Avenue Q in Denver, CO

By themedia | March 21, 2011

Musical: Avenue Q
Venue: Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, CO
Date: 03-13-11
Web Site: www.avenueq.com

“Sesame Street meets South Park. Raunchy. Filthy. Not for prudes.” Call it what you will but Avenue Q is one of the best and funniest Broadway Musicals out there today.

Many Americans love Broadway shows for their over the top productions, the raw emotions that come from each of the songs, and the overall experience of seeing a show being performed live. But, how often do we encounter musicals that we can relate to in this moment? I can’t say that I’ve personally had speech lessons, or was a farm girl that fell in love with a cowboy. And I can assure you I haven’t participated in any gang activities like the rumble that took place in West Side Story. I can assure you that I have had many moments in my life that were similar to those of the cast of puppets in Avenue Q.

Maybe I should clarify that before you guys start to assume that I’m addicted to Internet porn (watch the show, you’ll understand). As a recent college graduate, I totally have gone through the motions of these characters. “It Sucks to Be Me,” isn’t just a song. It’s an every day saying when you can’t find a job, rent is too high to afford an apartment in a nice neighborhood, relationships become confusing, and you can’t seem to figure out your purpose in life.

The play centers around the recent grad, Princeton, who has to encounter all of these issues. But, along the way, he meets the Bad Idea Bears who often throw him off path. We watch his struggle as he tries to survive the real world taking place on Avenue Q. We meet his neighbors and discover how their paths kind of suck too. But we aren’t fed with the common Disney ending where everyone gets their “Happily Ever After.” We’re given reality that all of our problems are only “For Now.”

I highly recommend Avenue Q to any adult who enjoys a good laugh. If the show isn’t coming to your area any time soon, go on YouTube or purchase the soundtrack. The songs are just as enjoyable on their own.

It’s not Johnny Depp’s fault that Rango kind of sucked

By themedia | March 13, 2011

Movie: Rango
Production: Nickelodeon Movies
Actors: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin
Link: Click here

For the last couple of months, every time that I’ve attended a movie I’ve always ran into the trailer for Nickelodeon’s latest animated feature film, Rango. The main draw of the film? The voice of Rango – Johnny Depp. Who doesn’t like Johnny Depp? I don’t meet very many people who have expressed their distaste for Johnny. And if they have, you need to sit them down and watch classics like Edward Scissorhands and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. If you still can’t come to the conclusion that Depp has talent, then I don’t know what will convince you.

Usually Depp is pretty good when it comes to selecting great roles in worthy films. I didn’t see the Tourist so I can’t comment on that, same for Alice in Wonderland. But, everything else has been solid for Depp. Now, when it comes to Rango – Depp does an awesome job with the character. It’s just that – the film itself tried too hard. There were one too many storylines taking place. It felt as though the writer wanted to do many things with this film including the portrait of the struggle with a protagonist who wanted to be somebody, corruption in politics, environmental awareness, the idea that liars always get caught, and paying homage to the old western classics. This wouldn’t be so bad. It has and can be done in an animated feature before. But there were so many details that seemed to be thrown together that it was hard to follow as an adult so I can only imagine how confused a child must have been.

I feel as though we got the best of Depp as usual but when it came to other characters, development lacked big time. I didn’t have enough time with any of the characters to build up any sympathy toward those struggling or even hatred toward the villains. Besides their demeanor, I really would have no clue as to why they were so frightening to the town.

This movie needed more editing with the script. There were so many details but the way in which they are shared makes the film feel disjointed and thrown together.

How did you feel about Rango?

The Oscars Were a Dud This Year

By themedia | March 2, 2011

If you spent Sunday night watching the Oscars, I’m sorry you put yourself through so much pain. I would know – I was there with you watching the disaster unfold. Maybe it was the air in LA but there was something so off about the Oscars this year. It could have been the lack of jaw-dropping fashions on the red carpet. Maybe James Franco had some pineapple express and seemed to lax to host. Or, it may be the lack of the unpredictable. Who knows.

