Saturday, August 16, 2014

'The Giver,' A Haunting Look At The Future


Jeff Bridges and Brenton Thwaites 

By Darlene Donloe

The Giver, directed by Phillip Noyce, is a sci-fi/drama about a post-apocalyptic world that is conformed, colorless and devoid of emotion. There is no war, no sickness, no prejudice, essentially no culture.  It would seem there are also very few ethnic groups. The world is predominantly white.

There was a time when all of those elements (war, sickness, etc.) existed, but it was done away with because people were unable to make good choices. 

There is now a system called Sameness.

The Giver, who is an actual person, is the sole keeper of the community’s memories. He and he alone remembers a time when they felt pain, anger, disappointment, but most of all love.

The one thing I never really figured out about the film or the book is, if you don’t want anyone to go against the grain, why is there a need for someone like The Giver? If you don’t want anyone to know how things were before the world changed, then don’t have anyone called The Giver, who holds all of the secrets.

The Giver is based on Lois Lowry’s best-selling 1993 Young Adult novel, which was the winner of the 1994 Newberry Medal.

So, here is the story.

The haunting story of The Giver centers on Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a young man who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Yet as he begins to spend time with The Giver, who is the sole keeper of all the community's memories, Jonas quickly begins to discover the dark and deadly truths of his community's secret past. With this newfound power of knowledge, he realizes that the stakes are higher than imagined - a matter of life and death for himself and those he loves most. At extreme odds, Jonas knows that he must escape their world to protect them all - a challenge that no one has ever succeeded at before.

The Giver, a kind of coming of age story, is slow and plodding. However, the story, which is a bit like Hunger Games and Pleasantville is intriguing.

The always good and believable Jeff Bridges, who also produces, plays The Giver, a man who because of personal circumstances has a bone to pick with the establishment. When it’s time to pass on the baton, The Giver meets 16-year-old Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) things begin to change. 

Jonas has his own ideas much to the chagrin of his parents played by Alexander Skarsgard and Katie Holmes. He knows something is missing, but he’s not sure what. He knows there is something beyond his world, something beyond the boundaries.

Once he gets a taste of the truth, Jonas decides he can no longer live the Sameness way. He wants to see what is over the rainbow.

Meryl Streep is in a surprising role. She plays a stoic Chief Elder who is determined to keep the status quo running smoothly. There is no room for originality or individualism.

The movie also stars Odeya Rush and Taylor Swift.

The Giver is Rated PG-13. Running time: 1h 40m

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), The Giver gets an L (likeable).

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Pasadena Playhouse Announces Diahann Carroll As 2014 Diversity Award Honoree


PASADENA, CA (August 14, 2014) – The Pasadena Playhouse (Artistic Director Sheldon Epps and Executive Director Elizabeth Doran) announced today that trailblazing actress Diahann Carroll will be the 2014 Diversity Award Honoree at the 8th Annual Pasadena Playhouse Wells Fargo Theatrical Diversity Project fundraising event on Sunday, September 21, 2014.


 “I had the true honor (and the great fun) of directing Diahann Carroll here at the Playhouse in our production of BLUE,” said Sheldon Epps. “She has become a good friend and a great supporter of my work here.  Diahann has been a great trailblazer and pioneer in our field, opening many doors in the entertainment industry.  One could say that the Diversity Project itself is in the grand tradition of her achievements.”

Diahann Carroll has moved effortlessly between the worlds of film, television, concerts and the stage throughout her career, earning her the title of “Hollywood Legend.” Ms. Carroll is, perhaps, best known for her critically acclaimed television series, Julia, which debuted in 1968 and ran for three years.   This was one of the first series on American television to star a black woman in a non-stereotypical role for which she received her first Emmy nomination.  She made her Broadway debut starring in Harold Arlen and Truman Capote’s musical House of Flowers. Following this, she starred in the Broadway musical No Strings, for which she won a Tony Award. She returned to the Broadway stage again in 1983 in the award winning production of Agnes of God and received rave reviews for her portrayal of “Norma Desmond” in the Toronto premiere of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Sunset Boulevard.   In 2002 she starred in The Pasadena Playhouse production of Charles Randolph Wright's BLUE. Her long television career has included her game-changing role as “Dominique Devereaux” on the internationally acclaimed television series Dynasty as well as recurring roles on Grey’s Anatomy and A Different World. She currently has a recurring role on USA Network’s hit series White Collar. On the big screen, Carroll received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress and a Golden Globe award for her starring role opposite James Earl Jones in Claudine. Other notable films include Carmen Jones, Paris Blues, Porgy and Bess, Hurry Sundown, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Eve’s Bayou.  Her latest book, “The Legs Are the Last to Go”, was a New York Times bestseller.

