Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Keeping The Faith In Hollywood!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Flipped Movie Premiere

Mon Jul 26th

God is awesome!!! I've just arrived back from the movie premiere of the Rob Reiner directed movie Flipped at the Arclight Theater on Sunset Blvd. and I had an amazing experience. I got my "insider" access to the red carpet event and movie via a ticket I received from so I was already blessed. I had two extra tickets for friends but ended up heading in by my lonesome self. The red carpet was set up in front of Cinerama so I saw the actors posing outside for the cameras upon entering the theater. The actors entered as I was grabbing my free popcorn and soda and one teen actress was wearing a beautiful black and white dress and shoes, which I complimented her on. The event staff came and herded us into our seats then the lights dimmed and the movie started to wonderful 50's do-wop music.

I am still all a twitter as I write this because I got to meet the movie's director, Rob Reiner. I heard his voice as he walked behind my seat to exit the theater and I immediately recognized it. So I popped out of my seat and raced after him then I introduced myself and shook his hand while telling him how I love his work. Reiner is a big guy (about 6' 4" and easily 280 lbs) and I was a bit nervous and excited but he is a real softy. He smiled his easy gapped grin and allowed me to intrude on his night. I pretty much tailed him the rest of the night just listening to him talk about how he envisioned the film before filming.

For those who don't know, Reiner has been acting since his teens but he first came to my attention as an actor when he played Mike "Meathead" Stivik on the 70's hit sit-com, All In The Family. Reiner won 2 best supporting Emmys for the role but, as his dad (Carl Reiner)before him, he did not just limit himself to just acting. He attended UCLA Film School and wrote for the Smothers Brothers variety show and he even wrote the pilot episode of Happy Days.

Reiner didn't stop at acting and writing either. He has produced many movie projects and he still can be seen acting in such films as Sleepless In Seattle. In the 1990's, he also started his own successful production company, Castle Rock Entertainment , which he later sold to Warner Brothers. Reiner then made his directorial debut with This Is Spinal Tap(1984)followed by the critically acclaimed Stand By Me (1986) followed by The Princess Bride(1987), When Harry Met Sally (1989) Misery(1990), A Few Good Men (1992), Ghost Of Mississippi (1996), Rumour Has It... (2005) and most recently The Bucket List (2007) so no one can blame me for following him around the rest of the night(lol).

I really had a good time mingling with the movie's cast and helping some teen girls get a good picture with a young handsome actor. At one time I thought I was standing next to the teen actress who starred in the movie and I complimented her on how good of a job she did but she blushed then smiled widely and said that she wasn't the one in the movie. I asked her who she was and she giggled and told me she was Reiner's daughter, Romy, and the handsome actor I had just instructed in posing with the teen girls was actually Reiner's son. She asked if I liked the movie and I assured her that I loved it. She smiled real big and I could tell that she was a big "daddy's girl". Gushing with enthusiasm, I gave her a run down of her father and grandfather's filmography and we chatted about their work a bit.

I didn't see Callan McAuliff (Bryce from the movie) but I walked right by Juli's older brothers from the movie and then right by Aidan Quin. Quin played Juli's Dad in the movie and he was now deep in conversation with someone so I didn't bother them. I was waiting to see if I saw Rebecca de Mornay or John Mahoney but I didn't see them at all. I did see an older gentleman with a white beard who kinda sort of looked like Mahoney but I wasn't sure because he looked very thin.

To avoid looking like a stalker, I had convinced a kid to get Reiner's autograph for me but he came back with some other actor's signature. I was reluctant to approach Reiner again but Romy just smiled at me and wrangled a quick autograph for me from her dad. I found out that the pretty brunette next to us was their mom, Mrs. Rob Reiner, who was also very kind and understanding.

The staff ushered us out to the sidewalk where I saw Romy again this time she was standing next to the now recognizable teen actress in that black and white dress. It turns out that she is 14 y.o. Madeline Carroll, the lead actress from the movie. Seeing Romy and Madeline side-by-side, except for them being brunettes, it was easy to tell them apart. The girls hugged and talked a bit and welcomed me into the circle before Madeline was called away for more photos.

Romy and I talked some more and I learned that she was just 12 years old. She remarked that she was enjoying my company because I was fun and I complimented her on how well she handled herself for being just 12. She moved on to be with her family while I complimented Penelope Ann Miller on her wonderful role as Juli's mother and on her gorgeous cocktail dress in sparkly white accented with purple and lilac sequins and gem stones and a cinched waist. She signed my ticket just as Kevin Weisman (Uncle Daniel in the movie) walked by then everyone waved good bye and got into the limos. I waved back to them from the sidewalk as they left for the after party. I swear I think I skipped all the way home singing Awesome by Greg O'Quin n' Joyful Noise. Awesome God!!!!

Flipped Movie Review:

Stand By Me is a poignant coming of age/buddy movie about 4 pre-teen boys in a small town called Castle Rock in the 1960's. Flipped marks Reiner's return to familiar (if less dramatic) territory as Stand By Me as it's set in an idyllic small town America in the 1960's also. Flipped really is a movie with good wholesome family values without being too heavy handed with it. It is actually a sort of romantic comedy from age 7 to the early teens and it is real funny, too (Grease meets When Harry Met Sally or He Said, She Said for teens and tweens).

