The House


Shades of Gray

1. "This Summer's Action Heroes Are Several Shades of Gray." Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott on the aging stars of this summer's blockbusters.

"But nostalgia only partly explains the enduring popularity and renewed appeal of movie stars over 50. They bring gravity, craft and seasoned, relaxed professionalism to projects that otherwise might lack those qualities. When filmmakers are smart or lucky enough to cast Ms. Streep, they are almost guaranteed a memorable performance; she's money in the bank. She brings her tool kit (a United Nations of accents and so forth) along with a vivid persona and a stellar résumé, conferring weight on even the flimsiest vehicle. She can prop up bad movies and weaker younger co-stars, much like Morgan Freeman, the hardest-working senior citizen in movies. He shares that honor, if now more behind the camera than on, with the avenging auteur Clint Eastwood (84), whose reascension as a critical and popular phenomenon offers further evidence that movies are currently enjoying a different kind of senior moment."

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TAGS: a.o. scott, albert maysles, avengers: age of ultron, colleen kelsey, eric rohmer, hollywood, interview magazine, iris, Iris Apfel, jessica p. ogilvie, l.a. weekly, lucy mckeon, manohla dargis, nadja tesich, wesley morris


Game of Thrones

Niccolo Machiavelli once wrote that "It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both." A corollary to this, as taught by Game of Thrones, is that it's better to be respected than powerful, because power is nothing but a currency used by the especially clever. Considering how many people are neither feared nor loved in "Sons of the Harpy," respect is all that matters—that, and the dangerous Dangerfield-ian consequences of not getting any respect.

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TAGS: aidan gillen, carice van houten, Finn Jones, game of thrones, iain glen, ian mcelhinney, iwan rheon, jacob anderson, jerome flynn, joel fry, jonathan pryce, kerry ingram, kit harington, lena headey, Michael McElhatton, nikolaj coster-waldau, peter dinklage, recap, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, sons of the harpy, sophie turner, stephen dillane


Orphan Black

"Formalized, Complex, and Costly," President Eisenhower's description of the technological revolution that accompanied World War II and the Cold War, is an apt title for tonight's episode of Orphan Black, which hardens the narrative lacquer smeared across "Transitory Sacrifices of Crisis" by throwing its full weight behind the ties between the Castor clones (Ari Millen) and their genetic "sestras" (Tatiana Maslany). There's now no escaping the fact that the series is more or less bound to play out the curdled dramatics of the two groups chasing down their own origin stories, hemmed in all the while by Proletheans, corporate science, and military might. "Welcome to Clone Club," Cosima says to Det. Art Bell (Kevin Hanchard) early in "Formalized, Complex, and Costly," but on the evidence of the third season so far, it may be time to bid Orphan Black farewell.

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TAGS: amanda brugel, ari millen, dylan bruce, formalized complex and costly, jordan gavaris, josh vokey, kevin hanchard, kyra harper, orphan black, recap, Tatiana Maslany, zoe de grand'maison


The Visit

Though it isn't the last musical for which Fred Ebb ever wrote lyrics, The Visit, which has been in development for 15 years, marks the last new lyrics of his to be heard on Broadway, and for that the show has a ghostly finality about it. Ebb's sensibility courses through the 100-minute, intermission-less evening, from the bitter wit with which the wealthy heroine explains her fortunes ("I married very often/And I widowed very well") to sub-verbal expressions of pure love ("You, you, you/Suddenly you, you, you"). But the late lyricist's signature is most audible in the titular metaphor of one number in particular: "Yellow Shoes."

The footwear in question contrasts with the dark, shabby outfits designed by Ann Hould-Ward and worn by the denizens of the fictional European town of Brachen. The most colorful items on stage, the shoes and other yellow clothes snatched up, on credit, by the destitute townspeople showcase Ebb's talent for conveying unimaginable evil through tokens of innocence. The yellow shoes belong in the same family as Cabaret's gorilla and Roxie's chorus boys in Chicago, thrillingly theatrical representations of the spectacle of corruption. If only The Visit had been brave enough to follow such cunning cynicism through to its conclusion, this Broadway premiere might have been a triumph. As it is, The Visit, with an unobtrusive and ghostly score by John Kander, is a charmingly creepy curiosity, bolstered by a fine performance by its leading lady.

