Monthly Archives: July 2019

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Brad and Leo, movie stars. (Sony)

Our Pop Culture Happy Hour dissection of Quentin Tarantino’s ninth picture gave me the opportunity to be on a panel with Monica Castillo, a fellow Eugene O’Neill National Critics Institute fellow and someone with whom I’d not previously had the pleasure of speaking, though we have friends and colleagues in common. A fun episode. After some deliberation, we elected to avoid any in-depth discussion of the ending of the film.

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The Ampersands of Time: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, reviewed.

Bald Is Beautiful: Dwayne Johnson & Jason Statham. (Universal)

Look, all of the Fast & Furious movies have stolen their best bits from better movies, but when the new double-ampersand sidebar flick Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw actually had its cyborg villain, Brixton Lorr (Idris Elba) get orders from an unseen superior to try to turn heroes Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) over to the Dark Side, I still managed to be surprised. My NPR review is here.

The Next-to-Last Picture Show: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, reviewed.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt star in Quentin Tarantino’s 9th film. (Sony)

The Bruin—the Westwood cinema where Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate) goes to see herself in the Dean Martin-starring spy spoof The Wrecking Crew midway through Quentin Tarantino’s new Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood—is where I saw Ocean’s 11 (the Soderbergh-Clooney-Pitt one, not the the Dean Martin one) in 2001 and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003. I must’ve seen at least a few other movies there, but those are the two I remember.

I like QT’s new picture a whole lot. My NPR review awaits you.

Collateral Ham-age: Stuber, reviewed.

Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani are better than the movie they’re in. (Hopper Stone/Fox)

Halfway through another summer packed with sequels and reboots and brand IP extensions, it give me no pleasure, none at all, to have to tell you that Stuber, an action comedy from an “original” screenplay and starring two very talented and appealing comic actors in Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani… is just Collateral, only not as good.

My NPR review is here. Ugh! I feel terrible!

527 Dog Years: Mike Daisey tells A People’s History

Class is in session. (Darrow Montgomery for the Washington City Paper)

Mike Daisey is an artist I’ve written about more often and in greater detail than only anyone else. He’s certainly the artist with to whom I’ve spent the most time speaking directly. The reviews I’ve written of his monologues and the features I’ve reported about how he creates them and the op-ed I was once moved to write in his defense all reflect my great admiration for his work.

That has not prevented me from condemning him when I think he’s deserved it, and he did do something that warranted condemnation, years ago. I will say that in the third year of a Donald J. Trump administration, it seems awfully quaint that so many journalists who had never publicly discussed theatre at all before they lined up to express their outrage at Daisey in the spring of 2012 got so steamed over a guy who tells stories in theaters for a living taking some liberties with one of them.

Anyway, Daisey’s wildly ambitious current show A People’s History—an 18 part retelling of American history circa 1492-to-now, based heavily on the work of Howard Zinn but also on Daisey’s own life—is the subject of my second Washington City Paper cover story about him, available today wherever finer Washington, DC alt-weeklies are given away for free. My 2012 WCP story detailing the problems he created for himself with his show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, and his effort to remedy them, is here. In fact, all of my writings about Daisey are mere clicks away! How much time do you have?

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Spider-Man: Far From Home and What’s Making Us Happy

Tom Holland gets some enhanced screening from Giada Benedetti. (Columbia)

Host Linda Holmes is off promoting her already New York Times-bestselling debut novel Evvie Drake Starts Over this month, so Glen and Stephen handled the hosting chores on PCHH this episode, with Mallory Yu and me in chairs three and four to talk about Spider-Man: Far From Home. It is the eighth movie by volume with the proper noun “Spider-Man” in the title since 2002. (For more important data analysis, see my NPR review of the movie.)

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Trump’s “A Salute to America” is just a dumber reboot of 1970’s “Honor America Day.”

A dollar well spent.

I’ve bought an embarrassing number of weird old records over the last several years, some of them priced considerably higher than the $1 I dropped on Proudly They Came… to Honor America. The double LP was a memento from “Honor America Day,” a 1970 Independence Day observance organized by President Nixon’s inaugural committee chair.

I’d never heard of that event until I found this record, but when I read up on it, mostly in Kevin J. Kruse’s 2015 book One Nation Under God, it struck me as similar in intention to the self-aggrandizing “Salute to America” that President Trump has announced for this Thursday, but far less dire and militaristic. I wrote about all this for the Washington Post.