Thursday, March 17, 2011

Over the Hill Band

Music Knows No Age

By Skip Sheffield

It’s never too late to rock ‘n’ roll. If you don’t believe me, look at me. Better yet look at the Belgian film “The Over the Hill Band,” which opens this Friday at Shadowood Theatres.
“Over the Hill” is in Flemish and French, with English subtitles, but it has subject matter American audiences- particularly older people- can easily understand.
Claire (Marilou Mermans) is a woman facing her 70th birthday when her husband suffers a heart attack at the wheel of their car. Not only is Claire injured in the ensuing crash, she is rendered an instant widow.
Mermans is a woman with a beautiful face who has been a Flemish movie star since age 20. Still, her character looks in the mirror and wonders, “Who’s the old bat looking back at me?”
At the funeral Claire is reunited with her two sons. Michel (Lucas van den Eynde) is the “good son,” always there for his mother, and offering advice even when it is not sought.
Alexander (Jan van Loovern), who insists on being called Sid, has moved to Brussels and hasn’t seen his mother in five years. Sid is a would-be hip hop musician who has yet to score any kind of success.
The sons quibble over their father’s valuable wine collection and part uneasily. While going through her husband’s effects, Claire discovers the old guitar she gave Sid when he was a young man. The guitar brings back memories of her own musical career as one of three singers in a group called The Sisters of Love.
Inspired, Claire decides to revisit her old friends. Magda (Lea Couzin) lives in the shadow of her husband. Lutgard (Lut Tomsin) has remained in music, but she is a spinster church choir director. When Claire suggests the women re-form the Sisters of Love they are skeptical. They are even more incredulous when Claire invites Sid to join the group.
Sid agrees reluctantly on one condition: they must play his style of modern music, and learn some dance moves. Sid goes one step further and insists the group be re-christened as the band of the title.
“Under the skin I’m still 17,” reasons Claire.
Like many an American musical film, the story culminates with a battle-of-the-bands, with the group as a very unlikely top contender. Unlike an American film, the battle outcome is not so predictable.
Director Geoffrey Enthoven and writer-producer Jean-Claude van Rijckeghem have created a film that is funny and entertaining and also touching, pertinent to our aging population, and even romantic, thanks to a side plot involving a “ladies man” (Michel Israel) in the band.

mars needs moms

Mars Needs Moms So Does Earth

By Skip Sheffield

Hey there single moms, here is just the movie for you.
“Mars Needs Moms” celebrates all mothers, single or married, but I think it has special meaning for women struggling to fill the role of both parents.
“Mars Needs Moms” is a motion-capture animated comedy from the makers of “Polar Express.” I saw a preview of the movie at the giant screen IMAX Theatre in Fort Lauderdale with a single mom and her two young sons. I think it is fair to say we all loved the film, young and old.
Joan Cusack stars as the mother of Milo, a typically unappreciative nine-year-old boy who gives mom a hard time over his chores.
Mom isn’t even given a name in this contemporary fable by cartoonist Berkeley Breathed. There is a dad, but he is mostly absent.
Breathed won a 1987 Pulitzer prize for political cartooning with his popular strip “Bloom County,” and he retired the strip at the peak of its popularity in 1989.
There are political references in “Mars Needs Moms,” but most of them will fly over the heads of little kids.
The story is set in the present, with very funny blasts from the past adults will appreciate.
Milo is played by Seth Green for his motion and Seth Robert Dusky for his voice.
After complaining about taking out the garbage, Milo blurts out, “My life would be so much better if I didn’t have a mom at all.”
Milo doesn’t realize it, but he just said the magic words. Martians monitor human activity on planet Earth you see, and every so often they swoop down in a space ship and abduct an ideal mother. Milo’s mom is a perfect candidate. When mom is snatched, Milo desperately tries to save her, and he becomes an inadvertent stowaway on the space ship.
Life in Mars is a regimented nightmare. Martian boys and girls are artificially created and the sexes are separated at birth. Girls become sexless worker bees and soldiers and boys become hairy ape-like creatures forced to live in the planet’s giant subterranean garbage dump. The whole planet is ruled by the elderly dictator known as the Supervisor (Mindy Sterling), a nasty, spirit-killing tyrant.
Milo learns all this after he slides down a garbage chute to evade his pursuers and meets Gribble (Dan Folger motion and voice), who is king of the garbage heap.
Gribble is a jolly man whose mom was abducted years ago, when Ronald Reagan was President. Gribble had been part of Reagan’s “Secret Astronaut Program,” and he has been stuck in that era ever since.
Visually “Mars Needs Moms” is a delight, jam-packed with action, colorful costumes that parody the 1970s and 1980s and a musical soundtrack that captures the delicious retro flair.
I’ll let you guess the payoff, but parents and especially moms can rest assured their children will see them in a new, more appreciative light. See it with your kids. If you don’t have a kid, borrow one.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Laughter and Tears at Caldwell

“Funniest Heartbreaker” at Caldwell Theatre

By Skip Sheffield

It sounds like an oxymoron, but the catch phrase “funniest heartbreaker in town” is a fairly accurate description of “Next Fall,” continuing its Southeastern U.S. premiere through March 27 at Caldwell Theatre Company, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
Playwright Geoffrey Nauffts has structured the play in two time frames: the present and the not-so-distant past. The comedy occurs mostly in Act One, followed by a distinctly serious Act Two.
Adam (Tom Wahl) and Luke (Josh Canfield) are a couple. Luke is an unspecified number of years older than Luke and works an unsatisfying job selling scented candles. At one point Adam frets about turning 40 and losing his hair, so one guesses he is at least that age and aspiring actor Luke at least 15 years younger.
The play begins in the present, at Beth Israel Hospital. Luke has been in a traffic accident. Adam is worried sick.
The situation is so serious Adam’s parents have been called in. Also present are Holly (Irene Adjan), the candle shop owner and Brandon (Christopher Kent), a former boyfriend of Adam’s who was first at the scene of the accident.
The mother, Arlene (Pat Nesbit) is a wise-cracking Southern belle. Father Butch (Dennis Bateman) is a stern, politically conservative and fundamental religious businessman from Tallahassee, Florida.
Pat Nesbit is a longtime Caldwell favorite who has worked many times with guest director Michael Hall. Hall is not just any guest director, but Caldwell Theatre’s co-founder and former executive director.
It is Pat Nesbit’s rapier delivery and impeccable comic timing that gives “Next Fall” its best laughs. As the play progresses the viewer realizes the situation is far more serious than it first seemed, but Arlene’s humor disarms.
The other part of the comedy is the odd couple relationship between Adam and Luke. Not only is he older; Adam has a far darker outlook on life than Luke.
Part of his sunny disposition can be credited on Luke’s Christian faith.
So there is a lot of philosophical banter between Luke, who truly believes Christ died for his sins, and Adam, who is an atheist. Like the recent Palm Beach Dramaworks production “Freud’s Last Session” there is a debate on the existence or non-existence of God, but in this case that question is secondary to the matters at hand; not the least of which is Luke’s failure to be honest with his parents concerning the true nature of his relationship with Adam.
So you will laugh and you may even cry as you come to know the characters of “Next Fall,” but you won’t be bored. Don’t be put off by the thought this is a “gay play.” It is about all of us, regardless of sexual orientation, and that’s why it is so appealing and entertaining while provoking thought on some of the biggest issues of life.
Tickets are $38-$50 and may be reserved by calling 561-241-7432 or going to