Reviews

The new Broadway musical Spring Awakening is based on an 1891 German play about teenagers discovering their sexuality in a strict, prudish German town. The adults are unwilling to be straightforward and honest with the teenagers about the changes they’re experiencing, and the children are victimized and hurt as a direct result.

The play has essentially been translated verbatim, but songs have been added and both characters and plot points have been fleshed out. The play still takes place in 1890’s Germany (apparent in the costumes and minimal set pieces), but the songs are full-on modern rock.

It actually works remarkably well. The songs generally happen as inner monologues, or as expressions of emotion when words aren’t enough. And it makes sense that in these teenagers’ heads, they hear something akin to rock music. Because rock music has always represented youth, and how youth is misunderstood by the adult world around it.

The show is edgy, unexpected, and full of captivating, addictive tunes. It’s satirical in both comedic and dramatic ways, and it tells its story very well. It also helps that the cast of young actors (plus the two adult actors who play all of the adult characters) are superb, easily attacking both the rock music and the antiquated dialogue with great conviction.

I don’t want to say too much about the content of the show, because you need to see it for yourself. A limited number of $25 student tickets are available at the box office beginning at ten o’clock daily, and there are always seats on stage available for $36 if you’re not squeamish about that sort of thing.

5:00 pm Reviews , Comments Off on “Spring Awakening” Rocks


Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical was not so great. It would have been one thing if they’d just taken the movie and turned it verbatim into a musical: We wouldn’t have been surprised by anything, and it wouldn’t have been anything new, but it still would have been entertaining. But instead, they decided it was important to change every single scene–for the worse. Every iconic memory from the movie was missing or thrashed, the plot was choppy, and the whole theme of the show was way off.

I can’t name every wrecked scene, but I’ll give an example. For some reason, they felt it was necessary to move the “Spoonful of Sugar” scene to the kitchen. Okay, that might have been fine, but then they decided that it wasn’t the kids’ fault that the kitchen was messy–it was the butler’s fault instead–which completely ruined the whole point of having that scene in the first place!

And then to make up for the missing plot points, they just interspersed new scenes where Mr. Banks scolds everyone and Mrs. Banks mourns being his wife, so that it’s clear he’s an awful parent/husband and that the children and Mrs. Banks are victims. These scenes make the plot choppy, because the whole show went back and forth like a pendulum: a song and dance with Mary Poppins followed by a serious scene about family dysfunction.

Another example of a wrecked scene: Obviously they couldn’t do “Jolly Holiday” in a watercolor vacation land with animated livestock, but instead… they set it in the park (which turned from winter to summer, woo-hoo), with half-naked “statues” coming to life and dancing. I felt it was not only disturbing, un-jolly, and boring, but that it was also somewhat inappropriate for a young audience.

The list of bad choices goes on and on: Mary Poppins quitting her job, the Banks family hiring a replacement nanny (think Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty who used to be the nanny of Mr. Banks, the kids not spending their coins on birdseed from the bird woman (Mary Poppins pays for it instead, and the kids save their coins), the Banks children not getting into trouble at the bank, the “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” scene taking place in a carnival-like store that sells “ounces of conversation,” Mrs. Banks being ashamed because she used to be an actress (random!), Mrs. Banks not being involved in the suffragette movement, the children’s toys coming to life and sentencing them to imprisonment (which is still better than the British version, in which they’re sentenced to death by firing squad), and finally a completely unnecessary scene in which Mary Poppins takes the children into outer space.

The only good scenes were the conversation between Mr. Banks and Bert (because it was left exactly as it was in the movie) and the whole “Step in Time” number (which once again was very faithful to the movie). Since the writers decided that the movie’s dialogue for the scene in which Mr. Banks has his revelation (the climax of his plot) was irreplaceable, I can’t imagine why they didn’t realize that the same choice would have benefited the musical throughout.

Thank God for the cool special effects, or else we would have walked out after about half an hour.

4:43 pm Reviews Comments Off on Let’s Go Force a Kite Down the Audience’s Throat


I highly recommend Bobby. It was basically two movies in one, and each was equally well-crafted and touching. The first was a valentine to Bobby Kennedy, showing what he stood for and his effect on others as a statesman. It’s hard to ignore the obvious comparison to the current war in Iraq, but the point of this movie isn’t just anti-war, it’s highly pro-America, and that makes it come off as patriotic, not rebellious. The second (and more prevalent) movie was an ensemble piece about the lives of several ordinary citizens whose only connection, it seems, is their presence at the Ambassador Hotel on the night of the California Democratic Primary.

