Going the distance is a very short race…

Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Justin Long and Drew Barrymore share a boat ride.

As fortune would have it, I was once again blessed by the free movie ticket gods to see a little flick called “Going The Distance” which starred Drew Barrymore and Justin Long as a couple that have to manage a long distance relationship and all the doubts and stresses that go with it.  It’s a total stereotypical romantic comedy that anyone could guess the outcome.  The film has several themes such as following dreams, things that we do for love, temptation, and selflessness.  The movie doesn’t get all bogged down by tackling these issues with any depth. The real surprise was some of the random dialogue that comes out of left field that makes you stop and say “Did s/he just say that?”  You’ll see what I mean in the first scene at the bar between the friends Garret, Dan, and Box (Long, Day, and Sudeikis).

The start of the movie takes off like a freakin Kentucky Derby.  The jokes move the pacing of the movie so it’s actually kind of fun.  The chemistry between Justin Long and his two friends works incredibly well.  Also, as if I have to mention, so does his chemistry with Drew Barrymore.  I can’t say that there was any bad acting in the movie as everyone did exactly what the script calls for.  Even though the run time was about 85 minutes, it felt like it was over two hours. That’s the only true downer.  It was a little disappointing that funnyman Jim Gaffigan didn’t have too much to do in this movie, but he did have two truly funny moments.  One, of course, was the table scene where he’s eating a sandwich.  Jeez, the audience EXPLODED with laughter so loud that the next few lines were inaudible.  In addition to the comedy talents of Gaffigan and Sudeikis, Mike Birbiglia had a small part as a quirky waiter that knew nothing about wine. But I have to say if there was a stand out performance in this movie for me it was Christina Applegate.  Man, she was a comedy beast!  She plays the germaphobic and tough loving sister, Corrine to Barrymore’s Erin.  Every time that she is on the screen you can bet that there will be a laugh! Her rant about dry humping is epically hilarious.  Yes, epically.

The soundtrack is incredible! It’s got some great music from the featured band The Boxer Rebellion as well as a few throwbacks like The Pretender’s “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”

So if you are a fan of any of the actors in the movie, you’ll probably enjoy it providing that you know there isn’t anything deep about it.  It’s a nice piece that works for the purpose of escapism. If that’s what you need, this will totally fit the bill.  It was supposed to start today, but it got pushed back to Labor Day weekend.   Smart thinking as there isn’t anything coming out that weekend.

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There’s a switch to The Switch…

Wally realizes that he's just poured his BFF's dreams down the drain.

I went to see a sneak peak for Jennifer Aniston’s new flick “The Switch.”  I was all set for the typical chatty girl talk type of movie about love and relationships, and the difficulties that are being felt by Aniston’s character.  It turns out that this movie really isn’t so much about her as it is about Jason Bateman.  What an absolutely wonderful surprise!  I have been a fan of his since his work on the 80’s television show “The Hogan Family.”  He’s been in a few movies recently in minor roles, but this is a great role to bring him back into the spotlight.

The Plot: Kassie (Jennifer Aniston) wants to have a baby.  She’s been in and out of bad relationships and decides that it’s time to finally do it.  As her BFF, Wally (Jason Bateman) is the first person she shares her decision with.  It’s clear from the outset that Wally is in love with her, so you already know how the movie is going to end.  Her good friend Debbie (played by the deliciously hilarious Juliette Lewis) convinces Kassie to have a party to celebrate the insemination because it’s “what everyone is doing nowadays.”   At the party is Roland, the charming-turns-kinda-creepy donor (Patrick Wilson) who whips up a batch of baby sauce in one room while the guests party it up in the rest of the house.  After having not only too much to drink but also a pill from Debbie, Wally is as high as a kite and on a trip to the bathroom, he finds Roland’s contribution to Kassie’s goal.  After some funny bits of playing with the stuff, Wally actually ruins the batch and in a last minute decision “creates” a replacement contribution.  Once Kassie becomes pregnant, she moves away because New York isn’t her ideal place to raise a child. The movie reunites them back in NY seven years after the incident and Uncle Wally now gets to meet this adorable child, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson) who is just as nutty as he is.

