Rock of Ages: The Musical

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Last night, my mom and I went to “Rock of Ages” in Saint John as part of their tour through Canada. The musical was put on through Phoenix Entertainment, and as my first play in quite a while, it did not disappoint.

For those who haven’t seen it, the jukebox musical is basically about a young man and woman struggling to follow their dreams in Los Angeles: Him wanting to be a rock star and her wanting to be an actress. They fall in love amongst a quirky cast of supporting characters, betrayal happens, it all ends happy, and along the way they risk losing their rock and roll workplace to a German businessman who wants to “purify” the streets. The reason I’m not going more into it is that while the plot is pretty simple and pretty cliched, it does throw in a few surprises here and there via the supporting characters. And since it IS a simple story, it made it easier to connect to the various characters and gave more time for their personalities to shine.

Which brings me to my next point: The actors/actresses all did a fantastic job in their roles. They were believable and man, all of them were great singers. I seriously found no problem with anyone’s vocal talents. I also felt that because of this, they did each song justice. The songs range from hits like “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Dead or Alive” to “We Built This City” and “Can’t Fight This Feeling.” I really loved the mix of songs and they were integrated into the plot well, mostly to reflect the characters’ emotions in the moment.

The absolute best thing about it, aside from the music, is the humor. Nearly ALL of the characters get something funny to say and there’s plenty of styles: From the occasional lowbrow, crude joke to one that breaks the fourth wall. It’s a play guaranteed to make you laugh and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The production values were also great. The stage, aside from a few rotating pieces, was fixed for the duration of the play. This wasn’t a bad thing, though, as they used the space to its fullest and had some cool neon lights to liven it up at the right times. It also had a screen at the top to show backgrounds for locations, such as streets for when people are travelling, and also for a humorous intro reminding people to turn off their phones and such. The instrumentals were all performed by a live band that was present onstage at all times. I have no complaints about them either, as they performed each number spot-on to the originals.

If I had any gripes whatsoever, there would be just a minor one. Because the theater I was in is huge and because the music was done live, there were times during songs that the instrumentals came close to drowning out the singers. Granted, the singers usually had to belt out the songs, so it was more an issue of loudness than anything. It didn’t take me out of the play, though, and I could make out 99% of everything. Like I said, only a minor gripe.

“Rock of Ages” from Phoenix Entertainment is an awesome play. I went with my mom, and even though we had free tickets through a contest, I would gladly pay the full price to see it again some day. If you see this play or another version of it headed near you, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And that’s especially if you love 80’s rock and roll.

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I Have a Disorder

The title of this post is 100% true. I have a mild form of a disorder you may or may not have heard about. It’s called Trichotillomania, or the hair-pulling disorder for short. While I’ve never been medically diagnosed, I figured out pretty quickly in recent years just what my hair-pulling was.

Basically, when a person feels stressed, nervous, or doesn’t even know they’re doing it subconsciously, they pull their hair. Some also eat/swallow their hair.. Yes, it sounds gross and painful. But as far as simple hair-pulling goes, it’s a habit I’ve been unable to completely break since I was 13 years old.

I first started by picking up a habit from another friend: twirling my hair. This turned into a comfort thing whenever I felt stressed. Over time, though, I started pulling hairs out. It got to a point where not only could I not feel much pain doing so, but my hair thinned out and I had actual bald spots here and there. This has continued for me 12 years later.

It’s not like I don’t want to stop. I’ve read many accounts of people who said it’s near impossible to. I even met a woman at my last job who’d rather keep her head shaved than risk relapsing into it. It’s a habit that feels like an addiction. Sometimes I’ll make good progress and not pull for a while, thereby letting my hair recover and grow out. But after some time, something either stresses me out or makes me go back to doing it.

And it’s not something some people have complete control over either. For example, there are times I AM conscious I’m pulling and feel both calmed and guilty because of it. Hair-pulling has been known to be calming to those who do it. Other times, I’m not seemingly conscious I’m doing it, and before I know it, there’s a hair between my fingers. It’s an awful habit physically because it messes with my hair, forcing me to actually have to hide any thinning spots until I can grow it back.

It got so bad for me in my first year of college that I actually had to see a therapist for the first time in my life. Because the nature of hair-pulling can be because of anything from stress to boredom, she had me force into habit keeping my hands busy. This could be done either by typing, of course, or minor things like playing with an elastic or bracelet. I still try to keep those “exercises” in mind and practice, but it’s not a full-proof cure. Willpower has to get you some of the way, and while I’m still intent to quit for good, I know it’s not going to happen cold turkey.

I HAVE figured out a couple solutions, though. Namely, that whenever I feel happy, such as being on vacation or being around my boyfriend, I don’t even think about pulling my hair, let alone do it. While my home life isn’t as stressful as most people’s, I feel like maybe the comfort of it and stresses that go along with family are part of my problem. But with the support of my parents and boyfriend, I’m still going to try to kick this thing. It may be incurable for many, but I’m determined not to let it remain a part of my life.

“Oz The Great and Powerful” Spoiler-Free Review

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So, I just saw the new Oz movie today. I’m going to do my best to make this review spoiler-free. I’ll also let it be known that I went into this movie having only seen the original “Wizard of Oz” film from the 1930’s and bits and pieces of its sequel “Return to Oz,” so anyone expecting me to base this around the books or other Oz material will be disappointed. That said, let’s dive into this thing.

For those who don’t already know, the film stars James Franco as the Wizard himself and details his journey from a simple magician to grand wizard of Oz, set many years before Dorothy ever stepped foot in Oz. The film is directed by Sam Raimi, well known for the Evil Dead and Spider-Man trilogies. The score is done by Danny Elfman of practically every Tim Burton movie ever made fame.

