We Are N.D. We Are Notre Dame – WTF?!

30 04 2010

A couple of months ago we posted an amazingly awesome OKGo video which they filmed with the Band of the Fighting Irish for the song “This Too Shall Pass.”

Again we repeat. That was awesome.

But, Notre Dame just posted a craptastic video that I assume is meant to pump up the crowds at any sporting event in the near future.

Or maybe they want the student body to come together united behind their sports teams and coaches.

Or maybe they just want the University to be ridiculed. I mean, it’s been almost a year since Obamagate went down when some crazy people thought it would be awesome to throw fake blood on students and harass them with crucifixes while informing them that if they support the President of the United States speaking at graduation then they themselves are abortionists. At least this time the ridicule will be warranted.

Or maybe….I got nothin’ else.

But for some reason they decided it was a good idea to film, edit and publish a video so horrible and kitschy and disturbing and WTF-esque – and did I mention horrible? – that I absolutely have to do my part to make it viral. Especially since I know multiple people in it.

Watch it. Hate it as much as I do. And pass it along. We all know some blogger that hates the Irish (and probably even ESPN) will pick it up and ream us for it.

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Things like this make me proud to be able to say “Oh Notre Dame? No, I didn’t graduate from there…” I may bleed Blue & Gold, but thank God I can disassociate myself from them sometimes. GO IRISH! Beat Boilermakers!

And just to get that horrible, horrible taste of crappiness out of our heads. Let’s look at OKGo and the Band again.

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Family Drama Keeps ‘Addams Family Musical’ Afloat

20 01 2010

Music and Lyrics: Andrew Lippa

Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice

Based on: Charles Addams’ comic strip The Addams Family

Starring: Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, Krysta Rodriguez, Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello, Kevin Chamberlin

Opens: April 8, 2010 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky, and not particular musical – The Addams Family. Duh duh duh duh *snap, snap*

The Broadway-bound The Addams Family Musical, recently closed its curtain at the Oriental Theater in Chicago after a 2-month tryout.

Based on the cartoons by Charles Addams, the musical follows the lives of Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester and Pugsley as they celebrate the coming of age of daughter Wednesday and all the family drama that entails.

The house, while it still may be a museum where people come to see them, has been transported to the middle of Central Park, which provides the rich backdrop of twinkling lights from the city during outdoor scenes and a clever way to get long dead family members involved in the action – they’re buried outside.

Led by the venerable patriarch of modern Broadway – Nathan Lane playing the sultry, tango-loving Gomez – the cast is comprised of seasoned veterans like Bebe Neuwirth (“Cheers,” “Fosse”) as the lithe and dangerously gorgeous Morticia, and fabulous new-comers who seem to have a long career ahead of them likeĀ  Krysta Rodriguez, who plays Wednesday. There’s even an appearance by Thing, the disembodied hand from the cartoon.

The drama of the play comes when the newly de-pigtailed Wednesday brings her boyfriend Lucas Beineke (Wesley Taylor) and his decidedly un-creepy and kooky parents home for dinner. As can be expected of any 18-year-old in the same position, Wednesday is worried that her family will do something to embarrass her, especially as her family finds joy in the dark and dismal. She begs for one night of normalcy, but with the Addams’ family life is anything but as Pugsly begins to feel left out, Morticia worries her youth is slipping away, Gomez wants his little girl back and Wednesday herself is conflicted with the new emotion of love.

The play opens with a bang as the entire family dances the “Clandango” while Wednesday goes through her transition from girl to woman, but quickly falls flat as it is explained that Wednesday has met Lucas and Uncle Fester (Kevin Chamberlin) states his desire for the evening – “Let’s Not Talk About Anything Else But Love.”

The Addams Family as television viewers will remember is resurrected for a brief time in the next few numbers as Wednesday deals with her frustrations at the conflicting feelings of love and the macabre by torturing an ecstatic Pugsly, and Gomez can’t keep his hands off his seductive wife. The tempo of the entire play and the emotions of the audience are peaked when the iconic theme song is introduced all to briefly as a way to transition to the dinner party.

Once the Beineke’s are introduced, however, the Addams Family as we know it disappears for some time as the physical interactions between the characters is put on hold for a number of perfectly delivered one-liners by Gomez.

It’s enjoyable to see Wednesday and Lucas sneak around the house – masterfully recreated in a movable, staggering set which adds volumes to the ambiance of the show – as love-struck teenagers, but the meat of the script comes from Gomez’s interactions with Mal Beineke and Morticia’s with his wife, Alice. If Gomez and Morticia have their way, there will be more than one set of lovebirds leaving the house at the end of the night as they try to rekindle the passion in the Beineke’s marriage.

