Movie Review Night at the Museum Battle of the Smithsonian

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian opened on Memorial Day Weekend. A sequel to the original movie, this one takes off a few months later when Larry Daley has left his job as night watchman and becomes a pitch guy for infomercials. A visit to the museum finds that it is closing down, and all the artifacts that come to life at night will be locked in storage at the Smithsonian Institute never to rise again. Attempts are made to stop the transfer, but evil artifacts rise to try to take over the world. An epic battle of characters throughout history who take sides in the Battle of the Smithsonian.

A fun movie with interesting new characters alongside favorites from the original movie. Well told story that is very funny in places.

4 out of 5 stars.

Published in: on May 26, 2009 at 7:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Movie Review Angels and Demons

Went to our local theater to watch the new Ron Howard movie “Angels and Demons” over Memorial Day weekend. I liked it.

There’s an ancient secret society of scientists who are apparently trying get even with the Catholic Church in Rome for dissing scientists, since Galileo, for trying to prove things scientifically that would be contrary to religious beliefs. “Angels and Demons” is a mystery adventure through the ancient city of Rome that takes us from church to church in a race against time while the Vatican is trying to elect a new Pope.

Learn a lot about art, symbolism, security, Vatican City, Papal election protocol, and the dangers of anti-matter. A fast paced interesting whopper of a story that is believable.

4 out of 5 stars.

Published in: on May 24, 2009 at 6:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Movie Review Terminator Salvation

Anticipating the latest addition to the Terminator franchise, I was excited to go to the theater on Memorial Day weekend to watch Terminator: Salvation. They should have terminated the franchise after viewing the script for this one. Salvation is a made-for-TV version of a once iconic series. No one should have to pay to see this movie. The plot is o.k., the action is poor, and the graphics are average, at best.

Most of the film was shot in the dark and the two main characters were too similar in appearance. The guys who played John Connor and Marcus Wright could have been brothers–it was often difficult to tell them apart. Props to Anton Yelchin who played Kyle Reese–the best reason to watch this movie–a believable character with enthusiasm and charisma.

Basically, the story is about a guy who is mostly man but part machine who comes on the scene to help the resistance destroy the machines’ North American headquarters. The humans are skeptical of him when they find out what he is made of. He is either their savior or their nemesis in disguise. A decent movie, but not worthy of the big screen.

Two out of five stars.

Published in: on May 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Catch Phrases

I have always wanted my own catch phrase–a line that could be synonymous with me. I remember “Hawaii Five-O” had Steve McGarrett ending each show with “Book’em, Danno”. It seemed like everyone was saying “book ’em”, back in the day. Arnold Schwarzenegger said “I’ll be back” in the “Terminator” movie and I still say it when I plan on returning. The Budweiser commercials coined “Whazzup?”, it still makes me laugh to say it or hear it.

Dwayne Johnson, “The Rock” from pro wrestling fame had so many catch phrases, it’s hard to remember them all. His monologue always started with “finally, the Rock has come back to ____”, he called everybody a “Jabronie”, his opponents had to go “one-on-one with the Great one”, he told people who dissed him to “know your role”, and he ended every interview with “if ya smell-l-l-l-l what the Rock is cooking”.

Flashback to 1999 when we first moved to Jonesville and bought the Munro House Bed and Breakfast. The neighborhood kids loved coming over to our house. Our house is big, we welcome kids, and we have a big candy dish by the front door. We let the kids come over, but not just to grab some candy. They had to spend time with us and tell us about their day before they could grab a Snickers, Kit-Kat, or Tootsie Roll. My role was the chief caretaker of the house, so it seemed like I was always home. The kids would greet me formally by addressing me as “Mr. Venturini” and we sould spend a little time together. For a lot of kids, a name with 4 syllables is a mouthful, so my wife, Lori, said, “just call him ‘Mr. Mike'”. I liked that.