The film's cinematography, set and costume design were good and the music was even better so I was toe-tapping and singing along to my favorite oldies. The movie was casted very well and paced even better. The dialog was spot on and shows the skill of a good comedy writer. Though the movie is based on the book, kudos again to Reiner who co-wrote the film as well as directed it.

Though the movie is essentially a rom-com, when the drama occurs it is done just right and as a resultis very compelling.

Though not household names as yet, the yound stars all acted superbly. I predict that this film will be the film that brings them great recognition within the industry for years to come. Anthony Edwards was a surprise heavy as Bryce's condescending and insensitive jerk of a dad and Quin puts in a solid performance as Juli's working class dad. Both Miller and DeMornay added complexities to their roles as traditional 1950's women and Miller especially shined during her tense dramatic scenes near the end of the movie.

Flipped is also deep with great insight to the awkwardness of growing up and young love. The 94 minutes went by very quickly and everyone laughed throughout and I even cried once or twice. I especially loved how Reiner dealt with moral development in teens, family issues, disability and aging.

IMHO Rating:
This is a movie that has something for everyone and will please viewers age 10-100. So SEE IT!!!! SEE IT!!!! SEE IT!!!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mel Brooks at American Cinematheque

Sun Jul 25th 2010

Mel Brooks will discuss his movies, Blazing Saddles and Silent Movie, in person at a double feature tonight at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theater at 7:30 pm. I could not get tickets to the Mel Brooks Tribute at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Bld. last year (see previous post) so I hope I can get to this. Brooks other movies will also be showing for the month of July including Young Frankenstein on July 28th. Carl Reiner also is being highlighted as they have often collaborated together.

I was unable to make it back to Hollywood Blvd. for the double feature and Q&A with Mel Brooks but I am hoping he makes a surprise appearance at the showing of Young Frankenstein this Wednesday.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cats And Dogs Movie Premiere

Sunday Jul 25th 2010
Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore had its red carpet movie premiere today at Grauman's Chinese Theater. It was a crowded and busy day out as it was the Walk Of Fame's 50th Anniversary(see previous post). It was also one of the hottest days of this relatively cool L.A. summer so everyone was drinking lots of water. I situated myself on the same side of the street at the theater and quickly made friends with some tourists from New York City. The stars started arriving at 3:00 pm including the 4 legged shaggy variety. First up was James Marsden(X-MEN, 27 Dresses)who was handsome and casually dressed in a dark blue striped long-sleeved cotton shirt, stone washed jeans and sneakers. Alas, all our screaming couldn't get this hunk to come over to us and believe me we tried... hard. So hard in fact that I'll be hoarse tomorrow(lol).

Then Michael Clark Duncan appeared with a slim black lady in a beige colored dress. He raced around hugging and smiling with the fans and even juggled a few fake fire hydrants. Then beautiful Cristina Applegate took a stroll in black top and leggings, sporting her cute baby bump. The lady next to me was a an oncology nurse who works with breast cancer survivors so after we both screamed how much we loved Cristina we talked about how courageous and inspiring Cristina has been. A shaggy dog and the bald kitty posed for a few photos on the red (actually it was a green carpet as if to simulate a lawn)then they were quickly taken out of the heat(luck pets).

30 Rock's Jack McBraden was all toothy smiles and waves as he walked the carpet. We screamed his named so loudly that he blushed and "oh, shucks" for a bit then waved when we begged for him to come over. Next up was Chris O'Donnel (Bat Man, CSI: L.A.) who quietly posed for a few photos just as Terri Seymour (Entertainment Tonight correspondent and Simon Cowell's ex)walked through the crowd. She was nearly 6 feet tall in her 6 inch heels and I said hello to her by name three times as she brushed by me near the "will call" to get her ticket. She didn't answer me back and I was about to get a bit miffed when I realize I had been referring to her politely as Ms. Seymour and not Terri. She finally turned, laughed self-consciously at herself and said "Oh, hello!"

A few minutes later Paul Rodriguez pops up at my elbow and enters from the wrong side of the viewing line. I scream his name then everyone starts to scream for him. He goes to the fans on the other side of the street then comes back and takes some more pictures for the press then he enters the theater. I was looking for Bette Midler and Joe "Pant" Pantiliano 2 of my favs but they were no shows as was Sean Hayes from Will And Grace. At one time, a photographer with a canon camera and telephoto lens, was actually running up and down the red carpet taking pictures of the stars which is very unusual as photographers usually stay behind the barricades in the press box.

I was not able to score any extra tickets from the will call staff or the guests and it was so hot, I had a small sunburn and sweat was rolling down my back. Not to mention that my legs were about through so I was thinking of leaving. The photographer from earlier stands near me and stretches and I thought he looked a bit familiar but it is just too hot to think. Just as I was about to call it a day, up pops Paul Rodriguez again but this time he is leaving. I scream for him again and everyone starts shouting his name and asking for autographs. He is carrying a small Chihuahua with a yellow lacy bow. He stares at me and says to me "I remember you from earlier". He leaves all the other fans and walks back to me and shakes my hand. I told him that I've loved him for years to which he says thank you and kisses me European style on my cheeks and with that I was able to head home happy(lol).