The Theatrical Diversity Project has raised over a million dollars since the 2005 inception. These funds are used to support Playhouse Diversity Initiatives, The Pasadena Playhouse’s vision to build a legacy of artistic and theatrical diversity through eclectic programming, outreach and education programs, HOTHOUSE (The Playhouse new play development program), and continued efforts for expanded audience engagement. This year’s Diversity Project fundraising event will coincide with the theatre’s season opener KISS ME, KATE starring Wayne Brady and Merle Dandridge.

The Diversity Project fundraising event will take place on Opening Night, September 21, 2014.
Pre-show reception begins at 3:30 p.m.
Presentation to Diahann Carroll is at 4:45 p.m. on the Mainstage.
Curtain is at 5:00 p.m.
Post show party immediately following.

Patron Levels with benefits start at $1000 for two tickets.
Single tickets, which include the show and the post-party (pre-reception not included), are $250.

For more information about the Wells Fargo Theatrical Diversity Program, or to become a Patron of the 2014 Diversity Celebration, contact Julia Fitzgibbons by phone at 626-204-7383 or via email at jfitzgibbons@pasadenaplayhouse.org.

KISS ME, KATE represents the iconic composer-lyricist Cole Porter at his very best and includes some of musical theatre’s most famous songs: “So in Love,” “Another Op’nin’ Another Show,” “Too Darn Hot,” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”  It is without a doubt one of the great classics of the American musical theatre, celebrating Shakespeare (it describes a production of a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew) and the joys, madness, and the rewards of working in the theatre - both onstage and off.   The book is by Bella and Samuel Spewack.
The Pasadena Playhouse production will view the work through a new lens, using the wonderful material of this celebrated production to showcase the trailblazing African-American actors and entertainers of the early 20th century.
KISS ME, KATE will play September 16, 2014 through October 12 with the official press opening on September 21.  The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.  The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Rehearsals Begin For 'Marjorie Prime' At Taper


(L - R): Jeff Ward, Lois Smith, Lisa Emery and Frank Wood on the first day of rehearsal for “Marjorie Prime” by Jordan Harrison. Directed by Les Waters, “Marjorie Prime” will have its world premiere at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum September 10 through October 19, 2014. For tickets and information, please visit CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 628-2772.
Contact: CTGMedia@CenterTheatreGroup.org/(213) 972-7376
Photo by Craig Schwartz


World Premiere September 10 – October 19, 2014

            Rehearsals have begun for the world premiere of Jordan Harrison’s haunting drama “Marjorie Prime,” which begins previews September 10, 2014, at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum.  Directed by Obie Award-winner Les Waters, the profound and engaging new play opens September 21.  Performances continue through October 19, 2014.
            The cast of “Marjorie Prime” features Lois Smith (in the title role), Lisa Emery, Jeff Ward and Frank Wood.
            Set design for “Marjorie Prime” is by Mimi Lien, costume design by Ilona Somogyi, lighting design by Lap Chi Chu, sound design by Adam Phalen and casting is by Mark B. Simon, CSA.  The production stage manager is David S. Franklin.
            “Marjorie Prime” asks exquisite questions about the difference between a life lived and a life remembered.  Marjorie (Lois Smith) is a clever, wry woman who, at age 85, finds that her memory is failing. She is living out her days at an assisted living facility where she is frequently visited by her anxious, quick-witted daughter, Tess (Lisa Emery), and her kind, easygoing son-in-law, Jon (Frank Wood). With the urging of Jon and the facility and despite Tess’ misgivings, a mysterious young man, Walter (Jeff Ward), joins the group with the hope that he can help reverse Marjorie’s decline.  Through an ingenious series of shifting realities, Walter’s nature is revealed, and the family’s memories gently unfold into a cathartic meditation on life and loss, and the desire to keep our dearly departed with us.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gary Clark Jr. 'Live' To Be Released September 23



