The Exorcist: The Play!

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Just because anything can be turned into a play or musical does not mean that it should be turned into a play or musical. The Exorcist, for anyone that has missed a few decades, is a frightening book written by William Peter Blatty. For those of us that don’t read, he also wrote the Academy Award winning screenplay for the movie version The Exorcist. Basically, a twelve year old girl becomes possessed by the demon Pazuzu.

Sounds like the perfect idea for a play, right? It was an amazingly successful book and the movie opened the material up to an even wider audience. Besides, the plays initial run in Los Angeles managed to secure John Doyle, famous for making actors do musicians’ work, as director and Teller, from Penn and Teller, to work on some of the stage effects. Then there’s the fact that John Pielmeier (Agnes of God) signed on as playwright. That’s intriguing! Plus, Brooke Shields in the Ellen Burstyn mother role… Well, alright, that’s some interesting casting.

Really, though, whether or not the show is any good, it’s going to have a problem taking audiences away from the movie. The movie has become an icon of the horror genre, and it’s a little hard not to have people not expect to see pea soup and head spinning (SPOILER: These both were cut from the stage version). That’s alright, though! The writing and creative team were looking to stray away from the horror and go straight for the movie’s other strength: psychological thriller.

So far so good.

Then the reviews started coming in. It should be noted that a lot of reviews mentioned they did like the special effects. They were also fond of the fact that the male ensemble of priests provided the voice of the demon. Well, that’s really about all they liked.

Oh, well. Pop in Leslie Nielsen’s Repossessed and call it a day.

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Peter O’Toole Retires

After 150 years of being in the acting business, legendary actor Peter O’Toole is retiring.

It’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay. So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.

Mr. O’Toole was nominated for the Academy Award EIGHT times, but unfortunately never won any of them. He was, however, awarded with the “honorary Oscar” which is the academy’s way of sucking up to a talented actor that they’ve snubbed for over forty years.

You’ll most likely remember him best from the classic, Lawrence of Arabia but Mr. O’Toole has been in at least 70 films, and a slew of television and stage performances. This man had one heck of a career.

Here is one of my favorite O’Toole moments from the film The Lion in Winter 

Get Low

Get Low is a movie I’m betting the majority of you haven’t heard of (because I sure as hell didn’t), which really sucks considering the all-star cast it has for its leads (Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Sissy Spacek). The film was released back in 2009 at the Toronto International Film Festival and from then on sort of just, well, stayed low as it were. It only played to about 550 theaters, and got a lot of strong critical reception, but that was about it. A good number of critics that supported the movie went so far as to predict some sort of Oscar attention for the performances which, unfortunately, never happened which is a damn shame considering that is the main reason anyone should see this movie.

Get Low tells the “somewhat based on real events” story of a local hermit, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) who tries to buy himself a funeral party, that he will attend alive. He strolls into town on his mule-drawn carriage, while the everyday citizens spew their rumors about how he “is in league with the devil” or “killed a bunch of people in cold blood” and such. After Felix has been turned down his interesting request, alcoholic funeral parlor owner Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), who doesn’t want to miss out on a chance to take an old coot’s  money, jumps at the proposition! Felix wants to invite the whole town and anyone who has an interesting story to tell about him to his party, and to insure people come he starts a raffle, the winner of which will inherit his land the day he dies.

This is the premise for the first half of the movie, and they really run with it. There are plenty of opportunities for Bill Murray to have his comedic flair shine, and the interactions (although few) between him and Duvall are pretty hilarious. The film quickly shifts from a more comedic tone to a dramatic one with the introduction of the local widow Mattie (Sissy Spacek) of her and Felix’s past relationship, and her deceased sister Mary Lee. We soon find out that there is much more to Felix and that he is being eaten up by a dark secret that he has kept hidden for well over forty years.

It’s all an interesting story that is told relatively well, but the abrupt shift in tones early on, and some of the weaker fleshed out character relationships (Frank’s business partner Buddy, who adds nothing to the story despite the script’s urge to make him seem important) are a few signs of the not-so-hot script. But as I said above, what makes this movie awesome is the performances. Duvall’s depiction of the recluse Felix has so many layers, and he can communicate such strong emotions just through his stares and glares. Even in the first part of the movie where his character is just supposed to be a crotchety old man, Duvall adds so much more to it. The final monologue Duvall gives at the funeral party is, dare I say it, one of the best speeches any character has given on film and all the credit goes to Duvall. In those few minutes you see an eighty year old actor putting in his whole heart and soul, giving a truly career-defining performance. It’s incredible.

