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)

  • “Patriots Day” an engrossing thriller on Boston Marathon bombings

    No one right now in Hollywood is sharper at crafting heroic true-life stories onto the big-screen than Clint Eastwood or Peter Berg. Both directors have powerfully depicted ordinary people doing extraordinary acts of bravery.  Each visionary storyteller is so keen at providing a deep history behind actual events, that viewer blood pressure gets elevated as one’s overall fingernail length is nervously reduced. Eastwood’s tributes have shined bright with his “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “American Sniper” and “Sully” under his watchful eye. Whereas Berg’s game has been raised of late with his own heart-racing true tales: “Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon” and now “Patriots Day.” All chaotic films, at times, funny—but each a rather large truth tablet for moviegoers to swallow in their willingness to learn more.Based upon the book “Boston Strong: A City’s Triumph over Tragedy,” this film focuses on the 2013 Boston Marathon terrorist bombings and the ensuing massive federal, state and local inter-agency investigation. The real star of “Patriots Day” is the city of Boston. As evidenced by Mark Wahlberg’s role as a police sergeant molded into a compilation of nearly 20 Boston Police Department officers, his character the dedicated face of many—as well as the key thread woven into the film’s chilling manhunt fabric.Roman philosopher Seneca once scribed that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Nothing demonstrates our post-9/11 world and lessons learned more graphically than Boston’s coordinated, fast-paced and lethal investigative response to an attack during their 117th annual race. To see that city’s first-responders and medical personnel react in the same manner as their New York City brothers and sisters in September of 2001, is both awe-inspiring and heartwarming. Capturing the numerous lives affected by those twin blasts near the finish line, “Patriots Day” leaves us with a better understanding of the dangerous world we live in and more thankful for the people charged with responding to those dangers.  From the fire, police and military racing towards the explosive epicenters, doctors and nurses making life and limb decisions at surrounding hospitals and heads-up Bostonians reporting tidbits of information, “Patriots Day” underscores the city’s strength, readiness and resolve that brought swift justice to a pair of sinister culprits wearing a “black hat” and “white hat”.  Aside from the stellar job by Wahlberg representing Boston PD, “Patriot Day” shows off a collaborative team effort by law enforcement sleuths that use their combined expertise and skillsets in a successful manner that resembles a U.S. military special operations unit in its efficiency, order, and lethality. Even knowing the eventual outcome to this true narrative, viewers will find the background stories on the real bombing victims, law enforcement officers and terrorists fascinating—yet heartbreaking—to watch unfold. But everyone should see “Patriots Day” because that will help keep America Strong.  And ready.Grade: A

  • “Manchester by the Sea” rolls in grief and guilt

    Casey Affleck’s spectacular performance is this film earned him a Golden Globe on Sunday, and should end any further speculation as to which Affleck brother has the best acting chops.  Sorry, Batman. Chatter from the Left Coast early last year told us film critics to expect a particularly stunning job from the younger Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea”.  More times than not, these self-pronounced premerits of greatness by studio execs only translates into hyperbole and unmet expectations in the end.  That’s not the case in this movie about grief and family relationships.Carrying significant guilt and apprehensive upon his shoulders, Affleck’s divorced Lee Chandler character returns to his hometown of Manchester after the death of his brother, Joe. Complicating matters for the blue-collar repairman is Lee’s startling reintroduction to his now teenage nephew, Patrick, and his first contact in years with an ex-wife (played by Michelle Williams).  “Manchester by the Sea” is a slow storyline reveal that works by tossing in timely flashbacks of a better time and life for Affleck’s handyman Lee. As guardianship issues for his nephew must be legally worked out, Uncle Lee’s uncomfortableness returning to Manchester swings constantly between heartache and remorse. Equally entertaining is the job Lucas Hedges does portraying the role of the now fatherless Patrick.  Together, Affleck and Hedges create a tension-filled relationship as neither wants to have their life completely upended because of the sudden death of their loved one.The movie does a lot right.  It somehow makes a slow plot reveal work without losing viewers, mostly due to its believable acting and a mysterious storytelling rollout. The film poignantly explains the extended family dynamics and its unimaginable past, delving deeper into Casey’s relationships with not only his nephew, but others. It even injects a grown-up Ferris Bueller, aka Matthew Broderick, into a small scene.  This realistic and exceptionally well-acted endeavor, though, has a few glaring problems. Joining an irritable rash of late 2016 films like “Moonlight” and “Nocturnal Animals”, this northeast narrative sports an interesting beginning only to culminate in an unremarkable and bland ending.  When it’s all over and done, a memorable “Manchester by the Sea” journey by moviegoers never fully materializes.  Casey Affleck’s character lets down his brother, and, ultimately us with a timid, lackluster finale. 

  • A go for launch: “Hidden Figures” film shines

    Moviegoers’ first reactions to seeing “Hidden Figures” will be to ask themselves how did America not already know this incredible true story? This NASA film is an exhilarating and positive narrative deeply rooted to one of our nation’s greatest feats: Successfully launching a human into space to orbit the Earth and return safely. “Hidden Figures” is a feel-good history lesson that needs to be seen to believed.Director Ted Melfi (“St. Vincent”) gathers an extremely talented ensemble to tell the true NASA story of three brilliant African-American women who played major roles in our nation’s space program during the 1960s. The cast is led by Octavia Spencer, who gives a poignant portrayal as the computer whiz Dorothy Vaughan. But the mathematical genius and rocket fuel behind “Hidden Figures” resides in the purposeful and resilient talents of Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson and Kevin Costner as NASA manager Al Harrison. Viewers will be enamored watching this trio of inspiring women fight prejudice in the male-dominated workplace through their skillful persistence and smarts. Each marvelously solving spacecraft launch and recovery math equations to earn the trust of viewers and astronaut John Glenn. Together, they helped our space program and country keep pace with the Soviet Union before charging ahead—ultimately accepting and answering President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to land a man on the moon by that decade’s end.Yes, it’s about time these pioneering women are no longer hidden from the history books. Their encouraging and remarkable story broke the glass ceiling of space. They overcame discrimination and social issues with expertise and talents that couldn’t be ignored or segregated any longer based on their gender or race. In each movie scene, these three women (and the audience) know they’re the smartest minds in the room. It’s how they handle and respond to that knowledge that makes “Hidden Figures” such a compelling and richly satisfying movie experience.Look for “Hidden Figures” to garner several Academy Award nominations come the morning of Jan. 24. Despite a strong field of leading and supporting actors and actresses in 2016, Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Hanson have better than even odds to capture nominations. The film also deserves Best Ensemble and Best Picture considerations from all the end-of-the-year awards shows. 

  • The Top 10 Films of 2016

    Here are the year’s best films in storytelling and performances:10.  Sing Street Director John Carney, who gave us the 2007 romantic music trifecta of guitar, piano and vocals in the Irish movie “Once,” returns to Dublin for a stellar encore performance involving a teenage boy dealing with the pressures of school while starting up a rock band to get closer to a girl. Carney knows how to bring music and romance together better than anyone else and we find a heartfelt story that feels both charming and real at the same time.  An above average cast and a 1980s soundtrack launch this movie into instant classic status and into the Top 10 list for 2016. 9.  Captain FantasticThe vastly talented Viggo Mortensen (“Lord of the Rings”) stars as the earthy patriarch of the Cash family, living off-the-grid while raising his well-read children deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. A stirring drama on human interaction and one family’s attempt to cope with loss, individual beliefs, and real life. Every parent, at some point, wonders if they’re raising their child the best possible way. “Captain Fantastic” offers us one unmistakable, yet riveting, parenting route. 8.  Hidden Figures

  • 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.

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