Avatar in 3D at Roseway Theater Reviewed

AvatarI want to love Avatar, I really do. Almost everything that Director James Cameron has touted about the film over the past few years is absolutely true. The film absolutely breaks new ground visually with the best use of 3D I’ve seen in a narrative film (the best use of 3D overall I still think is U23D). Visually it is simply stunning. The world of Avatar is one of visual delights which rivals almost any film I’ve seen. The character animation is as close to human as I’ve ever seen. No films have had CGI characters and creatures which feel so alive. For the most part, Avatar is wonderfully acted. Sam Worthington is superb as Jake Sully, crippled Marine set free through the use of an avatar. Zoe Slanda is also fantastic in the lead female role, Neytiri, a Na’vi trying to protect her homeland from the invading humans. Even CCH Pounder puts in a stand out performance in a supporting role.

Unfortunately Avatar isn’t everything that it could be, or even should be. Side by side strong performances are some ridiculously bad ones. Giovanni Ribisi is laughably bad as a corporate boss focused on acquiring “unobtainium” from the land beneath the Na’vi. Stephen Lang is straight out from a bad Steven Segal or Jean Claude Van Damm movie as a Marine who will hit his objective at all costs. Also, I’m sad to report the actual Avatar script is extraordinarily predictable and uneven. Plot turns are so ridiculously linear and easily anticipated that there rarely is any sense of surprise in the story. Some of the dialogue is also extremely bad, laughably so (expect them to become rampantly overused as Twitter updates and Facebook statuses for months to come).

But with all its faults, Avatar isn’t a bad movie. Aside from the pure visual spectacle, there are some genuinely magical moments. In it’s 2 1/2 hour running time there are definite sections which pull you in and help make you forget the films many faults. And yet, Avatar fails at becoming a great film. James Cameron clearly has all the tools to create legendary cinema, and yet he fails here, relying on a bad script and some poor actors who knock his film out of contention for being truly great.

This of course leaves us with the essential question: should you go see Avatar? Even given all its faults and imperfections I’m recommending that, yes, you go see this film. Avatar is worth the price of admission for the visual spectacle alone, and it does deliver an extraordinary experience. But I’d strongly advise going into it with the understanding that it is a very imperfect film, that it has some really significant faults, and to be truly enjoyed those faults need to be ignored or forgiven.

Avatar is an exciting piece of cinema, its technological achievement will surely have a major impact on films that follow it. It also is the ‘killer app’ for 3D movies and is probably the film which will be credited with keeping 3D around and not letting pass as a fad. It’s just a shame that it couldn’t have been a great film.

If you’re going to see Avatar in Portland, I HIGHLY recommend you see it in 3D at The Roseway Theater. The Roseway is the best movie theater experience in Portland with the best digital projection and sound and it would be an absolute shame to see this movie any other way. The Roseway Theater is Located at 7229 SE Sandy Blvd. Avatar has a midnight showing on Friday December 18th and then runs 12:00 3:30 7:00 10:30.  You can also follow the Roseway on twitter at @rosewaytheater for updated showtimes and more.


Bob Saget in Portland – A Review

Bob Saget
Bob Saget

Many people may still see Bob Saget as Danny Tanner, the wholesome Dad from the late 80’s and early 90’s sitcom Full House. Or perhaps they see him as the goofy host of America’s Funniest Home Videos. However, if those people were to catch Bob Saget doing standup they’d realize he’s actually one of the dirtiest comedians performing today. Saget plays a lot with these clashing perceptions in very much the same way a five year old takes pleasure in saying the word ‘shit’. It’s a mix of shock, amusement and perhaps delight in shaking people’s perceptions.

Saget embraces his dirty side right off the bat, joking about his love life and the possible paternity connection to some of the people in the audience. Saget spends a lot of time poking fun at himself and his own image, even telling a story about how someone yelled “I suck dick for coke” to him while he was spending time with his mom. He follows with a volley of dick jokes, the rapid fire approach finding some hitting their mark and some missing, but Sagat is cool, comfortable and at ease as he lobs his jokes into the audience.. The first part of Saget’s show felt very alive and unstructured and featured a lot of off the cuff and improvised material. Many of the evening’s funniest moments came out of this part of the show and his unrehearsed interactions with the audience. I enjoyed the fact that Saget’s opening was all over the place. For a comedian who has been around quite a long time it’s great to experience their raw sense of humor, something that is much more alive than the general schtick that they become known for.

After Saget was done playing with the audience, he moved into a segment of jokes that came from his father Benjamin Saget. In both a tribute to his dad and an explanation of “why I’m like this”, Saget told a number of wonderful and charming dirty jokes.