If the play continued as written, it would have been masterful, but those pesky musical numbers which always seemed to fall flat began to pop up once again. The show-stopper, “Full Disclosure,” was hum-worthy as the show went to intermission, but the second act, with the exception of Morticia’s longing “Second Banana” at the beginning, lacks a centerpiece song to hook the audience and Gomez and Morticia’s tango, meant to be a pivotal moment in the play, interrupts the flow of the act and leaves the audience wondering when it will be over.

The true beauty of the play is the script, filled with one-liners based on pop culture and innuendo. Lane’s comedic timing is spot on as he delivers punchlines, and Carolee Carmello, who plays Alice, proves to be a great drunk.

The most classic one-liner from the New Years’ Eve show came from the underutilized Grandmama (Jackie Hoffman) who’s role in the rest of the play seems to be unclear. She had the audience – and the cast – rolling in the aisles as with an delectably inappropriate reference to “Dick…….Clark” and his Rockin’ New Year’s Eve special.

Also notable about the Dec. 31 show, was the unexplained absence of Ms. Neuwirth. Her understudy, Rachel De Benedet, performed wonderfully for being thrown into the spot light at the last second (as Nathan Lane announced at the end of the show as he heaped praise upon her). She hit all of her marks, had a strong voice and a killer pair of legs, and seemed to embody Morticia as she glided across the stage.

There are quite a few kinks to work out of the production before its previews at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on March 8 and its opening night on April 8 – most notably the music, clarifying character personalities and strengthening the second act – but its outstanding ensemble cast and their relationships is the true reason to see the show.

Final grade: The Addams Family is a very good play, but a bad musical


31 08 2009

Director: Edward Zwick

Starring: Daniel Craig, Leiv Schreiber, Jamie Bell, George McKay

Released: Jan 16, 2009

When the four Bielski brothers escaped from the Nazis in Belarus in 1941, it’s unlikely that any of them ever thought the subsequent four years of their lives would be made into a major motion picture 68 years later. But that’s exactly what Defiance is – only problem is, it’s just a bad major motion picture.

Looking at trailers for the movie, one would think they were going to see an action-adventure movie complete with Daniel Craig (a.k.a. the current James Bond) as Tuvia Bielski, blowing stuff up, shooting people, dodging bombs and bullets from the Nazis and grittily leading a group of exiled Jews in a foreign forest.

Apparently, the viewer is supposed to not remember that a blond-haired, blue-eyed actor is playing someone who’s Jewish. The filmmakers tried to keep Craig’s hair filled with dirt for most of Defiance – which makes sense, as the film is set in a forest – but it’s clear that he remains a blond for unknown reasons. Plus, there’s no covering up those electric blues.

If you can get past the fact that Craig is probably one of the most Aryan looking Jews in film history, you won’t be disappointed. Viewers can watch Tuvia stoically face whatever is thrown his way with his brothers Zus (Liev Schreiber), Asael (Jamie Bell, Billy Elliott) and Aaron (George MacKay, Peter Pan).

The film follows the trials facing the Bielski brothers as they work to keep their camp of Jews hidden from the ensuing political turmoil. The camp needs protection, food, shelter and religion, and the Bielskis manage to provide it all, giving the Jews a sense of community and family.

While Craig does well with what the script gives him, Schreiber deserves the most praise for managing at least one laugh-free take during one of the film’s more absurd scenes.

At one point, his girlfriend, Bella – who largely disappears after this scene, only to reappear at a much later point – is discussing “protection” with him. She wants to know why the women don’t have guns, and Schreiber says the men will protect the women. In one of the many awkward displays of affection that abound in Defiance, Bella then tells him she needs his protection while ungracefully moving his hand to her breast.

The viewer is seemingly supposed to assume that this gesture implies the two are in love or a relationship, or that he is her “forest husband.” The “forest husband” concept pops up repeatedly throughout the film, as those living in the forest community substitute a “forest relationship” for what they left behind in the city.

While it is obvious within the first five minutes that Craig and Schreiber are the stars of the movie, Bell holds his own alongside the two with a secondary plot of finding love in the Bielski camp. He meets and marries Chaya Dziencielsky, played by the largely unknown Mia Wasikowska.

Bell plays the levelheaded brother who keeps the hotheaded Craig and Schreiber in line. Other than getting married, and preventing the two main characters from killing each other, he isn’t given much to do.

Don’t feel bad for Bell, though. At least he has more of a role than MacKay, whose character goes mute after seeing the atrocity of his parents’ murder by the Nazis. He has exactly one line in the entire film.

Granted, when your only previous acting experience peaked with playing one of the lost boys in Peter Pan, audiences shouldn’t expect too much. However, the actor does an admirable job of simultaneously looking horrified, miserable and cold.

While Defiance tries to do the Bielski history justice, any film about the Holocaust will undoubtedly be compared to the titans that came before it, particularly Schindler’s List and The Pianist.

While it touches on the same subjects as those films, Defiance fails to pack the same emotional punch of those movies. It introduces too many minor characters that somehow prove to be important, no matter how small their roles.

The film also clocks in at an unnecessary 137 minutes. The humor is awkward, and the relationships aren’t developed enough to be maintained throughout the running time.

Had the director, Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond), cut out half of the characters and an extraneous 30 minutes, Defiance would have been far more watchable.

Overall rating: Unintentional comedy lets this move clock in as bad, but in a kitschy way

– Post first appeared in The Observer, the daily newspaper serving the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College on 2/2/09

Edison Force

20 08 2009

Director: David J. Burke

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott, Justin Timberlake

Released: Direct to DVD (2005)

I recently discovered Edison Force on Amazon.com. I knew that Justin Timberlake had been working on a movie with Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman a few years ago (when you’re an *NSYNC fan you know these types of things) but had never heard anything about it after it was filmed.

It didn’t take long to find out why.

The plot, about an elite team of special forces police officers – who just happen to be corrupt – in the city of Edison who are discovered and exposed by a crack journalist, is decent, and probably could have done fairly well, had it not been coupled with the script which Freeman, McDermott, LL Cool J and Timberlake have to muddle through.

The opening scenes of the movie place you directly in the field with McDermott and Cool J who are officers on the F.R.A.T. task force. Suspense is high as cross-fire interrupts an Irish Dance competition and one of the dancers faces a scary reality. Cut to (presumably) that night and McDermott and Cool J are again after criminals, this time druggies in the underdeveloped side of Edison. Once again, camera angles, music and lighting place a heavy emphasis on suspense and drama as these two officers bust the two dealers in an abandoned house. The viewer knows that the movie can’t continue choppily jumping around with the two officers saving the day in different scenarios so it’s obvious that something will happen. It’s also obvious what that something is – the two are corrupt. And even more predictably, one is questioning his conscience as he goes through the motions.

Enter Justin Timberlake’s character: Josh Pollack, a fresh-faced young journalist at the hometown newspaper. He’s the one assigned to cover the court case of one of the drug dealers and he’s crack reporter that uncovers the internal corruption rotting Edison from the inside out just by noticing that the dealer says “thank you” to LL Cool J.

Makes sense, right? Well, no, not really if you look at everything else Timberlake’s character does. Disregards his editor to write a full article when the paper only has space for a brief? Check. Editorializes a hard news piece? Check. Tries to circumvent the PR process at the local police to get the story? Check. Doesn’t understand Federal Freedom of Information Act basics? Check.

Full disclosure: I worked as a journalist for the past four years.

There are certain things you learn in that time and there is NO way that any hometown newspaper would hire a reporter, especially a court reporter, without that experience. This character, however, knows next to nothing about channels of communication in print media. FOIA, Public records laws are a non-entity for him and allegations are a completely acceptable form of journalism.

I literally laughed out loud at how clueless this journalist was.

If you look past that, however, and suspend your disbelief that a journalist knows none of these things and that A-list actors decided this was a good choice in their careers, the movie is enjoyable. It’s very compelling when you see how F.R.A.T. is trying to intimidate Pollack, as that does, in fact, happen in the journalism world. It’s also entertaining to watch Morgan Freeman, Pollack’s editor, try to teach this horrible reporter how to break a story.

The movie tires itself out, though. By the end there are only two things that can happen: Timberlake dies, or Timberlake’s story gets published. Publishing the story, however, wasn’t enough for writers. Instead, everything had to come up smelling like roses. The story gets published, F.R.A.T. goes down, the cop with a conscience finds a way to get out of the business and everyone ends up living Happily Ever After. It’s a contrived ending to a contrived story.

If you like watching Justin Timberlake, this movie is pleasant. If you like corrupt cop vs. journalist movies, it’s intriguing. If you like good, believable movies? Ones in which the actors disappear and take on the persona of their characters? In which you take the time to learn the characters names? It’s not for you.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s really crappy, but the final vote on this one: BAD