All I know is that ABC should have let that guy streak to add a little drama to the event – hey, it’s not like they would be doing it for kicks – it would be homage to the 1974 Oscars when Robert Opel streaked across the stage while David Niven was introducing Elizabeth Taylor. It’s the film industry – these people know what makes a great climactic moment for a long show like this.

What bothers me most about this year’s award show is the fact that there were some really amazing films that were nominated. From a promotional standpoint, shouldn’t you want people to tune in so they can catch a clip of an award-winning or nominated film? Isn’t this supposed to encourage the audience to add one or several of the films to their Netflix queue?

Like films, award shows need to tell a story and for it to be an entertaining story or else you’re going to lose viewers. I can honestly tell you that by 8:30MST, I changed the channel. I was live tweeting the event and couldn’t take the monotony anymore.

Let us never speak of the 2011 Oscars again. We can only hope for a better year of award shows in 2010.

What did you think of the Oscars?

Wow, Surprising Box Office Results This Weekend

By themedia | February 27, 2011

It appears that Gnomeo and Juliet beat out two new releases featuring A-list movie stars, Owen Wilson and Nicolas Cage. Gnomeo and Juliet finally hit the number one spot at the box office after three weeks. The movie wasn’t that great to me – like many other animated movies – it tried so hard to pull of the pop culture humor that was so evident in the Shrek movies (well, at least the first two). But, I can see how kids will adore it because they haven’t been exposed to the Romeo & Juliet story as often as many of us older viewers have.

I did not hear a lot of hype behind Cage’s movie. I saw previews – but they were lackluster. I wasn’t even sure if action fans would like this movie. But I am somewhat surprised about Hall Pass. I have heard from several friends that the movie is hilarious, more so than “Just Go With It.” I’ll have to find out for myself this week. But it is Oscar weekend and many of us are staying in to enjoy the glamour of the Red Carpet Arrivals and the show itself. See you tonight on Twitter!

Hold It Against Me – Britney Spears

By themedia | February 24, 2011

Many of you would be shocked to know that I didn’t like the new Britney Spears’ video for, “Hold It Against Me.” I grew up on Britney Spears’ music. I went to every Washington DC tour date she had. I even saw her on tour with *NSync before Baby One More Time became such a big hit. I loved and adored everything Britney. And to an extent, I still find her music fun to listen to. But, nothing’s to the same caliber as the Britney we once had – back when she slithered around on stage with a yellow python and impressed us with her intricate dance moves.

It’s easy to say Britney’s a hot mess especially after such emotional public displays. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to find out she has mental health issues. But who doesn’t these days? We all cope differently. What I find disturbing about the Britney situation is how controlled she is by her management. All along, it’s probably been that way. I never minded it back then. More now than ever, I’m finding it so obvious that Britney is simply a pawn in a game to get as much money as possible. “Hold It Against Me,” is a ripoff of a 1979 Bellamy Brothers song. The music industry is full of covers – some good, some bad. There’s something about this song that doesn’t grab me in the way previous Britney singles have. I usually spend weeks listening to her singles over and over again without getting bored. I found that after two weeks, I really had no desire to listen to the song.

I thought the video might spark my interest in the song again especially since Britney was releasing teaser videos via Twitter. The director, Jonas Akerlund, is quite famous for his work with Madonna on “Ray of Light” and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” So there was much to be expected with this music video. The reality is that it’s another piece of work put out there to earn her management a few extra dollars. The product placement in it was heartbreaking. It really shifted the focus of the video. It made it appear as though it were a commercial for all of these brands rather than a Britney Spears video.

