Thursday, March 26, 2015

Movie Review: Turbo

Image found here:
Turbo has been on my Netflix Watch Instantly queue for some time, but I only recently got around to watching it.

This is, quite obviously from the picture, the unlikely story of a snail that wants to (and does!) go fast, all the way to the Indianapolis 500. I think most people could relate to at least one facet of this movie, whether it's feeling different than those around you, or being inspired by speeches about going after your dreams, or finding that feeling of home when you've found that place where you belong. It's a cute story that both children and adults can enjoy. 

I liked some of the subtleties that adults would pick up on, but maybe kids wouldn't. For example, at the garden, Turbo is the only orange snail; everyone else is either blue, purple, green, or pink-ish. So you know from the get-go that he's different. I also liked the parallels drawn between different social interactions. At the garden, Turbo was isolated from the other snails because he wasn't like them. Later in the movie, his brother Chet feels that same isolation from the group of racing snails, since he can't relate to them. 

Paul Giamatti played Chet, and I thought his voice was the most distinct. His anxious, paranoid, self-conscious voice is easily picked out, and while listening to it, all I can picture is his costume from Planet of the Apes. Samuel L. Jackson's voice is also pretty identifiable. Turbo is played by Ryan Reynolds, which I never would have guessed. As much as women love him, he just doesn't do it for me. Blake Lively could do so much better.

Creepy! Image found here:
 And speaking of Samuel L. Jackson and Indianapolis...

And here's a fun song from the movie:

Three out of five stars! It's like the kid-friendly, cartoon version of Talladega Nights (just not as funny. But what movie is?!).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Ca Challenge - A Cappella Contest in DC

Last weekend, I went to see the "A Ca Challenge" at the Lincoln Theatre in DC. I went because I love a cappella, and one of my friends was singing for one of the groups. I thought the tickets were a little steep (without a Groupon deal the cheapest ticket was $30 with online fees), but I wanted to support her, so I went.

I was very surprised by the long line outside the theater once I arrived. For one, I thought the venue would have done a better job of getting people inside and to their seats. But for another, selling tickets on Groupon usually means your show isn't selling well; so how did all these people show up? Once I made it to my seat, I was very disappointed: I was in the upper balcony in row P (row V is the last row up there). I noticed that the back of the upper balcony was packed, but the front part was empty. The Lincoln Theatre had sold us all the crappy seats! So as soon as the lights dimmed, we ALL moved forward to the front of the balcony. For what we all paid, we deserved to actually be able to see the show!

Then the show began. The host, Jonathan Minkoff, is an a capella singer himself, so that made sense. But his jokes were NOT funny; he should stick to being a singer and not try his luck at comedy. Every time he got on stage I groaned, wondering what he was going to say next that would make me cringe or roll my eyes. He also asked the judges questions every once in a while, which I thought was unnecessary. What do we care what they do, what awards they've won, etc.? The majority of people in that audience knew someone in one of the groups, and we all just wanted to hear them sing. Period. Enough with the chit-chat filler, please!

My friend has the white pants on!
Anyhoo...onto the music. The District, my friend's group, went first. I thought this all-girl group did a very good job. I had heard them perform before, but I still enjoyed the show (even though they only got to sing two songs while everyone else performed three...). Of course I am biased! And they were very well dressed, wearing white and black, and most of them in high heels. Great outfits make for great stage presence!

Sloppy! Messy!
The second group, Tomorrow's Harmony, is from George Mason University. It sounds like this is actually a sub-group of a larger a cappella group at the school. So, maybe they weren't used to singing just with each other, but...they were AWFUL. First of all, these boys looked like slobs, as if they didn't realize they were going to be performing in front of hundreds of people that night! They did a medley of Maroon 5's "Animals" which can only be described as cacophonous. Their version of "Love Me Like You Do" was just as bad, with very little harmony (ironically). And I LOVE *NSYNC's "Tearin' Up My Heart" and "Bye Bye Bye," but they killed these songs (and not in a good way; they actually missed a line in the chorus!). They mixed too many songs together in their medleys, so it was hard to keep up and tell where one song ended and the next began. Their beat-boxer/rapper was okay, but there is little to say that is positive about this group. Their only saving grace was their deepest bass, who has the type of deep voice that makes panties drop. But he was too little, too late.

Next were the Allnighters from Johns Hopkins University. These guys at least attempted to dress up, wearing ties and vests (though not in the same color scheme...). They were a little more old school than I like, but I still enjoyed their performance, especially their charismatic lead singers!

Sparkles! Glitter! Lookin' good and singin' well!
Then there was another all-girls group called the Sil'hooettes from the University of Virginia (someone, please explain to me the spelling of this group's name...). They all looked beautiful and wore sparkly shirts, which are perfect for the stage! They knew how to rock it, and they were the crowd's favorite. I thought some of the singers could have enunciated better, but there were definitely some strong singers in the group.

Fashion disaster. But I guess they're singers, not models...
The GW Vibes was the first co-ed group to perform; I usually prefer hearing men and women sing together, since you get a larger range. At first I was taken aback by their appearances. None of the girls were wearing high heels, which baffled me; just as the camera adds ten pounds, the stage makes you lose six inches in height. So it looked like a bunch of stubby girls with no feet (since their black shoes faded into the black floor of the stage) whose pasty legs made them look like they were wearing opaque tights (Ladies: before you get your summer tan back, do NOT show your bare legs! Black tights are everything!). But getting past their lack of fashion knowledge...I especially enjoyed their performance of "Uptown Funk." The choreography was so much fun, and they all had great energy the whole time!

Vox Pop came next, and this is another group that I had seen before. They were wearing black and purple (again...), and they too had girls there who insisted on wearing ballet flats (Ew); at least they were all in pants, which are flattering on everyone. But onto the music. I am always impressed when I hear them sing. Anna Lee, their female lead, has an AMAZING voice and was probably the most talented singer of the entire night. Though I didn't love their song choices (one was too somber for a Saturday night, and "Runaway Baby" just isn't my taste), I could still appreciate their performance.

After the intermission, we got to hear from the Alexandria Harmonizers, which was the a cappella group that hosted this event but did not compete in it. This group is VERY big, with more than 50 people performing! I will say that a group this size always ends up sounding more like a choir to me, which, unless I'm in church, I'm not really interested in. But their version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was spot-on, with dancing and fake fog, too! They also sang "Sweet Caroline" and made it a sing-along, which the whole crowd loved.

The group Word of Mouth was the last to perform; they were last year's winner. I really liked their take on Meghan Trainor's "Lips Are Moving," but then they followed it was a slow, sad song, which killed the mood.
Meh, I still think The District got gypped because they only got to sing two songs. Image here:

In the end, Vox Pop won the compeition. Of course I wanted my friend's group to win, but I didn't really care about the contest. I just wanted to hear good a capella music! I was left wanting. From the exorbitant price of the ticket to my bad seat to the stupid host, I was destined to have a bad time. Too bad. And to top it all off, the woman sitting next to me had the brightest cell phone ever, and she would not put it away! It was so distracting, and definitely took away what little enjoyment I was getting from the show.

Jill, I love you. But I'm not sure if I'm going to see your next show...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Maroon 5 Concert

HOWL! What animals!
So, yesterday afternoon my mom called me at work. I figured she just called to chit chat, but she told me that she and her friends were going to see Maroon 5 that night, and one of the ladies had cancelled so she had an extra ticket. She asked if I wanted to go. I thought, "Is that even a question? Of course I want to go!"

So I quickly got home, dolled myself in my best "Animals" outfit, and ran out the door to catch the metro to meet the group at the Verizon Center.

ME-OW! Got this skirt from Express for less than $15. So worth it!
It was slow to fill, since plenty of people just waited to show up for Maroon 5. Row C seats!
I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was not a wild and crazy crowd. Most people fell into two categories: 20-something women, people in their 50's (either in groups of ladies or as couples), and then parents with their teenage children. So, it ended up being a pretty tame night, which I was very happy about, seeing as it was a Monday night!

The concert started off with Rozzi Crane. I had never heard of her before, but she has a very strong voice, and I enjoyed hearing some of her songs. Here are a couple:

Crazy Ass Bitch
Half The Man
And she does great cover songs; she sang Heart's "Barracuda" last night. 

Then there was Magic! This group is best known for their song "Rude." But other than that hit, I wasn't really into their music. If I'm going to listen to something with a reggae beat, I'd rather hear Jah Works or Ballyhoo!, both of whom I've seen live. Plus, when you're looking forward to seeing sexy Adam Levine, the lead singer of Magic!, Nasri, is NOT easy on the eyes. He has long, greasy hair, had his shirt unbuttoned to his navel, and wore those silly TOMS shoes with no socks. And he CANNOT dance. You'd think a band like Maroon 5 could get a better opener...Oh well.

Then on to the main event! Maroon 5 puts on a great show, with amazing lights that come down from the ceiling in different formations, and what incredible sound! The show started off strong with "Animals," and then there was a good mix of their older and new stuff; it was fun hearing those songs I listened to back in 8th grade, as well as the hits playing on the radio today. I was singing along to every song at the top of my lungs! Here's a list of my favorites:
Harder to Breathe
This Love
Love Somebody
Moves Like Jagger (Rozzi sang the Christina Aguilera part)
She Will Be Loved (Adam asked the crowd to put away their cell phones for this song, and most people cooperated!)
One More Night

And I do feel silly, but I know James Valentine (left) better for being the brother of Project Runway contestant Amanda Valentine than for his contribution to the band.

Here are some more photos for your viewing pleasure. I just can't believe how close we were!
The overhead lights were amazing! They moved to create different configurations!

We no longer hold up lighters at concerts. We are in the age of technology!
AMAZING SHOW! I would totally see them again in a heartbeat. And even though Adam Levine never took his shirt off, I did get to see the local version of this cut-out: 

"My innocent eyes! They burn!" Image found here: