At The Movies: The Shape Of Water

Believe it or not, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is not the only movie opening in theaters this week.

“The Shape of Water” is about as far removed from the high adventure, high adrenaline rush of a “Star Wars” movie as you can get. And while I once again this week find myself at odds with all the critical acclaim a film is getting, “The Shape of Water” is a pleasant, unusual love story with a strong cast and an authentic, throwback feel.

DMiWF1nUQAAixrOThis is the story of Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mild-mannered and mute woman living a quiet life in a small apartment in Baltimore in the early 1960s. Her closest — and pretty much only — friends are her eccentric neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) and her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer).

Elisa and Zelda are part of the custodial crew at a government research facility. One day Col. Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings in a half-human, half-amphibian creature (Doug Jones) he caught in the rivers of South America. Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) is the scientist in charge of studying the creature.

Elisa is strangely attracted to the “aquaman” and sneaks into his cage during her lunch breaks to feed him hard-boiled eggs and expose him to music. When the decision is made to have the creature destroyed, Elisa sneaks him out with help from the doctor and her friends. But how long can the creature survive in Elisa’s small bathtub?

“The Shape of Water” is a charming, stylish, strange fable from director Guillermo del Toro. But to be honest, I was expecting something a little more unusual from the man who gave us “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy” and “Crimson Peak.”

The movie is slowly paced and — despite its premise — very conventional. There isn’t a moment of surprise or tension to be had. You can predict how things are going to go down every step of the way. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in a world where far too many movies rely on far too many plot twists.

Sally Hawkins’ wonderful performance is what really brings life to this familiar beauty-and-the-beast tale. Her expressive face more than makes up for her character’s inability to speak.

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At The Movies: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

It appears critics are falling all over themselves to sing the praises of the latest “Star Wars” film.

So I guess it falls to me to play the role of cranky old Jedi master.

Is it really the greatest “Star Wars” film since “The Empire Strikes Back” ? Maybe, but that’s not a high bar if you think about it. You’ve got “Empire,” then you’ve got the original, then the one with the Ewoks, then the prequels (less said about them the better), then the previous installment (I’m not counting “Rogue 1” or that “Clone Wars” cartoon).

Personally, I’d rate it third behind “Empire” and “Star Wars,” but then I’m not really into ranking things.

the-last-jedi-theatrical-blogShould we start with the good or the bad? Let’s get the bad out of the way and end on a high note.

It’s too damn long. 2.5 hours seems to have become the standard for blockbusters and that’s a shame because this could’ve been a great movie if it weren’t so bloated. Part of the problem is you’ve got too many characters — the originals, the newbies, more newbies — and they’re all fighting for attention.

Trying to give everyone something meaningful to do results in some of them not doing anything meaningful at all. I’m looking at you, Finn. There’s a whole subplot involving Finn (John Boyega) and his new bestie (Kelly Marie Tran) going to a casino and freeing alien horse-things while searching for the keymaster — err, codebreaker. It is pretty pointless when all is said and done. It’s also a waste of the great Benicio del Toro.

Oh wait, now I remember. They need the codebreaker so they can — because we have to do this in every “Star Wars” movie — disguise themselves and sneak onto an Imperial ship to turn off the tracking device/tractor beam/force shield and save the day.

Which brings us to our other problem — there appear to be no original ideas in the “Star Wars” universe. Let’s just keep borrowing from the original trilogy and tweak things here and there.

This time they’re taking mainly from “Return of the Jedi.” Rey (Daisy Ridley) decides that there’s still good in Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and goes to confront him. He turns her over to the Emperor — I mean Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) — who can’t stop gloating because the resistance is about to be wiped out, and surely Kylo would never turn on him.

At least they didn’t come up with an excuse to bring back the Death Star.

So what is it that makes “The Last Jedi” overcome these flaws and take its place among the cream of the “Star Wars” crop? Luke Skywalker. Finally out of the shadow of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill is able to fully take the stage and make this movie his own.

Hamill’s portrayal of a broken down, emotionally drained Jedi master is fascinating and compelling. It’s worth sitting through the two hours of preliminaries just to get to the main event when Luke faces down the forces of evil.

