CliqueClack Big voices. Little censors. Thu, 02 Apr 2015 13:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Goodbye CliqueClack. Hello Hotchka. Thu, 02 Apr 2015 13:00:20 +0000 cliqueclack oldHello, everyone! It has come time for for us to say goodbye.]]> cliqueclack old
Hello, everyone! It has come time for for us to say goodbye.

It’s hard to believe that it was over six years ago that I and some ex-TV-Squaders started CliqueClack. We had some pretty high hopes at the time, that we could go out on our own and show AOL what it really meant to be writer-fans of television. It was an incredibly ambitious goal that we never came close to, but we quickly learned that that didn’t matter to us. What did matter was that we had an outlet to write what we wanted, when we wanted, for people who continued to engage in discussion with us.

It’s pained me all these years to never have earned enough with ads and Amazon referrals to pay our writers regularly. We’ve certainly lost some great folks because of it, and I don’t blame them at all. Some have gone on to continue writing for paying gigs, full-time, and that’s been awesome. With the declining frequency of posts comes declining traffic, which results in declining ad revenue … you get the picture. Maybe that’s a bit TMI, but I thought being up-front about where we were at was something I owed you.

This will likely be the final post here at CliqueClack, but there is a silver lining.

For quite some time now, Chuck Duncan and Ivey West had been heading up editing duties for the site. Chuck, I know, very much wants to continue writing. I didn’t want to simply hand over CliqueClack to someone else, though, partly because I’m just not ready to give it away and, primarily, I thought it made more sense to let Chuck have something that was truly his own. That’s just what he’s done.

Friday, April 3, Chuck launches his own site,, to continue where CliqueClack left off. You’ll see some new and familiar faces there, writing about movies, TV, pop culture, and anything else Chuck might want to throw into the mix. He and his partner, Carl, have already done a fantastic job putting the site together, and I think you’re really going to dig it.

As for CliqueClack, my plan is to keep all of our 11,000+ posts around for as long as I’m possibly able, even if they are thrown in straight HTML and image files in a searchable archive somewhere. I think it’s criminal when sites decide to completely wipe away all traces of past content when they shutter, and dammit I’m going to do my best to make sure that never happens here.

Thank you so much to the writers and, of course, to all of you readers who’ve stuck with us all these years.

Photo Credit: Keith McDuffee
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Win passes to see Furious 7 first in Boston or Hartford Mon, 16 Mar 2015 14:00:20 +0000 Film Title: Furious 7Rev your engines and get ready to roll! We've got free passes to the advance screening of 'Furious 7' and you can grab a pair. Read on to find out how!]]> Film Title: Furious 7
Rev your engines and get ready to roll! We’ve got free passes to the advance screening of ‘Furious 7′ and you can grab a pair. Read on to find out how!


CliqueClack has partnered with Universal Pictures to offer readers in Boston and Hartford an opportunity to attend an advance screening of the new action film Furious 7 starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Lucas Black, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Nathalie Emmanuel, with Kurt Russell and Jason Statham.

Continuing the global exploits in the unstoppable franchise built on speed, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson lead the returning cast of Furious 7. James Wan directs this chapter of the hugely successful series.

The screening will take place Tuesday, March 31, 7:00 PM at AMC Boston Common and AMC Plainville.

Passes will be available on a first come, first served basis. To be eligible, please read and follow the directions CAREFULLY. There will be no exceptions.

  • Comment on this post ONLY with HARTFORD. All Boston passes have been claimed. Do not include anything else in the comment box. If you make a mistake, do not edit your comment because it will not register. You must submit a new comment.
  • Include your FULL NAME (First and Last) and email address on the entry form (NOT in the comment box!). Double check your email address before submitting. If your email address is misspelled, you will not receive passes.
  • ONE entry per person or couple will be accepted. CliqueClack has the right to discard any duplicates or comments that appear to be duplicates. Multiple comments from a single person will result in complete disqualification. Keep these offers fair for everyone!
  • Winners will be contacted by email and will receive ONE ADMIT TWO pass. Please make sure to set your filters to accept email from
  • Check your calendar before commenting. If you have no intention of using the passes, please don’t leave a comment. If the studios see that passes we are given to award to our readers are not being used, they will not want to offer us passes for future screenings. Please be considerate!

Please note that passes do not guarantee seats at the screening. Seating is first come, first served so plan to arrive early. CliqueClack has no control over the total number of passes distributed, and is not responsible for seating arrangements at the theater.

Seventh Son is rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language. The movie opens Friday, April 3.

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
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Cinderella weaves its magic and brings a fairy tale to life Fri, 13 Mar 2015 04:00:13 +0000 CINDERELLADisney has taken another classic cartoon and brought it to life, and the live-action version is just as magical.]]> CINDERELLA
Disney has taken another classic cartoon and brought it to life, and the live-action version is just as magical.

