Archive for the “Theater” Category

X-Men 3

*spoilers ahead*

How do you destroy a highly anticipated summer blockbuster like X-Men 3? Well, start by pulling the director of the two previous hit movies in the series off the project to get the struggling Superman Returns project back on track. Have said director take most of his production staff, including writers, with him. Then, by some freak coincidence, get the director who was messing up Superman to do X-Men 3. I wanted to like the movie–I really did–but by the end I just didn’t care anymore. I had written off the movie as if it had never existed.

First, what possessed Brett Ratner and his crew to think that they should kill off 3–three!–main characters. Granted, yes, it is often necessary to depart from the written text to tell the story on screen, as Bryan Singer did quite effectively and forgivably in 1 & 2. However, to kill off Cyclops and Professor X in addition to Jean Grey, that’s sacrilege. (I grant that Jean Grey was a natural candidate for death, since Phoenix dies and resurrects all the time, but the post-credit “resurrection” of Professor X doesn’t redeem Ratner one iota.) Imagine if for some hypothetical dramatic effect, Peter Jackson had killed off Aragorn in Return of the King. LotR fans would have rioted in the streets. There are some things you just don’t do–certain characters that you just don’t kill off. Naughty Brett Ratner! Naughty!

Second, Phoenix was totally lame. With a huge FX budget, couldn’t they have pulled off a flaming, bird-shaped aura for her, as she’s supposed to have and as was hinted at in X-Men 2? All we get is a single instance of a bright, off-screen light just before she appears to Scott. Furthermore, when she wasn’t killing off a main character or two (or trying to), she mostly stood around and did absolutely nothing for extended periods of time. For example, during the Alcatraz fight sequence, she pretty much just stood off in the distance as the rest of the mutants got their butts kicked. Was she even in the frame whenever the camera cut to Magneto & Pyro during the fight? Some ultimate destructive power.

Third, Magneto acted quite out of character in my opinion. For someone who is fighting for mutant rights supremacy, he sure has a cavalier attitude towards the “pawns” that he supposedly wants to help.

Finally, at a paltry 104 minutes, the movie is the shortest of the three, and it has a definite negative effect. The movie is a rapid-fire series of action sequences that disposes of such things as continuity and character development. For example, did you notice that the Golden Gate Bridge scene started at early evening and a few minutes later as the siege of Alcatraz began it was the dark of night. As for character development, how about this scene where Magneto frees Multiple Man (paraphrased to the best of my memory):

Magneto: “I could use a man of your talents.”

Multiple Man: “I’m in.”

Really, Multiple Man? Some random guy lets you out and without so much as asking who he is or why he wants a man of your talents, you’re ready to join up with him? Riiiight…

Was there anything that I liked? Sure. Shadowcat and Colossus got some time to shine. The movie attempted to continue asking questions about handling power responsibly and ethically. However, ultimately, all the redeemable qualities were vastly overshadowed by a horrible story, crappy writing, and poor directing. As an X-Men fan, I was sorely disappointed.

*end spoilers*

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On the other hand, this year’s Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis presentation of Julius Caesar in Forest Park was outstanding! I met up with my friends Jessica & James after work on Monday, which was a beautiful, sunny yet cool day. We enjoyed the antics of Jeff the Juggler—a favorite from last year—and of the wandering magician who performed right in front of our blanket. The play itself was thoroughly enjoyable. The majority of the actors did a fine job and the set was creative and well-utilized. Plus, we had really good seats.

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Last year I decided to give the MUNY (the musical theater in Forrest Park) a shot, and I went to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s, figuring it would be good since the movie is so popular. Unfortunately, by the end of the first half, I wanted to kill all the characters. Holly Golightly was loathsomely conceited, and all the guys fawning over her incessantly were utterly pathetic. The only reason I didn’t leave at intermission was my pesky hope that there would be some redeeming value in the end. I was wrong.

