Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Easiest "Hell Week" Ever


To Theatre Folk (who are not too far removed from Circus Folk), "Hell Week" is the last week of rehearsals before a show opens. There is often lots of flailing, wailing and running around and usually plenty of yelling, screaming and crying from everyone involved. And while this is sometimes the case with a JTMF show, more often than not, there is little of that. For Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol," there has been absolutely none of the usual Hell Week nonsense. 

After nine years of producing benefit shows, I think we may have actually gotten it down to a science. Of course, it helps that no one involved in a JTMF show has a personal agenda. The 'Diva Factor' just doesn't exist with us. We're all working towards a common goal and honoring the memory of a fallen comrade, while raising money to help those still with us.

Our Winter Event has proven to be very easy two years in a row, now. A radio play is a joy to produce: Small cast with script in hand; minimal rehearsals; a couple of Foley artists; limited light cues and basically no set to speak of all make for a simple and easy show. And working with a bunch of folks who know, respect and love one another makes the whole process so easy for all involved.

My cast and crew (as always) are amazing. My producer is my hero and the chance to perform with so many talented folks is an early Christmas present that means more than any gadget, toy or sweater ever could. 

Just know there will be more shameless self-promotion to come this week. We need butts in seats, folks! Get your tickets now! I promise you'll have a good time. And if you don't... well, you  just may well need a visit from three spirits of your own.

More, anon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Swing, Swing, Swing!

The whole 1940's vibe we've been getting in rehearsals for Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" has been rubbing off on me (No, not that way, you pervs). 

Back in the early 90's, I directed a production of Much Ado About Nothing that was set during the liberation of Sicily during WWII. During Leonato's masked ball, I staged a full on swing dance set to Glen Miller's "In the Mood." It was an audience pleaser and much fun for the cast.

I love Swing music and Swing dance. And long-time readers also know how much I love a good flashmob. So imagine my delight when I came across the video below (via) of a Swing-dancing flashmob which took place at Denver's International Airport on November 22nd. It features one of my all-time favorite Swing numbers, Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing" and some terrific Swing dancing by the member's of cmDance. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

There are two rehearsals left before Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" opens on Friday and tickets, while going fast, are still available. We'd love to see you there. I know, I know - more shameless self-promotion. But hey, if I don't, who will? As Patricia Kalember says in Signs, "Swing away!" Okay - maybe that wasn't the best or most relevant reference, but I'm tired...

Of course, this is the perfect opportunity to re-embed my favorite flashmob of all time:

I'm still dying to do one of these. Maybe I can figure out how to do one to promote Hairspray in the spring.

More, anon.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We Open This Friday

The James Tolin Memorial Fund's Winter Event featuring Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" opens this Friday and things are going well.

Unlike our annual Summer Event, which usually features a show with adult themes and language, our Winter Event is a family friendly blast from the past. Audiences travel back in time to the 1940's where they get to see a live 'radio broadcast' with a small cast playing multiple roles and a live Foley (sound effects) crew.

This year, eight actors (including Uncle P: D; Q; K; Matty and Maddie) are taking on 45 roles in the adaptation by Anthony Palermo at the Kelsey Theatre in West Windsor, NJ. Proceeds from our Winter Event both help defray the costs of our Summer Event (which benefits multiple charities) and benefit The Trevor Project, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline for LGBT and questioning youth.

Performances are Friday, December 2nd at 8:00 PM; Saturday, December 3rd at 2:00 and 8:00 PM and Sunday, December 4th at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $14 - $18 and can be purchased online at, by phone at 609-570-3333 or at the Kelsey Box Office starting one hour before curtain. If you can't attend, but would like to help, you can make a secure donation via PayPal at our website:, where you also find additional information about who we are, what we do, why we do it and the charities we support.

But honestly, we would rather see you there! Shameless self-promotion now ended. We'll return to our regularly scheduled nonsense, soon.

More, anon.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pretty Much Dead Already

Since I will be in tech rehearsals for A Christmas Carol all week, I watched this week's episode of "The Walking Dead" in real time for a change. And because of some of my friends' reactions to it (one said the show had jumped the shark), I thought I'd review it, rather than just recap it. Still, there are SPOILERS AHEAD. If you haven't seen this week's episode, come back after you have.

So, after what many have complained as being a boring season 2, last week's episode had lots of action; lots of Walkers and lots of zombie kills, not to mention the revelation that Herchel's (and why can't other bloggers/reviewers/writers get that spelling right?) barn was housing a dozen or more Walkers. This week, Glenn and Dale reveal that fact to to others, which sends the volatile Shane into a rage and sends Rick once more to appeal to Herchel to let his people stay at the farm. Dale tries to hide the guns in the swamp, but Shane tracks him down and brings them back. Glenn and Maggie make up and Carol upsets Daryl by revealing she has feelings for him (Carol and Daryl? Really?). Lori tells Shane that even if her baby is his, it will never be his. Meanwhile, Jimmy tells Herchel that "... it's happened again." and Herchel entreats Rick to help him with something. That 'something' turns out to be two Walkers trapped in the swamp, which Herchel intends to retrieve using the kind of pole Animal Control officers use on vicious dogs. Back with the guns and seeing Herchel and Rick leading two Walkers back on the poles, Shane loses it and releases the Walkers in the barn. After repeatedly shooting the Walker on Herchel's pole, Shane breaks open the barn and he; Andrea; Glenn and Tbone take out the Walkers as they stumble out. Of course, the last Walker to make its way out is the long-missing Sophia. They all stare, stunned, until Rick steps up and does what has to be done.

