Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

My First Blogger Award

I’ve been blogging for less than a month, and today I was surprised with my first award. One of my followers, Hollin Scott, presented me with the “Very Inspiring Blogger Award,” which I now proudly display on my new “Awards” tab. Being recognized for doing good work is always a wonderful feeling, and I’m glad my blog brings enjoyment to my followers and visitors.

Since this award deals with inspiration, I’d like to share with you a song I’ve always found inspirational; it’s All The Time by Barry Manilow, and it’s about believing in yourself and realizing there are other people in the world just like you. As writers, we convey emotion through words so the reader can identify with what we create. This song’s beautiful lyrics resonate in a way that is mesmerizing, and Manilow’s heartfelt delivery only makes them more impactful. I’m certain you’ll be moved, and, who knows, maybe even inspired.

Harlan Coben On Writing

Writing is a struggle that doesn’t get easier with time, even for best-selling authors. Harlan Coben has sold millions of books and won numerous awards, yet he still finds writing difficult. How does he go about succeeding at this arduous endeavor and what advice does he have for authors? Watch the two excellent interviews below to find out.

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I’ve always loved Batman. Growing up, I watched my VHS copy of the 1989 film, Batman, so many times that it came apart one day and destroyed our VCR. I also have fond memories of watching Batman: The Animated Series, and, of course, dressing up as Batman for Halloween.

Like many people, I eagerly awaited the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. I recently saw it, and I’m glad to report that it’s better than I expected. But before I explain why, let me share my thoughts on the first two films in this saga.

I think Batman Begins is fantastic; not only did it feature a stellar cast, but it told Batman’s origin story in a gritty fashion. While the sequel, The Dark Knight, was an excellent film, I don’t consider it to be one of the greatest films of all time or even as good as Batman Begins. Yes, it featured Heath Ledger as the Joker, who did a fine job, but I feel the villain was the focus of the film, not Batman. To me, this made it less enthralling than its predecessor. With this in mind, I didn’t head into The Dark Knight Rises with unrealistic expectations. I was simply looking forward to a fun and entertaining conclusion to this excellent series. What I got was a superbly acted, three-hour film that kept me on the edge of my seat up until the credits rolled. Not only does The Dark Knight Rises provide a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, but it also reveals Bane’s backstory and motivations while simultaneously revisiting and expanding on story elements from Batman Begins.

My only complaint is that Catwoman seems to have been shoehorned into the film for no apparent reason. While I’m always in favor of seeing Anne Hathaway in a tight, leather outfit, her character wasn’t fleshed out enough for me to care about her. Hathaway did an excellent job with what she had, but the film would have been just as good had the character not been present. Overall, The Dark Knight Rises is an excellent movie that I highly recommend to those that have seen the previous two films. It will entertain, shock and move you, all at once. It’s a stunning final chapter in what has been one of the best film trilogies ever made.

Concert Review: The Legend Of Zelda – Symphony Of The Goddesses

The Legend of Zelda is just that: legendary. Since the original game came out for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987, the series has grown by leaps and bounds. Sequels have been released for nearly every system Nintendo has launched and millions of copies have been sold. More importantly, millions of lives have been changed as a result of this iconic franchise. Nintendo is well aware of the love fans have for the series, and to celebrate its 25th anniversary, a full symphony orchestra is traveling the world to bring the music to the fans; it’s called The Legend of Zelda – Symphony of the Goddesses.

A fan playing her ocarina for onlookers prior to the show.

This four movement symphony, a first for a video game-themed concert, just took place in Philadelphia, at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, and I was in attendance. It was a fantastic performance, conducted by Eímear Noone, that vividly brought to life the memorable music created by Nintendo composer and sound director Koji Kondo. The music was performed beautifully by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and also featured the Philadelphia Singers Chorale.

Similar to Video Games Live, which I’ve also seen and highly recommend, the music was accompanied by dazzling video packages. This cinematic video presentation synced gameplay from various games in the franchise to the live music. For example, if a song from the end of a particular Zelda game was being played by the orchestra, then footage of that scene also appeared on the large screen above the stage. It made for a nostalgic experience that pleased the senses.

While there was an intermission, the concert clocked in at nearly three hours and it featured three encores. Needless to say, it was an excellent performance, and I’m very glad I attended. As of right now, additional performances are scheduled through the end of the year. If one is in your area, I highly recommend you check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

When I Met Lisa Scottoline

Lisa Scottoline and me (right) at Barnes & Noble on Rittenhouse Square in April 2012.

Lately, I’ve been attending book signings when I can. Within the past year, I’ve met Suze Orman, Donald Trump, Harlan Coben, and Lisa Scottoline. These events are fun, and I get to meet the minds – and in Trump’s case, the hair – behind the books. As a matter of fact, I plan on heading to New York in September to meet one of my new favorite authors, Lee Child.

