Friday, October 19, 2018
By Colby Willis
In my second review of Daniel Sloss’ comedy, I highlight his second show “Jigsaw”, a sequel to his recently aired Netflix special “Dark”, which I couldn't praise enough.
“Jigsaw” follows suit with another intensely funny, deeply personal hour long set that shows Sloss' sharp comedic wit and ability to add a message to which anyone can relate. While “Dark” was about death, “Jigsaw” focuses on life, and specifically the complexity of building one's life.
Sloss, in the same vain as one of his peers, Bo Burnham, has grown up in an era of social media posturing that has left him critical of how society functions as a whole. He is able to weave in light jabbing jokes while also repeatedly touching back on the titular “Jigsaw” metaphor that he lives by.
His is a tone of self-love and accepting when there isn't love between people. As someone just four years his junior, I couldn't help but relate to this special from start to finish.
“Jigsaw” is a repeat success from Sloss, and I couldn't recommend his work enough. Though, if you do have the time, watching his first special “Dark” lays important groundwork for “Jigsaw”, the two don't truly need to be watched in order. There was however, an amazing comedic and emotional arc that matches a good film that I was able to glean from watching these two sets of comedy in sequential order. Another edgy, dark, hilarious outing from Sloss. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.
Saturday, October 13, 2018
By Colby Willis
Standup comedy is a means in which people can tackle some of the world’s most depressing topics through the shared coping mechanism of laughter.
Daniel Sloss, a young Scottish comedian who is on the rise in America, touches upon such themes in
However, I was quick to realize that he may have quite the different idea of what dark comedy is to the general public. A start focused on culture shock and poking fun at religion got the crowd prepared for edgy comedy, while still being handled quite well by Sloss, towing the line between offensive and hilarious.
However, the second half of the show was a deep, personal, meaningful string of stories by Sloss about the nature of death and how it has affected him and those around him. I was blown away by this special.
Sloss was able to keep me laughing for the entire show while picking apart themes that should have been emotionally crushing. All of this was summed together with a hopeful message at the end that perfectly wrapped the special up. This is not an easy, light special, but is hilarious, profound, and as the title suggests, dark.
Saturday, October 6, 2018
By Elizabeth Richards
If you’re a fan of mystery and intrigue, you won’t want to miss Schoolhouse Arts Center’s rendition of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None.”
On the second night of the run, a respectable sized crowd filled the theater. The first act found ten strangers thrust together on a remote island, either as staff or guests, with no sign of their host.
As they get acquainted, a record is played, accusing each one of a terrible crime. While they all have what seems like a plausible explanation for the accusations, they are understandably nervous and confused about what is going on. And then one of them dies.
From there, the action is non-stop, with characters coming and going on stage, and one by one turning up dead. It quickly becomes obvious that the deaths are no accident, and tension builds as each character suspects another of being behind the murders.
The set was a perfect representation of the interior of an island retreat, and the constant sound of the sea placed the audience on that remote island, far away from civilization. The effects of weather, power outages and off-stage discoveries of dead bodies were well timed and well executed.
The cast is strong, and although there were some moments of struggle over lines which broke the flow on occasion, for the most part the show was fast paced and engaging. Each performer found subtle ways of making their character come alive, and also of creating suspicion and doubt to keep the audience guessing. There were also plenty hilarious moments, fueled by flawless timing and perfect line delivery.
Of particular note were the performances of Zachariah Stearn as Phillip Lombard, Barbara Levault as Emily Brent, and Ricky Brewster as Dr. Armstrong. Each created and maintained a character that was both authentic and hilarious, making the moments that they were speaking incredibly fun to watch.
Saying too much would detract from the fun of watching the story unfold, so suffice it to say that you won’t be bored. The audience was engaged throughout the show and gave the cast a standing ovation to show their enthusiasm and appreciation.
The show runs for one more weekend, with performances on Friday, October 5th at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, October 6th at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, October 7th at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for students and seniors and $14 for adults. Tickets can be purchased online at schoolhousearts.org or at the door.