I have heard complaints from lots of folks that the series is changing some of the things that happen in Kirkman's graphic novel. So? What film or TV adaptation has ever stuck to the letter of its source material? Silence of the Lambs is theonly one that comes to my mind, but I know plenty of people who love Kubrick's version of The Shining. Personally, I hated it, because he changed too much. Does that make it any less a valid story? No. It just makes it different. Another friend complained that waiting 7 weeks to find out what happened to Sophia was lazy writing. Really? I thought that she might have been in the barn, but hoped she wasn't. When it turned out that she was, I wasn't disappointed... just sad.

The ending of "Pretty Much Dead Already" sets up a new power-play at the farm, and while we know Rick and company can't (and probably won't) stay much longer, it leaves us with so many more questions. Is Andrea (as Dale suggests) becoming as hard-hearted as Shane? Has Maggie become enamored with Glenn enough to leave her father? Will Beth, Jimmy and Patricia side with Herchel? Will Daryl and Carol become an item (I hope not)? And just whose baby is Lori carrying? Has the show "jumped the shark?" Many thought the same thing about "Lost" with the whole Paulo and Nicki plot, but they seemed to work that out. I think the season so far has just been suffering from  'growing pains,' as it were. Certainly the exit of Frank Daramont as showrunner has been an issue, but I don't think it's an insurmountable one. As long as Kirkwood remains on board as Executive Producer, I have hope that it will find its footing again and become the exciting and intriguing show it was in Season 1. As Glenn said, "We forgot they were dangerous." I, for one, am looking forward to where the show will go come it's February return.

"Pretty Much Dead Already" may have been a bit predictable but it set up the rest of season most effectively, proving that Shane (not the most stable of people) has been right about the need to protect themselves all along and that Rick may not be the most effective leader, despite his attempts at being the group's moral core.  I think there may be a major schism coming among the group and wonder what side I might take in such a situation. *** (Three out of Four Stars).

More, anon.

Review: "Hugo"

Asa Butterfield and Jude Law in "Hugo"

Before I start my review, I have a confession to make: I knew I was going to love Hugo going in. What I didn't know was just how much I was going to love it.

Martin Scorcese's adaption of Brian Selznick's novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" tells the story of a young boy (Asa Butterfield) who lives in the walls of the Paris train station in 1930, winding and maintaining the station's many clocks. He watches the the goings on among the station's shopkeepers from behind the clocks' faces; steals food from the restaurants and fruit carts and tries to avoid the Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), a wounded WWI vet with a cranky leg brace and a not-quite vicious Doberman. When caught trying to steal clockwork parts from the  station's toy shop, the shop's cantankerous owner (Sir Ben Kingsley) makes Hugo empty his pockets, where he discovers a detailed notebook filled with drawings of an automaton that upsets him to no end. When the old man threatens to burn the book, Hugo pleas with his ward, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) to help him get it back. And thus the adventure begins. I won't go in to more plot detail than that, because you really need to let it unfold around you.

And I mean that quite literally. Shooting in 3D, Scorcese uses the medium to add  remarkable depth to his film, quite unlike any other director has managed to do. The 3D is crisp and amazing, allowing the audience to experience the story as though they were silent observers in a very real place without once becoming gimmicky. No spears are thrust into your face; no explosions sear your eyeballs and nothing makes you dizzy or nauseous (not that 3D ever bothered me in that way).

The performances here are just terrific, across the board. Butterfield is undoubtedly the best young actor I've seen in a long time, using his huge, expressive hazel eyes to remarkable effect while Moretz continues to prove her versatility. Kingsley and Baron Cohen are both wonderful (Baron Cohen is especially delightful as the comedic foil villain) and appearances from Christopher Lee (and why is he not Sir Christopher Lee, already?); Jude Law; Helen McCrory; Emily Mortimer; Ray Winstone and Frances de la Tour just add to the fun. And the Steampunk aesthetics (tons of gears and loads of steam and clockworks) are all the better because of the remarkable 3D.

Robert Richardson's dreamy cinematography; Alastair Bullock's lush art direction and Sandy Powell's gorgeous period costumes are all amazing and Howard Shore's beautiful score is one of his best.

Hugo is Scorcese's love-letter to the movies and knowing what we know about his own childhood, it's no wonder the story appealed to him. Hugo is all about dreams and magic, which is what going to the movies has always been about for me. In fact, I almost felt like he'd made the movie just for me. Anyone who loves movies (and especially their early history) will love Hugo. I saw it with Q, Dale and K at a later show with an all adult audience and just about everyone in the auditorium applauded when it was over. I can't recommend Hugo enough. It was the perfect way to kick off the Holidays, and I'm sure I'm going to see it at least once more in a theater. Without a doubt, the best movie I've seen so far this year. **** (Four Out of Four Stars).

See this film! And see it in 3D (I can't believe I actually typed that sentence).

More, anon.

P.S. - Let me know if you spot Scorcese's own Hitchcockian cameo...

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Black Friday

So, I did venture out to do a little shopping today. "Black Friday" is the day after Thanksgiving, so-called because the retailers finally go in the black (as opposed to 'in the red'). It's the second busiest shopping day of the year, after the last Saturday before Christmas, and often results in all sorts of insanity. One case in point: a woman in a California Walmart used pepper-spray on fellow shoppers to gain access to bargains today. Bad form, madam. Bad form. Uncle P did not camp out, wake up early or do anything particularly idiotic today, other than venture out into some ridiculous traffic.

I'm making a particular Christmas gift for one friend and had a coupon for a local craft store that had to be used by noon, so I went out around 10:30 for some of the supplies I needed. I also stopped by a local gourmet shop to pick up some yummy things for another friend's "Bag of Delicious" gift.  The stores were crowded, but I found no one pushing, shoving or screaming, thankfully. I came home; put away my purchases; hung the Christmas wreaths and then came in to check my email, Facebook and the sites I visit daily.

