Archive for the 'Entertainment' Category

Animate It!

I volunteer for Film Action Oregon because of my ongoing endeavors in film-making and because they stand for such a great cause.  What they also do quite well is empower the youth through the film arts.  Animate It! is just one of their programs that help that cause.  Here’s the info:

Beginner Class
Beginner level Animate It! workshop for kids ages 7-11. Students will learn about the art of animation by creating their very own stop-motion animation video! Students who do not feel ready for an advanced Animate It! workshop are highly encouraged to participate. The class will incorporate various fun, DIY animation techniques building towards the creation of an animated sequence!

Dates: January 22nd and January 23rd
Times: 10am-1pm both days
Location: The Hollywood Theatre
Cost: $70, limited scholarships available

Advanced Class
Have you taken an animation class before? Are you familiar with how to use stop motion software? Join our new advanced level Animate It! workshop. Students will work with a professional animator to expand their technical knowledge, and learn how to incorporate audio into their films. Class size is extremely limited, so enroll soon! Animate It! workshop will be instructed by animator Dan Ackerman, Director of ‘Ackerman Films’ and owner of ‘Stage 13’ Production Studio

Dates:
Saturday, January 29th
Sunday, January 30th
Saturday, February 5th
Sunday, February 6th
Times: 10am-1pm each day
Location: The Hollywood TheatreCost: $200

Call 503-493-1128 to enroll

Here’s the link to their website:  http://www.filmactionoregon.org/educating/animate_it.html

What better way to enrich a youth’s life than through the arts!

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A Family Less Ordinary

I’ve really taken to the TV Show called No Ordinary Family (ABC, Tuesdays, 9pm) partly because, well, in all honesty, I miss Heroes.  But mostly because I’m beginning to really like the characters and what they go through to balance possessing extraordinary abilities with everyday life.

Jim (Michael Chiklis) is the head of the not so ordinary Powell family.  He is a police sketch artist who wants to do more.  He developed the ability of super-strength and invulnerability.  We already know Chiklis can play a superhero, so Jim is no stretch.  However, I like the restrained excitement with which he plays his character, tempered with an “all around good guy” vibe.  Stephanie (Julie Benz) is Jim’s wife, and is a very successful scientist at Global Tech, Stephanie developed super speed, which has come in very handy on more than one occasion.  (Fanboy Segue: Benz played the vampire “Darla,” one of my most favorite characters from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series.)  Rounding out the family are Daphne (Kay Panabaker), the daughter who developed the ability to read minds as well as tactile postcognition, and JJ (Jim Bennett), the formerly not-so-smart son who ironically developed super intelligence.

Supported by “sidekicks” George St. Cloud (Romany Malco), District Attorney who also happens to be a good friend of Jim’s, and Katie Andrews (adorably portrayed by Autumn Reeser), Stephanie’s lab assistant, the Powells are able to evolve into a superpowered family you can get behind.  And now that new characters (both good and bad) continue to be introduced– not to mention that the character of Will/Joshua (played by Josh Stewart) continues to evolve into something more than just a hired gun for Dr. King– I’m making space in DVR to catch the Powells do their thing.

What I appreciate most about Family is that, unlike Heroes, they don’t seem to take themselves too seriously.  Of course, it helps that it’s family friendly (probably slated for syndication on ABC Family at some point), so it has that aw-shucks and a we’re-just-trying-to-be-normal-even-though-we-kick-ass approach.  It is perhaps this lightheartedness that makes me appreciate it more.  Oh, sure, there’s a badass villain who happens to be Stephanie’s boss, Dr. King (portrayed by Commander Decker! a.k.a. Stephen Collins) but even that character (for now) seems pretty harmless.

Let’s just hope they don’t jump the shark at some point by suddenly granting powers to the previously non-powered (*cough* Ando *cough*) or by doing something else that is purely nonsensical.  I’d like to be able to enjoy the Powells for a very long time.

America Made DeWyze Choice!