August 12, 2014 - (Burbank, CA.) -- An occupational hazard of musical genius is categorization. Most humans, in the face of greatness crave sourcing. This desire can lead to labeled boxes impeding an evolving brilliance. Miles Davis began blowing big band tunes. Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Albert King (to name but a few) started strumming Rhythm & Blues. The genesis of these deities is pertinent to history. Their legacies, on the other hand, could care less. This is why Gary Clark Jr. has built a young albeit decorated career on ground paved outside the categorical box. The previous three years saw the guitar hero and his band obliterate stages and stupefy audiences with pyrophoric play and clone consistency. Whether in a dark club or The White House, Philadelphia or Stockholm, alongside Alicia Keys or Mick Jagger, Clark and crew devoured and seduced entire audiences--fans walk away better for having been the feast. Ripe blues licks, syrupy grooves of R&B and b-boy beloved baselines over indigo lyrics overwhelm listeners so much that they attempt to spell the spirit, which Clark awoke in them tangible. Is he an old soul or the new soul? He is cosigned by Jay-Z and Eric Clapton, and has lit up Glastonbury, Coachella, Bonnaroo and halftime at the NBA All-Star Game. Legends have anointed him sole heir to the chordophone throne. But that voice! Exactly who on Earth is Gary Clark Jr.?
Clark's Warner Bros. debut, the vivacious The Bright Lights EP, began answering that question in 2011. Orientation continued in 2012 with the full-length Blak And Blu. Though structured in format and delivery, both were musically amorphous. Gary Clark Jr.'s Epiphone screamed psychedelic blues and garage soul but you heard Atlanta's Organized Noize down bottom, saw the silhouettes of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye in the pools of his pen's ink. Yet, if you press the Texan to name his offspring, he'll flatly answer with shrug in tow, "It's all just soul music."
Wrapping arms around the artistry of Gary Clark Jr. is an attempt at sorcery. It exists nowhere in particular, swimming in and out of vibes. Even on stage, Clark's band performs without a net (set list), using audience's energy as fabric to customize show sequences. The process is as reciprocal as it is spiritual. But for the 6'4 evangelist, it's bigger than the word. The GCJ experience is not defined by a studio booth alone. Thus, this fall the artist whom Rolling Stone Magazine called "the Chosen One" offers a compromise via his first double album Gary Clark Jr. - LIVE.
Since a preteen who put aside drums, trumpet and piano to include six strings to his music arsenal, he has been entrancing crowds--whether in church, on 6th street or his old stomping ground, Antone's.  On his latest composition, the 30-year-old's 10,000 hours for mastery is unequivocal with a swagger to match. Texas rap legend Scarface will be proud of Clark's proclamation on "Ain't Messin 'Round": "I don't believe in competition. Ain't nobody else like me around." Then there's Clark's pen, which has a shape shifter's talent for fitting big stories into short phrases.  The song "Blak And Blu" supports this gorgeously; "When My Train Pulls In," possibly more as Clark paints the inescapable frustration of living poor despite not touching economics.
The aforementioned track is where the mastermind-to-fingertips phenomenon blooms. Chord manipulations and note runnings shoot past each other, high and low, never clashing like a light show of comets. Then the string master graduates to full puppeteer, morphing his six-stringed tool into a screaming alto. Clark's strum is so magical it nearly disguises his songbird--those shark grey vocals sing the prettiest hues of blue. On cuts like "Numb," "Things Are Changin'" and the Grammy-award winning "Please Come Home," diamonds can be heard falling from the speakers.
Gary Clark Jr. - LIVE is clearly a collection of Junior's brightest global exhibitions, but more valuably one of the richest live albums in recent decades. Clark has the incomprehensible ability to fuse genres, distort styles then blend them, all to serve up his own black fruit punch. Witness "Catfish Blues" which alchemizes the mud of the Mississippi Delta with the hip-hop swagger of The Marcy Projects.
 He approaches the endangered art of improvisation with a subtlety and homage. Only Clark would add the bottom of the Jackson 5's "Can You Feel It" baseline to "Ain't Messin' Around" or reheat his "Next Door Neighbor Blues" with dashes of Sly Stone, Bo Diddley and RZA. It ain't clean eating, but still purist catnip.
The biggest misconception about Miles Davis is that he's the pioneer of electric jazz; Jimi is the godfather of electric guitar distortion (check out Willy Johnson from Howlin' Wolf's band a year earlier for proof). John Coltrane was certainly determined to go further than the limitations of his instrument but these accomplishments should be acknowledged more as milestones than definition. Masters like Miles, Dr. Dre, Coltrane and Gary Clark Jr. are essentially decades of musical evolution in the human form of genius. These days, they hatch maybe once per decade, but the moment they first greet your ears, you're reminded of who they are and were. They step on stage without a set list and tell complete strangers, "You're gonna know my name by the end of the night."