That's when I came across the beautiful video I am about to share with you. It's from the Australian campaign for Marriage Equality and if you don't get a little choked up by the end, you're probably not human. Here then (via), is It's Time:

Have your eyes cleared, yet? Good. Things like this seem to restore my faith in humanity. I've already shared this video on Facebook, but felt I needed to share with all of you, as well. I encourage you to share it, too. Love is love, folks. And while I may well be preaching to the choir, the more we share the message and spread the word, the better. 

More, anon.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Month Turkey of the Month: "Lady in the Water"

Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S readers and those Americans scattered about the globe. Thanksgiving in the U.S. is all about the turkey, which is why November is 'Turkey Month 'here at Caliban's Revenge.

And what a turkey I have for you tonight. Philadelphia-based  writer/director M. Night Shyamalan made a name for himself with 1999's The Sixth Sense, starring Bruce Willis and a young Haley Joel Osment as the boy who could "...see dead people." His follow-up film Unbreakable (also starring Willis) was a pretentious mess about a "real-life" superhero (Willis) and his brittle-boned nemesis (Samuel L. Jackson in a ridiculous wig). 2002's Signs, about an unlikely alien invasion some major plot issues (Why would aliens who were deathly allergic to water try to invade a planet that is 90% water? They can travel billions of light-years, but can't figure out how to operate a doorknob?), but it featured some lovely low-key acting from its stars Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. Then came 2004's The Village, a movie I actively stood up and booed after it was over. I swore I'd never see a Shyama-lama-ding-dong film again.

Then came 2006's Lady in the Water, filmed not less than two miles from Uncle P's house on the grounds of a former 3M plant. I would drive by and watch the set go up and then later come down, all the while curious as to whether or not I would hate this movie, too. When it finally hit theaters, the reviews were... well, terrible. I waited until it came out on DVD and rented it. And was sorry I did.

Lady in the Water stars Paul Giamatti as Cleveland Heep, an apartment complex maintenance man who discovers Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), a creature from the 'Blue World' called a  'Narf,' in the complex's pool. The almost incoherent plot revolves around Story's efforts to find and encourage a writer (Shyamalon) who is destined to write a book  that will change the world. Story is also being pursued by werewolf-like monsters called 'Scrunts,' who want to stop her, even though they've been forbidden the Blue World's simian leaders, 'The Tartutic.' After she completes her mission, Story is whisked home by a giant eagle-creature called 'The Great Eatlon.' Huh?

Supposedly based on a story Ding-dong made up for his own daughters, the convoluted plot involves cereal boxes, suppressed grief and a whole bunch of crap that makes no sense at all. Sadly, Jeffrey Wright; Bob Balaban; Mary Beth Hurt; Bill Irwin; Tovah Feldshuh and Freddy Rodriguez (all actors who deserve better) are tenants who figure into the nonsensical mythology Shyamalan tries to create. 

I watched this movie three times, falling asleep before it was over twice. When I finally made it through the whole thing, I still had no idea what the hell was going on. Of course, even this piece of crap movie didn;t stop Hollywood producers from throwing money at Shyamalon and he went on to make the Universally panned The Happening (about killer trees) and the video game-based The Last Airbender (also hated by every critic who had to sit through it).I have seen neither of these movies, nor do I intend to. I simply refuse to put another dollar in the man's pocket.

I'm not one to wish ill on anyone, but I really hope that producers have finally learned their lesson and never let M.Night Shyamalan make another movie as long he lives.

More, anon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


That sound you hear is Norman Rockwell, spinning in his grave... (But seriously, what is that? Goliath's brain?)

It is Thanksgiving Eve here in the States. Since I added the globe tracker thingy to the blog, I have noticed I have readers in some very surprising places, all over the world: Australia; Russian Georgia; Austria; Poland; Romania; the Middle East; South America; Africa and even China. I don't know if  I'm getting these hits because those folks are doing specific Google searches, or because they are genuinely interested in what I have to say (though why they would be, is beyond me, frankly). It's rather awesome, though.

Thanksgiving is celebrated in Canada in October, though I don't think it has the same feeling as it does here in the U.S. Based on a myth about the settlers at Plymouth Rock in 16-something-or-other, Thanksgiving in the U.S. is all about being grateful for everything good in our lives. 

And Uncle P has plenty for which to be grateful (my English teachers would be so proud of that sentence). I have a decent job with an exceptionally generous NPO; I have a roof over my head with cable TV and high-speed Internet access; I have reliable transportation; I have traveled extensively; I get to indulge my passion for theatre on a fairly regular basis; I live in the greatest country on Earth (despite all its many faults) and I get to ramble on and on about anything I feel like, to a group of mostly strangers who come back day after day to read what I have to say.

But mostly, I am thankful for my small, but loving family and a group of amazing friends who simultaneously build me up and keep me grounded at the same time. Q; Dale; K; D; Tracy and about a dozen or so other folks, are constant reminders of how important it is to be yourself, share your love and talents and just be a good person.

So, while enjoying your turkey dinner with all the trimmings tomorrow, take a moment and really think about the things for which you are grateful. I can pretty much guarantee the people in your life about whom you care the most, will top that list. Of course, if you're as twisted as Uncle P, you can also be grateful for Eli Roth (NSFW):

More, anon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Holiday Movies on My List

I've been a bad movie fan, this year. I didn't get to see even half of the movies I wanted to. Of course, now that the Holidays are upon us, there are another slew of movies I really want to see. 

I love this time of year for movies because you get such a good variety of family films; Holiday tentpole movies and prestigious awards contenders. Best Picture nominees Black Swan; True Grit and winner The King's Speech,
were all Holiday releases.

I have Christmas week off from the day job, so I may just get to see a couple matinees, if I play my cards right (and get some AMC gift cards for Christmas). 