Saturday, September 29, 2018
I am one of the many who has cut the cable and now rely upon Netflix for my lazy rainy afternoon movie fix – or Netflix series binge watch
The most recent series that has me hooked is “Atypical”, a story about 18-year old Sam (Keir Gilchrist), who is on the autistic spectrum. Each show in the first season follows Sam as he searches for love, trying to fit in and to be “normal”.
Sam is certain that he loves his therapist, Julia (Amy Okuda), but upon realizing he can’t share his love with her, decides to have a “practice girlfriend” with fellow high school student Paige (Jenna Boyd). Paige, who may be on the spectrum herself, sees past Sam’s quirks and really seems to like him.
Sam lives with his mother, Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who is overprotective, ultra-organized and also seems to display behaviors from the spectrum. Sam also lives with his father, Doug (Michael Rapaport) who does his best to be a good father, trying to make up for the time he left Sam, his mother and younger sister, Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine.) Casey toggles back and forth between being gruff with her older sibling or being a loving and protective sister.
Sam and his family are each dealing with their own demons and changes, proving that there really isn’t any such thing as being normal.
Although I have worked with children on the autistic spectrum, I often wonder if the show accurately portrays the life and behaviors of those on the spectrum.
According to a review by a mother with a child on the autistic spectrum, she had this to say about “Atypical”
“The makers of the new Netflix series Atypical, including creator Robia Rashid clearly want to help the world understand what it’s like for those on the autistic spectrum, and to deliver that lesson with comedy and warmth. Deeply well-meant and probably incredibly illuminating for those who don’t know much about the condition, the show is unequivocally a good thing in and of itself, and it’s hard not to applaud both the intention and the effort. That’s me speaking as the mother of a pre-pubescent boy on the autistic spectrum. As a critic of films and sometimes TV, I wish I could applaud “Atypical’s” result more.”
With that being said, know that the two-season series may fall flat for those who know the ins and outs of living with autism, it does offer a bit of humor and reveals, if only slightly, the life of those touched by autism.
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Rating (for mature audiences only)
Recently, I sat down to watch the first three episodes of show runner Matt Groening's newly released Netflix series “Disenchantment”. This marks his third outing as lead creator of an adult focused cartoon - his first two, the highly acclaimed “Futurama” and the legendary “The Simpsons”.
Groening and his team once again bring crude humor and a cast of unique and out there characters to the screen to make audiences laugh, while providing some subtle social commentary. The show follows the princess Bean who lives in the fantasy kingdom of Dreamland. The rebellious youth is compelled constantly to go on misadventures by the prankster demon Luci, and the meek, affable Elfo the elf. The three have to contend with a cruel king, a self-absorbed prince, and many other fairy tale tropes that aren't given a twist to suit the comedic nature of the show.
I had high hopes going into the series. As a massive fan of Futurama, the shows similar art style seemed like a return to form. There were some growing pains, however.
The pilot episode was awkward and many of the jokes fell flat. As it went on though, the chemistry of the cast began to mesh far more naturally. Even characters I initially did not like ( the prince was a standout) were quick to turn about and become charming, even in their obvious arrogance. By the end of episode three I could see that the potential in this Netflix original was quite apparent, and I am eager to dig in for more.
I would suggest this show to any fan of Groening's first two shows, as well as teens and up that enjoy crude, yet lighthearted adventures.
Saturday, September 15, 2018
Rated R for its horror content
As a fan of “The Conjuring” movies, when I saw there was another prequel, I was ready for a similar, scary movie experience. “The Nun” tells the story of a priest (Demian Bichir) and a nun (Taissa Farmiga) who hasn’t taken her vow. They are sent by the Vatican to investigate a suicide at a convent in Romania. They must confront an evil demon who is posing as a nun.
The opening of the movie foreshadows an evil spirit who has taken over a convent. The camera passes over a sign that reads ‘God ends here’ in Latin.
Ominous music and a dark, low lit atmosphere set the tone for this horror movie. You hear a nun say, “evil needs a vessel to escape.” After which she jumps out a window hanging herself. Shortly after, a man known as Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), comes across the hanged body. He puts it in a mausoleum out of respect.
