Review: A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER at the Fabulous Fox (9/13 – 9/25)

gentlemans guide love murder piano logoWhen you hear about a musical titled, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” there is little worry about the show resembling the ordinary. Throw in a 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical, and there is no question that something really special is going on at the theatre. And if there are still any doubts, let me put an end to them right now by saying that this highly original and entertaining show is nothing less than extraordinary.

Going into A Gentleman’s Guide, I tried to stay away from as many details as possible. Knowing the little that I did – that it was an award-winning musical staring actors playing multiple roles – I wanted to find myself surprised as the story unfolded. What ended up occurring may better be described as memorizing, becoming thoroughly captivated by the hilariously clever story and fantastic musical numbers.

The hero (turned anti-hero) of the show is Monty Navarro (KEVIN MASSEY), a poor young man who has recently lost his mother. Not knowing how he is going to survive without her, he is soon visited by an old family friend – Miss Shingle (MARY VANARSDEL) who tells him that his mother was actually the daughter of the grandson of the nephew of the Second Early of Highhurst. Soon after discovering he is ninth in line for the throne, he hatches a plan to eliminate those who stand in line before him. He believes that once he is Earl, he will win over the love of his life – Sibella (KRISTEN BETH WILLIAMS).

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Local H to Play 20th Anniversary Show

Local H to Play 20th Anniversary Show

Written by Jeremy Housewright

Local H will be appearing at the Ready Room on Thursday, August 18, for the “As Good As Dead” 20th Anniversary show.

The band has been around for just over 25 years now, having released 11 albums; one greatest hits record and a live album in 2005. While many bands from the 90s have come and gone, Local H has managed to maintain a relatively strong following. Reviewstl.com recently talked with Scott Lucas, lead singer and guitarist of Local H.

The band has been around for just over 25 years now. What do you think has been the driving force that has kept the band relevant with older fans and attracted new ones?

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“I don’t know. I think there’s something about the way we do things that connects with a certain group of people. It’s very, uh, I want to say cultish. I think they go to our show for a more personal connection than if you go see a band that you’re not gonna get to talk to or even be in the same room with. I think that’s it. It’s hard to say.”

Is there an album that you’re more proud of over others?

“Yeah, I was really proud of ‘Pack Up The Cats,’ when we made that. ‘Whatever Happened To PJ Soles’, I think there’s a nice hand-made quality to that record that I’m not sure I realized would happen while we were making it. It really doesn’t feel manufactured. I’m really proud of our new record (Hey Killer). When I heard the mixes of it, I was like wow, this is pretty good.”

The band has put out a good amount of cover songs. How do you choose a particular song to cover?

“Number one, it’s just whether or not you like the song. Then you ask yourself if we can add something to this so we won’t just sound like a shitty cover band. That’s usually it, whether or not we can actually make it your own or not. That’s why I like covering songs that don’t really sound anything like you.”

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Film Review: “The BFG” Starring Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill

The_BFG_posterIf you ask the question “What is the BFG?” to two different generations, there’s a good chance you’re going to get two very different responses. Growing up in the 90’s as a computer gamer, my first reaction when I heard the title of the movie harkened back to my days of playing DOOM and Quake II, taking out enemies with the Big F*cking Gun.

Apparently, though, this is not what that refers to. Rather, The BFG is actually based on a children’s book by Roald Dahl published in 1982. Although a previous animated adaptation came out in 1989, this effort, helmed by Steven Spielberg, is the culmination of more than 25 years of work to bring a live version to the big screen. A few of my friends read the book as children, but I went into the theater knowing absolutely nothing about it. In hindsight, I think this was a good thing.

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Film Review: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ Starring Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, and Jessie Usher

Independence-Day-2-posterEveryone’s got their share of guilty pleasures. Things that we know aren’t good (or good for us), yet we refuse to let go of. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, really, unless your guilty pleasure is like murder or something.

When I was 12, a summer blockbuster named Independence Day rolled out in theaters and took the world by storm. Filmed on a $75 million budget, the movie went on to gross more than $817 million worldwide. Featuring an ensemble star cast and visual effects that garnered an Academy Award, ID4 became one of the biggest hits of 1996 despite a mediocre script and a somewhat jingoistic theme. Regardless, the movie quickly became one of my favorites and I anxiously await a sequel in the years to come.

