Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Alice Returns to Wonderland

When it was announced that Tim Burton was directing the live-action Alice in Wonderland, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Well, after viewing Alice’s new journey I wouldn’t say it was a perfect match, but it had its moments.

The story remains some what the same. It’s not really a full fledged retelling as it is a re-imagining. I like to look at it as a sequel, because technically it is.

The film has an adult Alice, who is being forced into a life she doesn’t want and to escape this she chases the white rabbit down the infamous rabbit hole. She ends up back in Wonderland, oh wait I’m sorry it’s actually called “Underland”, and finds herself in the world she used to dream of as a child. We soon learn that Alice is the chosen one to defeat the Jabberwocky, a dragon of sorts, and restore the throne to the pure White Queen (Enough with “The Chosen One” storylines).

The story has a lot of similarities, in my opinion, to the mini-series Tin Man. If you haven’t seen that, it was about an older Dorothy returning to the Land of Oz to defeat the Wicked Witch once again. You can argue that they’re completely different, but for me they felt very similar.

There are things I liked about Alice in Wonderland, but it’s not a perfect movie by any means and has some real problems.

The first thing I want to talk about is the story. The story, for me, is the most important aspect of any movie. If you don’t have a good story then how are you expecting the audience to get emotionally involved?

In Burton’s Alice, he gets rid of the book’s narrative and a lot of its heart and swaps it with visuals. Why? I didn’t really like the visuals; I thought it all looked too cartoony. I would be able to bare it if the visuals had Burton’s personality in them, but they didn’t. I think I saw Tim Burton shine through twice in this movie and everything else felt nothing like him.

The CGI world just annoys me. It’s just like Avatar, these computer created worlds don’t have the same human feeling as actual sets and locations and these films SUFFER because of it. I want this overuse of CGI to stop, I don’t care about 3D, I don’t care that each blade of grass took a team of animator’s months to create; I just want a good story, with REAL sets. All these CGI worlds are a waste of time and money.

The Positive things about this movie are in its performances. Mia Wasikowska was very believable as an older Alice and did everything well, even in scenes that felt rushed and lacking any real emotion (the ending battle scene).

The beginning when Alice was in the real world, I thought it was very well shot and done. I thought those were the most magical moments of the movie, because it was real and I felt connected to what was going on. Then we get into the fake looking Wonderland and that connection you had begins to break.

Johnny Depp reminded me as Jack Sparrow, the way he moved and talked was all Sparrow, but it works. For people who were looking for something completely different from Depp might be let down, but he was a decent Hatter. But why does The Mad Hatter have such a huge role? Why is he the character in the center of the DVD? It’s not The Hatter in Wonderland, its Alice in Wonderland and Alice gets pushed to the side on the DVD and blu-ray covers.

The Blue Caterpillar was awesome and really the only CGI created character I liked. He told you exactly how he feels, which made for some great moments with him and Alice.

Going back to the scenes that felt rushed, everything moved fast, which sucked because once we got to the ending I didn’t really feel connected to the characters. I didn’t feel the characters really had that much enthusiasm in saving Wonderland aka Underland, it felt like they were just doing it, because they had to.

The movie has some flaws, but for kids it will be fun. For those of you who are looking for a very unconventional Tim Burton film are going to be very disappointed. This film is very conventional.


Friday, June 18, 2010

A lot to look forward to with sport games

E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, one of the biggest video game shows of the year, has displayed this year’s upcoming sports games.
There are a lot of new sports titles making their way to store shelves this year, most of them are continuations of franchises we all know and love. So, nothing that original this year, but is that a bad thing? Did anyone even play the original football game Backbreaker?
Electronic Arts, one of the biggest names in the sport gaming world, showed off their new installments in their popular franchises. They had Madden NFL 11, that will be coming out for PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and PSP, EA Sports Active 2.0, which will be a Wii only title, EA Sports MMA for the PS3 and Xbox 360, NCAA Football 11 for the PS2, PS3 and Xbox 360, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 for Xbox 360, Wii and PS3, NHL 11 for Xbox 360 and PS3, FIFA Soccer 11 for the DS, PS3, PSP, Xbox 360 and Wii and the very anticipated NBA Jam, which will be a Wii exclusive.
Out of all those games I’m really excited for NBA Jam. I was a huge fan of the game on the Sega Genesis, it claimed many hours of my childhood. I just hope it can recapture all the things that made that original game so great.

