Tucson Local Media: Liven Up

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Entertainment Headlines

  • Ronstadt finds himself in music

    Best known locally for his work as a vocalist, songwriter and cellist with internationally-acclaimed Tucsonan favorites Ronstadt Generations, Michael G. Ronstadt’s latest ventures see him collaborating with a dreamy Cincinnatian indie band, as well as developing what he calls the solo album in which he fully found himself.Like with many artists of his ilk, including his father, Michael, and brother, Petie, who also comprise Ronstadt Generations, or in his famous aunt, Linda, the path leading him from “Point A” into his current state as a matured singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and performer was not always as straightforward as outsiders may think. “Growing up with a musical family, I always say it gives permission to consider music as a career option and something to pursue more seriously than one might if it were just considered a hobby,” said Ronstadt. “But, it wasn’t until I had picked up the cello in fourth grade that it had propelled my musical dedication forward.”Elaborating further on this period of his life, Ronstadt explained, “It spoke to me, and I started playing with different types of music, even with a rock band featuring electric cello at the end of middle school through high school. After that, I ended up pursuing my master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati in cello performance after receiving my undergrad from the University of Arizona.” From there, Ronstadt decided that “if I was going to make this career work, I had to jump headfirst into it, and luckily, thankfully, life has allowed me to do it ever since.”His career has seen him swap between Tucson, Cincinnati and Philadelphia as places where he has laid his head, but Ronstadt ultimately chose the former two and not the latter to call home. 

  • Schwarzenegger still eying third “Conan the Barbarian” movie

    Last week, former body builder, film star and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told fans that he was still interested in turning the “Conan the Barbarian” films into a trilogy. He shared his intentions on the project while speaking at the “Experience with Arnold Schwarzenegger” event in Edinburgh and Birmingham.The film, at one point set to be titled “The Legend of Conan” would bring the barbarian’s tale to an end, and relate his later years of ruling the Hyborian throne. During the interview, Schwarzenegger let slip that the film may be produced under a different yet familiar name, “Conan the Conqueror.”“Conan the Conqueror,” said Schwarzenegger, “where I’m sitting on the throne for years and years; decades. And then all of the sudden, the time comes when they want to overthrow me. So that story will be told and that movie will be done.”Not much else regarding the plot has been released. Though the film has been pushed back for some time, Schwarzenegger and others behind the project have said that progress is definitely being made.Chris Morgan, best known as executive producer of “Furious 7” and as a writer for “Wanted” and “47 Ronin,” will be producing the new Conan movie. Morgan recently gave some insight as to what fans can expect from the new movie."When we meet him again, Conan has been many things over the course of his life,” he said, “a thief, a warrior, a pirate, a king, a legend and is now an older man. Think ‘Unforgiven’ with a sword-wielding barbarian."

  • “Mojave” offers bloodshed and boredom

    “Mojave” is the embodiment of a mixed bag. It’s a film that, under the tedious eye of writer/director William Monahan, attempts to integrate chest-thumping machismo with existential rants — equal parts arthouse and action thriller. Plenty of big concepts to intrigue the average moviegoer, and definite moments where this high standard is delivered, but the film can’t muster enough quality to match its consistent attempts at quantity.The premise is ludicrous from the get-go, dropping suicidal superstar Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) in the Mojave Desert where he meets Jack (Oscar Isaac), a rifle-sporting drifter with a penchant for Shakespeare. Camped out in search of life’s meaning, the two men wax poetic over a campfire of passive threats and hypothetical devil-dealing. It’s an intoxicating opening, nailing Monahan’s intended balance of realism and violent fantasy, building to a murderous accident that carries the lives of both men in the balance. Verbally and visually, it’s one of the many highlight exchanges that characterize what “Mojave” gets right.Unfortunately, once the action relocates to the deserted mansions of Hollywood, the film finds itself overstuffed and undercooked on originality. Jack becomes a stalker of unbelievable proportions, while moody rich kid Thomas spends his time arguing with a hooker-loving producer (Mark Wahlberg) and a suit-loving lawyer (Walton Goggins). The latter cameo is delightfully appropriate to Goggins’ cheshire features, but Wahlberg goes overboard with his hammy character and the results are pretty tough to watch. Monahan, who scripted some of Marky Mark’s best lines in 2006’s Best Picture “The Departed,” should’ve known better.Even Hedlund, who holds his own in the earlier scenes, disappears in a performance better suited for an Abercrombie & Fitch ad. Consequently, the only spectacular acting to carry this uneven story arrives courtesy of Isaac, newly minted A-lister of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” fame. Conjuring up a modern Max Cady, the Guatemalan actor oozes hypnotic intensity and chews each frame of scenery through his silver plated teeth; harnessing his caricature closest to a fully fleshed individual. Though the script annoyingly insists he conclude each bit of dialogue with the greeting of “brother,” Isaac plays murderous charm like a hobo plays a harmonica.Though well intentioned and consistent to it’s tone, “Mojave” can’t even muster enough momentum to end on a decent note. As a result, it’s difficult not to harness the blame towards Monahan, who blatantly bit off far more than he could chew. By manipulating characters into becoming thematic placeholders, the director sucks the character out of a character study; as if emotionally shallow men were the way to go. In this regard, Monahan desperately tries to have his 90-minute cake and eat it too. Thing is, while his appetite may have been soothed, “Mojave” ultimately does little to suffice the sweet tooth of the audience overall.Danilo Castro is a resident of Oro Valley and writer for the Film Noir Archive blog at www.filmnoirarchive.com