As I had hoped, Lee DeWyze has just won Season 9 of American Idol. Congratulations, Lee! You are the very first contestant that I was rooting for to actually take the prize!

Lee DeWyze FTW!

It’s been quite a while since I blogged. And nearly two months since I last blogged about the current season of American Idol. Interestingly (and most excitingly), the subject of that blog post— Lee DeWyze– is now in the finale, facing off against fellow Chicago auditioner, Crystal Bowersox.

Lee DeWyze

DeWyze has certainly come a long way. During Hollywood week, Simon Cowell, the unequivocal lead judge, once told DeWyze that he didn’t have the potential to be a star. Yet here we are, over 14 weeks since DeWyze responded to that critique with a mere “Okay…” and Cowell is now singing a different tune, telling DeWyze just last week how “very, very, very proud” he is of the unassuming singer-songwriter with a troubled past.

Clearly, DeWyze had the strongest performances during Top 3 Night, with his personal song choice of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” and Cowell’s own choice for him–Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”– being the highlights of the evening. The latter was almost a season-ending turn; he would’ve won, in my opinion, had that been the last performance of the season.

DeWyze has certainly shown the most noticeable progression of any contestant in this ninth season of the popular reality show, and his humble, approachable nature has managed to amass him quite a following. He’s turned from this “little baby lamb” (as judge, Ellen Degeneres, recently opined) into a force to be reckoned with. He’s even been touted by many to be the likely recipient of this year’s crown.

Indeed, at last Wednesday’s results show, DeWyze proclaimed that he’s “never wanted to win more than I do right now.”

But it all comes down to DeWyze’s final judgeable performances on Tuesday– and, of course, America’s votes– that lead to whether his (or Bowersox’s) ultimate dream comes true.

I, for one, can picture the confetti falling upon DeWyze’s smiling, tear-drenched face on next Wednesday’s results show as he’s honored as this season’s winner. But it’s not just up to me. It’s up to the American viewers who are repeatedly reminded by Idol host, Ryan Seacrest: “You vote. You decide.”

I’m hopeful the rest of America makes the right choice: Lee DeWyze, American Idol 2010!

Vote for Lee DeWyze!

So, I’m watching American Idol again.

I know.  Lame. 

But here’s the thing: I love the journey these contestants are taking to further their musical endeavors.  They’re hoping for a career in the music industry and American Idol has proven to open doors and pave the way for many previous contestants. 

Sure a number of those that have ended up on the current Top Ten got there due to their personality or looks over any semblance of true talent.  I’m not going to talk about them.  Who I am going to talk about are those who have been hitting the street corners and subway platforms; gigging at clubs and fairs; impressing people at karaoke; hoping and wishing for that big break.  Those who have been impressing us from the get-go.

One such person is Lee DeWyze.

 

Hailing from Mt. Prospect, Illinois, DeWyze auditioned in Chicago, was put through to Hollywood, selected into the Top 24, and had recently secured a spot within the Top Ten.  And he did these not by relying on having a big personality or industry-defined aesthetics.  He did this by simply singing very well.

To date, through amazing turns with songs like Hinder’s “Lips of an Angel” and a reimagined version of Rolling Stones’s “Beast of Burden”– and impressive reinterpretations of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” Owl City’s “Fireflies,” and The Box Tops’s “The Letter”– DeWyze has, in my opinion, exhibited a very current, marketable voice as well as true artistry.

Prior to joining the 9th season of Idol, DeWyze independently released two records: 2007’s “So I’m Told” and 2010’s “Slumberland.”  Both discs showcase the beautiful tone of his voice– at once gruff and tender– and a songwriting skill that could only be bourne from years of honing.

He is not the most savvy “entertainer” and has struggled with shedding the singer/songwriter vibe.  However, therein lies his appeal.  (And, that he’s landed on the Top Ten, it’s clear that he’s appealed to many.)  He’s not the flashiest one on stage; in fact, he seems terrified of it.  But one thing remains:  the voice that comes out of that still terrified frame is one that needs to be celebrated.

