Friday, December 31
A remembrance of the year that was...
'Alexander' conquers list of worst films in 2004
Two hours is long a time to waste. Sometimes the clock seems to stand still when one is stuck in a theater and forced to endure a movie that is boring, annoying, juvenile, confusing or offensive. So now it's time for a little payback. These pictures didn't just fail to entertain, they somehow managed to cinematically abuse the viewer.
"The Man Who Was Peter Pan" is Allan Knee's stage play of imaginary conversations between "Peter Pan" author J.M. Barrie and the four fatherless boys who inspired him to write that very same children's classic.
'Eternal Sunshine' brightens 2004
From "Anchorman" to "Catwoman," from "Hellboy" to "Jersey Girl," from "Before Sunset" to "After the Sunset," from "The Passion of the Christ" to "The Seed of Chucky," 2004 had its cinematic share of ups and downs. But in this article I'm here to honor the highlights -- of which there were plenty.
Most biopics tend to fall prey to the same pitfall: trying to capture an entire life story in two hours. This narrative challenge has plagued everything from "Ray" to "Beyond the Sea" to "Alexander."
Alfred Kinsey probably didn't wear Bermuda shorts while gardening. He likely wore even less than that -- at most a loin cloth or Speedo, perhaps.
Even though Dick Clark will be ringing in the New Year from a hospital bed instead of hosting his traditional "Rockin' Eve," that doesn't mean the rest of the country should avoid locating a musical backdrop for the evening.
Thursday, December 30
It gets better. It really does
Once you grow out of the single player mode, there are many multiplayer modes that prove to be worthwhile. Even online, where EA is notorious for chucky servers, the play is smooth. Quick Strike, 4 on 4, 2 Minute Challenge and Jump Ball Battle are all there to choose, but don't prove to be as fun as the simple Crush the Carrier or Open Field Showdown.
The Get Up Kids return from hiatus to record live CD at Lawrence shows
When Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids needs advice on how to keep his band intact, he simply looks to the most illustriously unstable rocker of all time: "I think it was Keith Richards who said the secret to longevity in a band is to not spend very much time together."
A 6-month-old Lawrence pizza shop is expanding into Baldwin. Wheat State Pizza, which opened in June at the Malls Shopping Center in southeast Lawrence, is adding a restaurant in a former Subway shop at 711 Eighth St. in downtown Baldwin.
Monday, December 27
How to avoid ruining your eve with misspoken words of praise
It's New Year's Eve, you've clinked your spoon against your champagne flute, the room is growing silent and it's just about time to launch into your toast.
Sunday, December 26
It appears Kwanzaa has finally made it onto the mainstream map. Virgin Mobile's holiday television ad campaign this year features a subdued mob of carolers singing an amusing new song wishing viewers a Happy Christma-hanu-kwanzaa-kah.
Articles examine topics, controversial and otherwise, in books
Among Hogwarts, Muggles and Mudbloods, Giselle Anatol sees scholarly research potential.
Friday, December 24
I picture Wes Anderson when he was a kid getting a Rubik's Cube for Christmas. He'd twist it into all sorts of colorful patterns, unique in their design, and he'd snicker at his own cleverness. He'd show a few of his friends, and maybe they'd laugh, too.
I have seen all but one of the scheduled biopics that are opening for this year's winter Oscar rush, but I have serious doubts that there will be a more engaging and exciting biography this year than "The Aviator," Martin Scorsese's breathless take on Howard Hughes' glory years.
Lemony Snicket is a real person ... more or less. As anyone who has read his celebrated tales will deduce, the author-narrator is a wizard with language and uses this skill to relay his obsession with dark, twisted themes.
Cannabis Claus Chris Hartman doubles as pro-hemp humorist and holiday helper
It's just days before Christmas and Santa has been spotted near Centennial Park. Horns honk and children gawk at the jolly man in the plush red suit as he waves to passing cars. With his thick, smoke-stained beard and bulbous tummy, this street-side Santa looks like an archetypal St. Nick, built tough to withstand hordes of lap-sitting cherubs.
