WaPo Book Review: One Lucky Bastard: Tales from Tinseltown

private-signing-with-roger-moore

“Passion without pressure” is how Roger Moore describes the kissing technique he says in his (second) memoir that Lana Turner taught him in 1956, a century or so before he replaced Sean Connery as 007. Gross. This poor girl. Gross.

Roger Moore was 45 when he made his first debut as James Bond ­ — older than Sean Connery, who’d played the role in five films before he got fed up and abdicated, then was coaxed back and quit a second time – and approximately 110 by the last the last of his seven appearances as 007 12 years later. On the DVD extras for Live and Let Die, his 1973 debut as the superspy he and no one else refers to as “Jimmy” Bond, Moore tellingly bemoans the “30 minutes of daily swimming” he endured to develop the not-particularly-athletic physique he displays in the movie. In the three Bonds he made in the 80s, he rarely looked hale enough to survive a tryst with one of his decades-younger leading ladies, much less a dustup with punch-pulling henchpersons like Tee Hee or Jaws or May Day.

Such was the strength of the Bond brand: Audiences would buy that this guy, who looked and acted like the world’s most condescending game show host, was an elite assassin, as long as he looked good in a tuxedo. Which just happened to be Moore’s primary, not to say only, skill.

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The Spoils of War: FURY, reviewed.

I expected that David Ayer, the writer of Training Day and the writer-director of End of Watch and Sabotage, would make a gritty World War II combat picture. But I was surprised how much an interest his film takes in the plight of civilian women, and its willingness to show American soldiers behaving badly during the “Good War.” My NPR review is here.

Bringing Out the DC Dead

Collage on brown package paper affixed to interior window at Fort Fringe, Oct. 5, 2014The flood of new words from me posting today and tomorrow includes this Washington City Paper feature on DC Dead, Rex Daugherty and Vaughn Irving’s “zombie survival experience” set in the former Fort Fringe at 607 New York Ave. NW, and likely, if not certain, to be that storied old wreck’s final show now that the Capital Fringe Festival has officially moved a mile and change east, to the H Street NE corridor.

The photo (click to enlarge it) is of something I saw taped up to the inside of one of the windows in the second-floor room where they used to assemble the festival’s schedule using sticky-notes on the Sunday I visited to report the story. The City Paper photographed CapFringe founder Julianne Brienza there for my cover story about the festival in 2010, and they’ve reused those pictures many times in the years since.

Notes on Champ: Fetch Clay, Make Man and ABSOLUTELY! {perhaps}, reviewed.

Roscoe Orman and Eddie Ray Jackson as Stehin Fetchit and Muhammad Ali in "Fetch Clay, Make Man."

Roscoe Orman and Eddie Ray Jackson as Stephin Fetchit and Muhammad Ali in Fetch Clay, Make Man. (Round House Theatre)

My review of Round House Theatre‘s strong production of Will Power‘s Fetch Clay, Make Man, a play about the unlikely friendship of Muhammad Ali and Stephin Fetchit, is in today’s Washington City Paper. I also review Constellation Theatre‘s update of a century-old Luigi Pirandello play, ABSOLUTELY! {perhaps}. Continue reading

Mouth Almighty: I Am Ali, reviewed.

Muhammad Ali with his then-wife Veronica Porche and their daughter Hana in the 1970s.

“Muhammad Ali is our black Paul Bunyan,” wrote Budd Schulberg in the New York Times 16 years ago, “except that Bunyan’s superhuman exploits were fables and Ali’s are real.”

Muhammad Ali is already the subject of many, many fine books and films. The distinguishing feature of the new documentary I Am Ali, which I reviewed for NPR today, is that filmmaker Clare Lewins was given permission to use never-before-released private tapes that Ali made of his conversations with his daughters and close confidants for his own enjoyment.

As someone who has listened to all 537 episodes of This American Life, many of them more than once and some of them more than twice, and who has annoyed my parents, brother, friends, and girlfriends by recording lengthy interviews with them on various occasions, this approach strikes a chord with me. The recorded voice of someone speaking to one other person will always feel more intimate than a close-up photograph ever could – to me, at least. Continue reading

Where the Wild Things Are: Synetic’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, reviewed.

The inhabitants of Synetic Theater's "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (Johnny Shryock)

This acrobatic Moreau is a rich sensual experience, one that deflates at the end but not before it has vividly dramatized Wells’s big question: Is physical suffering at best irrelevant and at worst necessary? Can we evolve by teaching ourselves to ignore it? By way of demonstrating his answer, Moreau takes a glinting blade and slices a red trail through his own forearm, ignoring the pain like he’s Peter O’Toole playing Lawrence of Arabia, or Gordon Liddy playing himself, or Gary Busey playing Mr. Joshua. (In Lethal Weapon, duh. Read a book, why don’t you.) We always hurt the ones we’re forcibly trying to improve.

My review of Synetic Theater’s new adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau is in today’s Washington City Paper, available wherever finer alt-weeklies are given away for free.

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WaPo book review: Easy Street (The Hard Way)

Easy-Street

My review of Ron Perlman‘s autobiography Easy Street (The Hard Way) is in the Arts/Style section of this Sunday’s Washington Post. But you can read it now.

Perlman’s frequent deployment of the phrase, “Any muthafucka but this muthafucka!” really endeared him to me. I’ve always liked him as an actor, though. I watched Beauty and the Beast when I was a kid because I had a crush on Linda Hamilton stemming from The Terminator.