Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A New, More Finely-Chiseled "Tarzan"


Meet the New, Highly-Sculpted Tarzan

By Skip Sheffield

Meet the new, improved Tarzan, Alexander Skarsgard in “The Legend of Tarzan.”
Skarsgard, a Swedish actor who is a towering 6-foot-4, underwent intensive training and dieting to become the most finely-chiseled Tarzan ever. He is teamed with the delicately beautiful Australian actress Margot Robbie as Jane.
Director David Yates is responsible for the last four of the Harry Potter movies, all of which had eye-popping visual style. For exteriors, Yates flew his crew to the magnificent Gabon National Parks in Africa, lending the movie a wild visual beauty.
Only vaguely inspired by the original Edgar Rice Burroughs yarns, “Tarzan” is set in 1884, after the origin story of an orphaned boy raised by a family of apes in Africa. Tarzan has left Africa and returned to England to claim his title as the 5th Earl of Greystoke, John Clayton III. Clayton has married his American girlfriend Jane, and they have settled into the life of the landed gentry, with Clayton a member of the House of Lords.
Meanwhile back in the Congo, claimed by King Leopold of Belgium, diamonds have been discovered. Something even more valuable than diamonds has evolved; the enslavement of natives under the greedy, ruthless power of King Leopold’s emissary, Capt. Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz). Rom has entered in an agreement with tribal Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) to deliver Tarzan in exchange for diamonds. Rom concocts an excuse to lure Clayton back to Africa, where he can be captured.
In the revisionist script by Adam Cozad, Craig Brewer and a committee of others, Jane has become a feisty feminist, insisting she come along for the trip. Also muscling in on the mission is Civil War veteran George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), who knows about the slave trade and wants to expose it to the world.
It doesn’t take Clayton long to doff his shirt and prepare for battle. Jane predictably is captured and Tarzan revives his gift of communication with animals, most of whom are computer-generated, to defeat the bad guys. Jackson serves as comic relief in an otherwise sober story of exploitation.
Belgium was not the only European country with a shameful history of colonialism and exploitation in Africa. This is the first Tarzan movie of my recollection that has worked in modern social commentary. Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller remains the gold standard of Tarzans, but for sheer physical perfection, Skarsgard has set the bar the highest yet.

A Big, Friendly Giant Adventure for Children


“The BFG” a Computer-Generated Adventure for Children

By Skip Sheffield

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men,” declared British writer Roald Dahl. Dahl’s most famous children’s book is “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” aka Willy Wonka. Dahl wrote the original story for “The BFG” (Big, Friendly Giant).
At 6-foot-6, Dahl was a bit of a giant himself, but he was always fond of children and despised big bullies.
The child hero of “The BFG” is a 10-year-old orphan girl named Sophie (wide-eyed Ruby Barnhill). Dahl also had a fondness and compassion for orphans.
Steven Spielberg has returned to direct “The BFG,” which has a screenplay by the late Melissa Mathison, who created magic writing “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” also directed by Spielberg.
“The BFG” does not have the enchanting, sentimental quality of “E.T.,” but it is a rousing adventure for children, with eye-popping special effects that will have you believing giants do exist.
The friendly giant of the title is played by distinguished British stage actor Mark Rylance. Rylance is made to appear 24 feet tall, with an elongated neck and enormous Dumbo-like ears that move independently.
One evening around the witching hour of 3 a.m. in a London orphanage, little Sophie gazes out a window, unable to sleep. The BFG appears at the window and plucks out Sophie and puts her in his traveling bag.
In giant strides it doesn’t take long to let to the Land of Giants, which appears to be an island off England. Sophie is initially frightened, but soon she warms to the BFG, who is the nicest, most peace-loving and smallest of a race of violent giants with names like Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jermaine Clement). The BFG speaks in an almost incomprehensible gobbledegook, but you get his meaning. He wants to protect Sophie from the bad guys.
“The BFG” is set in no particular time. The cars in London are of 1960s vintage. Later Sophie will clear the dust from a portrait of Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. When Sophie decides she must go with the BFG to warn the Queen of England about the nasty, child-eating giants, the Queen is clearly modeled on current monarch Elizabeth II, down to her Corgi dogs. The Queen, played by Penelope Wilton, in no way resembles Elizabeth II, nor does she act like her.

