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Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘Jurassic World’ IS this Summer’s Blockbuster

posted by jtotey
Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins star in Jurassic World. (Universal)

Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins star in Jurassic World. (Universal)

Movie Review: ‘Jurassic World’

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Forty years ago, Steven Spielberg and Universal Studios helped create the term “summer blockbuster” with the release of Jaws. This summer he is the executive producer of this summer’s blockbuster, Jurassic World, also produced by Universal. The third sequel in the Jurassic Park franchise, is everything you want and hope for in a summer flick: non-stop action, comedy relief and a few scares too.

It’s been fourteen years since we’ve last visited the Isla Nublar and much has changed. Despite the tragic events of the original Jurassic Park, the island now features a bigger and better dinosaur theme park as if nothing bad had ever happened. Sparing no expense, like the park’s original owner, Jurassic World needs to create new attractions every two to three years to keep visitors interested in dinosaurs. You would think that the fascination would never die, but as one scene shows a dinosaur petting zoo, a teenager says, “this area is for little kids.” And so, in order to fulfill a corporate obligation, a new hybrid dinosaur has been created, but this being Jurassic World, something is bound to go wrong. Big time.

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Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) see something unexpected on their "ride." (Universal)

Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) see something unexpected on their “ride.” (Universal)

The sequel has all the elements we liked from the first film – curious children, greedy and ego-driven adults, a few voices of reasons, a little romance and lots of scary monsters. Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) is the only character that reprises his role from the original film, (and even so, he is only in a few minutes of screen time), so we are introduced into a bunch of new characters. Gray (Ty Simpkins) and Zach (Nick Robinson) are brothers sent to visit their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) who runs the park while their parents meet with lawyers to finalize their divorce. Gray is the younger, more sensitive sibling with a huge love for dinosaurs while Zach is the older teen “get-out-of-my-face” brother. As you can expect, Claire is too busy to actually spend time with the boys and pawns them off to her assistant Zara (Katie McGrath) instead. Meanwhile, Chris Pratt plays Owen who is a specialist(?), trainer(?)…some sort of dinosaur expert who understands the creatures better than anyone else in the park. Claire asks that Owen come meet with Masrani (Irrfan Khan) about his concerns with the new beast about to go on display. Do you really need me to say that the boys get separated from the adults, that the new dino escapes and that smug intellectual business people will soon be humbled? Didn’t think so.

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Jurassic World is written and directed by Colin Trevorrow, who have done both Michael Crichton and Spielberg proud by keeping his story in sync with their’s. It is a wild ride that matches the tone of the original featuring many references to the first films, including props, locations and even a few lines from the park’s visionary, John Hammond. It’s not a re-hash of the first film, though it proves that man hasn’t learned his lesson that he can’t play God and so the same consequences occur.

Chris Pratt in "Jurassic World."

Will Chris Pratt save the day? Of course he does! (Universal)

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This film offers some special screen time for dinosaurs only briefly featured in the other films. The best are the terradactyls which make Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds look like pigeons in the park. Some will be surprised by Chris Pratt’s contribution in that he isn’t goofy. He’s an intelligent hero who’s not afraid of getting his hands dirty. He comes with just enough sarcasm but is not too full of himself. His character is contrasted with the prim and proper businesswoman, Claire who is always professional and never has a hair out of place. She too is a breath of fresh air in cliched characters in that even though she is all business, she clearly has a heart. The two have a great chemistry together without being too predictable.

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As good as this film is and the fact that the film is inspired by the books by Michael Crichton, don’t expect it to be too highbrow. Though the film is PG-13, the strong language is kept to a minimum and most of the violence and blood happen briefly or off screen, still, it will be too intense for little ones no matter how much they bug you to see the film.

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TobyMac to Release ‘This is Not a Test’ in August, Two Tracks Available Today

posted by jtotey
(The Media Collective)

(The Media Collective)

Though six-time GRAMMY® winner TobyMac’s new album, This is Not a Test, won’t hit store shelves until August 7, two songs from it are available to download today on iTunes. The 13-track studio album is TobyMac’s sixth and is available for pre-order as well as two advance songs, “Beyond Me” and “Backseat Driver” with Hollyn and TRU. This comes with the announcement of his next 36-city concert tour which kicks off in the fall.

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The title of the album comes as a reminder to “make every moment count, and make every second count,” explains TobyMac. “I started collecting concepts as soon as I turned in the last record three years ago, and started working on this album a year and a half ago. The concepts are all based on my life experiences.”

Once again, Toby has collaborated with a number of diverse singers and musicians for his latest project including former DC Talk bandmates Kevin Max and Michael Tait. (This is the first time in ten years people!) He also worked with Capital Kings, Ryan Stevenson, TRU and Hollyn. One song, “Undeniable” features the voices of students from New Hope Academy located in Franklin, TN. “Collaborating allows us to appreciate our differences and makes us more receptive to each other,” says Toby, “ I’m honored to collaborate with my songwriters, produce with my co-producers and I am honored to take the stage with my band. There is a richness to what humans do when they come together and collaborate.”

TobyMac and friends performed “Beyond Me” recently on NBC.com’s Beyond A.D. digital talk show last month.

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Performances Outshine Presenters: Tony Awards

posted by jtotey
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 07:  Hosts Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming perform onstage at the 2015 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Hosts Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming perform onstage at the 2015 Tony Awards (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

With the fact the Fun Home had the most nominations for the 2015 Tony Awards (12), it is no real surprise that the musical was one of the big winners of the evening winning five awards. However, what is surprising, is that the musical with second largest number of nominations (10), Something Rotten! won only one award. Which just goes to show that anything can happen during an award show.

