WHY GO TO THE MOVIES?

As the summer movie season progresses, so are the movies themselves being released. Since April of this year, the “big six” (Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros.), along with a few of the smaller so-called independent releasing companies, have been attempting to get their piece of the summertime movie market, offering films that are big, loud, action packed, loaded with special effects, and are amusing and entertaining for what they are.

If anyone follows the movies and the industry behind it all, one can’t help noting articles reporting on how much money this feature made, or what that film grossed worldwide. Universal’s Furious 7 has grossed over 300 million since its release in April. Disney/Marvel Studio’s Avengers: Age of Ultron  nearly grabbed 200 million in its first weekend. And the list goes onward.

That said, this is proof that people still trek on over to their local movie houses to view these blockbuster hits. What make this notion rather interesting is the fact that many of the folks that see these films are of the demographic that are fully wired and connected, and are “on” 24/7! These people can watch nearly anything they want, when they want, and wherever they may be. Just as long as there is some kind of signal connection, they are ready, willing, and able to go!

So why do these folks still watch movies the old fashioned way by viewing these flicks in a darkened theater full of strangers that laugh, cry, yell, scream, and otherwise react to what’s going on the big fully digitized screen, and paying as much as $20.00 for the privilege?

Perhaps the reason to this is the fact that some people actual feel that watching movies should have an emotional appeal connected to the experience. Let’s face it–sure, one can view video content on a larg(er) screen device in one’s home, connected to a booming sound system, and can have access to just about all of the conforms of home–because they are at home!! Unless the person has a load of people at their home base watching the same content at the same time, most of the viewing is usually limited to those present. And that number can be as low as a single person–the viewer!

There’s been a load of flak reported through various sites on the ‘net (‘natch) that express concerns of watching movies in a theater vs. watching at home or a home-type environment. The comments and concerns vary, but many of the pros and cons teeter toward price of admission that theater charge–as little as ten dollars for a first run screening, to as much as $20.00 and up to see a film in one of those upscale places where one can sit on a Lay-Z-Boy-type lounge chair complete with reclining backrests and ottomans to place one’s legs and feet, where waiters take your order for gourmet treats that can include alcohol! Also, the cons are from people that are there to watch the film, only to become annoyed from others present that insist on talking to one another during the film, using their phone devices, and engaging in other distractions that can be avoided rather easily! If one can see a film at a reasonable price minus the obnoxious patrons, one would be willing to head on over to a moving picture house. And unlike watching a movie at home, sometimes people do want to get out of their homes for a while to a place that is different to where they live. It’s the notion of cabin fever kicking in!

Movie theaters themselves have changed within the last ten or so years, around the time when the studios shifted the way that titles were sent to the theaters, from 35mm prints to high res digital copies stored on large hard drives. And that may even change where movies will be distributed through dedicated streaming sources where the movie theater will show films sent by way of a high band internet connection. As of this writing, this method of getting the films to the theaters have yet to be conducted! Stay tuned to this news source for further developments!

And in spite of some of the major chains of movie houses closing or condensing their existing places, there are a few new ones being built! A shopping mall in Woodland Hills, California will feature an Arclight movie house–being built on a space once occupied by a Sears store, that will host all of the elements found in any of the existing Arclight Cinema houses, offing a selection of the standard blockbuster titles, as well as the smaller so-called independent features. In addition, these same places will have screenings of older films–the same method that was once limited to revival movie houses offing an older title the way it was supposed to be seen–on the big screen to a audience seated in a darkened auditorium where they can laugh, cry, yell, and react the the action taking place.

So as the box office reports big profits (and a few losses) on new movies, that will show evidence that people are still willing to pay to look at a film at that moment, spending more at the concession stand as well! After all, going to the movies is a journey to some, while it gives something to do for others! And one can’t necessarily get that same feeling from looking at moving imagery from a smartphone boasting a 2” screen! It may be handy, but it’s never enough!

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NEWS AND REVIEWS

     Theatre West continues with the second of a pair of plays that are part of the theater’s Writers In Rep program with Chris DiGiovanni’s THE CLAW, an amusing comedy about a doctor in training’s goal in completing her research through the aid of a wealthy benefactor, providing she completes a unique request from a relative to revive their father figure who encountered a horrible demise.