I just checked a celeb website for pictures from the premiere. The black lady with Michael Clark Duncan was Omarosa from The Apprentice (Ew!). I was astonished that it turns out the photographer guy was actually Joe Pantiliano! I wished I knew that was him because I absolutely love him in The Goonies and The Matrix, of course. I could have talked to him for days about his experiences on The Matrix and I mean days. On second thought, maybe it was a good thing that I didn't know it was him. ;)

Hollywood Blvd. Walk Of Fame: 50th Anniversary

Sunday July 25th, 2010
The Walk Of Fame celebrated its 50th Anniversary today and each historic site along the walk held a specicial event to commemorate the day. I started the day at Ecclesia Church which holds its services in the historic Pacific Theater. After the service, the theater was opened up to free tours and a slide show of the theater in the 50's and 60's when it was known as the Warners Theater. Interested onlookers could also join church members for a showing of To Kill A Mocking Bird at 2:10 pm. The movie, from the book of the same name, stars Gregory Peck and won Academy Awards. It has been one of my favorite movies since childhood and it is shown as part of the church's Cineklin series.

Other events were held at the Egyptian Theater.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mad Men 4th Season Premiere in Hollywood

Tues Jul 20th:
The eagerly awaited 4th season of AMC's original TV series,Mad Men premieres on July 25th so they are having a red carpet sneak preview of the first episode at 6:00 pm today at Graumann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. The event was originally to be held at the Harmony Gold Theater on Sunset Blvd. but was moved to Mann's to accommodate the large request for tickets to the event. I'm trying to see if I can wrangle a ticket inside but my chances look slim. I may swing by the red carpet event though, to see if I see any of the cast and any interesting fan reactions. They are having a season 4 preview screening in New York on Sunday also and attendees are known to come in costumes. People in L.A. all seem to be in costumes anyhow so it might be interesting.

I confess that I haven't watched much Mad Men episodes and what I did see I didn't enjoy. There's too much macho sexist attitudes by the men and the women's roles are so wimpy or subservient that it's hard to believe this show is written by mostly women. Worst, there is endless depiction of cigarette smoking. I know the show is set in the 60's before the impact of the Surgeon General's warning about the dangers of smoking but many other shows written for that era did not depict smoking like Mad Men does. Thankfully, the cast smokes herbal cigarettes during the show's taping but still.

When I do watch it's purely so I can see the 60's fashion that January Jones and the rest of the female cast might be wearing or to sneak a peak at Jon Hamm's strong, manly chin and his physique in a suit and tie(lol).

Maybe that's my real problem with Mad Men; it seems more style over substance. Most people who watch it say that the show is so "cool","sexy" or "hip" then they mention the cool, sexy, hip actors who star in it and their clothes and their attitudes and the wonderful 1960's set pieces (I heard the same things about Sex And The City and Gossip Girls, by the way). Even though this show garners Emmy noms, I've never heard any fans mention the dialog or the quality of the writing for this show. Also, the writers need to be responsible for the dangerous and unhealthy habits they pro-mote 'cause, let's we forget, coughing up a lung is not hip, sexy or cool.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Salt Movie Premiere: Life Imitates Art

The Hollywood movie premiere of Salt is today at The Graumann's Chinese Theater. The movie stars Angelina Jolie as a spy accused of being a double agent. This movie has created major buzz among fanboys at different movie sites online. Salt's trailers show a lot of action and fight scenes but they are only so-so for me as I think that the premise has been done to death. It seems a bit like LaFemme Nikita or Alias-esque or maybe Bourne Identity in drag (as the title role was initially written for a guy)(lol).

However, since the whole Russian spy ring broke, it seems like a case of "life imitating art". Now I hear that Jolie wants to meet Anna Chapman when she's in Russian for the movie's premiere there. As you recall, Chapman is the alias of the pretty young Russian spy who posed as a real estate agent and wanna be society gal in New York. FBI nabbed her and 10 others in a crack down on Russian intelligence agents who were "illegals" or sleeper agents (deep undercover without diplomatic papers) in cities like New York and Washington, DC and even in suburbia.

The spies hoped to gather info on which way the Obama white house was leaning in its relationship with Russia. I'm no relationship expert but I can tell you that spying never helps any relationship plus it's all so "cold war era" anyhow(lol). There was an upside though. The U.S. got to exchange the 11 Russians for 4 imprisoned Russian intelligence officers accused of illegal contact with or covert activities for the West. The CIA negotiated the swap, which was easy since the Russians were caught literally "red-handed". I hope this all means that the U.S. and Russia can smile and play nice for a while like well behaved children.

Wait, if Jolie meets Chapman who may have stolen important American secrets, would that be like treason or something? It doesn't matter because I plan on skipping the Salt premiere anyway and I am skipping the movie altogether. I feel the spy thing has been long over and I don't especially like Jolie's movies. I couldn't understand the hype around Tomb Raiders and the movie was absolute torture for me. Plus, she may drag along Brad Pitt with her and I have not been able to stomach him since his negative comments about God. If Salt is bad then with any luck it won't stay around too long but if it's a hit and boosts this summer movie season then that would be good all around.