Gary Clark Jr. Live track listing:


Gary Clark Jr. Live (disc 1)
Catfish Blues (Robert Petway)
Next Door Neighbor Blues
Travis Country
When My Train Pulls In
Don't Owe You A Thing
Three O' Clock Blues (Lowell Fulson)
Things Are Changin'
Numb

Gary Clark Jr. Live (disc 2)
Ain't Messin' 'Round
If Trouble Was Money (Albert Collins)
Third Stone From The Sun / If You Love me Like You Say (Jimi Hendrix / Albert Collins)
Please Come Home
Black and Blu
Bright Lights
When The Sun Goes Down

Gary Clark Jr. LIVE is available for pre-order now. Those who choose to pre-order in any format will receive an instant download "When My Train Pulls" (live).  Both the physical vinyl and CD are available on Amazon, GaryClarkJr.com or digitally on iTunes.   

'Let's Be Cops' Is An Arrestingly Funny Comedy



By Darlene Donloe

Damon Wayans, Jr. and Jake Johnson are quickly making a name for themselves in Hollywood. This comedic dynamic duo has already made their presence known in the hit television show, New Girl.

Now they are bringing the funny to the big screen as they pair up, once again, in the comedy Let’s Be Cops, set for nationwide release August 13.

Buddy cop movies usually translate to big box office. This buddy cop movie will be no exception, well, except for the fact that the two characters aren’t really cops.

When two struggling pals dress as police officers for a costume party, they become neighborhood sensations. But when they take it a step too far and become involved in a real life web of mobsters and dirty detectives, they must put their fake badges on the line.

As the poster says: Fake cops! Real Trouble!

Wayans, a member of the comedic Wayans family comedy dynasty and Johnson and play Justin Miller and Ryan O’Malley, respectively.  Years before the two friends moved to Los Angeles from Ohio to make their dreams come true. 

Instead, Miller toils at a videogame company while O’Malley revels in his glory days as a college quarterback. 

Miller takes it on the chin when his colleagues reject his pitch for a new videogame featuring cops in real life situations.

After they attend a costume party where many of the college friends are in attendance, both Miller and O’Malley, dressed authentically as cops, are hit with the reality that their lives didn’t quite turn out like they planned.

However, as they walk down the street after leaving the party, it’s quite clear that everyone, including real cops, thinks the two friends are actual cops. The two become chick magnets while O’Malley is filled with a sudden sense of power.

Unfortunately, after they take on some bad guys, the ish gets real and Miller and O’Malley find themselves in a death and life struggle.

In the midst of the drama, Miller falls for a waitress at a local restaurant, who is also a would-be makeup artist.

The laughs are plenty in this comedic romp!

Wayans and Johnson do funny proud!

Let’s Be Cops, directed, produced and co-written by Luke Greenfield, stars Damon Wayans, Jr., Jake Johnson, Rob Riggle, Nina Dobrev, James D’Arcy, Andy Garcia and Keegan-Michael Key.

Let’s Be Cops, opening nationwide August 13, is Rated R.

On the DONLOE SCALE:  D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), Let’s Be Cops gets an O (OK).