Lindsey Jean Roetzel plays Dr. Felicity Merriweather. She is a medical student who was working on a research project, but ended her project due to funding cuts. In order to continue her undertaking, she seeks the aid of Christian Dearfield (Adam Langsam), a man of financial means. Upon making a visit to his mansion on Manhattan’s tawny east side, she encounters a collection of rather unusual characters, starting with the valet Riccardo (Joe Nassi) that is in charge of, among other duties, feeding a stay cat that lingers around the place. She eventually meets up with Christian, making her request for the research. But Christian is in interaction with his cousin Hugo Bridge (Elliot Davis), who is in a different capacity than his relation. He may not be in the same financial status than his cousin, but does drive an inquiry. It seems that his father, while on an expedition in a remote jungle area located within the far reigns of Earth, had a losing battle with a giant eagle meeting his fate. The father’s remains were preserved, along with the bird’s claw that held on to him, in a state of suspended animation kept in a clear sealed box stashed away in a freestanding closet in the library of the home. She will receive her funding if she is to clone the father from what’s left of him. Things begin to become complex when Hugo seeks the desire of Felicity, while Christian is doing the same. Adding insult to injury, the claw along with the father’s remains is stolen. Police detective Earline Woodbine (Arden Teresa Lewis) is hot on the case. Who would steal this family heirloom and why? Will Felicity ever clone Hugo’s father to the same state as he was before? And what about the stray cat? Is it indeed an actual cat (as played by Joe Filippone), or does this puss has something to do behind the mystery of their father’s death, or even the father himself?

This play making its world premier at Theatre West, is a fast paced comical farce, developed in the same tradition as to a British comedy of the same nature, complete with characters running madly to and fro if not disappearing and reappearing through doorways, along with characters that are wacky, eclectic, and have personality. The personality may be of an absurd kind, but is appearing nevertheless! (Unlike those noted British farces, there are no mistaken identities portrayed, and nobody is really scantly clad!) The dialogue is full of wit and witticism, the action maneuvers in a swift velocity, and the characters are portrayed as ludicrous and delirious. These elements make this play as one big quip, a notion proving that newly created stage farces can still hold on as their own! The ensemble of players appearing fit their roles in a precise manner, often keeping up with each other in terms of pacing and speed! Thanks to Linda Rand’s stage direction, they hold that ability to keep things going, in spite of the fact that its absurdity runs rather high. And that’s a good conceit to note.

In addition to the acting depicted on stage, Nicholas Acciani set design shows off the room where all the action takes place. And special attention goes to Mason Trager for the design and creation of the claw; Perhaps the real star of the show that isn’t human and doesn’t speak–or speak dialogue anyway!

THE CLAW is indeed a one of a kind comedy that is cartoonish without being droll or annoying. It has cleverness, a terrific climatic peak, and even sports a happy ending! That’s all one needs in this type of theater humor.

     THE CLAW, presented by and performs at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. Los Angeles, (Universal City adjacent) until June 21st. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For tickets and for more information, call (323) 851-7977, or via online at http://www.TheatreWest.org

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Skypilot Theatre Company presents the world premier of Adam Hahn’s THE MERMAID WARS, a play that speaks upon a battle between the nation and a new breed of aliens.

Around the turn of the new millennium, the USA was hit with an attack by an outside force. It was not the cause of terrorists, but by mermaids- a form of living beings that live beneath the waters and have been previously passed off as mythical creatures akin to unicorns or trolls. These mermaids are real, tempting humans (men mostly) with their song; a haunting tone that lures those that hear it into the waters they live within, drowning in the process! Vice President Kyle Norman (Anthony Backman) addresses the nation over this war, a kind of battle that doesn’t use the force of weapons–so far! Even his boss, President Swann (Morry Schorr) meets his fate by these mermaid’s haunting attractiveness. A team of scientist based at a military camp studies these creatures, donning headphones so they don’t fall victim to these beings from a watery world. From take charge civilians to a unique all-female team of underwater specialists aboard a submerged sub, they find out the reason why these creatures are at battle. What are their goals? Do they wish to conquer and for what cause? And who will declare victory in this war–assuming that there is a war to consider?

This imaginative play by Adam Hahn addresses many factors, from the politics of war and battle, the notion of how postmodern science conducts their motions and through their motives, and the elements of sex within its role in a conflicts that isn’t a traditional battle–although sex and violence can become strange bedfellows. Told in short scenes and monologues, the concept it brings is rather unique and original where it can be classified as a satire of a “us vs. them” scenario without being loud and obnoxious. It’s more of a dark low key comedy that sports darker overtones minus any depressing destiny!

