Friday, May 24, 2024

Film Reviews: “Furiosa’s” Revenge Is an Enjoyable, if Lukewarm Dish; “Challengers” Is an Entertaining Ménage à Trois; “The Garfield Movie” Is Undercooked Lasagna

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (c) Warner Bros. Pictures

Film: Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga 
In Cinemas 

Although Anya Taylor-Joy is Furiosa (taking the mantle from Charlize Theron from Mad Max: Fury Road), she doesn’t inhabit the role until halfway through Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’s hefty two-and-a-half-hour runtime. For the first half, Furiosa is played by newcomer Alyla Browne in a more impressive turn since Taylor-Joy is a known quantity and in fact is intensely unshakeable in her section. The young Browne uncovers the heart (and ultimately the rage) of Furiosa’s origin story. Reminding me of a young Millie Bobbie Brown, this Browne holds her own as she is tossed out of Eden (one of many religious symbolism) and into the desert wastelands of a lawless, future Australia being run by many violent factions, including a gang led by the silly “unobtanium”ly named Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). Hemsworth chews up the scenery for the majority of screentime, even though he is first seen as calm, messiah-like figure. I was not a huge fan of Mad Max: Fury Road, although I admired the technical aspects like its gorgeous cinematography and post-apocalyptic costumes with the story feeling almost secondary to the action. Does it matter who’s fighting whom when huge trucks and flaming guitars are barreling down the desert? For Furiosa, there’s more backstory which I appreciated because after a while, the action set pieces, and there are many, sort of blend together in their sameness. Director George Miller and cinematographer Simon Duggan know how to bring vitality to a chase scene, including the use of parachutes in one and a red gas explosion that tints everything in another, but with five chapters to get through, I felt less hype and more exhaustion when another car chase started up again. My audience was mostly silent when cheering seemed to be the goal. Where the film does work is in the much-needed human kindness interaction between Furiosa and her mentor Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke), whose resemblance to Mel Gibson’s version of Mad Max is certainly not a coincidence. Even with these reservations, this is still a fun rollercoaster ride for the start of summer movie season. It just doesn’t have the unexpected boldness of Fury Road or, to be blunt, the campiness of a Tina Turner. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Theater: Recipients of The 78th Theatre World Awards

(c) Theatre World Awards

Recipients of the 78th Annual Theatre World Awards were revealed today, honoring 12 outstanding Broadway and Off-Broadway debut performances.   The awards ceremony will be on June 10 at the Marquis Theatre.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Theater: "Merrily We Roll Along" and "Stereophonic" Lead LGBTQ Critics’ Dorian Theater Award Nominations

Oh, Mary! (c) Emilio Madrid

New York, N.Y.: GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics’ 39 theater wing members named their favorites in New York theater for the second annual Dorian Theater Awards, this time toasting the best in Broadway and Off-Broadway for the 2023-2024 season. Like GALECA’s Dorian film and TV awards, the group's stage honors celebrate both mainstream and LGBTQ+-themed productions. 

Leading on the Broadway side with six nominations each: The new play Stereophonic by David Adjmi and the Maria Friedman-helmed revival of Merrily We Roll Along. Dorian Award have four members of the Stereophonic cast competing for Outstanding Featured Performance in a Broadway Play, and three actors from Merrily We Roll Along in the run. All Dorian Award performance categories are gender neutral. 

In Off-Broadway categories, Oh, Mary!, writer-star Cole Escola’s Broadway-bound play about Mary Todd Lincoln, ruled with five nominations. Teeth, Michael R. Jackson and Anna K. Jacobs’ musical about an evangelical teen girl with hidden talents, and Stephen Sondheim’s final musical, Here We Are—co-written with David Ives and adapted from two films by Luis Buñuel—each scored four nods. 

For the wing’s special new accolade, LGBTQ Theater Artist of the Season, GALECA members nominated writer/actor Cole Escola, composer Michael R. Jackson, director Michael Greif, along with actors Jonathan Groff, Sarah Paulson and Conrad Ricamora. The nominees for the group’s career achievement award, LGBTQ Theater Trailblazer, are awe-inspiring multi-hyphenate André De Shields and four distinctly legendary playwrights: Charles Busch, Christopher Durang (nominated posthumously), Taylor Mac and Paula Vogel. 

“I think we’re all actually happy to say GALECA’s members had a daunting task of sifting through so many exciting plays and musical this season,” said Cary Wong, the group’s Off-Broadway lead. “Considering Broadway alone put up 38 productions this season, New York theater has definitely bounced back from 18 months of COVID closures. From popular adaptations like The Notebook to daring new works like Lempicka, Dorian Award voters and all theater goers had plenty to rave and dish about.” 

GALECA will once again help kick off Pride Month by announcing this year's Dorian Theater Awards on Monday, June 3, 2024. 

Monday, May 6, 2024

Broadway Reviews: Three Recent Tony-Nominated Musicals Deal With the Hot Button Topics of Antisemitism (“Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club”), Wealth Disparity (“The Outsiders”) and Women’s Rights (“Suffs”)

Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club (c) Marc Brenner

Theater: Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club 
On Broadway at the August Wilson Theatre 

I have a unique perspective on the John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff popular musical Cabaret: I had never seen the show. Yes, I saw the 1972 Oscar-winning Best Picture film directed by Bob Fosse, though not in this century, but I have never seen the show on stage, including the last two Broadway revivals of the same Roundabout production in 1998 (with Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson) and 2014 (with Cumming and Michelle Williams), not because I consciously avoided it, but because it was a hard and expensive ticket to acquire (contributed by the many starry replacements during the runs including Neil Patrick Harris, Raul Esparza, Molly Ringwald and Emma Stone). So, while I sat in the reconfigured August Wilson Theatre, now transformed into the Kit Kat Club of 1929 Berlin (including a preshow pub crawl starting at a back-alley entrance with a complimentary schnapps shot), it didn’t feel as revolutionary (or sacrilegious, depending on who you talked to) as musical theater fans contend. It did feel bold, especially when Eddie Redmayne (reprising his Olivier-winning performance from the West End) as the Emcee, enters with a party hat sitting askew on his head to indicate that the show starts on New Year’s Eve. But the Emcee’s wardrobe gets more nightmarish and foreboding as the show proceeds (including a look that’s one balloon short of Pennywise) indicating to the audience that all this artistic decadence may be coming to an end.