Picking up a guitar, Saget transitioned from telling jokes to singing them and he played several humorous songs to the audience, many of which he’s performed on his HBO special or on TV. My favorites of his songs were “My Dog Licked My Balls“, “Old English Folk Song” and “Danny Tanner Was Not Gay” (which he closed his show with).

In all Saget delivered a really solid night of comedy. His complete comfort and ease on stage and his wonderfully dirty sense of humor are an absolute delight to watch. I liked how Saget moved through different styles of comedy and seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself onstage. Unfortunately, Saget’s opener, Ryan Stout, was the opposite of Saget, with humor overly contrived and uncomfortable. Stout seemed to be trying to play in the same space that Michael Ian Black does but without the charm. Stout does a have a sharp sense of humor, but  he needs to find a way to be more authentic with his routine and material and perhaps learn some ease from Saget. (Also, an opening act shouldn’t keep checking his watch – it’s bad form).

For more info on Bob Saget:


Shop Local Portland – Amy Ruppel

Amy Rupel's Oregon
Amy Ruppel's Oregon

Now that the buy binge that is Black Friday has come and gone and you’ve snagged those $10 Blu-Rays from big box retailers and other doorbusters it’s time to open your wallet and support many of the great businesses, caftspeople and artists here in Portland.

I’m not knocking snagging some of those cheap cyber monday deals it’s just extremely important to support local.  In our first spotlight on a local business or artist you should support is Amy Ruppel. Amy is well known to many of you who follow the local art scene and she’s one of the artists who have made birds such a fashion and art craze here in Portland.

Although Amy might be best known for her birds it’s her new Oregon print entitled “home” that we’re crazy about. Amy is only doing 100 of these limited edition signed prints at only $40 each.  This is an insanely cheap price considering that Amy’s ‘stock’ is on the rise. Amy is working on a super secret project that will be getting her HUGE national exposure in 2010!  In addition to the Oregon print, Amy has a wide variety of holiday sized and priced works for sale. You can order these online or catch her along with MANY other amazing artists at the Crafty Wonderland on Sunday December 13th at the Oregon Convention Center 11am-7pm

For more information on Amy Ruppel:


The Santaland Diaries with Wade McCollum Review

Wade McCollum in Portland Center Stage's The Santaland Diaries
Wade McCollum in Portland Center Stage's The Santaland Diaries

Wade McCollum is one of the select few performers in Portland that makes whatever performance he’s in one worth seeing. One of the most entertaining and likable people on stage in Portland, McCollum consistently delivers exciting and engaging performances well worth the price of admission. With Portland Center Stage‘s production of David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries we get just over an hour of pure McCollum.

The Santaland Diaries follows one fatefully holiday season when Sedaris decided to work as “Crumpet” an elf in Macy’s New York Santaland. The play takes place during Sedaris’ leaner starving artist period, long before he became a household name for his dry, witty and offen askewed humor. McCollum does an excellent job of capturing Sedaris’ wit and humor while making his performance feel very real and immediate. During the first part of the monologue McCollum reaches out to the audience to directly connect what he’s saying with people in the crowd. He acts more like a guy telling a wild tale at a party than someone on a stage.

As the piece continues more and more characters enter the story and McCollum literally embodies each with pitch perfect vocal and facial technique. McCollum does more than impersonate people he channels them and this makes this one man show feel like it’s populated by an entire cast of characters. One of the risks of McCollum’s Jim Carrey like talent is that he’d get so lost in all the characters he’d lose the sincere undertone of the piece. McCollum seems keenly aware of this and adeptly plays a wide range of emotional notes throughout the piece, ultimately leading a crescendo of emotion that feels as genuine and sincere as if it had really happened to McCollum himself.

Sedaris’ piece itself is far from perfect. There are definite highs and lows to it. The closer the piece gets to Christmas Eve the more rushed and muddled it becomes. But it does finally hit its mark as it covers the flood of last minute Christmas shoppers all clamoring for their chance to hang with Santa. If you aren’t a fan of One Life To Live (which I am not) there are a good number of jokes and references which will go right over your head.

The real reason to see The Santaland Diaries isn’t really for David Sedaris’ humor or even because it’s a nice holiday tale, it’s Wade McCollum. McCollum is so eminently entertaining, any time he steps on stage with this kind of electric energy it’s absolutely worth seeing and The Santaland Diaries is no exception.

The Santaland Diaries runs through January 2nd at Portland Center Stage. Tickets $44-$49. Due to demand the show won’t have any rush tickets.

For More info on The Santaland Diaries with Wade McCollum: