Jenna Miscavige Hill
What does a non-Scientologist really know about Scientology? Close to nothing, other than Tom Cruise is a member. In her memoir, Jenna Miscavige Hill leaves no stone unturned; revealing her truth about Scientology. As the niece of Dave Miscavige, head of the church, Hill was born and raised in its epicenter. Beyond Belief tells of her life in Sea Org, where only the most devout serve, and of her escape. In gripping language, she exposes Scientology practices: separation of children and parents, indoctrination to serve the good of the church, blind obedience, and lack of personal freedom – just to name a few.
Agatha Christie: An Autobiography
Despite her popularity and fame during her lifetime, Agatha Christie hid her private life from the press with fierce passion. This book broke the silence. Reprinted in 2010 after the discovery of original dictation reels and photographs from various points of her life, this autobiography is a delightful adventure. Christie’s style of writing prose is easily recognizable in her dictation – charming and distinctly British. She feels no constraint of chronology – she moves from memory to memory as she pleases, talking of her time in World War II, her travels, her Victorian childhood and her career. Accessable and intriguing, this memoir will leave you feeling like you’ve discovered an inspiring, long-lost grandmother.
Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism
Edited by Kira Cochrane
The feminist movement is the culmination of struggle across decades. It started as a small group of frustrated women with limited resources then came to a climax as women gathered for the first women’s liberation conference in the 1970s. Kira Cochrane brings together some of the best and brightest of feminists essays from the 1970s to 2011, plus interviews with Maya Angelou, Naomi Wolf, and Oprah Winfrey. No two essays agree completely – so readers may find themselves wanting to throw the book across the room as often as they nod in agreement and satisfaction that their opinions have been echoed by the eloquence of the contributors.
By Sally Morgan
Australian Aborigines have suffered racism since British colonization in 1788, with such stigma still attached to being Aboriginal in the 1950s, that Sally Morgan’s mother lied to her saying she was really Indian. Only when she is 15 does Morgan learn the lie of her ethnicityand starts to uncover her history. Morgan’s writing is straightforward but tells an engrossing tale of self-discovery. When she began the search she was rejected by Aboriginals who lived through the worst of Australia’s oppression – and believed that a book would only bring them more hardship. In the end, Morgan captured the stories –sadness, joy, and triumph– of three generations, and created a place for them to be heard.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
An autobiography implies a story told from memories – but how accurate is an autobiography where your memories are destroyed by brain disease. Cahalan’s memories of her time in the hospital are fleeting at best, and rarely lucid ones. She writes with journalistic guile and innovation, composing the story from hospital records, surveillence video, and interviews with the people who were there. Though her elegant writing makes the medical jargon easy to understand, Cahalan is brutally honest and matter of fact as she takes us through a chilling descent into the inexplicable madness caused by disease – a plunge she might not have survived had it not been for the constant devotion of her doctor and family.
A Stolen Life: A Memoir
Too often kidnapping survivors don’t feel safe telling their story themselves – they can’t actually make the reader understand the horror of the actual experience. These stories that produce vague feelings of sympathy and upset for the victims, but cannot accurately convey the kidnapping, miraculous survival and escape. However, Jaycee Dugard has conquered the task. Her story is told as she remembers it, without warning or foreknowledge. She looks back with healing and understanding that an eleven-year-old girl could never have had, bringing scarily clear context to actions and events. Not a happy memoir but a brilliant and powerful one that testifies to the strength of her human spirit.
This score could be nothing less than perfect considering it is all the audience hears, and was proven to be perfect by winning a BAFTA, an Oscar and the Golden Globe for Best Musical Score. Composed by Ludovic Bource and performed by the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra, the different tracks do a splendid job at conveying the film’s humor, intensity, and romance in the place of words and sound effects.
It’s not surprising customer reviews relay the soundtrack as not leaving a listener in ‘a happy mood.’ This soundtrack was mostly composed by Nino Rota (also known for composing La Dolce Vita and a few Shakespeare films) but has a few contributions from artists Johnny Farrow, Marty Symes and Carmine Coppola. So, if ever yearning for the intensity of a mafia head’s struggle with power and influence, pop in this tune! Really gets that party going!
John Williams composes and directs an orchestral symphony of iconic music scores to compliment the classic tale of intergalactic struggle between good and evil. The theme is as instantly evocative as such favorites as Bond and Raiders, often with a vivid instant flashback to where and when you first saw it.
Superfly’s soundtrack, also the third studio album release by funk musician Curtis Mayfield, was an immediate hit after its release in July 1972. Considered to be a classic funk and soul album, it has been recognized by VH1 as the 63rd greatest album of all time, as well as number 72 on Rolling Stones’ list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (right behind Paul Simon’s Graceland, pretty big!). Superfly is also one of the rare soundtracks to out-gross the film it was made for. Good, good funky stuff.