Nicholas Leland directs this production that hosts a large ensemble of players, featuring as listed in their alphabetical order, Anthony Backman (previously noted), Jeff Blumberg, Sohani Holland Cagliero, Tony DeCarlo, Kesia Elwin, Lise Hart, Claire Harvey, Jennifer Hogan, Darla Rose Jaffe, Lana Rae Jarvis, Starina Johnson, Henrey Knotts, Claire Lake, Damien Landini, Ann-Marie Lariccia, Kerr Lordygan, Lauren Manzano, Christopher Palle, Marlon Samuda, Morry Shorr (previously listed), Lejon Stewart, Jennifer Strand, Marisa Van Den Borre, Kayla Vosberg, Tina Walsch, and Dwana White. Some of these players portray the humans ashore, while others play the tridents propelling slowly among the waves in their ever present silence.

Outside of his stage direction duties, Nicholas Leland provides the lighting direction and the set design that  shows off a water tank of a mermaid captured by the government among scaffolding that suggests vessels set both above and below the waters, and other locations that are both wet and dry. Halley and William Straube designed the mermaid costumes that resembles what a mermaid can look like minus the tail fin. This way, the mermaids can be more mobile! (Kristina Llord provides their “choreography” as depicted.)

THE MERMAID WARS is indeed very original as well as dark comic-wise, in addition to a play that lectures upon how something peaceful and lovely can attract any gender, coming across as something holding a hint of collected evil within. It’s a war unlike any other where victory is at stake. What that conquest is, its worth fighting for assuming that there is a fight to begin with. The Little Mermaid it ain’t!

THE MERMAID WARS, presented by the Skypilot Theatre Company, performs at Studio/Stage Theatre, 520 N. Western Avenue (one block south of Melrose Avenue), Los Angles (Koreatown adjacent), until June 28th. Showtimes are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at 8:00 PM. For tickets and for information, call (800) 838-3006, or online at http://www.SkyPilotTheatre.com

     This production is a participating showpiece of the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival that features other new plays, solo shows, and related stage works performing across a number of selected playhouses located throughout the Hollywood area. For more information, visit the official website at http://www.HollywoodFringe.com

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SPY (Fox) features Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper. She works for the CIA; Not as an undercover agent, but as a desk bound analyst–an engineer with the aid of modern technology through using a monitor and audio system, instructs an agent in a mission on what to do and where to go. Although she doesn’t fill the build nor cunning way to be a traditional spy –she’s overweight and has somewhat of a loud and obnoxious attitude within her–she still does her job well. Her assignment is to shadow for super agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law), a man that can be dashing and dangerous at a moment’s notice. She also has a secret pining toward this man, although Fine would rather seek out other women (and can)  in his line of duty. But things begin to change for Susan when she has her opportunity to become a genuine spy, tracking down Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), the well heeled and Oxford educated daughter of a deceased dealer of high power weapons who is in the mists of selling a destructive nuclear bomb to some big time evil dooers. So with the air of Susan’s best pal within the CIA Nancy (Miranda Hart) the two travel to Paris, Rome, and landing in Budapest, Hungary, where, thanks to her lack of charm yet aggressive and unique stance, she attempts to stop Rayna in her own game while dodging a few bullets along the way!

This latest comedy by writer and director Paul Feig, has all of the qualities that one can find in a Feig feature; goofy yet amusing one liners and obnoxious and slightly offensive humor that teeters toward being a bit juvenile at times, yet it’s still funny for what it is. There’s plenty of slapstick comedy also to be found, although the violence depicted is a bit graphic for a comedy title. (One will see a bit of spy-related blood and gore among the silly yet comical jokes and gags!) Melissa McCarthy is ideal for her role as the last type of person to become a spy. McCarthy this this new generation’s replacement to Roseanne Barr who used to play the roles that McCarthy would be suited for! The other players in this film also do well, yet they ham it up, never quite taking their characters too seriously. (After all, this is a satire of a Bond film, rather than being another Bond feature!)

In addition to the above noted cast, Allison Janney appears as Elaine Crocker, Susan’s boss at the CIA that gives her the undercover aliases she uses, usually portraying single mothers, cat ladies, and unemployed telemarketers; the same kind of folks that can be the “working poor”, or poor white trash–take your pick! And rounding out the cast is Bobby Cannavale as Sergio De Luca, who works in cahoots with Rayna in order to sell the nuclear device in order to rule the world–so to speak.

SPY has action and humor. The jokes and gags depicted are far from being placed within a highbrow level. One won’t find any wit nor charm in this comedy! Then again, this feature isn’t for the intellectual crowd and doesn’t hide that fact. It’s just goofy–yet fun!

This feature is rated “R” for violence and cussing. Now playing at all multiplexes nationwide.

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In last week’s issue (Vol. 20-No. 22), the theatre review for the production of The Idiot Box listed the wrong name for the set designer. The correct name is James Logan.

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