely riveted.  I'm so glad I finally got to see this classic film, especially on the big screen.

Note:  Paul Newman was incredibly handsome in his prime!

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Wrath of Khan

In honor of its 35th Anniversary (all of these anniversaries of films that I saw in the theater as a kid are making me feel old), I had the opportunity to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan on the big screen last night and I absolutely loved it.  In my opinion it is the best of the original Star Trek movies.  When the starship Reliant surveys a barren planet for its suitability in the Genesis Project, the crew finds Khan (Ricardo Montalban), an old enemy who had been marooned there many years ago.  Seeking revenge against Admiral Kirk (William Shatner), Khan commandeers the Reliant to attack the Enterprise and tries to take Genesis for use as a weapon.  This forces an epic confrontation in which Spock (Leonard Nimoy) sacrifices his life to save the Enterprise (William Shatner, in the interview that preceded the movie, wondered if there was anyone who didn't know how the movie ends and if he was giving spoilers when he talked about Spock's death).  What I loved most about this movie, aside from the great story which continues a plot from the original series and Montalban as a fabulous villain, is the relationship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.  There are several great scenes between the three of them which really develop their characters on a deeper level.  Spock's death scene is one of the greatest scenes, ever.  I did find the special effects to be a bit dated but that hardly mattered because the story is so great.  It was so much fun watching this on the big screen with a fun and rowdy crowd, many of whom were in very elaborate costumes.  When Kirk shouted, "Khaaaaaaaaaan," the whole audience cheered!  If you are a fan of Star Trek, this is a must see on the big screen.  There is one more opportunity to see it on Wednesday (go here for more information) and I highly recommend it!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

It

I have read Stephen King's best-selling novel It multiple times but the last time I read it was quite a while ago.  As I watched the new movie adaptation, I knew enough about the story and the characters to be completely invested very quickly but I couldn't remember enough to make comparisons between the script and the novel.  That was just the right mix for me because I thought the movie was fantastic (unlike the other Stephen King adaptation this summer).  There is something evil lurking in the sewers of Derry and it reappears, most often in the guise of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard), to haunt the town's inhabitants every 27 years.  After Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) goes missing, his brother Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) and his friends Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Stan (Wyatt Oleff), Mike (Chosen Jacobs), and Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) try to figure out what is causing so many of Derry's children to disappear.  Bill and the rest of the "Loser's Club" are all misfits in one way or another and Pennywise appears to each of them as what they fear the most.  They must band together in an epic confrontation with Pennywise in order to save Beverly.  The narrative ends with all seven of the kids making a blood pact to come back and face Pennywise again if it comes back, setting the stage for the next movie.  What I liked most about this movie is that it is an emotionally satisfying coming-of-age story about a group of kids who have to face their greatest fears.  By the end of the movie I cared deeply about each one of them and that is due, in large part, to the nuanced performances of the young actors, especially Lillis whose story arc is the most disturbing.  All seven of them are wonderful and I loved their interactions with each other because they seemed so natural and real with quite a few really funny moments to balance out the terror.  I've heard some criticism that it isn't scary enough but don't listen to it.  In my opinion, it is plenty scary (so please don't take your young children to see it). I jumped about a mile in a particularly tense scene.  Skarsgard plays Pennywise in a way that is completely different from Tim Curry's portrayal in the 1990 miniseries but it is no less frightening.  I definitely recommend this movie!

Note:  Now I am very eager for the sequel and, I have to admit, I already started casting the adult roles in my head before the movie even ended!  Amy Adams as Beverly?  Yes! 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert

Last night I had so much fun watching the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen at Abravanel Hall as the Utah Symphony performed the score by John Williams live!  I love this movie concert series that the Utah Symphony has started (go here and here) so much because listening to the music played live makes the movie so much more entertaining.  I may or may not have cheered out loud when we heard the iconic fanfare for the first time as Indiana Jones runs through the jungle.  It has been a really long time since I've seen this movie about an adventurous archaeologist and his quest to locate the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do.  I was my nephew's age when this first came out and it is really the first big epic adventure that I remember watching in the theater.  It felt just as exciting to me last night as it did then.  I'm starting to respect Steven Spielberg more and more because, just like with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I think the special effects in this movie hold up incredibly well.  There are so many scenes that I loved such as when Indiana shoots a man who dramatically brandishes a sword at him, when he fights one of the Nazis near the propeller of a plane, when he crawls underneath a moving truck, when he is trapped in a tomb full of snakes (this gave me nightmares when I was a kid), and when the Ark burns the faces off of the Nazis.  I also thought it was really clever to use a red line across a map to indicate a long journey and I liked the use of shadows (that fedora is instantly recognizable).  It is such a great movie and the orchestra played the music magnificently under the baton of guest conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos.  It was a really fun way to begin the weekend.  The next movie in this series is The Nightmare Before Christmas in October and tickets may be purchased here.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Forever Plaid at HCT