“The BFG” would have been impossible without current state-of-the-art computer-generated imagery. When Dahl wrote the story, children had their own imagery in their brains to imagine what the giants looked like. I can’t say seeing them represented literally is an improvement. “The BFG” is best appreciated by children who seek a wild adventure with no questions asked.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Weiner-Dog Yea. Humans Nay.


“Wiener-Dog” Yes. Humans, No Thanks

By Skip Sheffield

“Wiener-Dog” is one head-scratcher of a movie. You might think it’s a story about those long, low, lovable dogs called dachshunds, but it’s not really. It’s about people. Screwed-up people.
For his eighth film writer-director Todd Solondz, whose earlier works include “Welcome to the Doll House” and “Happiness,” has delivered another work guaranteed not to leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.
The movie has four parts, related only by the winsome dachshund of the title. She is sprung from her cage at animal control by Danny (Tracy Letts), a self-absorbed suburban dad, who thinks the dog might cheer his 9-year-old son Remi (Keaton Nigel Cooke), a cancer survivor. Danny’s wife Dina (Julie Delpy) has a list of objections.
“Who will walk it? Who will clean up after it? “Do you know what spay means?” Danny thinks the dog needs “control,” which means stern discipline.
Remi does know about spaying, but the poor dog does not. She is spayed at mom’s insistence, then the parents go away and the dog gets into mischief, including pigging out on granola, which leads to an epic case of diarrhea, complete with the song “The Ballad of Wiener Dog” by Marc Shaiman of “South Park.”
Danny sadly takes the dog back to the pound, presumably to be euthanized, but a kindly veterinarian nurse, Dawn Wiener (Greta Gerwig) takes her home. Dawn embarks on a cross-country trip with her sleazy boyfriend (Kieran Culkin) and somehow the dog gets passed off to a couple with Down’s Syndrome.
There is an amusing quite literal Intermission, even though the film is only 90 minutes long, and then the story gets really dark. Dave Schmertz (Danny DeVito) is a would-be screenwriter and part-time college teacher whose life and career are unraveling. He is mocked by a young film student and his latest screenplay is rejected.  Just when we think things couldn’t get worse, we meet Nana (Ellen Burstyn), an embittered grandmother who hides behind huge dark sun glasses. Her granddaughter (Zosia Mamet) has come to hit her up for money once again for her no-account artist-boyfriend (Michael Shaw). Nana begins hallucinating and seeing multiple red-haired girls.
Spoiler alert: If you think this is heading for a happy ending, think again. Weiner-Dog, the only noble, blameless character in this bitter story, is unceremoniously dispatched. We are left thinking life just isn’t fair. Maybe that is Todd Solondz’s point.

Friday, June 17, 2016

"Beauty and the Beast" Visits Browrad Center

A Disney Theme Park Ride Called “Beauty and the Beast”