I was over Salt's concept but its title did remind me of how often the Bible mentions salt, which is about 30 times. From Leviticus, Job, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Psalm 133, 2 Chronicles and the 4 Gospels in the New Testamentit's salt, salt salt(look it up it's interesting). Salt or what is most commonly called table salt is known by it's chemical name, sodium chloride (NaCl), and it is a necessary nutrient in our diets to keep our fluid balance right. In biblical times, salt was used to preserve, season and purify foods and at one point it was so important it was used as currency. All the scriptures that mention salt are profound like "salt of the earth" and "salt covenant" and are still used as idioms 'til today. In the Bible, salt is used mostly in a good connotation to mean flavor, wisdom, wages, peace and friendship.

While thinking of the whole Salt-Russian spy thing, I felt an urge to play the song "I Hope The Russian's Love Their Children, Too" by Sting and maybe watch From Russia With Love. They are both my favorite songs/videos and movies plus they are a beautiful homage to the by-gone cold war era, with its secrets of hidden missile sites and spies in trench coats exchanging brief cases and martinis shaken not stirred ala James Bond. Wait a minute(looks around)... it's 2010 right? Yeah, yeah... just checking.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Comic Con 2010

Comic Con is in full swing. More updates to come.

Friday, July 16, 2010

INCEPTION: Movie Review

Inception Movie Review:
This movie has been tracking well and receiving summer blockbuster reviews from critics and fan boys alike. The film is due in theaters Fri 7/16 but I was lucky to get a ticket to an advance screening on Wed 7/14. I was among the last to get a seat as the theater was packed with rabid male 20-somethings waiting for their summer action "fix". I was eager but cautious too. This movie was hyped as James Bond meets the Matrix which, if done well, would blow my mind.

Sadly, I have heard those claims before and have been disappointed(does Aeon Flux and Wanted ring a bell?). Still, I was open to the possibilities especially after the movie trailers with the gravity-less fighting scenes, out-of-this-world set pieces and dream-wake mind-job sci-fi scenarios. In fact, if anyone could equal or even top the Matrix, Chris Nolan was in a short pile of people who just might be able to do it (along with Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and M. Knight Shamayla at his Sixth Sense prime). Ten years is a long time to wait for a post-Matrix hit so I snuggled down in my seat and waited with baited breath. The screen burst to life and the movie started with an orchestral music at a crescendo...

Spoiler Alert!!!Spoiler Alert!!!Spoiler Alert!!!Spoiler Alert!!!

Big spoilers so don't read any further unless you're brave--

The Review:
I wanted to like this movie and the visuals were stunning but I didn't enjoy it because it was a blatant rip off of The Matrix almost scene for scenes and near similar dialog. I've seen the Matrix over 40 times and I know a Matrix rip-off when I see it. Yeah, the set pieces are innovative and the CGI is top notch sure enough but it's still a poorly executed Matrix, with a little Mission Impossible and James Bond thrown in for effect. I really expected better from Chris Nolan considering his other films.

#1) In one of the early scenes, Leo's character says "dreams/ideas are contagious like viruses" well in the Matrix Agent Smith says practically the same "virus" thing to Morpheus when they are torturing him near the end.

2) Leo's character takes Ellen Page's character on her first shared dreaming experience unbeknown to her and she says "so I'm dreaming?" while in the Matrix Mor- pheus takes Neo into the Matrix training program for the first time unbeknown to him and Neo says "so, this is the Matrix?"

Later in that same scene, Leo walks with Ellen through a crowd explaining the dream as a 'training session". People bump and jostle them along the way and Ellen is alarmed. Ditto in the same scene from the Matrix before they see the Lady in Red. Ellen/Neo asks "so this isn't real?" Leo/Morpheus both answers "What is real?"

3)Leo says "dreams are creative ideas of the mind or projections" v.s. Morpheus' "the Matrix is a construct of your subconscious... a projection of yourself". Later Leo says it again when they deep sleep with Cilian Murphy's character.

4) If I die in deep dreaming/if I die in the Matrix, will I die in real life? Leo/Morpheus answers "your mind makes it real."

5) Leo to Ellen "we need an architect" and in Matrix Reloaded we learn that the Matrix was built by The Architect.

6) Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur takes Ellen through a repeated shared dream training program like Tank did with Neo when he learned Kung Fu in the Matrix. At one time Ellen may have even mouthed the word "whoa"(lol).

7) Mal tells Leo "no it's more real in the dream... your kids are there... come back with me" v.s. Cipher tells Trinity "the Matrix is more real than here(Zion)... they're putting me back in the Matrix"

8) The "dream machines" even looked similar to the EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) machines used to disarm the squid-like sentinel machines in the Matrix.

9) Instead of agents, an armed security force from Cilian Murphy's militarized subconscious shoot at Leo and his crew in the deep dream. Most of the gun play is done on street or freeways like in Reloaded.

10) Leo's character runs through a crowed open air market then through an alley, ducking and weaving while the "agents" shoot at him just like Neo did near the end
of the Matrix.

11) Tom Hardy's Eames character's tongue in cheek "impersonation" of a sexy blond female in a white form-fitting 50's style dress was funny but it was just a version
of the Lady in Red, that the character Mouse had designed, who existed only in the Matrix training program.

12) In Inception, an elevator is rigged to explode with explosives and the resulting explosion sets up the films resolution as in the Matrix.