Chariots of Fire
Scored by Greek electronic composer Vangelis, this soundtrack has some pretty admirable feats. It won an Academy Award for Original Music Score, held the Billboard Top 200 charts for four weeks, and its first track, “Titles,” is considered by some as the most recognizable piece of music on the globe. Vangelis says he was inspired by the story itself when creating the score, which, after listening, evokes a mix of trance and motivation.Into the Wild
Sean Penn, the film’s director, handpicked Eddie Vedder to compose the soundtrack to this moving tale of a young man in pursuit of natural freedom. A blend of folksy melodies with intermediate rock and roll appearances, Vedder’s music is an extended meditation on the existential notion of freedom.
Jeff Bridges truly is a gem in the entertainment industry, and his performance as a weathered country singer is no exception (He actually had to make a choice between acting and singing professionally). His arresting performances of honky tonk, heartache, and Western grit ring of male bravado and tenderness that Bridges pulls off to the delight of both movie and music fans.
West Side Story
European Renaissance Romeo and Juliet, meet 1950s Tony and Maria of the Upper West Side in Manhattan. The tale of these “star-crossed lovers” is told through catchy musical dance numbers that sonically depict the discrimination and assimilation of Puerto Ricans in New York City. (Shot on location on the West Side where the Lincoln Centre complex now stands.)
Western Classic, meet Mel Brooks. And Gene Wilder. You’ve got your protangonists to cheer for, your villain to hate, damsels in distress to scream at for being so ditsy, and cheeky humor that only Mel Brooks can create. And to the shame of the USA the fart scene still can only be shown on network tv with no sound, just smells. Oh , AND nobody is immune from having the piss taken out of them. It’s the forerunner of Eastwood’s Unforgiven but with more laughs.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
In 1960s Manhattan, Audrey Hepburn embodies the identity of a free spirited woman coveting the lifestyle of the wealthy, who lives in the apartment beneath a struggling male author being financially supported by a married cougar. Both at crossroads in their lives, this iconic classic demonstrates that love cannot be defined by identity or money, but by souls. Who in NYC hasn’t lived this story for real?
Religious extremist? Check. High School Bullying? Check. Social hierachy? Check. The 1970s public school system is no place for a sheltered and shy teenager brainwashed by her mother’s restrictive view of reality. A telekinetic girl who snaps and kills her classmates after a traumatizing high school prom? Check. It took Sissy a long time to get a date after this.
A love triangle and a clusterfuck make for a classic war-torn love story. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman play former lovers reunited in Morocco during WW2. But when the husband comes back into the picture, who will be the bigger man, and who will get the girl? Great flashbacks of pre-war Paris, great prop styling with cardboard aeroplanes and a great example of the mystery of movie magic.
Classic tale of good girl meets bad boy. Jennifer Grey is a daddy’s girl who finds confidence and independence from her father’s expectations through dancing on stage and off stage with a mysteriously sexy dance instructor at a summer resort. Guys it’s worth watching just for the behind-the-scenes dance sequence at the staff party. Swayze was never really convincing as a tough guy but as a dancer (his original ouevre) he certainly was up there.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Another one of Steven Spielberg’s biggest hits, this film is boasted by some (well, notably, Rotten Tomatoes) as ‘the greatest science fiction film ever made.’ E.T.-the Extra-Terrestrial is based on the sweet story of a lonely boy who befriends an alien he discovers in the woods and tries to help him back to his not-earth home with the help of his brother and sister. Interesting fact: this film was shot in chronological order to keep the emotions of the young cast well-developed and, in turn, more believable. Also something of an allegorical tale but that’s another story.
Directed by William Friedkin, this chilling horror film classic from 1973 is about a 12-year-old’s demonic possession and her mother’s desperate attempts at freeing her from the evil spirit. Based on the true story of Roland Doe’s exorcism in 1949, this film’s eerie head-spinning and aggressive projectile-vomiting will surely still scare the piss out-a-ya.
(There are Boomers who still haven’t steeled themselves to watch this.)
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
This 1966 ‘epic spaghetti western’ (i.e. Italian-directed western) is best known for it’s sweeping cinematography and famous film score. About a bounty hunting scam and a race to find a buried fortune in a cemetery, the legendary Clint Eastwood (the “good) with Lee Van Cleef (the “bad”) and Eli Wallach (the “ugly) deliver some good ole’ fashioned western adventure. (It was a toss-up as to which one of the early “Clints” to include but Eli Wallach clinched it.)
Based on the novel by Michael Crichton (1990), Jurassic Park is one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest science-fiction adventure films. The basic concept – regenerating past life from dna – blew our collective imaginations 25 years ago. Especially after a power outage sets the cloned dinosaurs free and craziness ensues. It certainly had you on the edge of your seat when it came out –may even still now, and the CGI is surprisingly convincing even compared to the top-notch movie technology of today.
Monty Python & The Holy Grail
An instant success upon its release in 1975, it is considered Monty Python’s first proper film. The story is a parody on King Arthur’s search for the Holy Grail and the silly encounters him and his knights experience along the way. Witty and sophomoric, a famous quote to portray the humor in a nutshell: “I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.” Its success led to “Life Of Brian” where the Pythons took hilarious aim at religious belief… and took some serious shit for it.
