Tron: Legacy’ — Electrifies the Boys and Girls : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

Released in 1982, the original Tron movie has — until geek became chic and, more importantly, profitable — been the sort of quasi-obscure cult item dismissed as video game juvenilia with the same wave of the hand now reserved for comic book movies not directed by Christopher Nolan. Although championed as an overlooked gem by Roger Ebert, one of a few critics collected by Rotten Tomatoes who praised the film, and the recipient of Oscar nominations for costumes and sound, Tron remains a film whose singular achievement is rarely, if ever, explicitly stated amidst scriptural complaints. When you distill film, as a medium, to its essential method and purpose, that achievement is: Presenting audiences with a singularly unique vision of something never before seen. Given the number of films released year after year for almost a century, this surely is a feat worthy of more than a critical yawn or a footnote in the history of cinematic accomplishments.

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‘Being Gay Is Disgusting’: A Clever, Irreverent Retelling of the Bible’s First 5 Books : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

Whether new to the Bible or looking to refresh the ol’ memory, Edward Falzon’s book provides readers with a fun and accessible pathway to reading and understanding one of the world’ most influential texts. Much like Ben Akerley’s X-Rated Guide to the Bible shows us the Bible’s sexual side, Being Gay Is Disgusting serves as a guide to the Bible’s violence.

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‘The King’s Speech’: Music to Our Ears : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

Note: With this review I am officially up to date, as of 12.07.10.

Label a movie “feel-good” and “triumphant,” and you’re liable to conjure visions of a hard-luck sports team elevated by tough-love ministrations or cute animals in danger who win the day through sheer pluck. Fortunately, for those of us who don’t make a habit of carrying handkerchiefs to cry into at the slightest drop of a sappy scene, we have The King’s Speech. Here is an absolute treasure of a “feel-good” movie that earns its credentials not through trite premises or sentimental maneuvers but by rolling up its sleeves and working at it. That, and an astonishingly well-chosen cast of actors we already know to have the chops but are given an opportunity to soar in a film defined by literate writing and direction.

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An Enchanting Dance Recital by India’s Rama Vaidyanathan : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

(Rama Vaidyanathan. Photo credit: Avinash Pasricha)

After the evening’s performance at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Center, Shakti Dance Company founder and Bharata Natyam guru Viji Prakash took to the stage and articulated what I had been thinking all along. While the music and dance are richly rewarding for people well-versed in the compositional intricacies of classical Indian music and the kinetic language of Bharata Natyam, the novice aficionado can just as easily and fully be elevated, inspired and moved. The vernacular gives way to the universal, the senses become engaged in the music and costumes, and cultures comes together in a shared experience of beauty.

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Monsters: When Giants Walk Among Us : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

To the list of up-and-coming directors with a keen understanding of what makes science fiction such a scintillating canvas for thoughtful speculation — a list that includes Duncan Jones (Moon) and Neill Blomkamp (District 9) — one can now add, with some reservation, the name of Gareth Edwards. His low-budget effort is a solid example of scrappy independent, DIY filmmaking with gorgeous results — where non-actors made up a large part of the extras, scenes were partially ad-libbed, and post-production special effects were completed in the bedroom on a home computer. All this in the service of a high-concept plot usually reserved for Hollywood to dumb down in an action blockbuster.

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If You Value Freedom, Make Pot Legal : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

Note: This was a quick editorial written in anticipation of the November 2 elections in which Proposition 19 aimed to legalize pot. Alas, the measure did not pass.

You don’t have to smoke pot or approve of smoking to make it legal because the issue isn’t really about that controversial little plant. The issue is freedom. That sounds melodramatic, I know, but bear with me. If the government said you can’t play sports, would you agree? I’m guessing you wouldn’t. If the government decided to ban all cars, wouldn’t that be tyrannical? I think so, and I’ll bet you do, too. So why should we let pot be illegal?

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Hereafter: Deathly Dull : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

What Shakespeare described as the undiscovered country from whose borne no traveler returns is also something less poetic: the subject of a turf war among theologians, charlatans, New Age fabulists and other opportunistic metaphysicians. Like the true believer, Clint Eastwood's latest – with the unsubtle title “Hereafter” – aims to prove itself of a modern, post-Enlightenment mindset by exposing various con-artists out to exploit the grieving through the pretense of communicating with the dead.

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Protest Against Animal Cruelty: Jennifer Peterson vs. Barkworks: THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

Two-part interview with Jennifer Peterson about her efforts to shut down Barkworks, a Westside Pavilion pet stores that supports puppy mills, sells sick dogs, and is otherwise symptomatic of cruelty for profit.