Other Things I Hated About Inception:


1 hour in real life = 3 months in deep dreaming (cough "the Matrix").

5 hours = 10 years

10 hours = 50 years

WTC! What conversion factor are they using and why didn't some one tell me there was going to be a test!?

Plot and Character Development:

The science behind dreams is a fascinating field and the thought of manipulating some one's dream is exciting but this movie was flat and unimaginative in that department. Inception did not explore or exploit any of the existing dream science. It seems that we all dream almost every time we sleep but we often don't recall them. I know babies dream big time and even pets have dreams. We mostly dream in color and I in particular dream in Technicolor, HD and surround sound(lol). The movie didn't deal with the science of dream recall at all either and they did not even mention REM stage sleep, lucid dreaming or how drugs can stop REM stage and dreaming.

What was worst about the movie is that there was no emotional attachment to most of the character. Leo's character didn't work for me as I felt he was shifty to begin with and I never invested in his character. I didn't really care if he got back to his kids or not, in fact, I couldn't even remember Leo's character's name after the movie was over. I put this blame firmly at the feet of Chis Nolan, as both writer and director. He spent too much time having Leo do exposition and explaining the dream process instead of creating relationships and conflict. The only source of conflict for Leo (after Ken Watanabe became an ally) was Marion Cotillard's who played his crazy wife, Mal, who as her name suggest seemed very "bad" for the kids to be around anyway, so again, no connection.

Also, what was so sucky about their real life that lead them to want to stay in the dream one? Is dreaming like a drug or are hey addicted to the drugs that get you to dream deep? If we had a clue maybe we would have cared about the characters and the movie may have worked.

And Nolan under-developed and under-utilized Michael Caine and Ellen Page. Caine already showed that he can handle futuristic concepts with his performance in Children of Men so Nolan should have ran with it. How Leo and Caine knew so much about dreaming and why the interest was never explained. The same for Ellen's character. Ellen looks like a 17 year old girl. Why didn't they use a theory that a younger female's brain, though smaller than a males, had more nerve tracts so they would be more creative and prone to better dreaming but more sensitive to it's negative effects overall. This would explain how quickly Ellen mastered shared dreaming. It would also explain why Mal's dreaming went wrong as she aged in deep dream and why Leo couldn't control his own dreaming as well and it would double his guilt/conflict over performing "inception" on Mal.

And don't get me started on the misuse of Ken Watanabe who was the most believable of all the characters in the first Act then fades/dies near the end of Act 2. Nolan should have used a plot device to keep the relationship/conflict between Leo and Ken
brewing and therefore, make their meeting at the end of the movie more dramatic.

Inception's Bright Spots:
The only bright spots were Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays, Arthur, Leo's slim three-piece suit wearing "by the book" dream technician and Tom Hardy, who plays the beefy prankster Eames, Arthur's polar opposite. Gordon-Levitts serious face and all business attitude unfolded to reveal a much more sensitive character especially in his interaction with Ellen. All their scenes resonated well and were totally believable. Plus, Gordon-Levitt's zero-gravity fight scenes were the action highlight of the movie for me and I wished that that was more of what the movie was about.

Tom Hardy was great as comic relief and he got 2 of the movie's 3 big gut laughs from me and the theater's audience at the showing. I thought the action was really going to start when Eames pulled out a rocket launcher and told Arthur, "don't be afraid to dream bigger, darling" but, alas, it still didn't pick up.

The movie was paced well but I was so non-invested that I felt bored and sleepy a few times. I also thought the guy behind me was sleeping too as I heard snoring but it was coming from the film itself(lol). Oh, did I mention that they made me do math?

My Take:
This movie is so bad that Nolan may have written it in his sleep(I couldn't resist-lol). The cold ending was a complete cop out! Leaving the ending open to the imagi-nation or interpretation of the viewer used to be considered deep and cerebral decades ago but now it just means that (like in Lost and the Sopranos) that they couldn't think of a better ending or that they are just lazy. Plus, isn't this just the Michael Jackson story with Cotillard as Michael and Leo and the Muslim guy as Dr. Conrad Murray and where inception and deep dreaming is actually the drug propofol? And the children he/she leaves behind are just that, left behind.

There was big applause when the movie ended and all the fanboys were gushing about it but all I could think was "epic fail". I discussed it a bit with a few of them before realizing that they were all big Nolan/Dark Knight fans and would applaud even if Nolan took a crap in their hand. Plus, Inception was to be the hope to save this summer's movie going experience so I can understand their reluctance to part with reality. None of them understood the movie but some suggested that I watch the movie again to get the "deeper meaning" as like they were all planning to do.

Then they all gave me that look that I loathe. The one that says "you're just not smart enough to get it". The nerve of these Nolan fanboys! I shouldn't have to bring my Asimov and Philip K. Dick collection, my 3 advance science degrees or my cherished VHS copy of Blade Runner as proof of my deep love and understanding of all things sci-fi. I left them alone after that. But guys, if you were fool enough to see this movie the first time like I was, I warn you:


You did not miss anything because there was nothing there.

The movie is a great visual escape but the the substance is not there.

Your money will be better spent elsewhere (especially in this economy).

Inception is a "no go". "There is no spoon".