Personally, I found that the majority of the film focused on the relationship between fathers and sons or rather the relationships between father figures and sons.  Throughout the film you can see Wally falling in love with this quirky kid, who believes Wally is just an uncle, and the struggle of revealing to his BFF the truth of what happened on the night of her party 7 years ago.  The struggle that Wally goes through once he realizes that he’s Sebastian’s father is a fantastic display of heart that reminds me why I have such respect for the actor.

I have to also mention the outstanding performance by Jeff Goldblum as Wally’s coworker, Leonard.  I don’t know if it’s just great casting that is playing off of Jeff’s real personality, or if it’s his go-to character quirk, but in this role, he shines.

One of my favorite scenes is when Wally first gets into the bathroom where the “incident” takes place.  Having been in that position where you have to hold onto the walls to keep from melting, Wally was perfection, and I could only laugh and laugh remembering exactly what he was feeling like at that moment.  Once you see it, you’ll understand.

While the major focus in advertising is being focused on Jen Aniston, Jason Bateman is really what this movie is about. Him and the kid.

No more Mr. Nice-Guy?

Finally an answer!  I guess it’s true…if you put your question out into the world, you will get an answer if you are paying attention.

Let me backtrack a little.  A few weeks back, I recounted a situation that I must figure out.  As someone who is trying to help promote the local arts scene, I found it incredibly difficult to only talk about the “good” things for events and not so much about why I dislike some things or events because I was worried that the event wouldn’t get an audience.  I felt that by only speaking of the good things, I may praise an event that most people may not like thus tarnishing any possible future reputation that I may have.  However, if I criticize an event, would the organizer of that event ever want to allow me access to pictures of their future works.  I understand the concept of constructive criticism and accept it whole heartedly, but what if you see something that isn’t really that good, like Step Up for example?  Fantastic dancing, but everything else was meh.  So that was my dilemma.

I recently began to read my copy of Theatre Bay Area Magazine and read the executive director’s note.  Brad Erickson wrote a brilliant piece that I found was exactly what I needed.  The note was about excellence and promoting it throughout our community and not being so nice about everything.  I took this article with a grain of salt. Being on both sides of the the fence, I know that I would like to know how to make myself a better performer through critique and such but at the same time I know that opening myself to that negativity will stay with me for a very very long time.  As one who is talking about performances, I feel I owe it to the people reading about it an honest account of what I felt and thought while being at that particular event.

So it turns out that yes, I should make comments about the things that I dislike in a performance but to do it in a way that would not be viewed as mean.  If I were an actor having something possibly upsetting being written about me, I would first love to be told about it upfront before it hits print.  I think that would be my personal choice.  When writing about an event, I wonder if that still applies?  Argh, clearly some more time and thought needs to be put into this issue.  However, I am elated that I have confirmation that I am not being too hard if I were to give an honest critique regarding future works.  We shall see how this plays out my friends, we shall see.

In the final paragraph, Mr. Erickson offered up this wonderful piece of imagery “…the etymology of the word “assess” is “to sit with” or “sit alongside.” What a beautiful image for this effort: to sit beside one another, supporting each other in our individual efforts to reach greater excellence.”

Brilliant.

If you were about to receive a bad review, how would you like to find out?  How would you handle receiving criticism of your work?  How do you deal with negative comments?

I know I just shot a machine gun style barrage of questions at you, but honestly how would you answer them?

Step Up 3, no D

I was crazy excited for this movie to finally make it to the big screen, especially since I had mentioned that the Europeans had already had theirs out for months.  Well, that and the fact that Adam Shankman was hyping it up on So You Think You Can Dance.  So I went to the AMC Mercado and had two minutes to spare before previews began.

Here’s the plot: Dance crew (House of Pirates)  needs money to save their home, and the only way to do it is to win a battle where the prize money is 100 grand.  That’s all.  There’s a few minor things that happen throughout but really the whole story is bleh.

The movie opens documentary style with dancers being asked why they dance.  This opening sequence was fantastic and featured some SYTYCD greats, like Twitch and Legacy. I found those first four minutes of the film to be the most satisfying “acting” bits in the entire movie.  But then again, when I think of the past ones, of course the acting isn’t great in those either, so at least you won’t be disappointed there.  The emotional arc is less of a hill but more like a speed bump that no one would really slow down for.  The acting throughout, while decent (use the term loosely)  put a complete halt on the energy of the movie.   So let’s get down to the dancing.  I don’t want to give you all the details because I hate it when people do that to me for a movie that I want to see.