As for the rest, well, you know — it’s “Star Wars.” The special effects are first-rate, the action is intense, the cast — old and new — is fine. Carrie Fisher gets plenty to do despite her untimely death. She also gets the best moment in the film that doesn’t involve Luke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gone: Pat DiNizio

I’ll say anything you want to hear
I’ll see everything through
I’ll do anything I have to do
Just to win the love of a girl like you

You told me, baby, you had time to kill
But then you tossed me out like an overdue bill
You left in a hurry with a guy from the band
On a one-way ride to the promised land
Top of the pops

Blue period, black comedy
Such a joke I’ve played on me
I let you go
And now I know a world of uncertainty

She held a bass guitar and she was playing in a band
And she stood just like Bill Wyman
Now I am her biggest fan
Now I know I’m one of many who would like to be your friend
And I’ve got to find a way to let you know I’m not like them

Now I lie in bed and think of her
Sometimes I even weep
Then I dream of her behind the wall of sleep

The blues before and after
I get the blues before and after I’m with you

71nf2Yg9y9L._SX355_This is the house we used to live in
This is the place I used to know
This is the house we used to live in
Where I felt I could always go

House that we used to live in
House where I left my heart
House that we used to live in falling apart

You won’t break my heart
No matter what you do
My love is especially for you

And then it starts all over again

Maybe I won’t be afraid to love somebody new
Maybe I can open up my heart
Then I won’t drown in my own tears
Drown in my own tears

I’ve been waiting for you all my life
And now that you are here I can’t believe
How wonderful it is to be here by your side
To see you in the light

In your evening dress tonight

See me walking with someone new
It makes no difference
‘Cause everything I have is blue

Too much passion is not enough

Smoked my last cigarette
Sat in bed for a while
Thought of your face, and it brought me a smile
Wanted another one
Fell back asleep, instead
Woke and found you sitting there on the bed

Cigarette, cigarette,
Burning up time
Cigarette, cigarette
Watch the smoke climb
Cigarette, cigarette
Wasting away
Just like this cigarette
Our time is running down
Only one hour til you’re leaving this town

Take me away when I’m done with my afternoon tea

Star Wars And Me

There is a new “Star Wars” movie coming out this week. I should be more excited, but I’m not.

Pretty much all of my enthusiasm for the latest “Star Wars” trilogy died when that goth loser Kylo Ren shoved a lightsaber in Han Solo’s chest and let him fall into blackness.

Yep, I should be more excited about a new “Star Wars” movie but I’m not.

It wasn’t always that way.

A long time ago

The year was 1977. My brother drove my sister and me to the Tower theater in Springfield to see this new sci-fi space adventure, “Star Wars.” Words cannot describe. I walked out of the theater wanting to walk right back in.

I feel nothing but a great swell of pity for everyone who never saw “Star Wars” for the first time in a movie theater in 1977 when it was all pristine and new. If you experienced “Star Wars” for the first time via videotape, DVR or TNT — you have my sympathies. You simply can’t imagine what life was like before “Star Wars.” Science-fiction space adventure movies were crap. It was as if a whole new universe had been opened up for us, thanks to George Lucas.

A few weeks later we went to Columbia to pick up my other sister from college and we saw it again. It was even better the second time. Keep in mind we were poor country folk, we rarely went to the movies at all. Let alone the same one twice.

star_wars_hildebrandt_artI was 15 years old at the time — the prime age for the merchandising machine that would follow. I bought the poster to hang on my bedroom wall (the Hildebrandt version is still one of the all-time great movie posters) and the soundtrack album (which I didn’t listen to much because, you know, it’s just instrumental). I got a watch for Christmas.

I loved “Star Wars” but it didn’t become an obsession. I didn’t buy any action figures, I didn’t bother with the comic books, I didn’t read the novels. The movies were enough.

Like all right-minded people, I believe “The Empire Strikes Back” is As Good As It Gets. The perfect mix of drama, humor, special effects, character bits, Yoda, the giant worm in the asteroid, surprising revelations, Lando, and those giant Imperial tanks that look like dinosaurs.

Sitting through the third film I started to feel that, yeah, maybe it is time to wrap this up. They’re taking down a Death Star — again? Why are trained Imperial stormtroopers being taken down by walking teddy bears? Why teddy bears? Getting a little tired of the Emperor going on and on about “the power of the dark side…”

A Bad Feeling About This

Lucas claimed early on that the plan was for three trilogies and the next one would be a prequel to the original. It took so long to get around to making the prequels that I began to think it would never happen. When “The Phantom Menace” finally showed up some 16 years after “Return of the Jedi,” the expectations were high. The disappointment would take a while to sink in.

starwars-02I don’t need to recite all the ills of the prequels, but let’s go over the major ones:

  • Darth Vader, one of the great villains of cinema, is reduced to a precocious child and a whining adolescent. I’m sure Hitler was a precocious child and a whiny teenager, but I don’t want to know about it.
  • The Jedi Knights, once thought of as samurai cowboys wandering the galaxy fighting evil, are reduced to clueless politicians sitting around debating what the hell’s going on and never figuring it out.
  • Ridiculously complicated plots involving trade federations and clones and the machinations of Palpatine.
  • The worst love story in the history of film.