The next game studio is Ubisoft. They showed off one sport game this year and that was Shaun White Skateboarding. This game will come out for the Xbox 360, PC, Wii and PS3. I know a lot of people disliked Shaun White Snowboarding, but I bought it for the Xbox 360 and I actually liked it. Yeah, I know the game lacked in many areas, but it was fun. SO, I’m actually interested in seeing how this skateboarding game plays.
Sony Computer Entertainment is next on the list. The three games they had were Sports Champions for the PS3, The Fight: Lights Out for the PS3 and Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip for the PSP. All these games look interesting.
UFC has been brought back this year by THQ with UFC Undisputed 2010, which is a good game. I’m not going to say that UFC Undisputed 2010 is a great game because it gets repetitive. Yet, it’s not a bad game and UFC fans will really enjoy it. THQ also had WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011, which will come out for the Xbox 360, DS, PS2, PS3, Wii, PC and PSP. They are also coming out with WWE SmackDown vs. Raw Online for the PC.
It’s going to be interesting when EA Sports releases EA Sports MMA to go up against UFC Undisputed. I wonder which one is going to be better and which one is going to sell more copies.
Konami is next on the list and they have three games. First up is Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring that is coming out for PS3 Xbox 360, Wii, DSiWare and PSP. Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 is getting an iPhone game and their last game is The Cage: Pro Style Battling Practice, a Wii exclusive.
Konami has some interesting titles, but why are they so long? Who is going to remember Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring? That’s a long title; couldn’t they just call it Lucha Libre AAA? What would have been wrong with that title?
Now 2K Sports is going to have NBA 2K11. That’s the game that will have Michael Jordan on the cover. I know that everyone is excited about this and they should be, but my question is who is going to put on the cover of NBA 2K12 that can top Michael Jordan? Oh, no one thought about that! Next years cover is already a disappointment.
A lot to look forward to this year.

Concert to celebrate Eastern’s 50th anniversary

BRISTOLBristol Eastern High School has turned 50 and two local musicians with a longtime association with the school, Ken Ferris and Rich Theriault, are putting on a free concert Saturday afternoon to cap off the celebration.
“We’ve been celebrating our 50th with all different events over the course of the year and this concert will be the final event with vocal and instrumental classics,” said V. Everett Lyons, the principal of BEHS, who will be retiring after 25 years at the school.
The 50th Reunion Concert will feature many alumni and current students.
The program will include a slide show by a former student showing the school when he was there.

“I am excited to meet some of the alumni,” said Lyons.
There will be a full chorus and a full orchestra, all led by Ferris and Theriault.
Ferris put in more than 30 years with BEHS and is now the director of the Bristol Choral Society.
Theriault used to be the band director at BEHS and has a 20-year history with the school. He is a part of the Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble and the Bristol Reunion Jazz Band.
“They are both incredible guys, who would give you the shirts off their backs,” said Kim Hazelton, a teacher at Bristol Eastern High School.
Hazelton is a graduate of BEHS and was a student of Ken Ferris’.
“Everybody loved him. We all looked at him as an uncle,” said Hazelton. “He had such passion for music that made you have passion for it.”
Hazelton was a part of the concert choir, swing choir and Madrigal Singers, and this Saturday she will be performing in the reunion concert.
“I’m thrilled for the concert. We have alumni coming from as far as Florida. It’s really going to be a reunion weekend,” said Hazelton.
Ferris is concentrating on the chorus and Theriault is concentrating on the instrumental.
It was a huge task for them to put together the show but on Saturday it will become a shining moment in the history of the school and its music program.
“I’m excited. We have a great amount of pride in our music program and this is a great opportunity to bring back some of our alumni musicians,” said Lyons.
The concert will be Saturday at 3 p.m. at Bristol Eastern High School auditorium. There is no charge for this event.
“Come and listen to the history of the music program,” said Lyons.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

St. Paul alum Lippia returns to perform and to give back

BRISTOL — Steve Lippia, one of the most prominent, in-demand vocalists and St. Paul Catholic High School alumnus, will be returning to his school to perform and to give back.
Lippia is a Southington native who graduated St. Paul in 1974.
“It was a great school and it continues to be a great school,” said Lippia, who will be performing a one-night event called “Come Fly With Me!” Friday, June 25.
There is a 6 p.m. compli-mentary reception. The show begins at 8 p.m. He will be performing swing music in the benefit for St. Paul.

“It’s my way of giving back,” said Lippia.

Cary DuPont, St. Paul Catholic High School president, is very excited for him to return to the school.

“I’m very grateful and excited,” said DuPont. “Tickets are selling well and it’s going to be a great night,” he added.

This will be the first event, that DuPont is planning in a series of events to have alumni return to perform and give back to their school.