So, here the movies I most want to see this season:

Now Playing:

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas. The Harold and Kumar movies are hardly works of artistic genius. But they're so ridiculous and outrageous, they can't help but be funny. Add the adorable and hilarious NPH playing a coked-up womanizing straight version of himself and you have comedy gold.

Melancholia. Director Lars van Trier got himself into trouble at Cannes this year, but his film about the End of the World is getting amazing reviews, including Oscar buzz for star Kirsten Dunst.

Immortals. Reviews have been mixed for Tarsem's take on Greek mythology starring Henry Cavill. I'm not ashamed to admit that I just want to see it for the eye candy (of all sorts).

The Descendants. Tons of Oscar buzz for Alexander Payne's (Election; Sideways) latest, starring dreamy George Clooney in a 'dramedy' about a man who discovers his comatose wife has been having an affair.

Opening This Week:

Hugo. Martin Scorcese's 3D adaptation of Brian Selznick's Steampunk YA novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" is being hailed as the first movie to actually make 3D work. It's also highest on my "Must See" list for the season.

The Muppets. Who doesn't love the Muppets? It's been many years since they've graced the silver screen, but thanks to star and co-writer Jason Segel, they're back in a movie currently rated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

A Dangerous Method. Dark genius David Cronenberg's latest film is about Freud (Viggo Mortensen), Jung (Michael Fassbender) and the very unusual patient (Keira Knightley) they share.

Coming Soon:

Shame. Director Steve McQueen's award-winning sophomore effort about a New Yorker (Fassbender) struggling with sexual addiction. Filmmakers worldwide are hoping the movie's NC17 rating won't overshadow it's message or apparent brilliance.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr) and Watson (Jude Law), face off against Holmes' arch-enemy, Dr. Moriarty (Jared Harris), joined by Holmes' brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) and the Gypsy, Sim (...Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace). D and I saw the first Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movie and thoroughly enjoyed it. We're looking forward to it's sequel.

Carnage. Roman Polanski's adaptation of Yasmina Reza's (Art) tragically comic play God of Carnage, stars Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christophe Waltz in a tale about two couples who meet to discuss the schoolyard fight between their sons. Said meeting devolves into a battle between the classes.

Whew! There are a few more, but I'm exhausted... I know that I'll be lucky to see four of these 10 films this season, but that doesn't lessen my desire to see all of them. And I didn't even get to Stephen Spielberg's Warhorse; Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty or Michel Hazanavicious' The Artist.

Send lots of AMC gift cards...

More, anon.

Monday, November 21, 2011



To all those complaining that nothing has really happened this season, I hope "Secrets" shut you up.

After discovering the barn full of Walkers at the end of "Chupacabra," Glenn is too full of other people's secrets and his head is about to explode. As Lori and the now-recovered Carl are feeding chickens, Carl notes the chicks they are feeding have no mother. "Maybe she got eaten," he says. Lori looks at him and he nonchalantly says "Everything is just food for something else." Cut to Patricia breaking a chicken's legs and throwing it into a sack which she wheels out to the barn, dumping several crippled chickens down to the hungry Walkers trapped inside.

Maggie brings Glenn some peaches and jerky and he tells her he can't keep a secret. "I"m a terrible liar. I can't play poker..." She tells him he has to keep quiet. He shares the peaches with Dale and T-Bone. When T-Bone innocently asks "What's up?" Glenn nervously replies "Nothing. Nothing's up. Why?" When pressed by Dale, he spills the beans about both the barn Walkers and Lori's pregnancy. 

Andrea apologizes to Daryl for shooting him. Daryl forgives her. "You were trying to protect the group. But if you shoot me again, you better hope you kill me." Lori visits with Herchel, who tells her that he expects they'll be moving on now that Carl has recovered. She then confronts Rick, who tells he's working on a way to get them to stay.

Meanwhile, Shane is going to give shooting lessons to Andrea, Patricia, Beth and Jimmy. Carl asks Shane to teach him to shoot but Shane is reticent, especially when he discovers Carl has stolen a gun from Dale's RV. After a mildly heated discussion during which Rick convinces Lori that Carl should be able to defend himself and the group, they all head out to shoot bottles on a fence. Andrea proves to be a very apt student and she stays behind with Shane for an advanced lesson. Dale confronts Herchel about the Walkers in the barn, saying he discovered them while on a walk in the fields. Herchel asks for Dale's discretion, which is reluctantly granted.

Meanwhile, Glenn and Maggie ride back to the pharmacy to get more items requested by Lori. Maggie is attacked by a Walker, which Glen partially decapitates with a shelf and then finishes off with a wicked-looking blade. When they return to the farm, Maggie freaks out on Lori, throwing the Morning After pills Lori requested in her face and telling her that the next time she needs something, Lori should get it herself. Glenn follows Maggie after she storms off, and after kissing him, Maggie tells him "You're a leader, but none of them treat you like one. Dead guy in the well? Send Glenn." Poor Glenn has no idea just how Maggie feels about him, and her mixed signals are no help. While lunch is being cooked, Lori becomes ill at the smell of the meat and Dale tells her a story his wife's similar aversion during her pregnancy. He also tells her not to blame Glenn for spilling the beans: "The boy has no guile in him."

In the woods, Shane is trying to teach Andrea to shoot a moving target with little success. He pushes her too far and she storms off (there seemed to be quite a bit of storming off, this episode). He follows her in the car and gives her a roundabout apology before inviting her to accompany him to look for the still-missing Sophia in a nearby suburban neighborhood. Glenn returns to Lori and gives her a bag of prenatal vitamins, advising her that she shouldn't make the decision to abort the baby on her own. 