DeWyze performs again on American Idol on Tuesday, 03/30/10, when Usher mentors them through “R&B Week.”  If you would like to have a hand in helping this musician with incredible talent and potential, please vote for him, and keep him in the competition.  I feel he can go real far with the opportunity that Idol is providing.  Let’s make a difference in this young musician’s life.  I have a good feeling that we’ll be the ones reaping the most rewards.

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Avatar: The Last Great Movie?

Jake Sully and Natiri

Avatar's Jakesully and Neytiri

I recently saw James Cameron‘s Avatar.  In 3D.  Twice.  In two days.  I would’ve seen it a third time in three days, but, alas, the rest of the holiday plans came into full swing and I had to forgo it.  For now.  To say that I “liked” the movie would be an understatement.  Indeed, to even state that I “loved” it would not even come close to how I feel.  It’s embarrassing to even type this review because, the bottom line, is that I was totally immersed in the world that Cameron has created, I wanted to be a part of it as often as I could while it was still on the big screen.  In fact, at my next opportunity, I’m going to see the movie again but this time in IMAX 3D.  What better way to completely immerse yourself in this type of movie than in that format?

From a storytelling standpoint, the premise is nothing new.  It was “Dances With Ferngully” (my take on “Dances With Wolves” combined with “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest,” if you literally couldn’t put two and two together) set in the far future.  A human is thrown into the lives of the indigenous people (the Na’vi) of the planet, Pandora, which they are cultivating for a mineral that would provide much-needed energy for a dying Earth.  The humans have been in Pandora for a while, and a few scientists donned in their avatars (biological exosuits created to look like the Na’vi) have been interacting with one of the tribes (the Omaticaya).  They’d set up a school near the tribe and had been teaching them English.  In turn, these scientists, headed by Sigourney Weaver‘s Dr. Grace Augustine, had learned a lot about the Na’vi’s customs and language, ingredients needed for what they hoped was future coexistence.

The problem is that the largest resource of the mineral– hilariously referred to as unobtanium— happens to be underneath Home Tree– the place the Omaticaya call home.  And the financial backers of the expedition would stop at nothing to get at it.

The human, Jake Sully (aptly portrayed by Sam Worthington, recently seen in Terminator: Salvation), unwittingly finds himself completely involved with the Omaticaya that he sides with them in the end.  Of course, like all predictable plot twists, it involves a woman (Neytiri, pictured above, as voiced by Star Trek‘s Zoe Saldana).  And, as predicted, the Na’vi win in the end.  Again, nothing new here.  The only possible way to throw something unique to the storyline is if the Na’vi wasn’t successful at protecting their world, and the humans overran them.  That may have, of course, plotted the premise for a sequel (“Avatar: The Uprising” or something like that), but I don’t think that would’ve worked for this movie.  It needed a resolution, and that’s exactly what it got.

What’s really kept and would keep me coming back for more is the visual spectacle.  Cameron waited over a decade to make this movie because he wanted the CGI (computer-generated imagery) technology to exceed, let alone catch up, to his and what he believed to be the audience’s expectations.  And the wait was definitely worth it.  Cameron and his team created a Pandora so real that one would believe it truly existed.  The Na’vi and the various creatures that roam Pandora were so believable, it seemed to me that Cameron hired Na’vi actors and trained Pandoran animals to act out his scenes.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen: it was that real. It’s the kind of advanced CGI technology 2001’s Final Fantasy: The Spirts Within” could’ve used.  It still would’ve sucked, however, but at least everything would’ve been nice to look at.

The bottom line: Avatar is definitely worth seeing over and over again for the masterpiece that it is.  To proclaim it the last great movie would be unrealistic due to the tired storyline.  But Cameron raised the bar with Avatar to a height that other future CGI movies will have to reach or eclipse.  That would be no small feat, probably even for Cameron.  Although, something tells me that’s one challenge I don’t believe he’d mind tackling.  And I can’t wait until he does!


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