Father Burke is addressed by members of the Vatican to investigate this death. He is told to take Sister Irene to aid in the investigation. Frenchie is the one who brings them to the haunted convent. One of the characters says, “I think being here is a mistake.”
Sister Irene tells Father Burke of how, as a child, she had visions involving the demonic nun. Later on, Sister Irene is told by other nuns in the convent the only way to combat the demonic nun is to pray. She enters a chapel where nuns are praying and suddenly, one of the nuns is killed. Sister Irene looks around and notices all the nuns in the chapel are laying dead on the floor.
“This place is no longer holy,” states Sister Irene. The demonic nun attacks Father Burke and Frenchie saves his life. The three must defeat the demonic nun and seal up the evil portal that has been open inside the convent for too long. Will they be able to defeat the demonic nun and prevent her return?
I found this movie entertaining, but not as good as “The Conjuring” or even some of the other movies in the franchise. “The Nun” has some predictability. There are several scenes that will make you jump, along with some plot twists. Creepiness is all over this movie: Sister Irene is followed by a shadow, Father Burke is buried alive, the demonic nun makes a few appearances including one in which she carries a noose (taunting Frenchie of the suicide) – good for a movie scare when you see these parts.
The music is ominous; chanting, loud pounding and suspenseful which add to this movie’s eerie tone. The dark and foggy setting of a haunted convent is an ideal setting. Without giving too much away, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) make an appearance.
If you are a big fan of “The Conjuring” and its other films and don’t want to wait for the DVD release, I would recommend you see this in theaters. It’s a decent horror movie, more jumpy than scary. Is it absolutely necessary to see this in the theater? No. You’ll jump just as much when you watch it on DVD.
Friday, September 7, 2018
I have studied the Tao de Ching, a sacred text written during the third century B.C. by Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu. But I have never read, “The Tao of Pooh” by Pooh, himself. I suspect now it is a must read after watching the latest film that follows Winnie the Pooh and the rest of the gang in “Christopher Robin” where simple, yet profound, life philosophies are sprinkled throughout the movie.
The film opens with the final scene of “The House at Pooh Corner,” in which Pooh (Jim Cummings) and the rest of the cast that includes: Tigger (Cummings), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Owl (Toby Jones), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), and Roo (Sara Sheen) host a farewell dinner for 9-year-old Christopher Robin who is bound for boarding school. As they spend their last moments together, Pooh offers this piece of advice to Christopher after he admits he enjoys doing nothing in 100 acre wood with his pals; “Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.”
Then, life happens. Christopher (Ewan McGregor) grows up, gets married to Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and has a child named Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). Although he loves his family very much, he is a dedicated employee, putting in long hours for a high-end luggage manufacturer in 1940s London.
The economy, as a result of WWII, has declined and the wealthy have stopped traveling as much – and thus the luggage business declines. Christopher’s boss (Mark Gatiss) insists that they cut production costs or cut the staff.
To save jobs, and – at the same time, provide the good life for Evelyn and Madeline, Christopher works day and night, giving to the company 100%. He's not only forgotten his animal pals of long ago, but it might seem he’s also dismissed his family in his attempt to do well. Until, that is, Pooh surprises him in a park near his home and the old adventures begin.
This is truly a heartwarming, family-friendly story that is perfect for the young family who has read AA Milne’s Pooh stories at bedtime. There's a strong theme of being grateful for your life and for those you love. Compassion, teamwork, play, friendship and imagination also weave themselves throughout the film.
But don’t let the sentimental family themes fool you. My husband, who is drawn to shoot ‘em up, high action, fantasy movies, found this film to be one of his new favorites. We both recommend Christopher Robin – whether you are a young family who loves the stories of Winnie the Pooh or you wish to enjoy a little philosophical whimsy, “Christopher Robin” is for you.
Friday, August 31, 2018
Bert Kreischer adds to the resurgence of standup comedy on Netflix with his second standup special “Secret Time.”
Through an R rated lens, Kreischer tells stories of family, friendship and bumbling through daily life even if one doesn't know how to do so. His trademark, shirtless performance is coupled with an energy that many comedians don't possess, moving about the stage and looking completely flabbergasted by the stories he is telling - whether it be the only time he made his father laugh, or his completely disbelief at the antics of his children. Kreischer seemed along for the ride with the audience as he tried to understand just as they did how these events fell in to place.