Break the Whip Whips it Good : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

The Actor's Gang, one of L.A.’s most consistently magical troupes, can always be relied upon to deliver theatre that channels our era's nebulous zeitgeist. While it will take historians from twenty minutes into the future to look back and somehow encapsulate the bizarro spirit of this first decade in the new millenium, The Actor's Gang is firmly focused on using theatre to pull the curtains back on issues of social impact we can relate to today. With Break the Whip, the Gang also reaffirms another signature trait: irrepressible optimism.

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ICT’s ‘The Clean House’ Is a Funny Place to Live : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

Matilde, a Brazilian live-in maid with an inconvenient disdain for housecleaning, would have been right at home in World War II efforts to weaponize humour. That is, if she occupied a vintage Monty Python sketch instead of Sarah Ruhl’s new play “The Clean House.” Although the humour of using humour for military purposes wouldn’t gel with her, the kinship between the two scenarios isn’t so much of a stretch. Early in the play, she tells how her own ill mother died laughing at one of her father’s jokes. T, which is as good a way to go as a mid-coital shedding of mortal coils. Her own search for the perfect joke is laced with this particular memory, the death of her mother followed by her father a short time later, and manifested in the fear that discovering the perfect joke will kill her. Naturally, she spends her time trying to discover that holy grail of guffaws, although it would be wrong to make a case for suicidal tendencies. Rather, Matilde lives as if comedy is the highest form of human aspiration, a sublime art.

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What ever happened to the humble vial of truth serum? A few drops of the stuff and suspects were chirpier than a colony of birds on a telephone wire. It was the epitome of spy movie interrogation technology. The real drama, of course, came from the pitting of mind vs. mind, spy vs. counterspy, in tense, unaided confrontations across a table. Now we get neural imaging devices that scan a suspect’s brain in real-time to root out deception, which is convenient as it illustrates how much technology — both real and speculative — has infiltrated our spy movies. Like the dilemma facing the intelligence services, people have given way to machines.

‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’: Welcome Back, Magic : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

Dismissed by many among the film cognoscenti as shallow spectacle and proclaimed a flop by the media for raking in a mere $24 million on its five-day opening weekend — Disney’s second misfire after “Prince of Persia” — “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” seems positioned for box office oblivion. The wound, beyond competition from “Inception” and the circulation of films like “Despicable Me” and the powerhouse “Toy Story 3,” is arguably self-inflicted. Why did no one who read the script throughout the byzantine process of movie development suggest a more ambitious project? Even on paper, the plot of a boy’s apprenticeship to a sorcerer, loaded with the backstory of a struggle between Merlin’s and Morgana Le Fay’s followers, is exhausted formula.

Inception: Into the Maze We Go : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

Handling dreams like Russian nested dolls is perhaps not, in itself, the most innovative concept given movies like “The Matrix,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” But rarely has the concept been so intelligently and breathlessly executed as in Chris Nolan’s long-gestating project called, with just as much mystery as the film’s marketing build-up, “Inception.” What has been a dormant (pardon the pun) idea used infrequently has, in Nolan’s hands, been revived as a high-concept effort that exposes the Wachowskis’ first (and only worthwhile) Matrix film as entertaining but self-important pulp fiction, and dream-horror movies as cheap manipulation.


The Butcher’s Thumb: Both Up and Down : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

Here’s the foremost question underlying Greg Haas’ “The Butcher’s Thumb”: Does it work to excavate or exploit a wound still receptive to salt?

The answer in...
The Butcher’s Thumb: Both Up and Down : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

The Treasure Hunt Is on : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

Mike Bruce, director of The Legend of God’s Gun, returns with Treasure of the Black Jaguar. He took a few moments to talk to me about his second feature film.

The Treasure Hunt Is on : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE


Obama, You Socialist Tyrant, Please Lead Us! : THE FRONT PAGE ONLINE

Although my column, The Recreational Nihilist, has ended, I can't resist the occasional urge to share an opinion.

Here’s a puzzler. On one side: The Tea Party, Republicans, and what David Frum cleverly labeled the conservative entertainment industry. On the other: A nation experiencing systemic shock from the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. What happens when the two meet?

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Review: The Young Conservative's Field Guide

Greetings - After taking an unannounced break from updating this blog, I've decided to wake things up again. Over the next few days, I'll post links to all my work starting from where I left off, beginning with a book review, links to which are provided below. Then I'll launch into a new program to complement updates about my work. Thanks for reading! : f :

As a non-narrative book, The Young Conservative’s Field Guide: Facts, Charts and Figures, by Brenton Stransky and Andrew Foy, M.D., defies the usual short review and asks instead for a more comprehensive discussion. That discussion is offered to you in several parts: