Tucson Local Media: Liven Up

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Entertainment Headlines

  • Turns out cereal and cocktails are best friends

    If you plan on ordering a bowl of cereal the next time you’re at Batch Café and Bar, don’t forget to bring your ID.Yes, kid cereals have embraced a new spirit which makes them relevant again among those of us who went “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” in our younger years, with Batch’s rotating menu of spiked-up bowls called Boozy Cereals.“A hundred years ago, milk-based cocktails were pretty popular because people didn’t trust the water,” said Kade Mislinski, co-owner of Batch, 118 E. Congress St, “and I’m told that my grandfather even enjoyed a little Irish whiskey in his milk and cereal, so you might say that’s the genesis of our program.”With a whiskey menu that currently boasts 140 selections, Mislinski certainly has no shortage of options when it comes to adding spirits to cereals. He tells me that he’s limited only by the flavor profiles of the whiskeys themselves and how well they integrate with what’s in the bowl.“In our boozy cereals, we look for whiskeys that have fruit, honey, and molasses notes, and try to stay away from those that are super smokey,” he said. “The smoke is just a little too savory and not really fun enough for what we’re trying to do.”Two spirituous cereals are currently on the menu, with many more in research and development.

  • Ingenuity carries ‘Swiss Army Man’

    Watch out moviegoers, Hollywood has once again found its wild side. For nearly a decade, filmmakers have inundated audiences with television reboots, movie prequels, sequels and trilogies, along with steady rollouts of best-selling books-to-big-screen adaptations. All of which has made film plots safer and more predictable from the bottom-line focused studios, but less challenging to fresh-starved audiences. As independent (“indie”) films have gained award-winning popularity for their creativity and edginess, so has viewers’ appetite for originality and unique storylines. Film buffs need to stand up and applaud “Swiss Army Man.” This daring, odd and thought-provoking film is a bold statement that proves outside-the-box minds still exist in filmmaking. Newcomer feature film directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan co-wrote this ambitious, yet strange, narrative about loneliness and the human mind.“Swiss Army Man” showcases the two best performances in one film so far in 2016. Future Oscar-winner Paul Dano portrays Hank, a man deserted on a Pacific island until the corpse of Manny (played by “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe) washes ashore to provide Hank companionship and his will to survive. Together, Hank and Manny discover the power of love, humor and self-reflection. We see how the brain works, connecting our inner childhood experiences and influences with the images recorded for dissemination once faced with a survival situation. 

  • Saturday Puzzles 7-9-16

  • Blake Lively stars in suspenseful shark film

    Moviegoers looking for a refreshing suspense film to help beat the hot summer temperatures may have found just the theater ticket in Columbia Pictures’ The Shallows. Forty-one years after the beaches of Amity Island were cleared by Roy Scheider’s police chief role in Jaws, we find another man-eating great white shark wreaking havoc in bloody waters. Is it fair to compare The Shallows to the one of the greatest films ever made? No. But, this 2016 adventure does an adequate job of giving audiences enough anxious moments to create uncertainty and uneasiness. The beautiful Mrs. Deadpool, aka Blake Lively (married to Ryan Reynolds), confidently shines as medical student and competent surfer, Nancy, on hiatus in Mexico. The movie’s costar clearly turns out to be Lively’s eye-popping bikini—which makes The Legend of Tarzan loincloth look like a queen-sized beach towel. Lacking a true supporting cast, Lively smartly talks and text messages us through her disastrous surfing ordeal. Despite presenting a predictable outcome within the first few scenes, The Shallows wisely doesn’t overextend its welcome into our busy lives. It offers a fast-paced tempo with just enough plot twists and character depth to keep us glued to the action for the entire 87 minutes.While the film may slightly hurt Mexican tourism, the larger danger exposed in the movie is the feeling of invincibility by today’s younger generation. Their comfortable mindset in traveling and surfing alone will make parents everywhere tremble with worry. Regardless of one’s ability to post social media updates or have worldwide cell phone coverage, going solo on a day trip has distinct disadvantages in safety protocol. On the big screen, the 28-year old Lively’s bright and strong character feels her isolation and the need to kick into serious survival mode … and so do we.This shark story compliments—never competes with—the original, terrifying Jaws thriller of 1975. The Shallows, though, expertly taps into our trepidation of swimming in open waters, offering tense moments captured by amazing underwater cinematography.Blake Lively’s performance is better than expected. The same can be said about the overall film.   