The show had a particularly adult bent, constantly dropping grown up language and themes that reminded me of unfiltered performers such as Carlin, but with his own childish glee added in to bring the intensity up a level. However, it was not a torrent of potty humor and curse words, there was a genuine intelligence to his shows. Jokes that did not seem to land near the start were weaved back into the narrative later in the special only to leave the audience roaring with laughter.
Though the first five to ten minutes may have felt a bit rocky, as the show progressed I found myself laughing more and more, to the point where I had to catch my breath and wipe tears from my eyes. Kreischer seemed to be having incredible fun with his expert comedic performance, laughing nearly the whole set, and yet the audience was always laughing along with him. While I would certainly not recommend that you watch this with the kids, if you have time to watch it with a friend or even on your own I'd highly recommend it to any fan of raunchy comedy. This new special can be found exclusively on Netflix.
Friday, August 24, 2018
When a team of marine biologists venture into a previously undiscovered ocean trench, they find an entirely undisturbed ecosystem. Among this wondrous aquatic life, however, they encounter something that makes “Jaws” look like a goldfish.
In “The Meg’s” titular role is the megalodon, an ancient 75-foot shark with an insatiable appetite. After a confrontation with the megalodon leaves the team’s submarine stranded on the ocean floor, the research facility sends in the best rescue diver they can find: Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham). Unfortunately, in his efforts to get the team back to the surface, Jonas ends up paving a road for the megalodon to follow. With this prehistoric beast on the loose, the team scrambles to kill it before it can reach populated shores.
Ultimately, “The Meg” is a generic monster movie through and through. The director, Jon Turteltaub, is also responsible for movies such as “National Treasure” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, which should tell you something about how cheesy “The Meg” often comes across. It’s still a fun watch, but in the mindless, uninspired way that most monster movies are nowadays.
The cast features a few familiar names such as Li Binging, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Cliff Curtis, and, of course, Jason Statham. The acting is neither terrible nor compelling, but sits in some forgettable middle ground.
Similarly, the soundtrack was surprisingly mundane. The trailer’s use of Bobby Darin’s “Beyond The Sea” was wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, but the song was nowhere to be found in the movie itself. Instead, the only song I recall playing was a Thai version of Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey.” Twice.
Prior to seeing “The Meg”, I had hoped the movie was going to be self-aware enough to poke fun at itself. After all, the trailer seems to suggest this when Rainn Wilson’s character states, “He certainly looks heroic” about Jonas. Perhaps naively, I had taken this as a sign that the movie might make light of common tropes. But aside from this instance and another mention of Shark Week, the movie seems to take itself seriously – too seriously, for a movie about a giant, extinct, man-eating shark.
Though I’m a fan of both “Jaws” and “Sharknado”, this movie seems to have fallen into the crack (or trench) between the two. “The Meg” is neither skillful enough to be taken seriously nor lighthearted enough to have “Sharknado’s” B-movie charm.
That being said, it’s hard not to be entertained by a massive shark wreaking havoc on beach-goers. If nothing else, the terrifying visuals and jumpscares featuring the shark are sure to make a few people think twice about plunging into the ocean.
My advice to potential viewers is don’t watch the trailers. Virtually all the best scenes in “The Meg” are shown in the trailers, which created a very frustrating movie experience. There were some truly gripping visuals that were effectively ruined just because the filmmakers didn’t have the restraint to save them for the actual movie.
All in all, “The Meg” took a big bite out of missed opportunities. While it’s still a fun monster flick to end the summer with, it easily could have been a lot better. Had it embraced a better soundtrack and a more playful, campy tone, “The Meg” could have been a much more memorable film.
Friday, August 17, 2018
Kayla Day, portrayed by Elsie Fisher, is a young girl on her way to graduating from middle school, and in her final week goes on a self-actualizing journey towards adulthood.