Score: D or 5/10
To Nolan: Nice try but next time, "don't be afraid to dream bigger, darling".

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ray Harryhausen Double Feature and Exhibit At The Academy

I loved Ray Harryhausen and the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad as a kid cause it's a film that showed the endless possibilities of depicting creatures in live action films (through stop-gap animation) way before Rick Baker and Star Wars and way, way before the current CGI and digital effects.

Seems the film inspired Peter Jackson as well. Jackson just released an amateur remake he did of the film when he was 15 during a tribute to Harryhausen at the BAFTA. The film clip Jackson showed was beyond funny but I gave it an A for effort! Stop-gap animation might even be making a come back as we saw with the Fantastic Mr. Fox last year. Maybe Jackson might try his hand at rekindling that 7th Voyage/Sinbad remake project that fell through a few years back (this only after he does the Hobbit films, of course).

For those in LA, the Academy is showing the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad along with 20,000 Miles To Earth as part of a Ray Harryhausen double feature this Fri 7/16 at the Sam Goldwyn Building. An exhibition of Harryhausen's work will also be on display at the museum before the show and the exhibition runs through 8/22. Come watch the work of this great pioneer and watch Cyclops chow down!

INCEPTION: Movie Premiere

I was with the fans outside the L.A. movie premiere and red carpet for the movie Inception on Tues 7/13. Inception is the new and highly anticipated film from Dark Knight's Chris Nolan. I missed the arrival of most of the main stars and but I spoke with those who saw the stars arriving and here's the run-down:

Leonardo DiCaprio crossed the street and spent a lot of time greeting the fans along the barricades and signing autographs and he was "real cool".
Chris Nolan ,Dark Knight's famed director) was a fan favorite and he arrived to lots of cheers.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt(the cute kid from 3rd Rock From The Sun and 500 Days of Summer)practically snuck by and not many people recognized him.
Ellen Page was "cute as a button" and a nerd-boy's dream and many guys couldn't stop gushing about her.
Marion Cotilliard seemed nice enough but didn't seem to spark too much lasting interest from the fans and unfortunately Michael Caine was a no show.

After all the stars were in theater, they let us get close to the red carpet and viewing area and I hung out there with the fans and a few remaining photogs. It actually wasn't a red carpet but a black carpet with the word "INCEPTION" in big red block letters and there were large wall-like posters from the movie along the walk area.

The After-party:They erected 3-4 massive white tens in the parking area behind El Capitan just by the Hollywood High School. The tents were air-conditioned (a blessing in 94 degree heat) and very high end and the main tent had glass along the entrance as you walked in and I think I spied potted plants as the decor. They had a long corridor made of metal pipes and lined with black fabric and a similarly draped black platform that was like a small maze that led from the back of the El Capitan Theater directly to the main tent in the parking lot.

Warner Brothers spent a lot for this intricate set up and they had one tent just for the caterers alone. The porta-johns were also high end and nearly twice the size of the ones I usually see and they were in a nice taupe color as apposed to the common light blue variety we use. I counted over 30 security staff and they were doing a good job of patrolling the entrances and perimeter, keeping the uninvited out. That is, except at the low fence near the high school where someone could have easily crawled over and entered if so inclined.

I heard they had a strict dress code for fans who wrangled tickets to the premiere and I was outside with a guy who said they didn't let him in because of it. I never have to worry about that as I always carry a sequenced tank, sparkly, stroppy, kitten-heeled sandals and matching accessories in my handbag whenever I attend premieres, just in case I score a ticket. I am beyond resourceful(lol)!

Alas, no ticket this time so I watched everything through the fence especially the caterers in the food prep tent, which looked like hard work but fun at the same time. The food could have been a little more imaginative though as I saw the routine stuff (roast beef, salad greens, crustinis etc.). Maybe a creative food design that mirrors the theme of the movie or a set piece... like a big water fall of beverages into a punch bowl and buildings made from cake that crumble and collapse as you slice it.

I ease-dropped on the wait-staff conversations for a bit as this is usually a good source of insider tid-bits. Unfortunately, none of it was industry stuff so I moved on to see if any of the stars would arrive early to the main tent. I observed for a bit more then I got bored and moved on.

Toy Story 3/Disney Fun Rides Carnival:As I was leaving, I strolled by the Disney/Toy Story 3 carnival on the Hollywood High's field next door. It was closed for the day but it's opened daily until 7:00 to anyone who buys a ticket to see Toy Story at The El Capitan. It looked like fun so I think I'll "borrow" a kid and join the fun on the rides next weekend(lol).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gospel and Opera Singer Don Diego Jones Has Died

I just found out that opera singer Don Diego Jones was murdered in a park in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, June 8th. I don't know his exact age but he didn't look older than his late 30's which makes it more tragic and sad. I lived in the days when DC was called "the murder capitol" but this news still shocked me. I pray things are not getting so bad again that a simple stroll in the park can cost you your life.

Don Diego Jones' Bio:
Don Diego Jones was a dedicated social worker and a member of the Washington National Opera's chorus where he performed in many operas. However, he was most notably known for his rendition of the 23rd Psalm that he did with harpist Jeff Majors at Coretta Scott King's funeral. He received even more acclaim when he repeated the performance on the Oprah Winfrey show later that year.

