Monthly Archives: May 2014

Mash Note: Lucky Them, reviewed.

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My review of Lucky Them, wherein the great Toni Collette plays a rock journalist assigned to write about her former lover, is up at The Dissolve now.

No Guilty Pleasures: Talking with alt-country chanteuse Lydia Loveless

Lydia Loveless (Patrick Crawford/Blackletter)

I spoke with the great singer-songwriter (and Ke$ha song-improver) Lydia Loveless for the Washington City Paper’s Arts Desk in advance of her show at the 9:30 Club Saturday night in support of Old 97’s, (sic) one of my favorite bands. Read a gently edited transcript here.

When the 97’s last came through town, in October 2012, I had a really good talk with their frontmanRhett Miller. In 2008 I talked to their second singer-songwriter, Murry Hammond, too.

Rebel Without a Horse: Age of Uprising, reviewed.

Mads Mikkelsen in "Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas"

Sometimes even very strong films can be a chore to sit through. My review of Arnaud des Pallières’ 2013 Palme d’Or nominee Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas, starring Danish actor/prop Mads Mikkelsen, is up at The Dissolve today.

Freud Where Prohibited: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and Freud’s Last Session, reviewed, plus some Frank (Britton) discussion.

In today’s Washington City Paper, I review two plays that mull over free will and the existence of God, both of which feature Sigmund Freud as a character. The better of the pair, Stephen Adly Guirgis’ The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, features a towering performance from Frank Britton as Pontius Pilate.

Around 2:15 Tuesday morning, after he’d left the cast party that followed Judas‘ opening-night performance, Britton was assaulted and robbed by four or five unidentified attackers near the Silver Spring Metro stop. He underwent surgery at Holy Cross Hospital to treat a broken cheekbone. Britton does not have medical insurance. A crowdfunding campaign to cover his hospital bills (donate here) has raised over $45,000 so far.
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Back to the Future (Past), or You Can’t Keep a Good X-Man Down

I enjoyed X-Men: Days of Future Past, Bryan Singer’s return after a decade-long absence to the surprisingly resilient superhero franchise he originated. This movie is based on a 1981 story from The Uncanny X-Men comic book that I first read when it was reprinted in probably 1989 or 1990.

The movie alters the tale as necessary to unite the cast of 2011’s 60s-set X-Men: First Class with the players from the earlier X-pictures, set in the present day — or rather, as a title card at the top of 2000’s X-Men tells us, “the not-too-distant future.” I’d feared this timeline-straddling — Days of Future Past is set in some unspecified year in the 2020s, -ish, and in 1973 — might make the movie as dull and incoherent as the Star Wars prequels, but it’s funny and light on its feet.

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Infrared Dawn: On the James Webb Space Telescope in the July 2014 issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian

An illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope. Courtesy of NASA.

And now for something completely different, and completely intimidating — at least initially. The current issue of Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine has my first-ever astronomy story, about the James Webb Space Telescope, the remarkable $8.8 billion dollar replacement for the aging Hubble Space Telescope.

As JWST orbits the Earth from a million miles away, its six-meter mirror of gold-coated beryllium will collect light that’s fainter, farther away, and billions of years older than we’ve ever been able to see, showing us some of the earliest objects that formed in the universe after the Big Bang. As with most of NASA’s flagship projects, JWST has taken longer and cost far more than NASA had said and Congress had hoped. It’s now set for launch in October 2018. Continue reading

Just Like Starting Over: The Love Punch, reviewed.

Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, Emma Thompson, and Pierce Brosnan in "The Love Punch." (Etienne George)

My review of The Love Punch, a disappointing romantic caper featuring the appealing pairing of Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan, is up now at The Dissolve. Somebody give these two a better movie to costar in, stat.

Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, Emma Thompson, and Pierce Brosnan in The Love Punch. (Etienne George)

Air-Conditioned Fun in the Summertime: 10 Movies I Want to See in the Next Three Months

Time was, the summer movie season — when blocks got busted and Oscar contenders got out of the way — began Memorial Day weekend and had shot its wad by mid-July. Once in a while you’d get a great late-summer picture, like The Fugitive, released Aug. 6, 1993 (and nominated for Best Picture, come to that.) But generally the big action pictures, which gradually gave way to the superhero flicks, needed six or seven weeks before kids got marched back into school so studios could benefit from repeat business.

In the 21st century, the summer movie season advanced to the first weekend in May, a date that in recent years has belonged to Marvel Comics adaptations, whether they’re made by Marvel Studios, like The Avengers, or by other studios, like the Spider-Man pictures (both the Raimis and the Webbs) from Sony, or the X-Men series, from Fox.

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The Career of Tom Cruise, X-Men, Han Solo, and the Wrath of Cannes. I’m on the Voice Film Club podcast this week.

