Period Piece: The Man from U.N.C.L.E., reviewed.

I’m a sucker for sixties spy shit, and that Guy Ritchie’s new big-screen version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is, unlike most reboots of stuff from the period, actually set in the period is a big selling point for me. It luxuriates in the clothes, cars, and music of the era, updating only the sexual politics. My NPR review spends an unlikely sum of real estate discussing Dirty Dancing.

Gun Play: One in the Chamber, reviewed.

Grace Doughy, Adrienne Nelson, and Dwight Tolar in "One in the Chamber."Director Michael R. Piazza’s new production of Marja-Lewis Ryan’s all-medicine, no-sugar play about the long aftermath of an accidental shooting is a tough sit, but well-performed. Does that matter? My review is in today’s Washington City Paper.

Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 255: Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (Too Many Colons)

Hamilton0044r

It was my honor to spend, for the second consecutive year, my birthday — well, the eve of my birthday — at NPR with Team PCHH. Here’re my notes and omissions on this thrilling episode.

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It’s Clobberin’ Time: Fantastic Four (2015), reviewed.

The Fantastic Four No. 1, 1961. Cover by Jack Kirby.Because it comes from a promising young filmmaker and features a strong cast, the third attempt to turn Marvel’s proto-super-team The Fantastic Four into a hit movie franchise turns out to be the most disappointing yet.  My NPR review is here.

U Talkin’ U2 at Unreasonable Length 2 Me? U2 at Madison Square Garden, July 30, 2015, Annotated.

The guy in the silver lame is Mark Baker, aka

Last Thursday, I attended the seventh of U2’s eight concerts at Madison Square Garden, which concluded their U.S. tour. It was my 18th U2 concert since 1997. Here are my notes, assembled in mostly chronological order, which is the most boring possible method of review-writing. Let’s go!

1. Bono took the stage by himself, at the opposite end of the arena from the band. Most of the folks surrounding the B-stage on the floor where we were (though it’s called the E-stage now, being that this is the annoying capitalized iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour) were staring at one of house-right floor entrances to the arena, smart phones at the ready, from the moment Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” started playing on the P.A. I don’t like that he enters on his own. It contradicts the “just the four of us” narrative that they’ve always fostered, and it’s worth fostering. What other band has stayed intact with its original lineup for just a year or two shy of four decades?

2. My fellow superfans were really nice. We were in the G.A. line ahead of a guy named Bob Springsteen, of the Arkansas Springsteens — he showed me his I.D., unbidden. He was at the show with a pal on this evening but returning with his wife and young daughters, he said, the following night. So Bob Springsteen was in the house the night Bruce Springsteen joined U2 on stage. (I was not.) I’d been reading rumors of a Bruuuuuce appearance on fan sites for a week, and I figured, accurately, that if he showed up he would join in on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which he played with U2 after inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 10 years ago. (He was returning the favor. Bono gave Bruce’s induction speech in 1998.) He also played it with U2 at the 25th anniversary concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. So a not-especially-surprising surprise. Continue reading

The Spies Have It: Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, reviewed.

Tom Cruise in

The Mission: Impossible film series is 19, long enough in the tooth for its earlier installments to start to acquire the same time capsule effect that makes me love even the worst James Bond movies. I watched Brian De Palma’s 1996 Mission: Impossible the night after I saw the new one, subtitled Rogue Nation, and John Woo’s barely-related 2000 M:I-2 the night after that. Yep, blockbusters are different now.

Trying to articulate just how was part of the chore of writing my NPR review of the fifth impossible mission, from Jack Reacher writer/director Christopher McQuarrie. Short version: I liked it. But I had more thoughts about it than I could shoehorn into the review, so here’re a few outtakes. Continue reading

Requiem for a Middleweight: Southpaw, reviewed.

Like Robert De Niro and Daniel Day-Lewis before him, Jake Gyllenhaal transformed his body to play a boxer. (Scott Garfield)Those who’re skeptical of the doctrine of self-mastery through sweat probably won’t find much to hold their interest in Southpaw, a boxing melodrama so old-fashioned it’s almost new. But I dug it. If my NPR review contains slightly fewer cliches than the movie does, it’s not because I took a dive.