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.

I’ve Got You Under My Skin: Silence! The Musical, reviewed.

Tally Sessions and Laura Jordan in the musical parody "The Silence of the Lambs" demanded.

Tally Sessions and Laura Jordan Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter and Clarice Starling, in the musical parody “The Silence of the Lambs” demanded.

Studio Theatre served fava beans as snacks on press night of Silence! The Musical. Tasteful! fuhfuhfuhfuhfuhfuhfuh.

I review the show in today’s Washington City Paper.

Cut to Black: The Dissolve, 2013-2015

Godfather funeralI just got home from attending a two-week criticism institute, wherein I was one of 14 working arts journalists, aged twentysomething to fiftysomething, to benefit from the instruction of critics for The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Guardian, and other influential publications. That’s where I was on Wednesday morning when I got a mass e-mail from Scott Tobias indicating that The Dissolve was shutting down, effective immediately. In its two years of life, that site had firmly established itself as the best place on the web to find smart, enthusiastic, formally inventive writing about movies new and old, famous and obscure. I’d declined a review assignment from Scott only days before, citing my wall-to-wall schedule during the institute.

Scott’s e-mail came just as I was heading into a session on restaurant reviewing conducted by Sam Sifton, the Times’ food editor. I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder about food coverage. I don’t usually read it, and I often find it precious and/or pretentious when I do. To me at least, it’s obvious that food is not art. Yes, it’s an important component of culture. Yes, cooking is an admirable skill. But a meal cannot express emotion. An entree cannot communicate an idea. There are sad songs and sad paintings, but there are no sad foods, unless you’re buying your dinner at a 7-Eleven. Continue reading

Fringe on Top: I Wrote the Cover Story in This Week’s Washington City Paper

Screenshot 2015-07-11 18.12.52I’m a few days late posting this. For the past two weeks I’ve been taking part in the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center’s National Critics Institute — a professional boot camp for early-to-mid-career critics under the command of Chris Jones, the Chicago Tribune‘s chief theatre critic and a fine teacher of the craft, too. It’s been an intense couple of weeks of living in a spartan dormitory with a roommate, and hitting overnight deadlines almost every night. I’ll write about that a bit more once I’ve recovered.

In the midst of all that, I had to finish the cover story in this week’s Washington City Paper, about the 10th Capital Fringe Festival, which kicked off Thursday evening. I hope you will find it answers all your most pressing questions about Capital Fringe and co-founder/Executive Director Julianne Brienza’s plan to take it higher. I mean that literally. She wants to add three floors to the building she bought last year in Trinidad. Continue reading

Pop Culture Happy Hour, Small Batch Ed. — Terminator: Genisys (sic)

Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Terminator: Genisys" (sic)I Skyped in from the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in beautiful New London, CT to dissect Terminator: Genisys (sic) — the underwhelming reboot of/fourth sequel to one of my favorite movies — with Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon. While I was taking in this movie in the “Luxury Seating” equipped Waterford 9 Cinemas, several of my fellow Critic Fellows, all ladies, were next door enjoying Magic Mike XXL. My proposal for a double feature was summarily rejected.

 

The Future Is Not Set: A Terminator Dossier

A T-800 goes shopping for some clothes at the Griffith Park Observatory, May 12, 1984. Recognize the guy with the spiky blue hair?

I haven’t seen the by-all-accounts underwhelming Terminator: Genisys yet, because since I’ve been busy being a “Critic Fellow” at the one-of-a-kind Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in the wilds of Connecticut. But I did indulge in some quippy dramaturgy on the wandering-ronin Terminator franchise, for NPR.