Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Lord of the Rings:The Fellowship of the Ring; Expanded Version

At three hours running time already, why would you need an expanded version of TFR?

I'll tell you why:
More Galadriel
More Hobbits
More Shire
More Arwen
More Aragorn

Clocking in at just over three and a half hours, The Fellowship of the Ring is still not over long. The new material adds to the story and I watched each new segment with pleasure. They were like grace notes that, while not strictly needed in the melody, make a song breath.

The only mild annoyance is that if you don't have a multi DVD player, you have to get up off the couch to put in a second DVD.

The bonus material comes on two more DVDs and I haven't had the chance to go through all of it yet, but I will before Dec. 18th, when The Two Towers opens. I've already got my ticket.

Posted by Rich
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Star Wars:Attack of the Clones-DVD

When the First Star Wars move was released, I rode my bike down to the theater to watch it. I didn't know much about the movie, but I was a huge Trek fan, so any science fiction film had my attention.

Like many others, I came out of the theater supercharged with excitement. The world of movies had suddenly changed. It wasn't the story, which was cribbed from The Seven Samurai, among other sources. It wasn't the acting, which to my uncritical eye was fine, but nothing out of the ordinary. It wasn't the dialog, which, outside of snappy one liners and quips was awkward and forgettable. The effects were dazzling, far beyond anything we had ever seen before, but we've seen since then that effects alone cannot elevate a sub-par movie.

So why did Star Wars rise above it's mediocre plot, dialog and acting? Two factors stand out. The first is the editing. The first movie was cut together brilliantly, hiding it's many flaws, and playing to it's overwhelming strengths. We forgave the wooden acting and sappy dialog because we were never given a chance to dweel on it. The cardboard characters were put through their cliched paces with an energy and a vigor that swept us away with them, carried along by the single most important factor in the succes of Star Wars; the score.

John Williams is the man who made Star Wars what it was. His score gave life to the story, created emotional responses where none existed. It's no surprise that the soundtrack remains one of the top selling original soundtracks of all time.

Why do I include all of this in a review of the DVD for Attack of the Clones?

Because the only scene with any emotional resonance in the entire film is when Annikin looks out over the Tattoine desert while we hear the Skywalker theme, echoing the scene in Star Wars where Luke scans the desert and ponders his semingly barren future.

The rest of the movie is sound and fury, action and adventure, without soul. The romance between Amidala and Anakin is forced, with little to no chemistry. The deleted scenes, which coincidentally almost all had to do with the growing attraction between the two lovers, make this even more apparent, although Lucas claims repeatedly that these scenes were removed for reasons of pacing.

Playing on the small screen makes the movies shortcomings even more apparent. No longer overwhelmed by the visual feast, which is truly spectacular, the flaws are thrown into relief. It's telling that the advance reviews of the DVD focused on it's technical brilliance, leaving unspoken the acknowledgement that the actual content was weak. In short, while technically brilliant, this is a fairly lame movie. George Lucas wisely decided to produce Empire and Jedi, allowing others to direct and screenwrite. I can only hope he does the same for the last movie.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, November 13, 2002

A Bargain at twice the price

Start with Second City, throw in a scoop of Monty Python, add a dash of grits and you have Einstein Simplified, an improv comedy troupe in Knoxville. (That e on the end of troupe adds class to this blog. Goodness knows it needs it!)

I went to see Einstein Simplified at their regular gig at Patrick Sullivan's Saloon in the Olde City. (I'm just dripping with class, ain't I?) The show is on the third floor, starts at 8:30 and runs until about 10:00 give or take a few minutes. Admission is free, but the group does ask for tips at the end of the night.

You might want to get there a little early. I showed up about 8:15, and most of the tables were full. I found an unused table in the back, and dragged it to the backk of the crowd, swiped an unused seat, and I was in business. I sipped my coke, and checked out the crowd while I waited for the show to start. There were about 50-60 people there, mostly UT students, but some older folks were scattered through the audience.

The show began shortly after 8:30, with the entire company taking the stage. One member acts as MC, running the show while the rest performs the games. If you've seen Whose Line Is It Anyway, either the BBC or US versions, you know how the show goes. What you may not know is that taping for Whose Line runs anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. The tape is then edited to get the best thirty minutes. Einstein Simplified doesn't have that luxury. They work live, without a net. Fortunately, the guys are up to the task. The audience is called on to provide locations, topics, actions, whatever the MC needs to set up the performers.

The show is certainly not a family show, which is fitting, since it's held in a Saloon, after all. There are no mikes, but since the room isn't all that big, hearing isn't a problem, unless you're next to some guy trying to pick up a girl during the show. Who tries to pick up women at a comedy club anyway? I know girls all say they like guys who make them laugh, but have you ever seen a comedian chased down the street by his groupies?

The guys were all sharp, and up to the challenges of live improv comedy. Wes, the token tall guy, has a mind that operates at a 90 bend to reality. When asked to make a joke about prima donnas, he made a joke about pre-Madonnas. Paul is a virtual clone of Michael Jeter, and is just as funny. One of his best bits was as an old man, remembering the past "When I was a young man, the snap of a rubber glove didn't scare me." In comedy, it's a rule of thumb that when in doubt, you go for the dick joke. Last night, Bill was in doubt a lot. Frank unveiled a singing voice fit for the Met; not the Opera House, the ball field. Brad, who is best described as "value sized" got off the best quip of the night when the MC, in order to hurry him along, shouted that there was a stripper in the cake. Brad quickly replied, "There's cake?" Justin was the MC, and Todd was there too. Sorry Todd, I know you got a good bit or two in last night, but my cat ate my PDA, and I had to rely on memory instead of notes for this review. I'll make it up to you next time...

Each game lasts 5-10 minutes, and the show passes quickly. Before you know it, the house lights come up, and the MC is passing around the tip jar. The show is free, and worth every penny; I even tipped 15%. I felt guilty about stiffing the guys, so I came home to write this review.

If you ever get to Knoxville on a Tuesday, go see the guys of Einstein Simplified, and enjoy some good improv. They're funnier than you are, and will tell you so at the end of the show.

That's it! Todd plays a mean acoustic guitar...

By the way, the rude guy utterly failed to pick up the girl. There is justice in the world.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 21, 2002

Saturday Night Live rocks!

John McCain was the guest host, and he took no prisoners. HIs demolition of Babs Streisand was devastatingly funny, although I'm sure she's not laughing.
"I've been in politics for over 20 years, and for over 20 years, I've had Barbra Streisand trying to do my job," said McCain during the spot. "So I decided to try my hand at her job."

The Republican, who in real life is known to be a fan of The Beach Boys, also slaughtered other tunes by the longtime Democrat activist, including "People" and "The Way We Were."

"Do I know how to sing?" McCain asked. "About as well as she knows how to govern America," he said to roaring laughter from the studio audience.

Posted by Rich
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