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Posts published in “News Index – Entertainment”

Public invited to East Aldine’s Back-to-School and 10th Anniversary Bash

The Public is invited to join the East Aldine District to celebrate their 10th Year Anniversary, with a Back to School event on Saturday, August 18, from 9:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. at James Driver Park. This is next to the Northeast Community Center at 10918 1/2 Bentley.

Included in the celebration will be Fun + Drinks, Music, and FREE Backpacks with School Supplies for the first 1200 children ages grades 1 through 8.

Entertainment scheduled includes Radio Disney and Azteca TV personality Andrea Gomez.

Sponsors for the Celebration and Back to School Event include the East Aldine District, Texas Children’s Health Plan, Radio Disney AM 1590, Bonding Against Adversity, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Precinct 2, Ria Money Transfers, and Summit Dental Centers.

Picks of the Week

Couch Theater DVD Previews

By Sam Struckhoff

“Bernie” (PG-13) — Jack Black stars in this oddly satisfying comedy with a twist of murder. Bernie Tiede (Black) is the nicest guy in Carthage, Texas. Bernie even puts effort into befriending the most reclusive person in town, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), a sharp-tongued widow sitting on heaps of money. Bernie becomes involved with Marjorie as a companion and manager of her affairs. When her cruelty finally drives Bernie to shoot her four times in the back, nobody in town wants to blame him, except the district attorney (played by an oil-slick Matthew McConaughey). It’s not a gut-busting laugh riot, but a satisfying ride through accessible dark comedy. The performances of the three main actors bring just the right amount of quirk. Interviews with witnesses and town gossips fit right in with the movie’s quaint take on scandalous matters.

“The Dictator” (R) — In the fictional North-African nation of Wadiya, supreme dictator Adm. Gen. Aladeen rules with a bejeweled iron fist. In a satire of Muammar Gaddafi and other autocrats, Aladeen lives in obscene luxury while tossing off one-liners full of anti-Semitism and hate for Western society — except the celebrities he loves. This is the newest character from Sacha Baron Cohen, who previously brought praise and infamy with “Borat” and “Bruno.” “The Dictator” is entirely scripted, which explains why it’s missing the edge of the last two films. It also tries to incorporate a romantic comedy aspect that pleases neither fans of Cohen’s dark satire or fans of romantic comedies.

“A Separation” (PG-13) — This drama from Iran is a stunner. It’s a gripping, real, relevant and touching story about a family falling apart. Simin wants to leave Iran with her husband and daughter, but her husband won’t leave his ailing father suffering from Alzheimer’s. This means Simin is not allowed to leave the country. She moves in with her parents, and her husband hires a maid to help care for his father. Life takes a few twists, and the people who just wanted things to go back to normal have to hold together what they have left through rough times.

“Chimpanzee” (G) — Disney knows how to produce a nature documentary. Sure, it’s more sympathetic than scientific. The result, however, is an affecting look at another species, one that is intolerably fun to watch and also in peril. Narrated by Tim Allen, the film tells the story of Oscar, a baby chimp orphaned in the jungle. In true Disney fashion, the visuals are stunning, the story can reel in kids and adults, and the 77 minute runtime is backed with many adoring sighs of “Aaawww.”

TV RELEASES

“NCIS: The Complete Ninth Season”

“Revenge: The Complete First Season”

“Perry Mason: The Seventh Season, Vol. 1”

“The Closer: The Complete Seventh Season”

“NCIS: Los Angeles — The Third Season”

“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Season 1, Vol. 1”

Upcoming events at Jones Park

Hunter Education Certification. Tuesday and Wednesday, August 7 & 8, 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

This two-day course meets the mandated Texas Parks & Wildlife hunter education requirements for Texas. A $15 fee is required for materials. Ages 9+. Reservations required beginning Monday, July 30.

Homestead Fun: Second Saturday Settlers. Saturday, August 11, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Sample watermelon and homemade ice cream, play horseshoes and other old-fashioned games while viewing hands-on daily activities of Texas settlers that bring the Redbud Hill Homestead to life. All ages. Free.

Stargazing. Saturday, August 11, 8 p.m.