Tuesday, December 21
Homeless young adults in Lawrence have plenty of resources to help them get back on their feet. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're using them
It's 2:00 in the afternoon and emergency medical crews are arriving at 10th and Kentucky. A homeless man is passed out on the steps of First Christian Church a popular homeless hangout on account of the "LINK" charitable kitchen housed within. The unfolding drama is in many ways a microcosm of the ever-present dichotomies within Lawrence's homeless population. Yes, there are plenty of alcoholics, but there are also plenty of sober people who are trying to get back on their feet.
A bloated tanker of a film that drifts off course into an ocean of schmaltz.
Contemporary comedy has learned how to profit from the discomfort of others.
Crushing. Monstrous. Apocalyptic. There's no shortage of adjectives when it comes to describing local "doom punkers" Jumbo's Killcrane. On the band's third full-length album, the band delivers what its label promises: "new mutations in extreme music"
Do you think the Game of the Year is predictable? You're probably wrong.
Ten independent reviewers from across the nation voted much like the college basketball coaches poll for their favorite video games in each category. Points were tabulated in a similar fashion which determined each winner.
Sunday, December 19
Pot advocates part of Lawrence's long tradition of dissent
Here's what one corner of downtown Lawrence sounded like last Sunday afternoon: "Honk. Honkhonkhonk. Hoooooooooonk."
Piano-cello Christmas recital to benefit Lawrence Chamber Orchestra
Call it an early Christmas gift.
Friday, December 17
Better than EA's latest WWII offering...
Finest Hour is much better than the latest EA WWII take, and if you don't own a PC and are dying for another look into that time period, it may suffice.
Sweet Band O' Mine revives era of excess
It's 1987 and Guns N' Roses is the biggest rock band on the planet. The raw, turbulent, misogynistic, hard-drinking and hard-rocking act is pulling up to The Bottleneck. As their black limousine skids to a stop, a darkened window rolls down and a harem of jiggly strippers pop their heads out.
Animated birds chirp, and a happy elf prances about a fertile countryside. A choir sings a tune called "Loverly Spring." This cheerful intro plays like a lost Rankin-Bass stop-motion piece from yesteryear. Then the viewer is abruptly told, "I'm sorry to say, this is NOT the movie you'll be seeing."
'Spanglish' is best when characters at worst
Flor, a proud and attractive Mexican woman who speaks no English, moves to the United States with her daughter in search of a better life and ends up working for an upper-class Los Angeles family made up of oddball characters. The premise sounds like a bad sitcom pilot, but with writer/director James L. Brooks at the helm, "Spanglish" is made of stronger stuff.
Cinematic packages ready for opening
Christmas day is usually represented by a number of traditions. Stockings hung over the fireplace. Presents unwrapped under the tree. Bing Crosby crooning on the stereo. Chestnuts roasting. Marshmallows toasting. Figgy pudding being eaten or soaked in or whatever. You understand the drill. But I know a lot of families whose Christmas day tradition includes heading out to the multiplex/art house and seeing a movie. That's why Dec. 25 is considered one of the biggest box-office dates of the year.
Feel like renting a DVD and watching it at home rather than braving the icy outdoors? Here's a list of alternate holiday flicks for those who've grown bored repeatedly viewing "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story."
Thursday, December 16
See if your favorite console games got the nod.
Halo 2 leads the way with eight nominations followed by Burnout 3: Takedown with six and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes with four. Without further ado, here are your Lawrence.com 2004 Gamer's Voice Award nominees in alphabetical order:
Anarchists' fund-raising project a radical exposure
It started out as an offhand jab at recent calendars featuring Kansas University students in various stages of undress.
Celtic singer Connie Dover gets poetic
Usually when Connie Dover opens her mouth, pure-toned folk and Celtic tunes come pouring out in ways that have inspired critics to call her "the finest folk ballad singer America has produced since Joan Baez."
Tuesday, December 14
Let people know how scared you are with the new lawrence.com 'FEAR' memorial ribbon.
