Monthly Archives: June 2014

Out of Her Tree: Enter Ophelia, distracted, reviewed.

Erin White, Katie Murphy, Kimberly Gilbert, and Eleni Grove in Enter Ophelia, distracted. Photo by Teresa Castracane.

reviewed the great Kimberly Gilbert’s passion project Enter Ophelia, distracted, for the Washington City Paper this week. Continue reading

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Drone Unknowns: Grounded, reviewed.

My review of Grounded, a George Brant’s solo play about a drone pilot, is in today’s Washington City Paper

Lucy Ellinson in the Gate Theatre production of George Brant’s Grounded.

Dear Doctor: Code Black, reviewed.

Danny Cheng, M.D., Dave Pomeranz, M.D.,  Ryan McGarry, M.D., Billy Mallon, M.D. at bedside in McGarry's documentary "Code Black."

My review of physician Ryan McGarry’s documentary Code Black is up today at The Dissolve.

This was one of those instances when what you already know about a subject can color your perception of a film. An ex-girlfriend of mine is a physician who did her residency at a country medical center 65 miles west of the one documented in Code Black, and we lived together during those years, 2000-2003. She was at the hospital all the time, and I became well acquainted with her classmates, who were exactly like the young doctors whose voices McGarry features: idealistic, accomplished, adventurous, easily bored. Many of them had done other things before medical school, like working on a fishing boat in Alaska or spending a few years as a forest firefighter. One of them was a nun who swore more crudely than any Marine I’ve ever met. They were all friendly, and I found them all intimidating. I was in awe of them.

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Julie Taymor Probably Hates Pink Even More Now

Panel from The Amazing Spider-Man #21, by Stan Lee 7 Steve Ditko.“Julie hated pink. It also seemed as if she could discern gradations of red on the electromagnetic spectrum that no one else could. Humans are ‘trichromats,’ meaning we have three different types of cone cells in our eyes. However, it has been surmised that because of the XX chromosome, some women may possess a fourth variant cone cell, situated between the standard red and green cones. This would make them — like birds — ‘tetrachromats.’ These hypothetical tetrachromats would have the ability to distinguish between two colors a trichchromat would call identical. Continue reading

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Edge of Tomorrow and Noble Failures

It’s always a thrill to be invited back on Pop Culture Happy Hour. I joined Linda, Stephen, and Glen to talk about Edge of Tomorrow — the best would-be summer blockbuster yet in a year that’s already seen several strong ones — plus noble failures. We agreed on the B topic before Edge of Tomorrow opened to less-than-stellar business, despite near-universal acclaim from critics. I hope we didn’t jinx it, because this is exactly the kind of shrewd, fresh, self-aware big movie that seems to be perennially in danger of extinction.

I’d been summoned to PCHH this time at least in part because of my enduring affection for the 1991 caper comedy/Bruce Willis vanity project Hudson Hawk. This is, to my mind, a creatively successful film that also just happened to lose something north of $50 million in 1991 dollars.

I always over-prepare when I’m invited on a podcast. I came in ready to talk about a few other movies big genre films whose reach exceeded their grasp: Kathryn Bigelow’s ambitious social sci-fi Strange Days, Bryan Singer’s way-emo Superman Returns (to which Man of Steel‘s shrugging, genocidal violence was, I’m convinced, a direct, and stupid, reaction), and Alien 3, the fascinating, troubled sequel that marked David Fincher’s feature debut and that he refuses to talk about to this day. Of those three, only Strange Days was a big money-loser like Hudson Hawk was; the other two did okay but fell short of their aesthetic objectives. Notes on "Strange Days" for Pop Culture Happy Hour.

I’d even jotted down a quote from Roger Ebert’s four-star review of Strange Days to read on the air. Having come from a screening of Steve James’ wonderful documentary Life Itself — about Ebert’s life, career, illness, and death — just hours ago as I’m typing this, I’m doubly sorry I didn’t get to. We didn’t even get to everything I meant to say about Hudson Hawk. Hey, it’s a discussion, not a lecture.

I’ll correct one of those omissions right here: One of Hudson Hawk’s villains, Caesar Mario, is a guy who had a chip on his shoulder because he’s the lesser-known brother of a more famous gangster. This character is played by Frank Stallone. That’s a good casting joke, there.

Recorded but cut for time was an acknowledgment — initiated, would you believe, not by me but by my Pal-for-Life Glen — about Edge of Tomorrow‘s homages to ALIENS both large and small, from the armored power suits to the gender-neutral division of action-hero labors between stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, to the presence of Bill Paxton, doing a hilarious 180-degree inversion of Private Hudson, his panicked, “Game over, Man!” Marine from ALIENS.

Anyway, listen here or find the podcast on iTunes.

FURTHER READING: I wrote about Edge of Tomorrow and blockbuster fatigue, and about PG-13 vs. R-rated cine-violence and about how seeing ALIENS on VHS 400 times as a kid set up expectations that the 2012 ALIEN prequel Prometheus could not possibly satisfy.

Click on any photo to see a beautiful, high-res version.

Strange We Can Believe In: The Totalitarians and Kwaidan, reviewed.

Emily Townley in Rober O'Hara's production of  Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's "The Totalitarians" for Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

Two towering comic performances make Robert O’Hara’s “rolling world premiere” production a must-see: Emily Townley’s, plus Dawn Ursula’s as Francine Jefferson, a campaign manager who sees Townley’s Penelope as an obedient blank canvas on which she can paint her ticket out of Nebraska. The piece opens with Francine rolling around in bed in her underwear, oblivious to her simpering husband’s pleas for sex as she tries to come up with an indelible three-word campaign slogan. “Freedom From Fear” is the pithy nothing she lands on. Or, since nobody has time for that mouthful: “Fuh Fuh Fuh.” (It’s the economy of phrasing, stupid.)

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You Must Remember This: I Am I, reviewed.

Jocelyn Towne in the amnesia drama "I Am I," which she wrote and directed.
My review of Jocelyn Towne’s amnesia drama I Am I is up at The Dissolve today.