Encounter planets, stars, and other celestial bodies from a vantage point free from light pollution with the help of the North Houston Astronomy Club. Participants are encouraged to bring binoculars or a telescope. All ages. Reservations required beginning Wednesday, August 1. Free

Second Sunday Pickers. Sunday, August 12, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Sing or strum along with the Second Sunday Pickers as they enliven second Sunday afternoons in the nature center. Bring an instrument and join in or sit back and let them entertain you. All ages. Free.

Trails À La Cart. Saturday, August 18, 10 a.m. or 2 p.m.

Explore the Spring Creek Greenway Trail on a cart tour designed especially for people with disabilities and focusing on the park’s natural history and beauty. Ages 55+ or persons with disabilities. Reservations required beginning Wednesday, August 8. Free.

Wildlife Rehabilitation. Saturday, August 25, 10 a.m.

Helping injured and orphaned animals can be challenging in urban neighborhoods. As licensed wildlife rehabilitators from the Wildlife Center of Texas introduce several “animal ambassadors” for education, learn how to render aid and coexist with wildlife. All ages. Free.

Scavenger Hunt. Saturday, September 1, 10 a.m.

Join this nature discovery outing perfect for young nature hunters, families, and scout groups. Ages 5-15. Reservations required beginning Wednesday, August 22. Free.

Tadpoles Club. Wednesdays, September 5, 12, 19 and 26, 10:30 a.m. or 1 p.m.

Introduce pre-school children to nature with live animals, puppets, short walks, crafts, stories, and finger plays. Parent must accompany child for this four-week interactive program. Ages 3 and 4 only. Sorry, no siblings. Reservations required beginning Wednesday, August 1. Free.

Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, a Harris County Precinct 4 facility under the leadership of Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, is located at 20634 Kenswick Drive in Humble. All programs are free of charge and open to the public. Jesse Jones Park Volunteers (JJPV) welcomes applications from interested participants. For more information on the park or any of its programs, call (281) 446-8588 or visit the Jones Park Web site at www.hcp4.net/jones.

Museum offers glimpse of Texas’ fight for freedom


On the east side of Harris County there sits a plot of land not more than a mile wide and a couple of miles long which played a key role in the independence of Texas and the development of the entire Southwestern United States.

It was at San Jacinto that an army led by Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna, thus winning Texas’ independence. The U.S.’s annexation of Texas in 1845 led to the Mexican American War of 1846-48. Mexico’s defeat added the territories of California, Arizona, New Mexico and part of Nevada, Colorado and Utah to American soil.

A 570-foot monument now stands on the site of that battle. In the base of the monument is a museum which documents Texas’ history going back to precolonial Mexico. A large portion of the museum is dedicated to the Texas Revolution and early days of the Republic.

The museum, which charges no admission fee, also had artifacts from Texas’ involvement in the U.S. Civil War and well as postwar Texas. History buffs can also see the events unfold on the silver screen in the film “Texas Forever.” Admission to the film is $4 for adults, $3.50 for children under 12 and seniors 65 and older.

For a fee of $4 visitors can take an elevator to the observation deck nearly 500 feet in the air, where they can get a bird’s eye view of the ship channel and surrounding area.

The San Jacinto Monument and Museum are located at 3523 Battleground Rd. in Deer Park. Park hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., open seven days a week.

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is amazing


“Slumdog Millionaire” — Winner of eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture), “Slumdog Millionaire” is an uplifting tale of love and triumph set against the backdrop of the violent and poverty-stricken streets of Mumbai, India.

The film opens with a young man, Jamal (Dev Patel), who is on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”. He has answered every question correctly and is only one answer away from winning the grand prize. Because Jamal is an orphan and comes from such a poor background, it is assumed that he is somehow cheating, so he is brutally interrogated by the police to find out how he can possibly know the answers to such hard questions.

And so the film unfolds in a series of flashbacks of events in Jamal’s life that illustrate how he came to know the answers to questions — from the death of his mother, which leaves Jamal and his brother homeless and poor on the streets of Mumbai, to their escape from a Fagin-like character who wants to lead the boys into a life of crime, to Jamal’s search for his lost childhood-love Latika (Freida Pinto).

