You get Cloverfield
Monday, November 26, 2007
When I upped sticks in 2005 for a few months and went off to pursue my dream of moving to NYC, I got rid of all my Region 2 DVDs. For the most part it didn't bother me as I was selling them on ebay and amazon marketplace and funding my trip with the proceeds. But there was one I did not want to get rid off and that was my treasured Alien Quadrilogy. I bought it day of release for a fair whack of money (I can't remember exact figures but £65 seems about right). But it had to go and so I resigned myself to never owning it again due to its limited edition nature.
So today I was idly surfing Amazon's Black Friday sale. I am only buying Region 1 DVDs at the moment due to the weak dollar and my refusal to give up on the dream of NYC. What should catch my eye but the Alien Quadrilogy for a perfectly insane price of $27. Including shipping. How great is that???????
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Act I – Santa
* Body and Soul
* My Posse Can Do
* Secret Spell
* You Can Bring Your Dog
* Professional Widow
Act II – Tori
* Big Wheel
* Space Dog
* A Sorta Fairytale
* Cornflake Girl
* Doughnut Song
* Spring Haze
T & Bö
* Baker Baker
* Almost Rosey
* Code Red
* Precious Things
* Bouncing Off Clouds
* Hey Jupiter
So the second night is still not sold out but it's less empty than last night. I wonder how much word of mouth about the previous night has to thank for a last minute surge in ticket sales. So anyway, if I am going to go see Tori, I will always book every night she's playing near me (in 2003, I saw the Scarlet's Walk Tour five times, twice in London, three times in NYC) as the set list is never the same from night to night. The most recent tours have been probably the most structured in terms of set lists, with opening and closing songs always being the same (in the case of this tour, that only really counts from the Tori section) but with this tour, she is really using the whole doll concept to really explore her music and performance from a fresh perspective. The early dates of the tour, each doll would only play songs from the new album, but as it's progressed, they have each been assigned songs from the back catalogue. It seems she waited to get to the US before really kicking things up a notch or twelve. This could be because the majority of the US leg is being recorded for download, but it could be because finally everything has fallen into place. Later dates after the NY gigs have seen her debut rarities such as "Peeping Tommi", "Mountain" and "Not David Bowie" as well as doing crazy shit like performing "Me & A Gun" with the band.
Anyway, back to night two of the MSG concerts. A later start time and a strict curfew at the WaMu Theatre caused a slight upset with the encore, but apart from that, the second night was every bit as astounding as the first. Seeing her perform as Santa and bring an entirely different energy to the opening part of the show made me completely eat my words about how naff I find the concept. One thing I don't understand though is with an album that has some filler songs smattered throughout the standout tracks, why it's the filler that's being so regularly performed while the standout tracks are rarely if ever seeing the light of day. "Velvet Revolution", "Girl Disappearing", "Father's Son", "Roosterspur Bridge", "Dark Side Of The Sun" have either been rarely or not played at all on the tour, while "You Can Bring Your Dog" and "Almost Rosey" are played all the damn time. And why "Posse Bonus" and "Programmable Soda" even made it on to the album but the brilliant "My Posse Can Do" is a bonus track on the DVD is truly beyond me.
This second show was a quieter and more emotional affair than the first night. Presumably this was due to Tori's parents being in the audience. Certainly it's why she played an absolutely killer version of "Winter" during the solo section. The absolute highlight for me would have to be "Spark". I love the song so much and From The Choirgirl Hotel is probably my favourite of her albums but I have never been lucky enough to hear the song performed live. Until tonight and it did not disappoint me at all.
The truncated encore was annoying ("Taxi Ride", another favourite, was supposed to be performed after "Precious Things" but was cut) but other than that I have no complaints and I have to say that having heard some of it performed live, I am now a much bigger fan of American Doll Posse than I was beforehand. I cannot wait until the bootleg downloads become available for places outside North America and Canada. Why? Well here's a terrible quality version of the absolutely storming version of "Bouncing Off Clouds". That's why.
