Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Congratulations to Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis

Congratulations to playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis for winning the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  It's a well-deserved honor for Between Riverside and Crazy, which originally ran Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company and and then at 2ndStage Theater. It's the story of a retired police officer facing eviction.

Guirgis now joins the ranks of other legendary Pulitzer winners -- Eugene O'Neill, Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, David Mamet, Neil Simon, Tony Kushner, and more recently David Auburn, John Patrick Shanley, and Traci Letts. (Check out my prior blog post for the full list of Pulitzer Prize winning plays.)

Stephen Adly Guirgis is one of my favorite living playwrights.  Here are some of the excellent plays he's created:

Jesus Hopped the A Train
Angel Cruz is a young man in prison, accused of murdering the leader of a religious cult.

Our Lady of 121st Street
The lives of multiple characters are revealed when the body of a community activist nun is stolen from a funeral home.

In Arabia We'd All Be Kings
A group of out-of-luck individuals gather at a Hell's Kitchen bar during the days of Mayor Giuliani.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
Read Fr. James Martin's excellent book, A Jesuit Off-Broadway, for a wonderful behind-the-scenes account of this production.

The Motherf--ker with the Hat
A former drug dealer is released from prison and accuses his girlfriend of cheating. It won multiple awards.

I'm looking forward to seeing what other stories he has in store for us.


Monday, April 20, 2015

A Fantastic Week for Movie Trailers

What an excellent few weeks for geeky sneak previews of upcoming movies! It's a good time to be a fan of superheroes, dinosaurs, science fiction, action/adventure, and anything else that would make the 12-year-old in all of us cheer.  Here are some of the trailers that debuted recently, making us count the days until we can see them in full on the giant silver screen.




Ant-Man
Although expectations aren't as high compared to other Marvel superheroes, I believe this little superhero flick will surprise a lot of people. It looks like it will have a good dose of humor thanks to Paul Rudd's likable portrayal, but also some interesting characterization, hopefully exploring the complexity of Hank Pym, played here by Michael Douglas.




Batman v Superman: The Force Awakens
Man, this looks dark.  That could be good if it follows some of the themes from Frank Miller's graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. On the other hand, it could be disastrous if director Zack Snyder delivers two hours of humorless angst in which the World's Finest heroes, the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel, are both unlikable.




Fantastic Four
At least this finally feels like a superhero movie and we have some glimpses of the comic book heroes. I'll give it a chance, because I loved the director's previous film Chronicle, but I'm worried this will be another weak adaptation of what should be one of the greatest superpowered teams out there.  Too bad Marvel isn't calling all the shots.  Maybe someday.




Jurassic World
It has moments that remind me a lot of the first Jurassic Park, much moreso than the sequels that followed. It also has some silly nonsense, such as seemingly domesticated velociraptors. We'll see which way this goes.



Mad Max: Fury Road
This new trailer came out a couple of weeks ago, but I only saw it the other day. It looks intense and epic.



Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron
The first Avengers movie broke all records, and judging by what we've seen so far, this sequel might be even better, offering each superhero their moment to shine.



Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Judging by these first glimpses (first the teaser, now the full trailer), J.J. Abrams seems to have perfectly captured the feel of the original trilogy, but then again, I thought the same when I first saw the trailer for The Phantom Menace, so who knows? Right now, though, this has managed to generate enormous buzz. Christmas can't arrive fast enough.



Terminator: Genisys
I like the twists and turns they've revealed so far.  This might actually capture the fun that's been missing since Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Wait, there's more.



Childhood's End
Arthur C. Clarke's classic is coming to Syfy.


Star Wars: Rogue One
And finally there was a bootleg version of the teaser for the first Anthology Star Wars film, a prequel to A New Hope, revealing how the plans to the Death Star were stolen, the first step in the Rebel Alliance's eventual defeat of the evil Empire.

What do you think? Are you as excited as I am?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Some Highlights of the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

I'm glad to see the continuing success of the Tribeca Film Festival.  Created after the 9/11 attack, it has fulfilled its goal to give a financial lift to lower Manhattan, and it's brought some excellent cinema to our city. Here are just some of the many highlights from this year's event, which runs through April 26, 2015.

The Adderall Diaries -- A drug-addicted writer reaches a low point when his estranged father resurfaces, claiming that his son's successful writing is based on fabrications.  Starring James Franco, Amber Heard, Ed Harris, and Cynthia Nixon.

Aloft -- A struggling mother encounters the son she abandoned twenty years ago. Starring Jennifer Connelly and Cillian Murphy.