Unless you’ve lived under a rock or have lived a very sheltered life, you probably know that Walt Disney became the king of animated films when he first released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. A hit, the film led to more classic fairy tales and children’s stories being brought to life through the wonders of animation.

In 1950, Walt Disney Productions brought Cinderella to the big screen and the film has charmed audiences ever since. Now Disney has gotten into the business of remaking its classic animated films, past and present, as live action extravaganzas. Last year’s Maleficent, based on Sleeping Beauty‘s grand villainess, was a monster success and more remakes — Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book — are in the works (and let’s not forget Disney did remake 101 Dalmations several years ago). For now, we have Disney’s Cinderella brought to magical life.

You probably know the story: young orphan is treated badly by her stepmother and stepsisters, basically treated like the help instead of family, she meets a prince in the forest, he is smitten and holds a ball to which everyone is invited, she arrives with the help of her Fairy Godmother, clock strikes midnight, she must run, loses a shoe and he takes the shoe (a glass slipper) throughout the kingdom to find its owner. And, of course, they live happily ever after. Spoiler alert?

The 1950 version followed that plot and the 2015 version is extremely and thankfully faithful to its source material. There’s been no attempt to modernize the story, although you’d be hard-pressed to pinpoint an exact time period (but there are no cars) which helps make the film and the story timeless.

Lily James makes Ella a nice down-to-earth role model for young girls.

Lily James, better known as Lady Rose MacClare on Downton Abbey, is simply wonderful as Ella (the Cinder part is attached to her after she is forced to work in the kitchen). She radiates innocence and purity and love and happiness, she’s pretty but not beautiful, she gives Ella a nice down-to-earth charm that should be a good role model for young girls. Even in her darkest moments of being emotionally bullied by her step-family, she remains true to herself and never wallows in her own self pity. Once she’s transformed and knows the prince wants to marry her, she still retains that charm that had been instilled in her from childhood. James makes Cinderella someone to really root for.

Cate Blanchett manages to keep Stepmother just this side of a caricature.

On the other hand, you have the deliciously evil Stepmother played with aplomb by Cate Blanchett. The character certainly could have given Blanchett reason enough for some juicy scenery chewing, but she manages to keep Stepmother just this side of a caricature. And as with Maleficent, the script gives us a little bit of an insight into why she’s so mean so as to humanize her, but you’re still happy that she and her daughters get what’s coming to them in the end.

Richard Madden, Game of Thrones‘ Robb Stark, is a prince any girl would want to marry and any boy might aspire to be. Even with his regal bearings, he’s just as down-to-earth as Ella and refuses to be married off to another kingdom’s royalty just because his father and the royal court says that’s the way it’s done. He goes to the end of his land to find the mysterious girl from the ball, and you can’t help but fall in love with them as they fall in love.

Helena Bonham Carter shows up for one scene as the comic relief Fairy Godmother (she also sings “Bibbity Bobbity Boo” over the end credits), Derek Jacobi is the King and Stellan Skarsgård is the Grand Duke. Director Kenneth Brannagh firmly grounds the film in its own special world, opting to use mostly physical sets over the routine CGI creations which really helps the fairy tale fantasy feel more realistic. The scene where the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella must flee the ball before everything returns to their normal states, from lizard footmen to the goose carriage drive, is a breathtakingly shot and edited chase scene that will keep you on the edge of your seat even though you know how it ends. And kudos to the CGI department who really give life to a bunch of digital mice. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear they were real, trained performers.

Cinderella is certainly geared towards a female audience, young and old alike, but the action, special effects and palace intrigue should be appealing to everyone. The film is enjoyably pleasant (and also features some gorgeous costumes) and you won’t feel like you just wasted two hours of your life after you exit the theater.


As a bonus, audiences are treated to the new animated short Frozen Fever featuring the cast of the original film. The story follows Elsa as she tries to plan a birthday party for Anna, but a cold could prevent her from getting Anna to her party. It’s wonderfully animated and tells a cute story with one big laugh, but it’s ultimately not quite as memorable as Frozen. Luckily, Disney announced there will be a Frozen 2, so this should hold fans over until then.

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
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The Flintstones meet the WWE in a Stone Age Smackdown Tue, 10 Mar 2015 21:31:17 +0000 Flinstones 01'The Flintstones' are back in action as Fred and Barney meet prehistoric WWE superstars and team up for a 'Stone Age Smackdown.' Is the new home video worth your hard-earned clams?]]> Flinstones 01
‘The Flintstones’ are back in action as Fred and Barney meet prehistoric WWE superstars and team up for a ‘Stone Age Smackdown.’ Is the new home video worth your hard-earned clams?