I wanted more answers on why the video shifted in to this new direction. I discovered that the concept of the video is that we’re coming in to a new age of Britney. The technology brands that are featured in the video are part of expressing that we’re in the digital age. The video is a battle between the old and new Britney. There are scenes in the video that take us back to pivotal moments in Britney’s career like her “Baby One More Time” video clip and of course her failed marriage. It’s so hard to pick this up because of the way it’s edited. It’s chopped up in to bits and pieces of scenes that really don’t fit together in any logical way. Within these bits and pieces are the dance scenes. Unfortunately, we see that Britney has not stepped it up since the last time we saw her perform on the “Circus,” tour. It’s such a shame because so many of her fans look up to her dancing. I can remember hanging out with friends and learning her moves. Without the dancing, without the sparkle in her eye, Britney is not the same girl we fell in love with back in 1998.

What are your thoughts on the video?

Boulder International Film Festival: Sarah’s Key

By themedia | February 22, 2011

Movie: Sarah’s Key
Production: Hugo Productions
Actors: Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance
Link: Click here

It’s about time I attend a screening at a film festival! I was long overdue. And I feel even more encouraged to attend more in the future as I was inspired by the creative, compelling storytelling featured in the film, Sarah’s Key.

Many of you may be familiar with Sarah’s Key as it is a popular piece of literary fiction. I can tell you that I had not read the book before viewing the film. But, after viewing the film, I’ve added this piece of work to my reading list.

The movie in its entirety was engaging. The film’s story drifts between the present and 1942 in Paris, France. Automatically, one assumes that this may be a story about the Holocaust. However, it is about the forgotten Vel d’Hiv roundup when the French police, not the Nazi’s, went house to house in Paris to arrest Jews then transport them to transit centers.

The film opens up with Sarah and her brother playing around until the door knocks. Sarah immediately recognizes that they are in danger so she hurries her brother in to a cupboard in the wall so the police do not take him away. She makes him promise that he will not leave the cupboard until she returns and unlocks the door.

We follow Sarah, her mother and father to the Vel d’Hiv where they await their further instruction. Her parents have heard the rumors that they will separated from their child and taken to Auschwitz. This is exactly what happens. But, Sarah never gives up on the idea of returning to Paris to unlock her brother from the cupboard.

American journalist, Julia Jarmond asks to write a news article on the 60th anniversary of Vel d’Hiv.  As time goes on, she discovers she has more in common with this 10 year old girl than what she thought. The story becomes much more personal as she realizes she has moved in to the apartment of this 10 year old girl who experienced the Vel d’Hiv firsthand.

We journey with Julia to understand what exactly happened to Sarah and her family. We follow and experience Sarah’s tragedies along the way to returning to Paris. Throughout the movie, Julia is asked why she’s so determined to get involved in other people’s business. But as we watch Sarah’s life unravel, we also notice that Julia is starting to question her own choices in life.

What you’re left with in the end is a sense of wonder and confusion as to why an event so horrific as the Vel d’Hiv has been forgotten by many. This story will stay with you longer after you view it.

Inspiration from the Ad world: Luke Sullivan

By themedia | February 11, 2011

Last night, I was able to attend the Denver Ad Club’s Outside Voices Speaker Session featuring Luke Sullivan, author of “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.”

If you’re in the ad world, you know he’s kind of a big deal. He’s the go-to source on all things copywriting. His book is considered “the guide” to the craft. I’ve taken courses in advertising that teach directly from it and I can absolutely see why this book is recognized by so many industry professionals.

The topic of the night was “How to Suck Less.” Who wouldn’t like to know how to suck less in advertising or in life? But the first thing Sullivan highlighted was accepting the fact that you will suck. We all have fears that tell us that our work is going to suck. Yes, it’s going to suck but with certain techniques – you can make it suck less.

In the book, Sullivan tells us that you absolutely need to block out time to concept. You need to write everything you think of down including the puns and cliches because putting them down on paper extracts them from the stupidity that’s blocking your creativity.

Sullivan goes on to describe ideal conditions to make your work suck less. A few of the conditions included: finding a quiet place, looking inward, avoiding the distractions like Facebook and E-mail, reducing chit chat and gossip at the office.