You’re probably wondering why Jar Jar Binks isn’t on this list, but I think the hatred of JJB is overblown. He’s just another witless comedy relief character. He serves the same role as C-3PO but nobody complains about him.

The prequels do benefit from superior special effects, but here is where I learned that there is more to “Star Wars” than awesome FX. All the pretty planets and weird aliens and exciting space battles don’t mean a thing if you don’t care about the characters. And I just didn’t care about anybody in the prequels — except Obi Wan. And maybe Mace Windu, but even Sam Jackson was wasted in these films — and when you’re wasting a talent like Samuel L. Jackson — you’ve done something seriously wrong.  (I also liked Qui-Gon, but they kill him off in the first film).

For me, “Star Wars” isn’t about lightsabers, odd hairdos or the Millennium Falcon (although those are all important) — it’s about Luke, Leia and Han.

There is Another 

With the tepid reception to the prequels, and anger over Lucas tinkering with the originals, it seemed unlikely we would ever see that third trilogy. Then Disney bought out Lucasfilm and the next thing you know — Everything’s Star Wars.

starwarsjpg1445279779When I learned that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford had signed on for the new movies — I was excited about “Star Wars” for the first time in a long time. Oh sure, they’re older and they’ve been through the wringer, but then, haven’t we all? I just wanted to see Luke, Leia and Han all back together, cracking wise and fighting the dark side, one more time.

And then that f—king Kylo Ren shoved a lightsaber in Han Solo’s chest and let him fall into blackness.

I mean, seriously? Han Solo and Princess Leia have a son and it’s this loser? We go from the great Darth Vader to this loser? I’d be more scared of the offspring of Jabba the Hut and an Ewok than I am of Kylo Ren.

The rest of the additions are fine but I’m not in it for them. I want The Beatles, not New Kids on the Block. Which leads me to my next great analogy.

Let’s say The Beatles announce they are planning a reunion concert (I know two of them are dead — work with me). You’re excited, right? You mortgage your home to buy a pair of tickets. You show up at the concert hall. The curtain goes up and there are Paul, George and Ringo playing all the hits. You’re enjoying the show, but at the same time you’re thinking “Where’s John?” Intermission. Act 2 begins and there’s John! with George and Ringo. But now Paul’s missing. You’re enjoying the show, but at the same time you’re thinking “Where the hell did Paul go?”

In the end, you did see The Beatles, but not all four together like you were hoping and expecting. Still a good show, but still somewhat disappointing.

And that’s where I am with “Star Wars.” I suppose they could bring Han back somehow but there’s no bringing Carrie Fisher back, so I’m not going to get what I really wanted.

At any rate, I’ll be sticking with “Star Wars” to the end (although now that Disney is in charge, I doubt there will ever be an end). I am excited to see Luke again and see where he fits into this strange, new galaxy. And I need to know what happens to Leia. And I am pretty fond of Rey. Maybe there is hope.

But I’d still like to see the Fab Three again.

 

On Stage: The King and I

After entertaining audiences with the modern musicals “On Your Feet!” and “The Bodyguard,” the Fox Theatre is dancing back to Broadway’s golden age with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic “The King and I.”

The show is based on the life of Anna Leonowens, who served as governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. Her story was made into a book — “Anna and the King of Siam” — by Margaret Landon in 1944. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II turned the tale into a musical that made its Broadway premiere in 1951.

The current touring production, directed by Bartlett Sher, won four Tony awards in 2015, including Best Revival of a Musical.

Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy_preview

Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly in “The King and I.” Photo by Matthew Murphy

Laura Michelle Kelly stars as Anna — the “I” in the title — a widowed mother of one who has come to Bangkok to teach the many children, and wives, of the King (Jose Llana). The king wants to be considered a modern-day ruler but continues to cling to old ways. It’s a puzzlement.

Both Anna and the king are strong-willed and the challenging nature of their relationship is the heart of the story. There’s a subplot involving a young princess (Q Lim) who doesn’t want to be the king’s property.  Also playing a key role is Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang, the first among the king’s wives.

The leads all have powerful voices as they deliver such standards as “I Whistle a Happy Tune,”  “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance?” Kelly performs the role of classic musical heroine with grace and style while Llana is a supercharged powder keg of explosive energy.

The set design is minimal for the most part while the costumes are bright and elaborate. The music is sharp and memorable and the performances are all strong. “The King and I” isn’t a holiday classic, but it’s a fine diversion for the holiday season.

“The King and I” runs through Dec. 10. www.fabulousfox.com

 

 

 

The RRoy Report Holiday Gift Guide 2017

So you’ve got stuck playing Secret Santa and you don’t know what to do? Or say you’ve got some great co-worker, friend, brother, cousin, former co-worker, husband and you really want to show your appreciation for all that person has been to you — but what to do, what to do?