Not too long ago, Warner Brothers Animation teamed up the classic Scooby-Doo characters with animated versions of WWE stars in Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery. The pairing must have been successful as the two entertainment giants have joined forces once again, but this time taking a step or two — or 65 million — back in time to meet that modern Stone Age family, The Flintstones.

I grew up watching The Flintstones and I always enjoyed the shows with current stars appearing in Stone Age form like Ann-Margrock and Stoney Curtis. Other celebs, who probably didn’t actually voice their cartoon characters, included Cary Granite, Ed Sulleystone, Rock Hudstone and Perry Masonry. Through many revivals over the years and two live action feature films, the Flintstones and their friends the Rubbles, have encountered many prehistoric versions of modern celebrities. And they’ve done it again with the new home video release The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown.

The new story finds Fred promising to take Wilma and Pebbles on vacation, but as usual, his vacation fund is lacking. Another screw up at his job at the quarry costs him a paycheck, so the only thing he can do is tell Wilma the trip is off. But he knows it’s easier to tame a sabre-tooth tiger than tangle with Wilma. At a Water Buffalo Lodge fair, Barney sells chances for anyone to get into the ring with his pet Hoppy but a belligerent customer berates Hoppy so much that Barney steps in to save the day. He wins the match and Fred hatches an idea: create a sports entertainment event with Barney facing off against a group of people they hire and rake in the clams. Literally, since people pay with clam shells in Bedrock.

The event draws a huge crowd to see Barney face off against John Cenastone, Ray Mysteriopal, and The Undertaker, but Barney’s nemesis CM Punkrock returns for a rematch. When Wilma and Betty discover what’s happening and Barney refuses to get into another match, Fred’s fame and fortune looks like its about to go out the window along with his vacation plans. Will CM Punkrock prevail or get his comeuppance?

The Blu-ray features some of the brightest, most vivid colors you’ve ever seen.

The new Flinstones & WWE video has all the trappings of the usual Flintstones TV episode including all of the “modern” Stone Age gadgets, like an automatic garage door opener, and businesses (Stonebucks Coffee and Marshale’s). The video also runs under 60 minutes, playing like a two-part episode of the TV show rather than a feature film. The animation is clean and fluid and pays homage to the original enough to please long-time fans but is still modern enough for a new generation, and the Blu-ray presents it all in sharp 1080p video with some of the brightest, most vivid colors you’ve ever seen. The audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that also delivers as you would expect from a Warner Brothers title.

The Blu-ray also contains a collection of special features including:

  • The Superstars of Fred Flintstone Entertainment (9:46) — Director and WWE stars talk about the story and how their real life characters were incorporated into a Flintstones story.
  • How To Be a Stone Age Superstar (4:45) — Director Tony Cervone and the WWE stars explain how to create a character’s personality.
  • “The Engagement Ring” (26:22) — Original sports themed The Flintstones episode.
  • “Take Me Out To the Ball Game” (26:05) — Original sports themed The Flintstones episode.
  • Trailers for Scooby-Doo: Wrestlemania Mystery, LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu, Scooby-Doo: Moon Monster Madness
Jeff Bergman totally nails the voice of Fred Flintstone.

The one glaring omission on the bonus material featuring the WWE stars is CM Punk, who quit (or was fired from) the WWE last year. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to participate since he is such an integral character to the plot. That aside, longtime fans of The Flintstones should enjoy this new production chiefly because the actor doing Fred’s voice, Jeff Bergman, is one of the most accurate to the original that I’ve ever heard. The others are close enough, but Bergman really nails it. Other WWE stars lending their voices to the video include Mark Henry (Marble Henry), Daniel Bryan (Daniel Bry-rock), Brie and Nikki Bella (The Boulder Twins) and Mr. McMahon (Mr. McMagma). If you want to relive your childhood, or introduce your own children to The Flintstones, pick up The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown, sit back and, as the theme song says, “you’ll have a gay old time.”

The Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD Combo package was provided to CliqueClack by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment for the purpose of review.

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Photo Credit: Warner Bros Home Entertainment
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Unfinished Business is an unfunny experience Fri, 06 Mar 2015 14:00:15 +0000 unfinished-business-02-gallery-image-gallery-imageUnfinished, unpolished, and unacceptably bad, with misfires on all fronts.]]> unfinished-business-02-gallery-image-gallery-image
Unfinished, unpolished, and unacceptably bad, with misfires on all fronts.

It’s rare for a film to come along and be consistent from head to toe. Which makes Unfinished Business a true feat when you realize just what a failure of a film it is on every conceivable level.

