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  • Saturday Puzzles 12-24-16

  • “Rogue One”: 12th best opening weekend ever

    Rebel Alliance fans will find themselves perplexed as to how bland and timid this Disney stand-alone Star Wars saga feels when compared to last year’s spectacular “The Force Awakens.” This newest space drama debuts a star-studded cast that’s been given an underwhelming and way too serious script from which to tackle the Empire’s newest planet-killing machine and win-over new fans.The “Rogue One” Star Wars PG-13 adventure squanders too much screen time on characters outside the handful of true, meaningful rebels with a cause. Any opportunities to develop camaraderie between the main cast is lost on its stammering start into hyperspace. The audience mood stays reflective, almost somber, for over 90 minutes as little lightheartedness or charisma is established within the half-dozen rogue fighters. One-liners are spewed from time to time, but they only spark small chuckles from viewers, at best. There are no rah-rah, cheering moments in “Rogue One.”Several original Star Wars’ characters, however, do make tiny cameo appearances and are without a doubt one of the film’s few brighter timestamps. But minus any ear-blowing, award-winning John Williams’ music score, combined with special effects that aren’t noticeably better than any other sci-fi motion pictures found today, “Rogue One” shockingly underperforms even moderate expectations from Star Wars followers.Understandably, this storyline requires additional scenes to give these newcomers the opportunity to introduce themselves to each other—and to us—the Star Wars faithful. The trust issues and standoffishness between Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso and Diego Luna (Captain Cassian Andor) never really feels real. By the time their contorted relationship thaws, it’s way too late for any emotional attachment to be felt or seen between the sidekicks. In fact, “Rogue One” never gets up to full speed on establishing any authentic relationships—good or bad—another dire consequence from this outlier episode offering.Without the action-packed, good vs. evil fight during the film’s final 40 minutes, “Rogue One” would be a complete disaster in the overall Star Wars timeline. With easy comparisons to last year’s more formidable, funny, historic and nostalgic offspring “The Force Awakens” (my No. 1 movie in 2015), “Rogue One” pales in resemblance and shear strength.Disappointed Star Wars viewers leaving “Rogue One” would be wise to take in Will Smith’s latest movie, “Collateral Beauty,” to catch a better theater experience this weekend—and truly one of the year’s most acclaimed casts wielding their A-game. That movie’s complex focus on grieving will offer “Rogue One” fans real hope.

  • All-Northwest Football Teams

    With so many players to choose from, putting together a football all-star team is never easy. Some positions are very deep, others have less options. This year was particularly tough, as all five area teams qualified for the postseason and had great years. While there were some no-brainers, there were also tough decisions to make. There are some players in the honorable mention list who might easily been second or third teamers in a year where the talent was not as deep. There was also the tough decisions such as how to weigh injuries, suspensions and position changes. Some position groups were very deep on individual teams. Marana’s two-quarterback system made picking one very tough. Ironwood Ridge had two running backs gain over 900 yards, while both Marana and Mountain View had very deep wide receiver groups. Then there is the statistical discrepancies between position. By the nature of the position defensive tackles get less tackles and sacks than defensive ends, so you need to look at more than those two stats. Two-way players, or players that play a variety of roles on offense or defense, also pose a problem. In this case we either chose the more dominant position for a player or in some special cases, we created a utility position (UT) for players that did good things all over the field. There was only one rule for the list. A player may only be on the team one time. There were certainly players who could have been on at multiple positions. A player like CDO’s Elijah Carey is a first team running back, but could easily been awarded for defense, but appears just once. The same is true for a number of players.

  • Sports Update: Former Mountain Lion earns JUCO All-American honors

    Former Mountain View and current Pima Community College football standout Jeff Cotton was named NJCAA Honorable Mention All-American Offense last week.Cotton, a sophomore wide receiver, had 837 yards receiving on 43 catches with six touchdowns. He played in and started all nine games for the Aztecs this season. He was first in the conference with 93.0 yards receiving per game.He was named first team All-WSFL and first team All-Region at wide receiver last month.“It was one of my goals coming into the season to be one of the best wide receivers,” Cotton said in a release. “The season didn’t go as well as a team, but me personally I almost reached all my goals and being an All-American was one of them.”Cotton isn’t committed to a four-year university, but he’s received interest from University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP), Southeast Missouri State, Kansas, Missouri Southern and Southeast Louisiana. 

  • Welcome 2017: 10 events to help celebrate a joyous New Year

    1. Mystery & Magic Looking for a unique and entertaining way to usher in the New Year? Mystery and Magic Dinner Theater presents a full night of New Year’s Eve fun at the Westin La Paloma (3500 E. Sunrise Ave.), 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. The evening starts with a classic, interactive murder mystery comedy show, that includes a three-course dinner prepared by La Paloma’s executive chef, followed by a variety of performers featuring the reigning Arizona Stage Magician of the Year. The traditional count down to the New Year includes hats, noisemakers, champagne toast, balloon drop and dancing. For more details, go to tucsonnewyear.com 2. A Parisian HolidayOn New Year’s Eve, step a Paris-themed event that starts with a reception, entertainment and appetizers. Next you will enter the dining ballroom for the music of guitarist Marc Antoine and a delicious gourmet meal. Then the party really gets going.  Rick Braun, host and trumpeter extraordinaire, is joined by singer-songwriter Jeffrey Osborne and saxophonist Richard Elliot. Visit tucsonnewyearseve.com for more info. 

