What Juneau needs to spice up the recreation and entertainment now is a good snow storm. In the meantime we're at least getting sun and stars.
In search of a little alpine adventure I saw the movie "Vertical Limit" at the 20th Century Theater. It seemed so promising in the previews - climbers at 25,000 feet in the mountains of Pakistan, falling off cliffs, falling into crevasses and falling out of helicopters. Unfortunately, that was the whole movie. Falling is scary. But by the ninth time Our Hero is hanging off a cornice by his ice ax, the folks in the audience have quit squirming in their seats.
One of the three writers recognized this, so on flimsy pretext he added a bunch of nitroglycerine. It withstands incredible jarring but explodes on contact with sunlight. I haven't seen a film with this many ridiculous plot contrivances since "Baywatch: White Thunder at Glacier Bay."
The explosions do induce avalanches, which are cool, but they're over too fast. Instead of all those scenes of Chris O'Donnell and his forgettable cohorts grimacing over precipices, the movie should have delivered more avalanche coverage.
I have nothing against a fast-paced action movie, and it's a bonus when the excitement is generated by adventure and not just violence. If you have a high tolerance for clichs, posing that passes as acting, lame dialogue and predictable characters, "Vertical Limit" could be a passable distraction.
The great thing about movies is they take you places you could never really go. Special effects today have heightened that magnificently and made it possible to go on a safari to Gondwanaland 150 million years ago.
Last spring the Discovery Channel presented an incredible documentary on dinosaurs that's just come out on video. "Walking With Dinosaurs" puts you right in the Mesozoic era with all the characters of the day, the big herbivores, carnivores, flying reptiles and marine monsters. It's six half-hour episodes back-to-back. The documentary is at Downtown Video. The Discovery Channel is also airing "Walking With Dinosaurs" again on Christmas Day. Check the TV listings for the time.
For holiday themed entertainment, there's "The Return of The Grumpsicle" this weekend. Janice D. Holst is producing the 22nd Grumpsicle with her dance students and friends. The Grumpsicle storyline ties together dance vignettes highlighting students from Holst's tap dance, creative movement, jazz and ballet classes. The 90-minute show is at 7 p.m. tonight and 1 p.m. Saturday at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium. The cost is $7 for everyone at the door.
"Greater Tuna" was scheduled to close last week, but it has been held over for another weekend. But not this weekend. The show will run at 8 p.m. Dec. 29 and 30 at the Palace Theatre.
If you harbor a secret desire to sing better, your chance is coming. Jan. 1 through 7 the Juneau Lyric Opera is bringing an excellent voice teacher to Juneau for a week of classes. Beginning group voice lessons will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a couple hours each evening. There will also be a week of choral work for folks who want to sing with a choir and get more advanced coaching.
Singing is weird - it makes people feel so naked and self-conscious. But there are plenty of people who sing in the shower, in the car and at home with the stereo while cleaning house, who can belt out great music when they don't think too hard about it. JLO's Midwinter Vocal Festival is a prime opportunity to get a few painless tips and pointers. You might feel a little exposed in a group class, but everyone is in the same boat.
In my experience the instructor, Byron McGilvray, has been great. Some have felt intimidated, but I think that's partly because singing can be intimidating. He's good at just bringing you up a notch and offering tips you can take with you. For more information, check out the Juneau Lyric Opera Web site: juneau.com/opera/, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Lena Simmons at 789-4604.