By Skip Sheffield

“Beauty and the Beast” is like a Disney theme park ride; the first Walt Disney animated movie adapted for the theatrical stage. The national touring production continues a short run through June 19 at Broward Center for the Arts.
“Beauty” is an amazing theatrical jigsaw puzzle, with interlocking set pieces that roll around and change scenes in seconds. The costumes are flamboyant. The special effects are dandy. There is a story in there somewhere, but it isn’t much.
It begins with a prelude. A handsome, vain Prince turns away an old crone who is seeking shelter. Because he “has no love in his heart” the Prince is cursed by being turned into a terrible beastlike creature, played by Sam Hartley. He must find someone who will love him despite his physical appearance before a magic rose droops and dies.
 A pretty, brainy, bookish girl called Belle (Brooke Quintana) lives in town with her elderly father, an eccentric inventor named Maurice (Thomas Mothershed). Belle is pursued relentlessly by the town hunk, a vain braggart named Gaston (Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek). Belle will have none of it.
When Maurice gets lost in the woods, he stumbles upon an enchanted castle which happens to be the lair of the Beast. It seems the household items were once humans who have fallen into a mysterious spell linked to the Beast. The gabbiest of the lot is a candelabra named Lumiere (Ryan N. Phillips). Phillips threatens to steal the show by his sheer force of personality.
When the town fool, Monsieur d’Arque (Danny Burgos), shows up wearing a scarf that belonged to Maurice, Belle demands to know where he found it. In the woods is the answer, so brave Belle sets out into the spooky woods and finds the same enchanted castle where her father is imprisoned.
Just about everyone knows the story from there. The Beast is fearsome and angry, but Belle is so lovely and compassionate she begins to break down his defenses. She in turn begins to see the Beast for the sensitive, caring soul he is.
Brooke Quintana and Sam Hartley are both strong vocally, but she is not the prettiest Belle I’ve seen, nor is Sam Hartley the most handsome Prince.
The real crowd-pleasers are Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek’s ridiculously vain Gaston and Ryan N. Phillips ever-smiling Lumiere. Melissa Jones’ Babette is quite the appealing coquette.
The cast vocal standout is Stephanie Gray’s Mrs. Potts, who is a teapot with an operatic voice. She delivers the signature song “Beauty and the Beast” with passion and thrills.
“Beauty and the Beast” is most entertaining with its extravagant production numbers. The most exceptional is “Be Our Guest,” with everyone getting into the act.
The orchestra is full and high precision, the dancing agile and athletic and the costumes opulent. Was I blown away? No. “Beauty and the Beast” is more a novelty than a life-changing experience. If you like Disney World you will like this show. I prefer shows of a little more substance.
Tickets are $30-$105. Call 954-462-0222 or go to

Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Heathers" a Hit at Broward Center


A Visit to High School Hell with "Heathers"

By Skip Sheffield

High School was never quite this bad. That is what makes “Heathers: The Musical” so funny. The Slow Burn Theatre production of “Heathers” continues through June 26 in the Amaturo Theatre of Broward Center for the Arts.
“Heathers” is based on the 1988 sleeper cult movie of the same name by Daniel Waters. Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy adapted the screenplay for the stage and wrote catchy tunes and lyrics.
“Heathers” is a satire on high school social hierarchy that morphs into a dark comedy about suicide. The Heathers in question are the three most popular and powerful girls at Westerburg High School. They are head cheerleader Heather McNamara (Sunny Gay), insecure, bulimic Heather Duke (Christina Flores) and the unofficial queen of the school, wicked Heather Chandler (Leah Marie Sessa). Outsider Veronica Sawyer (Abby Perkins) envies the Heathers, but they won’t let her into their inner circle.  Clever Veronica finds a way by forging a teacher’s note that excuses them from detention. Suddenly for good or ill, Veronica is in.
As gorgeous and sexy as she is, Leah Sessa's Heather Chandler is a really vile person and revels in her devilishness. She pressures Veronica into forging a love letter from football jock Ram Sweeney) (Justen Fox-Hall) to Veronica’s chubby wallflower friend, Martha (Stepanie Trull), who has had a crush on Ram since kindergarten. Martha is cruelly mocked and called Martha Dumptruck. In her misery she later will attempt suicide.
Ram’s best buddy Kurt Kelly (Domenic Servido) is another football jock with an inflated ego. In stark contrast to the status-seeking high schoolers is mysterious newcomer Jason “J.D.” Dean (Bruno Faria).
J.D. is obviously inspired by ill-fated movie star James Dean. He wears a dark trenchcoat and quotes Baudelaire, but there are even darker thoughts in his brain that will be unleashed later.
“Heathers” has Slow Burn’s customarily strong vocal cast. Abby Perkins is a particularly powerful belter. Bruno Farina was a wide vocal range and an exceptionally sweet and sensitive high tenor. The lively, rocking live band is onstage but unseen, but you sure can hear them. Perhaps the most striking thing about “Heathers” is its precision choreography by director Patrick Fitzwater. The characters are always in graceful motion, moving as one. The comedy roles of dumb dads “Big Bad” Dean and Kurt’s dad (and also Veronica’s dad) are handled nimbly by Ben Sandomir and Noah Levine, who have a big reveal toward play’s end.
In view of current tragic events in Orlando, the timing couldn’t be better for “Heathers,” which has a strong message for tolerance and understanding, expressed beautifully in the song “Seventeen”. Seldom has a morality tale been so funny.
Tickets for “Heathers” are $45. Call 954-462-0222 or 954-468-3280 or go to