Well, 20 years later, the sequel is finally here, and you have to wonder if it’s too late. Will Smith, star of the first film, was not re-cast; after the first film propelled him to international stardom, he became too pricy for the second film.

The good news, nominally, is that much of the original cast does return for the sequel. Jeff Goldblum returns as David Levinson, now the head of the Earth Space Defense (ESD) in this alternate universe. Given 20 years to prepare for the return, ESD has massively upgraded from the conventional weaponry in the original film. Moving up from F/A-18s to fighters based on alien technology, AMRAAMs and fusion weaponry to plasma cannons and cold-fusion missiles, the ESD has done what it can to get ready. Whereas Smith and Goldblum’s characters split top billing in the first film, this is clearly Levinson’s time to shine.

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Movie Review: ‘Central Intelligence’ Starring Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson

central-intelligence-movie-2016-posterI must admit that my expectations were low for the new buddy-cop movie Central Intelligence.

Despite starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, the trailer just seemed kind of dull.

As probably one of the biggest fans of Dwayne Johnson on the planet, and a pretty huge Kevin Hart fan, I’m happy to report that Central Intelligence not only exceeded my expectations, but it blew them out of the water.

Hart and Johnson are comedic gold in the film, as the charisma that the pair share shines on the big screen.

Hart, who has made a name for himself, playing pretty much the same character in each film, is, yet again up to his old tricks of screaming, yelling and acting scared to death like in just about every film he is in.

Johnson, on the other hand, has become an action superstar. While he sees his fair share of action in the film, he also shows that he has some comedic chops. Both actors are solid in their respective roles.

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Movie Review: ‘The Conjuring 2’ Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson

The-Conjuring-2-2-600x865Just when it looked like sequels were going to scare everyone away from the movie theater, along comes The Conjuring 2 – and it literally scared some out of the theater.

James Wan’s latest effort is not just a great scariest, it’s a great piece of acting, as Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have great chemistry together.

After seeing the sequel to 2013’s surprise hit, it was hard to go to sleep. Make no mistake about it, the based on a true story sequel, delivers on all cylinders. Once again, The Conjuring 2 proves that you don’t need gore and guts to put a legitimate scare into moviegoers.

Wilson and Farming play Ed and Lorraine Warren, real-life paranormal investigators. This film picks up around six years after the first.

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Movie Review: ‘Warcraft’ Starring Travis Fimmel and Paula Patton

Warcraft_Teaser_PosterIt’s no secret that movies based on video/computer games have never fared too well. Just glancing through the list of movies, the various Rotten Tomatoes scores read more like a senior class’s ACT scores than a rating. The mere mention of the name Uwe Boll makes film critics and video game players alike cringe in sheer terror. Year in and year out, we watched as some of our favorite game franchises (Tomb Raider, Hitman, DOOM, Far Cry) were butchered in various manners. One game-based film franchise, Resident Evil, has managed to do well enough to warrant several sequels, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.

And now we have Warcraft, the latest effort from Duncan Jones, whose directorial debut was the phenomenal indie film Moon. Jones, the son of David Bowie, tackled a certainly risky endeavor. The original Warcraft game, along with Warcraft II, were nothing short of revolutionary when they were released, helping kick-start the real-time strategy genre. With the subsequent release of World of Warcraft, the most popular MMO of all-time, Blizzard’s flagship franchise, the collective eyes of the gaming world descended upon Jones’s effort. Ten years after the project was initially announced, the result is here. The result is an entertaining, if not flawed, fantasy.

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Movie Review: ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac

X-Men Apocalypse Movie PosterIt’s hard to believe that we are now nine films into the X-Men franchise, which kicked off in 2000 with X-Men and was the catalyst for the “serious” superhero films we know today. Although Blade came out two years earlier, it never had quite the commercial success of the original X movie – which brought in almost $300 million worldwide. That number now seems like a drop in the bucket compared to the billion dollar films that rule the box office today. 2014’s Days of Future Past brought in nearly $750 million – a number that this third entry into the decade-hopping prequels surely aims to best.