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TAGS: ann hould-ward, Chita Rivera, fred ebb, friedrich d├╝rrenmatt, graciele daniele, japhy weideman, John Doyle, john kander, lyceum theatre, roger reese, scott pask, terrence mcnally, the visit


Charlie Hebdo

1. "It's not about Islam, it's about courage: Authors protesting Charlie Hebdo's PEN award are missing the point." Approve of the French satirists or don't—but it takes true guts to publish under the tangible threat of murder. So argues Salon's Laura Miller.

"Charlie Hebdo's humor is too crude and obvious to appeal to me, but I'm predisposed to favor anyone who takes religious authorities down a peg. Raised in the Catholic Church, I regard anti-clerical campaigns as anything but passé; my own experience suggests to me that some French Muslims might find irreverent portrayals of the prophet, however crass, to be a crowbar prying open the confining box of tradition and piety. I don't think anyone should be forced into secularism, but history tells us that this is far less of a threat than the compulsion — enforced by the state or by a more intimate community — to believe and observe. For this reason, I feel that no religion should be shielded from ridicule and satire; organized religion is always a form of power."

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TAGS: avengers: age of ultron, charlie hebdo, chris richards, film comment, filmmaker, hollywood shuffle, joss whedon, laura miller, nick cohen, nick pinkerton, pen international, robert townsend, Sean Baker, stephanie zacharek, tangerine, the village voice


Anna Kendrick

1. "Anna Kendrick on 'Pitch Perfect 2' and Not Trying Too Hard." The actress talks about her continuing adventures in musical comedy and Hollywood at large.

"'In case you can’t tell, I don’t really have a career strategy,' she said. 'My decisions are entirely based on, "Well, I’m around, and this is something that the 15-year-old me would be excited to do." 'A star without a meticulous plot to become famous and stay that way? Now that is a rare breed. In person, Ms. Kendrick, while certainly ambitious, comes across as enormously down to earth. She arrived early for breakfast, alone, wearing no makeup and a basic T-shirt and jeans. Afterward, she texted a follow-up question: 'What was the name of that reality show you said I should watch?' ('Southern Charm' on Bravo.)"

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TAGS: anna kendrick, bernie sanders, cnn, emma stone, gay marriage, hillary clinton, irrational man, joaquin phoenix, parker posey, pitch perfect 2, supreme court of the united states, woody allen, zoe quinn


Alison Bechdel

1. "Lesbian Desire, a Father's Suicide and 12 Tony Noms: Alison Bechdel on Fun Home." The dark heart of Fun Home—author Alison Bechdel's feelings of guilt over her dad's suicide—doesn't sound very Broadway. But this brilliant musical may sweep the Tonys.

"What is it like seeing her life played out on stage? 'I keep hoping someone will ask me that question, and suddenly words will appear in my mind to express the bizarre feeling of seeing it,' says Bechdel, smiling. 'But it's beyond language, it's inexpressible. It's surreal, magical, it feels deeply cathartic in some way to see this adaptation of my book which is very different to the book but also essentially the same... I keep waiting for the word to spring to mind...' She pauses, lightly shrugs. 'I don't know.' As Bechdel expressed it to The New York Times' Michael Paulson, 'I do understand that there's a difference between the play and my life, but it is a very strange and permeable boundary.' However, the stage version has illuminated some of the mystery around her father's death. 'It takes you to that moment when he kills himself and steps in front of this truck. I thought I had done that. I had been to the spot on the road where he got hit. I tried to imagine as vividly as I could what it must have been like to make that decision. But to see Michael Cerveris singing it, it gives me much more of an understanding of what it must have been like.'"

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TAGS: alison bechdel, baltimore, calum marsh, carol, fandor, film comment, fun home, gay marriage, George Armitage, miami blues, nick pinkerton, ruth bader ginsburg, supreme court of the united states, ta-nehisi coates, todd haynes


Tilda Swinton and Chuck Close

1. "Tilda Swinton Asks Chuck Close If He'd Rather Paint Or Walk Again." The Oscar-winning actor and celebrated artist chat on Skype about creating art, making black ragdolls for Oprah, and why there's no formula for getting life right.