The Get Up Kids prepare for show to record live DVD
lawrence.com checked in with Matt Pryor to see how his sanity was holding up (not so well) and also to see how his musical endeavors were coming along (well). The Get Up Kids will soon be practicing for a hometown show (Jan. 7 at the Granada), which will be recorded for a live album (possibly a DVD) to be released sometime next year.
Once a year, about that time, Slick Rhodes stumbles into Lawrence to present his "Holiday Parade of Hits." Though the enigmatic singer/songwriter's personal life is largely shrouded in mystery, we caught up with his "tour manager" before a stop in Branson, Missouri. Here's the story of Slick Rhodes as told by his "tour manager," who most definitely "isn't" actually Slick Rhodes, who most definitely "isn't" actually the guy who wrote the number one record on Lawrence.com's Best-of-2004 list, and whose initials most definitely "aren't" the same as "Ass Dumpling."
Wherein we peruse the news that was new last week...
Monday, December 13
More than 200 creative writing manuscripts from Lawrence High School's creative writing program were published in the past school year, and many writers garnered national attention.
Sunday, December 12
Queen of Comedy Central comes to K.C.
Wanda Sykes has one of those voices that makes you laugh no matter what she's saying. Her segments on Comedy Central's "Crank Yankers," for instance, where she's complaining to a mechanic about the, uh, dookie left in her back seat, or calling a prison to arrange a conjugal visit - with anyone who's up for it - are among the show's most hilarious moments.
Antonia Felix said she never expected to be Condoleezza Rice's only biographer. When her book "Condi: The Condoleezza Rice Story" was released in 2002, she assumed it would be the first of many to hit the shelves.
There's something intoxicating about Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's 1890s painting "At the Moulin Rouge."
Musicians bring early Christmas to Lawrence
Great musicians don't always play well with others. Virtuosity can be a lonely gift, after all. It demands the spotlight and recognizes few peers.
Series to explore what makes city unique
There's a T-shirt on the wall of Henry's coffee shop in downtown Lawrence bearing a map of Kansas.
"A Kansas Nutcracker" is one of those events that can put you in awe of Lawrence's artistic resources.
Friday, December 10
One ring to rule the RPGs?
The Third Age was thrilling the entire time, despite the extreme lack of a challenge. On technical merit, the newbie-friendly lack of difficulty is a serious flaw, but it's hard to argue that it's still a highly-polished and wonderful experience.
Fatal shootings at an Ohio nightclub was topic No. 1 Thursday among veterans of Lawrence's live music scene.
A few weeks ago, Alexis Anderson finally buckled under the peer pressure. Like thousands of other Kansas University students, she gave in to her friends and registered at thefacebook.com.
The comedy/heist caper "Ocean's Twelve" comes across like the European remake of "Ocean's Eleven." Set across the pond, the film is slower, artsier and has fancier cinematography. Yet, ultimately, it's more incoherent and less satisfying.
Lawrence singer Ashley Davis makes shift with new CD
At 18, singer Ashley Davis was getting ready to move to Nashville, Tenn. The Lawrence native was headed to the industry's most prestigious music school, Belmont University, with aspirations of a career in country music.
Larry Kline has an obsession, and December is the month he gets his fix. Each year he dusts off a pair of big black boots and a bright red suit with white trim. He ties a curly white beard over his ears and covers his head with a long stocking cap.
Thursday, December 9
If you know anything of the "Blade" series so far, you know that vampire-hunter movie is full of brilliant sets, fun techno-laced action and, well, lotsa lame dialogue. And the special effects in the previous two "Blade" movies have always been state-of-the-art. Instead "Trinity" features half-baked CGI, B-movie set design, and almost-electrifying, almost-exciting action scenes set to bad "darkcore" Goth techno music.
Wednesday, December 8
It's fitting that The Hives' tour itinerary listed the group's show in Lawrence as taking place at "The Grenada."
Tuesday, December 7
BECAUSE OTHERWISE YOUR EGO DOESN'T HAVE A LEG TO STAND ON: SUV ownership in Kansas rose by 30 percent between 1997 and 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Monday, December 6
Some of the best work of Sunday's Kansas University Holiday Vespers happened months before the concert.