  • Saturday Puzzles 1-30-16

  • ‘The Danish Girl’ a ground-breaking masterpiece

    Movie fans mesmerized by Eddie Redmayne’s Oscar-winning portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in 2014’s “The Theory of Everything” will find the young actor’s latest role perhaps even more impressive. Based upon true events and David Ebershoff’s novel in 2000 by the same name, “The Danish Girl” stars Redmayne as successful artist Einar Wegener in 1927 Copenhagen. Redmayne’s Einar character battles a life-long struggle as a woman born inside a man’s body. Wonderful cinematography and picturesque scenes take moviegoers back to the 1920s and an arduous time for a couple of artists whose love for each other must endure marital challenges and long repressed feelings.“The Danish Girl” is a brave and groundbreaking masterpiece. Academy Award-winner Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) directs and co-produces this emotional story about feelings and relationships. The film, which took 15 years to hit the big-screen, tastefully handles a sensitive topic by providing a raw realism through its exceptional cast.2015’s hottest female movie star, Alicia Vikander, plays Redmayne’s wife of six years — and gives a screen performance of a lifetime. Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman, Rachel Weisz and, even Charlize Theron, were all once rumored at some point to be pegged for the part of Gerda Wegener opposite Redmayne. Thankfully, this vital role ultimately landed upon the versatile Vikander, culminating in a magical year that also saw this bright, rising star shine in “Ex Machina” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”Despite the enormous anticipation and hype surrounding Redmayne’s challenging transgender work in “The Danish Girl,” he actually delivers ... and does so big time. Redmayne’s courageous stint highlights the disruptive ordeal faced by Einar and Gerda to their marriage and to each of their lives. This performance has once again earned Redmayne an Academy Award nomination in the Best Actor in a Leading Role category for the second year in a row. And deservedly so. Two developments in “The Danish Girl” surprise me. First, although I knew that Redmayne’s character would find his (her) voice to pursue the sex reassignment surgery by the film’s end, seeing this remarkable actor slowly put Einar’s true female thoughts and feelings into action is fascinating to watch. 

  • ‘Deadpool’ may be Ryan Reynolds last hope at career resurrection

    The career trajectory and persona of Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds has been somewhat difficult to track since first coming into the spotlight in the mid 2000s. By 2011, after several major projects, Reynolds found himself stamped on the front cover of Vanity Fair. The background funny-man turned romantic comedy lead turned FBI agent turned superhero has worn many masks over the years, though he had struggled to find consistent success on screen wearing any of them.His next role comes with a full-body suit, some swords, guns and a whole mess of one-liners when the long awaited superhero film, “Deadpool,” comes to theaters Feb. 12.Reynolds isn’t exactly riding a high point in his career after some of his most recent projects, including last summer’s oft-delayed flop, “Self/less,” 2013’s “R.I.P.D.” and struggling British drama, “Woman in Gold.” The only film he has recently starred in to receive generally positive reviews was last year’s independent comedy-drama, “Mississippi Grind.”Not every movie he has touched failed, however. Reynolds first found success in his titular role in the 2002 college comedy, “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.” From there, he booked a cameo role in the 2004 hit, “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” alongside “Van Wilder” castmate Kal Penn and eventually found cult stardom in the 2005 workplace comedy, “Waiting…”“Deadpool” won’t be the first time that Reynolds has taken on a superhero role, nor the first time the actor has taken on the persona of the beloved Marvel mercenary. He first played Wade Wilson, Deadpool’s real name, in the 2009 film, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” He had little on-screen time, and fans immediately demanded more.Though he may have stepped into a pair of superhero tights before, the genre has not proven to be a reliable method for success for the Vancouver native. The movie which comes to mind is 2011’s “Green Lantern,” which even the mention of induces shivers down the spine of any fan or critic.