For me, not knowing much about this time in history or the specifics of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, the movie had a surprising conclusion. Yet even without knowing why the movie unfolded as it did, or knowing who the characters were, I still found that it drew me in and held my attention. For other viewers, the ending will obviously be much more expected; however, I think the movie developed its ensemble so well, it doesn’t matter if you’re familiar with the assassination or not. You know that “the ship is going to sink,” to use a typical metaphor, so it’s the burden of the filmmaker (writer-director Emilio Estevez) to make it interesting nonetheless. Estevez succeeds.

One of the most shocking choices in the film was the casting of Bobby Kennedy: He plays himself. Most scenes of the title character use archive footage of the man himself. Kennedy is obviously a necessary character in the film, but the point is his true effect on others, so there’s no need for an impersonator.

Regardless of your familiarity with Bobby Kennedy or your personal politics, I think this movie is an important piece for every American. It’s a historical piece, but it also reminds us about the American dream and our values–both personal and national.

11:50 pm Reviews Comments Off on “Bobby” Wins


I picked up an advanced copy of this at work, and let me just say it’s quite possibly the best book ever published: Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney’s Book of Lists. If you like McSweeney’s lists, or if you’ve never heard of McSweeney’s lists, it’s going to make you very happy. Go pre-order a copy, or pick it up at a bookstore when it’s released to the public.

6:00 pm Reviews Comments Off on Mountain Man Dance Moves


Well, Snakes on a Plane was everything I expected it to be. I’m going to get started on my screenplay now for Snakes on a Canoe.



 LG Chocolate On Saturday I was eligible for my “New Every Two” discount from Verizon Wireless, so yesterday I went to the Verizon store and upgraded to the new LG Chocolate. It’s a sleek, black phone that looks way more like an iPod than a phone, obviously because they’re trying to encourage people to listen to music on their phones. It slides open to reveal a keypad when you want to use it as a phone, and the rest of the time it’s really small and thin.

Verizon didn’t have the cable yet to transfer my phone book from my old phone, but with a USB cable and BitPim (set for the VX8300, which is pretty much compatible), I was able to transfer my phone book as well as all my photos. BitPim also let me create a custom ringtone out of an MP3 of “Such Great Heights,” so that was pretty awesome.

Verizon uses Windows Media Player 10 to sync music to the phone. It only comes with a tiny 60MB of memory, just enough for about an hour of music, so I put the Postal Service’s Give Up on there, and I might get a microSD card later to store more music.

6:01 pm Reviews Comments Off on New Every Two: The LG “Chocolate” VX8500


Three things make episode #67 one of the best Family Guy episodes ever:

  1. When Stewie got lost at Disney World, they dressed him up in a costume, chained him to the floor of “It’s a Tiny, Tiny World,” and forced him to sing endlessly.
  2. To cheer up Peter, Brian dressed up as a banana and performed “It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time.”
  3. Herbert, the old perverted man, sang “Somewhere That’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors, almost completely unchanged, to Chris.

So good.



I was all excited waiting for the new Barenaked Ladies EP, Barenaked for Hanukkah. And then it finally came out (exclusively on music download sites), and…

It’s just three songs. One is a track taken directly from Barenaked for the Holidays, another is a live version of a song from Barenaked for the Holidays, and the third is “I Have a Little Dreidel,” which is less than a minute long. Lame!

9:19 pm Reviews Comments Off on Barenaked Lame-ies


I saw the new Harry Potter movie last night at an advance screening. I liked it better than the other three. It finally flowed like a movie, not like a book. There weren’t discernible chapters. And the plot just seemed more exciting. My friends who have read the books said that about 3/4 of the book was excluded, yet they all enjoyed it as well. They said they appreciated the fact that it felt more like a movie, and it was better to leave things out entirely than to touch on them briefly and never come back.



I laughed and laughed when I saw this item on the Linens-n-Things web site. Hopefully you’ll make the same instant assumption about the product, otherwise it’s not funny.



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