I have mentioned on here before how I was not a big fan of the new album, how I found the concept a little tiresome and as for the tour, well, I didn't really care for the set lists and wasn't bothered I was missing her London dates. Well, having seen her New York dates, let me state for the record how wrong I was. The concerts were off the chart amazing, the best I have ever seen her (and that includes the 2005 concert with the gospel choir which I thought would never be beaten).
Act I – Pip
* Fat Slut
* Smokey Joe
* Teenage Hustling
* The Waitress
* Professional Widow
Act II – Tori
* Big Wheel
* Cornflake Girl
* Bells For Her
T & Bö
* Silent All These Years
* Cool On Your Island
* Cooling [complete with brambles]
* Digital Ghost
* Code Red
* Precious Things
* Bouncing Off Clouds
* Hey Jupiter
Before I talk about the concert itself, I want to take a moment to vent about MSG. There was a basketball game on in the main arena and so getting into the venue was a freaking nightmare. There were metal detectors up all the way across the main entrance and it took me a fair while to get through as I picked the line with the jobsworth dullard who was letting one person through at a time, ensuring they had cleared the exit before letting the next person through. Sigh. Then I go and line up to pick up my tickets. After a long time, I get to the front whereupon I am told I'm at the wrong window and I have to go do it all over again. You can imagine how that pleased me. Luckily, the nice man at the window allowed me to collect my ticket for the following night at the same time or I would have pitched a fit.
So, the concert itself. It was nowhere near sold out, whole sections at the back were empty which was a real surprise to me. I know this album hasn't been flying off the shelves or anything, but still. So the show starts and Tori comes out dressed as Pip. In my earlier blog about the tour, I mentioned how disappointed I was she had reverted to the 1998 versions of "Cruel" and "The Waitress". Well, I take half of that back too. She opened the set with "Cruel", performing it as if she were the bastard offspring of Cat Power and Steve Tyler. It was pretty fucking amazing. The rest of the set as Pip was equally as astounding, insanely high energy and hard edged, covering two of the better songs from American Doll Posse ("Teenage Hustling", which was tremendous and "Smokey Joe" which was fantastically eerie), as well as one of my favourite songs from To Venus And Back ("Bliss"). Unfortunately, I still hate the overlong version of "The Waitress", but you can't have everything.
So Pip goes away and after a brief interlude of the hateful remix of "Professional Widow", Tori comes on and launches into "Big Wheel" which is much much much MUCH better live than on the album. There is not, in fact, a low point to the rest of the evening (unless you count the woman singing so far off key she's practically back in tune again, who was sat right behind me). There isn't much talking to the audience, but so what? During the solo section, I just about lost my shit. Why? Glance up at the set list and look at what it says next to "Cooling". Probably my most favourite of her songs and my most favourite of her lyrics. It's the name of this blog, it's engraved on my iPod, it's the welcome message when I turn my mobile phone on. Until this tour, the bridge that contains said lyric has always been skipped when it's performed live. But not anymore and hearing it sung live made me a very happy gay boy indeed.
I was so fucking happy to have a ticket for the next night when this gig was over. If I hadn't, I would have bought one immediately. It was really that good. Unfortunately, continuing the theme that my camera flash sucks ass, here's the pic I took:
So I figured I would steal someone else's. Here, see, much better
And here she is, as Pip, performing "Teenage Hustling". Not the best quality, but you get the idea.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
As if one strike were not enough, the entertainment industry now has two on its hands. One is, in my opinion, justified and I totally support it. The other, not so much.
The writers strike that is currently underway and slowly grinding TV and movie production to a halt is the one I am in support of. I think it's laughable that writers do not get any residuals for their work. The argument that the DVD profit margin is already slender is also laughable, especially when DVDs cost little to produce and the popular titles sell in their millions. Everyone in front of the camera has a lucrative and watertight contract that sees them continue to be paid for it, so why on earth can't the people without whom they wouldn't even be there get something from it too?
Yesterday, the long threatened strike from Local One, the stagehands union, saw 28 of the 36 shows currently on Broadway go dark. I honestly think this is disgusting. The producers are within their rights to question the more ludicrous portions of the Local One contract. The main sticking point has been the load in of a show, where the producers cannot hire how many people it would take to do the load in. They have to hire the amount of people the League dictates to them, regardless of if they are needed or not. There are also thing like a flyperson is to be hired on all productions, even if the show does not have any fly cues. Who in their right mind would agree to that?