Deciding they need to search each house, Shane and Andrea enter one to discover a group of people who tried to barricade themselves inside, only to die there. They suddenly find themselves under attack by dozens of Walkers and Andrea discovers she can shoot a moving target target afterall. As they are driving back to the farm, Andrea is overcome with emotion and horniness, grabbing Shane's crotch lustily. He stops the car and she climbs on him, accidentally honking the horn as they bump uglies.

Lori swallows a bunch of Morning After pills, but realizes she can't go through with it and runs off into a field to force herself to throw them up. Andrea and Shane return and an obviously jealous Dale confronts Shane, telling him he should follow through with his plan to leave the group and indirectly accusing him of causing Otis' death "I wasn't there. But I was there when you aimed your gun at Rick!" Shane warns Dale, "I wouldn't shoot Rick. I love him like a brother. But what do think I would do to a man I didn't even like?" 

Rick returns to the tent where he finds the empty Morning After packets and seeks out Lori to confront her. Lori tells him she threw-up the pills, but can't bear the idea of bringing a baby into a world of fear and pain. Rick sees the baby as hope for the future, but presses her to tell him what else she might be holding back. She confesses to having slept with Shane, which he accepts because he knew both of them thought he was dead.

An emotionally and action-packed episode, "Secrets" leaves us hanging until February when I'm sure some questions will be answered, while more are asked. leaves us asking questions that may or may not be answered before themid-season break. What will Rick do when he discovers the Walkers in the barn? Will Sophia ever be found? If so, will she be alive? When the group leaves, the farm will Maggie join them? Are Shane and Andrea now an item, or was their car sex a one-time thing? And what will happen when the barn walkers escape (because you they will)? I'm so glad I was mistaken and that there's one more episode before the break.

More, anon.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Obamabaum, Obamabaum!

I just unfriended two people from my Facebook account. Both women were friends from my high school days. 'Shelly,' 'Annette' (not their real names) and I were in the Chorus and Drama clubs and we performed together through several of my high school years. I was genuinely happy to reconnect with both them, at first. And while I was suspect of their often "Christian values" posts, I usually let them slide.

But today, 'Shelly' posted this on Facebook (and forgive me for paraphrasing a bit):

"I just read that President Obama has declared there will not be a Christmas Tree at the White House this year. He said that America is not a Christian nation and the tree would be called a 'Holiday Tree.' I am outraged that he would do so, as America is a Christian nation, founded by Christians."

'Annette' responded with "Obama is an idiot!"

Of course, I couldn't help myself and responded to 'Shelly' thus: "Sorry, Shelly. The United States is a secular nation by design of the framers of the Constitution, who very clearly and deliberately left religion out of it." 

Almost immediately, both of these so-called 'friends' attacked me. One said, "If you don't believe in Christ, you should be forced to work on Christmas." The other one responded that I was destined to "...burn in Hell." And even after another mutual friend posted a link to debunking the story, the attacks on me and my views on organized religion (particularly on Christianity) continued. I would have gone on to compare these two women to other religious fanatics (see: 9/11; The Taliban; the KKK; David Koresh; Jim Jones), but I knew no sane argument would be deemed valid in their eyes. 

Here's the thing: Christmas in the U.S. is mostly celebrated as a secular holiday in which we honor those we love with food and gifts. Yes, to many it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, a man many believe was the son of God. To me, and the majority of my real friends, it is a time to acknowledge the love and joy we bring into each others' lives. Christmas may have started out as a religious holiday, but it has become more about the celebration of Humanity and love. The 'Spirit of Christmas' is all about celebrating our commonality, not our differences. 

When 'Christians' use their religion to attack or scorn others, they're behaving in the most un-Christian way I can imagine. If there is a 'God,' I can only imagine that He or She is shaking His/Her head in despair at how wrong so many have gotten His/Her message over the years. Drinking the Kool-Aid is never a good idea, kids.

Here's some more insanity from a fanatic 'Christian:'

Yikes! I fear for the nation's sanity.

More, anon.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Brainstorming "Brainstorm"

With all the recent talk about the re-opening of the investigation into the 1981 death of actress Natalie Wood, I thought I'd take a look back at her final film Brainstorm, which was almost never completed.

Co-starring Christopher Walken, Louise Fletcher and Cliff Robertson, Brainstorm tells the story of three scientists who develop a method of recording thoughts, dreams and experiences directly from a person's brain, using a device called "The Hat." Michael Brace (Walken) and his estranged wife Karen (Wood), along with their mentor Lilian Reynolds (Fletcher) have developed the device, though to what end is never made clear. 

Team member Gordy (Jordan Christopher) records a sexual experience and shares the tape among a select number of colleagues. Hal (Joe Dorsey) splices Gordy's orgasm into a continuous loop tape, resulting in an episode of sensory overload which nearly kills him (but what a way to go, eh? Nudge-nudge, wink-wink). Of course, the military sees the device as a possible weapon and the resulting stress of seeing her project weaponized causes Lillian to suffer a fatal heart attack, which she somehow has the prescience to record. The Hat keeps recording, even after she has died, but the military seizes the project before anyone can review the tape.

Meanwhile, Michael has made a recording of his happiest memories, which he shares with Karen, resulting in a reconciliation. Michael shares his plan to retrieve Lillian's final tape and Karen agrees to help him do so. Of course, his first attempt prompts his own heart attack, and after removing the cardio-vascular reactions from the tape, he tries again, only to be shut down by the military. After a complicated scam involving a fake fight with Karen, Michael eventually jacks into the tape via a phone-booth (dial-up was apparently really good in 1983) and he manages to play the entire thing. The tape shows not only Lillian's heart-attack, but everything that happened afterwards, including a brief trip to hell before she ascends through space into to Heaven, accompanied by soaring angels; visions of loved-ones lost and the anecdotal 'Bright Light.'
Directed by Special Effects pioneer Douglas Trumball (2001: A Space Odyssey; Silent Running) and written by Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost; The Time Traveler's Wife), Brainstorm is a modest but fascinating Sci-Fi film with theological/philosophical aspirations. The performances are all fine, with Fletcher's (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) probably being the most effective. The visual effects are extraordinary, given the era in which the movie was made, though Rubin's script is a bit muddled. Of course, Wood's death (which happened while filming) forced some major revisions and I imagine Brainstorm would have been a rather different film had she lived to complete it. And while it may not live up to Wood's best performances (Splendor in the Grass; Inside Daisy Clover), its final sequence may have brought some comfort to the fans still mourning her loss when the film was finally released.

