Because three shows had their press nights here in the DMV the same night Constellation Theatre Company opened their version of the Y2K-era Elton John-Tim Rice musical Aida, myWashington City Paper review took a little while to appear. Here it is. The principal actors are better than most of the material.
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I was delighted as always to join my pals Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, and Glen Weldon on Pop Culture Happy Hour to discuss the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man—a movie that, like the new A Star Is Born, I appreciate more the more I think about it. Somehow we managed to avoid re-litigating the great La La Land controversy during this conversation. (My bomb-throwing position: It's good!) When I used the word Weldonian in the studio, Glen nearly tore his rotator cuff making the "cut" gesture, but cooler, more hirsute heads—those of producers Jessica Reedy and Vincent Acovino—prevailed.
During the "What's Making Us Happy" segment I endorse Alec Nevala-Lee's new history Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, of which I'll have a review appearing in the Dallas Morning News shortly. It happens that Nevala-Lee wrote a thoughtful post about First Man and the silly flap among people who haven't seen the movie over the fact that it doesn't depict the planting of the American flag on the lunar surface. I'm glad to share it.
For NPR, I reviewed Venom, which I can't actually prove is a shelved Jim Carrey vehicle from 1997 in which Carrey has now been digitally (and tentacle-y) replaced by Tom Hardy.
But you can't prove that it's not.
After the customary late summer lull, I’m back on the theater beat. Last week’s Washington City Paper featured my reviews of two plays that first appeared in 2015, now making their regional premieres Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ stunner Gloria, at Woolly Mammoth, and Small Mouth Sounds by Bess Wohl, at Round House.
FURTHER READING: My 2013 City Paper profile of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is here.
Predator, directed by John McTiernan the year before he made Die Hard, has been a favorite film of mine ever since I biked home with the rented VHS cassette (I couldn't persuade my dad to take me, aged 10, to see it in the theater) and watched it three or four times in a weekend. It was the 12th highest-grossing film of 1987, a year when the box office top five was Three Men and a Baby, Fatal Attraction, Beverly Hills Cop II, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Moonstruck. One sequel and four original, not-based-on-preexisting material screenplays. Just in case you need a sense of just how long ago that was.
"The title, with its slight echo of the 1973 Pam Grier vehicle Coffy, promises a sticky confection of feminism and violence, but the movie it's selling is a desultory drag. It's so dull-edged that even prospect of a white woman (named North!) whose family was afflicted by, um, economic anxiety before being murdered by cartel-affiliated outlaws doesn't carry the scab-picking provocation that it should."
That's me on Peppermint, a sweaty return to sweaty form for Jennifer Garner, from Taken director Pierre Morel. It's the kind of movie that doesn't get shown at the Toronto International Film Festival, where I currently am not. The full review is here.
Mile 22 is essentially Mission: Impossible minus amazing stunts, jokes, joy, Tom Cruise running, Rebecca Ferguson felling dudes by getting her leg over their shoulders, or Henry Cavill's mustache. Also minus a great Iko Uwais fight scene or any sort of Ronda Rousey fight scene, which is odd because they're both in the movie. But! There are one or two actual ideas in this thing that deserve homes in better movies. My NPR review of Mile 22 is here.
Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon did me a solid with that headline. Of all the giant-shark thrillers that've been scaring us out of the water since Jaws invented the summer blockbuster, The Meg, starring the Fast & the Furious franchise's most talented chromedome, is without question the most recent. Here's my NPR review.