Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: White Sox/Cubs game on 6.20.11 – Game 2 of the BP Cup – The Tipping Point

This is my first foray into reviewing, but, God willing, it won’t be my last.

Scratch that. I’ve been reviewing things my whole life. In many forms, just not necessarily in written format. Most of my reviews have been the old fashioned way, by campfire. But it’s a new millennium! And has been for almost 12 years! Probably time to de-commission that saying from my arsenal!

Further, I’ve noticed reviews are on the upswing, and I’m nothing if not receptive to a changing climate. Time I get on the bullet train to Coolsville, because you know what gang? I’ve been stuck at the train station in Septic City for quite some time.

Enough about me, and on to the game.

So, my dad and I work at the same company, and had taken two cars to work that day. Natch, I don’t live with my parents anymore. I’m fucking 35, people. Anyways, we meet at my house after work, to consolidate our driving down to the Cell. We’ve only got one parking pass, and with the BP Cup up for grabs, you know that place will be sold out. Parking at a premium.

My wife greeted us upon return from work, and had made me some Cornell Chicken to sup on. I need a base before going to sporting events, as I have been known to imbibe. Meanwhile, my dad was pacing.

Our baby had not awoken from her nap. Pee-paw was pissed. As a newly minted Pee-paw, he was smitten. For the man who had everything, a granddaughter was not one of those things. Now he had one. He wanted to play with his granddaughter. She was not complying. The pacing continued.

I polished off my chicken, rice and beans and was ready for the night alcohol consumption. I decided to try the new bottle of Bourbon I’d bought. I wanted to be more adult. Miller Lite and RedBull Vodkas were not the drink of adults. No matter the allure of a Dos Equis, my alcohol canvas was drab. I took a quick swig. It did not go well. I’m still waiting to become a man. And anyone who would like a bottle of 12 year old bourbon, let me know.

Eventually the baby awoke, the pacing stopped, and after a brief session of a tortoise playing with a lamb, we were off.

We were to meet my uncle at 630 prior to the game, but the baby had made us late! After a few phone calls, everyone agreed family was more important then promptness, and our late arrival was forgiven.

Ashland to 31st, to Wallace to a bunch of other streets, and we were in the parking lot. The parking attendant was particularly ornery. Many of the cars followed not the directions of the attendant but called their own shots, and parked willy-nilly.

One particular car was garnering the wrath of the attendant until a buxom young lady jumped out. All was forgiven. It was an honest mistake he said. The letch in me respected what he had done. He let his judgment be clouded by boobies. I respect that.

Upon meeting a brief family reunion of sorts, tickets were taken, and in we went.

The game was not sold out. The first time ever.

Kelsey Grammer threw out the first pitch. The theme from Cheers was played. The theme from Back to You was not played. Nor was the theme from the Housewives of Orange county.

Baseball was played.

In the 5th inning the skies ominously looked upon us. My friend and I decided to take cover in the bullpen bar, before hell broke loose. My uncle aka my ride, did not. Hell broke lose, and I was stuck drinking beers in the interim. My ride left, leaving me to take the train home.

After a 100 minute rain delay, it was too late to stay. I had to wake early the next day, and did not want to deal with a full train. I’m fucking 35, people. So I bid adieu to the Cell and Redlined to the Blueline.

Baseball Continued.

Popping out of the division street exit, I walked home. But not before I popped into a bar to take a whiz. The Miller Lite hath cometh to fruitionith.

Feeling like I shouldn’t piss and ditch, I ordered a beer. A PBR Draft. The cost? A BUCK FIFTY. Again, it was A BUCK FIFTY. This could be my new place. Empty. Cheap. Just like me.

How could this place have slipped under my nose? And so close to my house? Mydearlord. I looked around to take in the scene. No one spoke English. A large Pool Table dominated what could have been the world’s most awkward dance floor. The woman next to me asked the bartender if she could smoke inside. The bartender said sure and lit up herself. I think that woman might’ve been a prostitute. I can’t decide.

I asked the bartender to turn the game on, as, I probably should see the game all the way through. Bitter end and all, you know. She said it had been cancelled. I rebuked that thought and told her I’d just arrived from the game and the BP Cup was back on!