Unfinished Business  is the new “comedy” from the director of Delivery Man, and the writer of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (those words should be enough to get your spidey sense tingling). Vince Vaughn is Dan Trunkman, a fast talking salesman of some sort (the film never really explains what he does very well … something with numbers and making deals). The film opens on him having a heated discussion with his boss (played by Sienna Miller) over a five percent cut back to his salary. Long story short, Trunkman thinks he can start his own business and do a better job than his jerk of a boss. He then does his best Jerry Maguire tribute when he starts asking who will go with him and ends up alone in the parking lot. There he bumps into Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkinson), who coincidentally has just been forced into retirement, as well as Mike Pancake (Dave Franco), a young enthusiastic but dim applicant who has just been turned down for a job. Of course Vaughn’s character hires them both and they get to work.

We are exposed to some of the worst writing, lazy filmmaking, and oddest tone you might ever find in a major studio release.

From there on forward we are exposed to some of the worst writing, lazy filmmaking, and oddest tone you might ever find in a major studio release. From the start we get an odd and overbearing five-minute Dunkin Donuts product placement, Vaughn sets a meeting with his staff at Dunkin, and there are several shots prominently featuring their logo including an establishing shot of the building’s outside sign that lingers far longer than needed. The movie’s logic immediately starts falling apart at this point. We are taken to one year later and see that our three leads are not having as much luck as they had hoped, but what sticks out more is that they also apparently know next to nothing about each other. Every piece of information we learn about them through the movie is a complete revelation to the other two. Somehow, while working side by side, the only three people running an upstart company, and they managed to learn next to nothing about each other.

Fortunately everything that defines these characters is two-dimensional and often cringe inducing so at least they didn’t miss out on anything important. Wilkinson’s character is an old horny man with a filthy mouth who wants to make enough money so that he can divorce his wife who is “the shape of a vending machine.” He constantly wants to see naked women, get trashed on booze and drugs, and curses nonstop. Of course we’re supposed to think it’s cute … ’cause he’s old! Franco’s character is defined by two things. First, his last name is Pancake, and apparently everyone they meet think that’s the funniest thing they’ve ever heard. Second is that he’s mentally challenged. Yes, like literally he went to a special school and lives in a special facility. This fact doesn’t come up to his colleagues for over a year! Vaughn’s character is, well, the same character Vince Vaughn plays in every single movie. Except here he is somehow both a workaholic father who doesn’t notice the trouble his kids are having at school (another cyberbullying subplot, as is all the rage these days), yet the film also shows him constantly Facetiming with his family on the road. So we’re supposed to think he doesn’t know what’s going on but that he’s still a good dad.

Through a series of convoluted and frankly stupid events, the three must travel to Germany to close the one big deal that can save their company and send Vaughn’s oldest child to a private school where kids hopefully will stop picking on him for his weight. Once they arrive, it’s offhandedly said that the G8 summit, a gay and fetish festival, and a marathon are all happening the very same week. Hmm, I wonder if those will come into play somehow? Spoiler alert: they do, in the most forced and ham-fisted ways.

The amount of nudity in the film is extremely surprising and the definition of gratuitous.

From here there is just scene after scene of unfunny, overly vulgar, and distasteful situations. Also from the previews you would assume a little swearing and some crude situations but the amount of nudity in the film is extremely surprising and used in ways that are the definition of gratuitous. Worst of all, none of it is funny. The “high point,” as I imagine the writers saw it, is a scene during the fetish festival where they use the bathroom at a gay nightclub. There they find four gloryholes along with four gentleman waiting for service behind said holes. Even after Vaughn explains he’s just looking for a friend, they stay as they are and have a five-minute conversation with cutaways to each man’s genitals as they speak. It actually gets worse from there, but I’ll leave that to your imaginations.

The production itself seems to have been plagued by either laziness, lack of budget, or even lack of talent. Some scenes early in the film appeared blurry or shot on a low-grade camera. Some of the same scenes had lighting that stuck out as blatantly fake. There were also two glaring continuity issues in the film. One being when the leads get off a train, bright sunny day, cut to the building they arrive at, still sunny mind you, and their shoulders have been noticeably rained on between the two shots. While it’s possible there was a scene cut out that explains this, in the film it just looks like sloppy filmmaking. The second issue is Vaughn is shown driving to the airport for his big trip, but when he arrives back to the airport his family has his car and is there to pick him up.

When looking for negatives, this film comes fully stocked.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. When looking for negatives, this film comes fully stocked. I would say I chuckled three times over the excruciating ninety minute run time. Needless to say the cast and crew obviously cared little to nothing about the making of Unfinished Business and you as the viewing public should concern yourself even less with experiencing its failures.

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox
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Classic movie musicals sparkle on Blu-ray Wed, 04 Mar 2015 15:00:07 +0000 KMK 01 smallMGM produced the best movie musicals of the 1950s and now Warner Brothers presents 'The Band Wagon,' 'Kiss Me Kate' (in 3D!) and Warner's own 'Calamity Jane' on Blu-ray for the first time. And the wait was worth it.]]> KMK 01 small
MGM produced the best movie musicals of the 1950s and now Warner Brothers presents ‘The Band Wagon,’ ‘Kiss Me Kate’ (in 3D!) and Warner’s own ‘Calamity Jane’ on Blu-ray for the first time. And the wait was worth it.