Now, the producers have been reasonable about it all, and have said that they are not looking to fire anyone, but reassign unused labor to where it is actually needed. Local One have simply continued to make passive aggressive comments about how much money producers have and how greedy they're being by trying to cut the wages of Local One members. Shut up. First of all, who is being greedy? The producers are trying to be fair, reasonable and sane. Surely asking them to pay people to do nothing just because they have the money is not fair, nor is it a particularly smart argument. Also, starting the strike without any notice is underhanded and mean. It's telling that when the musicians strike darkened Broadway musicals for four days in 2003, the casts of the affected shows were right there on the picket lines supporting them. The first show affected by the strike was The Grinch which had an 11am matinee, one hour after the strike started. Patrick Page stood out front of the theater, apologising to ticket holders for the fact there was no show. I really honestly think Local One are being pig headed and ridiculous and as they are so unwilling to negotiate a contract that is fair to everyone, rather than massively one sided in their favour, who knows how long the strike will last?
And what really sticks in my craw the most is all the comments about how much money the producers have. Well, the lowest paid actor on a Broadway stage is pulling in $60 grand a year. There are some stage hands who, thanks to the insane contract the producers think is unfair, earn a lot more than that and don't have to do all that much to get it.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Although the writers strike may very well put paid to it all pretty soon, but that's another story. The TV season in the UK doesn't usually get going until January at the earliest due to the massive hiatuses US shows tend to take. However, a few shows have now brokered "no delay" deals with UK networks so the episodes air here only a week or so after the US. Of course, as you will see, in some stuff we are still very behind.
Already airing (as of this week):
Ugly Betty Season Two (which I have forgiven for the unnecessary character death)
Prison Break Season Three (which I have not)
Bones Season Three
Journeyman Season One
Without A Trace Season Five
The Tudors Season One (though I missed too many episodes so I'm investing in the DVDs)
Californication Season One
30 Rock Season One
Kyle XY Season Two
Coming in early 2008:
Supernatural Season Three
Heroes Season Two
Lost Season Four
Grey's Anatomy Season Four
Dexter Season Two
Pushing Daisies Season One
Chuck Season One
Reaper Season One
Weeds Season Three
Rescue Me Season Four
Nip/Tuck Season Five
That's a whole lot of TV going on! Thank god I've made the decision to live like a monk until my credit card debt is taken care of.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
It's no secret that I absolutely love the Go Fug Yourself girls. They have a level of bitchiness to which I constantly aspire. Just recently they have been absolutely outdoing themselves and while they realise that less is more (dismissing Joss Stone's frilly mini skirt disaster with an "Oh honey. No." was a particular master stroke that had me guffawing, I must admit), sometime they go all out. And so with no further ado I present to you:
The Best Fug EVER (well, so far)
Posted by Popcultureboy at 5:37 PM
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Finally, part one of my NY trip is up. So here it is.
In chronological order of viewing:
What an odd little play. I only really went to see it because Bobby Cannavale was in it. A familiar set of tropes are filtered through an unusual maguffin (rare stamps from the titular location) and for the most part, the dialogue is grounded in reality. But then there are odd flights of fancy that stick out like sore thumbs (Alison Pill's speech about growing wings came so completely out of nowhere I did find myself thinking "has she forgotten her lines?"). But here it's all about the performances and while everybody in the cast is noteworthy, two people stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Bobby Cannavale was a given. I've seen him on stage before and he took my breath away so it was no surprise when he did it again here. The show is not really positioned well for awards timing, but Julie White proved that if you really make an impression, people don't forget, so here's hoping he gets some recognition. Same applies to Alison Pill who is utterly rivetting in the main role as the wronged sister who claims ownership of the stamps as payment for the time spent nursing her step mother until her death.