Most definitely a product of its time, Brainstorm is certainly worth viewing if you've never seen it. Of course, I prefer to remember Wood this way (even though Marni Nixon dubbed her vocals):

More, anon.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Other People's Theatre

I don't see nearly enough of my friends' shows. I do try, though. I saw Q's production of Antigone last month. It featured several good friends (including K) and  actors with whom I've worked before, and was rather brilliant. Before that... I'm not really sure.

I know I saw several friends in another friend's production of Steel Magnolias (a show I don't really ever need to see again) last year.

I have a rather busy season coming up. After A Christmas Carol, I'm doing Hairspray and then the JTMF 10th Anniversary revival of Jeffrey. I'm basically booked through June, which is a good thing (I think). 

My friends at Maurer Productions Onstage have an excellent reputation for producing award-winning musicals and plays in New Jersey. The Maurer brothers (Dan and John) are enthusiastic and talented and have been very helpful to JTMF. John appeared in our productions of What the Butler Saw and  It's a Wonderful Life and produced, directed and edited all of our YouTube videos. I am loathe to admit that I have yet to see one of their shows. 

But that's about to change. Tomorrow afternoon, I will be attending the matinee of their production of Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida. Disney's first commissioned musical, Aida is a modern retelling of the Verdi opera about an enslaved Nubian princess who falls in love with the man engaged to the future Queen of Egypt. I saw the original Broadway production with Adam Pascal (Rent), Sherie Rene Scott (The Little Mermaid) and Heather Headley. While not the best show to ever grace the Great White Way, it was entertaining and featured some terrific numbers in a variety of styles and two amazing performances form Scott and Headley. 

The Broadway production had some amazing set pieces and outrageous costumes (especially in the fashion-oriented number "My Strongest Suit"). The show's best number was Scott's rendition of "I Know the Truth," though the gospel-driven "The Gods Love Nubia" ran a close second. Knowing the Maurer brothers and their reputation for excellence, I can't wait to see what they do with the show. And I'll assuage a bit of the guilt I always feel for not being able to see every single show that every one of my friends does. 

Here's a taste of the original production featuring Sherie Rene Scott:

And another featuring Heather Headley:

I'm very much looking forward to seeing Aida. On a break from our own rehearsal, I caught a few bars of a number during their dress rehearsal last night. It sounded terrific.

More, anon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turkey Month Turkey of the Week: "Batman and Robin"

After two successful (and very entertaining) Batman movies helmed by director Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher took over the franchise. His first film in the franchise, 1995's Batman Forever, isn't terrible but pales in comparison to Burton's movies. Batman Forever replaced Michael Keaton with Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne/Batman and introduced Chris O'Donnell as Dick Greyson/Robin. The duo face off against Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and The Riddler (Jim Carrey) in a plot to enslave Gothomites with The Riddler's hypnotic TV signal. Warner Brothers started developing  1997's Batman and Robin almost immediately after production ended.

George Clooney (just about the only actor whose career was unscathed by the movie) was now Bruce Wayne/Batman while Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman were brought in as Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy. Freeze (AKA Dr. Victor Fries, injured in a cryogenics accident which leaves him in need of being kept cold all the time) is stealing diamonds to create a freeze-ray in an insane effort to save his wife from "MacGregor's Syndrome" (does Beatrix Potter know about this?). Meanwhile, Dr. Pamela Isley is working in South America, looking for a cure for said disease with Jason Woodrue. When she sees him turn a little person into the monstrous Bane, Woodrue tries to kill her with a variety of poisonous chemicals. Instead, she becomes Poison Ivy and kills him with a venomous kiss. She and Bane then head to Gotham to join forces with Freeze.

We soon find out that Wayne's manservant Alfred (Michael Gough) is suffering from MacGregor's syndrome and when his niece Barbara (Alicia Silverstone) shows up to care for him, she becomes Batgirl at her uncle's prompting. Batman, Robin and Batgirl soon join forces to defeat Freeze, Ivy and Bane, but not before Ivy uses pheromones to seduce Batman and Robin into turning on each other. The movie's best scene is a rip-off of a famous number from a Marlene Dietrich film, as Ivy enters a fundraising ball dressed in a gorilla costume:

Batman and Robin is the movie that infamously introduced nipples on the Batsuit and campily inferred a gay relationship between the Dynamic Duo. It also nearly put an end to the franchise, until Warner Brothers recruited director Christopher Nolan for the rather terrific re-boot, Batman Begins. Nolan's brilliantly noirish The Dark Knight earned a posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger's Joker. I am eagerly anticipating next summer's final entry in Nolan's trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.

Ridiculous dialog; an almost unintelligible plot; terrible acting; day-glo sets and the most ridiculous costumes in the Batman's long history,make Batman and Robin one of the worst Superhero movies of all time (and certainly the worst Batman movie, ever). 

More, anon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Who's the Fairest of Them All?

So, just as there are dueling Fairy Tale shows on network TV (the rather silly "Once Upon a Time" on ABC and the far-superior "Grimm" on NBC), next year will see two dueling Snow White movies. 