Any die hard movie musical fan knows that MGM produced most of the greatest musicals of all time in the 1950s. The Arthur Freed Unit became the touchstone of musicals with productions ranging from The Wizard of Oz in 1939 to Bells Are Ringing in 1960. While the 1940s was a productive decade for Freed, the 1950s gave us some of the most beloved, classic musicals of all time.

Now, Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has taken two of these MGM classics, plus one from the Warner Brothers library, and has given them a good scrubbing for Blu-ray and the results are astonishing. Best of all, you can purchase your favorite film as a stand-alone disk or get them all in the new Musicals: 4-Movie Collection. The three new titles are The Band Wagon, Calamity Jane, and Kiss Me Kate. Warners has added Singin’ in the Rain as a bonus to the 4-disk set.

BW 03 small

The first movie in the collection is The Band Wagon (1953) starring Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Nanette Fabray and Jack Buchanan. The story follows a nearly washed up Hollywood actor (Astaire) who decides to head to Broadway to see if he can untarnish his star in a big stage musical (shades of the Oscar-winning Birdman!). An egotistical director hijacks the frothy musical and turns it into a depressing version of Faust, ensuring a huge flop but the cast bands together to save the show.

The film is very entertaining, and it allows Astaire to take on a different character than we’re used to seeing from him. No top hat and tails this time around, but his dancing is still on point, especially in the scene where he dances with a shoe shine man (who was a real shoe shine man in New York). Cyd Charisse is stunning as always and is simply magnificent to watch in what was her first real starring role. The film also introduced Broadway star Nanette Fabray to movie audiences in what was, surprisingly, her only MGM musical. The movie also has a great score, but it’s most well-known for introducing “That’s Entertainment” as THE song about showbiz, supplanting the standard “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

The film looks terrific on Blu-ray. The image is bright and colorful but still has a film-like quality to it with an appropriate amount of film grain. The 1080p image(presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio) has not been completely scrubbed of any detail, and the soundtrack has been given a nice DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix that keeps the dialog and singing front and center, allowing the orchestra to swell, but never overwhelm, from the surrounds.

Bonus features include:

  • Commentary by Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein
  • Get Aboard! The Band Wagon (37:09) — A vintage “making of” looking at the production of the film with many behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the film’s stars, crew and family members.
  • The Men Who Made the Movies: Vincente Minnelli (58:25) — An episode of the WNET series focusing on Minnelli.
  • Jack Buchanan with the Glee Quartet (6:00) — Comedic musical short film starring Band Wagon c0-star Buchanan.
  • The Three Little Pups (6:46) — MGM cartoon featuring Droopy Dog in a variation of The Three Little Pigs.
  • Theatrical Trailer (3:14)
Photo Credit: Warner Bros Home Entertainment

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Chicago can still razzle-dazzle ‘em Wed, 04 Mar 2015 13:00:42 +0000 Chicago 01It's the longest running Broadway revival in history, and the touring company of 'Chicago' brings the music, the dancing, and all that jazz.]]> Chicago 01
It’s the longest running Broadway revival in history, and the touring company of ‘Chicago’ brings the music, the dancing, and all that jazz.

“All That Jazz.” “Cell Block Tango.” “When You’re Good to Mama.” “Mr. Cellophane.” “Razzle Dazzle.” If you’re a fan of Broadway musicals — or movie musicals — you know that those songs all came from the Broadway hit Chicago. Chicago first hit Broadway in 1975 under the guidance of the incomparable Bob Fosse. The show ran for 936 performances and was revived in 1996 and is still playing today. That makes it the longest running Broadway revival in Broadway history, and the second longest running Broadway musical behind Phantom of the Opera.

The Broadway show has been sustained by the familiarity of the music and the dancing, and has had a revolving door of big name stars taking on the roles of Roxy Hart, Velma Kelly and Billy Flynn. Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles is currently treading the boards on Broadway, while a new tour is crossing the country with John O’Hurley taking on the role of Billy Flynn in select cities (luckily, Baltimore was one of them). But if you’ve already seen the Oscar-winning movie, is it worth the time to see the show live on stage? In a word … yes!

If you’re not familiar with the story, Chicago takes place in the 1920s during the Jazz Age at a time when the public was fascinated by crimes committed by women. We first meet Velma Kelly (Terra MacLeod), who opens the show with “All That Jazz.” She’s become a manufactured celebrity with hopes of hitting the vaudeville circuit after lawyer Billy Flynn manipulates a jury into finding her not guilty. But another wannabe star enters the prison, Roxy Hart (Bianca Marroquin), and takes the spotlight off of Velma thanks to Billy. But how long will Roxy’s star shine before the next big crime makes headlines?

