Wednesday, August 19, 2009

in an octopus's garden

Turkey Creek felt more like a theme park or aquarium on Monday. I went to an advance screening of "Under the Sea 3D," which opened this morning. The film has already been showing at other IMAX theatres, many of which are located at science museums or aquariums.

The filmmakers spent thousands of hours underwater to get 40 minutes of footage, most of which seemed to be about cuttlefish. The "masters of camouflage" were screen hogs. The only thing I really knew about cuttlefish prior to this was that my sister had a parakeet named Gladstone who gnawed on a cuttlebone.

There were some shots of cute sea lions and a cameo by a great white shark but it was the sea snakes and the eels that stole the show, partly because they got the best musical score while they were briefly on screen. One kid starting crying when a frogfish ate a smaller fish that had just escaped another predator.

The obligatory global warming message was palatable. Jim Carrey's voiceover was the medicine and the pretty pictures were the spoonful of sugar. Not so pleasant was the cover version of the Ringo Starr song used for the film's close. Betsy Pickle and Wayne Bledsoe, who were seated in the same row as me, both expressed their dislike of the song as we were leaving the theatre.

According to Fandango, tickets for "Under the Sea 3D" cost $14.75, the same as for "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: The IMAX Experience." Perhaps they can justify the price because the 40-minute fish movie is longer than the 12-minute 3D portion of "Harry Potter." When Harry arrives at the Burrow, three red symbols appear on screen telling you to remove your 3D glasses for the remaining 141 minutes.

Despite the crying kid, "Under the Sea" is intended to be a family film. Oddly the showtimes for Wednesday and Thursday are 11:20 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 2:10 p.m. Maybe they forgot that school started Monday in Knox County. I suppose they could be going after the field trip crowd.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

it's Harry Potter day

When Jo Rowling made up a birthday for Harry Potter, she gave him one that would be easy to remember, her own. Happy birthday to them both!

On the night before "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" opened, I had great fun at the Einstein Simplified show. In one improv game, I played a video store clerk who was overly excited about the new film. Since today is a Harry Potter day of sorts, here is the video of that scene. The first time you watch, try skipping past the first 2 minutes and 17 seconds. During that time, the audience suggests three movies while I am outside in isolation. If you start watching when I re-enter the room, you can try to guess what the customers want to rent before I do.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

do you believe in magic?

To get ready for Harry Potter Day, my wife and son planned ahead. On our road trip two years ago, it didn't occur to us to buy a CD copy of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" until we got to a small town in Illinois. This year they went to the Knox County Public Library and reserved an audio copy of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

We listened to Jim Dale's narration as we drove to Maine and back. I have the same complaint with the sixth book as I did with the seventh about the way Dale voices female characters, especially Ginny, Luna and Hermione. The only woman's voice he gets right is Professor McGonagall. As I heard the climactic scene, I couldn't help but think of the fake ending I wrote four years ago.

The detailed plot was fresh in my mind as we watched the excellent movie adaptation this afternoon. I was okay with the stuff they had to leave out. Both Harry and Hermione are dealing with their changing feelings toward a Weasley. It was fairly true to the book although there are brief scenes I might not have understood had I not read the novel. Specifically, I thought they did not do a good job of explaining the Room of Requirement. Of course most of the moviegoers will have seen "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," which explained the Room fully.

A listener called to challenge something I said on the air this morning. I mentioned that there were two more Harry Potter movies to come. She said there was only one film left. I tried to get her to understand that one book was being divided into two movies but she kept insisting that it was one movie divided into two parts. I finally won the argument when I asked her if she thought she could see both parts with one ticket or if they would make her buy tickets to two movies.

I saw an awkward live segment at the end of the late local news Tuesday night. The reporter interviewed fans who could not get tickets to one of the sold-out midnight shows at the Regal Pinnacle Stadium 18. Most were young and dressed in costume and one guy was dressed as Dumbledore. The awkward part came when the reporter didn't know how to react to a girl who said she didn't even like Harry Potter. Meanwhile, I heard that some local girls got ready for the movie by buying used neckties from Sacred Heart Cathedral School, which has the same colors as Gryffindor House.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

björn again

A box office record was set this weekend by "Mamma Mia!" Huh? Oh sure, "The Dark Knight" broke all kinds of records but "Mamma Mia!" had the biggest opening for a musical. My wife was included in the 75% of the film's audience who are female, which makes me part of the other 25%. "Mamma Mia!" was okay. I only liked hearing the ABBA songs that I already knew, which was a little less than half of them. The unfamiliar tunes didn't do it for me. True ABBA fans would know all the songs.