  • Gaslight presents ‘The Freedom League of America’

    For decades, the Gaslight Theater has been Tucson’s premier locale for raucous laughter, touching moments and everlasting memories—all created on and around the stage. Rolling into the summer of 2016 is one of the theater’s most hilariously entertaining performances—The Freedom League of America.Set within the backdrop of the iconic 1960s is a story familiar to any comic-book or superhero fan: the lush paradise that is our planet Earth has come under invasion by a marauding alien race, the Wrebulons, and the grip of the evil king, Zagoor. In an effort to save humanity, various superheroes come together to form the Freedom League of America to combat the Wrebulons and save the day.Broken down into two separate acts, the show features a multitude of well-sung songs sprinkled across a variety of cast composition—though the performance truly shines when the entire cast gets involved.Though the story may seem relatively simple, a well-scripted back story adds even more classic superhero elements—from suspiciously disappearing reporters to cosmically changed space captains—and develops the struggle between good and evil into a marvelous crescendo by the end.Though the play comes together in final-moment heroics, the entirety of the performance is filled with side-splitting humor and plenty of opportunities for the audience to find themselves quite involved in the dramatic happenings—a fun aspect of the Gaslight enjoyed by founder Tony Terry.“The laughter that I hear from the audience, I know it is a hit when I can hear the crowd laughing all the way from my office,” he said.”

  • Saturday Puzzles 7-2-16

  • Area communities offer variety of Fourth of July celebrations

    Tucson and its surrounding communities will be offering the public plenty of ways to celebrate their independence this July 4. All events take place on July 4 unless marked otherwise:                Marana will be holding its annual Star Spangled Spectacular at Crossroads at Sliverbell District Park (7548 N. Silverbell Road). The festivities will take place between 5 and 9:30 p.m., with something for the whole family. Kids will enjoy inflatable play equipment, airbrush tattoos, games put on by Parks and Recreation, and the park’s playground. Parents will enjoy Catalina Brewing Company’s beer garden. There will be two stages with live music playing all night long. The Star Spangled Spectacular will feature 35 vendors, 22 of which will serve food. Of course the event would not be complete without a fireworks show, which claims to be the most spectacular in Southern Arizona.                   Oro Valley’s Fourth of July Celebration takes place at the James D. Kriegh Park (23 W. Calle Concordia) from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Free activities for kids include face painting, tie-dye t-shirts, patriotic crafts, climbing walls and jumping castles. Residents can enjoy a selection of 10 food            trucks and live entertainment all night long. At 9 p.m. there will be a fireworks show provided by Hilton El Conquistador Resort. The town of Oro Valley asks that you please leave your pets at home.                        The Stars and Stripes Extravaganza is a ticketed public event in Oro Valley hosted by Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort (10000 N. Oracle Road) The event kicks off with a classic barbecue buffet from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., followed by classic July Fourth desserts like apple pie. There will be a 30 minute fireworks show at 9 p.m. Tickets are $55 for adults and $25 for children ages 5-12, children under four are get in for free. The Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort will have reduced rates for the holiday weekend, with prices starting at $139 with a two night minimum. Hotel guests will receive a discount on tickets for the extravaganza: $49 for adults and $20 for children 5-12.     Casino Del Sol (5655 W. Valencia Road) is commemorating 22 years in Tucson this Fourth of July weekend with first class entertainment, and fun for everyone. On Friday, July 1 guests 21 and older will be able to enjoy Black Eyed Peas tribute band Black Eyed Tease at 9 p.m. in the Casino Del Sol Event Center. On July 2 Latin pop star Enrique Iglesias takes to the AVA Amphitheater stage, tickets start at $65. Sunday July 3 at 8 p.m. Casino Del Sol will hold its annual fireworks show. The fireworks show is free, and open to all ages. Finally, Casino Del Sol invites you to celebrate the Fourth of July with the Classic Rock Band KISS on their “Freedom to Rock” tour at the AVA Amphitheater at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $100 and are still available. After the show there will be a free 21 and over performance at 10:30 p.m. in the Casino Del Sol Event Center by MiniKiss, a KISS tribute band comprised of little people.                        