My Take:
What a loss! Don Diego Jones was an extraordinarily gifted vocalist who will not be forgotten. I absolutely loved his rendition of the 23rd Psalm in the video link especially how he sang "and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever". I would play this continuously night and day when I was in some "dark valleys" myself or just to praise the Lord. I would often refer friends and family to this video during their tough times and they also found comfort and strength in it.

Even though I did not know Mr. Jones personally, I viewed the video all day today and could not keep myself from crying. The song has always touched me deeply but now it was so real and relevant. As sad as I am about Mr. Jones passing, all I can think of is "Oh, the choir that's in heaven!" I hope this video will strengthen his family through this tough time. My thoughts and prayers truly go out to Don Diego Jones' family. May God rest his soul and may He reward him greatly for using his gift of voice to praise our Lord. And may Don Diego Jones "dwell in the house of the Lord, forever".

Mr. Jones was 43 years old and was a contracted chorus performer and with the Washigton National Opera. He sang with the likes of Placido Domingo and many others during his many stage performance over 14 years with the Washington National Opera. His voice was classified as a lyric tenor which is defined as "a warm graceful voice with a bright, full timbre that is strong but not heavy and can be heard over an orchestra". states that lyric tenors have a range from approximately the C one octave below middle C (C3) to the D one octave above middle C. Jones was married and he and is wife had just adopted twin babies. His mom, a reverend, gave the eulogy at his funeral and the Washington Natiional Opera gave a concert dedicated to his memory at the same park where he was killed. Police are offering a $25,000 reward for information on his murder.

Espana Wins The World Cup!

Espana (Spain) won the World Cup against the Netherlands 1-0 this Sunday in South Africa. I was busy going to and 'fro for church so I missed most of the game but heard some on the radio and watched fans crowding around large screen TVs set up at outside cafes or in pubs as they watched the game. I shopping for groceries later, Spain scored the winning goal and fans at a Mexican and Cuban restaurants on the corner cheered and Netherlands fans at a cafe across the street groaned and booed. I stepped into a Radio Shack store and was able to catch a glimpse of the Spanish players as they celebrated and held the trophy on the field. Everyone in the stadium looked really happy for Spain and cheered wildly.

ESPN's coverage of the World Cup Soccer scored the highest ratings ever thanks to the exceptional performance of the USA men's soccer team. They did an exceptional job and played with a lot of heart especially with the bad calls they received. I was rooting for them to make it further as their enthusiasm for the game was contagious. I also had a hope for the only African team remaining (Ghana) to advance especially as the games were in South Africa.

Breakdown of the Teams by Continent:

North America:The USA is a young team and I know they will be back stronger and quicker in 2014.

Africa: Nigeria fell early but Ghana kept the dream for an African team in the finals alive. I was impressed by the Ghanaian team. They are very quick and aggressive and that's how they beat the U.S. They later fell to the Netherlands. Despite Ghana's defeat, they represented Africa well.

Central and South America: Mexico, Chile, and Paraguay represented themselves well. Juggernaut Brazil advanced but were less than spectacular and fell in the quarter-finals. Argentina's run also was unsuccessful but Uruguay over performed and came in second place in the entire tournament.

I heard South Korea and Japan played fairly well but China and India were no shows.

Europe: World Cup 2006 champions, Italy and runner-up, France, made surprising exits in the first round. In fact, it was down right scandalous especially for the French team and coach who all had a moral melt downs. The repercussions of their poor showing and attitude will be felt for sometime in their country and the French fans have taken it very badly. So badly in fact that I was in a packed elevator with a young French woman and her three small children and she cursed and swore at them so badly I was shocked. It seems the French (even the women) love their soccer. Bad officiating for England cause their game to fall apart at the end. Germany looked like the team to beat until the semi-finals but the octopus fore-told their defeat(lol). Germany placed third at the tournament.

TV Rating/My Take:I must say that this is the most soccer that I've watched since the USA women's soccer team won gold at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and the 2006 World Cup with Italy v.s. France. I hope the ratings boost will show that Americans do have an interest in soccer. There are some problems, though. Soccer is a slower moving game but it can be very exciting depending on the match ups. To attract more American audiences, I would suggest changes like instant replay to prevent bad calls like those against the U.S. Also, there was too much play acting (flopping, whining and fake injuries) by the players and the referees should be tougher about it to keep the flow of the game going. The players should really keep the "acting" to the professionals here in Hollywood or hire a good acting coach(lol).

The Venue:South Africa was the perfect place and the historic nature of a big sporting event being held there for the first time post-Apartheid made it very special. The locals and fans were great and all showed high energy and good international sportsmanship. Many fans looked like they were making life long friendships while they cheered or groaned for their teams from the stands. The TV ads were also very innovative, exciting and inviting and it was obvious that it was targeted at U.S. audiences. Shakira's rendition of "Waka Waka" (an African motiva-tional song once used by some to satire army life) was okay and the dance video was both afro-centric and infectious but I like Beat Machine's version of the song, called Samina Mina, way better.

All in all, I had a good time viewing the 2010 World Cup over these past 4 weeks.
I will give it an IMHO rating of Must-See-It or rather I'll say (like one long winded sports announcer says) the World Cup 2010 in South Africa scored a winning

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's Independence Day!