I have seen enough clips on talk shows to know that Pierce Brosnan's singing voice is not in the same league as his co-stars. Meryl Streep's voice was believable as Donna, a former pop singer. Amanda Seyfried, the actress who played her daughter, sings well too. All through the movie, I kept trying to figure out how one of Donna's backup singers could possibly be Mrs. Weasley from the Harry Potter films too. Julie Walters disappears into both roles.

In the course of clicking around for "Mamma Mia!" information, I found a less than favorable movie review by Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News. I once did some work for her parents during Oscar week in Hollywood. Her dad is Stuart Weitzman, the famous shoe designer.

On Friday we met some friends at the Regal Knoxville Center 10. Our original plan to see "The Dark Knight" got modified when one of our friends suggested that we could see "Mamma Mia!" too. The show times allowed us to take a break for lunch in between. I got a salad at Chick-fil-A and somehow resisted the urge to get one of their delicious, hand-spun, 790-calorie milkshakes. In the end, we were all glad that ABBA was the opening act and that we made Batman the headliner. It wouldn't have been as enjoyable the other way around.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

don't let the Quaffle in

Someone placed flyers on all the windshields in the parking lot during last night's high school football game. The papers advertised a website that sells clothing from hundreds, if not thousands of high schools, middle schools and grammar schools all over the country. has a database of school colors and mascot names. If your school is not listed, the site lets you log in to add it. Once you find your school, you can order shirts, pants, hats, and accessories emblazoned with the school name and the sport or activity that you prefer. I had fun looking for the schools I attended and the schools my kids attended. Then I dropped in various interests like school newspaper (for me) and chemistry (for my son) to create pictures of items that never existed until now. The one that amused me most was the St. Finbar Quidditch Team sweatshirt.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

butcher brothers

Conventional wisdom says that the book is usually better than the movie. My son certainly feels that way about the Harry Potter series. I didn't read any of the J.K. Rowling's work until after I had seen the first three films. It surprises me that I enjoy the Potter movies more than my son does.

It only took a couple of episodes of the excellent Showtime series "Dexter" for me to want to read the books that inspired it. Over the summer, I started reading "Darkly Dreaming Dexter." Perhaps because I thought I knew how it ended, I would put the book down and not pick it up again for weeks. The real reason for my slow progress may be simply that the book is not as good as the TV series. The ending of the book seemed rushed and was fairly different from the series. I finally finished reading it the other day and started on "Dearly Devoted Dexter," thinking that I should try to get through the second book before the second season of the show ends. If Wikipedia is to be believed, the current season of the series is not based on the books at all. It might make more sense for me to hold off on reading until the show goes on hiatus again.

To promote the return of "Dexter," Showtime offers several cast pictures for bloggers to use. They also put red dye in some public fountains around the country. It reminded me of the time I saw blue toilet cleaner in a Washington DC fountain. The cleaning fluid would probably do a good job of removing the blood red dye in Philadelphia, Las Vegas and L.A.


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Saturday, July 28, 2007

missed it by that much

With each passing day, avoiding Harry Potter information has become slightly more difficult. When we stopped at highway rest areas on Thursday, it was tempting to pick up a USA Today and read the front page interview with J.K Rowling. Fortunately the headline warned that the article would reveal Harry's fate. We decided to wait and read the interview online after finishing the book. During my limited time on the Internet this week, I've been careful not to click on any news stories about Potter or Rowling. Instead of turning on the radio, we've been listening to the audio book. We're now up to chapter 32, which means we should finish the story tomorrow. I did allow my favorite radio station to break through my media embargo. Since we were within range, I could not resist the urge to tune in to WLNG in the hope that Paul Sidney would be doing a remote broadcast on "92 point fun" in glorious mono. I knew that there was virtually no chance of hearing a mention of Harry Potter on their air.

It was not the media that penetrated our cone of silence. We had a visit with some friends of the family tonight. They have all finished reading the book. Before dinner my wife and I were still early in chapter 31. One of the friends deadpanned, "Oh has (blank) died yet?" I think he was only kidding but the very fact that he joked about it tells me that (blank) probably won't die in the book, thereby spoiling the ending a little. After everyone left, my wife and I listened to the rest of chapter 31. Of all the characters in jeopardy during that chapter, we knew which one was safe. If you're going to joke about the ending of a Harry Potter book, at least make it completely implausible.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

driving Miss Dursley

The goal is to finish "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" before seeing or hearing any spoilers online or over the air. For the past few days I have limited my exposure to live media. It’s been fairly easy to do because I am traveling with my wife and son. I was supposed to read the book as soon as my son finished it. My wife would get it next. That was until she came up with a better idea while we were passing through the small town of Anna, Illinois. If we bought the audio book, we could listen to it in the car while we drove. The first store we saw that we thought would have the discs in stock was Wal-Mart. We eagerly grabbed one of the two CD sets they had on the shelf. It will take 21 hours to listen to the whole book. At least we still have a lot of driving ahead of us. I think we're on chapter 21 right now. I'm not sure because I may have dozed off as it got late tonight. This is my first experience with any of the Potter audio books, all of which have been read by actor Jim Dale.