Out of all of these encounters, Lisa Scottoline was definitely one of the most memorable. I had never read any of her novels, but I heard they took place in Philadelphia and that she used to be an attorney. Being a fan of mysteries and thrillers, I decided to take a chance and stroll over to the Barnes & Noble on Rittenhouse Square. It was a beautiful April afternoon, and I figured I could do worse things with my lunch break. To my surprise, Lisa was far different than I expected.

She showed up in a dress suit with Crocs on because, according to her, she “just had foot surgery.” Already I knew she wasn’t going to be one to hold back. Lisa went on to talk about her relationship with her mother and how her new book, Come Home, which dealt with parenting issues, specifically when it came to stepchildren from a previous marriage. After speaking for several minutes she said, “OK. I’m going to shut up soon, so you can line up and get your books signed. I know many of you have to get back to work.” Then she pointed at me and said, “But you. I want you at the front of the line. You’re gorgeous!” While I was flattered to receive the compliment, I blushed so much I must have looked like a Red Delicious apple at that moment.

Besides her brutal honesty and friendly demeanor, I quickly learned that Lisa likes to give Tastykakes to her fans. Every time someone asked a good question, she gave the person a Tastykake. Having recently met Harlan Coben, I asked Lisa, “Harlan Coben mentioned that he regularly gets together for dinner with a group of author friends, including Lee Child, Nelson DeMille and Mary Higgins Clark. Do you also regularly socialize with fellow authors?” Lisa responded by saying, “I’m also friends with Harlan Coben, but I haven’t been invited to any of those dinners. Next time you see him, let him know.” For a moment, I was mortified, thinking I’d upset her. But then she laughed and I realized she was just playing around.

After the Q&A, we all lined up to get our books signed and meet Lisa. When I got to the front, I told her this was the first book of hers that I was going to read and that, like her, I was Italian. In typical Lisa fashion, she replied, “You’re Italian? But your nose is so perfect. Me, I’ve got this big thing to work with.” I couldn’t do anything but laugh. It was the last thing I imagined she would say, but with Lisa Scottoline unpredictably is to be expected. I then asked to take a photo with her, and, of course, she said yes. As I turned to leave, she gave me a box filled with three Tastykakes.

After stepping to the side to gather my things, I watched her engage in conversation with fans and noticed how she remembered those that came to previous signings. She greeted them with hugs and kisses and asked about their friends, who she also previously met. What impressed me even more was, as I left, Lisa stopped talking to a fan to say, “Thanks for coming Michael. I appreciate it.” This blew me away. I met the woman for a brief moment and after speaking with several fans, she remembered my name and was gracious enough to thank me for coming out. Many celebrities, like Donald Trump, are as egotistical as you’d imagine. But I can’t say enough positive things about Lisa Scottoline. She was entertaining, warm and appreciative. I look forward to attending her future signings, and her book was entertaining as well.

Can Tom Cruise Be Jack Reacher?

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This past year I started reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels for the first time. I’ve only completed two so far, Killing Floor and Die Trying, but I can already see why readers have fallen in love with the Jack Reacher character. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy that regularly gets himself, and others, out of difficult situations by calling on his military experience, brute strength and intellect.

This series started in 1997 and has grown to 16 books since then, with the 17th, A Wanted Man, being released in September. It’s become so popular that Jack Reacher will soon be appearing on the silver screen in a major, Hollywood film appropriately titled Jack Reacher.

However, the release of this film has caused an uproar among “Reacher’s Creatures” because Tom Cruise is slated to play Jack Reacher. For those of you that don’t know, Jack Reacher is 6′ 5″ tall, between 210 and 250 pounds and has dirty blond hair. Tom Cruise, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as tall, heavy or blond. Needless to say, many of Lee Child’s faithful readers are upset.

As for me, I’m going to give Tom Cruise the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t think Daniel Craig could be James Bond because he didn’t look the part, but he made a fool out of me. So, I’m more than willing to give Tom Cruise One Shot.

Do you think Tom Cruise can pull off being Reacher? Check out the trailer below and cast your vote in the poll to let me know.

TV Review: The Pillars of the Earth

I finally finished the Starz miniseries The Pillars of the Earth. Having read the book, I have mixed feelings about the miniseries. Overall, it was a great piece of television that strayed too far from the source material.

First, I think the casting for the miniseries was great. All of the actors did a terrific job, especially Ian McShane as Waleran Bigod, a delightful villain. The other standout was Matthew Macfadyen as Prior Philip. He fit the character like a glove and was very likable throughout.

With this in mind, there were two major problems with the miniseries:

  1. It tried to condense a book that’s more than 1,000 pages into eight hours of television. Considering the unabridged audiobook is more than 40 hours in length, you can see how this could be a huge problem.
  2. Too many major and minor details were changed from the novel.