First up is Mirror, Mirror, a kid friendly comedy from director Tarsem Singh (Immortals; The Cell) starring Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane and Lily Collins. Scheduled for release on March 16th, Tarsem's version appears to be a light and rather silly take on the tale, especially given what we can see of Lane's performance:

Of course, Singh's signature visual flare is on full display here. I'll probably wait to see this one on DVD or OnDemand.

June 1st is the scheduled date for first-time director Rupert Sanders' Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart; Thor hottie Chris Hemsworth; the stunning Charlize Theron; "Deadwood" alum Ian McShane; Ray Winstone and Bob Hoskins.

Sanders' take appears to be a bit darker in tone, and (you should excuse the pun) grimmer of the two, featuring the gorgeous Theron as a very evil queen who will stop at nothing to be able to claim herself the "fairest of them all.' The trailer (embedded below) makes me want to see this one in a theater.

While many of us think of Disney's 1937 animated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to be the ultimate version the Brothers Grimm story, there are many variations of story. Personally, I love the Showtime version "Snow White: A Tale of Terror" starring Sigourney Weaver as the evil queen. I also love Gregory Maguire's ("Wicked") deconstructed version of the story, also titled "Mirror, Mirror."

So, which "Snow White" movie are you looking forward to see?

More, anon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Hunger Games

I used to be a voracious reader. My first grade teacher actually yelled at my mother for teaching me to read at age 4 (and the same teacher yelled at her for teaching my sister, too). Books have always been a part of my life. In my Teens, 20's and 30's, it wasn't unusual for me to read three or four novels a week. But since I started writing screenplays and blogging, my reading time has been severely curtailed. I still read when I can; mostly while traveling. I read three novels while on vacation in Florida last April (Seth Grahame-Smith's hilarious "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" and Joe Hill's "Horns" among them). Sadly, I have had Hill's father's "Under the Dome" for almost 2 years and am only halfway through it (If you didn't know, Hill is the son of Stephen King and his debut novel "Heart-Shaped Box" is just terrific - if you haven't read it, you should). 

I often feel guilty about not reading as much as I used to, especially since my 70 year-old mother still reads an average of three novels a week. But, such is life. I expect that if I live long enough to retire, I'll have plenty of time to catch up.

Needless to say, I missed out on Suzanne Collins' young adult trilogy "The Hunger Games," though from all I've read about them, they are excellent (yes, I still read online). So you'll have to excuse me for not being quite as enthused about the upcoming film adaptations as some fans may be., until now.

Truth be told, I gave up on reading the Harry Potter books after getting through the the first one on a two-hour flight to Tampa, so I really had no interest in spending time on another YA fantasy series. But, the hype had me intrigued and I've been following the movie's news online. And at last, there is a trailer. And what a trailer it is! Featuring almost unrecognizable actors like Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman) and Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy); fantastical sets & costumes and a fight to the death, I must admit that I actually want to see this movie.

Also starring Donald Sutherland (President Snow); Lennie Kravitz (Cinna); Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne); Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark) and Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence (as the series' heroine, Katniss Everdeen), The Hunger Games seems like a combination of The Running Man; Blade Runner and Logan's Run. The trailer is fascinating and it makes me think I may have to spend a little less time writing and a little more time reading. 

So what do you think? Have you read "The Hunger Games?" Will you be seeing the movie? I'm dying to know. You all know by now how much I love your comments. Sound off, please.

After seeing that trailer, "The Hunger Games" is definitely on both of my "See" and "Read" lists.

More, anon.

Monday, November 14, 2011


An abbreviated recap tonight. Uncle P is tired after a long day of listening to crybabies who were too stupid or too lazy to care about deadlines. As with every TWD recap, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS:

After a prologue set in a massive traffic jam where we see the military bombing Atlanta, the search for Sophia continues. Using a new grid based on Daryl's findings at the abandoned house, the group splits up into three parties: Rick and Shane; Andrea T-Bone and Jimmy and Daryl on his own. We learn that while Daryl was once lost in the woods, he claimed to have seen a chupacabra (literally Spanish for "goat sucker"), though no one believed him. Young Jimmy lies to Rick, saying he has Herchel's permission to go. Daryl "borrows' a horse while Glenn and Maggie play head games. Carol decides it would be a nice gesture to offer to cook dinner for everyone, though she really just wants to cook in a 'real kitchen" (Hello? The 1950's called - they want their subservient housewives back).

Shane and Rick get into a discussion about the search for Sophia (Shane wants to stop and move on; Rick wants to keep looking) while Daryl finds Sophia's doll in the creek before a rattlesnake spooks his horse, which rears and sends him plummeting down a ravine into the creek, impaling him on his own arrow in the process. He then hallucinates a conversation with his brother Merle (we know it's not really Merle because he has both of hands) before waking up to find a Walker gnawing on his shoe. Using his walking stick to bash the Walker's head in, Daryl then pulls the arrow out of side and loads it into his crossbow in time to take out another Walker that is quickly advancing upon him. He then eats a raw squirrel.

Glenn and Dale have a "father/son" discussion about menses and "crazy women," in which Dale admonishes him for having sex with their host's daughter. Meanwhile, Lori hasn't told anyone she's pregnant and asks Glenn to keep he secret. Rick and Shane return early from their search, and Rick tells Lori he's had a long talk with Shane. From the look on Lori's face, it's obvious she's afraid Shane told Rick about their affair while they thought Rick was dead. Instead, Rick tells her about Shane wanting to abandon the search for Sophia. 