The stage version of Chicago is a completely different animal from the movie.

If you’ve seen the movie version of Chicago, the stage version is a completely different animal. The movie had sets, costumes, and set most of the musical numbers as fantasy sequences in the mind of Roxy. The stage show is a bit more abstract. The only set is a large, three-tiered bandstand with the orchestra on stage (the conductor even has interaction with the cast and dialog of his own). Everyone else is dressed in black (or a tux in the case of Billy) and never change costumes even when they’re playing various characters. I know some people are turned off by shows that don’t have flashy sets and costumes, but Chicago is about the music and the dance.

And on that front, the cast (and the orchestra) delivers in spades. Both MacLeod and Marroquin have powerful voices, but while MacLeod’s Velma is the more seasoned and mature of the two, Marroquin gets to have a lot of fun with the younger Roxy, particularly with her mugging and making funny noises when she’s getting bored with all of the legal drama around her. One of the show’s stand-out numbers is “We Both Reached For the Gun” as Billy plays Roxy’s puppet master, literally, in front of the press. Both women also handle the Fosse-inspired choreography with panache.

John O’Hurley is perfectly cast as Billy Flynn, putting his persona to good use.

O’Hurley is perfectly cast as Billy Flynn, using that persona he’s honed so well over the years, the self-important, over-blown ego on full display. He doesn’t have to do much dancing, but he’s got a very nice, powerful voice to make up for that. Another member of the touring cast has a notable claim to fame: Roz Ryan has played Matron “Mama” Morton on stage, Broadway and touring, longer than any other actor. She clearly relishes the role and while she doesn’t dance, she has the voice and stage presence to make you forget all about that. While all the numbers are outstanding, there is one major showstopper in Act 2 when Jacob Keith Watson, as Roxy’s husband Amos, takes the spotlight to sing “Mr. Cellophane.” The song is about how no one ever takes notice of Amos, even when they’re standing right next to him, but Watson brings such emotion to the number with his amazing singing voice (which really isn’t heard until this point) that you can’t help but take notice.

A trip to Chicago well worth your time.

Overall, even if the show feels a bit uneven with very little dialog to drive the plot in Act 1 (which feels almost like a cabaret presentation of the music of Chicago), the cast’s singing and dancing, the more than outstanding support from the dance company (who are all impossibly sexy in their curve-hugging costumes), and the beautiful, familiar music provided by the orchestra makes a trip to Chicago well worth your time. Chicago is currently in Baltimore at the Hippodrome Theatre through March 8, with stops in Ontario, Virgina, New York, Texas, Arizona, Kansas and California to come. You can find out more information about the tour by clicking the banner below.


Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik
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Focus is a frothy, forgettable, fun heist movie Fri, 27 Feb 2015 06:05:47 +0000 FOC-02932r'Focus' is kind of enjoyable, but it's also kind of stupid.]]> FOC-02932r
‘Focus’ is kind of enjoyable, but it’s also kind of stupid.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A con man walks into the room and stares at you. He winks and says, “Am I playing you or are you playing me?” After some daring adventure, the “game” becomes increasingly convoluted and less and less feasible. Soon enough, you say to the con man, “Perhaps ’twas I that played you, eh?” After another few twists that only make sense if you had read the script beforehand, you part ways feeling happy but hollow, like you just ate a giant inflatable plate of spaghetti smothered with real cheese. Sure, it was good going down, but it won’t leave you with anything.

Focus is a heist movie in the spirit of The Italian Job or Ocean’s 13 (that’s right, I said 13). It stars Will Smith as Nicky, an older, talented thief who has charisma nearly akin to Will Smith himself! That’s a minor miracle, Will Smith actually showcasing his fun, dangerous side (not too dangerous, but still). The movie also stars Margot Robbie as Jess, a grifter wannabe who stumbles across Nicky and decides she wants a mentor in the “art” of what you might call “gentleman theft.” It’s all slick moves and distractions, nothing violent, but a lot of pickpocketing.


A tense and interesting scene in the movie is a bit of a letdown because the rest of the movie doesn’t get that interesting again.

So after a bit of reasonable back and forth, Nicky agrees to let Jess join his huge team of thieves as they steal from innocent victims at a “Super Bowlish” football event with a thinly defined and tossed out code of ethics that basically excludes the elderly and disabled. This leads to the most tense and interesting scene of the movie, where Nicky faces off against a foreign rich guy (a fantastic B.D. Wong). Although the resolution is decently done, it’s ultimately a bit of a letdown because the rest of the movie doesn’t get that interesting again.

