Tucson Local Media: Scene1

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  • Stay cool with this summer’s list of blockbusters

    Every year, the summer movie season gets off to an earlier start. At the current rate, next year’s Summer Movie Season will kickoff somewhere around January of 1982.As for this year, it semi-officially kicked off with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Suckage all the way back in late March. Ice cream and jellybean sales really spiked around that time because a whole lot of geeks needed to cheer themselves up after sitting through that trash.Alas, we are only in May, so there are plenty of months left to salvage Summer Movie Season 2016. Here are some films that look to be Batman v Superman antidotes, as well as some that might further poison us.  Captain America: Civil War (May 5): Already getting amazing buzz, this is another superhero vs. superhero movie, but this one is in the hands of Marvel, which usually means an uptick on the sophistication and fun quotients. It also means no Zack Snyder at the helm, which I consider a major blessing at this point. Last Days in the Desert (May 13): Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) plays Jesus Christ having a relatively bad time in the desert before embarking on a preaching career that would eventually get his butt totally killed. 

  • 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)

  • Great American Playhouse brings ‘Whodunit’ to stage

    As summertime transitions into autumn, citizens of Oro Valley and the surrounding area will be able to enjoy themselves at another new installment into the Great American Playhouse’s burgeoning bundle of shows. Following the playhouse’s two-year anniversary celebration last August, GAP veteran Nick Seivert has written and directed the latest play to be presented at the fledgling theater as it picks up more steam.“Whodunit? or They Haven’t a Clue” is the name of Seivert’s interactive murder mystery, starring a gifted cast consisting of Jesus Limon (Mustard/Rusty), Xander Mason (Plum), Katherine Philips (Peach), Jacqueline Williams (Scarlet), Sean MacArthur (Green), Jodi Darling (Peacock/White) and Seivert himself as Wadsworth and Zoltan the Great.When Rusty, the adopted son of bagel heiress Ms. Peacock, and his stepmother are killed, detectives Mustard and White are called onto the scene to find just “whodunit.” Together with the GAP audience, Mustard and White will discover the perpetrator of the crime, as well as the why and the how behind Rusty and Ms. Peacock’s murder. Seivert’s grand magnitude as a playwright pervades throughout the show, featuring copious amounts of family-friendly zaniness and interactivity that has come to be associated with the local acting vet.

  • Playhouse to host ‘whodunit’ production

    As summertime transitions into autumn, citizens of Oro Valley and the surrounding area will be able to enjoy themselves at another new installment into the Great American Playhouse’s burgeoning bundle of shows. Following the playhouse’s two-year anniversary celebration last August, GAP veteran Nick Seivert has written and directed the latest play to be presented at the fledgling theater as it picks up more steam.“Whodunit? or They Haven’t a Clue” is the name of Seivert’s interactive murder mystery, starring a gifted cast consisting of Jesus Limon (Mustard/Rusty), Xander Mason (Plum), Katherine Philips (Peach), Jacqueline Williams (Scarlet), Sean MacArthur (Green), Jodi Darling (Peacock/White) and Seivert himself as Wadsworth and Zoltan the Great.When Rusty, the adopted son of bagel heiress Ms. Peacock, and his stepmother are killed, detectives Mustard and White are called onto the scene to find just “whodunit.” Together with the GAP audience, Mustard and White will discover the perpetrator of the crime, as well as the why and the how behind Rusty and Ms. Peacock’s murder. Seivert’s grand magnitude as a playwright pervades throughout the show, featuring copious amounts of family-friendly zaniness and interactivity that has come to be associated with the local acting vet.Every show has its shining star, and this time around, it was Xander Mason and his eccentric, lovable take on ‘Topsy Turvy Private Investigator’ radio actor, Plum. As Mustard and White interrogate Plum and his radio associates throughout the play, Mason stands out for his active performance style and profound energy which sets the stage alight, coming across with a composed vivacity not unlike a young Robin Williams. Philips also stands out as ‘Topsy Turvy’ co-star Peach, standing tall amongst more veteran actors with a collected approach to her improvisational humor, which received some of the loudest applause throughout the night.Limon, Darling and Seivert assert their muscle as true GAP vets by playing double-time as their characters, Mustard/Rusty, Peacock/White and Wadsworth/Zoltan, respectively. 

