TV OR NOT TV

Over the last few years, Television and the method its consumed has drastically changed. As recently as ten years ago, the way to obtain current programming was via a coax cable through a subscription for video service as provided by a regional cable TV company, subscribing through a satellite service, or through an over the air method using a standard aerial. Although cable and satellite was often the number one method of getting what people watched, there were a few holdouts that used an antenna to get the local programming as many folks didn’t care much to pay so much per month to watch a few channels while ignoring the rest. It was a happy medium for what it was, although there were gripes from those subscribers who were paying $50.00+ per month to receive their “57 channels with nothing on”!

That was TV life in the middle 2000’s. Today, TV is everything plus! Sure, cable and satellite is still the chose for those that want it, but it’s not the only way to go. Today, there are other alternatives of how to watch TV and through what means! The preferred way is through a standard device, since these so-called smart monitors can offer a bigger picture connected to a booming sound system, and can do just about anything a device with a much smarter screen can do.

And those smaller screens that consist of smart phones, laptops, and electronic pads, can provide video content just as long as there is an internet connection applied. Of course, one won’t get the bigger picture nor the booming sound. But for being on the go, it’s the method to use!

And speaking of the devices, the growth of smart TVs are exceeding although their actual usage is shrinking. According to a recently released study from global research firm Accenture, viewers are increasingly watching video programming on smart phones, tablets, mobile devices, and laptops while TV screen usage took a double digit decline from the previous year. According to the report, viewership of video content on traditional TV screens dropped 13% worldwide and 11% in the USA. Sports programming, the be all to end all form of content programming, also saw its viewership drop by 10% worldwide and 9% domestically.

One can guess that the younger one is, the more likely they will watch video imagery through a portable unit. Teens fourteen through eighteen years (high school age) saw a 33% decline from standard devices. Millennials age 18-34 took a 14% decrease, while Gen X (35-50) dropped 11%

Outside of portability, the reason why the shift is because of the devices themselves and how they are connected thanks to improvements in streaming video quality as well as longer battery life of the mobile devices used. However, unlike the big sized TV machines that can offer the best image available, picture and sound quality needs a lot of work as such electronics can provide so much for a screen size as little as 2” across. The speakers attached sound just as well as a 1960’s era 8 transistor radio, meaning that one should use an external speaker or headphones in order to capture a proper sound quality.

However, TV itself isn’t totally going away as people still want to watch programming. A separate study by eMarketer another research film, states that the average daily usage of video viewing has increased to five hours, thirty one minutes. In 2014 it was six minutes less. And those minutes are chocked based on usage from any unit that sports a video screen.

And as phones get smarter, pads get bigger, and laptops become faster, big screen TVs also receive their glory as those devices have the ability to stream content from provides ranging from Netflix to YouTube. And the list moves up and onward!

But what about that “classic” CRT television set that up until ten years ago (2005) was still offered as a new and ready to roll TV? Sadly, those devices are steadily becoming rather outdated where their value has dropped so low, one can’t even give their old sets away, in spite of the fact that most of these orphaned TV units are still in perfect working order! Many of these wayward sets are either given away through such online ad places as Craigslist and Freecycle, or for those that don’t have the time and patience, leave them sitting curbside looking for some hopeful soul to take ‘em away to give them a good home!

As far as donating the devices to such places as Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and other groups that sell used goods? Some regional outlets will no longer take the sets since they can’t sell them! Never mind the fact that they do work and function. It’s just the fact that they “do nothing” except reproduce a video image with a synced soundtrack. The picture quality will be of standard resolution (525 scan lines–the same way it’s been since the 1940’s) with a sound that can be stereo (depending on the set), but won’t be full wide screen! (Most channels will depict a screen “letterboxed” sized with the back bars on the top and bottom of the image if viewed through a standard device.) Roughly speaking, these TV sets already received their premature deaths!

So as summer progresses, there will be more to watch wherever one goes on that 27/7 cycle. And as stated within these pages many times before, the actual content of what one watches is still at stake. After all, a bad TV show will still be a bad TV show no matter how one views it. Then again, one can read a bound book printed on paper stock! Those kind of books still function without the worry or bother of device battery life and wifi connection. (What a concept!!)

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NEWS AND REVIEWS

     Theatre 68 presents Michael Elyanow’s THE IDIOT BOX, a tragicomedy about a team of sitcom characters whose sitcom life becomes a real one for better of for worse!

