CAFÉ SOCIETY

Woody Allen has made dozens of movies I’ve been happy to watch. Café Society may be the first one I’d be happy to eat.

BAD MOMS

Despite the film’s silliness and inconsequentiality, the experience of Bad Moms does prompt an almost existential question: If a crummy comedy makes you laugh out loud at least three-dozen times, can it even be considered crummy in the first place?

Lighting, of course, can do a lot for a show, and Genesius Guild’s presentation of Much Ado About Nothing boasts a lovely, understated elegance – particularly in the twilight scenes – that’s much to the credit of designers Maaz Ahmed and Andy Shearouse. But at July 23’s Lincoln Park performance, it wouldn’t have been out of place for the duo’s mention in the program to come with an amendment: “... and special contributions by God Himself.” It turns out that lightning, too, can do a lot for a show.

Friday, July 22, 9:55 a.m.-ish: Few things get me more psyched for a quadruple-feature – or, more accurately, get me less dreading one – than knowing my day’s first screening will be over in a scant 80 minutes. So I enter director David F. Sandberg’s Lights Out feeling pretty good. Somewhat incredibly, I exit feeling really good, because this hour-20 horror trifle gives you just what you want from these things and too rarely do: a creepy and clever premise, a snappy pace, a bunch of good scares, a few strong portrayals, and a relative lack of eye-rolling stupidity.

Music

Cory Branan

Daytrotter

Tuesday, August 2, 7:30 p.m.

 

On August 2, Daytrotter hosts a night with alternative-country singer/songwriter Cory Branan, and writing on PopMatters.com, Scott Recker stated, “Like all good country music, Cory Branan is hard, if not impossible, to define.” Perhaps Mr. Recker hasn’t read many of the artist’s reviews, because it seems that, over the years, Branan’s signature talents have been defined awfully nicely.

When actor Tommy Bullington walked on-stage for the Timber Lake Playhouse’s opening-night presentation of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, his arrival as narrator Pseudolus was met with a smattering of applause. He acknowledged the greeting and smiled, and the moment the clapping ceased, his smile faded, and Bullington took a perfect micro-pause before saying, “No, I liked it.” Cue the laugh, a bigger ovation, and the star flashing a wide, open-mouthed grin, curtsy-bowing like Maria Callas after performing Tosca at the Met. That, folks, is how you make an entrance.

THE INFILTRATOR

A true tale that plays like fiction, director Brad Furman’s The Infiltrator concerns a federal agent (Bryan Cranston) who poses as a money launderer to help bust Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel, and it’s based on a memoir written by said agent Robert Mazur, not on a pre-existing movie. Yet it somehow feels like even more of a remake than the new Ghostbusters – principally a remake of Donnie Brasco, The Departed, or any number of similar entertainments involving disguised cops playing long cons, wire-tapping, bloody retribution, and swarthy gangsters in flashy suits conversing while topless women pole-dance in the background. It may boast saltier language and more bare breasts than broadcast-TV allows, but the movie wasn’t even 20 minutes old before I thought, “Hey ... haven’t I already seen this episode of Miami Vice?!”

GHOSTBUSTERS

Haters, as we all know, gonna hate. So there was probably no way the new Ghostbusters was ever going to win over the trolling Internet fanboys convinced that director Paul Feig’s female-led reboot – a nuclear bomb aimed directly at their childhood memories – was the end of civilization as we’ve known it. What consequently saddens me is that the movie spends so much time sucking up to those guys. While watching Feig’s latest, it’s easy to forget about the film’s underwhelming, dare-I-say-dreadful trailers, as the work in full is frequently very funny. But it’s also exhausting, because hardly a minute passes in which you’re not reminded of the Ghostbusters legacy – Ivan Reitman’s 1984 original, sure, but also the tired “controversy” surrounding its new presentation. All told, this might be the most simultaneously apologetic and defensive Hollywood blockbuster I’ve ever seen.

Ten years ago, almost to the day, I left my Rock Island apartment to make my first acquaintance with Genesius Guild’s annual classical-Greek dramas performed largely in mask, reviewing Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes and Sophocles’ Antigone. This past Saturday, leaving the same apartment, I ventured to Rock Island’s Lincoln Park to review Genesius Guild’s masked-drama presentations of ... Seven Against Thebes and Antigone. So nice to see that so much in my life has changed over the past decade.

Enacted by the delightful, gifted quartet of Michelle Blocker-Rosebrough, Melissa Anderson Clark, Sheri Olsen, and Erin Platt, The Marvelous Wonderettes is Countryside Community Theatre’s intentionally minimalist summertime offering after numerous seasons of grandly scaled, extravagantly cast Broadway hits. As it’s better to go small than go bust, I admire the organization’s decision to downsize. Yet if you know nothing about this undemanding musical, I urge you, in the interest of your time, to avoid the synopsis on its Wikipedia page, which details in 1,576 words what can be effectively distilled to 15: "Four young women sing ’50s songs at their prom, then ’60s songs at their reunion."

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