The second part of the movie is three years later, where Nicky is about to run a new con, paid for by a Formula 1 rich guy (Rodrigo Santoro). And wouldn’t you know it, he runs into Jess again! But who’s really playing the con here and who’s playing an even deeper con? Will love conquer all? Unfortunately, the chemistry between Margot Robbie and Will Smith isn’t that great, and the writing is very flip on why they like each other. That said, Margot Robbie is great with an underwritten character, stealing “focus” every moment she’s on screen. Gerald McRaney as the rich guy’s head of security is also curmudgeonly amusing, while Adrian Martinez as Nicky’s friend Farhad is hilarious. Although I didn’t really like how he was just assigned to be Persian, considering the actor isn’t.

Are there twists? Turns? Etc? Of course! Some predictable, some silly, some very predictable, and a few kind of cool. The lesson seems to be “love is more important than money,” which while seemingly important, also seems out of sync for a heist movie. The romance angle just doesn’t work, but the rest is decent fun.

Photo Credit: Warner Bros
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Head on up Schitt’s Creek, no paddle required Thu, 26 Feb 2015 20:30:01 +0000 Schitt's CreekEugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara join forces again as a husband and wife who find themselves hilariously up 'Schitt's Creek.']]> Schitt's Creek
Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara join forces again as a husband and wife who find themselves hilariously up ‘Schitt’s Creek.’

What’s an upstart network — or a rebranded version of an old network — to do to attract new viewers to the channel? With hundreds of options out there, what’s the best way to get people to sample your new wares? How about purchasing a Canadian sitcom with a provocative title starring two comedy legends!

The new POP TV network, formerly TVGN, has launched with a new scripted comedy from the minds of Eugene Levy and his son Daniel. The show, Schitt’s Creek, also stars Levy’s longtime comedy cohort Catherine O’Hara so you know the show just has to be funny, right? I’m very happy to say that yes, it is very funny.

The premise of Schitt’s Creek is a typical fish-out-of-water scenario: Levy and O’Hara star as Johnny and Moira Rose, an obscenely wealthy couple with two children, David and Alexis, who find themselves suddenly homeless and virtually penniless after their accountant neglects to pay their taxes and absconds with their fortune. The one thing they are left with is a small town Johnny purchased as a joke, the aforementioned Schitt’s Creek. With nowhere else to go, the Rose’s embark on a journey to regain their status from the middle of nowhere.

Of course, this is certainly not a new story, but Levy, O’Hara and the rest of the cast manage to breathe new life into it. In the first four episodes that have aired, the Roses have been forced to live in a shabby motel (emphasis on the M) with a snarky front desk attendant while Johnny attempts to put the town on the market, not knowing it had been for sale for twenty years when he originally purchased it. Moira and the kids are completely out of sorts, and the skeevy mayor of the town, played by Chris Elliott, is a thorn in their side.

Catherine O’Hara brings her comedy genius to the role of Moira Rose.

O’Hara is probably the funniest of the cast because Moira is the most broadly drawn of the four Roses. She was a former soap star villain (the mayor compliments her on her “bitch face” even though she’s not doing anything at the time, and begs her to slap him like she did on her show), accustomed to all the best things in life and now lives out of a single, hideously furnished room with leaky plumbing. The mayor’s wife asks her to help her students with a school play which goes hilariously awry, and she has no control over her entitled children.

No one can play befuddled and exasperated as well as Eugene Levy.

No one can play befuddled and exasperated as well as Levy, and he keeps Johnny the most firmly grounded of the family. He’s almost the straight man to all of the antics going on around him, from dealing with the mayor to dealing with his kids — whom he usually puts in charge of Moira to no avail. Annie Murphy plays entitled Alexis well, kind of bringing to mind Paris Hilton on that reality show she used to do with Nicole Ritchie. Daniel Levy’s David is just as broadly drawn as Moira, getting some of the show’s wittiest and bitchiest lines (the funniest bit in the premiere focused on his and his sister’s sleeping arrangements and whose bed was closer to the door … “No, you get murdered first!”). And it has yet to be addressed, but David is also the gayest thing on two feet, which may lead some to question what could be considered a negative stereotype … but I’ve seen Daniel doing some hosting work on MTV and, well, he’s not really stretching the character all that far. I, for one, think he’s pretty funny in a Jack McFarland kind of way.

Schitt’s Creek is a family comedy that’s just a little off the beaten path.

Schitt’s Creek, so far, has been funny although a bit uneven at times but each episode has had at least one big laugh-out-loud moment. The first season consist of ten episodes and has been renewed, in Canada (even before the show aired), for a second season. POP has only committed to the first season as of now. If you’re looking for a family comedy that’s just a little off the beaten path, then by all means take a trip up Schitt’s Creek. You can catch up on the previously aired episodes On Demand, and special webisodes on the show’s official website. Schitt’s Creek airs in the US on POP Wednesday at 10:00 PM ET.