"Oh, there's a fabulous story someone told me about a legendary, still living, so unnamed, film star. I hope it's not apocryphal. For many, many, many years, nobody ever saw this woman looking anything other than her public image. There was that much cake and that many eyelashes and that much wig, and all the rest of it. And there was someone who was a close friend of hers, who was staying in a hotel with her, and they had a room with adjoining doors, and the film star said, 'You will not come through this door at any point. No matter what happens, you will not come through this door. Good night. I'll see you in the morning.' So, that was it. And there was a fire alarm in the hotel, and the friend rang the concierge and asked 'Is this a test?' And the concierge was, like 'No, there's a real fire in the hotel and you've got to leave now.' And he didn't know what to do, because she told him in this very fierce way, 'Don't open the door.' So finally, he knocked on the door, opened it, and there sitting at the dressing table was a kind of crone, with no eyelashes, no hair, no color, sort of wizened in front of the mirror. And he didn't know how to address her, because he didn't know whether to acknowledge she was The Legend. So he said, 'Whoever you are, leave now!' He went downstairs, and about 20 minutes later, she arrived perfectly made up. And they never referred to it again. I love it. It was more important to her to get burned as The Legend. It was important for her to put it together, Hang on a minute...there...now, I'm happy to burn."

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TAGS: a pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence, baltimore, Chuck Close, david simon, ernest hemingway, josh karp, laura mulvey, little white lies, nick pinkerton, orson welles, orson welles' last movie, Roy Andersson, sophie monks kaufman, ted 2, the wire, tilda swinton


Mariah Carey

Next week, Mariah Carey will launch her Las Vegas residency at Caesars Palace, followed by the release of a new album, #1 to Infinity, a quasi-update of the chart-obsessed singer's 1998 collection #1's. The new compilation will include all 18 of Mariah's #1 singles, plus a new song called "Infinity." She recently returned to Sony Music, this time signing a deal with Epic Records, now headed by L.A. Reid, who, as head of Island Def Jam, helped Mariah stage a comeback with The Emancipation of Mimi in 2005. But it's unlikely the pair will hit the top of the charts again, at least not with this track. All of Mimi's tricks and ticks are present and accounted for: whistle notes, sudden shifts from chest to head voice, verses sung in double-time, and product placement that's, to quote the lyrics, "corny like Fritos." But while the pre-chorus is strong, the non-hook that follows amounts to nothing more than Mariah breathily cooing the single's title, drawing it out into at least 20 inexplicable syllables. The string-and-brass-laden production is a welcome throwback to Mariah's early ballads, but like on 2013's "Almost Home," its primary function seems to be to mask the singer's ailing voice. The state of that famous instrument is most apparent near song's end when she emphasizes the otherwise silent "a" in the nearly indecipherable word "dream" in order to more easily sing it. "Infinity" will likely be better remembered for its lyrical content, which seems to be aimed at ex-hubby Nick Cannon, whom Mariah divorced last year. "Why you tryin' play like you're so grown/Everything you own, boy, you still owe," she quips, before literally getting the last (raspy) laugh.

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TAGS: #1 to infinity, almost home, epic records, infinity, l.a. reid, mariah carey, nick cannon, single review, The Emancipation of Mimi


Mad Men

"Time & Life" opens with Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) getting gleefully teased by Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton), now the head of marketing for Dow Chemical, who denies Pete the easy approval of their mutual business for the sheer pleasure of watching him squirm. Once Don (Jon Hamm) enters, however, Ken quickly buttons up and agrees to SC&P's plans for Dow. In essence, Ken's unyielding dislike for Pete is simply outmatched by his idolization of Don, and last night's episode catches Ken, along with several other characters, trying to move beyond intimate grudges in the dubious hopes of brighter skies ahead. Indeed, the dark truth at the center of "Time & Life" is that business is always personal, inseparable from the emotional baggage and mercurial philosophies each party brings to the table, to say nothing of the dreams, both failed and realized, that people naturally build into their careers.

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TAGS: aaron staton, alison brie, christina hendricks, elisabeth moss, h. richard greene, john slattery, jon hamm, kevin rahm, mad men, recap, time & life, vincent kartheiser







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