Flash forward to 2009, and the neighborhood kids, their parents, my friends, and even my wife refer to me as Mr. Mike. I like the informal authority the moniker gives me. A few years ago, I did something outstanding in the presence of the neighbor kids and I jokingly asked “Who’s the man?” In unison, they responded, “you are, Mr. Mike!” My catch phrase was born.

These days, when I move something heavy I’ll ask “who’s the man?” and Lori will say (in a high-pitched voice), “you are, Mr. Mike!” My buddies respond with equal enthusiasm when I get a strike at the bowling alley, make a 3-pointer on the basketball court, or make a fairly awesome shot on the golf course. I get the same reply when working on projects with friends around the house or in the yard.

My wife even made me an apron that says “When I say who’s the man”, you respond “you are, Mr. Mike!” Our guests read it while I’m interacting with them over breakfast, and when I get a chef’s compliment after breakfast, I’ll ask “so-o-o, who’s the man?” and they all reply “you are, Mr. Mike!” It makes me smile.

Just this week, I had 4 groups of 30 fourth graders from Williams Elementary School over for a tour of our historic house and a lesson on the history of Jonesville. After the tours, I would ask them if I could take a group photo for the internet. I lined them up and prepped them on my catch phrase and flashed the photo while they responded with the proper line.

I was working in my front yard on Friday as the school buses were passing my house. I noticed that all of the windows were down and the bus brakes were squealing a bit as it slowed down for an upcoming intersection. Suddenly, I heard the bus driver yell “WHO’S THE MAN?” and all the kids on my side of the bus put their faces in the windows and waved as they yelled out “MR. MIKE!” It makes my day to think that in some people’s eyes, I am “the man”, at least for a moment.

Mike Venturini – Innkeeper

“Life is good in Jonesville”

Published in: on May 24, 2009 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Adam Lambert Is Not the New American Idol – Kris Allen Is

kris allenThe results have been announced and no one is more surprised than Kris Allen, our new American Idol. The look of shock on his face when he found out that he had beaten Adam Lambert for the title was genuine. Kris had been the dark horse, but had been improving his game every week. He had started out with a remote chance, and kept using the judges’ comments to improve each week. Kris had a couple of poor performances along the way, but someone else was always worse, and Kris was able to take that experience to make sure it didn’t happen two weeks in a row.

The biggest single thing that helped Kris Allen win the contest was Simon Cowell’s suggestion early in the competition to stop mentioning that he had a wife. To repeatedly mention that fact would surely have alienated a large share of his young female fan base. Kris took this advice, and all the other suggestions and used it to win the big prize.

Adam Lambert was almost crowned the next American Idol with comments like “we’ll see you in the finals” by Paula Abdul and Kara DioGaurdi saying that as an artist he is “iconic”.  The people still were in control of voting for who they wanted to win despite the judge’s compliments. Adam was extremely congenial in congratulating the guy who beat him in the finals. I heard Kris say “Adam deserves this”.

Kris Allen’s confidence is higher than ever, but it still has a way to go. His rendition of the American Idol song “No Boundaries” was the better of the two finalists. It is sad to think that that crappy song was the deciding factor of who would become the next American Idol. Adam was the most consistant performer for the entire competition. The people decided that he may be a great artist, but he is not who they want to represent them as America’s Pop Idol.

Nearly a hundred million votes were cast–a new Idol record.  There could have been more.  I attempted to vote continuously for 2 hours and only got through 3 times.

The American idol competition has evolved into something that is no longer a winner-take-all prize.  I expect big things from the top 4 contestants, and I expect the people from American Idol to make sure that there will be more than one new pop star in America.

Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 8:32 am  Comments (1)  
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Adam Lambert on American Idol -9- The Final Performances

Adam Lambert Kris AllenThis is the last night of the season that decides who will be the newest American Idol. Kris Allen won the coin toss and elected to go second. It is almost always a good choice to go second in this competition. The second performer knows what it will take to beat the first performance. The final performance is almost always the most remembered.