What I was hoping for was brief dialogue in between these epic dance numbers.  What I got was a lot of typical story with a few dances thrown in to break up the acting.  The first dance segment, which takes place on the NYU campus, is between one dancer (Kid Darkness played by Daniel ‘Cloud’ Campos) who represents the “House of Samurai” and the other is a freshman at the college.   The Samurai dancer was actually one of Madonna’s tour dancers and the co-star in one of Shakira’s videos where she’s flipping and dancing around on a bed. But back to the movie. The student (Adam G. Sevani), nicknamed Moose, tries to follow a pair of rare Nike high tops (yeah, that’s exactly what happened.  Lame.) when he gets caught up in the middle of this battle.  I was put off right away, because the cameras were trying to get so close to the action that they cut the “picture” of the dancer.  What I mean by this is that instead of seeing the entire body of the dancer, you see the torso and head.  I want to know what he was doing with his feet, too, to get the whole picture.  This happens only when it’s one dancer being focused on and it really bothered me.  This particular scene was most bothersome because the “Samurai” was literally twisting 3 or 4 times in the air, but you only saw mostly torso, so the full effect wasn’t as incredible as it could have been.  There were one or two tricks done that I’d never seen before, but in that whole 3 minute sequence I wanted to be blown away.  I appreciate the effort to try and get the viewer as close as possible, but I wanted to see everything so it just frustrated me.

There’s a club scene that had so much potential.  The leader of the Pirates, Luke (Rick Malambri) has a crush on this mystery girl, Natalie, (Sharni Vinson) who shows up at his club, but always runs away after a minute or two of playing cat and mouse.  Luke also wants to be a filmmaker and tries to film her dancing which is only the same body rolling and hair flicking that you get from the Brittany wannabe dancers.  Unimpressive.  Meanwhile, because Moose defeated the “Samurai” dancer at the school, some of the Samurai crew lead by Joshua from SYTYCD tried to battle him in the bathroom at the club.  This last for 30 seconds before the “House of Pirates” come to Moose’s aid and a brawl erupts.

This competition (World Jam) that the Pirates enter into requires them to get past 2 rounds of other crews to make it to the finals.  Isn’t that the same as You Got Served?  Maybe it’s just my bad memory.  I’ll have to watch that again. Anyway…where was I?  Oh, yes…So with only three major battles implied, I felt let down.  Although just before the last battle, after some drama, Moose and his BFF, Camile (played very, very well by Alyson Stoner) have this little number that travels down the block to a fun little jazzy tune that is very Musical Theatre in style and is a lot of fun to watch.  I was actually smiling at this number for being adorable and not overly cheesy.

As far as the battles themselves go, the dancing is great!  My gripe is that if you are part of a crew dancing together to present an image and an impact, for crying out loud, you have to be in sync.  I know there’s the whole idea of dancer individuality which is cool and wonderful when you are dancing as such, but when you are choreographed in unison…  Just sayin’.  I think there were only two times that I said “Cool” or was impressed by the execution of movement, and only once when I saw a brand new trick.  There wasn’t really anything new being brought to the table by way of choreography.  I was really hoping for something that I could flip my lid over, but the movie never truly seems to go for it.  Almost as if they had to hold back because of the fact that this was being filmed in 3D.

Oh, I just remembered something else that struck me as weird with regard to the filming.  Whenever they show the main members of the Pirate crew, they never show Legacy.  Yet, in the battles you see him all the time.  He is even in the documentary film that Luke was working on.

Speaking of the 3D: I don’t think this movie warrants moviegoers to have to spend the additional 8 bucks to enjoy this flick.  There was only really one scene that the 3D was well executed with.  At the midway point of the movie, Luke and Natalie have a type of Marilyn Monroe moment on top of a very large fan/vent and play with their ICEEs/Slurpies.  With this massive fan blowing everything up in the air, they drip strawfuls of the flavored ice into the air and the overhead camera is in the direct path of that slushy goodness.  That was the only thing in the movie that made me feel like there was possibly something that was heading toward my face.  Skip the 3D.  You’re welcome.

So there you have it folks, a decent dance film that isn’t really breaking new ground for the world of dance but capitalizing on technology to try and bring you something different.  The music is fantastic and during the dances it fits every step and movement.  So for you dance lovers, see the movie, but spend that 8 bucks on the snacks.