The faux-Merle taunts Daryl into climbing out of the ravine, teasing him about having eaten "magic mushrooms" before seeing the chupacabra and calling him a girl for not being able to climb out of the ravine. Daryl makes it out and then makes his way back to the farm where Andrea, tired of washing clothes, takes up a rifle and mistakes him for a Walker. Luckily, her shot only grazes the side of his head. Patching Daryl up, Herchel complains that they are using up their antibiotics, this after admonishing  Rick for not being in control of his people. 

Later, during a tension-filled and mostly silent dinner (before which Herchel talked to Maggie about her interest in "the Asian boy"), Maggie passes a note to Glenn that reads: "Tonight... Where?" Glenn scribbles his reply under Herchel's watchful eye. Carol brings dinner to Daryl and thanks him for doing more that day than her father ever did his entire life. 

While putting the dinner dishes away, Maggie surreptitiously reads Glenn's response: "Have you ever done it in a hay loft?" We see Glenn climbing into the locked barn's loft where he finds the barn filled with dozens of Walkers. Maggie races to the barn. As Glenn is about to flee in terror, Maggie shows up, telling hm "You weren't supposed to know about this." And there the episode ends, with the Walkers pressing against the locked barn's doors, desperate to escape and feed.

We know Herchel believes there will be a cure, and that he prefers that he alone handles any Walkers that appear on the property. But the Walkers in the barn are an unexpected twist. Will Glenn tell the others about them? Will they decide to pick up and move on? When will Lori tell Rick about the baby? Whose baby is it? And will we ever see Sophia again? 

Next week's episode is the mid-season finale and I can't wait to see what happens. Unlike many, I am not at all unsettled by this season's slower paced plot. I know there is plenty of horror yet to come:

More, anon.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How Did This Happen?

I am not a sports fan, by any means. In fact, I hate football. But this post isn't about football. This post is about pain; betrayal; indifference; criminal behavior and a particularly vile human being.

Yes, Joe Paterno led the winningest college football team of all time for more years than I've been alive. That's something to be proud of, I guess. But at what cost?

When the scandal first broke, many of my friends and co-workers were stunned. I was horrified. You all know the details, I'm sure. Jerry Sandusky, a married man with children and former assistant coach at Penn State, has been accused of molesting boys he mentored as part of the Second Mile Foundation, a charity he founded. Some of these boys were as young as seven years-old!

Sandusky was caught twice; once by a janitor in 2000 and again by Graduate Assistant Mike McQueary in 2002. Neither of them went to the police. The janitor, Jim Calhoun, told a co-worker but feared for his job. McQueary went to Paterno, who in turn reported the incident to his supervisor. NO ONE went to the police and neither of the men tried to intervene, even though they walked in on Sandusky while he was raping a young boy. Yes, you read that correctly. The two men walked in on the acts, but neither tried to stop them. WHAT?!?

There are so many things wrong about this whole mess, I can't even begin to count them. And just as sickening as the abuse, is the cover-up. Why has it taken 11 years for this to come to light? Why was Sandusky allowed access to these children? Why didn't anyone call the police? Jesus wept!

To me, there is nothing worse than the abuse of a child; be it mental, physical, emotional or sexual. As far as I am concerned, Sandusky should be castrated and locked away alone in a dark room for the rest of his life. As for Paterno and the others who have lost their jobs, I don't feel sorry for a single one of them. It's called "silent assent" and by not reporting the abuse to the police immediately, they are just as culpable. 

And of course, homophobic a-holes are using the whole thing to make the point that gay men are pedophiles, which just makes me angrier at Sandusky. The truth is, pedophilia has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Still, creeps like Bryan Brown, Maggie Gallagher and Rick Santorum will use the situation to promote their anti-gay platforms, despite every report which confirms that sexual orientation is never the motivator in such cases.

Everybody loses here. Paterno; the former President of Penn State; McQueary; Penn State students and players; Penn State fans and supporters, and the LGBT community. Of course, those most hurt -- the victims of Sandusky's assaults -- are the ones we should be concentrating on. These poor kids will never trust an authority figure again. And can you blame them? No. Blame Sandusky and everyone else who lied and covered for him. I  have absolutely zero sympathy for those who ruined their own lives by doing nothing to stop a monster from destroying the innocence of so many. In fact, the whole thing makes me sick to my stomach.

OK - another rant over, though I'm sure as more details come to light, I'll be angrier and angrier about the whole thing.

More, anon.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mutual of Pennsylvania's Wild Kingdom

I live in the suburbs in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I don't live in the woods, the mountains or the swamps. Manicured lawns and maple trees; garden gnomes and rosebushes are de riguer. Many of the homes in my neighborhood look very much alike and are relatively close together. For the most part, squirrels (I HATE squirrels), bunnies and feral cats are the wildest animals with which one might usually come into contact here. 

Recently, that has changed, and I am not sure why.

Last week, I came home from rehearsal for A Christmas Carol and pulled into my driveway to find an animal lurking beneath my bird feeder. As I turned off my engine, the animal moved and I saw that it was a skunk. Yikes!

I waited a moment and then slowly opened my car door, hoping the noise wouldn't startle it. The skunk rose and looked at the car, then slowly waddled off under the fence into my back yard, much to my relief. Then, not ten minutes ago, I went out to put something in the recycling bin, only to be greeted by a hissing opossum, it's red eyes glaring at me with undoubtedly evil intent. I dumped my empty and well-rinsed peanut butter jar into the bin and slowly backed away as the hideous marsupial slunk away into the night.

Yes, I know that bird feeders often attract animals other than birds. And until recently, those have included aforementioned squirrels, bunnies and feral cats. So why the addition of more 'exotic' wildlife? Is there some sort of animal pipeline that announces the presence of free food? What's next, a bobcat? Or maybe a coyote

While I love most animals and appreciate their necessity in the whole "circle of life" thing, I just wish they would stay out my yard. Is that so much to ask?

If only all wildlife were so polite.

More, anon.