Beantown Is Geektown

02-Nov-09 2:22 PM by
Filed under Potpourri, Star Trek, Star Wars; 4 comments.

The passing of Halloween means the holidays are nearly upon us — but if you're a geek in Boston, then there are far more significant festivities headed your way. The biggest and best celebrities of science fiction will be coming to Massachusetts for three different events this month:

• On Saturday, November 14th, the touring "Star Wars In Concert" comes to the TD Garden for both a 3:00 PM matinee and an 8:00 PM performance. The concert is described as "John Williams' breathtaking score from the epic Star Wars saga … performed by a live symphony orchestra and chorus, accompanied by a stunning video montage on an enormous LED screen." Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) has been narrating this concert, though it's unclear if that's only at specific venues. Us Bostonians are no stranger to hearing Mr. Williams' soundtracks performed live, as the composer is also the director emeritus of the renowned Boston Pops Orchestra and often serves as guest conductor, but a dedicated concert to this particular score is a rare treat. Tickets are $32.50, $52.50, or $72.50, plus applicable taxes and fees.

• That same weekend is the New England Fan Experience (NEFX) sci-fi convention. Star Trek headliners include Bostonian Leonard Nimoy (Spock Prime) as well as John de Lancie (Q), though the former will be available only on Saturday, competing with the aforementioned Star Wars concert. Online tickets (via a Web site that is remarkably reminiscent of a GeoCities page) are available through November 6th for $45 each, or for $50 at the door.

• NEFX 2009 is held a week earlier than in 2008, avoiding the conflict that occurred last year with the annual Super Megafest, traditionally held the weekend before Thanksgiving. That means this year, you can attend NEFX one week and Super Megafest the next! The latter is held in Framingham, less than a half-hour west of Boston. The expo — which features an unusual amalgam of sci-fi actors, comic book artists, TV show stars, and pro wrestlers — will this year present Brent Spiner (Star Trek's Data), Ray Park (Star Wars' Darth Maul and, more recently, G.I. Joe's Snake Eyes), and James Marsters (Buffy's Spike). In addition to signings, each star also has a half-hour Q&A session, though the schedule is unknowable prior to the event: an email from its coordinator informed me, "No, panels will not be posted on the site. Most celebs will do Q&A sessions both days. However sat is probably the better day to see more Q&A sessions." Last year I happened to show up just in time to see Jonathan Frakes; otherwise I would've been out of luck. The actual show floor is quite small but packs a lot into it. Tickets for the entire November 21-22 weekend are only $20.

Though the two conventions offer cheaper admittance than the orchestral concert, they also have the most potential to drain your allowance, based on how many celebrity autographs you want to go home with; typical fees range from $20 to $50 or more per signing. This will be my third Super Megafest, and I usually budget $100 for at least three autographs.

If you'll be attending either the Star Wars matinee or the Super Megafest, be sure to say hello to Showbits!

The Lonely Maiden Heist

08-Sep-09 12:17 PM by
Filed under Trailers; Comments Off on The Lonely Maiden Heist

Massachusetts has become home to a booming film industry, hosting such movies as Mall Cop, Fever Pitch, The Game Plan, The Proposal, and Pink Panther 2. Okay, so that's not exactly a winning track record — but I have to support the home team, right?

One film that came to my neighborhood was The Maiden Heist, shot primarily in Boston but partly at the Worcester Art Museum, just a block from my house. But after a one-night screening at the local performance hall, the final product never saw a wider release, with its planned May 29th theatrical debut being cancelled after the bankruptcy of its distributor. As NPR detailed, the film's home video rights had already been purchased, so the window for a silver screen release was not indefinite, as is often the case with films that sit on shelves for years. It's unfortunate that a comedy starring movie starring Morgan Freeman, William H. Macy, and Christopher Walken should not realize its potential, as these are some of my favorite actors.