The play opens as an unnamed postmodern “Friends”- knock off, loaded with a group of twentysomething characters who live in an apartment located smack in the middle of Manhattan (a place that would be far above their financial means) who are eclectic in a fun loving way, cute and perky, and are the type of friends one would want to hang out with–if they were real! There’s Chloe (Julie Dolan), Mark (Jordan Wall), Fiona (Erin Poland), Billy (Carlo Samame), Stephanie (Emma Servant), and Connor (Grey Rodriguez). These people deal with their relationships, their jobs (even if the jobs they do doesn’t necessarily show any real means of financial support), as well as hanging out at the neighborhood coffee house. The plot within the sitcom deals with bringing a new puppy into the homestead that is a little ferocious. In order to keep this animal in check, a genuine animal trainer imported from the down under outback Veronica (Shelly Hacco) is brought in to tame the beast. Then there is a romantic interest with a doctor in the Naval Reserves Harvey (Carlos J. Castillo), along with College teacher Omar (Jonte LeGras, alternating with Philip AJ Smithey). Keeping up with everyone is Raymond (AJ Brody) who as his alter ego Raymona, is a cabaret torch singer. As this week’s episode comes to its conclusion at 22 minutes, something that one doesn’t find in happy-go-lucky sitcoms occurs. That something is a dose of reality in life. Before too long, the characters begin to have their personal meltdowns, from relationships that go sour and to never become solved by the time the end credits roll, the topics as sexual identity, politics (not the funny kind), racism, and other elements that are more for a heavy drama than a program found on television networks still accessible with a TV antenna!

This is a play that can be described as a satire of TV sitcoms that place its characters, setting, and plot points that are far from reality, but not far enough to become escapist entertainment. This kind of TV fodder featuring characters one might love to hate, fully aware that nobody is really like that in so-called “real life”. This play shows how “real life” would affect them. They might not be as lovable, but at its minimum, they can be respected if one wants to go that far. The cast of players that appears in this play fit their roles down to their looks and attitudes. When they are in their “TV life” mode, they hold no attitude, although hey do answer in cocky one-liners! When they move toward a “real” reality, they are more believable, showing off that life’s downsides can’t be solved before those for noted credits roll or flashed on the bottom third of the screen so fast, one can’t read them! Rick Shaw  directs this play in the same sprit of a post modern sitcom, loaded with spunk, chirpy characters, as well as their lean toward their sobering side–even when they are not sober to begin with!

Along with the performances seen on stage, Danny Cistone designs the set consisting of a cozy loft type apartment complete with kitchenette, front entrance for all to go in and out, and comfy couch and coffee table that serves as the centerpiece where much of the action unfolds. Cody Matthew Johnson & Mason McSpadden composes the music score, complete with energetic and screechy theme song with its background scene change music–just like a real sitcom!

THE IDIOT BOX doesn’t describe its intelligence in its title. It’s very smart, sobering, harsh at times, and when it’s in its TV land setting, the gags are funny with heard on stage, but annoying if heard in a real sitcom. But this isn’t a sitcom–or TV for that matter, and its just as well!

     THE IDIOT BOX, presented by Theatre 68, performs at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd. (at Lankershim), North Hollywood, until June 27th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM. For ticket reservations or for more details, call (323) 960-5068, or via online at http://www.Plays411.com/IdiotBox, or http://www.Theatre68.com

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The Latino Theatre Company presents the Los Angeles premier of Anne Garcia-Romero’s PALOMA, a drama about a romance between a man and a woman of common interests, but of different faiths that set them apart from others within their mists.

The story takes place a few years after the start of the new millennium, where two NYU students Ibrahim “Abe” Ahmed (Ethan Rains) and Paloma Flores (Caro Zeller) become study partners taking the same class for their different majors where they focus upon an 11th century text that inscribes about love. The two come from different backgrounds. She is of Puerto Rican decent and hails from a Catholic background, but only attends services only when necessary i.e. Easter and Christmas. Abe is Muslim, and takes his beliefs in more of a serious nature. As with such relationships, they fall in love. But Abe’s family, especially his father, isn’t too keen over their togetherness because she is an “outsider”. But this doesn’t stop these two. They even plan a trip to Spain during the spring break, visiting this country that has its roots as a Muslim nation dating back 500+ years. Abe doesn’t inform his folks that they are going since he doesn’t want any conflicts. But tragedy strikes when a terrorist bomb goes off in a train station, seriously injuring Abe and killing Paloma. Now her family places a lawsuit against Abe claiming that he kidnapped Paloma and perhaps had something to do with the bombing! Abe’s friend from his college days Jared Rabinowitz (Jesse Einstein), who was a law student, defends his companion in this wrongful death lawsuit. How would this relationship exist if the two didn’t have conflicts over beliefs that they were raised within based upon what other may think, and was Abe really responsible over his girlfriend’s death?