One of the most controversial techniques he shared was the “Delete All E-mails” strategy. If you want to get an add done, you don’t need the distraction of people e-mailing you. A lot of these e-mails are crap most of the time anyway. So when your inbox is full of messages and you’re on a deadline – delete them all. It’s risky but the work gets done. Even Jeff Goodby stands behind this technique.

After all, time is your enemy in this industry but you have the control to give yourself more time to come up with compelling ads that subliminally pull your audience’s attention.

As the presentation wrapped up, Sullivan left us with the goal of making of work suck less tomorrow. I hope we don’t let the master of copy down.

Tangled

By themedia | February 10, 2011

Movie: Tangled
Distributor: Disney
Actors: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi
Link: Click here

What can I say – I’m a sucker for animated movies. I barely ever turn down the chance to see these films in theatres. After all, what’s wrong with satisfying your inner child? So this holiday season I found time to see Tangled.

Tangled is your typical animated Disney feature. But that never bothers anyone.
You know there’s going to be a happy ending. You know the princess will eventually fall in love. All of that doesn’t matter because Disney animators continue to present the same magic over and over again on the big screen. The animation is flawless.  Sure, the story line might be a bit contrived but it’s Disney – but when is it ever authentic/real? Disney is all about escaping in to a fantasy. And Tangled lets us escape in to one of our favorite fairy tales of all time – Rapunzel

Disney digs deeper by presenting the true tragedy of Rapunzel – her isolation from the real world. In this version, Rapunzel is born with the gift of hair that heals. An elderly woman with the desire to remain youthful steals Rapunzel away and locks her away in a tower to ensure she is the only one who reaps the benefits of this beauty’s gold locks. Since Rapunzel was stolen away at a young age, she recognizes the elderly woman as her own mother.

As her 18th birthday approaches, Rapunzel makes a wish to spend the day outside the tower – to watch the floating lights above the town. She feels somehow connected to these lights since they only appear on the night of her birthday. These lights are released each year on her birthday by her real family – the king and the queen.

Rapunzel promises to stay inside on her birthday as long as her “mother” goes to town to pick up a gift for her. But we all know that Rapunzel is going to break out. Runaway thief, Flynn Rider scales the tower and is taken captive by Rapunzel. She grants him freedom in exchange for his tour guide service for the outside world. And that’s where the adventure begins….

Without revealing too much, I will say that the animation was impeccable. I did not see the film in 3-D but I’m sure it was just as impressive jumping off the screen as it was in 2-D. The storytelling left me curious, regardless of the usual Disney formula. The characters in Tangled were charming to watch and the songs weren’t over the top. Tangled was released as Disney’s 50th animated feature, proving that Disney is a master at creating the entertaining animated films that our inner child craves.

Little Fockers

By themedia | January 31, 2011

Movie: Little Fockers
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Actors: Ben Stiller, Jessica Alba, Owen Wilson, Robert DeNiro
Link: www.littlefockers.net

Gah – I was hoping this would be a good movie to see around the holidays with the fam. But it didn’t do it for me.

The movie starts out with a health scare that leaves Jack Byrnes (Robert DeNiro) with worries as to who will head the household once he’s gone. Jack appoints Greg (Ben Stiller) to the role of the “Godfocker” of the family. However, Jack begins to think again about his decision as he begins to suspect that Greg is having an affair with his attractive drug rep, Andi (Jessica Alba). While there’s no truth to the affair, Jack continues to attempt to convince Pam to return to her former lover, Kevin (Owen Wilson). Sound familiar? Sure, that’s pretty much the premise of the first movie, Meet the Parents. I love tying the old movies in here and there – but I thought we were over the whole Pam and Kevin thing. I guess not.

Throughout the movie, Greg tries to prove how he can be the “Godfocker,” that Byrnes wants him to be by providing a bright future for his kids, getting his finances together and finishing the house. We watch as he struggles with each task with jokes far and few between.