She turned the channel from Law and Order, and, it was, back on.

Only the 8th. I took off, planning on catching the last inning at home.

My wife had been trying to furiously catch up on madmen, and she had an episode in the blueray box. “Too far in to change it”. With the baby in the bedroom, I was shit out of tvs.

So I fired up the gamecast on and watched dots and names run around on a refurbished Dell until the game was over. 4 -3 Sox winner. Sweet.

Baseball had Ended.

Shit. Peggy is a department head now on Madmen? I’ve missed a bunch of episodes. Too many.

Then I went to bed.

It’s been that kind of season for the Sox, Cubs, and baseball in general. Sort of unfocused and all over the place.

Cornell Chicken: A
Sox: C
Cubs: C
Baseball: C +
$1.50 PBR: A
Rain: D +
Boobie Lady: B
Good Whiskey: D
Forgiveness: A –

-Pete Fitz

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Men of a Certain Age (TV Review)

"Or, how people keep going."  That perhaps should be the subtitle of this show.  Or maybe, "Ray Romano Can Act."  Or, "I Wish Peter Boyle Was Still Alive To Be On This Show."  Mostly because Peter Boyle is a god among men.

This little show is critically acclaimed, and I'm about to acclaim it more, so bear with me.  I'm not even the target demo for it, but I watch it every week.  It's not especially remarkable...the filmmaking is competent, the stories are mostly boilerplate, and the music choices are a bit too on-the-nosey sometimes.  But I keep coming back for the acting.  Oh, the acting.  It's really top-shelf, and there's a reason for that.  It has to be.

Men of a Certain Age focuses on three men, roughly of the "past middle-age, pushing 50" variety.  They all happen to be close friends, and live in beautiful sunny Southern California.  There's Joe (Ray Romano), the divorced father of two and recovering gambling addict; Terry (Scott Bakula), the single and philandering failed actor; and Owen (Andre Braugher), the family man and car dealership owner with daddy issues.

Let's go in order of greatness here:

1.  Andre Braugher is the shit.  He's always been the shit, and always will be the shit.  Talk about technique and emotional power.  I really don't think there's any doubt that Braugher always brings the goods, and as Owen he's crushing it...through subtle choices that lesser actors would easily fumble.  Plus, not much vanity in his performance.  Here's a guy who has no problem being fat around the middle, and making it work for him because that's what the character would look like.  He also was the voice of Darkseid in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, which is soooooooo dope.

2.  Ray Romano is handling his business.  Not only as a showrunner (this is his and Mike Royce's project after all), but as a lead actor with an extremely difficult part.  Now, full disclosure, I've always liked Ray.  Even on Everybody Loves Raymond, which I still catch from time to time (usually to see a little Boyle action, because that guy is a goddamned hero), although it is very much a standard sitcom.  One of the better ones, for sure, but still pretty run of the mill.  And see, Ray could have just done ANOTHER one of those silly little disposable sitcoms.  It would have been easy and I'm sure he was flooded with mediocre scripts that would feature him as a wacky dad, or a wacky cop, or a wacky accountant, or some such bullshit.  But, he decided to challenge himself and write an hour long comedy/drama with indie-film sensibilities that he had to be SURE no one would watch.  And then he went ahead and gave himself the hardest role, AND cast great actors to surround himself with because it would help THE SHOW.  Yeah, you could say my respect for this guy went up a notch.  Plus, he got to feel up Patricia Heaton in her straight-up MILF phase, so big ups to him from Jamaica, Queens.

3.  Scott Bakula, switching it up to fiction from science fiction, does a solid job.  Listen, I love Bakula and the guy gets a free pass for life thanks to Quantum Leap, but unfortunately he's the weakest link here.  I'm not saying he's bad, but he's just serviceable.  I guess on a show like Quantum Leap, he had a chance to shine because he's surrounded by different actors every week of varying quality (not counting Dean Stockwell, who rules) and his stint in the Star Trek universe worked for him because can you name another damn person from Enterprise?  Thought so.  Here he's simply alright, and that's enough.  He certainly gets the "failed actor" mentality...and his character answers that question, "How long will you convince yourself that a dream is attainable?"  A really, really long time is the answer.  Something tells me that there are millions of guys like Terry in LA, still waiting and hoping and living in cheap one bedrooms and shtupping waitresses from the local diner because that's the only shtupping available.  And, every once in a while he'll really hit it out of the park, with a gesture or glint in the eye that shows you he knows what he's doing.