More Than One Genius


There is More Than One “Genius” in the Movie
By Skip Sheffield
“Genius” is a movie for English majors. You can’t get much more literary than a story about Charles Scribner’s Sons most celebrated editor, Maxwell Perkins, and the three most famous authors he guided: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe.
“Genius” focuses on perhaps the most gifted of the trio: Thomas Wolfe, played Jude Law. Law affects a Southern accent to play North Carolina’s most honored writer.
Maxwell Perkins is played by another Briton, Colin Firth. The story begins in New York City in 1929. The nation is on the brink of the Great Depression but Wolfe is happy because his semi-autobiographical novel, “Look Homeward, Angel,” has just been published by Scribner’s.
If it weren’t for Max Perkins, “Look Homeward, Angel” would not have seen the light of day. Wolfe was turned down by every other publisher in New York. No wonder, the manuscript ran to 1,100 pages.
Perkins saw something special in the rambling verbiage and agreed to take on Wolfe with the provision he cut the sprawling manuscript into something viable for the average reader.
So began what was an almost father-son relationship. Perkins was a family man with a loving wife (Laura Linney) and five beautiful daughters. Wolfe had lost his father at an early age. He was introduced to Perkins by Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman, scarcely recognizable), a wealthy married woman who was Wolfe’s strongest champion and lover.
Wolfe was a highly emotional man given to flights of ecstatic fancy and depths of dire depression. He quarreled with Perkins and Mrs. Bernstein and eventually broke with them both.
Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) are but bit players in this story, though Fitzgerald’s slow slide into alcoholism and obscurity foreshadowed Wolfe’s own premature demise. Wolfe died of tumors in his brain just 18 days short of his 38th birthday. British director Michael Grandage (“The Madness of King George”) has provided a fitting tribute to the Asheville, NC genius who was unappreciated in his lifetime but revered in all the years since.