  • Gaslight’s ‘Cisco Kid’ ain’t kiddin’ around

    What kind of business is slammed busy on a Wednesday night?Not many, but Gaslight Theatre is.The local theater group has been doing its business in the Old Pueblo for well over three decades, and with its recent announcement it’s going to open a music hall in Oro Valley — in the spot The Great American Playhouse previously called home — it’s only growing. So, now you can expect more of the same crowd on weeknights — and every other day of the week — in north Tucson.Gaslight’s latest hit? A good ole’ western called “The Cisco Kid,” featuring some of its most popular faces. But at this point, for anyone who has been paying attention to the theater’s longstanding success, we might as well call all of the faces familiar. Headlining this go-around are Todd Thompson and Mike Yarema, two young chaps that might as well go backstage and argue about who is better at what they do. Like their counterparts, they’re strong actors, even in a lighthearted environment that isn’t meant to be taken seriously.If you’re a usual at Gaslight, you might wonder how much fun this group has on their off-time, because they sure seem to be having fun on the stage. My guess? They’re probably joking about that one lady in the crowd who cheered out of turn, or the guy in the upper balcony who spiritedly booed when it was just as uncalled for.

  • IRHS preforms 'The Crucible'

    Written in the early 1950s, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible takes place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. It recounts the events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials. This was a time when paranoia, hysteria, and deceit gripped the Puritan towns of New England.The initial scenes take place in the home of Reverend Parris, (played by Senior Josh Baca) the town’s spiritual leader. His ten-year-old daughter lies in bed, unresponsive.She, and the other local girls, spent the previous evening performing a ritual while dancing in the wilderness. Abigail, (Played by Senior Katherine Phillips) Parris’ seventeen-year-old niece, is the "wicked" leader of the girls.Mr. and Mrs. Putnam, (Played by Kelly Horner and Danny Fapp) loyal followers of Parris, are very concerned for their own sickly daughter.The Putnams are the first to openly suggest that witchcraft is plaguing the town. They insist that Parris root out the witches within the community. Not surprisingly, they suspect anyone who despises Rev. Parris, or any member who fails to attend church on a regular basis.Halfway through Act One, the play's tragic hero, John Proctor, (played by Senior Alex Kaprosy) enters the Parris household to check on the still comatose Betty. (Played by Senior Jordan Jaffe)

  • Saturday Puzzles 1-23-16

  • Film exposes false news reports, honors those lost

    Based on the real-life terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2012, as depicted in the book from Pulitzer Prize and New York Times #1 bestselling author Mitchell Zuckoff titled “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi,” this true story follows the heroism of a half-dozen security personnel charged with protecting the U.S. State Department’s compound and CIA station in Benghazi, Libya.Military members and their families will find this movie very watchable, as it inequitably drops the heavy burden of defending our national interests on so few...them. Civilian eyes in the theater will be raised and fixed on the risks, threats and constant vigilance required in today’s dangerous world of unraveling, weak governments and emboldened terrorist organizations.The film’s finest achievement is that it places bearded faces — and their personal stories — up against the mere head counts provided in news reports after such incidents. John Krasinski, from television’s successful comedy sitcom “The Office,” anchors the movie and delivers his best performance to date.Much of “13 Hours” reminded me of 2001’s “Black Hawk Down” ... the relationships developed between brothers fighting evil on city streets, where it’s difficult to determine friend from foe. Circumstances and safety can change within one city block. The twisted military humor displayed by those far from home for the umpteenth time. Likewise, it nicely illustrates that not all military expertise and portfolios are equal on the battlefield. The film subtly exposes the degree to which experience and superior training provide a force multiplier in heavily outnumbered firefights.Director Bay should be commended for this effort. He properly raises questions by those on the ground (and in the audience) as to why help never arrives from outside Libya. While he leaves the specific blame for others to assign, Bay makes it very apparent that the military did immediately muster quick reaction forces and attempt to jump into the fight with both combat boots.“13 Hours” is an intense, action-packed story of bravery. It raises adrenaline from a growing threat and through violent battles — with some graphic war wounds depicted. The film closes ranks and gives us an up-close, first-hand account of the heroic men doing our nation’s heavy-lifting down range. It methodically walks Americans through the multiple pleas for support that emerged from Benghazi as the State Department’s compound and CIA annex erupted in gunfire. It properly identifies those terrorists behind the preplanned attack on September 11, 2012.  

