Just two months after her lawsuit against producer Dr. Luke, a.k.a. Lukasz Gottwald, for allegedly drugging, raping, and verbally abusing her was tossed out by a New York judge, barring the singer from recording outside the parameters of her contract with the Swedish super-producer, Zesha is already releasing new music. But don't call it a loophole. Russian DJ Zedd took to Twitter to explain that Dr. Luke's label, to which the “Fuck Him He's a DJ” singer is signed, had given their blessing for the release.
Tonight's episode of The Americans comes to a head as Elizabeth (Keri Russell) knocks the wind out of Martha (Alison Wright), the latter's insistent protests supplanted by staccato gasps. In the show's arc this season, “Travel Agents” performs much the same function: A sharp exhalation, a moment of release, paves the way for a more restrained, if no less formidable, reckoning. One half of the episode is made up of searches, stakeouts, and wiretaps; the other, of questions, confessions, and tangled sympathies. It is, in short, a cleverly constructed hybrid, resolving the tension of the previous three episodes only to unleash a torrent of emotion. It's as if the body blow Elizabeth delivers is the last crack in the dam, and the characters are left waiting downriver for the terrible flood to arrive.
Previous seasons of Game of Thrones have played a precarious dance between the past and present action detailed within George R.R. Martin's series, but the season-six premiere episode, “The Red Woman,” provides viewers with their first glimpse of what the future looks like, and it's disappointing. Melisandre (Carice van Houten), the sorceress from whom this episode takes its title, stands over the bloodless corpse of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and remarks that “I saw him in the flames, fighting at Winterfell.” Magic may yet play a role in some sort of resurrection, but this episode focuses only on the weary, bitter state of affairs in Westeros.
Three days later and I still have difficulty defining the heightened emotional state we've been experiencing in Minneapolis. I've personally been spontaneously ambushed by welling tears that have been hardly unexpected. But whether Prince's death knocked you flat or merely held your attention, to be in Minneapolis right now, and to see and read about the tributes pouring in from every corner of the globe, is to tap into a once-in-a-lifetime moment of civic communion. You don't have to be Prince's biggest fan—I'm about 97 to 98 percent sure I'm not—to recognize it. This is a town of 3.5 million Prince stories.
Bruce Beresford's Mr. Church is remarkable for how it manages to indulge so many offensive and shopworn clichés at once. A risible example of the magical negro trope, Henry Church (Eddie Murphy) appears in the lives of Marie (Natascha McElhone) and her daughter, Charlotte (played as a girl by Natalie Coughlin, then as a teenager and adult by Britt Robertson) as if out of the ether. Marie has been given six months to live from breast cancer and Henry, it turns out, has been hired by the woman's deceased ex-lover to be the mother and daughter's personal cook. But Marie hangs on, with six months becoming six years, which is enough time for this true renaissance man to become a surrogate father to Charlotte, encouraging her to read more and a become a writer (an ambition that she puts on hold after an unexpected pregnancy), as well as a painter and jazz pianist.
Noah Buschel's The Phenom may be about a struggling young pitcher's attempt to overcome his mental block after a bad baseball game has him sent down to the minors, but the film is by no means a standard sports movie. Outside of an opening scene of baseball action that turns out to be archival footage two people are watching on a TV set, there's none of the big-game action and sentimental triumph-over-adversity arcs that are usually de rigueur for these types of films. Instead, The Phenom is mostly made up of a series of conversations: therapy sessions and confrontations, the film diving into the past in order to understand the present, the way pitching wunderkind Hopper Gibson (Johnny Simmons) explores his own personal history under the guidance of his psychologist, Dr. Mobley (Paul Giamatti).
Back in 2011, when George C. Wolfe was on a panel of theater professionals tasked to pick the top 10 American musicals of all time, he made a special plea for Shuffle Along, an all-black musical from 1921. “It has a great score that brought jazz dance to Broadway and invigorated the form,” argued the award-winning writer and director. It wasn't the best musical, he explained, but it should be considered for its status as a phenomenon of the musical theater. Shuffle Along didn't make the cut on that occasion, but the Tony Award-winning director of Angels in America and Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk can be very persuasive when he's impassioned about something. Fast-forward a few years to the present and Wolfe has gotten the opportunity to mount a new production of the long-forgotten musical on Broadway.
Now sporting a new title, Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, the trail-blazing musical gets a new lease of life this month with a stellar cast headlined by six-time Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald. Wolfe's production retains the groundbreaking score by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, and features a new libretto by Wolfe which replaces the original book by vaudevillians Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles. The song and book writing teams who created the show have now become characters on the stage, portrayed by Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon, and Joshua Henry. Wolfe talked to me recently about the legendary musical from 95 years ago and what fires his enthusiasm for this current Broadway production.
Taika Waititi's Hunt for the Wilderpeople is told from the point of view of a chubby, self-confident orphan, Ricky (Julian Dennison), with a rich inner life who composes haikus for fun. As the film begins, he's delivered to the last foster home willing to take him in, a small farm carved out of the edge of New Zealand's bush country. Ricky has a bit of trouble in his past and fancies himself an outlaw, but he's really a goodhearted kid, as his enthusiastic and intuitive foster mother, Bella (Rima Te Wiata), sees from the start.
The film's childlike point of view gives it the slightly fabulous, exaggerated quality of a fairy tale, even as it deals with some pretty tough subjects. Ricky barely has time to settle into his new home, relaxing into Bella's love while learning to tune out her glowering, monosyllabic husband, Hector (Sam Neill), than Bella drops dead and leaves Ricky alone with Hector, whose grief makes him even more taciturn. Then Hector retreats into the bush after telling Ricky to go back to the city, since the boy knows nothing about surviving outdoors. But Ricky insists on roughing it too, sure that he'd be put into juvie if he went back into the system, so the two wind up living in the bush for weeks.
Midway through tonight's episode of The Americans, after sweeping Martha (Alison Wright) off to a KGB safe house on a leafy suburban lane, Philip (Matthew Rhys) removes his disguise in a fit of pique. Abandoning Clark's thick coif for his own thinning black Brillo-like do, dispensing with Clark's specs only to accentuate the hollowness in his eyes, he suddenly seems naked, exposed—so much so that Elizabeth (Keri Russell), still posing as Clark's dowdy sister, Jennifer, stops short at the kitchen's precipice. “Did you want her to? To see you?” she asks, and though Philip can only stutter a non-answer, his shamefaced expression and her frosty mien suggest all too clearly that a line has been crossed. In “The Rat,” seeing is indeed believing, and removing the veil lays bare the risk that inheres in the concept of trust.
There was so much pomp and circumstance surrounding the impending release of Rihanna's Anti—false-starter singles, months-long Samsung campaigns, a freaking global treasure hunt for fans—that the small, intimate, and insular nature of the eventual album took some getting used to. The music videos, then, have been helping that acceptance along: “Work” was just two clips of her and Drake, whining first in a club and second in someone's pink-hued living room, while “Kiss It Better” went even more minimal, and traded up: Drake for a sheer white sheet. The brand new “Needed Me,” directed by Harmony Korine, injects some of the Oldboy-accented revenge verve of last year's “Bitch Better Have My Money,” spiked with Korine's own Spring Breakers, but that only comes to a head in the last minute or so. Mostly the clip is concerned with how a topless Rihanna looks glowering into windows and strolling, emotionless, through a strip club thick with gyrating naked bodies. It works, in much the same way “Work” and “Kiss It Better” do: by representing the body as the most direct visual expression of the self.