Ryan Seacrest announced that each contestant would perform 3 songs–their favorite previously performed song from this season, a song chosen by Simon Fuller–the creator of American Idol, and the AI single co-written by American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi. The AI single is almost always sappy and geared toward a female voice.  With 2 guys left in the competition, it will be amusing to hear the Idol song for the first time.

Adam started with his favorite song–“Mad World”. He walked through the stage fog wearing a long trench coat, dressed completely in black, and was outstanding–the judges agreed, except Simon Cowell who thought it was too theatrical. There was no doubt that the vocals were right on. The performance was even more haunting than the first time he did it.

Kris chose “Ain’t no Sunshine” and accompanied himself on piano. He was outstanding and the judges agreed. He chose the right song and performed it flawlessly. I thought the competition was even after the first song, Simon gave round one to Kris.

Simon Fuller chose Sam Cooke’s “Change Is Gonna Come” for Adam. He came out in a silver suit and gave an emotional performance.  It was definitely a challenging song for Adam’s style, and he knocked it out! The female judges said it was his best performance and interpretation of the season.

Kris got Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and accompanied himself on guitar. The judges were not unanimous about his interpretation and performance. It was just good.

Adam did the best he could with the Idol song, “No Boundaries”. It is an awful song that we had to suffer through. I disregarded the performance completely.

Kris sang the same Idol song, “No Boundaries”. He did a better job, but it’s still horrible.

The judges had to compliment the song due to peer pressure. They disregarded the performances of the final song and hoped that the fans would base their votes on the quality of the entire season’s work. Adam Lambert has been a star since the beginning. Kris Allen has steadily improved to star quality. It could be a close one.

I’ve been sitting on the couch at the Munro House with an ice cold beverage in my red Coca-Cola judges glass, watching Glee, and trying to vote.  Ninety minutes of mostly busy signals. Only one vote logged so far.

Adam Lambert Finals

Published in: on May 19, 2009 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ark in Ann Arbor Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers

roger clyne and the peacemakersI have been a fan of “the Refreshments” since the mid nineties. They are a group of guys from Arizona with influences from rock, country, and Mexico. After a couple of very good albums, they were forced to change the name of their band because someone else claimed to have held the name “Refreshments” longer. So, they became “Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers”. Their lead guitar player Steve Larson has recently left the band for other projects and has been replaced by Jim Dalton. Jim learned the music quick–the band didn’t miss a beat.

The Peacemmakers have made more albums and have been coming to Michigan for the past several years. Recently, the Magic Bag in Ferndale had been the chosen venue. It is a movie theater type auditorium with tiered sections facing the front of the stage. There is seating at the top tier and along the sides with all other areas open to stand or dance. Capacity of about 350.

Last night we went to the Ark in Ann Arbor to see Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers. It is more of a semi circle venue with many seats at angles to the stage. There is seating for every ticket holder. Some are cusioned theater seats, some are chairs along a bar rail, and some are chairs at small tables. Some seats are reserved and some are general admission. The reserved seats face the front of the stage. We took general admission seats and chose to sit in the back row stage right–row number 11! All the seating is very close to the performers.  Capacity of about 400. Acoustically, this was the best venue I have ever experienced. Patrons are required to buy a membership in order to purchase alcohol, so the line of newbies was pretty long but fairly quick.