  • M. Night Shyamalan’s return to horror with “The Visit”

    Few Hollywood directors carry as wild a reputation as M. Night Shyamalan. The former whiz kid behind modern classics like “The Sixth Sense” (1999) and “Signs” (2002) seemed destined for a career of outside-the-box masterpieces. Then, seemingly overnight, that destination shifted. The last decade of Shyamalan’s career has steadily served up one hot mess (“Avatar: The Last Airbender”) after another (“After Earth”) — his name now synonymous with gimmicky twists and little else. So now, without much to lose, the director returns to his scary movie roots with “The Visit.” Our fingers were crossed.  Unfortunately, things couldn’t have started off bumpier. In the first few minutes alone, we get our “found footage” premise (a gimmick that peaked five years ago), awkward moments of attempted humor, and a few rap freestyles. Siblings Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are dropped off for a week with the grandparents they’ve never met, and before you can say “suspicious,” things start getting weird. Grandma (Deanna Dunagan) bakes cookies during the day and wanders the house demonically at night. Grandpa (Peter McRobbie) chops wood outside and attacks random strangers in town. The story continues in typical horror movie fashion, with jump scares galore and a ridiculous amount of skepticism on the kids’ part.But Shyamalan relies too heavily on the word “typical” here. He’s got a cast of surprisingly decent performers to work with, yet there isn’t anything to make it stand out from the flood of “Paranormal Activity” sequels that are still being cranked out every year. Long gone are the creative camera angles and less-is-more approach of his past work — now it’s all about chasing trends and blending in. The plot twist is great once it arrives, but it’s too little too late. And it doesn’t do much to contradict the notion of Shyamalan as a poor man’s Rod Serling.Ultimately, “The Visit” hits its short term goal as a fun date movie with some scary twists. As for the long term goal of revitalizing Shyamalan’s career, well, let’s just say our fingers are still crossed. Danilo Castro is a resident of Oro Valley and writer for the Film Noir Archive blog at

  • Introduction to improv

    Have you or anyone you know thought about taking an improv class, but weren't sure if it was right for you? OR, maybe you've just been to a show and thought it might be fun to do a little improv!Well, now's your chance to get a sample of what our classes are like, AND have some fun! On Saturday, September 26th from Noon to 3pm we will be having an introduction to improv workshop at Unscrewed Theater. TIckets are only $15 AND include a free ticket to that night's family-friendly improv show!We will play some warm exercises, learn the basic rules of improv and play some really fun games! You'll be able to get a great feel for what and how we teach. It will be a really fun afternoon taught by two of our amazing instructors (and Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed players!) You can even purchase this class as a gift for someone who loves to laugh! So come have a great time with us! To sign up go to unscrewedtheater.org

  • The Latin Comedy Jam Coming to Tucson Sept. 12: Free Ticket Giveaway

    The Latin Comedy Jam is set to bring non-stop hilarity to Tucson on Sept. 12 for a double show at The Leo Rich Theatre. Hosted by founder Mike Acquisto-Gotti, the jam is partnering with the Tucson Hispanic Chamber Scholarship Fund and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the fund.“We’re spreading laughter and education at the same time,” said Acquisto-Gotti.The cast of comedians for the show consists of Roberto Rodriguez, Dillon Garcia, Javi Luna and Steve Trevino. Each of these performers, along with the rest of the crew in the comedy jam, can be seen across the nation.Acquisto-Gotti said the show isn’t intended for all ages, but is relatively tame. “It’s not a raunchy, dirty show,” he said. “There is some adult content, but for the most part, it’s a show you can bring your grandma to.”Though it is called The Latin Comedy Jam, the show is in English and the content is intended for an audience of all backgrounds.“The comics are Hispanic, but the comedy is universal,” Acquisto-Gotti said. “They’re from all walks of life and places, not just the United States: Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. “