A "Central Intelligence" No-Brainer


Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart Have a Bromance

By Skip Sheffield

“Central Intelligence” is further proof we never leave high school.
Calvin “The Golden Jet” Joyner (Kevin Hart) is diminutive in size but big man on campus due to his sports prowess and his all-around winning personality He is the most popular member of the class of 1996.
Robbie Weidrich (Sione Kelepi) is clumsy, fat and shy. In a cruel prank, Robbie is dragged naked from the boys’ shower and thrown out on the gym floor to gales of laughter. The only one not laughing is Calvin, who lends Robbie his “Golden Jet” letterman jacket to cover himself as he exits humiliated.
Robbie never forgot that act of kindness. He grows up and shapes up and adopts the name Bob Stone. He looks just like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, because he is. On the eve of the Class of 1996 20-year reunion Bob, who, who has reconnected with Calvin via Facebook, is now a CIA agent. He shows up at Calvin’s accounting firm. He needs a little accounting help to retrieve some numbers of offshore bank accounts held by people up to no good.
Calvin is happily married to Maggie (Danielle Nicolet), his high school sweetheart. They were Prom King and Queen and they have been together ever since. Calvin wants no part of Bob Stone’s caper, but Bob is persuasive and flattering, calling Calvin a “snack-sized Denzel.” In the tradition of all mismatched buddy movies, Calvin grudgingly enters Bob’s dangerous world of intrigue.
That’s really all you need to know about plot. “Central Intelligence” entertains on the strength of its two main characters. Kevin Hart is a naturally funny man. He makes the most of his small size, especially in contrast to the mountainous Dwayne Johnson.
Johnson has become quite a comedian, mostly at his own expense. His character of Bob Stone has some absurdly offbeat quirks. He loves and always wears a fanny pack. His favorite movie is “16 Candles” and he adores Molly Ringwald. On the other hand he is a walking lethal weapon,well- versed in weaponry and hand-to-hand combat.
Amy Ryan is Agent Pamela Harris, who may or may not be a villain. Aaron Paul is Phil, definitely a black hat. The director is Rawson Marshall Thurber, who has shown a way with subversive comedy in “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” and “We Are The Millers.”
“Central Intelligence” is mindless summer entertainment, but who wants to think? Loosen up and laugh it up and save the serious stuff for fall.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

"Hay Fever" a Pre-Seinfeld Play About "Nothing"


A Play About “Nothing” From Another Time

By Skip Sheffield

Sir Noel Coward anticipated Jerry Seinfeld by 70 years or more. His 1925 comedy “Hay Fever” is a play about “nothing.”
“Hay Fever” opens the Summer Repertory at FAU and continues through June 26 in the Studio One Theater.
Director Jean-Louis Baldet admitted as much when he said “it has no plot and remarkably little action.” This is a comedy of manners where words and subtle human interactions are everything.
The setting is the grand Bliss Family House in Cookham, England, June 1925. Judith Bliss is a retired actress who still yearns for bright lights and adoring audiences. She is played by Equity Actress Kathryn L. Johnson, whose first appearance at FAU’s Summer Rep dates back to 2006. She is now a faculty member and assistant professor of voice, speech and accents.
Fellow Guest Equity Artist Barry Tarallo plays patriarch David Bliss, who evidently is a novelist but does little else in the way of work.
Mr. And Mrs. Bliss are what we call “idle rich.” They enjoy little dalliances with younger characters to spice up their life.
The first jolt to the Bliss idyllic weekend is a visit by their quarrelsome grown children Sorel (Samantha Kaufman) and Simon (Jordan Armstrong). Each of the kids has romantic assignations in mind, but as the house fills with guests that becomes increasingly difficult.
These visitors are Sandy Tyrell (Ross Frawley) a fawning admirer of Mrs. Bliss; Independent-minded Myra Arundel (Kimberlee Connor), who is Simon’s best girlfiend; Richard Greatham (Connor Padilla), a callow youth who fancies Myra, and Jackie Coryton (Brianna Handy), a naïf who gets caught in the crossfire.
Keeping her head while all others are losing theirs is stalwart, all-knowing family maid Clara (Shannon Ouellette).
“Hay Fever” takes place in three acts: Saturday afternoon as guests arrive and introduce themselves; after a 15-minute intermission Saturday Evening, when things get complicated, and Sunday morning, which is the funniest scene, as guests attempt to discreetly flee their hosts.
“Hay Fever” is an ideal actor’s exercise, which is probably why Baldet chose this piece. Each gets to try out a British accent and embellish the peccadilloes of their characters. The costumes and set are of professional quality, which enhances the illusion of an English country manor. There are no major tragedies or great life lessons learned. “Hay Fever” is a pleasant diversion from our unlovely everyday life; an old-fashioned idyll, if you will.
Tickets are $20 general admission; $15 FAU faculty, staff and alumni and $12 students. Call 800-564-9539 or 561-297-6124.