To start off, the visuals. Much like Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland, the world of Oz and a couple of characters are done pretty much in CG animation. I felt that the world was bright and colorful and represented Oz well. I will admit, it was also one of those movies where there were quite a few moments that I knew I was looking at a CG backdrop. It didn’t take me completely out of the film, but it was a bit distracting.

The story is pretty basic, but as an origin story for the Wizard it was serviceable. One thing I kinda disliked was that each female lead (aka the witches) had almost an instant attraction to him, but like the CG I found it a minor distraction. The writing felt sharp and funny at times and screamed of the old Raimi wit that shows up in his films. I enjoyed the writing on some of the supporting characters because of this.

Now, the acting. I’ll admit, I tend to be a horrible judge at whether an actor is good or bad unless it’s extremely obvious. In the case of this movie, I felt like some people were having more fun than others. In my opinion, James Franco (Oz), Rachel Weisz (Evanora), and a couple of those supporting characters. They just seemed like they were having a good time and tried to do the best with the material given to them. The Wizard character comes off frankly as a douche for the majority of the film, but while his arc into becoming the wizard hit a few cliches, I enjoyed Franco’s performance as him. I felt that the blandest performance was from Mila Kunis (Theodora), mainly because I didn’t find her character overly interesting through the majority of the film. Part of that could’ve been the writing, part of it could’ve been Kunis’s portrayal, I’m not really sure. I just didn’t find myself caring for her or what she goes through.

All that said, I can see why people have had mixed reactions for this movie. I know it’s supposed to be based on the books, which like I said I haven’t read and therefore have no frame of context. For all I know, you may find it disappointing or enjoyable based on that merit. For me, I liked it. I just didn’t LOVE it. I went in with relatively low expectations and found it enjoyable, but it’s a movie that didn’t scream “Great!” to me. While I don’t think I’ll want to see it again, I don’t feel like my time was wasted either.

My rating for “Oz The Great and Powerful” is a 7/10. It was a fun, eye candy-filled ride while it lasted.

My Dislike of: Tempe Brennan from Kathy Reichs’ books

Many people recently have pointed fingers at Bella of Twilight and Ana of 50 Shades of Grey as being awful female characters. I agree with the evidence to support those thoughts, since I could never bring myself to read either of those…things. But my recent dislike of a female in books stems from a series by author Kathy Reichs.

For those of you who watch TV, you may have seen or heard of a show called “Bones.” In it, main character Temperance Brennan is an expert on all things skeletal and/or decomposing. For those who don’t know, this series is VERY loosely based on a series of books Reichs penned starting in the mid-90’s. I won’t be discussing the show as I’ve never watched it, however. Anyway, while I’ve been reading through the books and enjoy them for the most part, it’s main character (an older Tempe) has been grating on my nerves as of late.

The series, which so far has 15 books and another on the way, has Temperance helping in cases concerning the dead, bringing the killer or killers to justice, etc etc. It’s the same formula you’d see in plenty of crime fiction. And, like with many books, there’s a romance strung in in the form of her colleague, Detective Andrew Ryan. And herein lies my main complaint with the character: She’s a woman in her 40s…who acts like a teenager around this man.

For starters, I enjoyed the first two books where she implied thinking he was hot, he thinking the same of her, that sort of thing. It was more tension than anything, which is always fun. But as soon as Reichs hooked these two up in a pseudo on-again-off-again relationship, it became less fun and more annoying. Temperance worries about Ryan cheating on her when it all turns out to be a misunderstanding in the end, constantly comments on the sex they have (to be fair, she was married for 20 years then separated prior to the relationship, so I suppose sex would be a luxury for her), and acts petulant when he seems to be evading her (aka thinking to herself that he might as well just go/she won’t continue the relationship).

All of this has come to a head for me in Reichs’ 10th book, “Bones to Ashes.” After realizing in the previous book that Temperance still has feelings for her ex-husband (who she’s still legally married to by the way), Ryan decides to break up with her to rekindle a relationship with his estranged daughter’s mother. This is done for the sake of the daughter, who is battling a heroin addiction. And how does Tempe take him distancing himself from her romantically?

1) Thinks to herself he can just go, meaning she basically gives up/doesn’t discuss it with him.

2) Thinks jealously of his and the other woman despite the fact that he’s doing this for his daughter, and that she has NEVER met this woman herself.

3) Doesn’t seem to realize that she DOES have some feelings for her husband and the fact that she hasn’t divorced him yet (they split because he’d cheated on her) would be cause for concern on Ryan’s part.

And finally, 4) After a vulnerable, passionate sex session between the two of them, when Ryan takes off the next day, all she can say is while it was probably a bad move, “at least the nookie was good.”

To preface everything, I will be continuing with this series. But if I’m supposed to feel sympathy or pity for this woman, it’s not working. She even gets all depressed over her ex wanting a divorce so he can get married to his new beau, despite the fact that she says MULTIPLE times through the course of the series that she will never get back together with him.

Honestly, both men have my backing, because Tempe clearly doesn’t know what she wants or how to vocalize it. Many times she could have avoided being sad over Ryan just by simply talking to the guy rather than moping and/or making assumptions about him. I seen plenty of complaints regarding this in reviews of several books and they’re 100% justified, in my humble opinion.

To be fair, of course Temperance is not nearly as awful as Bella or Ana. She’s strong, independent and intelligent most of the time. But it’s a shame that romance tends to drag all these characters down into stupidity. And even though it’s a lesser offense in a book series that’s more about the crimes and forensics than relationships, it’s still irritating to me as a reader and woman.