  • Meryl Streep and real-life daughter shine bright

    As one of only six Hollywood actors to earn three Academy Awards for acting (including a record 19 Oscar nominations) it feels like we’ve seen Meryl Streep play every character on the big screen over the past 38 years. In “Ricki and The Flash,” however, we find this amazing actress continuing to expand her talents and push outside her comfort zone. As an aging 1980s rocker named Ricki Rendazzo, Streep is a self-described non-traditional mother who, after years performing on tour, ends up divorced, no longer in her children’s lives and working two part-time jobs just to make ends meet. Teaming up with her real-life offspring Mamie Gummer for the third time on film, Streep’s Ricki character re-enters the children’s lives when her daughter’s (Gummer) marriage unexpectedly dissolves.  Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme (for 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs”) and Oscar-winning writer Diablo Cody painstakingly illustrate Ricki’s penniless lifestyle and the many difficulties blended families must endure to raise kids. Cody’s screenplay is based upon her mother’s side job as a front singer as Cody grew up. Despite a slow start and heavy-handed display of just how down and out Ricki’s life has become, this movie deserves credit for an open and honest dialogue about divorced families and resentment. It neither dismisses nor sidesteps the anger and pain created by the complicated family dynamics. The end result is an authentic portrayal of relationships and love.The sensational cast is led by Streep, who sings and plays her guitar to an assortment of musical hits that includes Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Lady Gaga and Pink. A consummate perfectionist, the 66-year-old Streep felt she needed to learn to play the guitar to provide realism to her role and the overall film. Thus, Director Demme and the movie producers patiently halted filming and production to allow Streep to complete an immersion into guitar lessons. Moviegoers with a keen eye will notice 1980’s rocker Rick Springfield playing the lead guitarist and Streep’s love interest in “Ricki and The Flash.” Academy Award winner Kevin Kline, better known for his marriage to 1982’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” stunner Phoebe Cates, effortlessly plays Streep’s affable ex-husband to round out an exceptional ensemble. The movie’s most inspiring and eye-catching performances, though, are deservedly found in Streep and her daughter, Gummer. Both own the big screen and make it difficult to take your eyes off of their characters. “Ricki and The Flash” succeeds due to its skillful handling of complicated blended families. The superb performances, particularly Streep’s vocals on the microphone, bring a realism to the entire film that can’t be ignored. A slow start picks up its beat around mid-movie for a rousing, emotional end. Although the focus on Ricki’s downtrodden, washed-up rocker past goes on for too long in the film, Streep and Gummer hold this storyline together in tandem. “Ricki and The Flash” offers enjoyment to music fans and unique look at a two new talents from Streep—singing and playing the guitar. Both of which make this film worth seeing.

  • World Fighting Federation brought the pain at WFF22

    The World Fighting Federation hosted another night of sold-out fights at Casino Del Sol on July 25. The packed show pitted 24 fighters in various weight classes against one another in a non-stop, action-packed event. Tickets were sold out two days before “World Fighting Federation 22” was scheduled, a new record for the organization. While seats are always available for WFF fights through traditional box office means, tickets were also sold by fighters in part to help promote themselves and their gyms. WFF 22 was composed of seven different amateur title fights, including an amateur title fight in the bantamweight division between Ralphy “No Mercy” Pacheco and Steven Prior. Ten different professional fighters squared off for the last five fights, including a professional flyweight title fight between Tyler “Bad Apple” Bialecki and title-holder Brandon Moreno. The co-main event of the evening was the professional welterweight title fight between Kyle “Gunz Up” Stewart and Raymond “The Truth” Piña. The first two fights ended quickly, both being called to a stop by referees Ryan Brueggeman and Al Guinee, respectively. The fast, no-holds-barred style shown in the first fights seemed to be a theme at WFF 22; just over half of the 12 individual contests didn’t make it past the first round, either by knockout, TKO or submission. Though many of the fighters were busy mentally preparing for the trials ahead, some took some time to share their stories.

  • Amazon Prime signs ex-Top Gear stars to finalize largest coup in British TV history

    Fans of the hit BBC driving show, “Top Gear,” have been overwhelmed by rumors and speculations since controversial actions by host Jeremy Clarkson caused him to be canned by BBC producers. Clarkson’s removal came after a notorious “fracas” at a Yorkshire hotel in March when Clarkson hit producer Oisin Tymon during an argument about arrangements for a hot meal. This incident was the last straw for BBC officials. The altercation involving Tymon follows years of controversy at the BBC, with rows over a series of gaffes and insults, including most seriously Clarkson’s apparent use of the N-word when mumbling the “eeny meeny miny moe” nursery rhyme. The unbearable wait for fans is now over, according to representatives from Amazon Prime’s online streaming service. “Top Gear” trio Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have signed to present a new car show on the streaming service.Richard Hammond and James May, the other two presenters for the wildly popular program, decided to bow out and discontinue their involvement after Clarkson was removed. The three hosts will also be joined by former “Top Gear” producer and longtime friend of Clarkson, Andy Wilman.Clarkson said regarding the new deal, “I feel like I’ve climbed out of a biplane and into a spaceship.”The move to Amazon Prime may come as a slight surprise to fans of the once BBC headlining show, which for many years was generating around £50 million a year for the corporation.  Amazon Prime will be providing a whole new medium for the trio.

