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theater review — Uppa Creek

Drawn from Kara Walker's hard-edged silhouettes of plantation life, this engaging, complex, modern-day minstrel show finds both humor and emotion as it blurs the lines between the oppressor and the oppressed. The denizens of the Friendly Confines Plantation are all slaves to their passions. Big Master, urged by his wheedling, drunken doctor pal wishes to maintain his rightful dominion over his womenfolk and slaves; Young Master, age 9, greedily craves the nourishment of his wet nurse Mammy's bosom. And Mammy? Well, she just wants to get the hell out of there, no matter who she has to poison or betray.

Drawn in broad, hysterical, parodic strokes, issues of control and power become somehow subtler--and will leave instantly entertained audiences much to ponder later. Though excessive with the slapstick, this production transcends simple social satire and proves to be wise, wry art, thanks to its sharp writing and sly performances.

(originally published at CitySearch)

venue review — Brooklyn Lyceum

Park Slope's former Public Bath #7 is brimming with creative energy.


The Overview Eschewing the notion of Brooklyn as an artistic outer borough, founder Eric Richmond has transformed the mammoth 1910 bathhouse into a cultural/social locus that houses three theaters, the WYNK cafe/internet center, a garden and a gift shop. The Lyceum also stretches outside geographical boundaries with gowanus.com, a forum for posting events and other local info.

The Setting With its open-mike nights, readings, radio plays, theatrical performances, music and sketch comedy acts, the Lyceum is busy nearly every night of the week. Boasting three theaters, including the tiny 60-seat Geloscopic black box and two gigantic raw spaces measuring 3,500 and 5,400 square feet, the in-house troupe is poised to head up a new wave of Brooklyn-centric entertainment.

(originally published at CitySearch)

movie review — Shakes the Clown

Is there any creature so abject as a clown? They amuse no one. Children are terrified by their wacky antics, and adults, if they have any sense, are appalled. Just what drives grown men and women to don big floppy shoes and squeaky noses and cavort foolishly for the non-enjoyment of strangers? If Bobcat Goldthwait's pitch-black clown comedy is any indication, it's because they're either face down in a mountain of blow or hoping to smudge their makeup with horny clown groupies.

The party never ends for our pal Shakes. When he's not out mentally scarring children for cash at birthday shindigs, he's knocking back pitchers with his fright-wigged pals at the local clown dive or waking up on the bathroom floor of a woman whose clown car he apparently packed the night before. Things get more twisted than a balloon giraffe when in the blink of a greasepaint-crusted eye, Shakes loses out on a coveted TV gig, is dumped by his bowling champ girlfriend, gets fired for on-the-job drunkenness and framed for the murder of his beloved boss by Binky, his psychotic, coke snorting rival. In order to clear the good name of Shakes the Clown and win back his lisping lady love, our hero must take on a roughneck band of rodeo clowns, align himself with a milquetoast pack of mimes, dodge bullets¡Zall while fending off a wicked case of the DTs.

In the midst of the carnival whirl of wicked sight gags and brilliant performances by Goldthwait, Adam Sandler, Robin Williams, Florence Henderson and a host of other comedy luminaries, the film also presents an amazingly poignant portrait of a man struggling for his life in the grips of alcoholism. And oh yeah¡Zthey beat up on mimes. That's always good for a laugh.

(originally published at FHMus.com)

movie review — Viva Las Vegas

Let's get the old joke out of the way first, okay? It's an Elvis movie¡Zgosh, is he a slightly back-woods race car driver (cowboy, pilot, etc.) with the odds stacked against him, armed with nothing but sheer determination, a guitar and a nubile ing¡Znue co-star who loves him but doesn't know it yet? Well okay, yeah¡Zbut if you're looking to Elvis films for complex character development and innovative plot structure, then baby, you've got problems even the King can't solve. However, say you need to raise a whole rash of cash in a jiffy to get your engine fixed so you can race in the Vegas Grand Prix, and the hotel where you're toiling away just happens to sponsor a talent contest with a grand prize equal to the cost of the car repairs, then hey¡ZE's your go-to guy. Also need to win the heart of a buxom, feisty l'il filly who can match you tap for tap on the dance floor, but is hesitant to turn her heart over to a road racing Romeo such as yourself? Again, the Tupelo tunesmith can show you the way.

So what stacks the deck of strikingly similar Presley pics so heavily in favor of Viva? Elvis had Sin City itself blowing on the dice for him this go-round. While the film pre-figured the Vegas Comeback Special by a few years, he was obviously in his milieu shaking his pre-bacon-bloated booty in the middle of all the glitz and tits. Factor in a pulse-pumping theme song and hotter-than-the-desert-sun chemistry with co-star Ann-Margaret and Lady Luck herself is smiling down.