Anesthesia -- Multiple lives intersect in the aftermath of the violent mugging of a Columbia University philosophy professor. Starring Sam Waterston, Kristen Stewart, Glenn Close, and Cory Stoll.

Ashby -- A high school student befriends his neighbor, a retired C.I.A. assassin who only has a few months left to live.  Starring Nat Wolff and Mickey Rourke.

Backtrack -- A psychiatrist discovers that the patients he has been seeing are ghosts. Starring Adrien Brody and Sam Neill.

Bleeding Heart -- A yoga instructor tries to protect her sex-worker sister from her deadbeat boyfriend. Starring Jessica Biel.

Dirty Weekend -- Colleagues are delayed in the Albuquerque airport and secrets are revealed. Starring Matthew Broderick and Alice Eve.

The Driftless Area -- A bartender returns to his hometown after his parents dies and finds himself in a dangerous situation involving a mysterious woman and a violent criminal. Starring Anton Yelchin and Zooey Deschanel.

Franny -- A philanthropist meddles in the lives of a newly-married couple in an attempt to relive his past. Starring Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning, and Theo James.

Good Kill -- A family man begins to question the ethics of his job as a drone pilot. Starring Ethan Hawke and January Jones, directed by Andrew Niccol.

Grandma -- A grumpy grandmother goes on a day-long journey with her 18-year-old granddaughter who shows up needing help. Starring Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner.

Live from New York! -- A documentary about the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live.

Maggie -- A teenage girl's father stands by her side as she becomes infected with a zombie disease. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin.

Man Up -- A single woman is mistaken for a stranger's blind date. Starring Lake Bell and Simon Pegg.

Meadowland -- A couple become reckless after an unimaginable loss. Starring Olivia Wilde, Luke Wilson, Kevin Corrigan, John Legizamo, Elisabeth Moss, Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple, and Merritt Weaver.

Sleeping with Other People -- A good-natured womanizer meets a serial cheater. Starring Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Amanda Peet, Adam Scott, and Natasha Lyonne.

Slow West -- Accompanied by a mysterious traveler, a 16-year-old boy travels across frontier America in search of the woman he loves.  Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, and Ben Mendelsohn.

Tumbledown -- A young woman struggles to move on with her life after the death of her husband, an acclaimed folk singer, after a brash New York writer forces her to confront her loss. Starring Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis.

The Wannabe -- Obsessed with mob culture, a man sets out to fix the 1992 trial of John Gotti. Starring Vincent Piazza and Patricia Arquette.

When I Live My Life Over Again -- A New York City crooner plots his comeback. Starring Amber Heard and Christopher Walken.

A few other movies of note at the festival:

Bodyslam: Revenge of the Banana!

Cronies

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

Fastball

Hungry Hearts

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Lucifer

Mary J. Blige: The London Sessions

Misery Loves Comedy

Mojave

Orion: The Man Who Would be King

The Overnight

Requiem for the American Dream

Rifftrax Live: The Room

Roseanne for President!

Shut Up and Drive

Thought Crimes

Toto and His Sisters

The Wolfpack

Wondrous Boccaccio

And that's just a small sample.  There are so many films to see (including revivals of Back to the Future, Clue, Good Will Hunting, GoodFellas, High Society, Lady and the Tramp, On the Town) and so much programming to experience (such as the Monty Python 40th Anniversary Celebration).  Check out the web site TribecaFilm.com for all the latest updates.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Back on Stage

I'm making my return to the stage this weekend as Buddy in "Big Game," part of the four short plays performed in Darknight Revisited.  The show is at the John DeSotelle Theater in Times Square (300 West 43rd Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan) for two nights only, April 17 and 18, 2015.  I'm also directing it. Tony Papadogiannis stars as Dude.  It's a comedy written by Kevin Clancy about two best friends and the secrets that are revealed in a Skype conversation during Monday Night Football.

A play I wrote many years ago, "To Forgive Divine," about God and the Devil having a chat about reconciliation, is also being produced.  It stars Danielle Tyler and Josh Miller, and it's directed by George Domenick.

The other two plays in the production are "Close to the End" and "Nocturnal Emissions."

Space is limited, so for reservations please visit www.darknightproductions.com or email darknight2002@optonline.net

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Daredevil Triumphant

The Man Without Fear, otherwise known as the comic book superhero Daredevil, seems to finally be earning some respect. The new Netflix series has generated mostly good reviews and, based on the first few episodes I've seen, has done justice (pun intended) to the blind attorney by day / masked vigilante by night.