  • ‘Love And Mercy’ brings the good vibrations

    Former Beach Boy and living legend Brian Wilson has survived a life of hardships and personal demons to do what he does best: crank out ethereal harmonies that make you feel like (or at least wish) you were going for a beachfront stroll on a summer evening. And while that good-time vibe remains intact on his latest album “No Pier Pressure,” the demons are front and center in the new indie biopic “Love And Mercy.”The film ping pongs between the musical revolutions young Brian (Paul Dano) was making as head of The Beach Boys in the 1960s, and the slow climb back to reality as an older Brian (John Cusack) struggles to beat his bipolar disorder in the 1980s. It’s a dicey high-wire act to have two performers play the same character (see 2007’s Bob Dylan free-for-all “I’m Not There”), but it’s a credit to the acting of both Dano and Cusack that they delicately explore the different phases of Wilson’s life. Dano in particular is a revelation as the LSD-ridden pop star who was respectfully rewriting the sound of modern music. Elsewhere, ample support from Elizabeth Banks (as Wilson’s second wife Melinda) and a rotten Paul Giamatti (as Wilson’s shady therapist Eugene Landy) keep the back end of the cast strong as well.First-time director Bill Pohland weaves a masterfully psychedelic spell over the audience; weaving in equal parts tragedy, comedy and a wonky musical score courtesy of Atticus Ross to keep things as eccentric as the pet sounds in Brian’s head. And for those of you who scoff at biopics that are “untrue” or “exaggerated” for the sake of cinema, never fear. Wilson himself has vouched for the authenticity of the film, going as far as to call it “very factual” to his real life experiences.You don’t have to be a Beach Boys fanatic to enjoy this movie. You don’t even have to know who Brian Wilson is — “Love And Mercy” works solely off the merits of being an excellent film. It’s the touching story of a misguided genius, a courageous everyman and the music that reinvented a generation. You won’t be sittin’ in this crummy movie with your hands on your chin. That last bit was for the Brian Wilson buffs out there. (Editor’s Note: Danilo Castro is a resident of Oro Valley and writer for the Film Noir Archive blog at www.filmnoirarchive.com)

  • Oscar-winning Redmayne to star in Harry Potter prequels

    Fans of The Boy Who Lived and last year’s acclaimed drama “The Theory of Everything” now have cause for celebration: Eddie Redmayne has been confirmed as the lead star of the new wizardry film “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.” And for those of you who scratch their heads and quickly head to a computer to figure out what “Beasts” even is — don’t worry, we’ll fill you in.Set 70 years before “Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone,” the film follows 1920’s collector Newton Scamander (Redmayne) as he travels New York in search of magical creatures. As to whether the story provides a closer tie to the Potter universe is something that remains to be seen in the cinematic world — unless of course, you’ve read the books.This return to the world of magic also reteams Harry Potter producer David Heyman, director David Thewlis, and storytelling mastermind J.K. Rowling as a first-time screenwriter. And if the pot isn’t yet sweet enough, the recent addition to this announcement is that the picture will be the first in a trilogy that will have subsequent releases in 2018 and 2020.Recently appointed star Redmayne, fresh off of an Academy Award for best actor, couldn’t be more thrilled and is “hugely excited” to come onboard Rowling’s universe — even referring to the author as a “genius.” It’s clear that Rowling and Co. weren’t going to let all the magical prequel points go to Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” series, and with a November release date set for next year — it’s once again time to dig up your Hogwarts cloaks and Olivander’s wands.  (Editor’s Note: Danilo Castro is a resident of Oro Valley and writer for the Film Noir Archive blog at www.filmnoirarchive.com)

  • 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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