  • Magic and mystery dinner show at Five Palms offer delicious fun with kitsch and laughs

    Anyone looking for an adventurous night out on the town and randomly lands at the Murder at the Magic Show needs a checklist. First: Have an open mind. You never know what’s in store as part of this evening of mayhem. Second: Don’t be afraid. It’s just a dinner show. No one really gets murdered. And third, bring your sense of humor. The actors certainly have.Murder at the Magic Show, put on by the Mystery and Magic Dinner Theater Playhouse, located at the Five Palms Restaurant, 3500 E. Sunrise Ave., is just what it advertises. An interactive experience featuring a three-course meal surrounded by a three-act play, sprinkled with classic magic tricks and tableside slight-of-hand. The event lasts about two and half hours, but there is hardly a lull — you are too busy chatting with your fellow table members trying to figure out whodunit.Arrive early and take advantage of the lustrous lounge downstairs. Cozy leather bar chairs, ornate woodwork and decor, with a jazz pianist — presents a relaxing ambiance before entering into this mysterious dining experience. An elevator ride upstairs transports you to a small theater, greeted by the bright smile of director Dea Young-Smith, who gives you a brief rundown of how the cast may pick you out of the audience, so have a good time and join in on the story. But the kicker is yet to come.The storyline unfolds as this: A dinner party is being held for a group of Hollywood booking agents. Everyone has a past profession boldly printed on their name tags. My companion was Vic Torrious, a former film director. Miss B. Haven, former exotic dancer, was my moniker.Once seated and your table is full, everyone introduces their fictitious selves. The combinations throughout the table did not seem random, so there is some thought going into putting the right couples together and selecting delicious conversation starters. There was even real-life jealousy and a questionable past at our table. Delicious indeed.

  • Saturday Puzzles 12-17-16

  • Gaslight Music Hall finishing Christmas show soon

    Not to be outdone by the holiday festivities of east side The Gaslight Theatre, Oro Valley’s own Gaslight Music Hall has been reveling in the Christmas Spirit with its holiday musical revue, ”Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” playing Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays at the music hall, 13005 N. Oracle Road.In the center of the action is Johnny Christmas, played by Brian Paradis, who leads an all-star Gaslight cast in dozens of fantastic, classic Christmas tunes - with a sprinkling of some hilarious songs you may not have heard before. Tunes include “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Feliz Navidad,” “Let it Snow” and even some surprises like “Leroy the Redneck Reindeer.”Joining Paradis on stage are Gaslight regulars Jesus Limon as Moose, Samantha Cormier as Donna, Brittany Mazur as Suzie and Jeremy Vega as Ricky. With the help of music director Rob Resetar and the four-piece Reindeer Rockers, the music hall has the ingredients for a perfect holiday musical blowout, and the cast delivers a vocal performance seemingly unmatched in the region.As is seemingly tradition for Gaslight musical revues, guests will also find a few opportunities for some cheap laughs when the cast comes out to serve slapstick standup, and a chance to sing along when the cast comes out to pay the crowd a visit. Even more exciting, guests may even be visited by St. Nick during the show.The all-ages show runs this week and weekend before coming to a close next Friday, Dec. 23. Show times are Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., Fridays at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. and on Sunday and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $19.95 for adults, $17.95 for seniors, students and military and $9.95 for children aged 2 – 12-years-old. Tickets are available by calling 529-1000 or online at www.gaslightmusichall.com or at the box office, open daily from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on weekdays.“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” was written, directed and choreographed by Katherine Byrnes, with musical direction by Rob Resetar and co-produced by Robert Shaw. 

  • Musicals are back! “La La Land” is a winner!