When some of my friends from small group began making plans to go to the MUNY to see West Side Story this week, I decided to give the MUNY a second chance. After all, West Side Story first became famous as a stage musical. This time I was pleased. There were a few things that bugged me, such as how Tony and Maria fell madly in love from opposite ends of the stage in all of 2 seconds. However, this reworking of the Romeo & Juliet story was overall entertaining, emotional, and thought-provoking.

Here’s one provoked thought… In the course of the story, the Puerto-Rican gang girls break out in song about how great America is compared to Puerto Rico. My question is how to take this song. Is it a comical celebration of American affluence, or is it a satire on American materialism? In the context of the stage musical it seems to me to be more of the former. However, the movie version (as I discovered this evening) changes the context by having the Puerto-Rican gang leader interject cynical comments about institutionalized racism, which makes the rewritten movie version strongly satirical. It is also interesting to note that Five Iron Frenzy (one of my favorite bands, BTW) took the chorus of “America” and used it in their song “Beautiful America”, which is a scathing attack on American materialism:

The man on the television said I need to drink this, and sleep with that, in order to be cool. And you know that I would do anything, to be like that guy on TV. I know that if I had just the right outfit and hairstyle that could be me. Don’t you know you can’t be cool if you dress dumb, I need to have that ’cause everybody’s got one. I think I’ll start smoking, that would make me intellectual, that’s what I’ve always wanted to be. I need to lift weights, that would make me more sexual, and that would be good for me.

Chorus:
In America it’s wonderful,
all you have to do is fake it.
Own anything you want,
all you have to do is take it.
Live for today,
don’t think about tomorrow,
have a good time in America-Gomorrah.

What are you looking at, you better not make me mad. I’ll drive by your house and shoot your dog, and mom, and dad. I don’t need you or the Bible or anything to tell me what is the law. With a good enough lawyer I can do anything in Beautiful America.

Chorus

I want to be in America
Okay for me in America
Everything’s free in America
For a small fee in America

(Lyrics by Dennis Culp & Stephen Sondheim; from the album Upbeats and Beatdowns)

What do you think? Does the original musical have a more positive view of wealth and the U.S. than the later movie version? Or did the movie just make more explicit that which was already in the musical? Or is it a little bit of both?

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The Tempest

First up, Shakespeare in the Park. Saint Louis has an excellent Shakespeare festival every year in Forrest Park. This year featured a performance of _The Tempest_. While perhaps not Shakespeare’s finest work, the performance was rather good. Many of the actors had a really good time with their parts, and the set was awesome. I also thoroughly enjoyed the hilarious antics of Juggling Jeff—one of the pre-show entertainment acts. The overall experience was so good, I went twice! The first time was with some co-workers one day after work. The other was with my Dad when he visited during Father’s Day weekend.

Second, cool summer movies. ‘Nuff said.

Star Wars III Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Batman Begins

Third, June is the month of conferences. Things got off to an early start in May when I went to the IUG (Innovative Users Group) conference in San Francisco. The conference was good, and I was also happy to have the chance to meet up with one of my first college friends, Kimberly. Earlier this month, I went to the annual MOBIUS (Missouri Bibliographic Information User System) conference in Lake Ozark, MO. Spanning only two days, it was rather short and uneventful. Although, I did get to enjoy the Japanese garden at the Lodge of the Four Seasons where the conference was held and where I stayed. After that, I got to hold down the fort… er… library while several of my coworkers went to the ATLA (American Theological Library Association) conference. Finally, just last weekend I went up with some coworkers to the ALA (American Library Association) conference in Chicago for a day to see the vendor exhibits. The really fun part was getting to spend Friday evening with John & Ellise. We had an excellent dinner at the Red Star Tavern, enjoyed some of the Swedish Days festival in downtown Geneva, and then watched Shaun of the Dead.

Next on the schedule, I’ll be spending a good part of July editing an article for publication in Presbyterion, the seminary’s journal.

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