A ‘Royale with Cheese’ of modern cinema and one of Quentin Tarantino’s best works, this film is dark, thrilling, and comedic and established a genre and a standard that has been much imitated but never equalled. The plot (in taking shots at various American sacred cows) is this awesomely twisted, non-linear tale of four intertwining stories (follow me here) of two gangsters, a mobster’s girlfriend, a boxer, his father’s watch, an S&M gun nut, and a couple of diner bandits. With its star-studded cast, animation bits, philosophical exchanges and spot on social commentary, it’s a movie everyone watches over and over… and quotes verbatim.
The Big Lebowski
The Coen Brothers prove their craft well in this amazingly hilarious, wild, and cunning film directed and written by the Hollywood duo. Based on “Dude” Lebowski, an avid bowler and slacker, being mistaken for a millionaire Lebowski, you follow the strange and winding consequences of the Dude’s search for restitution over a living room rug. This movie struck such a chord it has the biggest cult following of any of Hollywood’s output. Pour yourself a white russian and enjoy; the Dude abides!
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera – even if one knows nothing about this show, they nonetheless can probably warble out “The Phaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaantom of the Opera is here… Inside my mind.” It’s a show that even musical haters are forced to give a nod to for its theatrical production values (and bank numbers – this show has grossed far more than films ‘Titanic’ or ‘Avatar’ could ever hope to). Designed back in the ‘80s and little changed, the costumes remain devastatingly gorgeous and the set design rises above all given the range of periods, moods, and feelings it must evoke in its audience.
Gerónimo Rauch is the Phantom and Sofia Escobar is Christine Daae. Both offer wonderfully skillful singing, (necessary when you’re singing in operatic ranges) though perhaps the acting could be a little less stiff (necessary when you’re on the musical stage).
Running for 25 years without a break and still attracting a queue that can wrap around the block three times, the production currently stars Hugh Panaro as the Phantom and Mary Michael Patterson as Christine Daae
A mother, her daughter, and three possible fathers – and the daughter is determined to figure out which one it is before her wedding day. With a story based on the music of ABBA – or perhaps more truthfully built around the songs – Mamma Mia! is one of those musicals you have to be ready for. It’s not high theater by any means. It’s not a classical production wanting its audiences to read political subtext in. It’s not supposed to be. Mamma Mia! offers a good time and delivers it in the form of loud costumes and pop tunes – you just have to be open to having a silly, fun time.
Emma Crossley is Sophie Sheridan. Dianne Pilkington plays mother Donna (previously having played Galinda in Wicked, if you need an indication of why she’s good to lead a musical).
Judy McLane previously played Tanya in Mamma Mia, but has now stepped into the role of Donna Sheridan – Laurie Veldheer plays daughter Sophie Sheridan after a Broadway debut in Newsies.
The Lion King
Who didn’t love this movie when it first came out? Who doesn’t still love it still – now as a musical with a brilliant soundtrack? (And if you just raised your hand, put it back down, you are dead to me.) I still remember being blown away by the beauty of the masks, puppets, and music when I saw The Lion King, and now, years later, audiences are still feeling the same awe. The kids are adorable, the adults will bring you to tears, and there’s no such thing as an actor manipulating a puppet when you watch them up on stage – it’s all absolutely real.
Jonathan Andrew Hume is Simba, Melina M’Poy is Nala and there are so many adorable kids playing Young Simba and Young Nala you’ll have a hard time picking a favorite.
Broadway debutees Aaron Nelson and Chantel Riley are Simba and Nala, while Alton Fitzgerald White continues a decade of being BAMF King Mufasa.
It’s only been out for two years in London, and far less in America, but Matilda may be the best new musical we’ve seen in years. Well away from the vapidity of many modern stories, Matilda revels in everything subversive – just as Roald Dahl did when writing it. The fact that the plot and music are gleeful in their nastiness allows adults to read between the lines with a sharp stab taken at the child-rearing trend of overindulgence and special snowflakeyness, while the atmosphere of the story remains true to a child’s tale.
Alex Gaumond takes over as Miss Trunchbull, while James Clyde and Kay Murphy portray Matilda’s dad and mom.
Miss Trunchbull continues to be played by a man in drag (this time by Craig Bierko), while Gabriel Ebert and Lesli Margherita play Matilda’s dad and mom.
An Irish singer, Guy, fixes vacuums by day and plays his music in pubs by night. About to give up, he is discovered by a Czech immigrant called ‘Girl’ who refuses to let him. Not an adaption of a book, but an adaption of a movie, Once is a small-scale musical – or as small as a musical can ever be in scale. Due to the nature of the story, it feels much more like play with music as there is no spontaneous song-bursting. Instead the music is a natural part of the flow of the production – and none of it makes for overindulgence in cheesy lines.
Declan Bennett is Guy in his theatrical debut; Zrinka Cvitesic –is a Croatian actress who has won several awards, will portray Girl.
Guy – Arthur Darvill (you might know him better as Doctor Who’s Rory). Girl – Joanna Christie (of the Equus revival with Dan Radcliffe).
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