Which was something like going to a Backstreet Boys concert. I was a Renthead back in the day and I became friends with Anthony when he was in the London run of the show. When I saw he was back in the show and I would be in NY for his final performance, it was not an immediate no brainer I would see it. I saw the show a LOT in 98-99 and I saw it one more time in 2002, but haven't seen it since. I had reasons for seeing the show as much as I did. Those reasons are no longer relevant to my life. So I figured maybe I'd just call him up and hang out with him independent of the show. But who was I kidding? I got the playbill.com discount offer and so I booked it.
I was planning on it being a surprise but I happened to walk by the theatre as they were doing the lottery and there was just an insane amount of people there. I figured stage door would be the same and there was a danger I'd miss him so I left a voicemail letting him know i was there, which was kind of annoying. Anyway, so the show was a little out of control. I have nothing to say about the piece itself. Adam and Anthony were both great (Adam sounds so very different to his last time playing the role), Tamyra Gray tore it up as Mimi (and damn is that girl skinny). Following a pre-show two minute standing ovation, the audience whooped and screamed and cheered their way through the show. It was, for the most part, fine though a couple of times I did find myself thinking "oh shut up". I am usually against taking pictures at curtain call, but everyone was doing it and so I did too and I managed to get these two pics by sheer fluke of timing.
The stage door was even more out of control than I thought it was going to be. My camera flash is utter shit but you get the idea
After about 45 minutes, the crowd thinned enough that I managed to wave over the heads of three people and get his attention. One shouted conversation later I headed to the subway, via Europan Cafe as, by huge co-inky-dink, I ran into someone in the crazed crowd I hadn't seen in two years.
A Bronx Tale
I've been intrigued by this play for ages and ages but pretty much figured I would never get to see it performed. I very nearly didn't as the threatened lock out/strike that's been hanging over Broadway came within a hair's breadth of being actioned the evening I saw the show.
A 90 minute one man show about his growing up in the Bronx sounds, on paper, like the most tedious self indulgent load of piffle. But no. Chazz Palminteri had quite the passage into adulthood. Everybody knows now how he witnessed the point blank shooting of a driver during an altercation with another driver by the local mob boss. Feigning amnesia ingratiated the young Chazz to said mob boss and so it begins. Playing 18 roles, Mr Palminteri effortlessly commands the stage and holds the audience's attention. It was an excellent, surprisingly funny and beautifully touching evening.
Oh dear. I guess because I'm British I'm going to be more critical of Americans attempting British accents. I don't know why Roundabout chose to revive this play at this point in time. It looks fine enough (real rain for the opening scene and all) but no amount of set dressing can compensate for a draggy and slow first act (which is the play's fault) made even worse by some terrible performances (NOT the play's fault). Claire Danes struggles with the cockney accent throughout her first two scenes. The second scene is interminable, going on and on and ON, repeating itself and then completely hamstrung by a shockingly awful performance by Jay O. Sanders as Alfred Doolittle.
Once she's poshed up, Claire Danes acquits herself nicely (though she needs to up her volume) and for the most part the rest of the leads are fine. I'm going to be blasphemous though and say this is one instance where the adaptation has surpassed the original. I studied the play way back in the day and didn't love it then (one of the many reasons I was so resistant to My Fair Lady. Having finally seen it a few years ago, I adored it). Having seen this revival, I still don't love the play and seeing it performed, all the issues I had with it are writ large rather than resolved.
Die Mommie Die!
The campest thing I have ever seen. Loved it. I saw the movie in 2003 when I was in LA and thought it was hilarious so when I saw it was coming to NYC, starting right when I was coming for a vacation, it had to be done. It was fab. I was a little gutted that Chris Meloni did the reading but didn't take the role for the actual run of the play but what can you do?
I took Eric and his boyfriend as a thank you for letting me stink up their living room for two weeks. We had front row seats so it was just the right vantage point to get a faceful of Van Hansiss. My word, that boy is gifted. And the tight TIGHT denim short shorts he wears in one scene left no doubt as to how gifted. I in fact turned to Eric and said "I hope that's padded or that's just insane". After watching him adjust himself at curtain call, I think it's safe to say he's not padded.
While Charles Busch is uproarious in the role of Angela Arden, this production belongs to Ashley Morris. She takes it and runs with it, going wildly over the top without once veering into parody. She was hysterically brilliant and I thought she was cute as a button at curtain call, having to tug down her very short dress as she bowed.