This play written by Anne Garcia-Romero focuses upon how conflicts arise when two people who fall in love although they are not of the same faith, when the only concern comes from an outside source that feels that the source knows better! (Do they?) It’s also takes a historic perspective where the terrorists bombing was based upon an actual incident that occurred in 2009-an event that was called by the international press as Spain’s “9/11”! This play isn’t told in a linear fashion. Intermittent scenes are depicted that develop in how Ibrahim and Paloma meet, augmented with Jarid and Ibrahim discussing the lawsuit where Ibrahim is set for trial. Through these episodes, the story unfolds through stagmented segments, leading into its final conclusions. (Was Idrahim proven guilty by the court of what he did, and will his family, or at least his father, ever accept him as the son that he is, even if he wasn’t associated with somebody of his own kind?) The three players become believable in who they portray, keeping their faith while living in the new millennium that is suppose to promote equality, even though a few relegate what equality is and when it should be applied.

As to the technical side, Ann Sheffield’s and Megan Hill’s set designs consists of a collection of large and angular backdrops in blacked tones, along with a pair of chairs and a table, that service as the various sites and locations where the action takes place using a virtual scenic approach. Laura Wong’s provides the costuming for the trio of performers as the three leads along with some duo roles depicted. And the production features an original live music score by Surrena Saffari on Spanish guitar that sets the mood as interpreted.

Directed by Alan Freeman, PALOMA can be described as a love story as well as labeled as a tragic drama. It’s a play that holds power and emotion through common bonds and solidifications that are unlike the two. This presentation as performed within an intimate theater setting brings the conflict to its audience in a glowing method, and it worth its noteworthy look.

  PALOMA, presented by the Latino Theatre Company, and performs at the Los Angeles Theatre Center (Theatre 4), 514 South Spring Street, downtown Los Angeles, until June 21st. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 3:00 PM. For more information and for tickets, call (213) 489-0994, (800) 811-411, or via online at http://www.TheLatc.org

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ALOHA (Sony/Columbia) stars Bradley Cooper as Brian Gilcrest. He was once involved in the Air Force, teaming up with NASA and based in Hawaii, working with a space program at Hickam Air Force base. He was also once involved with Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams) where the two had a promising future with one another. However, circumstances tore them apart. Brian faced a double whammy when NASA cut back on their space program, as well as having the economy taking a beating. After struggling for a number of years, he’s seeking a comeback as an independent contractor with a rocket launch funded through private hands backed by multimillionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray). Now back in his familiar territory, he has Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone), an officer in the Air Force, working with him as well as playing “babysitter” for this assignment. Tracy, the former girlfriend still lives nearby, this time as a family woman with two kids married to John a.k.a. “Woody” (John Krasinski), an Air Force pilot and soft spoken man so soft spoken, he barley speaks! Among these people from his second in command Air Force officer “Fingers” Lacy (Danny McBride), to the take charge General Dixon (Alec Baldwin), Brian has his opportunity to latch on to a second chance within his own personal life, while undergoing the biggest break in teaming up with a space launch he wanted to see as a happening thing.

This feature written, directed, and produced (with Scott Rudin) by Cameron Crowe, holds a lot in terms of characters, plotting, as well as how relationships add to the mix. The leading team of players act out their roles within the same stance that is never overbearing to one another. There is comedy, but played out as more sweet and humble, rather than loud, cocky, or obnoxious. Roughly stating, this flick is more adult in nature, meaning that it caters to an older (35 and up) crowd. This film also holds to many of the traits found in other films written and directed by Crowe, such as witty dialogue, simple yet amusing plot twists, and an ending that his lighter than one can expect. (“Happy ending” doesn’t totally describe the conclusion, but that comes pretty close!)