(originally published at FHMus.com)

movie review — The Princess Bride

Pop quiz time, kiddies! Finish this movie quote: "My name is I¡Zigo Montoya. You killed my father, [fill in the blank]." If "Prepare to die!" didn't come tripping off your lips in a vaguely Castilian accent, it's high time you dragged your deprived-childhood ass to the video store and rented The Princess Bride. Suck it up and ignore the fact that you've got to skulk down the Family aisle to snag it - everyone in the store has already seen it and they'll all be quoting lines at you until you get into your car.

Our story begins with a too-cool-for-school young boy (Fred Savage) at home sick and grumbling to his grandfather (a delightfully crusty Peter Falk) that he don't need no stinking fairy tale and especially not one with icky kissing. But after he shuts his yap and actually starts listening to the old geezer, he —along with the rest of the audience—can't help but be entranced by this hip, loopy and endlessly charming tale of true love, pirates and Rats Of Unusual Size.

Twined around the core plot about two star and class-crossed lovers (Buttercup and Wesley) attempting to reunite despite the strenuously cruel efforts of rotten Prince Humperdinck are some of the most delicious cameo and supporting character roles in recent memory. Of particular joy is Mandy Patinkin's turn as a death-avenging swashbuckler, Andre the Giant playing a henchman with an annoying penchant for rhyming and Wallace Shawn as the self-proclaimed Smartest Man in The World. Action and banter are rapier swift, slowing only occasionally to contemplate the incandescent Robin Wright, and never at the expense of the brilliantly choreographed sword fights and quips. If you don't end up tittering like a schoolboy during Billy Crystal and Carol Kane's cameo as an ancient, bickering couple of miracle workers, there's nothing we can to do help you, sonny. You must be mostly dead already.

(originally published at FHMus.com)

movie review — Ocean's Eleven

Ach, these kids today¡Zwhining that movies need "plots" and "actors." The Rat Pack didn't need schmancy crap like that when they made their 1960 heist classic Ocean¡Zs Eleven. Sammy sings! Dino drinks! Lawford lounges! Frank¡Zwell, he sports a rather distressing orange mohair sweater, but it seems to drive the dames wild, so we'll let it slide. What, with all that you still want a plot? Sheesh. WWII vet Danny Ocean (Sinatra) rounds up (you guessed it) ten of his ex-paratrooper pals in a $5mil gambit to rob five casinos simultaneously on New Year's Eve. While it seems unlikely that this ragtag bunch could successfully knock over an ashtray, let along five high-security joints at once, it's a blast watching the boys clown and strut their way around high-glitz era Vegas. Don't worry your pretty little head over gaping plot holes. Instead, take note of a cute-as-a-button cameo by Rat Pack-ette Shirley MacLaine (back before she went all coo-coo crazy) and the hapless grin of a young Norman Fell, who just seems happy to be asked along. And yeah¡Zyou've seen that closing shot before. Tarantino cribbed it for Reservoir Dogs.

(originally published at FHMus.com)

movie review — The Night of the Hunter

To hell with the Po-Mo slasher flicks glutting the box office for the last few years - The Night of the Hunter is the true stuff of nightmares. Awash in a terrifying neo-Expressionist atmosphere of dramatic shadows, flattened perspective and floating dead bodies, Charles Laughton's sole directorial effort is regarded as the benchmark for many horror tropes in use today. Screen legend Robert Mitchum turns in a chilling performance as sociopath Reverend Harry Powell, an ex-con hell-bent on teasing and terrorizing a missing $10,000 from the widow and children of his dearly departed cellmate. The Reverend's less than wholesome intentions come to the fore in a psyche-scarring basement scene, and the two children spend the remainder of the film in a feverish dream-paced canoe flight from their murderous step-father who methodically stalks them on horseback. The film is studded with careful, odd details: a child's eerie singing, tattooed knuckles, shots of restless nocturnal animals. It's this attention to small horrors that elevates The Night of the Hunter from horror pap into a film that nearly fifty years later, makes you think twice before going down into your cold, dark basement.

(originally published at FHMus.com)

movie review — Forsaken

Just in case you're too young to remember the movie Lost Boys (or more likely just want to block out all recollection of Corey Feldman's film career), The Forsaken should be sufficient to fill in any gaps in your glossy teen vampire flick knowledge. There's not a lot you need to know here. B-list WB stars scruffed up and baring a little bit too much skin and salty language for prime time go on a cross-country vampire slaying spree. We all wish that one of Bob Hope's road trips had been quite this bloody. There's plenty of nubile eye-candy and gratuitous gore to keep even an MTV attention-spanned audience amused, and a well-thought out backstory lifts things a notch above the current glut of assembly line churned teen horror flicks. If nothing else, it will keep you entertained while Roswell and Dawson's Creek are in reruns.

(originally published at FHMus.com)

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