Tucson Local Media: Liven Up

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  • Saturday Puzzles 11-26-16

  • “Miss Sloane” director talks politics, Jessica Chastain

    How do you feel moviegoers will respond to “Miss Sloane” coming off the recent presidential election?JM: The reason we chose to accelerate the post-production of the film was because we wanted the political media, specifically the gun legislation aspect of the film.  The political climate surrounding that issue looked as if it was a very strong issue on the Democratic agenda at least.  But as it turned out, it was completely pushed to the sidelines.  And just about everything else but maybe the political process itself is what came to the fore…which is the subject of the film. Jonathan Perera’s tremendous script is lightning-quick, really shaping the film’s fast-paced storyline.  It reminded me of Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay from last year’s “Steve Jobs”.JM: Yes, yes.  From a director’s perspective, how impressive is it to watch Jessica Chastain deliver her lines with such rapid-fire precision?JM: I knew she had the verbal dexterity to be able to handle that extraordinary challenge.  Not just the number of words she had to say and the colorization she gives those words. But she had the necessary skills to portray that character in all its complexity.  An extraordinary character. Very extreme.  Excessive. Deeply flawed with a buried emotional life that she’s not really in contact with herself.  

  • The Gaslight Music Hall introduces The Arizona Grand Opry

    The Gaslight Music Hall, one of Oro Valley’s premier performance venues, has recently announced the introduction of The Arizona Grand Opry to its lineup of world-class musical performances.The brainchild of longtime friends Vince Gonzales and Mike Cardillo, the opry follows in the long tradition of country music performances through which the likes of The King of Rock n’ Roll was discovered decades ago. By creating the Arizona Grand Opry, Gonzales said that local artists looking to make a break have the opportunity to not only find new audiences but work with industry professionals.“In this day and age where everybody watches television shows like “The Voice” or “America’s Got Talent” or “American Idol,” there are a lot of people who know they can sing,” Gonzales said. “But nowadays there is an environment where people think they can become famous overnight if they win a contest. But when those people don’t come back a winner form those shows, where do they go? They have no place to sing and they are incredibly talented people. Those people who want to sing who don’t make it to the auditions or don’t win – they are still talented people – and there is no reason they shouldn’t be entertaining the community.”Local Tucsonan Sarah Harguess was one of the up-and-coming performers given the opportunity to play to a wider audience, showcase her talent and possibly make some new fans in the process. Harguess said that being able to work with those in the industry who have honed their craft over decades of performing has been a wonderful experience – and she hopes to translate that success to bigger stages all her own in the future.Though she is looking forward to greater achievements, Harguess said playing The Gaslight was a dream come true.“When I was a little girl, I was in theater and I have done music my entire life,” she said. “To me as a Tucson local, the pinnacle of this craft that I could see was The Gaslight Theater. To be here and in The Gaslight Music Hall in the Arizona Grand Opry after I’ve foreseen everything it is that I am working my way into has been a real pleasure.”

  • Saturday Puzzles 11-19-16

  • Art and music gone wild on Nov. 26

    The DesertView Performing Arts Center excitedly announced that on Saturday. Nov. 26 it will be hosting the New Mexico-based art and music fusion performance troupe, Artrageous (stylized as ARTRAGEOUS!) for two uniquely exciting performances.Comprised of a team of veteran artists and performers, Artrageous will bring giant works of art to life in ways never previously thought imaginable as artists work with choreographed dancers, musicians and singers to craft giant pieces of tangible performance artwork.“ARTRAGEOUS! is an interactive art & music experience,” said Lauri Francis, a painter, dancer and singer within the show who also handles choreography and costume design. “It combines many different art forms on one stage, from live music, singing and dancing to life sized puppetry - and of course the live action art that gets created before your very eyes. It is a journey of sorts through the decades, touching on famous icons and music of the different eras.”Francis said one of her personal highlights of the show is the audience involvement and the diversity of the show itself. She said that each audience is different, which makes each show equally unique. Francis said that goal is to connect with each audience and “take them on a magical journey for the time that we are together. ““We all wear many hats,” Francis said. “You may see a drummer playing keyboard or singing a lead or a dancer pick up a paintbrush and create a portrait in six minutes or a singer, dance or paint or play an instrument.”For more than two decades, the group of performers behind Artrageous has taken their show across The United States and the world, reportedly having put on more than 2,500 performances since its inception.