The show kicks off the action right away after a brief but effective origin prologue, showing how Matt Murdock lost his sight during a toxic accident as a child (comic book readers didn't need any further explanations and neither do Netflix viewers, but some will be delivered in future exposition). The accident also enhanced Matt's other senses, and as superheroes before him, he felt the need to use his gifts to battle the scum and villainy of his neighborhood, New York City's Hell's Kitchen.

That first action scene I mentioned was fun and to the point, showing Murdock as Daredevil.  We didn't have to wait to see him train and pick out a costume or learn to control his powers (although flashbacks of that requisite hero's journey will also come). We're thrown right into the best part of superhero adventure stories -- the good guy, outnumbered, whupping the bad guys and protecting the innocent.



The initial costume is reminiscent to me of the black ninja attire worn by Rex Smith as Daredevil in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. I know it's supposed to be an evolution and we'll eventually see the classic red horned outfit familiar to fans, but I was still impatient to see Daredevil in his prime, with the early stuff out of the way.


The costume in the Ben Affleck movie had its flaws (as did the film itself), but I still enjoyed it as a well-intentioned example of the superhero genre before we entered the current Marvel Cinematic Golden Age.


Let's hope the Netflix series continues to capture the best of the comic books and avoid the pitfalls of the other prior adaptations that have kept audiences from fully embracing Daredevil as one of the most underrated characters in comic book history.

Monday, April 6, 2015

TV Shows They Should Revive

We are in the midst of a nostalgia trend, ladies and gentlemen.  I'm not just talking about reboots and remakes of old television favorites (although I'm still excited about The Twilight Zone coming back yet again); we're seeing the continuation of beloved series with the original cast returning to reprise their familiar roles -- Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Full House, The Muppets, Heroes, Coach, and Mr. Show.  Movie franchises are continuing to inspire boob-tube adaptations, such as Ash vs. Evil Dead, but for this post I'll focus on TV properties.

Here are some ideas for classics that I would like to see revived with members from the original series.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Vampires are still trending, so bring back the greatest Slayer of them all and her "Scooby Gang."


Friends
I don't want to see Matthew Perry playing Oscar Madison on another Odd Couple remake, I want to see him as Chandler Bing reuniting with his older and not necessarily wiser compadres.


Gilligan's Island
I believe the only original cast members who are still alive are Dawn Wells and Tina Louise, so how about giving them a pilot episode cameo as Mary Ann and Ginger, stranded once again on a desert island.  Since the cult classic series was loaded with fantasy elements, this revival could be a postmodern tour de force, with time travel, alternate universe, shattering the fourth-wall self-references and other actors playing Gilligan, Skipper, Professor, Mr. and Mrs. Howell, and even younger versions of themselves.


The Incredible Hulk
I was holding out hope that Guillermo del Toro was going to bring this Marvel superhero back to the small screen, but alas, I'm still waiting. Nevertheless, Dr. Banner is an excellent character tailor-made for continuing adventures on television.


Lost
I still want to see what happened to Hurley and Ben Linus. There further adventures on the island was the biggest tease of the finale.


NYPD Blue
It would be great to see some of the original cast from season one reunite for more crime-fighting in contemporary NYC.


Seinfeld
The finale was a dud, admit it.  Or just give George Costanza his own spin-off.


The Six Million Dollar Man
Lee Majors can return as cyborg Steve Austin, now in a position similar to Oscar Goldman, overseeing the development of a new generation of bionic government agents -- better, stronger, faster.


Star Trek
A television revival is long overdue. Since time travel stories and mirror universe tales were some of my favorites, how about the adventures of a time-and-dimension-hopping crew trying to fix all the paradoxes caused throughout Trek history?

Maybe someday soon I'll write about revivals that failed, but maybe deserve a second (third?) chance (V, Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, etc.).

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Best Cars in Pop Culture

In commemoration of the New York International Auto Show taking place at the Javits Center, allow me to present to you my choices for the best cars in popular culture entertainment history.


The Batmobile from the classic 1960s Batman TV show


B.A.'s Van from The A*Team


The Bluesmobile from The Blues Brothers


Bumblebee from Transformers


Cameron's Dad's Ferrari from Ferris Bueller's Day Off


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang


Christine


The DeLorean from Back to the Future


Ecto 1 from Ghostbusters


The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard


Greased Lightning from Grease!


Herbie the Love Bug


James Bond's Aston Martin


K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider


The Mean Machine from Wacky Races


The Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo


The Partridge Family Bus


Speed Racer's Mach 5


Starsky's Gran Torino from Starsky and Hutch


Wagon Queen Family Truckster from National Lampoon's Vacation

Do you agree or disagree?  Let me know.