So, the acting is good (bordering on great), right?  How does the actual show hold up?  Pretty's interesting enough to keep me coming back.  Plus, they certainly get the right supporting actors (Robert Loggia, Jon Manfrellotti, Penelope Ann Miller) to hold up the show.  The pace is great, because it has settled into that weird period in life when everything seems to go really slow, until it doesn't.  And, the fact that someone is writing and producing a show about 3 guys turning 50?  You will NEVER see that again in this youth-obsessed world, and you should because, homies, we ALL gonna get there someday.

Give this one a chance, and you won't regret it.  A simple television show, with enough honesty to fill your garage.

Men of a Certain Age: A-

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sketchbook/X-Men: First Class (Collaboraction) Compare/Contrast

A sketchbook picture of the X-Men

Last Saturday, I saw X-Men: First Class and Collaboraction’s SKETCHBOOK: Evolution -- both during opening weekend! Since I had caught the fifth installment in the X-Men series earlier in the day, it was weighing on my mind as I sat in the audience later that night in Chopin Theatre. The movie and festival seem ripe for comparison. After all, both focused loosely on the theme of evolution! Below you’ll find my running comparison of the elements in the sci-fi action blockbuster, X-Men: First Class, and the festival of avant garde short works, Sketchbook: Evolution.

Franchise History

If you are unfamiliar with these two franchises, and the Genus: Species format of the titles didn’t tip you off, allow me to clue you in: both X-Men: First Class and SKETCHBOOK: Evolution are part of successful, long-running series. I won’t bother getting into the whole Marvel-ous history behind the X-Men franchise. What’s important to know for the purposes of this comparison is that the first X-Men movie came out just one year before the first Sketchbook festival. Coincidence? Unlikely. But check this out: there have been 11 Sketchbook festivals, and only five X-Men movies! SKETCHBOOK clearly has the upper-hand in terms of output. (And let’s just be honest: X-Men 3 was barely serviceable, and X-Men: Origins? Absolute garbage.)

I haven’t seen any of the earlier SKETCHBOOK festivals, so that’s about all I can say on this subject.



X-Men: First Class stars the guy from Inglourious Basterds (the one with the unconvincing German accent) as Magneto, and according the IMDB, the voice of Gnomeo plays Charles Xavier. It also features that hot girl from that movie about growing up with an extended family of meth dealers in the Ozarks, except they dolled her up in this one so she actually looks attractive, and so then she forgot how to act? On the other hand, SKETCHBOOK: Evolution stars your freshman roommate from DePaul Theater School, a barista from Intelligentsia who handed you a flyer while you were ordering a coffee and scone, and Steve Wilson’s high school acting class.

I’d say the performance quality in these two ventures was about equal: there were some great performances and there were some amateur performances. Pint-sized theater prodigy Ada Grey was in one of the sketches, and she absolutely stole the show. Ada is six years old, and I’m pretty sure that her theater blog has more followers than Iews You Can Use (but that’s okay, we’re not sweating it, RIGHT GUYS?). And it turns out she’s also a natural performer, too. Of course. WTF. She is six years old! I couldn’t even tie my own shoes when I was six. Honestly, Ada Grey was probably the most evolved thing in the whole festival.



It’s a little unfair to try to compare plots, because SKETCHBOOK: Evolution had like 16 plots, more or less (some of the pieces didn’t technically have “plots”), whereas X-Men: First Class, being borne of a single script, had one plot. But this is as good a place as any to mention “The Franchise,” a sketch that spoofed blockbuster franchises and had me wondering about the eight dollars I’d spent on X-Men: First Class. (For the record, I don’t regret it.) “The Franchise” poked fun at Hollywood’s tendency to recycle successful blockbusters into stale carbon copies, to the point where they fall into the absurd.