Young Love on the Rocks in Sicily


Waiting for Heartbreak in Sicily

By Skip Sheffield

If you are hankering for romantic heartbreak, Italian-style, “L’Atesa” may be just the ticket.
“L’Atesa” means "The Wait" in Italian. That’s what the character of Jeanne (Lou de Laage) is doing at the Sicilian mansion of her boyfriend Guiseppe. Jeanne arrives at the house at a time of mourning. The brother of the lady of the house, Guiseppe’s mother Anna (Juliette Binoche), has just suddenly and unexpectedly died. The butler Pietro (Giogio Colangeli) says Anna will not leave her room.
“Am I eating alone?” Jeanne asks Pietro. Yes you are.
Jeanne has traveled from Paris to reunite with Guiseppe, whom she hasn’t seen since last summer when “something” happened.
When Anna finally emerges the next day, she is evasive and stand-offish. Anna knows something she is not telling Jeanne.
Director Piero Messina takes best advantage of the beauty of Sicily, and of Lou de Laage, who strips down to her panties to swim in the lake near the house. A couple days later Jeanne meets two boys on the lake. One is gay. One is not. Jeanne invites them both to come to Anna’s house., There Jeanne enjoys an innocent flirtation, dancing with the boys and pointedly flirting with the straight one. Jeanne is observed by Anna and thereby comes the reveal of the “something” that happened last summer.
“L’Atesa” is for romantics who remember how it was to be young and hopelessly in love. Such relationships are perilous. Messina contrasts the beauty of the setting with the turmoil Jeanne feels and the compassion Anna feels for her. It is a sad/beautiful story that may stir memories of something you did in your youth that foolishly blew a beautiful relationship.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Hand is Quicker Than the Eye


Seeing is Not Believing

By Skip Sheffield

After a particularly trying week, I was in need of some escape in the form of light, mindless entertainment. I found it in “Now You See Me 2.”
The 2013 original, created by writer Ed Solomon, was fun because it had the novel idea of four professional magicians calling themselves The Four Horsemen, who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, like Robin Hood, using spectacular illusions as diversions.
Most of the cast is back for the sequel, also written by Solomon, and direction is by Jon Chu, who did a couple “Step Up” movies and “Men in Black.”
There are a couple of welcome additions. Lizzy Caplan is the first female horseman, Lula. She is smart, sexy and easy on the eyes. For a villain we have little Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame, trying to act tough as a young tech genius who wants to rule the world via computer with a doomsday key to every computer on the planet. This is improbable enough, but Radcliffe’s Walter Mabry is supposed to be the son of Michael Caine’s Arthur Tressler. Yeah, pint-sized grandson maybe.
Returning are Jesse Eisenberg as illusionist Daniel Atlas.Morgan Freeman is Thaddeus Bradley, a former Horseman with a grudge. Woody Harrelson does double duty as hypnotist Merritt McKinney and his ridiculous evil twin brother, with capped teeth and bushy toupee.
Also new is Dave Franco as magician Jack Wilder, who doesn’t have much to do.
The story begins with Mark Ruffalo as a boy, witnessing the drowning death of his escape artist father, who failed to escape in time from a locked, submerged safe. Ruffalo’s character of Dylan Rhodes grows up to be an FBI agent, but at heart he wants to be an illusionist like his dad. Rhodes’ rogue behavior keeps him at odds with by-the-books FBI superior, Cowan (David Warshovsky).

The plot is basically a set-up for ever more unbelievable stunts, leading to a grand finale on the Thames River in London. Movie magic can make anything possible. We know that, and that’s why it is impossible to take “Now You See Me 2” seriously. But it is a flashy and pleasant diversion. It may work for you as it did for me.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Raise a Glass "To Life"


