As summer blooms and vacation looms -- not to mention my forthcoming "sabbatical" from the workplace -- I've slacked way off on my reviews. This year Nat and I are trying to choose our theatrical expenditures more wisely, which means no more automatic matinees every weekend. What with ticket prices so high and quality so, let's just say, unreliable, it's working out pretty well. I'll most likely see either Knocked Up or Ocean's Thirteen this weekend in NJ with my family, but I don't know what the next movie after that will be...and I don't care! Well, OK, there's Harry Potter #5, but that's a date night for sure.

In the meantime, here's a two-fer for ya -- another Big Movie Little Movie Ticket Stub:

* Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End -- The twenty minutes or so of this rollicking, epic mess I could actually remember the next day are totally worth the price of admission. Especially if, like me, you see it at a crumbling retro theater, unchanged since you saw Ghost there in 1990, complete with muddy projection, sticky chairs, and mildewed gym sock aroma. Ahhh! Anyway, this third installment is so completely overstuffed that it makes the second one seem taut, and the first one seem classically brilliant, by comparison. Every single speaking part from the first two is shoehorned into a plot maze so overgrown that about 15 minutes in everyone, including the audience, just gives up. Luckily, that's when one of the gem sequences appears, a wacky Munchausian trip to Davy Jones' locker. That and the continuing spunkiness of Kiera Knightley are worth seeing, and every move Johnny Depp makes, of course. Some good characterizations by the bit players are dulled by the sheer number of quadruple-crosses between them. Everything else is a wash. Massive points off for awful dick jokes, general incomprehensibility, and Orlando Bloom. (C+)

* Waitress -- Another fantastic small movie! It's stuff like this that gives me hope for American culture. Of course, the terrible irony here is that the film's writer/director/co-star, Adrienne Shelley, was killed just before the movie made it to Sundance...sigh, hope snuffed. At least the movie stands on its own -- a delightful study of ambivalence and motherhood, in that order. Shelley serves up some deep insights in the guise of lightly fried Southern drollery, centered on a trio of waitresses at a pie diner (yes, they're real, I've been to one and it's awesome). Keri Russell breaks through as the prickly, put-upon, pregnant Jenna, saddled with a creep husband and a rash affair with her hunky new obstetrician. Nathan Fillion as said hunk is dorkily endearing, but is outshone by none other than Andy Griffith, letting his inner codger show. Not quite as funny as Little Miss Sunshine, but warmer, just as poignant, and way less self-consciously indie. Extra points for gastronomically alluring closeups of pie. See it! (A)

And another thing I've neglected here at TAI is recording all my non-movie ticket stubs. Here's a roundup of 2007 thus far...turns out I'm secretly a culture maven:

* Boston Symphony Orchestra -- Nat and I subscribed and saw 5 wonderful shows, including the US premiere of an Asteroid for Orchestra, wicked cool. (A+)
* Grizzly Bear @ the MFA -- Bedheaded hipsters, unite! Rainy night of experimental pop with Mandy & George, who along with us made up nearly all the over-30's in the room. (A)
* Orson's Shadow @ New Rep -- Brilliant concept executed reasonably well in Watertown: aging lions Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier stagger around Ionesco's Rhinoceros. (B-)
* What Would Jesus Buy? @ SXSW -- OK, this one is a movie, the Supersize Me of 2007. (A+)
* Well @ Huntington Theater Co. -- A comically deconstructed one-woman show on wellness, mothers and daughters, and social neuroses, with Kim. (A)
* Fat Pig @ SpeakEasy Stage -- An exercise in cruelty from Neil LaBute, for whom people seem not to ever mature past Lord of the Flies age. (B+)
* Surviving The Nian @ The Theater Offensive -- A funky, ambitious, unfinished, family drama musical about culture shock, coming out, and all that good stuff, and a Jonathan Larson Foundation grant winner. (A-)
* Ben Gibbard @ The Somerville Theater -- Another hipster coven! Excellent acoustic set of thinky pop from Gibbard's various projects, unfortunately we sat in the volcanically overheated balcony. Included the best rendition of "All Apologies" ever, including the original, and I always hated that song. (A)
* No Brawl @ Symphony Hall -- Sigh. Through a series of miscommunications, Nat and I showed up 85 minutes late for opening night of the Boston Pops, featuring our beloved Ben Folds and the much-discussed fracas in the rafters. Grrrr. Oh well, we get a mulligan in a few weeks for Oscar & Tony night... (F)
* Parade @ Speakeasy Stage -- A stirring and surprisingly coherent musical exploration of race, religion, capitalism, crime, and marriage in 1900's Atlanta, based on a real case. (A-)
* Present Laughter @ Huntington Theater Co. -- Dizzy, dazzling comedy the way they don't make 'em anymore, starring Victor Garber as Noel Coward's onstage persona. (A+)
* The Light In The Piazza @ The Colonial Theater -- Superbly scored and romantic to the core, yet uniquely weird in an operatic way. The touring company came to town and thanks to Miss Laura we got a backstage view!

Whew -- I need a nap.

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