Tag Archives: 2017

Hamilton 3 – The Third Time and I’m Charmed

How does the musical Hamilton “go on and on, grow into more of a phenomenon?” I ventured to the Chicago production of “Hamilton An American Musical” in April 2017, full of wonder for something exceedingly familiar.

I would be “delighted and distracted” in this third viewing after two in NY (cast contrast later in this post), but more aware of lighting, scenery, costumes, and movements that combine with words I knew well and discussed in previous posts:

Mezzanine seating in Private Bank Theatre differed from orchestra level in NYC, particularly for observation of complex and varied lighting schemes. Spotlights can be squared rather than rounded. Red on the stage can represent blood spilled in battle. A character can be illuminated differently than any other “loyal, royal subject” because every aspect of his appearance is unlike any other role. Continue reading Hamilton 3 – The Third Time and I’m Charmed

Trapped (2002)

“Trapped” (2002) arrived via the way-back machine, but why not a suspense thriller featuring Charlize Theron? (See her in 2005’s “North Country.”) Dakota Fanning’s acting was awesome at just eight years old.

The cast built drama and character across three well-directed settings that meshed. Unfortunately, when they all came together the film fell apart. It resorted to chases, crashes, stunts, pyrotechnics, and more “art” Hollywood often can’t resist injecting in a good story.


The Homesman (2014)

I began skeptical that Tommy Lee Jones produced, directed, and acted this movie only because he needed work late in his career, and doubtful that any Western could still be likeable.

I finished with an appreciation for all the acting, for Hillary Swank’s strong character, and knowing that Jones remains active in Bourne and others. A good cast was assembled, and the story made this film worth my time.


“Carol” is a 2015 movie with little more to offer than the enticement of Rooney Mara with Cate Blanchett. I’m not saying it was bad, but … it … was … a … long … two … hours!

Cate is a star with stature and two Oscar statues. Rooney’s portrayal of a confused young 1950s woman seemed to conflate Audrey Tautou’s “Amélie”  with Audrey Hepburn’s “Sabrina,” taking looks from each minus their charm. See “more-a” the real Ms. Mara in 2016’s Lion instead.

Mao’s Last Dancer (2009)

“Mao’s Last Dancer” is based on a true story pitting life in Communist China versus life in the United States for the favor of a talented young ballet dancer. Its genesis is the autobiography of Li Cunxin, centered around 1980.

It succeeds as a rags-to-riches story, a love story, a tale of intrigue, a history lesson, a coming-of-age concern, a family affair, a treatise on trust, a stage for the arts, and more. There is something for everyone in this film.

Book Report: “Hamilton The Revolution”

Hamilton The Revolution – by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

  • DougInNC book report
  • “More than a Review”

Why am I effusive about Hamilton – The Musical, and certainly recommend a deep dive under the encyclopedic covers of “Hamilton The Revolution?” The answer has as many layers as the topic itself. As I peel them back, I’ll still maintain the whole is serendipitously greater than the sum of the parts.

Hamilton The Revolution is a book about a musical about a book about a man. Having read this book as a complement after seeing the stage action, my review conflates the two.

The hook for me: “words, words, words,” wrote Jeremy McCarter in chapter 28. Those words of which he spoke, nearly 22,000 in the production, grasped me by intermission of the stage show, securing the immediate and everlasting thought, “This is creative brilliance.” The book reinforces that, with more words about the exquisite weaving of words; there are brilliant pictures, too. Continue reading Book Report: “Hamilton The Revolution”

The Raven (2012)

“The Raven” stars John Cusack, whose films are the box of Hollywood chocolates that make you wonder what you’re going to get when you open one of them.

This time you get a reasonably-good storyline, darn good cinematography (ignore the gore), other sharp actors, and a solid conclusion that delivers just the right “twist” of surprise. Those admirable attributes are sometimes supported and other times interrupted by the irregular, quirky actions of Mr. Cusack.

Aside: Brendan Gleeson appears, though not as the lead he was “In The Heart of the Sea” watched earlier in 2017. I hope it is worthy to say he is a Lego(R) that fits and holds things together wherever placed. His understated portrayal of “The Guard” (2011) made me respect his presence on the screen.


“Trumped: Inside the Greatest Political Upset of All Time” is an engaging “while it happened” collection of film clips and “while it happened” interviews. Its chronological starting point is the Trump announcement that he will enter the race for the Republican nomination. It ends on election night, November 8, 2016.

America itself began as the greatest military upset of all time, did it not? America loves upsets, right? True! But this film makes clear that the election was the greatest “pundit” upset of all time. The  experts were following the playbook of conventional politics while guerilla warfare, campaign grenades, and other unconventional tactics and mishaps exploded on the scene.

They never could made sense of it. So they made a movie they could watch again and again to see if it will ever sink in. It just so happens you can watch it as well, and as well you should if you have the stomach for it.

In the Heart of the Sea

“In the Heart of the Sea” is a movie about the retelling of the story that became Moby-Dick, the book. Or maybe it is the story of those done-in by Moby Dick, the whale. It slights the conveyance of the story to author Melville, while the sea-going adventures are portrayed better than many that rely on CGI for their scenery.

Watch “Genius” if you want a film that delivers the angst of authorship more adeptly. Watch “Master and Commander …” for a movie that seizes the seas in a far better manner.

Rendition (2007)

“Rendition” was recommended long ago by a friend. We could find some common ground on this film, as it composes an interesting tale and communicates something that was little known or understood at the time. I give the story good marks, as well as most of the actors. Still, I was disappointed in two regards.

First, the “plot twist” that warped time was unnecessary. Thank goodness watching at home enabled a “pause button” moment and evaluation of the story’s shift before concluding with a few scenes. I suppose the director wanted audiences leaving the theater to take it with them in discussion among their friends. If that technique is used, the viewer should be given more film time to process the surprise rather than being resigned to a “what the heck” fog just as the story reaches its conclusion.

Second, this point was over-wrought: Strong men are evil; powerful men are unprincipled; meek and milquetoast men are the only real men the world can count on. Got it; I’m ready for a war film.