Roger claimed that they had to hustle through the set because the Ark has an 11:00 curfew. They broke the curfew and played 4 songs after 11. As always, the Peacemakers rocked the house!  Below is the set list from 5/16/2009:

  1. Wanted
  2. Americano
  3. Hello New Day
  4. Banditos
  5. I Speak Your Language
  6. Contraband
  7. Mercy
  8. Mexico
  9. Tell Yer Mama
  10. Maybe We Should Fall in Love
  11. Dolly
  12. World Ain’t Gone Crazy
  13. Down Together
  14. West Texas Moon
  15. Loco to Stay Sane
  16. Girly
  17. Yahoos & Triangles
  18. Honky Tonk Union
  19. I Know You Know
  20. Jack vs. Jose
  21. Mekong
  22. Blue Collar Suicide
  23. Green & Dumb
  24. Counterclockwise
  25. Nada
  26. I Do
Published in: on May 17, 2009 at 12:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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American Idol Lip Sync? 10 Hometown Heroes Results Night

final threeBen Stiller and the cast of the new movie “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” started the show promoting the opening this weekend. They also announced that the American Idol judges table would be the latest item of pop culture to be added to the museum.

Ryan Seacrest mentioned that 88 million votes were cast and just 1 million separated the top two vote getters.

“Break My Stride” Ford Video had the idols transforming obstacles with comic book powers to go for a ride in their car.

A young man named Noah from Rwanda sang a song he learned in English just this week. It was an upbeat song with hard to understand lyrics and a weird mix of voices–very probably performed live–not a lip sync.

Videos were shown of the idol’s return to their hometowns. Danny Gokey was filmed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kris Allen went to Conway, Arkansas, and Adam Lambert was seen in San Diego, California. All were shown on local TV and radio programs along with a day’s worth of personal appearances. Tens of thousands of fans turned out for each of the homecomings.

Jordan Sparks, the season six American Idol winner, sang her new song “Battlefield”. It was definitely live, and just alright.

Katy Perry sang her new song “Waking Up in Vegas”. She appeared wearing an Elvis-like costume with “Adam Lambert” embroidered in the cape, and obviously performed live.

There was no group performance this week.

It was announced that Kris Allen would be in the finals next week. Then it was announced that Adam Lambert would be competing against him, sending Danny Gokey home to Milwaukee.

Next week is the final program of the season. Adam was my early pick to win at the beginning of the season. His performances have all been near flawless. Kris has gotten progressively better since the beginning and is obviously very popular with the girls, but he has had a few disappointing performances along the way. mike coke 2Based on a full season’s worth of singing, Adam Lambert has the best chance of becoming this year’s American Idol. There is still one more night of performances, and they usually have to sing an unknown, relatively lame, sappy song. The whole season comes down to how they perform this song and how America votes. I’ll be watching from my couch ath the Munro House with an ice cold beverage in my red Coca-Cola judge’s cup. I’ll be voting until the battery in my phone dies.

Published in: on May 13, 2009 at 9:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Adam Lambert on American Idol 8 – Hometown Heroes Week

AmericanIdolThe top 3 finalists in the American Idol contest began with Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, and Danny Gokey competing for the final competition next week. They had to perform one song of the judge’s choice and one song of their own choice. The idols went to their hometowns where they were given the key to their city and a cell phone with a text message informing them of the judge’s song request.

Paula Abdul chose “Dance Little Sister” by Terence Trent D’Arby for Danny. I never heard this song before in my life. Research found that the song peaked at number 30 in 1988–I thought that D’Arby was a one hit wonder with “Wishing Well”. Danny never heard the song either. I think he wished that he had veto power over this poor choice of songs. He did it well. But, doing a song with no familiarity, it will be hard for him to score well with the voters.

Kara DioGaurdi and Randy Jackson agreed to challenge Kris Allen with “Apologize” by One Republic. Kris performed while playing a grand piano on stage. A copycat performance with falsetto problems.

Simon Cowell chose “One” from U2  for Adam Lambert to sing. He knocked it out of the park! Adam started singing with just a piano accompaniment. He changed the mood, changed the melody, and performed it flawlessly. I loved the beginning, liked the middle, and loved the ending. Simon gloated over choosing the right song and having the confidence that Adam would be able to make it his own–which he did!

Based solely on the first song of the night, Adam is safe, Danny and Kris are not.