Generally, I’d have to say that the storylines present here were mostly uninspired (and I’m talking now about both X-Men: First Class and the majority of the pieces in SKETCHBOOK: Evolution). The stories were entertaining, yes, but the theme is supposed to be evolution here, right? Genetic mutation! Rapidly advancing technology changing the way humans function! Shit like that! There has to be something more original that this incredibly talented theater community can dredge up than a sketch about an iPhone intervention, or a story about a pair of two-dimensional scientists who discover the third dimension. The fifth X-Men installment also suffers from tired ideas that tend to weigh down the action, but that’s Hollywood, so what do you expect really?

Since I’ve been told that I have difficulty managing my expectations, I’m adjusting the grades for “plot” based on the fact that I had extremely low expectations for X-Men: First Class, and perhaps unreasonably high expectations for SKETCHBOOK: Evolution.


Special Effects

This is a no-brainer, right? X-Men: First Class obviously takes this one. X-Men’s budget was like a million times SKETCHBOOK’s. I don’t actually know the budget for either of these ventures, but it’s not even a fair fight. So I’ll give SKETCHBOOK: Evolution an A for effort. They had a freaking awesome puppet. And there were some interesting things they tried to do with overhead projectors.

(Could air-conditioning be considered a special effect? SKETCHBOOK gets an F for air-conditioning.)


Final results

So which should YOU go see, X-Men: First Class, or SKETCHBOOK: Evolution? What do you think I’m going to say? This is a theater site, right? Look, SKETCHBOOK: Evolution closes in just a couple weeks. X-Men: First Class, however, will likely be available in one form or another for eternity. Based on the grade point average I’ve calculated for each of these two events, SKETCHBOOK: Evolution get the upper hand, ever so slightly. But that doesn’t even account for live theater’s limited shelf-life. Once SKETCHBOOK closes, you won’t be able to find it On Demand or on Blu-ray. Go see this show!


-Joe Tansino

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Super 8 (Movie)

I hardly ever go to the movies because I feel like watching something at home from the RedBox is easier and cheaper. I don't really care about 3D and I also think most movies are pretty stupid except for movies that Jeff Bridges or Woody Harrelson or Val Kilmer are in.

Those are my favorite guys, and since they hardly do any big budget flicks anymore, I don't care about anything. But every once in a while, a movie comes along that really gets me interested in going out and seeing something.

Then, I have to convince my wife to go, because she likes movies about notebooks and princesses and you will NEVER see Woody Harrelson be in a movie about princesses OR notebooks.

So, after all this negotiating and cleaning and other chores I have to do, I finally got her to go with me to hit up the Davis Theater in Lincoln Square to see the wildly anticipated and record breaking summer extravaganza entitled "Super 8" from the same people who brought you "Felicity".

Now I realize that a lot of people haven't seen this movie yet, so I will not give anything away, but let me tell you about it (and since I don't remember any characters names, I will make them up).

Brian is this kid who's mother died. His dad is the town Sheriff and should have been played by Val Kilmer. So Brian likes to make movies with his friends where there are zombies and stuff and then he meets this girl from his school named Darlene that he has a big crush on.
So Brian gets Darlene to be in the movie and while they are filming there is a big train accident right in front of them! Then while the train crashes, something crazy climbs out of the train!

Then the Air Force comes to town and they are gonna try to stop the thing that climbed out of the train but nobody knows what it is in the town, because the military won't tell them, but WE know it's something really really bad.
So, where was I?
Oh right, so the military is led by this dude who you probably know from other movies but in this he has a beret on. Isn't it funny how sometimes people wear hats and then you can't figure out who they are? Man, one time I used to have this hat that was sort of like a fedora and I was wearing it and I snuck up on my friend and scared him because it was dark and he thought I was somebody else in that hat!
So, this beret guy called Corporal Steve is not telling anybody about the thing that climbed out of the train but we know it is a monster, but the characters don't know yet.

Anyway, the kids have to stop the monster from destroying everything they love, blah blah blah.

This is an awesome summer movie for a couple reasons, but the most important one being it isn't adapted from anything else. It's just a stand alone movie, and that, to me, is so nice to see. It certainly has an E.T. quality to it and it also has a Goonies quality to it because of the friends and all that bullshit.

Anyway, I recommend seeing it. You will have fun and if you have any kids, you would probably have even more fun.

