These are indeed Strange Days we’re living in when my delightful friend Linda Holmes appreciates an action picture more than I do. We have each of us seen only the latter-day installments in the unaccountably resilient Fast & Furious franchise – those would be Nos. 6 and 7, the ones we watched together – which did not deter us from debriefing on the new Furious 7 in a small-batch session Pop Culture Happy Hour, which you can hear here.
Linda loves it. I like it, too, though I have some reservations. (My Travel Channel TV show is actually called Some Reservations. Call your cable operator.) Continue reading
I wrote this fun piece for my day job. It appears in our May 2015 issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian, now on sale at Barnes & Noble and other fine booksellers and newsstands, as well as the National Air & Space Museum. It’s our 70th anniversary of V-E Day issue, which – because it’ll be out in time for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover on Friday, May 8th (the actual anniversary) – includes pull-out Spotter Cards you can use to identify the silhouettes of the two dozen vintage warbirds that’ll be buzzing over your head a few minutes past noon if you come down to the National Mall on that day. Continue reading
Posted in movies
Tagged aviation, Emeric Pressburger, Frank Capra, George Stevens, John Ford, John Huston, Mark Harris, Michael Powell, movies, Smithsonian Air & Space, William Wyler, World War II
For my day job at Air & Space / Smithsonian, I interviewed Kip Thorne, the theoretical physicist who, along with his friend the movie producer Lynda Obst, conceived the film Interstellar back in 2006. Thorne remained closely involved with the picture throughout its writing, production, and editing, and has now published a 324-page companion to the film called The Science of “Interstellar” laying out his scientific rationalization for every aspect of its story — even the Love Tesseract Wormhole.
DUH: Don’t read this interview if you intend to see Interstellar but haven’t yet.
In “Terminator 2,” onetime victim Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) gets militarized.
Thanks to Pop Culture Happy Hour full-timers Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, and host Linda Holmes for inviting me back on the podcast this week to talk about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and a subject closer to my heart than that one, Christmas music. Have I mentioned that I’m very interested in Christmas music?
Our dissection of that enervating Hobbit movie feeds into a discussion of second installments, and some of the ones that really work. If you haven’t seen Terminator 2: Judgment Day in a while, there’s no time like the present, Christmas T-minus five. Continue reading
Ubiquitous director Jeremy Skidmore‘s tenacious production of A Few Good Men, the play that gave us Aaaron Sorkin, cuts a dashing figure in its dress whites. Reviewed in this week’s Washington City Paper, available wherever finer alt-weeklies are given away for free.
Posted in theatre
Tagged Aaaron Sorkin, Brianna Letourneau, Jack Nicholson, Jeremy Skidmore, Jonathan Feuer, Keegan Theatre, Maboud Ebrahimzadeh, Mark A. Rhea, movies, Rob Reiner, Steven Royal, Tom Cruise
Because I routinely make terrible decisions about how to spend my ever-dwindling supply of time on Earth, I paid $24.99 (50% of MSRP) for the four-disc, 3D Blu-Ray edition of Prometheus, a film I’d harbored huge hopes for but ultimately found disappointing. A Ridley Scott film, in other words.
I don’t have the gear or the inclination to watch a 3D movie at home, but the deluxe set that includes the 3D version of Prometheus (along with the plain-Jane 2D in three different formats, because what price piece of mind?) is the only way to get The Furious Gods, a three-hour, 40 minute (!) making-of documentary by Charles de Lauzirika, a nonfiction filmmaker whose insightful, well-edited making-ofs for similarly lavish reissues of Scott’s only two great films — all together now, Alien and Blade Runner — have already claimed many irreplaceable hours of my life.
I’ve yet to make it all the way through the documentary. It’s long, sure, but actually it’s longer, because I’ve been watching in “enhanced mode,” meaning that when an icon appears at the top of the screen I can press a button on my remote and watch an “enhancement pod” — a video footnote, basically — containing even more nerdily trivial information about whatever specific aspect of the film’s conception and production is being discussed at that moment.
When Scott talks about casting original Dragon Tattoo Girl Noomi Rapace in the movie, you can watch her screen test. When production designer Arthur Max reflects on the creation of the movie’s titular spacecraft (which was still called the Magellan for a long time, did you know, even after the Untitled Alien Prequel acquired the name Prometheus), you can click through dozens of drawings and schematics of the ship, which I think that all of us regardless of our political differences can agree is fucking rad. You can even watch an enhancement pod about the film’s many rejected titles. Alien: Tomb of the Gods, anyone? Continue reading
Posted in movies, Uncategorized
Tagged ALIEN, Damon Lindelof, film, Idris Elba, Jon Spaihts, Michael Fassbender, movies, PROMETHEUS, Ridley Scott, science fiction
James Bond, in DR. NO (1962) and SKYFALL (2012).
I was delighted to appear on Pop Culture Happy Hour again last week. (Listen here, you.) The show’s A-topic was movie action heroes, inspired by the publication of Arnold Schwarzengger‘s memoir Total Recall (which I’d only half-read prior to taping, on account of its 624-page girth and the fact I’m reading it in tandem with Salman Rushdie‘s equally substantial memoir Joseph Anton) and, I thought, Taken 2 (which I haven’t seen, and won’t, unless it turns up on Encore Action at 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday eight months from now).
If they’d asked anyone but me to come discuss this topic, I’d have been crushed like Sarah Connor crushed the T-800’s microprocessor-controlled hyperalloy endoskeleton in a hydraulic press.
It turns out that the first half of Arnold’s book is a lot less annoying than the second half.
Happily, Taken 2 did not come up at all.
I’d come prepared to talk about the evolution of the cinema action hero: How the men (usually) of violence, reluctant or not, whose adventures fill seats around the world grew out of a conflation of the gangster pictures that dominated the 1930s and the westerns of the 40s and 50s. In 1962, James Bond arrives onscreen; by 1969, Bond one-timer George Lazenby is watching Telly Savalas (in his sole appearance as one of the series’ recurring characters, cat-loving Bond nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld) break his neck on a low tree limb during the film’s climactic fight atop a bobbing bobsled (!) and observing, “He’s branched off!” Continue reading
Posted in podcasts, Uncategorized
Tagged Arnold Schwarzenegger, Daniel Craig, Dirty Harry, Drive-By Truckers, Glen Weldon, James Bond, Mike Cooley, movies, NPR Monkey See, podcasting, podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Stephen Thompson, Trey Graham