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This element of surprise, celebration and crazy hi-jinks was also appeared to be the theme of this year’s special with hosts Alan Cumming and Kristen Chenoweth. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that the end result was what CBS was hoping for. Though these two entertainers are very talented and likeable, their on-going antics wore thin quickly. The pair were worked in many musical numbers and special reprises of some of the songs to hammer home the fact that this award show was only being shown on CBS.

However, the two can’t be blamed totally for the self-indulgent performances. Much of the blame should go to the writers who came up with un-funny bits featuring Cumming dressed as the Anna from The King and I and Chenoweth as the king, Chenoweth dressed up as E.T. and both uttering sexual innuendos about the upcoming presenters. Then, there was the “live” antics happening behind the scenes with the various cast members being honored. Boy, did they look like they were having a great time. Not staged or anything. American theatre deserves a classier show.

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Fortunately, for most of us, the reason for watching the Tony’s in the first place, is to see the musical performances from various Broadway productions, and those that were presented did not disappoint. One of the night’s best was from the musical adaptation of Finding Neverland starring Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer. As for the plays, a little more time than usual was given to showing clips, albeit short, from the nominated shows. Since Broadway is more than just musicals, it would be nice to see more like this in future award shows.

Highlights of the night included the lifetime achievement award given to Tommy Tune (however, if you blinked you missed it) and a special performance, (that was promoted during every commercial break), by Josh Groban who sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel during the In Memoriam segment. The best presenters of the night were the last ones – Larry David and Jason Alexander. These two should host next year’s show.

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The other big winners of the night was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which won for Best Play and four other awards, The King and I winning four awards and An American in Paris also winning four awards. The full list of winners include:

dognighttimeBest Play:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Author: Simon Stephens)

Best Musical:
Fun Home

Best Revival of a Play:
Skylight

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Best Revival of a Musical:
The King and I

Best Book of a Musical:
Fun Home

funhomeBest Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre:
Fun Home

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play:
Alex Sharp (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play:
Helen Mirren (The Audience)

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Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Michael Cerveris (Fun Home)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical:
Kelli O’Hara (The King and I)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play:kingandi
Richrd McCabe (The Audience)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play:
Annaleigh Ashford (You Can’t Take It with You)

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Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Christian Borle (Something Rotten!)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical:
Ruthie Ann Miles (The King and I)

Best Direction of a Play:
Marianne Elliott, (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)

americaninparisBest Direction of a Musical:
Sam Gold (Fun Home)

Best Choreography:
Christopher Wheeldon (An American in Paris)

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Best Orchestrations:
Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky and Bill Elliott (An American in Paris)

Best Scenic Design of a Play:
Bunny Christie and Finn Ross (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)

Best Scenic Design of a Musical:
Bob Crowley and 59 Productions (An American in Paris)

wolfhallBest Costume Design of a Play:
Christopher Oram (Wolf Hall Parts One & Two)

Best Costume Design of a Musical:
Catherine Zuber (The King and I)

Best Lighting Design of a Play:
Paule Constable (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time)

Best Lighting Design of a Musical:
Natasha Katz (An American in Paris)

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre:
Tommy Tune

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‘Spy’ is More Fun than it Should be

posted by jtotey
Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy star in Spy. (20th Century Fox)

Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy star in Spy. (20th Century Fox)

The beloved Melissa McCarthy seems to have as many hits as she does misses when it comes to her choices of movies that she appears in. She is a very funny lady with a talent that Hollywood hasn’t pin-pointed how best to use. She has been praised for her raunchy performance in Bridesmaids (2011), was just “so-so” in the Sandra Bullock buddy comedy The Heat (2013) and was panned equally for both Identity Thief (2013) and Tammy (2014). But in Spy, she shines.

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Spy is one of the best comedies I have seen in years, but it was a harder “R” than I was expecting due to the large amount of profanity, violence and tasteless jokes. The thing is, the film didn’t need any of that to be funny. Those were not the things that this film great and unfortunately, tarnish it. As a Christian, there is much to be offended with here, but darn it, it’s is still very well done.

Set up like a James Bond knock-off, complete with it’s own Bond-like theme song and beginning titles, Spy is fun from the very beginning. McCarthy is absolutely adorable as Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst who works behind the scenes with special agent and partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law). She acts as his eyes and ears in the basement of a CIA office while he takes his life in his hands out on the field. However, when Fine “falls off the grid,” is it up to Cooper to go undercover to take over where he left off with her very first case out of the office.

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Like Rodney Dangerfield, Cooper gets no respect in the choices of new identities that she is tasked with and her experiences as a spy is not as glamorous as she hopes. While on the field, she has to fight against rogue agent, Rick Ford (a hilarious but foul-mouthed Jason Stratham) from messing up her mission to find the infamous Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne). She is aided by fellow basement co-worker, Nancy (Miranda Hart) and is set free by boss woman, Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney).

There is a not a weak character in the bunch and McCarthy and Hart work incredibly well together. Sort of a Cagney and Lacey thing. Byrne plays evil very well and has an acid tongue that makes you long for her to get smacked. For a comedy, the film features a lot of well-done action/fighting scenes.

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Although the movie features a great cast, McCarthy is the one who keeps it all balanced. The biggest issue I had with her character is that she is fairly mousey in the beginning and then later finds her voice while out on the field. To the filmmakers, that meant that she had to enlarge her potty-mouth vocabulary as well, which was not only unnecessary, but its comedic value worn thin pretty quick. The “F” word is thrown around with abandon and for a movie that spoof a Bond flick, it is a lot more foul than the films that inspire it. A few more edits could have made this film a lot more palatable to audiences. Susan Cooper is truly a “good guy” and a hero to root for. Expect to hear news of a sequel soon as this is sure to be a huge summer hit.

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