Don’t Forget the Motor City: Detroit, reviewed.

DETROITReview-writing is easier when you can interrogate your responses to the work and make judgments quickly. Detroit just wasn’t one of those movies for me.
 
I thought it was important to try to discern exactly where the Bigelow-Boal directing/screenwriting duo deviated from or compressed the facts, which is hard in a 50-year-old case where so many of the facts were disputed. But I also saw some odd parallels between this movie and a couple of the ones Bigelow made before her historic Oscar win changed the way we receive her work. So my review is, among other things… long.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Atomic Blonde

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The Mondo two-LP blue-and-yellow-vinyl edition of the soundtrack to David Leitch’s stylish Charlize Theron-headlined, set-in-1989 espionage thriller Atomic Blonde that I ordered won’t arrive for several weeks, I’m told. Until then you and I will just have to make do with our extant libraries of New Order, The Clash, A Flock of Seagulls, etc. And with this thrilling recorded-in-one take episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour, wherein host Linda Holmes and regular panelists Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon brought me in to talk about how much we all like watching Ms. Theron kick ass. It’s a lot more satisfying that watching her play second-fiddle to some grunting no-talent clown in a tank top.

The Hateful Eighth: An Octoroon and To Tell My Story: A Hamlet Fanfic, reviewed.

The Octoroon, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Co.

My review of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company remount of An Octoroon, the best show I saw in 2016, is here. I should’ve credited Gwydion Suilebhan (a Woolly staffer, though I’ve known him longer than he’s been on payroll there) for the observation in paragraph four about police body cameras; I couldn’t swear I would’ve thought of that if he hadn’t mentioned it to me when we were chatting after the show. He’s a playwright and a very smart guy, so if you’re going to pilfer ideas, he’s a good victim.

I also reviewed To Tell My Story: A Hamlet Fanfic, the latest literary comedy from Washington Post humor columnist Alexandra Petri.

FURTHER READING: My 2013 profile of An Octoroon playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

Wartime in a Bottle: Dunkirk, reviewed.

BB-T2-0051I’ve never understood the objection that Christopher Nolan’s movies are sterile. Dunkirk, his new dramatization of the 1940 rescue of British soldiers from the beaches of Northern France carried out largely by civilians, knocked me flat. Here’s my review.

By Any Means Necessary, Any Which Way You Can: War for the Planet of the Apes, reviewed.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APESWhat a Craig Finn-style blockbuster summer we’re having this year. Nothing as visionary as Mad Max: Fury Road from 2015, maybe, or as congruent with my own sensibilities as The Nice Guys from last year, but everything I picked sight unseen for my Village Voice/LA Weekly summer movie preview—Wonder Woman, The Beguiled, Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming—has so far avoided embarrassing me. I even liked Rough Night okay. It’s possible I’m not all that discerning a critic.

But my praise for War of the Planet of the Apes is well-founded. Even though I saw the movie weeks before I was assigned to write about it, which might be why the review is uncharacteristically (I hope) light on specific observations.
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Rock Island Party Line: Roots, Radicals, and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World by Billy Bragg

Lonnie Donegan collectionFor the Dallas Morning News, I reviewed folk singer Billy Bragg’s new history of skiffle, a largely forgotten British musical form that linked blues and “trad jazz” with rock and roll in the mid-to-late 1950s. Enjoy.

Quindar Love

IMG_4995For my day job at Air & Space / Smithsonian, I wrote about Quindar, an electronic music duo comprised of art historian James Merle Thomas and Wilco multinstrumentalist Mikael Jorgensen. In their multimedia live performances and on their debut album Hip Mobility, the pair finds inspiration in the ephemera of the pre-Shuttle space program.

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