Because the miniseries was only eight hours, many of the story’s most important events felt rushed. Similar to the film adaptation of Angels & Demons, each scene moved at a break-neck pace. While this makes for entertaining television, the impact of certain events failed to resonate with me because they didn’t seem nearly as important as in the book. For example, when Aliena searched for Jack in the novel, it took her an extremely long time to find him, which made their reunion emotionally satisfying. In the miniseries, her search seemed to last five minutes and was therefore insignificant.

Another major problem was that the miniseries was vastly different than the book. While the overall story is the same, many things are different. For example, in the book, Tom Builder’s relationship with Ellen was a long, loving and tumultuous one. An entire portion of the novel dealt with how Tom raised Alfred compared to how he raised Jack. This provided a greater understanding of why the two boys didn’t get along. It created a tension that wasn’t felt in the miniseries until later on. Furthermore, it showed how this drew a wedge between Tom and Ellen, something that didn’t seem to happen in the miniseries. I could go on and on about the numerous alterations made to key relationships in the miniseries compared to how they were in the book, but the bottom line is this: Changing these relationships didn’t improve them; it weakened them.

One bright spot was the music. Trevor Morris did a wonderful job with the soundtrack, and the main theme embodied the majesty of the book perfectly.

Overall, this was an entertaining series, on it’s own. However, it was based on a book of legendary stature. Unfortunately, it failed by changing key elements of the book and by trying to condense too much content into too few hours of television. Nevertheless, it was still an enjoyable journey worth taking.

Lewis Black – Milk and Water

If you don’t know who Lewis Black is, you should. While Louis C.K. is extremely talented, for my money, Lewis Black is the best stand-up comedian since George Carlin. As a matter of fact, Carlin was also a big fan of Black’s material. Below is a great bit from Lewis Black’s HBO special Black on Broadway, where he discusses milk and water. Enjoy!

Tell No One: A Great Novel And Film

Harlan Coben and me (right) at a book signing for Stay Close in March 2012.

Those who know me well are aware of my love for Harlan Coben’s work. He’s won numerous awards and sold millions of books, but most importantly, he’s a damn good author. While The Innocent is my favorite book of his, maybe because it was my first, Tell No One is arguably his most famous; published in 2001, it was Coben’s first book to appear on The New York Times Bestseller list. In 2006, Tell No One was turned into a hit French film, and Ben Affleck is going to direct the remake for American audiences.

According to the description on Harlan Coben’s website:

“TELL NO ONE is a story of loss and redemption. It begins innocently enough. Dr. David Beck and his beloved wife, Elizabeth, are celebrating the anniversary of their first kiss in the quiet of Lake Charmaine. They grew up together, first kissed at age twelve, and now, twenty-five years old and married less than a year, they return for an idyllic weekend away.

Tragedy shatters their solitude. Elizabeth is abducted and murdered, her body found in a ditch. Her killer is caught and brought to justice. But for David Beck, there can be no closure. Eight years pass. He never gets over Elizabeth’s murder. He loses himself in his work as an inner city pediatrician.

But everything changes on the eighth anniversary of Elizabeth’s death. Two unidentified bodies are found at Lake Charmaine, unearthed years after their deaths. But even more disturbing, Beck gets a bizarre email that mentions a specific phrase – a phrase known only to him and Elizabeth. The email also tells him to click a hyperlink the next day at a specific hour – “kiss time” – 6:15PM.”

Unlike most film adaptations, the movie did a fantastic job of bringing the story to life on the big screen while still remaining faithful to the book. Will Ben Affleck’s version be just as good? Who knows. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, check out the trailer below for the French film and pick up the book. Both are excellent and worth your time.

Why The Newsroom Is The Best Show On TV

If you haven’t seen The Newsroom on HBO, you’re missing out on what is arguably the best show on television. The acting, writing and character development are all superb. If the first four episodes are any indication of what’s to come, then I’d say the rest of the season should be fantastic.

Ever since I saw Jeff Daniels in the HBO film Cheaters, I knew he was a great dramatic actor. However, most people from my generation know him simply as Harry from Dumb and Dumber. Thankfully, his new role as a cable news anchor, Will McAvoy, provides him with ample opportunity to shine; and shine he does. Jeff Daniels ability to emote such a wide spectrum of characteristics with aplomb is astounding. I sincerely hope he’s nominated for an EMMY, and wins, because he deserves it.

Aside from the Jeff Daniels, the rest of the cast turns in excellent performances as well, especially Sam Waterston, Emily Mortimer and Alison Pill. Their top-notch acting, and Aaron Sorkin’s amazing writing, allows viewers to become emotionally invested in the characters.

The show has been renewed for a second season, and I can see why. Each episode is set against major news events from the past few years, while weaving in fascinating story arcs about interpersonal relationships between key characters. Furthermore, Sorkin’s face-paced, witty dialogue breathes life into every scene and keeps the audience glued to the screen in rapture.

But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. For your viewing pleasure, below you’ll find the opening scene from the first episode of the season. Watch it and let me know what you think.

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