A change of pace proves to be beneficial.
You literally have to travel to certain parts of the city to compete in the different types of races to win money to modify your car. Lights, caps: just an endless amount of visual, handling and performance modifications will make the hardcore modders salivate.
The best game ever to be released with the name Rogue Agent? Find out.
Back in the day, Goldeneye for Nintendo 64 sparked a new interest in multiplayer first-person shooters on consoles. But on the heels of Halo 2, Goldeneye: Rogue Agent is little more than run-of-the-mill blah.
Business owner offers his spin on smoking ban
Bartender and disc jockey Nick Reddell has become a fixture in the Lawrence nightlife scene.
Sunday, December 5
Barry Champlain is a profane, angry motormouth contrarian, a man willing to insult you for your opinion no matter what opinion you hold -- who will, in fact, insult you for precisely the opposite reason he insulted another person five minutes ago.
In Oliver Stone's 1988 film "Talk Radio," shock jock Barry Champlain plays the part of an indignant crusader who "tells it like it is" and enrages the moral majority in the process.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., has helped secure $80,000 in funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for area arts projects.
'A Kansas Nutcracker' puts prairie spin on traditional holiday ballet
It was an idea born of necessity. After all, the traditional "Nutcracker" ballet is already performed in Kansas City and Topeka each year. So to lure people to a local production of the show, Deborah Bettinger gave the time-honored story a new spin -- a personalized touch for the Lawrence area -- and brought Clara and her family a little closer to home.
Saturday, December 4
KU architecture students design models of sacred space
Kansas University already has an intimate worship space: Danforth Chapel. But if the school should ever decide to build another one, say, on west campus, a dozen architectural models for such a chapel already exist.
KU choirs, orchestras to lead community in traditional carols
If Holiday Vespers were a man, he might be wise, white-haired and bearded by now -- a little bit like Santa Claus. At 80 years old, the holiday tradition still seems to inspire about as much enthusiasm as the Jolly Old Elf.
Friday, December 3
I respect Oliver Stone as a director, so I can only hope he was purposefully trying to drain all entertainment value out of "Alexander."
I started performing music in bars before I was old enough to drink in them. Oddly enough, it inspired very little interest in drinking. At least I was old enough to buy cigarettes. Although this hardly mattered in my former career as a full-time musician, because smoking became the bane of my existence.
For his last movie, writer/director Alexander Payne got powerhouse acting legend Jack Nicholson to move to Omaha, Neb., for more then a month to shoot the Oscar-nominated "About Schmidt."
There are no fight scenes. No criminal activity. No fatalities. There isn't even any sex. But in its own way, "Closer" is one of the edgiest movies of the year.
Peter Thornhill rents at least three movies each week. He usually gets new releases on DVD and frequently returns them late.
Actors savor the allure of nasty wordplay
They've been attacked by giant flying robots and abducted by wasp-like space aliens. For certain Hollywood actors, the nature of effects-driven blockbusters means having to spend more time in front of green screens than at actual locations. So for the stars of "Closer," it must be nice to have an opportunity to deal in words.
Thursday, December 2
Step aside, Mannheim Steamroller. Same to you, Bright Eyes. Lawrence music is where it's at this Christmas season and Omaha's stale cookies are due for a certified bitch-slapping.
Red Ribbon Art Auction to raise money for fight against AIDS
With all the focus on the AIDS pandemic in developing countries -- and all the U.S. money being funneled to foreign destinations to help relieve that pandemic -- Geri Summers worries Americans have lowered their guard to the dangers of the disease in their own back yard.
New book scouts spots where Harlem Renaissance writer spent boyhood
While researching a new book identifying Lawrence locations significant in the life of Langston Hughes, Denise Low and T.F. Pecore Weso made an interesting discovery.
Wednesday, December 1
Popular Free State dish represents Kansas in new cookbook, 'American Sandwich'
Regulars at the Free State Brewing Co. have long known that the restaurant's Portobello Parmesan Sandwich is a heck of a good meal -- meaty (though vegetarian), juicy and flavorful.