  • A sci-fi yawner: “Arrival” not a typical alien-human film

    “Arrival” is going to be either a clear-cut hit or miss for moviegoers, with passionate sci-fi enthusiasts more likely to place this film in the former category. Others will scratch their heads leaving the theater and rhetorically ask themselves “Can I have those two hours of my life back?” But few partakers of “Arrival” will put it into the middle-ground of mediocre.  It’s a go big or go home formula for this edgy mind-bender.  The latest film by Denis Villeneuve (who directed last year’s phenomenal “Sicario”), “Arrival” explores an alien vs. human showdown over Montana, as a dozen spaceship pods (or “shells”) arrive unannounced in parts of the world. Viewers are cautioned to approach “Arrival” with the same mental acuity as a straight-A student sitting down to take their high school SAT test.  Serious cognitive stories require serious concentration to decipher linguistic relativity and its relative effect on a person’s world views.  The concept that thoughts are determined by language comes across like a philosophy lecture back in our college days.  And one’s skillful ability to finish a BFF’s sentence in mid-conversation is not nearly enough moxie to fully understand or apply the film’s scientific theories.  Simply put, one must focus intently on the notion of linear time and how one would approach life if they knew how it all played out beforehand.  Director Villeneuve orchestrates confusing mental gymnastics upon the audience, combining a stale present day storyline with a barrage of visual “flashbacks” into Amy Adam’s Louise Banks character. Banks, a college Linguistics professor, is asked by the U.S. military (an Army Colonel portrayed by Forest Whitaker) to direct first contact negotiations with a pair of these squid-like creatures. The film begins with a plausible and well-developed alien arrival to Earth.  Between the mass hysteria and “Breaking News” mantras from the media worldwide, a gritty global response is initiated—only to be noticeably forgotten.  Boredom ensues when the film’s trail of crumbs into the aliens is stopped to prolong the razor-thin, repetitive memories revealed from Louise’s life role as mother and wife. Villeneuve’s slight-of-hand filmmaking technique is both confusing to follow and too time consuming for many to care about by the last scene--wasting the movie’s solid opening and top-shelf cast.  Faithful viewers are conspicuously kept in the dark until the film’s anticlimactic and lackluster ending.

  • 10 things to do to get you ready for the holidaze

    1. Marana Christmas Tree LightingThe Town of Marana kicks off the holiday season with the Marana Holiday Festival and Christmas Tree Lighting on Saturday, Dec. 3, from 3-8 p.m.. Tell Santa what you wish for, watch live performances, and enjoy the biggest Christmas tree light show in Southern Arizona. Performance Schedule: 3 p.m.-Marana High School Cheer; 3:30 p.m.-Thornydale Songbirds; 4 p.m.-Marana High School Orchestra;4:30 p.m.-Arizona Rose Youth Theatre; 5 p.m.-Pointe of Grace;5:30 p.m.-Marana High School Chamber Singers; 6 p.m.-Marana High School Dance; 6:30 p.m.-Christmas tree light show; 7 p.m.-Showbiz Academy of Dance; and 7:30 p.m.-Leman Academy Royal Singers. MaranaEvents.com. 2. Oro Valley Christmas tree lightingThe Oro Valley tree lighting celebration takes place Saturday, Dec. 3, from 4-6 p.m., but the holiday festival kicks off at 10 a.m. through Sunday featuring up to 150 artists at the festival in the Oro Valley Marketplace (12155 N. Oracle Road) central plaza. Enjoy cookie decorating sponsored by Splendido at Rancho Vistoso, hot cocoa and holiday arts and craft making, as well as a special visit from Santa. One of the must see performances includes the annual Tuba Christmas performance. The event is brought to the public free of charge by the Southern Arizona Arts and Culture Alliance, the Town of Oro Valley and title sponsor Pima Federal Credit Union. www.orovalleyaz.gov 

  • Saturday Puzzles 11-12-16

  • Mel Gibson’s return keeps the faith in “Hacksaw Ridge”

    Not since chaos ensued hitting Omaha Beach in 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan” have movie-goers been left so exposed and defenseless watching bullets fly and magazines emptied on the battlefield. The true carnage and trauma of war presented unmistakably without any punches pulled for the viewers’ sake. Whereas “Saving Private Ryan” is still one of the most intense, heart-pounding opening scenes in movie history, “Hacksaw Ridge” uses its battle scenes just as effectively, only saving them for the latter half of the film.Returning to the director’s chair for the first time in ten years, Academy Award winner Mel Gibson (“Braveheart”) passionately presents the true story of Medal of Honor recipient, Corporal Desmond Doss. A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, and with strong religious feelings, Doss enlists in the U.S. Army during the Second World War wanting to do his part to serve the nation. His only stipulation is that his work on the battlefield be an instrument focused solely towards saving lives versus taking a life.  Gibson astutely keeps “Hacksaw Ridge” about the faith, family and fearless determination of a young man unwilling to compromise his beliefs … regardless of the personal cost.  Andrew Garfield (“The Amazing Spider-Man”) confidently exudes the patience and tenacity of the stubborn Doss, taking on an abusive father and the U.S. Army during this explosive journey. As Doss’ rifle company sets its sights on Objective: Hacksaw Ridge--a sheer cliff with hundreds of Japanese soldiers waiting atop--viewers become keenly aware of film’s most inspiring costar…God.  Stuffed inside the uniform chest-pocket of Doss, his Bible quietly instills strength and trust in not only Doss but also his entire group of infantrymen. His faith painfully challenged during boot camp and at his Court Martial trial, Doss’ religious views provide him with a direction to act, even when others couldn’t.  At the Battle of Okinawa his heroism against the backdrop of gruesome fighting, commands attention and earns the respect and support from others by his side. Soldiers going into battle want the odds stacked unfairly in their favor: Force multipliers such as technology, air power from above, perhaps even better, higher terrain to fight from.  Or, maybe, it’s a brave soul--touched by God—that is still standing after an onslaught of high-caliber bullets and flamethrower attacks are leveled by the enemy.