Since this is a holiday movie – you better believe there’s a happy ending to this story. As expected, all is well for Greg Focker and family. Jack comes around after Greg saves his life at the twins’ birthday party. And the Focker-Byrnes relationship is seen as better than ever when Focker and Byrnes grandparents announce they will be moving to town to be closer to the kids.

So what do you think – yes or no on another Focker movie after this? I vote no.

Interview: Mike Park

By themedia | January 16, 2011

Artist: Mike Park
Label: Asian Man Records
Official Site: Click here
Date: May 30, 2004
Conducted by: Jonathan Yost

MF JY: I have a laundry list of questions here, so I’m just kind of going to plow through them, some I guess are staples of our magazine’s interviews. If you were a question on jeopardy, what would be the answer?
MP:
Hmm, I don’t know. The first Asian American to run a record label out of his parent’s garage.

MF JY: That’s nice. On the RIAA, I noticed that Asian Man records isn’t a member, and I was curious what the reason for that was. Didn’t want to, or what?
MP:
I just didn’t want to. The thing with Asian Man is that I just don’t care. I mean, I do so little work, I’m just so laid back. I think a lot of people think that we are bigger than we are because we’ve put out some successful records. I try to work as little as possible.

MF JY: Are you surprised about the success of some of the bands on your label?
MP:
Sure, it’s always like, “Whoa, that’s cool.” I’m sure I could sell a lot more records if I hired people to do retail and promotions, but I don’t care. The bands know it, too. I make it very clear and we encourage them to move on to bigger labels if they start doing well.
MF JY: Kind of like a stepping stone?
MP:
Yeah, I’m never going like, “Come on guys, you can’t leave me.” I’m always going “go, go. You’re too much work.”

MF JY: When bands approach you to be signed or whatever, what are you looking for?
MP:
Well, first I’m looking for something interesting musically, and also just make sure that they’re good people. So, if it’s friends of friends, I’ll usually take that as kind of like an answer that they are good people. Friends of certain friends. I know they must be down It depends,. I don’t know, there’s a lot of variables. are involved, especially lately., it’s got to be something different. I’m trying to put out different sounding music, the music industry is so stale. I could do the same stuff and sell more records, but why? Why not try for something different?
MF JY: Is there anything that you’ve seen this year that is exceptionally different?
MP:
I think the Polysics record, the band from Japan that we put out. I think they’re an exceptional band. No one sounds like that. Nobody puts out music from bands from Japan. For an American label to take a chance on a band from Japan, that’s rare. And uh, we’re trying to do that, kind of give the bands from Japan a chance in the states.

MF JY: Is there anything you have done with Asian Man Records that you would do differently had you known something then that you know now?
MP:
Not really, maybe there was certain bands I wouldn’t have put out, but I don’t want to say names, it’s really unfair to say that. Um, perhaps there are some bands I should have put out, but didn’t – again, not to name names. I think it’s common, to make the wrong choices, and I’m no different.
MFJY: I don’t think anyone is.

MF JY: What is the main focus of the Plea for Peace tour,
MP:
The mission statement is that were trying to, as a whole, if you look at the site and look at the mission statement, is what were building towards is building a youth center in San Jose, California. That’s like the long term goal. We want to raise the funds, open the center. It’s a place for kids to go, focusing on the kids, a place for them to go were they can be creative. Focusing on the arts and music. That’s what the long term goal is. The idea of peace through music. And arts, all arts.

MF JY: Does the overall feeling or mood of the tour change along with the current events and stuff that going on in the world?
MP:
With this tour, the primary focus is the election, but we’re taking a non-partisan stance. We’re not Bush-bashing.
MF JY: I noticed that you, what you pushed for on stage was a change, without saying “Vote against Bush.” You just said “Vote, and get registered to vote.”
MP:
I think that that’s the first step, yea, a lot of the time, kids are like “Fuck Bush, Fuck Bush.” They hear that, but do they know why? I just feel like we have to have some kind of education, I want kids to think for themselves. I don’t want, we’ve had enough, I think we’ve all had people tell us what to do, and what to say, at this point in our lives, we have to encourage kids to think, instead of what everyone else is doing.