Bill Murray slips into the alcoholic, quick-witted funeral parlor manager role all too well. He finds any opportunity where he can make a scene funny, and is the main source for any of the film’s comic relief. The scenes between him and Duvall are absolutely delightful, but as I mentioned above there are just far too few. Sissy Spacek brings an incredible depth to Mattie, the scenes between her and Duvall have such an air of realism that it’s just a ton of fun to watch.

All of these awesome actors and not a single Oscar nod. Pretty sad, as all of them (most notably Duvall) deserved some high recognition for the work they did in this film. But really, who wants an Oscar these days anyway? The MTV awards is where it’s at.

You DAMN right!

 

 

 

Broadway Hates Jesus

Oh, Jesus

Broadway and Jesus seem like two things that could go together like two things that go together, but that doesn’t seem the case this year. It’s not shocking to find musicals that have powerful religious messages in them. There are tons, and several of those are very bankable machines. So why then is this the year of a mass exodus?

I’m going to suggest that there are a number of reasons for this. First of all, there’s an over-saturation of the market. Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, Sister Act, and Leap of Faith have all played on Broadway this year. Holy shit. Literally. That’s a lot of God, and these are only the ones that use MAJOR religious themes.

Okay, but that’s fine. Just because there are a few shows with religious themes on Broadway, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have had successful runs. The real problem with over-saturation is the fact that Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar are shows that every college, community, regional, church, and corner theatre do all of the time. Want to see one of these two shows? Walk outside, I’m sure some kids are performing it down the street. Then you have Sister Act and Leap of Faith. Sister Act is based off of a beloved movie from the ’90s, and Leap of Faith is a movie Steve Martin did for the money. That doesn’t mean people were screaming for a stage musical of either of these.

The other two reasons come down to the fact that either the production just wasn’t that good or the material just wasn’t that good. Godspell in particular suffered from a modernization that drove theatre purists batshit crazy. The original production is nostalgic now, with those cute clowns telling the story of Jesus Christ, but that formula only worked when it was initially mounted. Whatever happened with the revival was just uncomfortable to watch. Don’t believe me? Go take a look at their Tony Awards performance this year. Side note: Telly Leung can do no wrong, even in this.

Jesus Christ Superstar… This show is fun. It’s written by the Dark Prince himself, Andrew Lloyd Webber, but it’s fun. Why didn’t it work on Broadway this season? I don’t know. Aside from a mostly talented cast, it was boring to watch. There are moments of true theatrical magic, but then the damn projection screens go crazy and I forget where I am. Oh, and yeah. The projection of Jesus at the Tony Awards freaked the hell out of me.

When it comes to Sister Act, the problem was all in the material. The only reason I perked up when hearing about a musical version of Sister Act was because of the gorgeous music in the film… which appears nowhere in the musical. That’s fine, I can accept that. But the material that replaced it was just okay. A few of the songs I genuinely like, and “Raise Your Voice” still gives me chills, but the show itself is not better than the movie. Now, a Sister Act remake with Patina Miller and Sheila Hancock? I’d watch it.

Leap of Faith suffers from the same problem as Sister Act, only people actually saw Sister Act. This musical about a traveling conman impersonating an evangelist lasted for only 19 official performances. I’ll be fair and say that I never actually saw this one, but I’ve heard it and it had a lot of problems. Again, a stellar cast that suffered from nothing to work with. Still, Leap of Faith gets the last laugh of all the shows on the list. At the Tony Awards this year, even though it had already closed, it performed and killed it. One of the best numbers of the evening.

Alright, so there you have it folks. All of the shows in this article are closed or are about to close (Godspell – June 24, Jesus Christ Superstar – July 1, Sister Act – August 26, Leap of Faith – May 13). Also, none of these made their initial investments back, even with a bunch of insane publicity stunts (fuckin’ Tweet Seats).Oh, wait. There is one show about the big J that’s still on Broadway with no signs of stopping: The Book of Mormon. Huh. The Mormons got it right.

Penn and Teller

I’m a magic geek. I love all of it, the sleight of hand stuff, the card tricks, the illusions, stuff bursting into flames and transforming into something else, all of that crap excites me and it has always been a childhood dream of mine to be a magician. So lately I’ve been doing some research into some basic tricks, small sleight of hand stuff, so that I can learn the basics and start building up. While my dreams have shifted and I no longer aspire to be a magician, I still want to learn some of the stuff that manages to mystify me.

While looking up some tricks I stumbled across some videos of the famous comedy/magic duo Penn and Teller. These guys have been performing solid routines since the late 70’s and they’ve only gotten better. I plan on writing more on these guys and why they’re my favorite magicians out there, but for now why not take a look at some of their more amazing illusions?