  • Saturday Puzzles 11-5-16

  • Tucson’s comedy scene is a festival of laughs

    Justin Lukasewicz, founder of the Tucson Comedy Arts Festival, doesn’t have a favorite joke. “I’m not good at telling jokes,” he says with a smile. But the idea of making Tucsonans laugh consumes almost half of Lukasewicz’s waking hours. Since moving here in 2012, he’s created a theater space, an improv school, four stage shows weekly, a company comprising 70 regular members and the four-day comedy festival, now in its second year. All that’s housed in a structure at 329 N. Fourth Avenue, where his enterprise, the Tucson Improv Movement, T.I.M, is poised to triple its space and add a bar well ahead of the 2017 festival.Were there an award for Fastest Assimilating New Kid In Town, he could probably retire it.The Tucson Comedy Arts Festival, Nov. 9 through 12, includes a host of local stand-up and improv acts among many more from national hubs of comic creativity. Thirteen showcases are $5 each to see three to five acts. Details are at tucsoncomedyarts.com.Local performers include Female Storytellers (FST); veteran touring comic and open mic host Pauly Casillas and relative newcomer Matt Ziemak, a finalist in the 2016 Arizona’s Funniest Comic competition. A handful of T.I.M. house and indie teams, three teams from Tucson’s longest-running improv theater, Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed, and one from the newer Comedy Temple round out the improv component.Amanda Hurley, having plied her Tucson-honed standup chops in New York in recent years, returns for a victory lap, alongside several imported comics who packed their venues at last year’s TCAF. Among them are YouTube pioneer Mike Falzone, Mental Floss vlog host Elliott Morgan and national headliner Jordan Perry.

  • Although directed by Ron Howard, Inferno isn’t even close to other hunt movies

    In the third book-to-film of the Robert Langdon Series by bestselling fiction novelist Dan Brown, “Inferno” continues the antiques hunt found in the collection’s earlier works; “The Da Vinci Code” (2006) and “Angels & Demons” (2009). Reprising his role as Harvard Professor of Symbology, Dr. Robert Langdon, Tom Hanks’ character must seek and find a deadly virus before a planet-wide pandemic ensues. A graduate-level James Bond movie, “Inferno” prefers brain power over brawn fisticuffs to save our world.  With everyone seemingly against him and in hot pursuit, Hanks finds himself towing a young female (Felicity Jones from 2014’s “The Theory of Everything”) through gunfire and rare art museums in present day Italy. The film’s nemesis, a wealthy motivational speaker with bad intentions (Ben Foster), haunts Hanks with unrestrained horrific flashbacks of bloody, dark visions of Hell (Dante’s “Inferno”).“Inferno” is a decent, watchable movie. It entertains us with a complimentary blend of Sudoku logic, Where’s Waldo? clues and artifact appreciation.  With a labyrinth of ancient treasure puzzles to filter through, viewers will see a mild resemblance between Hanks’ riddle-solver Dr. Langdon of today and Harrison Ford’s “Indiana Jones” professor from back in the 1930s. Directed by Academy Award-winner Ron Howard, “Inferno” will satisfy most audiences’ tastes for unsolved mysteries using a race-against-the-clock thrills. This film, though, can easily be placed on your “To Rent Later” list via DVD or On-Demand. And many will be just as content to wait even longer for “Inferno” to hit the premium channels or airline inflight entertainment listings.A cerebral sport of cat and mouse played out through such 14th Century relics as the Palazzo Vecchio and the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy, bring moviegoers focus more upon the board game than its moving pieces.  And pay special attention to the last stop along this two-hour big-screen tour: Istanbul’s 4th Century marble-columned Basilica Cistern ... the largest of over 700 underground water reservoirs beneath the Turkish city.This film acts merely as a placeholder for superstars Hanks, Jones and Foster--each headlining stronger movies than “Inferno” this year.  Hanks’ September portrayal of “Sully” and the Miracle on the Hudson jetliner water landing will lavish him with better Oscar odds that Professor Langdon’s eccentric personality.  Likewise, Foster dazzled us with his serious actor skills in my year’s favorite film to date –this past summer’s “Hell or High Water.”  But it’s Jones’ as the leader of the Rebel Alliance in the upcoming, stand-alone film “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” that will forever link her name to the George Lucas franchise and sci-fi fans.  All three of these films, more memorable and rewarding than “Inferno”.    

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