MF JY: Ok, with you and touring, you’ve gone to other countries, continents, whatever, was there any culture shock, anything that you have seen in other countries that you thought was either horrible, or anything that you saw that you thought needed to be going on in this country?
MP:
You don’t really see it, but you hear about it in conversation, just how our health care system is ridiculous, we don’t have free health care, our education system is in shambles, our education system…I find it hard to see the reasoning behind our military actions when we have to fix what’s going on in our country first before we fix problems in other countries. But to go back to your question, I think that the main thing is seeing how much animosity there is in other countries towards Americans. I think I have a, I don’t have it as bad because I’m Asian. When I’m in Europe, people don’t automatically think “American”, They think, Japanese, or Chinese, or Korean. So, it’s not bad, it’s kind of neat, I can feel it out, see what’s going on.
MF JY: Do you see a lot of “America Bashing” in other countries?
MP:
The last time I went was last October to Japan, that was the last overseas tour I went on, and I saw, you know, Japan’s not a political country, the people are just really into self gratification for the most part. We saw two anti-war marches or rallies. It was very interesting to see with the friends we were with, like translating and explaining. It’s pretty universal how outspoken the rest of the world is about the war. They’re a bit curious as to why we’ve um, went on our own in terms of what we thought was right. Went against the UN.

MF JY: Back to a bit more lighthearted questions…What’s the first album you can remember buying, whether it was album, or CD, or cassette?
MP:
1979, I know AC/DC, the live album, came out. That’s one of the first ones. Also, REO Speedwagon. REO Speedwagon, AC/DC, Air Supply, those are some of the first’s that I remember my sister listening to Styx. Whatever album that had Babe on it. Whatever my sister listened to, I wanted to listen to, too.

MF JY: You performed with Bands (Skankin’ Pickle, The Chinkees), performed solo, and you run Asian Man Records, is there one you enjoy more than the rest, or do you enjoy all of it?
MP:
Yea, I enjoy doing all of it. Acoustic is the most frightening one, just hard to do, I get very nervous. The band is fun, I’d like to do it again, it just takes a lot of time. It’s like being in a relationship, also. With the band, you have to deal with the band members. Dealing with the different personalities, when you’re with yourself, you only have to deal with yourself.

MF JY: Alright, we’re winding down now. In sixty seconds, tell us why people should go to one of the Plea For Peace shows.
MP:
I think it’s a show that’s uplifting, that’s diverse, ethnically diverse in a culture of music that’s saturated by corporate takeover focusing on white America, we’ve presented a tour where two of the four artist’s are minorities, I think that for many people, is a first for them to be see. We’re offering a man, Saul Williams, that is one of the most intelligent minds I’ve heard, he’s definitely going to open a lot of eyes. It’s just an honest tour, we’ve got no corporate sponsorship, no clear channel venues involved. This is a strictly a people doing it for the right reasons. And that alone is hopefully enough to get the support of people.

MF JY: And finally, is there anything else that you want people to know, that you want the readers to know.
MP:
I just want people to think about the reasons that they’re living. This apathy of the young America, and the old, we’re living with blinders on. I’m kind of wondering what my motivation is sometimes. I go through ups and downs. Sometimes I feel like I should just leave the country and go somewhere else where people are more like-minded, but I don’t want to be someone who just gives up. I want to believe in hope, so I’m just encourage people to look what’s going on in their surroundings and not worry so much about this capitalistic gain or trying to climb that ladder of success, life’s too short for that. Just enjoy life, enjoy everything. That’s it.

MF JY: Well, Thank you, It’s been awesome!
MP:
No problem.