Sunday, January 09, 2005

"Polar" Opposites, But Both Great Fun

I got to do two cool things last night. First off, Halfling, Angie and I saw The Polar Express in 3-D at the IMAX in north Dallas. I had never seen the movie before in any rendering (the two of them had seen the "regular" version a while back), nor had I ever been to an IMAX, so it was a double treat for me.

The IMAX screen is five stories high and seven stories wide; before the film, they even gave warnings on what to do in case of dizziness. I also have to say that 3-D glasses have improved a lot since I was a kid; the last time I saw a movie like that, they were still using those old cardboard ones with the funny-colored lenses. Now they have something that's more like a pair of wraparound sunglasses (with special oversize ones for those of us who already wear regular glasses). The fit wasn't perfect for me, but I only had to adjust them a few times.

The overall effect is amazing; I'm not sure if it was because we were sitting in the front row, but in many instances we appeared to be right up next to the action. During one of the previews, fish swam up right next to us, and sometimes things gave the illusion of coming up from behind us. I was really impressed by the technology, and despite the somewhat hefty price ($11 per ticket for the special feature), I'm sure I'll see some more movies again there soon.

As for the movie itself, I had read some criticism of a lack of plot (perhaps understandable when a filmmaker is trying to turn a brief children's picture book into a full-length motion picture), but to me, the computer wizardry more than made up for anything that may have been lacking in that area. I also didn't perceicve an excessive amount of the darkness that was a complaint of many reviewers. Director Robert Zemeckis (of Back to the Future fame) must be a roller-coaster buff, because many scenes (the train itself; some of the kids careening backwards in a detached train car, the same kids on a spiral conveyor belt in Santa's workshop) suggested such a ride. The computer imagery was remarkably lifelike (evidently, the whole thing was acted out by live humans and then rendered on the computer), and Tom Hanks did a good job playing a variety of characters, even if many of them seemed a lot like...well, Tom Hanks. If you haven't seen The Polar Express or an IMAX movie yet, this is a great opportunity to do both in one fell swoop.

After that, we headed out to Southlake to see John Murphy's quartet at Kirby's Steakhouse. John was one of my lab band directors at UNT and is now back as a professor, directing the Jazz Repertory Ensemble, which I got to hear a few times last semester. It was great to hear him play again, since I don't think I'd had the opportunity since he played in the One O'Clock when we were in school. Also in the group was drummer (and ex-One O'Clocker as well) Mike Drake, who's on the Jazz Camp faculty and was the person who emailed me about the gig.

In terms of atmosphere, this was of course the polar opposite (heh) of the theatre, which was filled with noisy kids. Kirby's was what I would call "elegant but accessible," because, while there was certainly a fair share of dressed-to-the-nines socialites (not to mention some rather elaborate fur coats being brought from the cloakroom), the three of us ordinary folks didn't feel at all out of place. It was actually a pretty cool setup; there's a little recessed area where the band plays that has maybe six or seven tables, so people can show up to hear the music, have a drink or two and not feel obligated to eat. (It's also small enough that they rarely book a group larger than a quartet, which rules out TD/D, though Halfling and I joked about the possibility of having each of the three horns anchor a separate set.)

Of course, the guys played great; it was mostly standards like "Donna Lee," "Soul Station" and a personal favorite, "Bolivia" (where Murphy played some great tenor lines that I totally intend to steal *grin*). The great thing about professional jazzers is that they can show up and do an entire evening without even having to rehearse. There was a lot of tasty playing going on, even if most of the crowd was probably paying more attention to the Jets-Chargers game on the TV in the bar. Oh well--their loss. We appreciated it, at any rate, and look forward to a return trip.

What would you call this, an RWI? A judge in Florida threw out the case of a woman accused of "driving drunk" while operating her wheelchair. It's amazing that the case ever got filed in the first place, since successfully prosecuting her could have opened the door to charging any wheelchair-bound person who was in the chair and drinking with a DWI...which would be just like charging any able-bodied person who was drunk and standing up. (via The Volokh Conspiracy)

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