  • Dragon Village maintaining tradition in Oro Valley

    Dragon Village may look unassuming from the outside, but the small restaurant is nationally known and locally renowned for its award-winning food and the winner of previous “Best of the Northwest.The restaurant, tucked away in the Safeway Vistoso Plaza at the intersection of East Tangerine Road and North Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, is a longtime Oro Valley hangout for those interested in authentic Chinese cuisine.The restaurant recently came under the new ownership of Billy Cho, who hopes to continue the Dragon Village legacy.The plain exterior of the shopping center hides a recently remodeled dining room that is the perfect space to enjoy a wide range of delicious food, all at a reasonable price.Meals start off with complimentary wontons and sweet-and-sour dipping sauce. Guests can choose between several appetizers, including egg rolls, crab puffs and fried shrimp. Small bowls of egg flower, hot and sour or wonton soup (all highly suggested) are available to start off the meal.The full menu is broken down into traditional sections based on ingredients: chicken, beef, seafood pork and vegetarian. It also ncludes a large selection of chef’s specials like crispy eggplant with teriyaki or sesame sauce, roast of crispy duck or several combination plates. Meals range between $7 to $13 for larger plates and any hungry diner will find more than enough on their plates once the food hits the table.

  • McConaughey leads ‘Free State of Jones’

    Alright, alright, alright.  Matthew McConaughey fans will rejoice seeing another gritty and enthralling performance from the award-winning actor.  McConaughey, who earned an Academy Award in 2013’s “Dallas Buyers Club” and a Critics Choice win for his unorthodox sleuth character in HBO’s premiere season of “True Detective”, leads a sensational cast in this true Civil War story.Teamed up with rising Hollywood actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw (from last year’s “Concussion”), McConaughey plays Southern farmer Newt Knight…a rebellion leader unwilling to fight and die for the Confederate States of America and cotton-producing slave owners against President Lincoln’s advancing Union army.  A shockingly brutal and bloody war movie, “Free State of Jones” raises many hot-topic issues—none more so than the dramatic mistreatment of blacks by Southerner plantation and slave owners.  This historic film starkly illustrates the pressures and hardships faced by so many down at the local level…a story often pushed aside for decisive Civil War battlefields and examples of Lincoln’s prowess dealing with a divided Congress and nation inside Washington DC.Viewers see firsthand how the right of the people to keep and bear arms is a necessity to the security of a free State. As predicted in 1788 by Alexander Hamilton; “an army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens”. Other red meat topics explored include the Confederacy’s willful takeover of an individual’s property and a wanton disregard of established anti-slavery law in the South.The first of three 2016 movies to focus on inter-racial relationships and the slave rebellion, “Free State of Jones” is a powerful start. With “The Birth of a Nation” and “Loving” hitting theaters this October and November respectively, a continued look into the dark and disturbing past of our country is further examined.  And in order to form a more perfect Union, that’s not only important, but required.  Grade: B+