Dale does a fine job on the narration part. For the dialogue, he takes on a slightly different voice for each of the characters, giving them fairly strong British accents. I like his Hagrid voice best because it sounds most like the actor from the movies. Of course almost anyone can do a decent Hagrid impression. Try saying the line, "You’re a wizard, Harry!" Dale's female voices take some getting used to. As minor characters and wizened old witches, he sounds good. However he makes poor Luna Lovegood sound like she is mentally challenged. Dolores Umbridge sounds like Mrs. Doubtfire. And Hermione gets the worst of it. Obviously she has more lines than any other female. Dale uses a half-whisper with an ever so slight hint of a speech impediment for her voice. There is one particular word that is the most annoying. Unfortunately for the listener, that word happens to be "Harry." The way Dale says it as Hermione, it comes out more like "Haweee!"

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

the need for speed reading

Don't say anything about the new Harry Potter book. I'm going to start reading it as soon as my son is done with the copy he got at midnight last night. I may try to get started early if I can pry it away while he's sleeping. More than one blog reader was fooled by Thursday's post. A friend emailed to say that his daughter thought I had an advance copy of the J.K. Rowling tome. To avoid spoilers, I'm going on a self-imposed media semi-blackout for the next few days. I will still write a blog entry daily but there may be a delay in getting them posted to the web. Please bear with me.

While my son and wife braved the crowds at Barnes & Noble, my daughter bought her copy of "The Deathly Hallows" at a CVS near her. She said that she was one of a grand total of three Potter fans getting their books at midnight. I've been borrowing my daughter's camera since mine broke. As a result we have no photos from CVS but we do have some from Barnes & Noble.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

muggle juggle

The secret to enjoying the new movie "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" is to forget the details of the book. Or at least put some time between reading and watching. I read the first six Harry Potter books over the summer of 2005 and I'm glad I did. The last couple of movies would be difficult to follow if I hadn't. However my wife and son recently re-read "Order of the Phoenix" so it would be fresh in their minds before we saw the movie tonight. I sat in the theatre ignorant, happy and reveling in the digital projection while my family members were a little dissatisfied because of all the things the filmmakers left out. The only real problem I had with the movie was an inconsistency with the way it looks when Sirius Black speaks to Harry through the fireplace. They should have made it look the same as in "Goblet of Fire."

A co-worker who saw the film Tuesday night was also let down. He too had just re-read the books to prepare for the seventh and final novel. I might skim through "Half-Blood Prince" before reading "Deathly Hallows" but I'll make sure flush it out of my brain before the next movie comes out.

We may have overestimated the crowds at the movie theatre tonight. We arrived at 7:20. Instead of buying tickets for the 7:30 show, we opted for the 7:45 screening to be sure that we could get our favorite seats, like we've done before. The ticket taker told us that we could have just as easily gone to the earlier show. Moviegoers in this area tend to arrive very close to the posted showtime. On my way to the rest room at 7:29, I ducked into the 7:30 theatre and counted 12 audience members. The seats I would have chosen were still available. On the plus side, I had some extra time to hear "Movie Tunes" with Kris Erik Stevens.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

spoiled rotten

WARNING: clicking on any links in this blog entry could reveal Harry Potter spoilers

Friday morning we did a radio prank that got some people riled up. I wrote a fake ending to the latest Harry Potter book and read it aloud on Star 102.1. Listeners who haven't read the book (mostly adults) were upset at us for spoiling the ending. Those who have read the book (mostly kids) got the joke right away. You can read my fake ending by clicking here. Although some lines are copied verbatim, I made sure to steer readers away from what actually happens in the book. Those who heard the bit and have yet to read the book should still be surprised.

The whole bit was partly inspired by my frustration with the Harry Potter spoilers that are out there. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that most critics were keeping the ending of the sixth book a secret. Since then, several clues have popped up.

A popular online t-shirt shop sells a shirt that gives away a major plot point and then says "I just saved you 4 hours and $30."

Within a couple of weeks of the book's release, the geniuses at one of our radio showprep services posted a domain name in big, bold print as their daily "Site For Sore Eyes." The domain name allows you to figure out the same major plot point.

Entertainment Weekly devoted two whole pages to discussing the ending of the "Half Blood Prince" but they put big spoiler warnings on the pages.

One of my favorite TV shows even got in on the spoiling action. "Best Week Ever" had a joke by Doug Benson in which they bleeped the name of one character involved in the climactic scene but they didn't bleep the other name.

Is there a better way to avoid spoilers?

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