Well, that’s why I’m here. And that’s why every year I struggle to bring you the latest and greatest in gift ideas for the holidays. To be honest, I didn’t struggle too much this year — the holidays have kinda snuck up on me. Doing “Justice League” week last week really threw off my schedule.

Still, I scraped together a few things so let’s get through this so you can get back to turkey leftovers or football or whatever you do today.

Movies

download2017 was lousy in many ways, but it was stellar when it comes to superhero movies. Many of them are available now on blu-ray (my preferred format) or DVD. If you want to spend the holiday darkly depressed, check out Wolverine’s last run in Logan. It’s violent and sad and very well done. If you need something much more lighthearted, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming offer laughs, action, special effects and decent villain turns by Kurt Russell and Michael Keaton. If you want all of that (except Keaton and Russell) and a heaping dose of feminism, check out Wonder Woman.

If you can only buy one — why can you only buy one? You’ve got a computer and internet, you can’t be that poor.

Music

I tend to latch onto bands and musicians because (a) they put out that one song that really grabs my attention (b) a friend/nephew/roommate turns me on to them (c) there is no c.

Green-Day-Gods-Favorite-Band-billboard-embedI’m not a fan of Green Day. I’ve heard some of their stuff but they’ve never had that one song that really grabs me. Still, I know they’re popular and I’d probably like their stuff if I tried it and they do have a greatest hits album coming out for the holidays, so BAM! it’s on the list. Besides, apparently they’re “God’s Favorite Band,” so they must be good.

The New Pornographers, one of my favorite modern bands — maybe my only favorite modern band — put out a new record this year. “Whiteout Conditions” starts out with a couple of really strong songs, has an OK middle and then loses steam at the end. I’d still recommend it. U2 will have a new album out December 1. I don’t need a copy of “Songs of Experience” because they’re sending us 2 copies for advance purchasing tickets for their St. Louis show. I don’t know what I’ll do with the second copy — maybe I’ll do one of those “Like and Share” things on Facebook for some lucky winner. Since I haven’t heard it yet I can’t tell you if it’s any good, but hey, it’s U2 — how bad can it be?

Books

9780785194521_p0_v2_s600x595Uhm, don’t have much in the way of book recommendations this year. Susan Sagarra didn’t write one. I mentioned this last week, but DC is releasing an omnibus version of the wonderful Justice League International comic book. If you enjoy some Bwah-Ha-Ha with your superhero action, it’s worth checking out. It will not fit in a stocking.

Otherwise, the only thing I can think of is the collection edition of Secret Empire. This is the controversial (because everything is controversial these days) story in which Captain America turns out to be a secret Nazi — I mean, Hydra — and takes over the world. Some nerds just don’t understand that heroes temporarily being turned into bad guys is a staple of comic books and — spoiler alert! — Cap isn’t going to be evil by the story’s end.

As you probably expect, I’m only recommending this because there’s some decent Hawkeye/Black Widow moments. Although it doesn’t end well for Natasha.

Station Trinkets

I learned a new term this week: Station Trinkets. Apparently that refers to all the crap that people put on their desks to give it a personal feel and help convince you that you’re not really wasting your life away at a desk like a cog in a machine for some cold, impersonal company.

Some people, of course, put up family photographs. Many people in my office like those god-awful ugly Funko dolls. Others prefer different forms of memorabilia.

heroclix

My personal recommendation: Heroclixs. They’re game pieces (I’ve never played the game and have no idea how) that come in the shape of your favorite comic book characters. They are small, so you can have several on your desk. They are cheap, so if someone steals them it’s no big loss. And they look cool. Although to be fair, the quality of some of them varies– especially the faces. So check them out before you buy.

In Conclusion

I went out recently looking for superhero Christmas sweaters but all they had was Deadpool and I don’t like ‘Pool enough to wear him for the holidays. Target had an amusing light-up Star Wars sweater, but I’m not enough of a Star Wars geek to want that. But then, I’m not you.

As always, if for some reason your taste in holiday gifts veers towards automotive-related items, check out all the great deals at www.etrailer.com.

Now get out there and go shopping. Our nation’s economy is counting on you.

 

 

 

Thanks

That for which I am thankful, 2017:

We have survived Year 1 of the Trump Administration

A&W Root Beer (and Cream Soda)

A fine year of superhero movies (even Justice League)

People who don’t touch my stuff

People who do

scotttouch (2)

Insurance

Olives

Drugs that don’t have negative side effects

People who stand for the National Anthem

People who take a knee

golden nuggets

Leah

All my musical favorites who haven’t died this year

The music left behind by those who did

real news

And, as always

tahoe9