  • “Ride Along 2” runs out of gas and laughs

    Hollywood has a buddy-cop formula studios continue to follow to this day: two cops, one the goofball comedian, the other a hot shot action junkie. There’s banter, shootouts and a testing of friendship that’s ultimately strengthened by the end of the movie. Call it “Action-Comedy 101” or the “Buddy-Cop Guidebook,” either way; it doesn’t always result in terrific success — case in point, “Ride Along 2.”As the sequel to the surprisingly successful 2014 film, “Along” wears out its welcome before the title credits even conclude, introducing not one cliche (Latino drug lord Benjamin Bratt) but two (Asian tech whiz Ken Jeong) within the span of a few minutes. Granted, it’s an early assumption, but these two performers do little to disprove their stereotype over the course of the film’s runtime. It’s a particular shame to see Bratt, a wonderful actor, relegated to bon mots left over from second-rate Bond villains.As for the core duo of Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, it’s unfortunate to say they don’t fare much better than their supporting cast. After the events of the first film, security guard Ben Barber (Hart) is now slumming as a patrol cop, while soon-to-be brother-in-law James (Cube) is back to cracking skulls as an Atlanta detective. A shootout and a few explosions later, James high-tails it to Miami with potentially incriminating evidence against tycoon Antonio Pope (Bratt). Ben, desperate to prove himself, tags along at the behest of his stressed fiance (Tika Sumpter).Once in Florida, the mismatched duo engages in banter, shootouts and a testing of friendship that’s ultimately strengthened by the end of the movie. Which, as previously mentioned, is perfectly enjoyable, if the empty spaces in between are filled with clever dialogue and likable characters. Instead, director Tim Story goes the opposite direction, sucking the chemistry his actors shared in the first film and replacing it with ... well, nothing. Hart is a brilliant stand-up comedian, but the consistency of his punch-lines melt in the humid Miami heat quicker than an Ice Cube. As for his partner, Mr. Cube, the rapper’s stoic demeanor and PG-13 insults are like listening to a radio edit of his legendary music — underwhelming, and ultimately, pointless. Olivia Munn is brought in for obligatory eye candy, but even that can’t save a film with hilarious moments you can count on one hand. Depending on the success of this project, it might not be the last time audiences see Hart and Cube dishing out insults over gunfire. If that winds up the case, let’s all hope “Ride Along 3” has less of a copy-and-paste feel. Repetition is flattery, but not to the people forced to watch.

  • Beat Back Buffelgrass Day at Saguaro National Park Jan. 23

    Buffelgrass is a non-native invasive grass that threatens Sonoran Desert wildlands and urban areas. To combat this invasive weed, and encourage public involvement, the Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Center has organized the 9th annual Beat Back Buffelgrass Day. From Sahuarita to the Catalina Foothills, there are designated sites throughout Pima County to pull buffelgrass on this great day. To see all the volunteer sites on Beat Back Buffelgrass Day and sign up to help visit: http://www.buffelgrass.org/Saguaro National Park will be one of several locations throughout Pima County that will be removing invasive non-native buffelgrass from our beautiful Sonoran Desert. Buffelgrass threatens the Sonoran Desert plant diversity, wildlife habitat, and by providing a fuel source for wildfire. We need you to join us and other community members on Saturday Jan. 23. We will remove buffelgrass patches from slopes on the south side of the Panther Peak Hills at the Tucson Mountain District (west side).  The event will be from 8 a.m. to Noon. For more information and to register for this event or other locations, visit: www.buffelgrass.org.An after party will take place at Borderlands Brewing Company from 5pm to 8 pm.  Enjoy music, raffles, and food trucks. A portion of the sales will benefit buffelgrass removal throughout Tucson. 

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