Photo Credit: CBC Television
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The Walking Dead: Is there too much going on? Thu, 26 Feb 2015 19:00:27 +0000 Aaron and EricRobert Kirkman's brainchild is all about excess. And overkill. And ticking people off. ]]> Aaron and Eric
Robert Kirkman’s brainchild is all about excess. And overkill. And ticking people off.

How much is too much?

Based on common sense and experience, it’s not unreasonable to believe we have a pretty good grasp of what “too much” means. Between you, me and every other reader out there, we can attach a reasonable answer to the question in pretty short order.

Take common sense for example: We know when there is too much salt on our food, when it’s too cold to go outside without a jacket, when you’re too tired to concentrate on something. Pretty basic stuff.

On the flip side, the concept of “too much” is not so easy to discern when it comes to some of our television preferences … and especially so with our favorite shows.

Already in The Walking Dead‘s current season’s second half, there’s been a bevy of examples of excess.

Already in The Walking Dead‘s current season’s second half, there’s been a bevy of examples of excess. And many of them have elicited its fans’ displeasure. (This isn’t exactly news to anyone; the show has been doing so from its inception, a big part of its draw and watchability.)

Recent events have caused fans (read “angry villagers”) to wield their pitchforks and lit torches on a vocal little stroll down Main Street, U.S.A.

Too Much Immediacy

With the series leaving us last year mourning Beth’s untimely demise, the writers immediately offered an interesting episode (“What Happened And What’s Going On”) to start the second half of the season with yet another death, this time fan-favorite Tyreese. Coming so quickly on the heels of Beth’s exit, you could practically hear fans gnashing their teeth. Was this too much too soon? Are the writers that heartless? Do they get their rocks off pegging us with multiple deaths back-to-back, barely giving us time to breathe?

No, not at all. It was the perfect time. It kept things flowing and interesting and it keeps us on the edge of our seats. Not to mention it makes for good drama. And it’s not as if it hasn’t been done before — Dale and Shane were “offed” in consecutive episodes during season 2. The show’s Powers That Be aren’t setting any precedents.

But still … too much too soon? That’s what a lot of fans harped about on social media, blogs and other forums concerning Tyreese’s downfall. Just goes to show you can’t please everyone all of the time.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s those gut punches and their ramifications that keep the show’s comfortabilities at bay and our senses tuned. Me? I didn’t have a problem with it. It’s part of what The Walking Dead is. If you’re a fan, you come to expect the unexpected. So, no … it wasn’t too much.

Too Much Monotony

This is one of my pet peeves. And not about the show itself, but of the fans’ attitudes toward it.

To many, last week’s “Them” was filled with plodding and tiresome nothingness. Some of the things I read and heard? “Not much action.” “Boring.” “Little story.” “It’s as if the group was doing nothing but huffing it on down a highway aimlessly.”

And therein lies my peeve. Because there was so much more to the episode.

To many, last week’s “Them” was filled with plodding and tiresome nothingness.

The group was fresh from a confrontation at Grady Memorial where they successfully won back Carol but lost Beth in the process. They were still reeling from Bob’s fate at the hands of the Terminans not to mention the ruckus of that particular house of horrors. And now? Tyreese is gone. The group, as a whole, is woefully affected on deeply personal levels, particularly so in the cases of Daryl, Maggie and Sasha whose feelings have been especially riven and rent raw as a result of the loss of their loved ones. But wait, there’s more: Throw in everyone’s depletion from lack of food and water and you have yourself a real party going on. Each person is spent to their cores. Does the situation cry for a splatter-fest fracas with the undead?

No. It calls for introspection and understanding of the characters, some healing of those frayed nerves, sometimes in the form of emotional outlet. In whatever form that outlet might take. And, again, that’s just what the writers gave us. They slowed the pace of the show for the greater part of an episode and, as an audience, got us to take a step backward and evaluate the position these emotionally crippled and physically exhausted folks are feeling.

It’s called character study. I applaud it. And I’m certain I’m in the minority.

Most fans want the action, the splatter, the danger … every single episode. And I get that to a degree. It’s all well and fine to get caught up in a show. I do it all the time. But in something like The Walking Dead there’s a whole lot more going on then just the blood and guts, which is my least favorite part. Getting to the heart of the characters and their interactions with others as well as the ramifications of their actions … that’s where the real meat and potatoes of the series is for me. As example, Rick’s introspection and decisions. Glenn’s lay-it-on-the-line common sense. Michonne’s rare, in-your-face sensibility. (We saw example of this big time in Sunday’s episode during her discussions with Rick.) Daryl’s seeming off-the-cuff outbursts which, when you dissect them, can often reveal more wisdom than knee-jerk reaction.

So is there too much monotony when an episode like “Them” comes along to slow down the pace? Hell no. It’s completely necessary to the story.

Photo Credit: AMC

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