“Slumdog Millionaire” is an amazing movie that mixes humor and brutality without compromising the integrity of the characters, and still manages to get away with a Bollywood dance number at the end. Brilliant.

ALSO OF NOTE
“The IT Crowd: The Complete Season One” — One of Britain’s funniest TV series is finally on DVD in America. Until now fans had to resort to illicit Internet downloads or ponying up the cash to watch the show on IFC.

Written and directed by Graham Linehan (“Father Ted”), “The IT Crowd” is a hilarious sitcom that revolves around the misadventures of two socially inept geeks who work for the IT support team of a huge multinational corporation that is run by a complete moron. If you’re a fan of British comedies like “The Mighty Boosh” or “The Office,” then you definitely need to check this out.

Green wants to delay Digital Television Transition until June

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Gene Green, last week, voted in favor of S. 352, the DTV Delay Act which will implement a one-time delay of the scheduled February 17 transition until June 12, 2009. The DTV Delay Act passed the House of Representatives 264-158 and will be sent to President Obama for his signature.

“There are over 2 million households still on the coupon waiting list, not to mention those that have expired coupons and will be unable to redeem them,” said Green. “In our district alone there are over 6,200 households still waiting to receive their coupons. Without this delay, millions of Americans will lose their service, and unfortunately most of these households are disproportionately low income, rural, and elderly Americans.”

Additionally, this bill will permit a consumer who never redeemed coupons or whose coupons expired to reapply for replacement coupons, and continues to make sure that households receive no more than two.

“It is clear that this legislation is needed. Since Monday, February 2, the size of the national waitlist grew by over 200,000 households,” said Green. “There were over 500 additional households in our district alone.”

Ledger performance saves “Dark Knight”

“The Dark Knight”
Running time: 152 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13

I’ve watched “The Dark Knight” three times, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It’s either the best movie of the year, or a muddled mess that’s overshadowed by a bravura performance by Heath Ledger.

Let’s face it, the main reason many of us are seeing “Dark Knight” is to watch Ledger chew up the scenery as the Joker. And Boy Howdy does he.

Ledger has taken an iconic character and made it his own. No one can play The Clown Prince of Crime ever again without being compared to Ledger. The dude out-Jokered Nicholson, for cryin’ out loud.

That’s no small achievement, and he definitely deserves an Oscar for this performance. Not since Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter have I been so unsettled by an actor’s characterization.

The same can’t be said for Christian Bale, who is the worst Batman since Val Kilmer uttered the infamous “chicks dig the car” line in “Batman Forever.” Bale disappears in the suit: no character, no emotion and even worse is that raspy voice he adopts that sounds more like Homer Simpson doing his Horse Whisperer impression than a menacing and mysterious Dark Avenger of the Night.

The plot continues where “Batman Begins” left off. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman are trying to bring down the various mob families who have Gotham City in their grip. The two decide to back new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), dubbed Gotham’s White Knight. Their plans to clean up the streets, however, are derailed by the appearance of the Joker, who begins to play deadly games with the mob, the police and Batman.

By playing one side against the other two, the Joker hopes to bring down the status quo in order to show the world what a flimsy artifice Civilization is. He is, as Bruce Wayne’s butler (Michael Caine) describes, one of those men who just wants to watch the world burn.

“The Dark Knight” has many brilliant scenes, but also a few (like an entire sequence involving a Hong Kong gangster) that are a complete waste of time. Plotwise, we see minor characters show up for no logical reason except to introduce a plot device to advance the story, and then disappear again. There is quite a bit of trite, hackneyed dialogue (Dent actually utters the groan-inducing line, “It’s always darkest before the dawn. And the dawn is coming.”) … And yet, I want to see this movie again.