When I entered the theater, I was under the impression that I was about to watch a quality comedy that reflects the high reviews it has been getting online. However, there was something else to the film; a coming of age story both unique and relatable. It was not a comedic romp as I had expected, but a dive into the mind of a young woman who was unsure of who she was.
Throughout the film, Burnham managed to display the silliness, awkwardness and horror that comes with being an insecure eighth grader. An expansive cast shows different interactions that echoed my own past.
Well meaning, but awkward, parenting as well as popular kids who are mean for no real reason along with a barrage of other struggles are depicted in so realistic a fashion that it is hard not to wince out of sympathy for the lead.
Burnham successfully filled the theater with laughter and fear, while passing on a message of growth.
Even with the dense narrative that takes place over the last week of the school year, the film managed to stave off any pretentious airs and remains a fun, awkward, genuine story. If you are looking for a nostalgic flick for the modern era, I can wholeheartedly recommend Burnham's fantastic first film, “Eighth Grade”.
Friday, August 10, 2018
As long as I can remember, I have loved the famous actors and actresses of the 1930s and 40s. I adored Jimmy Stewart in “Harvey”, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “Philadelphia Story” – where I also worshipped Katharine Hepburn’s independent spirit.
One famous actress I wasn’t aware of during that era was Hedy Lamarr. I learned about her approximately eight years ago when I was an instructor for a hands-on science enrichment program for children pre-school to fifth grade. It was then that I learned about this female inventor.
“This scientist”, we told our students, “was a well-known actress known for her beauty but her intelligence and contribution to science and present-day technology has been overlooked.”
So, I was excited to learn that Netflix produced the documentary, “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” and looked forward to watching the film to learn about this inventor and her life. Of course, this film directed by Alexandra Dean, focuses on the actress’ life as a celebrity who just so happened to be an unidentified inventor. As a result, my review may have a different outlook and twist than most reviews for this biographical film.
The documentary shares the eclectic twists and turns of Lamarr’s story. Born in Vienna as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914, the film follows her life from her early career in a highly controversial film, secretly leaving her husband and being discovered in London by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Louis B. Mayer.
The film highlights the early successful years in Hollywood, her marriages (married and divorced six times) and the many relationships she had, including one with aviation tycoon, Howard Hughes.
“Bombshell” also looks at her reason for inventing a secure, radio-controlled torpedo guidance system, known as “frequency hopping,” that is the basis of WiFi, Bluetooth and cellphone technologies used today. The film also follows her downward spiral of failure, scandal and reclusiveness.
Although her beauty and brilliance were eventually overshadowed by scandal and disaster, “Bombshell” is sensitive to highlighting her story without diminishing her wonderful contributions to society.
Friday, August 3, 2018
For people who have enjoyed the “Ocean’s” film series - “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001), “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004) and “Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007), they were no doubt excited to hear about the new “Ocean’s 8” coming out in theaters.
It was no surprise on June 8, 2018 “Ocean’s 8” was released, it was a race to the theaters. I was right
The plot of this story is about Danny Ocean’s estranged younger sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) who attempts to pull off the biggest heist of the century at the New York City’s star-studded annual Met Gala.
After getting out of jail for good behavior, Debbie is on a mission to assemble her perfect all- female crew. Now, I am a huge fan of the “Ocean’s”, and in my opinion, the plot was clever on paper. But when put into action, it was sloppy and very disorganized.
The mix of actors, as chosen, did not mix well with the concept of “Ocean’s 8” and did not match any of the personalities from any other “Ocean’s.”
A significant difference I found that makes a good movie from a bad one is the action, suspense and excitement. In all the other “Ocean’s” movies, there was action and conflict in the plot, however, this all-female crew just walked through the film with no suspense. Expecting a continuation from the other films, I simply could not find the excitement that keeps you on the edge of your seat. There never seemed to be a climax to the story.
In my final opinion, I do believe that the director (Steven Soderbergh) of the first three films did a much better job than Gary Ross in this particular film.
Overall, something that was really good and very strong about this movie was the popular cast characters. Gary Ross (director) did one thing right in this entire movie: it was loaded with well-known actors. But if there ever is a next film, I would recommend the director to use their strengths and create a better storyline.