It isn't the best thing ever made, but for a summer movie, you will be hard pressed to find anything else as interesting and fun to see that everybody can agree on.

Here are a few pull quotes for the movie producers of Super 8 who are reading this right now looking for some stuff for their new commercials:

"Super 8 will make you GLAD TO BE ALIVE!"
"Super 8 for President of Movies!"
"JJ Abrams finally makes a decent monster movie!"
"More like Super GREAT!"
"Don't try to whack off to this because there will be too many kids there!"


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Being Tired (early fatherhood review)

This is me at 2 months old, already feeling tired because of some OTHER baby

Yep, you get tired.  Really, really tired.  And there's no time to really do anything else but take care of your baby.  Or take out the trash.  Or do the dishes.  Or play with the baby so mom can take a 5 minute shower.

So tired.  I mean, wasted.  Pooped.  GONE.  And forget about seeing plays, or movies, or even TV.  I think during his first month of life I would watch the local news and "I Love The 70s" on VH1.  Those were the only programs that my mind could tolerate.

I so thought I would hate this.  My non-baby self was dreading the horrible tiredness and the changes and all that.  But then he goes ahead and does this:

And I don't care how tired I am. matter what...I still can't stand being covered in his shit and puke.

Oh well.  Keep smiling through that vomit, bud.

-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lighthousekeeping (New Leaf Theatre/DCA) 10 Things

1. While I was waiting in the lobby Artistic Director Jessica ‘movie star hair’ Hutchinson came over to say hello and thanked me for coming. Jessica is director the play I am about to enumerate for you and is also my neighbor. Here is a picture, taken from our back stairwell, of a box of kitty litter outside her apartment next to the box my crock pot came in, outside mine.

1. Did you see New Leaf’s fantastic The Man Who Was Thursday a few years ago. You didn’t? You missed it? Well…it was GREAT. Jessica directed that, too.

2. When you walk in the theatre, you hear some lively Celtic music that seems Irish. Then you realize you are in a lighthouse, with three long rows of seats on either side of the set. This may be my favorite use of the DCA Storefront space ever. The slight smoky mist: nice touch.

3. All of my knowledge of lighthouses comes from The Simpsons so this should be cool.

4. This is a play of two intertwining stories. Silver is telling us the story of how she came to take care of the lighthouse and how she came to leave as Pugh, the lighthousekeeper, is telling Silver the story of the conflicted Babel Dark and his lost love Molly. The play switches between scenes and direct address (Silver only, if I recall) to accomplish these story gymnastics. It spans quite a few years and is about many things; the nature of stories; that we don’t use linear narratives to remember our lives; growing up; and you can never go home.

5. The lights are pretty gorgeous throughout and are at times pretty breathtaking. The dress that Molly wears is [SPOLIER ALERT] two dresses, with a few little pulls of a string long underskirt appears and we travel back in time. This is pretty ingenious.

6. The acting is uniformly good. Even the kid, Caroline Phillips, who plays young Silver, is good. Can we take a second to give it up for the character actor who plays many roles and changes costumes constantly and also has to establish an entire human being with wants and needs in a matter of just a few seconds. This show is blessed with such actors.

7. Scott Ray Merchant could have his own Little Britain style variety show; he switches between the guys he plays with great ease.

8. One thing I love is when a show incorporates something that people only do outside like [SPOILER ALERT] swinging on a practical swing.

9. From my friend Katy Dailey, who came with me to the play: “I don’t know why but I am obsessed with that armchair up there with the stuffing flying out of it in mid-air. It is so dream-like.” And she is right. That detail and all the others like it make this a lovely evening at the theatre.

Go see this play!


-Anita Deely

Monday, June 13, 2011

Alien Queen (Scooty and Jojo Show)

When was the last time you went to the Metro?
I had never been before but had always heard about it. It's this big ole auditorium built in the 1700's where they used to have slave auctions or something I heard.

Anyway, now they don't use it for slave auctions anymore. Now they use it for gay robot dance troupes.

The opening act that was playing when we arrived was called "Battlestar Fantastica" and they are a variety show thing where a bunch of gay guys dress up in crazy clothes and do robot dances and stripper dances and stuff.