GRADE: A

The Bank Job is underrated

“The Bank Job”
Running Time: 110 minutes
MPAA rating: R

“The Bank Job” is a great little caper movie that hasn’t gotten much hype or promotion, which is a shame. It’s smart, funny, filled with twists and turns, and has solid performances from a great cast.
The film is based on the real-life 1971 heist of the vault of a branch of Lloyd’s bank in England. What is intriguing about the story of the robbery is that a government gag order on the press (for reasons of national security) has left the crime officially unsolved and some 500,000 pounds in loot still unrecovered.
The cast of characters includes a shady chop-shop owner (Jason Statham), a hot model from his past working for British intelligence (Saffron Burrows), the porn king of London (David Suchet) and a militant black revolutionary who rolls with the handle Michael X (Peter de Jersey).
Michael X allegedly has compromising photos of a member of the royal family in the vault. The hot model convinces Statham to rob the vault, telling him the alarms will be off because they need to be repaired (not telling him about the photos). What the robbers don’t know is that the vault also holds a ledger kept by the porn king detailing the names of cops on the take and members of Parliament who frequent his brothels.
The gang is successful in looting the vault and unwittingly making off with the compromising photos, the incriminating ledger and a half-million in swag. They also have the mob and MI5 on their tails.
I don’t want to give anything away because the film has so many great twists that to get any further into the plot details would spoil the movie. Let’s just say that, if you liked “Oceans 11” or love a great heist movie, “The Bank Job” is right up your alley.

GRADE: A

Juno is no Little Miss Sunshine

“Juno”
Running time: 91 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13

I see a couple hundred movies a year. Most, about 70 percent, are average. Not great, but not horrible. Ten percent are pure dreck. Fifteen percent are above average. And then there’s that top 5 percent, the films that remind critics why we love movies.
“Juno” is one of those upper five percentile films that reviewers like me gush about. It’s smartly written, beautifully acted and directed with finesse.
The film stars the captivating Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff, an almost-too-hip-to-be-real 16-year-old who becomes pregnant following first-time sex with her boyfriend Bleeker (Michael Cera) because they were bored.
Now here’s why “Juno” is such a great flick. At the beginning, you get the impression it’s gonna be like “Little Miss Sunshine,” one of those indie films that’s too self-consciously glib. But it isn’t. After about 10 minutes, everyone settles into their roles, and the humor comes not from the snappy dialogue, but from the realness of the performances.
Then, after Juno accepts the fact that she’s pregnant, you begin to cringe a little because you think it’s gonna be a political movie about abortions. But it isn’t a political film. Juno’s pregnancy and her choices (she decides to go through with the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption) are treated in a very real, very human way.
Credit for this must be given to screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, and also to the supporting cast: Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons as Juno’s dad and step-mom, and Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman as the yuppie couple wanting to adopt Juno’s child.
I don’t want to go overboard in my praise for this film, because I know that when most people hear a critic gas on and on about a movie, it never lives up to the hype. So, I’m just gonna say, “See Juno.” It’s the best film I’ve seen in more than a year.

GRADE: A

The Simpsons Movie does not disappoint fans

“The Simpsons Movie”
Running time: 87 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13

After 18 years and more than 400 episodes, “The Simpsons” has long ceased to be the cutting-edge, controversial cartoon it was in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Most of my friends and I haven’t watched the show for the past two years because it seemed to have lost some of its energy and creativity. And judging by the trailers for the new film, it didn’t look like the movie was going to be any great shakes. Still, for old times’ sake, I went to the theater to watch “The Simpsons Movie.”
I’m glad I did.
“The Simpsons Movie,” while not as great as some of the show’s classic episodes from its heyday, is a hilariously funny film and 10 times better than most episodes from the past eight years. The jokes and sight gags come fast and furious. The animation is crisp. Our Favorite Family has never looked better.
The story revolves around an environmental theme. Lake Springfield has become so polluted, the town is on the verge of an ecological disaster of biblical proportions. Thanks to Homer, the disaster occurs and the government (with President Schwarzenegger in command) responds by trapping the entire town under a giant glass dome. The Simpsons manage to escape death at the hands of an angry mob and move to Alaska to start life anew.
But the fate of the town becomes more dire. and it’s up to Homer to save Springfield before the government gets rid of the town for good. (I’m purposely avoiding giving out more details about the movie because I don’t want to spoil your fun.)
“The Simpsons Movie” is the funniest movie I’ve seen this summer. I can’t wait to see it again, and I’ll definitely buy the DVD when it comes out. Yeah. It’s that good. Check it out.
GRADE: A