  • Saturday Puzzles 6-25-16

  • Low energy: ‘Finding Dory’ runs aground

    Over the past 21 years, Pixar Animation Studios has amazed and enlightened audiences, producing 17 awe-inspiring feature films.  After its initial launch of the mega-blockbuster and first-ever computer-animated classic “Toy Story” in 1996, movie goers around the world have been fascinated by the realism brought to the big-screen by this southern California business started and groomed by idea trailblazers George Lucas and Steve Jobs.  Everything Pixar has touched over the years—from the ginormous “Toy Story” trilogy, to the “Monsters Inc.” factory portfolio, to the lonely “WALL-E”—has become cinematic and Oscar gold.  Never one to rest on her laurels, Pixar only seemed to get better and better with time.  Coming off its best effort to date in last year’s thought-jarring “Inside Out”, Pixar has now released the sequel to one of the highest grossing movies ever (2003’s “Finding Nemo”).  And expectations for “Finding Dory” were high.  Way too high we find out.Thirteen years after “Finding Nemo”, audiences find a watered down script and ocean-soaked plot in this follow-up fish story.  The perfectly suited Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks are recast as the suffering short-term memory loss blue fish Dory, and the easy-going clownfish Marlin.  Both compliment the spectacular computer-generated imagery we’ve all come to expect, and receive once again, from Pixar. The biggest problem with “Finding Dory” is not in how it looks, but in how it sounds.  Despite returning the film into the trusted hands of two-time Academy Award-winning writer and director Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E”), this movie is both redundant and low energy. “Finding Dory” self-sabotages with a bland script that spurns boredom from DeGeneres’ character having to constantly echo the film’s thin plot over and over again as she meets each new sidekick.  Dory’s short-term memory loss creates repetitive dialogue and tests viewer patience for most of the 100-minute lost and found journey.  It also halts—and then drowns—a handful of short, funny moments before any continuous laughter can be strung together over several scenes.  Longtime Pixar fans will find this film easily the weakest story and biggest disappointment ever produced by the computer-generated giant. Despite using the same successful formula and minds behind “Finding Nemo”, this movie lacks charisma, laughter and the customary bold step forward by Pixar.  Instead, “Finding Dory” plays it safe.  Too safe.  We can only hope that audiences will have a short-term memory of this loss. 

  • ‘Maggie’s Plan’ invokes re-do on life

    Promoted and teased as a contemporary romantic comedy, “Maggie’s Plan” disintegrates into a complicated relationship triangle with children caught in the middle of three self-absorbed parents.  Looking deeper, we find today’s “selfie” phenomenon morphing beyond the mere instant gratification from photographs into the more surreal, high-stakes role of single parenthood by-choice.  This film, perhaps accidentally, captures a generation that wants it all—which in and of itself isn’t necessary bad or harmful.  Until one either finds something else better or decides having it “all” was a mistake.  In the case of the latter, the iGen wants a do-over. Maggie, exceptionally portrayed by a talented and vastly underrated Greta Gerwig, lacks a green thumb at growing relationships beyond the six-month point. Giving up on finding Mr. Right, Maggie settles for a sperm donation to achieve her goal of single motherhood, just as a disgruntled, older married man (Ethan Hawke) enters her heart and academia world on a New York campus.  After getting married and having a daughter of their own together, Maggie finds herself juggling a blended family solo, minus any parental teamwork from her self-centered boy toy, John (Hawke).  Overwhelmed and regretful, Maggie checks for an expiration date on returning John to his ex-wife and successful Danish author, Georgette (played by Academy Award winner Julianne Moore).  From here, Maggie hatches a “plan” to move all of the film’s chess pieces back to their original starting position for a new game.First-time independent director Rebecca Miller wrote this screenplay based upon Karen Rinaldi’s original story.  Both women deserve serious credit for highlighting several difficult and rampant relationship hurdles straightforwardly.  Boldly, “Maggie’s Plan” never sidesteps the heavy topics of affairs, divorce, infidelity or single-parenthood. To do otherwise would water down and weaken the movie’s best attribute—the stark and often painful realism found in its script and storyline.  “Maggie’s Plan” is really about neither romance nor comedy.  It’s about the complicated life we live in and our desires.  The film spotlights how one’s decisions has consequences and impacts others’ lives--particularly children. This plot revolves around the self-gratification world that permeates social media and our society today. Stellar performances throughout bring attention to absent parenting, self-absorbed novelists and loveless relationships.  Notwithstanding a few funny lines, “Maggie’s Plan” delivers a dramatic, and troublesome, look inside contemporary relationships.   Grade: C

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