The worst show of my trip. H O R R I B L E. Monochromatic, bland, boring, dull dull dull. After two indistinguishable songs, I wanted to find the lyricist and beat him to death with his rhyming dictionary. I was mainly intrigued to see this because of Hunter Foster as he has a very devoted following always going on about what a wonderful voice he has and what a lovely actor he is. Well, on the strength of this performance, I don't see it. His acting was one note at best, which also sums up his singing. He also had the most irritating way of breathing EVER when he was singing which drove me up the fucking wall.
It opens soon and I'm sure the reviews will be harsh, to say the least. If the show is still running at Thanksgiving I shall be hugely surprised. Not least because it's at 37 Arts, which may be between 9th and 10th Avenues, but sure doesn't feel like it. There's NOTHING there. Shame.
Cyrano De Bergerac
I only saw this because of the cast. Kevin Kline, Jennifer Garner and Daniel Sunjata. Fabulous. Which is more than can be said of the end product. An absolutely enormous stage and set is not the wisest thing to have for a show opening without the benefit of an out of town tryout and this 4th preview was very rocky, to say the least. The night before, the world's stupidest travelling curtain had jammed, stopping the show for 20 minutes. I don't know if Kevin Kline was annoyed about this and doing it on purpose but I was in row F of the orchestra and I couldn't hear him. Jennifer Garner does not embarrass herself in what is her Broadway debut proper (she was an understudy fresh out of drama school) but she does not break any new ground with her performance either.
The biggest question posed though is why this piece and why now? Why revive it with an old translation? This could have benefitted from someone else taking a fresh pass at the original French version, in my opinion. All in all, I didn't hate it but it was not exactly a quick three hours.
The theatrical highlight of my trip. The main reason it was such a highlight was because I didn't expect it to be. I booked and paid for my (outrageously expensive) ticket for one reason: Megan Mullally. If she had not been in it, I would not have gone near this show. I really really didn't love The Producers and the hubristic way this show got the Hilton was also offputting to me.
But I would pay good money to hear Megan Mullally sing live and in that I was not disappointed. She was glorious, very funny and while she only had one big scene and number in Act One, she makes up for it in Act Two with a couple of songs, including, of course, the 11 o'clock number.
But the rest of the show is total fun. Great songs (for the most part, though "Roll In The Hay" is not great. Poor Sutton Foster.), wonderful performances and some fantastic set pieces made for a hugely enjoyable evening. It will be interesting to see how well it is received by the critics. The Producers was a huge success purely because of Matthew and Nathan. Once they left, the audience quickly followed and it has never been able to reproduce its NY success elsewhere. If they are smart with this show and advertise it on the strength of the movie, Mel Brooks and Susan Stroman, rather than anything else, they could have an enduring hit on their hands.
Such a cute and silly show. It was David Hyde Pierce's first show back after a vacation and he was in fine form. You can see why he won the Tony, his performance is absolutely entrancing. Completely understated and also clearly having the time of his life with it, it's a real joy to watch him. He's matched by the rest of the leads, although Debra Monk is a little, um, BIG in her performance. I loved how some songs started out small and became huge show stopping set pieces, particularly "Thataway!" and "Tough Act To Follow". All in all, this show was totally fun and sweet which is as it should be.
Quite the show to pick for my last show on the trip. I of course had to have the onstage seating. God bless Eric for telling me beforehand "when the show is about to start and Cheyenne comes on stage, gets on all fours and starts drawing his pavement mural, I would encourage you to remember that there is a whole other audience that can see you." Sweet Jesus that man is FINE. And very talented. And he holds no truck with mobile phones either. When, a mere two lines into his opening monologue, a phone rang in the front row, he stopped and stared pointedly at the offending audience idiot. Then when it rang again, after he had started his monologue again, he stopped and said "and we wait". Good for him.
The show itself is a riot. The cast are all clearly having a ball with it, Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa are incredible, Kerry Butler is note perfect and of course Cheyenne, oh Cheyenne. How I love you so. I mean, look. What's not to love, right?