Summer Movie Madness with a Little Concert Crazy

Another long overdue update. I forgot how busy the Summer months can be. Plus, who wants to be inside typing up a blog when it’s so warm and beautiful outside? Oh, who am I kidding? It’s not like I’ve been out bicycling around town, hiking, or jogging. I have actually been seeing a few movies and was even able to make it out to the Sonoma County Fair for the first time in years – all of which has prompted me to update.

Chaos (2005)
I’m pretty sure this piece of shit went straight to DVD. It was awful. Horribly predictable with tedious and overused plot lines, all where suspense should have been. Didn’t this movie originate in the 90’s? It was obvious that the actors were phoning it in. And no, it doesn’t matter if it was poorly written. I’m of the belief that no matter where you work or what job you do, you should always be working at your best. Speaking of which, one of the “stars” was Ryan Phillipe – most aptly remembered as Reese Witherspoon’s former husband. His performance was what I will now refer to as “floptacular” (a spectacular flop). I was really hoping for something much more suspenseful and action-packed from Statham, Snipes, and Phillipe but was left with a bad, boring taste in my mouth. I guess I could blame my father on this one since he picked it up at the video store, but in the end all I have is to blame myself because I know he has a tendency to pick the shittiest of the shitty.
Verdict: Avoid at all costs.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
I’m going to try really hard to keep this short because, even though I’m no crazed Harry Potter fan, I definitely have strong opinions about the book-to-movie-translation that Warner Brothers has attempted. While watching the OotP, I knew instinctively that there had been a significant amount of the story that had been left out, even though it had been a few years since I have read the book. It actually prompted me to pick up and reread the fifth book in order to better remember the story in its originality. The movie seemed to have a much different pace and style than those that preceded it in the series. When the film was over, I felt that there was so much more to be desired and that Warner Brothers failed to make it a good story at the very least. Oftentimes characters would elude to certain things that had no resolution or they would ignore important plot points completely. Order of the Phoenix felt disjointed with too much CG, but I will admit that the CG smoke looked incredible (when the Death Eaters were pulling off their masks). All in all, another disappointment. When will it end? (When I learn to rent good movies!)
Verdict: Skip the movie and reread the book instead. Much, much more gratifying.

Iron Man (2008)
I’m extremely late on this one – so please forgive me. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this flick with Robert Downey Junior. I’m not a fan of his, so I was a bit hesitant to go, especially with the price of movies at $10 a person, but I had a coupon for drinks and popcorn (!!!). The very thought of those little hot, tasty, crunchy clouds of popped corn was irresistible.
Despite not having read comic books as a kid, I thought the movie did a great job of telling the story and making it relevant to today (Iraq v. Vietnam, new technologies, etc.). What I liked most about the film was that while it was a great Summer blockbuster, parts of it were definitely social commentary on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but still managed to have deeper implications. Overall, I thought it was a really fun film with a good story and some fantastic acting by Downey Jr.
Verdict: A really fun flick, especially if you’re into comics. Don’t forget to stay and watch what happens after the credits!

Batman: The Dark Knight (2008)
Holy beans Batman! This movie was awesome! Honestly. I’m not kidding! Did I mention that I got to see it on IMAX?!
Okay, enough with the excitement. I have been waiting to see this flick for months. And to get this cleared up and out of the way: I like(d) Heath Ledger is an actor before he died, not because he died. Ledger was part of the reason I had been anticipating this film to begin with as I had heard rumors about his portrayal of the Joker. I read an article on TDK awhile back in Entertainment Weekly in which it was said that he started out by experimenting with his makeup and studying characters from A Clockwork Orange. And while watching the film, I felt as though the wait had paid off . . . and then some. His portrayal of the Joker was incredible – a perfect blend of a truly insane man with Nicholson’s caricature of Joker. He walked a fine line between two characters to create a truly haunting, but fitting Joker for Nolan’s TDK. He really stole the show despite the movie’s namesake. While Bale & co. performed well yet again, it was Gary Oldman’s Lt. Gordon that was surprisingly exquisite. His subtle, yet calculated performance is definitely worthy of a little gold man.
The movie rolled right along through most of the 152 minutes. The action sequences were well filmed and kept the theater on the edge of its seat. My only complaint was that I couldn’t keep up. Maybe that’s because the screen was so big? Well, make that two complaints. I wasn’t exactly impressed with Dent’s/Two Face’s injury in the sense that it was quite obviously fake. I guess I was hoping for something that looked a little more in line with the rest of the look of the film.
Verdict: Do not pass this up while it’s still in theaters! The IMAX experience adds a great touch.

Holly Newfield and the Sonoma County Fair
At my birthday party, I overheard my cousins talking about the (then) upcoming Sonoma County Fair – a regular late Summer favorite hot spot for Sonoma County residents. They happened to be mentioning Holly Newfield, a singer I’ve never heard of. I was informed that she is the niece of a local business owner and former lead singer of Trick Pony, and they invited me to join them on opening day at the Fair for her show. Fast forward a few days to the Fair’s opening day and I’m pulling a $2 off coupon from the front page of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat at work (do you see the trend with me and the coupons? What can I say, it’s not like I’m rolling in the dough here!). Well, on that note of frugality, my cousins and I all carpooled to the show. I quickly discovered that I was not the only one with a $2 off coupon! Anyway, once inside the gates we headed to the hall to check on one of the cousin’s Elderberry jam, as she had entered it into a contest and won 4th place. We then proceeded to the fine fair dining experience (I love me some Mary’s Pizza and funnel cake, which I’ve discovered only recently) and quickly headed to take our seats for the concert. We sat down around 7pm and got some good, free seats. We were able to enjoy our dinners and catch up.
The concert started at 8pm. Holly Newfield announced that this was her first ever solo show with her new band, post departure from Trick Pony, of course. She also notified the crowd of how much she enjoyed being back in her hometown playing in front of lots of friends and family. She was ever gracious throughout the show about this as well as the frequent air time she was receiving from the local country station for her new hit “Johnny & June,” about the everlasting love shared between the late, great Johnny Cash and his wife June. She also frequently shared personal stories in between songs, which is something that I really enjoy from artists when I see a concert. I think it makes the experience a little more personal and a lot more fun. She sang a lot of songs from her new album and a bunch of hits from when she was with Trick Pony. Even though I came to the show quite unfamiliar with her songs, I was surprised at how talented she was. I don’t think she hit one wrong note the entire night. She was excited and thoroughly enjoying herself. I still can’t get over what a huge voice she has – and what a range! She can definitely sing anything. Did I mention she plays the harmonica? Wow. It was incredible.
Unfortunately, as someone who isn’t a huge fan of country, sometimes the songs sounded vaguely familiar and I was easily distracted by the moronic ‘security guard’ pacing up and down the row to my right. But, I was also tired from a long day at work. The biggest let down was watching the rest of her band. Sometimes the band members would play to each other and they looked like they were having a good time, but they didn’t play to the crowd enough, making them a little boring. As luck would have it, their lead singer and namesake made up ten fold for their lousy on stage presence.
Heidi and the band played for almost an hour and forty five minutes without stopping. My cousins and I decided to leave around 930pm because we were just a little too tired and she was playing a few songs for the second time around. We also wanted to hit up a few of the little concession stands for goodies on our way out.
All in all, it was a great show. Heidi is doing a great job with her new band and she is such a treat to see in concert. The Fair, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. Despite the ‘security’ at the entrance, someone got stabbed that night, again. It doesn’t make me question why I don’t to the Fair anymore.

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