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On the other hand, the first “Hobbit” installment brought in some $1 billion. So it’s rather beside the point to argue with Jackson’s approach. Happily, “Smaug” is vastly better from the get-go. Instead of a drawn-out intro, we get right to the action, which is of course the quest of Bilbo (Martin Freeman, himself livelier and funnier) and the band of dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (a suitably noble Richard Armitage) to reclaim the kingdom of Erebor, under the Lonely Mountain, from the frightening dragon Smaug.
As always, trouble takes many forms: not only the menacing Orcs, but giant spiders with sticky webs, too, Then mens salsa dance shoes there are the elves, who come to the rescue at an opportune time but then imprison Bilbo and his mates, (Gandalf — the always grand Ian McKellen — has other business, and leaves for long stretches.), Lee Pace is fun as the campy and authoritarian Thranduil, leader of the elves, His son Legolas (Orlando Bloom, back from “The Lord of the Rings”) is talented as ever with a bow, And he has a love interest: Tauriel, a newly invented character, played with spunky sweetness by Evangeline Lilly, Tauriel, it turns out, has a soft spot for the dwarf Kili, a rather hunky Aidan Turner, (“He’s quite tall for a dwarf,” she says, “But no less ugly,” retorts Legolas.)..
Bilbo, ever bolder, helps the dwarves escape their jailers in a terrific scene — involving barrels, river rapids, and an endless supply of Orcs — that rivals a Busby Berkeley dance number. (Side note: These dwarves are awfully durable.) Further entertainment comes in Lake-town, led by a greedy Master (the engaging Fry) and his underling Alfrid (Ryan Gage, also fun). It should be noted that Jackson has again shot his film at 48-frames-per-second, double the standard speed, to make things look sharper. But this time, the fanfare is gone; critics were not even shown the film at the faster speed. Jackson clearly doesn’t want the technique to dominate the discussion.
In any case, it all comes down to the climactic confrontation with the dragon; Unfortunately, the film sags somewhat here, It’s fun to hear Benedict Cumberbatch, as Smaug, hurl seething epithets at Bilbo, and Freeman is at his most pluckily adorable, Still, they really could have shortened this confrontation by a good 20 minutes, But mens salsa dance shoes what’s 20 minutes when you’re taking nine hours to tell a story? Onward to the third installment, Jackson is back on track, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” a Warner Bros, release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.” Running time: 161 minutes, Three stars out of four..
Since her first foray to America more than a decade ago as a Tina Turner impersonator in Las Vegas, she’s become one of the most distinctive vocalists on the international scene, a revered diva sought out by stars ranging from Chick to Seal and Nelly Furtado. Pedro Almodovar was so struck by her voice that the Spanish filmmaker featured her singing on screen in his disturbing 2011 thriller “The Skin I Live In.”. For her nearly sold-out four-night stand at the SFJazz Center, which runs through Sunday, she’s performing with the great Spanish flamenco percussionist Ramón Porrina on cajón, and Cuban piano master Ivan “Melon” Lewis, who played an essential role in defining the driving pulse of timba as a member of the Issac Delgado Group in the mid-1990s. Considering that she recorded with Chucho Valdés on her star-making 2009 tribute to Chavela Vargas, “El Ultimo Trago” (Wea International), and with his father, Bebo Valdes, on 2011’s “En Mi Piel” (Warner Music Latina), Buika seems to gravitate toward powerhouse Cuban pianists.
“I’ve got an affinity for good pianists, it doesn’t matter where they’re from,” says Buika, 41, who performs and records under a single name, “Ivan is an amazing and talented musician, and we can really mens salsa dance shoes be free together on stage.”, Born to political refugees from Equatorial Guinea in Palma de Mallorca in Spain’s Balearic Islands, Buika grew up in a Gypsy neighborhood, where she absorbed the improvisational spirit, rhythmic patterns, and soul-baring vocal cadences of flamenco directly from the source, Her father, writer and politician Juan Balboa Boneke, eventually returned to his homeland to work for the regime from which he’d fled, while her mother stayed behind..
Growing up, her house was filled with recordings by legendary jazz singers, and Buika often includes arresting renditions of American Songbook standards in performances. Conspicuous as the only child of African descent in the neighborhood, she grew up with a streak of independence and an innate sense of her own musicality. “It was so weird sometimes, you always have the feeling that someone is watching you, 24 hours a day,” Buika says from her home in Miami. She started performing in her late teens, belting out jazz and soul in nightclubs around the Balearics, and eventually connected with rave producers who hired her as a guest artist at all-night dance parties. Then she landed in the United States to work in Las Vegas.
“Everything was very strange,” she recalls, “I was flying from a little village, and it was a really big change, I was in a show as a Tina Turner impersonator, and I was also singing salsa, trying to survive, singing 11 hours a day, I was looking for real music, but I couldn’t find it, so I went back to Spain.”, After attracting the attention of flamenco producer Javier Limón with her eponymous 2005 album, she turned her attention to flamenco and heart-rending Spanish ballads known as coplas, Her next two albums, 2007’s “Mi Niña Lola” and mens salsa dance shoes 2008’s “Niña de Fuego,” were nominated for Latin Grammys, and established her as the most emotionally potent new artist in flamenco..