“To Life” in Its Tattered Glory

By Skip Sheffield

No matter what is dealt you, life is worth living.
That is the upbeat message of “To Life” (L’Chaim), winner of the Best German Film at the festival Filmball Vienna 2015.
“To Life” translates into German as “Auf das Leben,” but it means the same in any language.
Since this is a German film (with English subtitles), the spectre of Nazism is never far away. The heroine of the story, Ruth (Hannelore Elsner) was born in Poland, where the Nazis rounded up Jews in 1939 to take them off to concentration (death) camps. Ruth was just a child. Her mother, who knew they were doomed, pushed Ruth from the truck, and she was forced to fend for herself from then on.
A talented natural singer and musician, Ruth became a cabaret star, even as Germans were making life unbearable for Jews.
“To Life” begins in early 1970s Berlin. Jonas (Max Riemelt) has fled his wife and home. With no particular plan, he goes to Berlin and takes a temporary job as a mover. His first assignment is moving the worldly possessions of Ruth, who is being evicted from her apartment of 35 years. Jonas immediately senses a kindred spirit in Ruth, who is old enough to be his mother. Felling pity, he offers to take Ruth to her new government subsidized quarters across town. Ruth asks him to deliver a mandolin she has made, and pays him 250 Euros up front. Jonas tries to refuse the money, but Ruth is insistent. The next day he returns to her apartment to give back the money. There is no response at the door. Jonas knocks harder and harder and finally breaks down the door. He discovers Ruth in her bathtub with the water tinged with red. She has slashed her wrists in an apparent suicide attempt. Jonas attempts CPR and rushes Ruth to an emergency room. She isn’t particularly grateful Jonas has saved her life, calling herself a “suicide granny.” Nevertheless in this parable of life by director Uwe Janson, a friendship is forged. Ruth slowly lets Jonas into her past. her beloved Yiddish songs, and the young man who abandoned her who looked just like Jonas.

“To Life” is a love story without sex and a suicide tale without violence. It is a reminder that true friendships span generations and political and religious beliefs.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Never Too Old to Rock 'N' Roll


Ageless Rockers Paul Rodgers and Joe Walsh Rock On

By Skip Sheffield

Too old to rock ‘n’ roll? Never.
Paul Rodgers’ amazing voice is as strong as ever at age 65. Rodgers opened the show with his reunited group, Bad Company, May 29, 2016 at Perfect Vodka Amphitheater in West Palm Beach in the aptly-named “One Hell of a Night” tour.
Joe Walsh, who turns 69 Nov. 20, has been performing professionally since 1965. He still plays with the joy of a kid with his first guitar.
Rodgers and Walsh have been trading places as opening acts. In West Palm Beach Paul Rodgers & Bad Company took to the stage after a solo acoustic act who called himself Makana, after the Hawaiian slack key guitar.
Paul Rodgers is looking trim and fit, with a fashionable 5-o’clock shadow light beard. Rodgers has evidently done something to augment his hair, which was thinning the last time I saw him.
Though regular Bad Co. guitarist Mick Ralphs was absent, two replacement guitarists more than made up. They were Howard Leese from Heart and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes. Original drummer Simon Kirke is the de facto band leader. The set list was heavy on greatest hits from the groups Free and Bad Co. Rodgers has never sounded better. He must have forged steel vocal chords.
Joe Walsh has never been noted for his vocals, though he does fine. It is his guitar skills that really make him a special performer. Walsh must have an amazing guitar collection, for practically every song in an 11-song set, a roadie handed him a different guitar to strap on. Walsh began playing professionally in his native Ohio in 1965. He burst on the national scene with the hard-rocking trio James Gang in 1968. Walsh opened the set with James Gang’s biggest hit, “Walk Away,” aided and abetted by his longtime guitarist-in-arms, Waddy Wachtel and Joe Vitale on drums and vocals. He also played the group’s most difficult number, The Bomber, which is a medley of “Closet Queen,” “Bolero” and “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” Walsh also gave a bow to his latest gig, The Eagles, with “Take It To The Limit,” which he dedicated to the late Glenn Frey.

Walsh strapped on a plastic tube and yet another guitar for his fitting finale, “Rocky Mountain Way,” complete with “talk box” effects. Yes, it was one Hell of a night.