In round two, Danny chose “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker. He slowed it way down and performed it, accompanied by an acoustic guitar and strings. He nailed it, and the judge’s agreed–Simon called it a “vocal master class”.

Kris dared to sing “Heartless” by Kanye West.  Accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, the judges thought his version was better than the original. A fantastic rendition worthy of consideration to be in next week’s final competition.

Adam chose “Crying” from Aerosmith as his final song. He hit all the high notes as well as Steven Tyler did in the original. His background vocals did him no favors during the harmony portions, as they were to the point of being overpowering. The judges gave him props and were impressed with his rendition of this classic  rock ‘n roll song.

The judges all said that they’d see true talent in the finals and that Adam was a lock–except Simon who reiterated that it was very important for the people to vote for the biggest talent and not assume that all the other voters will carry that person to the finals. The judges think Adam is the next American Idol, but it’s not up to them. America has to vote, and anything can happen. If the fan base of the final 3 is evenly split, the people who had been voting for Allison–the person sent home last week–will have the most say in the results of this week’s vote.

Based solely on the 2nd performance of the night, it’s anybody’s game–all three were fantastic.

Combining both performances has Adam as the leader with Kris and Danny in danger of being out of the competition.

mike cokeI see Adam and Kris in the finals. As good as Danny is, he does not have the “pop star” quality and may be at the end of his journey on results night.  But then again, I’m just one guy, sitting on the couch at the Munro House with an ice cold beverage in my red Coca-Cola judge’s glass, passing judgment on people much more talented than I.

Published in: on May 12, 2009 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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American Idol Lip Sync? Part 9 Rock Results Night

final-four-with-slashThe idol group performance was Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”. Slash played lead guitar. Slash is an impressive player and rocked the song.  It was definitely a live performance. Allison kept singing the wrong words during her solo–she never would have gotten away with that in a lip sync performance.

The Ford “Move Along” cutout video was cool.

Paula Abdul performed a song from her new album. The choreography with her male dancers was top notch.  It was very entertaining and fun to watch. She lip synced the entire song!  The vocals were just too crisp, it had to be prerecorded. 

No Doubt was in sync and Gwen Stefani was definitely live and en fuego! Her energy engulfed everyone in the front rows as she intertwined herself in the crowd and even did some push-ups! It was the hottest and most entertaining performance of the evening.

Everyone was shocked when it was announced that Kris Allen was the first of the American Idol contestants to be safe. The results were announced in random order, so he wasn’t necessarily the top vote getter. Kris’ performance last night of “Come Together” by the Beatles was just awful. But America voted over 64 million times, and Kris got enough of those votes to come back next week.

Chris Daughtry’s season 5 journey was chronicled. It was emphasized that he had the fewest votes in the final four vote 2 years ago. The shock on his face and Simon Cowell’s was evidence that no one thought he would be out of the contest at that point of the contest that year. In his interview, he said that it was probably a good thing, because he didn’t want to be a solo artist–had he won, he would have been required to do so for a least a year. His band, Daughtry, performed a song form his new album. They were definitely live and did an excellent job. If the rest of the album is as good as this song, he should sell another 5 million copies.

Adam Lambert was sent to safety, leaving Danny Gokey and Allison Iraheta as the last two to sweat out the results.  It was announced that Danny was safe, meaning Allison was going home. She cried during her going-away video but got to sing again. She did Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” one more time. She started out a little shakey, but found some confindence and finished very strong.  I will miss Allison as I thought she was good enough to make it at least one more week based solely on her previous night’s performance.

Next week, the Idols get to enjoy a hometown parade before they return to Los Angeles to sing 2 songs: one of their choice and one of the judge’s choice.  I’d like to see Danny do a Joe Cocker song, Kris a Def Leppard ballad, and Adam a Sammy Hagar/Van Halen song.  I’ll be watching next week from the couch at the Munro House with another ice cold beverage in my red Coca-Cola judge’s cup.

Published in: on May 6, 2009 at 10:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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