Of course, the real star of the feature is the state of Hawaii itself! Throughout the film, there are scenes and elements suggesting that Hawaii is all around, from the lush landscapes (this film was shot on location in case one couldn’t guess), to other obvious inessentials–hula dancing, leis, surfboards, the “hang loose” hand gesture, etc., as well as a music score that falls under the “invisible jukebox” syndrome; A term this reviewer uses where music is played on the soundtrack to set a mood toward a scene depicted when the music itself doesn’t seem to come from anywhere! (This movie ploy was commonplace in features released in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.) Nevertheless, the music really does matters here!

For those that are seeking alternatives to those summertime blockbuster pictures that can be filled with super heroes, raunchy comedy, along with too much special effects–not counting a parade of sequels, remakes, reboots, and other ‘tentpoles”, then ALOHA will fit the bill! Again, it may cater to more of a mature audience, but that’s beside the point! At least the Hawaiian spirit is ever present! Ayi Ayi!

This feature is rated “PG-13” for mild cussing and milder suggestive scenes! Now playing at the standard multiplexes nationwide.

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SAN ANDREAS (Warner Bros./New Line) stars Dwaine Johnson as Ray Gaines, a member of the Los Angeles Fire Department’s search and rescue team. He was once a helicopter pilot while serving in the Iraq War, performing a continuation of what he did in the military now in a civilian capacity. He has a family, but his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) has just filed for a divorce, taking on to her new companion, Daniel Riddick (Ioan Gruffudd), a wealthy man who builds high rise buildings. His latest, a skyscraper called “The Gate” will become the tallest building in San Francisco. Ray’s daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), still feels for her dad, but leans up toward her mother, even allowing her father-to-be to escort her (in style) to San Francisco to attend college. Meanwhile, a seismologist at Caltech Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) has been studying the small tremors originating from the San Andreas fault, an active crest that cuts across the California landscape from one part of the state to the next. Sure enough, the tremors become more stronger, ready to shift. They eventually do, causing a state wide 9.0+ tremor, causing havoc and destruction. Ray does what he can to assist in rescuing those in need, while he holds an opportunity to perhaps bond his family again as before.

As one could expect in such a feature as this one, there are plenty of cliffhanger-type scenes depicted in this action/adventure picture, full of near misses, close shaves, duck and dodges and other forms of action and movement created to keep its audience on their edge. If does that job at selected moments. However, it’s been done countless times before in other films released within the last twenty five year or more, making such action rather amusing but nothing to write home about! And it’s loaded with an overabundance of CGI special effects that show Los Angeles and San Francisco fall into a heap–if not having a tsunami hit the city on the bay that turns into a city in the bay! The screenplay by Carlton Cuse, with story by Andre Fabrizio & Jeremy Passmore, blends a disaster saga with a soap opera-esk side plot! Now only one can see Ray make an attempt to get back with his soon to be ex-wife (the two team up seeking their daughter among the death and destruction of S.F.), but adding to this domestic story line is her meeting (before the quake, ‘natch) with Ben, a British man played by an Australian actor Hugo Johnstone-Burt. (Part of this film was shot “down under”, in spite of its California setting!) Ben is in town to interview for a job with Daniel Riddick’s company, hoping to land a gig an an entry level architect. Ben brings his 12 year old brother Ollie, (Irish actor Art Parkinson) along. Ollie serves as an unintentional “wingman” for his elder bro. When the quake dose eventually hit, these three form a team for survival, along with the hope for Blake to bond with her dad once again. This form of domestic life would be OK if seen in a melodrama or even a comedy, but doesn’t belong in a disaster flick unless its played as comedy relief! And that kind of stunt can fall flat as that stands!

Directed by Brad Payton, SAN ANDREAS is a film that dose compete with all of those action packed movie titles that feature comic book super hero types, along with the parade of sequels, remakes, reboots, and films that can become money making franchises. However, this one isn’t a remake per se in the same stance as the 1973 release of Earthquake. Then again, does it really make any difference? At least the special effects in this new movie are a whole lot better!

PS…it’s also in 3D, although the 3D effects are not as great as they could be! So save a few bucks and opt for the 2D version when seeing this title in a theater. One will get the same plotting, no matter how many dimensions are depicted!

This film is rated “PG-13” for action violence, along with mild cussing. Now playing in both 2D and 3D at the usual collection of multiplexes nationwide.

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