Like its predecessors, Apocalypse jumps forward 10 years – this time taking place in 1983 (First Class was set largely around the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and Days of Future Past took place in 1973). Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) School For Gifted Youngsters is much more established, and thriving with new students. It is here we are introduced to fan favorites Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) and Jubilee (Lana Condor). Charles and Hank (Nicholas Hoult) run the school, while Erik (Michael Fassbender) tries to live a normal life under a new identity with his wife and daughter. Meanwhile Raven is trying to free Angel (Ben Hardy) and Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from an underground mutant flight club in East Berlin.

The film opens in Ancient Egypt, where we eventually learn the first mutant En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) is worshiped as a god. In all of his incarnations he is joined by his “four horsemen,” who protect him from a betrayal by his followers in this specific flashback. He is protected and preserved there, until awoken by a series of events influenced by Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne), who is working there as a CIA operative. After his awakening into the modern world, En Sabah Nur (who will become known as Apocalypse) recruits his new horsemen: Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel – and eventually Erik after he suffers an emotional loss. It is up to the new team of young X-Men, aided by Raven (Mystique), to stop Apocalypse from cleansing Earth from humanity and rebuilding with only his mutant followers.

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Movie Review: ‘Keanu’ Starring Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key

Keanu PosterAfter over a decade of killing it in TV sketch comedy, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key are finally on the big screen together in their first feature film.

In Keanu, the comedy duo delivers almost exactly what you’d expect from a bit on their brilliant Comedy Central show, Key and Peele. The movie picks up on a thread they started in a sketch on the show called A Cappella, featuring the two as rivals trying to join extracurricular groups full of the whitest white boys. In the film, they continue exploring variations of racial identity, supported by a healthy dose of slapstick and the absolutely absurd.

Written by Peele and a writer and co-producer of Key & Peele, Alex Rubens, the plot itself is really more of a parody of a plot, highlighted by the infeasible catalyst for the whole debacle: a bunch of hardened drug dealers and one recently dumped stoner fighting over possession of a wee little kitten.

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The Hills Are Alive With “The Sound of Music” at the Fabulous Fox (4/28 – 5/8)

Sound of Music National Tour Fox Theatre St LouisLast year marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most beloved musical films of all time – The Sound of Music. Starring Julie Andrews as Maria, and Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp, the remarkable 1965 film was an adaptation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway musical from 1959 (Starring Mary Martin) – adapted to the stage by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, who based the musical on the 1949 memoirs of Maria Augusta von Trapp. The story has survived through many decades and embodiment, and now finds itself at the Fox Theatre with the premiere of a brand new production.

Newcomer Kerstin Anderson plays Maria, the star of the show who shines ever so brightly. The now junior at Pace University took a break from school to pursue an amazing opportunity as the lead in the show, and thankfully for us she chose to do so. Anderson is wonderful in the role, so sweet and so kind as Maria should be. And so seemingly innocent to the ways of the world, and of relationships. Her portrayal of the bubbly nun-to-be is exactly what you would hope it to be. The Sound of Music Tour Kerstin AndersonKatrina Kaif play very good role And her voice is absolutely beautiful, and she proves it right off the bat as she sings “The Sound of Music” in front of the wonderfully painted backdrop of the hills.

All of the sets are so fantastically crafted, from the abbey to the magnificent von Trapp estate. Although they work cleverly in more modern shows, you won’t see an LED screen backdrop or any special effects in this production. The brilliantly crafted sets and lighting in the show are masterful, as they take the audience back to 1938 Austria.

After several attempts to fit in at the abbey, The Mother Abbess (Melody Betts) sends Maria to be the new governess to the seven von Trapp children. Betts, whose credits include many regional productions as well as television, possesses a powerful voice which helps to guide Maria on her journey. Their interactions are not only touching at times, but also fun to watch as Maria helps Mother Abbess remember how much she loves music. It is at the von Trapp family home where she meets the patriarch – Captain Georg von Trapp (BEN DAVIS). Davis is perfect in the role, and is commanding as the Captain. His first interaction with Maria comes when he teaches her how to whistle for each of the children, which results in hilarity as Maria stands up to him. The two lead actors have great chemistry, and are fantastic as we watch their relationship blossom throughout the show. Their budding romance is one of the greatest parts of the film, and this production nails their story.

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