The 4th of July rolled around rather quickly for me this year so my plans for the day were very last minute.

Los Angeles is not the most patriotic area in the U.S. and past 4ths have gone by without much hoopla. I admit that I am a little spoiled and elitist concerning the 4th as I use to live in the Washington DC area which does 4th of July the best of all the regions nation-wide. (My own island does a "bang up" job too as it's also our Emancipation Day when local enslaved Africans were freed from from the Danish).

DC's 4th begins with a parade in the a.m. then a Navy band concert at 6 pm followed by a big spectacular starring the best entertainers the country has to offer at a big gathering on the Smithsonian Mall in front of the Washington Monument. There are tons of food vans and BBQ pit vendors selling every kind of food, drink, candy or toy imaginable. Thousands of people come from the tri-state area(DC, MD, VA)as well as tourists from the rest of the U.S. and the world. I have met people from Europe, China and Africa, all having a good time jamming to the music and sampling the eats. Everyone brings a blanket or a folding chair or they just sprawl out on the grass and chill. Kids hop, skip and roll on the grassy banks, getting all sticky and dirty.

Since there are large crowds, the best way to get there is via the metro subway system which is also the best in the country. To move the crowds quickly, the metro sells quick one day cards in advance. Each card has a patriotic design and an electronic strip so the cards get you to and fro quickly. They also have express trains that only stop at the site as well as extra staff on hand to "herd" the crowds through the correct boarding areas.

People there always wear their patriotism proudly by dressing in the red, white and blue, waving flags or wearing flag pins. The kids join in by spinning flag yo-yo's or shiny red, white, and blue metallic windmills or other innovative and themed toys. One year I got a flag pin that flashed the red, white and blue in small colored lights. As it got dark, all you could see was a sea of pins flashing in the dark on everyone as the crowd strolled pass.

The night ends with the best pyrotechnic display ever and as the fireworks explode over the sky you see highlights of the DC sky line with all its beautiful buildings, monuments and statues including the Capitol building and the Lincoln Memorial. The fireworks lasts for a bout an hour and are timed to music. The cost for fireworks usually tops 500,000 to 1 million each year but it's well spent as the event brings in tens of millions of dollars to the region.

When it is all over, you stroll the 2-3 blocks to the subway on tree lined streets. One route takes you right pass the White House which is appropriately located at 1600 Independence Avenue. . There is a small access gate manned by security and people crowd it asking if they can take the White House tour. As the tours are usually over for the day, many will linger there hoping to see a peak of whatever sitting president is in office, which usually never happens. Some get a tad too close and the secret service deals with them quickly and professionally.

In comparison, LA's 4ths have been non-existent. In fact, I don't even remember seeing one flag or fireworks for the 2 previous 4ths that I've been here. I was determine to have a spectacular 4th this year. I had heard that Studio City has a great celebration yearly from the mayor of Studio City himself, Neckles as we walked the picket line of the writer's strike in November 2007. All the local TV shows were also raving about it but as Studio City is a bit farther out it was a no-go for me. I heard Pasadena's 4th is also nice and held at the Rose Bowl so I decided to head to Pasadena instead.

I didn't want to go as far out as the Rose Bowl itself but would go as far as Old Towne Pasadena, which is always lovely to visit and accessible by bus on the weekends. The day was absolutely lovely and I was feeling well so I was stoked. The streets in Old Towne and the entire length of Colorado Blvd. here were lined with large flags which flapped as the wind picked up which was very patriotic.

I got to Old Towne early and caught a movie at my fav $2 theatre from 5-6:40 pm. Independence Day is always a good day to catch a summer blockbuster but I watched "How To Train Your Dragon", an older Disney/Dreamworks release from February. I liked the movie a lot but felt it "borrowed" quite a bit from Anne McAfferty's Dragonrider's of Pern novels. After the movie ended, I exited, stared at the Sierra Madre Mountain range and waited for the fireworks to start at what I though would be 7-7:30 pm. It was still light out so I waited until 8 pm when it was dark but still no fireworks. I started asking everyone when the fireworks usually started and where was the best place to view them but no one knew.

I thought maybe I had missed them and I was truly spent for the day so I get on a bus for home at 8:50 pm and as we ride up Colorado Blvd. I see people gathering in mass, carrying folded chairs and staking out a viewing spot on a grassy knoll and along a bridge. More throngs of people were walking in a long trail from every direction. I ask my fellow riders on the bus "when do the fireworks start" and they all say "9 pm". I consider getting off the bus and joining them but I don't because I hope that the bus will be the best vantage point. All of a sudden, the bus that was creeping along now speeds up and I pray "slow down, so that I can see the fireworks". We move along Colorado, dip into a valley and clear the Sierre Madre range just as the clock hit's 9 pm. I see one firework breast the sky and explode then I spent the rest of the bus ride craning my neck looking for more but that was it for Pasadena's.

Later, I could hear the booom-boom of fireworks from the city of Glendale's display but couldn't see them. I got home at 11:00pm as Echo Park/Atwater's fireworks were exploding over the sky in the distance. I raced to the top floor of my building and watched fireworks for about 10 minutes then hit my bed, exhausted. Maybe next year I will make it to one of the big Independence Day events but it was still an enjoyable day all in all.