Now I'm an old fashioned dude and was hoping to see some more boobs or even perhaps a rogue dong. No such luck, because they are artists and artists don't just go flashing dongmeat to anybody. Instead they wear pasties and dance to Lionel Ritchie.

This has always been my main issue with the art form of Burlesque. The ancient technique of dance that involves dressing up like a Ninja or a schoolgirl, taking off your clothes but not showing any naked parts and dancing to a Poison song.

Poison would want you to take your clothes off and bang a bunch of audience members. So would Skid Row, but not Roxette.

Then there was a break in entertainment before the main event started.
Now I don't know tons about the movie "Alien" or the band "Queen" but there were like 800 people there who were ready to rock, so I knew I needed to bone up FAST!

The idea of the show is pretty cool. These guys take the movie Alien and make it a stage musical with the songs of Queen.

I like some Queen songs and thought I knew a lot of them, but I guess I don't because I just knew like, 8 of them. They play a lot of deep cuts, which I bet is pretty exciting if you are a big fan.

Now, the movie Alien is a classic. It's about this spaceship that has robots and aliens and people and the guy screams "Game Over Man!!" in it.
Everybody knows this movie so I don't feel like I need to describe it too much.

The Scooty and Jojo Show have done this sort of thing before with "Carpenter's Halloween" where they take the movie "Halloween" and mix it with the music of The Carpenters. It's this sort of kitschy thing that I bet a lot of people love because people like both of those things and why not have them together? Like chicken and waffles and porn and Nascar.

That makes me want to change my porn name to Dale Earnhard Jr. because people will recognize that name and maybe more people will buy my porn movies.

Anyway, listen gang. This show is really fun and the band kills it. The actors are great singers and just perfect for a room like this. So please go see this show so we can compare notes.

Plus, when was the last time you saw an awesome band play and had fun with your friends?


-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach

Friday, June 10, 2011

Yasmina's Necklace: A Staged Reading (The Den Theatre)

I have been thinking about Yasmina’s Necklace—the complex and deceptively powerful new play from Rohina Malik—all week.

In our own city, the heavy pollution of bigotry has thinned in the past seven days, and an atmosphere suitable for all living, breathing things is finally perceptible; our legislators have—at long fucking last—recognized that gay men and women can legally couple in a kinda-mostly-the-same-sort-of way as “regular” people. Through angry propaganda and hatred, the basic right to love was finally granted.

For those who advocate egalitarianism, the vulgar braying of a callow populace can actually be fairly comforting. One sees a wrong-headed opponent loudly gushing intolerance like a wimpy firefighter handling his first hose, and one feels an annoyed amusement at the situation: You may get a little wet, but they’re the ones who are going to break something. Because the argument against tolerance always goes something like, “Those people are different and if we recognize them as being equal to us in any way then a baby will be killed by a dog-blowing Unitarian with an anti-Easter agenda.” And so the battle cry of open-mindedness becomes: Victory via revelatory preposterousness!

One only need catalog the test-flares fired by the proponents of idiocy to understand: *BOOM* Gay marriage directly leads to the dissolution of the family! *BOOM* Immigrants are all leaving anchor babies in Fresno to tether themselves to our social safety nets! *BOOM* How dare they build a mosque at Ground Zero! Sharia law! Jihad! Muslims!

What is truly embarrassing is that this blathering even finds a foothold to begin with. Things like love and understanding are jettisoned so quickly in favor of screeching accusations that one is aghast at the effort needed simply to maintain the high levels of ignorance. Because hate does not come face to face with who or what is being hated. Rather, hate gurgles and sputters in it’s own putridity. It’s like a deep-fat fryer: Whatever you cook in it may taste delicious at first, but it’ll fucking kill you.

Now, I realize the contradiction in speaking about tolerance and love in such a vitriolic way for I too feel the tinge of hatred towards those who violently oppose what it is I know to be right. And on a basic, emotional level, I understand where they are coming from; a threat is a threat and must be destroyed.

It’s just…when you see a play like Yasmina’s Necklace—which tells the story of two young Muslims trying to love each other despite being viciously damaged by the unjust war in Iraq and the never-ending suspicions of a country they desperately need to call home, you get very upset that is has to be so hard for them because it really shouldn’t have to be.

Yasmina’s Necklace: A+

-John Taflan