On the other hand, the trailer for The Maiden Heist has to be one of the least funny previews I've ever seen. I don't know if it's the jokes that fall flat, or the presentation — could they have chosen and spliced different scenes together and gotten a better effect? — but this has to be one of the few comedic trailers that failed to elicit from me a guffaw, chuckle, or even a smirk:

Can talent of this caliber go wrong? Critics would say that's what happened with The Bucket List, which paired Morgan Freeman with Jack Nicholson. The film has only a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes — yet I liked it. Does liking a film others hated mean I have bad taste, or low standards? If so, perhaps I can redeem myself by not being in the minority who find little redeeming value in The Maiden Heist. I hope the DVD, releasing on October 27th, does well… but if it doesn't, then its cancelled theatrical run may've been a blessing in disguise.

Davis Advertising and YOU!

18-Dec-08 3:46 PM by
Filed under Films, On Stage, Potpourri; 5 comments.

I can't help but admire movie actors who are able to convey so much emotion and passion, because I know that the filmmaking process induces almost exactly the opposite. Big-budget films require inconvenient locations, long hours, and scenes shot seconds at a time, making it difficult to maintain energy from cut to cut.

I experience few of those challenges in my own avocation as a stage actor. Most of my work is in musicals like Brigadoon, or comedies such as Run For Your Wife!. But a good actor is a diverse one, and I try to reflect that in a portfolio that includes other media as well. I've worked on the silver screen before, but only as an extra, a role that's easy to miss. Recently, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to star in a commercial.

Davis Advertising of Worcester, Mass., recently wanted to create a short video for digital distribution in online and media press kits. They sent out some emails, which eventually circulated to a friend with whom I'd been in the chorus of the musical Camelot five years ago. When he saw that they were looking for a "clean-cut, Richie Cunningham type", he immediately thought of me — proving it's not who you know, but who knows you. A few emails with the advertising company and an agreement to shave my beard later, and I had the part.

Working with just two men behind the camera and only one in front of it proved a much more enjoyable experience than being a film extra. We were able to shoot multiple takes, change angles, and improve and improvise rapidly. I've been told that I am a good physical actor (think Donald O'Connor in Singin' in the Rain), and the format of this commercial suited that strength; I had all my lines down in no time flat! An hour of shooting and we were done — and a month later, the following commercial was unveiled:

(For those curious, the stock footage comes from the PSA "Are You Ready for Marriage?". Hat tip to Kahm!)

Thanks again to Jeff at Davis Advertising and Clyde from Sterling Community Theater for this, my first-ever commercial. It was a great experience and a new one to put on my theatrical résumé. I look forward to doing more such work!

It Looks Like Worcester's Day

06-Sep-07 12:02 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Films; 3 comments.

Here's a post of limited geographic appeal — but as I suspect many of my readers are concentrated in my area, here goes:

Worcester Living, a bimonthly magazine of Central Massachusetts, recently printed an interview with Templeton native and resident Richard S. Kendall. The article is a fascinating look at not only Mr. Kendall's story, but also the films, stars, and visual techniques he encountered in his years as a special effects artist. His credits are far more numerous than his IMDb profile suggests, including TRON, Fantastic Voyage, the original The Poseidon Adventure, Planet of the Apes, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, among others. The picture of him being fed by Marilyn Monroe is one any red-blooded American would kill to be in. Unfortunately, since Worcester Living is an entirely print publication, you'll find no trace of the interview or its assets on their Web site.

A few weeks later, Worcester Magazine ran an interview with Kaz Gamble. Besides being part of the team behind the oft-delayed local independent film We Got the Beat, Mr. Gamble is also working on a documentary of my current stomping grounds of Worcester, Massachusetts. Here's what scene from his own life he would incorporate to epitomize Worcester:

We're on Richmond Street, getting out of St. Mary's — and that block itself looks like urban vibe — and some kids have a bus pass, so we leave there, take the bus downtown, hang out there, go to the Midtown Mall arcade, eat there in the mall, then the girls would try to flirt with us, and we leave, take the bus back out to the neighborhood, and going up to Holy Cross hill, all the houses there, the nice lawns, not like all the three-deckers, and in the evening, I would call dad to pick me up.

There are some pretty dull documentaries out there that consist of little more than pointing a camera at someone and presenting what they have to say, if anything; then there are fantastic documentaries that use that model as a base, but incorporate extensive editing and special effects to create a cohesive narrative. I hope Mr. Gamble has the wisdom to present this unique city as effectively as its rich history and unique culture deserve.