“This all came about with alumni being involved with the school and we have several alumni that are on Broadway,” said DuPont.
The first of these events is of course going to be Steve Lippia. Yet, with all his success, it hasn’t been an easy road.
He overcame obstacles by challenging them and believing in himself.
“A lot of people will try telling you ‘no you can’t do that’ or try to snuff out your dream,” said Lippia in an interview. “You are in control of the engine behind your life. If someone can’t see it for themselves, don’t let their limitations define you.”
He started his adult life after college at Central Connecticut State University with a small paving business. That was soon fazed out when he took a job in sales. But his goal was to perform.
“My father had a friend in the entertainment industry. I asked my father if he could get in touch with him and he did. He then contacted me and just gave me the facts about the industry. All the facts were very, very negative,” said Lippia, but he pressed on.
“You have to create the luck and you have to refuse to be denied,” said Lippia.
After years of hard work and dedication, Lippia started to get regional attention. He was standing up on a stage and performing to large audiences.
“It’s like an out of body experience when performing. I will ask myself, is this really me doing it?” said Lippia.
He has headlined in such places like the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and Resorts Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
Lippia has performed to sold-out audiences with major symphonies including Peter Nero and Philly Pops, Rochester Philharmonic, Palm Beach Pops, Naples Philharmonic and many more across the country.
It was a long and hard road, but “Everybody has to deal with adversity at some point in their life . . . it’s what you do with adversity that’s important. You should use it as a tool,” said Lippia. “Look at Rocky Marciano, he took quite a few punches but he stands up as one of the most successful boxers.”
Lippia does between 80 to 100 shows a year.
“I live at the U.S. Airways,” said Lippia.
He has performed for and met people like Aaron Spelling, Donald Trump, Michael Dell, Irwin Winkler, Joe Pesci and Henry Connick Jr.
“Harry Connick Jr. is a great musician, he is very knowledgeable of music and an excited and enthused entertainer,” said Lippia. “I met Joe Pesci after a late show when I was performing at the Rio in Las Vegas. He was backstage and said to me ‘nice job, very, very nice.’ His mother told him to see me, she is a big fan,” he added.
One of the biggest moments of Lippia’s career was being able to play with Frank Sinatra’s band. He had to learn all new music.
“It was do or die,” said Lippia. “But I had an entertainment S.W.A.T. team behind me to get me through the engagement,” he added.
The night was a huge moment in his life and career, a moment that ended with thunderous applause. “It was an amazing night for me,” said Lippia.

Tickets for his St. Paul show are $45 and $75 for the premium seats. They are available at http://spchs.net/ or you can call the school at (860)584-0911.

If you are interested in learning about more events that Steve Lippia will be doing or to buy his music, visit his website at http://www.stevelippia.com/.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Enter the World ... Of Giant Smurfs

People have been in two groups when it comes to Avatar. There is the group who loves it and wishes they could live on Pandora and then there are the people that hate it and believe that it was a waste of time. For me I guess I would fall in the middle. I didn’t really love it and I didn’t really hate it. The movie has some good points but it has some bad points.

The film centers around paraplegic Marine Jake Sully, whose brother is killed, he then takes his place on a mission to the planet Pandora. There he learns the greedy corporate figurehead's, Parker Selfridge, mission to drive the Na’vi (humanoid natives on Pandora) out of their tree home so he can get to a large abundant of a unique element (I think it's metal) that resides there.

Jake then uses his dead brothers Avatar, infiltrates the Na’Vi, learns about them and their ways, and I won’t spoil how this all unfolds but I think you can pretty much guess the ending.

The biggest problem I had with this film was its predictability. Many have called this film Dances with Wolves in Space and it is, but instead of Native Americans you have smurf people. SO, we’ve seen this story before and we know what we can expect, which isn’t a good thing. If I go into a movie and I’m able to guess the ending in the films first five minutes then what’s the point?

Many people argue that the film isn’t about the story but about the experience of being on Pandora. That’s wonderful, but I don’t want to spend money on a movie that has no original story and can’t get me emotionally involved. Yeah the CGI is wonderful, until the end, where the CGI is overused (It was like their computer threw up on the screen).

Ok it was unfair for me to say that the story isn’t original. It’s original in some areas. The whole Avatar program, where you sync your human brain with your Avatar body, that’s cool. That’s all I got.

Now another big flaw with this movie is its characters. All the typical character types are here we have the greedy business head, the redneck Colonel and of course the typical hero who finds his destiny. Yeah, if it’s not broken, then why fix it? But these characters are so predictable that they are boring. Once they step onto the screen we know exactly what their motivations are and this brings me back to this movie being so predictable.

This films huge deal was its 3D and it seemed to skimp on story and characters. If the characters were a little more interesting, then I would have liked the film better, but they are never really taking out of 1D and placed in 3D with the visuals.

If you can overlook the flaws there are things to like about the film. I thought the beginning, where Jake Sully arrives on Pandora was done well. We have the fish out of water protagonist and we’re learning things with him. When we are introduced to the Na’Vi for the first time, learning about them, is things we’ve seen before but some things are interesting.

The movie did go on forever though. The last battle was a little overtop for me, with way too much CGI. Did we forget that CGI is a tool? Why are so many directors over using CGI? I like sets, I like location and I like things to have a real feeling to them rather then have something so clean that was created in a computer.

They really could have condensed the movie to a shorter runtime; I don’t think it would have lost anything special; it might have gained things from it.

Now for the people who have Post-Avatar Depression Syndrome, what the hell? Why are you depressed about not being a seven foot tall smurf? Also, why would you want to live on Pandora? They make it very clear in the beginning of the film that everything out in the jungle want’s to kill you. Yeah, that’s a place I want to spend my vacation.

All and all this film is definitely a giant leap forward in filmmaking and pushes technology further. But, as for a piece of storytelling it’s nothing special.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Conan Puts on a Show to Remember

He has been known as Consie, The Cone-Zone, Coney, Conando, Big Red and the infamous Coco, and last night I was in the front row at his ‘legally prohibited from being funny on television tour’.

The show was great; it was constantly entertaining and had all the little things that made his late night talk show so original and different from everything else. Let’s face it, when

Conan moved over to the Tonight Show I felt like he was being restricted. He did some memorable things during his time hosting; my personal favorite was from the very first episode where he ran from New York to LA while Cheap Trick’s Surrender played. Yet, most of my favorite moments come from his late night show.

Going into the Mohegan Sun Arena I really didn’t know what to expect. We took our seats in the front row and after the band played we were treated to a movie that filled us in on Conan’s life after he left the Tonight Show.

The movie opened up with a close up shot of Conan’s eyes. The camera pulls back and we see that Conan has grown his hair long, has a full beard and has put on a ton of weight. He is lying in a pile of pizza boxes and empty beer bottles and seems to be in a daze until the phone rings. O’Brien picks up the phone and starts yelling to the person on the other end that there is no Debbie living there.

After that we see O’Brien wondering around his house, jumping on a trampoline, eating a bucket of KFC as he soaks his feet in his pool and other random things that are played with Eric Carmen’s ‘All By Myself’. It was hilarious and a perfect way to start the show and it also made me realize that I have to wait until September to see his new show, it seems so far away.

After the movie O’Brien made his way onto the stage. He opened the show with a great monologue that poked fun at Mohegan Sun, Uncasville and even played off the crowd effortlessly.

During that opening there were two things that were really great. At one point a girl from the crowd yelled out “I’m Pregnant” and Conan, who chuckled at her at first, came back and said “good luck trying to prove anything.” He then turned to the crowd and said “Imagine telling my wife that things got a little crazy in Uncasville.”

He then went on to make fun of the casino and its surroundings. He made fun of the robotic wolfs that Mohegan Sun has on display and how the Casino is in the middle of the woods. He said you can loose a ton of money in Vegas and then forget about it, because there is so much to do. Yet, if you loose a ton of money at Mohegan Sun you are faced with a long drive home through the woods.

We were then treated to Andy Richter. He became a huge part of the show after the opening events and Conan and Andy played off each other well. Richter did do a small skit, where he messed up a little bit, but it was fine he was still funny.

Now, a huge surprise was seeing Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. I thought there was no chance that he would be there, because I thought that NBC owned the rights to that character, but he was there up on the big screen. He of course made fun on Uncasville, while he had a cigar hanging out of his mouth. The other character that I was shocked to see was The Masturbating Bear, he didn’t have his classic music, but he did come out during the final musical number and did his thing.

O’Brien didn’t bring back just classic characters, but he brought back the wheel, which used to be the lever, and when Conan pulls it a Walker, Texas Ranger clip would play. It was a fan favorite from the late night show and it’s still very funny. That was about the last thing he did before he said his goodbyes. O’Brien exited the stage and some people started to pile out, but a camera guy who was in front of me told us to stick around. We stuck around and sure enough O’Brien came back out.

During the encore he performed the song The Weight from the band called The Band. After that they threw out giant yellow balls to the audience and also guitar picks. The camera guy told me to grab one, because they only made a 1000 of the picks. I was able to get one.

The show was great. Conan really catered to the fans and delivered a memorable event.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Donate to American Jubilee!

American Jubilee. Call for Donations

Please Support Local (Connecticut) Filmmaking!

Please Donate Today! ... We really need your help to make our feature film, American Jubilee. This entire film will be shot on-location in Connecticut with an All-CT-based crew!

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American Jubilee is a feature length comedy (original script) with existential elements that tells the tale of a modern American family at odds with each other. The film will be a colorful portrayal of what it means to be in a family that believes they care about one another, but may actually be the cause of the problems that each member must overcome.

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