Monday, August 11, 2014

'The Visionary Art Of JB Murray' Set For Aug. 16


On Sat., Aug. 15, join the Museum of African American Art, Black Hollywood Education & Resource Center and the cast of Visionary Man, the new hit musical now playing at the Hudson Theatre, for, The Visionary Art of JB Murray, an exhibition celebrating the visionary art of painter JB Murray. Murray was a poor, illiterate farmer who received a call from the Holy Spirit to create vivid abstract paintings that would eventually be displayed at prominent museums all over the world including in Tokyo, London and New York. Attendees will learn about the origins behind Murray’s visions and enjoy a live performance by the cast of Visionary Man.  The event is from 1:30-3p.m. at the Museum of African American Art, Macy's 3rd Floor, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, 4005 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90008. For information: (323) 294-7071or http://www.maaala.org
The event and parking is FREE.

Patrick Bradley's CD Asks, 'Can You Hear Me'

 
“Can You Hear Me,” due September 23, features guest stars Dave Koz, Rick Braun and Eric Marienthal on the contemporary jazz fusion set produced by Jeff Lorber.

Aliso Viejo, Calif. (11 August 2014): To bolster his effort to be heard above the incessant din cluttering our world, keyboardist Patrick Bradley called upon a few high-profile friends on his third album, “Can You Hear Me,” produced by jazz fusion icon Jeff Lorber, which is slated for release September 23 on the Patrick’s Music Factory label. Boil it down further and the desire to be heard by our parents is inherent in all of us, which is the genesis of the title track and first radio single, a plaintive piano lullaby graced with the serene soprano sax presence of Dave Koz on the song inspired by Bradley’s late mother.     

Collaborating on their second album together, Bradley and Lorber composed and arranged all ten songs on “Can You Hear Me.” Bradley nimbly emotes graceful harmonies on piano, adds depth and texture via gurgling Moog synthesizer embellishments and uncorks feverish organ blasts with reckless abandon when the mood to pontificate strikes. A variety of jazz visages – fusion, contemporary and smooth - emerge from tracks rooted in R&B that reflect prisms of funk, soul and blues with the deep-pocketed grooves stitched by bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Gary Novak. David Mann’s fiery horns and crisp horn arrangements fatten the sound on “Blue Skies,” “Daylight,” “For Her” and “Voyage” with hitman Rick Braun captured blowing away on trumpet on a pair of cuts (“Blue Skies” and “Voyage”) and Eric Marienthal chiming in some swinging sax on a few numbers (“Blue Skies,” “Shoreline” and “Catalan”). Lorber’s keyboard and Dwight Sills’ guitar riff rhythmically throughout the session with Sills and guitarist Michael Thompson dousing kerosene before slash and burn solos. Both Bradley and Lorber solo on the blistering progressive rock thrill ride “North Of Evermore.”                  

“I’ve been playing my whole life and I’m trying to be heard in this noisy world as a musician. My mom passed before hearing my last album (“Under The Sun”) including the song I wrote for my (late) father (“Tears From The Sky”). I wonder if she can hear me and my music. I wrote ‘Can You Hear Me’ with her in mind, but it is also a question I ask God as well,” said Bradley, a man of faith who hails from Southern California. “The original album title was ‘All In’ (the first song on the record) because I wanted to dig deeper than ever before. The whole purpose of the album was to make sure that I got all of my musical chops into it and I think we did it.”

Bradley’s professional music career began as a member of a rock band (Joshua) signed to Polydor Records. He released his solo debut, “Come Rain or Shine,” in 2006, the title cut hitting the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Singles chart. “Under The Sun” arrived in 2011 and a few tracks from the offering garnered radio play while the album peaked at No. 6 on the Smooth Indie Chart. Over the years, Bradley and Koz have cultivated a friendship with the multimedia sax personality inviting Bradley to perform aboard the Dave Koz Cruise to Alaska next month as well as to open for Koz, Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot’s “Summer Horns” concert September 19 in Newport Beach, Calif. Balancing dual careers, Bradley “sunlights” as president of the Southern Pacific region for Whole Foods Market. Additional information about Bradley will soon be available at www.PatrickBradleyMusic.com.

The songs contained on “Can You Hear Me” are:

“All In”
“Blue Skies”
“North Of Evermore”
“Can You Hear Me”
“Daylight”
“Shoreline”
“Catalan”
“For Her”
“Sierra”
“Voyage”