INFERNO

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but over the past five years Tom Hanks has been enjoying a rather spectacular run of creative accomplishments. A brilliant performance in Captain Phillips. Acclaimed turns in Bridge of Spies, Saving Mr. Banks, and A Hologram for the King. Current raves for Sully – his biggest non-animated hit in a decade. Documentary cred as executive producer of CNN’s The Sixties, The Seventies, and The Eighties. Emmy Awards for co-producing HBO’s Game Change and Olive Kitteridge. David S. Pumpkins. Now Hanks stars in Inferno, his third go-around as author Dan Brown’s cerebral action hero Robert Langdon. And all I gotta say is: The run sure was nice while it lasted.

Music

Adam Gontier

RIBCO

Tuesday, November 1, 9 p.m.

 

On November 1, the Rock Island Brewing Company hosts a special concert with rock singer/songwriter and rhythm guitarist Adam Gontier. Although he’s the former lead vocalist for Three Days Grace, Gontier’s RIBCO engagement will likely find him performing from his more recent solo repertoire, which includes numbers titled “It’s All in Your Hands,” “Until the End,” and “Take Me with You.” And it’s probably a good thing for the artist that he’s performing locally on November 1 instead of the following Tuesday. Were he here on Election Night, the Canadian musician might easily have heard numerous patrons singing “Take Me with You” to him.

OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL

Beyond the performances of Olivia Cooke and Lin Shaye, almost nothing about 2014’s dull, dopey horror flick Ouija was the least bit satisfying. Yet because the thing made money anyway, here we are with the inevitable Ouija: Origin of Evil. And while I still can’t believe it, almost nothing about this unnecessary follow-up isn’t satisfying, and Cooke and Shaye aren’t even around this time. It’s not just that director Mike Flanagan’s prequel is good for its genre. It’s really, really good, period – a cleverly crafted, beautifully acted, truly frightening freak-out that’s more sheer fun than anything else in current release. Prefer Affleck with a gun or Blunt on a train if you must. I’ll happily take a nine-year-old girl scooting around on the ceiling and kicking the crap out of Elliott from E.T.

MASCOTS

We’re about a half-hour into Christopher Guest’s new comedy Mascots when a familiar figure, one played by Guest himself, enters the scene with a sweetly swishy “Hello-o-o-o!” It’s been almost 20 years, but he’s just as you remember him: the goatee, the bowl cut shaved two inches above his ears, the polka-dot blouse, the pants that can only be described as “indescribable.” (They look like clown pajamas designed by Calvin Klein.) Granted, the guy is moving a little slower than he used to, and his speech is a little stilted, and there are liver spots where there weren’t before, and nothing he says or does comes as much of a surprise. But what does it matter? It’s Corky St. Clair, for Pete’s sake – that indefatigable, talent-free impresario from Waiting for Guffman! To quote the man’s adorable sycophant Steve in 1997: “Corky! CORKY-Y-Y-Y!!!

Music

Lurrie Bell

The Redstone Room

Saturday, October 15, 8 p.m.

 

On October 15, Davenport’s Redstone Room hosts an evening with singer/songwriter/guitarist Lurrie Bell, and if you visit his Web site at Lurrie.com, you can listen to his title track from the musician’s 2013 solo album. Here’s a sampling of its refrain: “I like what I’m doin’ today ... . I guess I’ll always feel this way ... . I guess I’ll always keep thinking about the love I have about my life ... . The way I feel right now, I think everything will be all right.”

So if I may ask: What’s with all this optimism and cheer? Doesn’t Bell know this is a blues song?!

THE BIRTH OF A NATION and 13TH

Call it a coincidence, a stratagem, a not-entirely-accidental feat of synchronized scheduling, or, for conspiracy theorists, a deliberate act of Hollywood-liberal aggression intended for political gain and societal upheaval. But whatever you call it, this past Friday not only saw the nationwide release of writer/director/star Nate Parker’s historical slave-revolt drama The Birth of a Nation, but also the Netflix debut of 13th, Selma director Ava DuVernay’s documentary on the escalating incarceration, and “lawful” killing, of African-American men. Both films boast many moments of startling clarity and power. Both films, as you might expect, explicitly state that black lives matter. But one of them also argues, to its occasional detriment, that one particular life may have mattered more than others.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Given how much fiction I get in my weekly movie-going, home-video, and streaming intake, I’m generally – make that awfully – negligent about getting it from books. Last fall, however, I made an exception for author Paula Hawkins’ bestselling mystery/thriller The Girl on the Train, and now that Tate Taylor has directed a film version, I can (for once!) share a reasonably educated opinion on the inevitable “Which was better?” query: They’re pretty much the same. By which I mean both works are ludicrously plotted, overly reliant on convenience and cliché, and, despite their considerable flaws, sometimes trashily entertaining.

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

In the past, and on more than a couple occasions, my editor has referred to me as “a Tim Burton apologist,” a moniker that I think came about after I had the temerity to enjoy 2001’s Planet of the Apes. But even though I’ve had more fun than most at releases including 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and 2012’s Dark Shadows, I’m a little surprised the sobriquet has stuck, considering how so much of the filmmaker’s oeuvre should require apologies from Burton himself. Big Eyes? Charlie & the Chocolate Factory? Alice in freaking Wonderland?! These are titles I’m hoping never to sit through again, and would be equally happy to go the rest of my life without repeat visits to Big Fish and Sweeney Todd and the 1989 Batman.

DEEPWATER HORIZON

Aside from both being based on real-life 21st Century events, you wouldn’t think that Deepwater Horizon – director Peter Berg’s disaster thriller about the devastating BP oil spill of 2010 – would have much in common with Clint Eastwood’s current “Miracle on the Hudson” hit Sully. The former finds cost-cutting recklessness leading to the deaths of 11 men; the latter details a heroic landing that resulted in zero fatalities. The horrific accident of the former lasted for months; the calamity of the latter was over in minutes. The tone of the former is tragic; the latter’s is triumphant. Yet all throughout Deepwater Horizon, and especially during its vividly detailed scenes of mass destruction, I kept thinking the same thing I thought through the whole of Sully: Why exactly was this movie even made?

Music

Bronze Radio Return

The Redstone Room

Thursday, October 6, 7:30 p.m.

 

Given national and world news of late, it’s easy to feel depressed, if not downright despondent. Yet thanks to the roots-rock sextet Bronze Radio Return – performing October 6 at Davenport’s Redstone Room – I think I may have found an unbeatable pick-me-up.

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