Hale Centre Theatre has two shows running simultaneously: The Heart of Robin Hood is currently playing at the West Valley Theatre and Forever Plaid is playing in the Sorenson Jewel Box Theatre at the new Mountain America Center for the Performing Arts in Sandy. I have been eagerly anticipating this first show in the new theatre and I wasn't disappointed.  First of all, the theatre is absolutely amazing! The Jewel Box Theatre is a more traditional proscenium theatre (the main theatre opens in November with a production of Aida) and I am happy to report that there is leg room! Hallelujah! Second, the show is simply delightful in every way! Forever Plaid is essentially a juke box musical featuring a doo-wop group from the early sixties. While traveling to their very first gig at the Airport Hilton they crash into a bus of parochial school girls on their way to the Ed Sullivan Show to see the Beatles and are killed. They are given the chance to come back and perform the show they never got to in life. It is full of wonderful songs from the 1950s (my Dad would love this show) such as "Three Coins in the Fountain," "Moments to Remember," "No, Not Much," "Heart and Soul," "Shangri-La," "Rags to Riches," and "Love is a Many Splendored Thing." My favorite numbers were "Sixteen Tons" which was hilarious and "Lady of Spain" because they recreated all of the famous acts from the Ed Sullivan Show (I laughed and laughed when they pretended to be seals balancing beach balls). Keith McKay Evans (Frankie), Ricky Parkinson (Smudge), Jonathan Rex Baker (Sparky) and Will Perkins (Jinx) harmonize beautifully together. The choreography is a lot of fun, especially when they use plungers as microphones. In between the musical numbers, there is a lot of funny banter which emphasizes each of the characters' quirks such as Sparky's speech impediment, Jinx's propensity for bloody noses, Frankie's nervousness in front of a crowd, and Smudge's ulcer. I loved the minimal set design which included a piano (played by Tanner DeHaan) and a bass (played by Kelly DeHaan). This show is so much fun and I highly recommend that you see it (instead of The Heart of Robin Hood).

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Heart of Robin Hood at HCT

Last night I saw the Hale Centre Theatre production of The Heart of Robin Hood and I hate to admit this but I did not like it at all. In fact, there were parts of it that actually upset me and, had I not been sitting in the middle of a row, I would have left during the second act. This musical takes the story of Robin Hood (Derek Smith) that we all know and love and turns our hero into a villain who terrorizes the inhabitants of Sherwood Forest for personal gain rather than to give to the poor. It is up to Maid Marion (Riley Branning), eager to escape an arranged marriage to the despicable Prince John (Benjamin J. Henderson), to show him the way as they attempt to rescue two children (Sam Murdock and Ava Hoekstra). One of the problems that I had with the show is that it doesn't seem to know what kind of story it is telling. Is it a swashbuckling adventure with lots of comedic elements? Is it a romance filled with swelling power ballads? Or is it a tragedy about a family who dares to defy an unjust overlord at great cost? There are so many jarring tonal shifts I almost couldn't believe it. One minute you see Prince John forcing two children to watch the execution of their father (thankfully offstage) and the next you have Maid Marion singing a peppy love song. At one point Prince John is swishing around the stage with dancing colored lights on him while his soldiers torture people. It was awful to watch. I was bewildered by some of the choices the production team made. The costumes have absolutely no rhyme or reason with some characters dressed in Renaissance clothing and others wearing neon wigs, go-go boots, dreadlocks, Doc Martens, and eyeliner (Prince John reminded me of Adam Ant). Frankly, I thought it was a mess.  This is really too bad because I did like some of the songs and the two lead actors have wonderful voices. I don't understand why Hale would choose such an edgy production considering the demographic of it patrons. The crowd last night seemed very lukewarm to me. This is the second production in a row that has disappointed me so I only hope that Forever Plaid later this week can redeem HCT for me.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Tulip Fever

I really love period dramas and, despite everything I had heard, I still thought I might like Tulip Fever so I went to see it last night.  It looked absolutely beautiful in the previews and it has a stellar cast so how bad could it be?  It is pretty bad.  Set in 17th Century Amsterdam, Sophia (Alicia Vikander) is an orphan essentially sold to Cornelis Sandvoort (Christoph Waltz), a wealthy merchant, because he is desperate for an heir.  She fails to produce said heir but he treats her kindly.  He hires Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan), a struggling artist, to paint their portrait and of course he falls in love with Sophia and they begin an affair.  In an attempt to be with Sophia, Jan begins speculating in the tulip market, where fortunes can be won and lost in an instant, with the help of the Mother Abbess (Judi Dench) who raised Sophia.  Maria (Holliday Grainger), Sophia's maid, is in love with a fishmonger named Willem (Jack O'Connell) who also speculates in the tulip market but when his fortune is stolen by an unscrupulous prostitute (Cara Delivigne) he is conscripted into the navy.  Sophia and Maria's stories converge in a ridiculous plot twist and the ending is anything but satisfying.  This movie is beautiful with gorgeous period costumes and lighting straight out of a Vermeer painting.  However, there are so many things wrong.  The story is convoluted but, even worse, it is also totally implausible, especially one plot element that defies common sense.  I didn't understand any of the characters' motivations.  Christoph Waltz usually plays such a good villain but in this movie his character is almost benign so I didn't understand Sophia's desperation to escape from Cornelis.  Sophia and Jan barely speak five words to each other before they are in bed together so I didn't really buy their relationship.  I also didn't understand Sophia's choice at the end of the movie.  What a letdown after everything the characters have been through!  The tone of this movie is also quite strange.  It is supposed to be a tense and compelling drama but there are some odd comedic elements, especially regarding a "little soldier" in some of the strangest sex scenes I've ever seen.  I also found the scenes where the tulips are bought and sold, which should be fraught with tension because of the consequences for the characters, to be incredibly boring.  It was a bit disappointing and I recommend giving it a miss.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Braves!

It was a hot one yesterday but we couldn't miss seeing Sean and the rest of the Bountiful Braves play the Alta Hawks!  I saw a lot of improvement in the Braves this week but this game ended much like the one they played last week.  The Hawks scored four unanswered touchdowns and then at the end of the game the Braves got a dramatic touchdown to spoil the shutout.  I'm really proud of Sean because this week he didn't let his frustrations get the better of him and he didn't give up!
They'll get the next game!
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