I had a great time sitting in on this week’s Voice Film Club podcast with my Village Voice editor Alan Scherstuhl and L.A. Weekly film critic Amy Nicholson. Alan invited me on to talk about my essay demanding the death of Han Solo, but before we get to that we have a long chat about the perplexing career of Tom Cruise (working off of Amy’s marvelous cover story about him) and Amy’s review of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which I won’t get to see until tonight. You can hear the podcast below or here.

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Sometimes It Smarts, Being a Smartie: Charm and Bloody Poetry, reviewed.

Tonya Beckman, Dan Crane, Ian Armstrong, and Esther Williams in Howard Brenton's "Bloody Poetry." (Teresa Castracane/Taffety Punk)My review of Taffety Punk Theatre Company’s “Rulebreaker Rep” —Kathleen Cahill’s Charm, about pioneering feminist Margaret Fuller, and Howard Brenton’s Bloody Poetry, about free-loving romantics of the early 19th century — is in today’s Washington City Paper. Continue reading

When In Glam: Nero/Pseudo, reviewed.

Bradley Foster Smith in "Nero / Pseudo."

Richard Byrne’s original glam musical Nero / Pseudo, featuring songs by Jon Langford and Jim Elkington, needs a little more Caligula, I conclude in my Washington City Paper review. Still, it’s a project worth following — and I’ve been following it for a couple of years.

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Robert Duvall-ing the Cradle: A Night in Old Mexico, reviewed.

Robert Duvall in "A Night in Old Mexico," directed by Emilio Aragón, 2013.
Wherein I review the late period Robert Duvall vehicle A Night in Old Mexico for The Dissolve.

So Long, H.R. Giger, and Thanks for All the Sleepless Nights

H. R. Giger, "Necronomicon IV," 1975.

Giger’s “Necronomicon IV,” 1975

A brief remembrance, written this morning not quite as quickly as I can type, of the great Swiss artist H.R. Giger and his most iconic creation, for NPR Monkey See. Continue reading

Show Me No Money: Trust Me, reviewed.

Saxon Sharbino and Clark Gregg in "Trust Me," which Gregg wrote and directed.
Trust Me, the second feature film written and directed by Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. star Clark Gregg, confounds pretty much any expectation you’re likely to bring to it. I reviewed it for The Dissolve.

Bring Me the Head of Han Solo

Harrison Ford believed Han Solo should die, and he was right. So let's kill him.

It was actually my pal Village Voice Film Editor Alan Scherstuhl who pitched me on this piece. When Disney announced the other week that Harrison Ford would be returning for at least one more Star Wars movie, Alan figured — and I immediately concurred — that it’s high time for Han Solo to receive the heroic demise that Ford wanted to give him in Return of the Jedi, 31 years ago. With apologies to Mike Ryan, whose work I admire, here’s why Solo gotta go-lo.
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An Athenian, a Broad: The Love of the Nightingale, reviewed.

Matthew Schleigh, Megan Dominy, and Rena Cherry Brown in The Love of the Nightingale. Photograph by Stan Barouh.

“It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” is how James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome said it in 1966. (And Brown denied Newsome’s contributions to the song in court decades later, as if to prove the title correct.)

“Woman Is the Nigger of the World,” is how John Lennon and Yoko Ono said it in 1972.

“Every man has a choice to make: Commitment, or new pussy?” is how Chris Rock said it in 1996.

And The Love of the Nightingale is how Sophocles said it two-and-a-half millennia earlier, give or take, which got filtered through Ovid’s brain four centuries later, and then British playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker’s just eight years ago. In her astute update of the sad story of Philomele and Procne, Wertenbaker dares to have one of her characters, an innocent, ask what a myth is.

“The oblique image of an unwanted truth, reverberating through time,” comes the answer.

And the unwanted truth reverberating, hard, through The Love of the Nightingale is this: Men. Are. Dogs.

Woof.

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Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man: Llyn Foulkes: One Man Band, reviewed.

Llyn Foulkes' painting "The Awakening," 1994-2012.It’s been a few years since I was way out of my depth trying to write about “visual art” — by which I mean stuff that hangs on walls, that is, not cinema — but reviewing the documentary Llyn Foulkes: One Man Band for The Dissolve brought me right back. I enjoyed the visit.

Llyn Foulkes’ painting The Awakening, 1994-2012.

Hard (Nineteen Twenty-)Eight: The Threepenny Opera and Failure: A Love Story, reviewed.

And now, two plays with music, one from 1928 and one set in 1928. My reviews of Signature Theatre’s new production of The Threepenny Opera as well as the hub theatre’s local premiere of Philip Dawkins’ Failure: A Love Story, are in today’s Washington City Paper. Continue reading