    Not always an enthusiastic fan of watching musicals on the big-screen, my apprehension only heightened during the opening dance number of this sure-fire hit. It wasn’t until Emma Stone’s wishful actress persona—the distracted barista Mia Dolan--raised her middle finger to Ryan Gosling’s impatient, cocksure alter ego musician Sebastian in L.A. rush hour traffic that “La La Land” really began its powerhouse performance sequence.  Thereafter, the year’s most romantic and formidable twosome square off using singing jujitsu and snickering one-liners to launch an enthralling love story within the City of Stars.  As two dreamers caught in the painful budding entertainment world of setbacks and rejections, Gosling and Stone each become the other’s biggest cheerleader and encouraging voice of reason. Gosling’s jazz loving pianist role affords us the delightful opportunity to see the 36-year old actor actually play the piano on film, highlighted through sensational cinematography not seen to this level of excellence since 2014’s Academy Award-winning “Birdman.” A 28-year-old native of Scottsdale, Emma Stone’s incredible acting genius is only getting better with time. Her remarkable job as a recovering drug addict in “Birdman” garnered Stone an Oscar-nom for best supporting actress. As a testament to how good she’s become as an artist, we’re transfixed on Stone’s passionate auditions in pursuit of an acting gig in “La La Land.” Equal parts endearing, funny and quirky, Stone seals up her Oscar gold in this compelling and career performance.Working together on their third movie, Gosling and Stone share an on-screen chemistry that only comes around once every 10 years.  The pair’s contemporary song and dance routines rival the film industry’s original musical mold of 1930s stars Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. We’ve seen Tom Hanks’ slow-burn romance with Meg Ryan defeat sleeplessness in Seattle. And we’ve watched Leonardo DiCaprio chase Kate Winslet around deck chairs aboard the sinking “Titanic.” And now we’ve got Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in “La La Land,” once again showing us how love starts and where it may go. Between the fabulous acting, eye-popping cinematography, jarring edits, and ear-pleasing music score, “La La Land” is the easy front-runner to win this year’s best picture award—amongst a laundry list of other nominations I am sure. This romantic musical drama immediately rises to classic status.  It’s a charming love story and marvelous film production that can, and will, withstand the test of time a la Astaire & Rogers.  A musical has “never shined so brightly” for “The Fools Who Dream”… A+!!!Grade: A+

  • Elton John partnering with YouTube to host video contest

    Have you ever stayed up late at night making your own music video, taking the inspiration felt from the work of one of your favorite artists to craft a visual story all your own?With the help of YouTube, Sir Elton John and longtime musical partner Bernie Taupin have today launched “Elton John: The Cut,” giving fans across the world the opportunity to create visual accompaniment to three classic Elton John hits released before the video era.“We’re giving new and undiscovered filmmakers from all over the worked the chance to create the official music videos for ‘Rocket Man’, ‘Tiny Dancer’ and ‘Bennie and the Jets,’ …We're excited to see creative ideas that push boundaries, tell compelling stories and give viewers something they have never seen before," John said in the YouTube video released with the announcement.  The contest, which marks the 50th-anniversary of the duo’s songwriting partnership, requires that each video be created in a genre assigned to each song: “Rocket Man” must be animated, “Tiny Dancer” live-action and “Bennie and the Jets” must feature choreography.  Launching today, “Elton John: The Cut” will accept public entries beginning on Jan. 9 of next year, with submissions closing on Jan. 23. Elton John and Taupin will work with a panel of YouTube creators and industry judges to select the three winners – and will fund the production with an online premier set for next summer. Any aspiring film maker over the age of 16 may submit after reviewing terms and conditions at thecut.eltonjohn.com.Submissions will be reviewed and shortlisted by a panel of professional YouTube creators, who will then present the selected videos to the judges panel. After the selection process, John and Taupin will review the submissions before selecting the winners, who will also be given $10,000 each for future projects.

  • Saturday Puzzles 12-10-16

  • “Lion” roars into Oscar “Best Picture” discussion

    Making his feature film directorial debut, Australian filmmaker Garth Davis has unexpectedly created this year’s most heartwarming and touching movie experience.  “Lion” is a fact-based movie that recounts the true story of Saroo Brierley and his 2014 non-fiction novel “A Long Way Home,” back when Saroo gets lost at a train station in his home country of India at the age of five.  “Lion” packs a powerful punch.  The exceptionally talented and charismatic Dev Patel (2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire”) delivers another on-screen gem, this time as Saroo after he’s been adopted by an Australian family.  But it’s the younger version of Saroo, portrayed by movie newcomer Sunny Pawar, that completely outshines everyone else in this tense, nail-biter.  Pawar’s 5-year-old Saroo character awakes on a moving train and is unable to place his home’s location in the vast country.  The perilous challenges he faces on the streets of India is perfectly combined with the enormous burden Saroo places upon himself for getting lost.  The terrible guilt and a mix of emotions felt by the boy is also palpable to the audience.Over 80,000 children disappear each year in India, culminating in 11 million kids living on the streets. “Lion” sharply keeps viewers guessing on how young Saroo survives this ordeal and how his adult future transpires as a result.  Nicole Kidman’s performance as the Australian mother who adopts Saroo is gaining positive reviews, but it’s really Rooney Mara’s role as his supportive girlfriend that grounds this film.  Both, along with spot-on casting throughout, combine to give “Lion” an above-average ensemble.  The most emotional film of 2016, “Lion” is a movie not to be missed. “Lion” dramatically rises from an impressive “A” grade film into one of 2016’s top movies with a poignant final act. This film quietly enters the Academy Award “Best Picture” race, joining “Hell or High Water” and “La Land” with its strong storytelling and convincing characters.  You can be assured that “Lion” won’t get lost on the minds of film critics scribbling out their list of Top 10 Movies from 2016.Grade: A+

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