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April 29, 2015 at 9:36am

Nerd Alert issued for Grand Cinema's Documentary Week, Free Comic Book Day, David Sedaris ...

What the Funk Brothers did for Motown...The Wrecking Crew did, only bigger, for the West Coast Sound.

The new Avengers movie doesn't need my help. Believe it or not, this is one movie that will be just fine, even without the highly sought-after Nerd Alert bump. It's going to Hulk smash box office records, and there's nothing you or I can do to prevent the interminable onslaught of comic book movies. I, for one, welcome our new Marvel overlords.

Instead, why not direct you, my dear reader, to The Grand Cinema's Documentary Week? I can't say for sure, but I'm willing to bet that the series of films programmed for the week will not feature many people with super suits, magical hammers or radiation-induced rage-monsterism. Instead, starting Friday, the week will be filled with fairly heady material, including a doc about the exposure of the FBI's overreaching spy programs by a group of activists (1971), a searing exploration of the prevalent rape culture on college campuses (The Hunting Ground), and a doc about the people who get hired to be pundits on scientific topics they know nothing about (Merchants of Doubt), among others.

Of particular interest is the documentary that covers the session musicians who worked in the shadows to shape the state of music in the '60s (The Wrecking Crew), contributing to albums by everyone from the Beach Boys to Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. It's a recognition that finally gives credit to these amazing musicians whose accomplishments would otherwise go uncelebrated.

Saturday, May 2: Free Comic Book Day

Instead of supporting robot James Spader, why not get out and experience some real comic book culture? Free Comic Book Day comes but once a year, and Destiny City Comics will be giving away free comics Saturday. Among the embarrassment of riches being offered this FCBD will be new issues featuring properties like Batman, Superman, Fight Club, Bob's Burgers, Pokemon, Doctor Who, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter,and, most excitingly, The Tick.

In an age when comic books are being increasingly popularized through their adaptations into cinematic juggernauts, it can be edifying to be reacquainted with their ink-and-paper origins. There seems to be no end in sight for this blight of superhero movies - and, honestly, the less said about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the better - but there is still art inherent in the medium, and Free Comic Book Day is a great way to jump back in the fray, for those who have strayed, and to continue your obsession if you've remained a fan.

Sunday, May 3: David Sedaris

Completely exhausted with everything related to comic books? I don't blame you. If this is the case, may I suggest checking out a performance from David Sedaris, the wonderful essayist, humorist, and NPR contributor - not to mention premiere Billie Holiday impressionist - who epitomized the conversational, autobiographical tone that so many other writers would attempt to imitate. Sedaris is a fount of hysterical true stories and fanciful bits of fiction, and he doesn't show any signs of slowing down, with the release of his latest: Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls.

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Books, Comedy, Screens, Tacoma,

April 23, 2015 at 9:56am

Nerd Alert issued for Star Wars trailer, Wayzgoose, summer movies ...

Wayzgoose! Letterpress and Book Arts Extravaganza will roll out April 25 at King's Books in Tacoma. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

Suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

It seems this good thing must soon come to an end. Nerd Alert will be taking an indefinite break after Rev. Adam McKinney's version next week, as the Weekly Volcano passes through an editorial life change. Think of it as graduation from college. No more keggers for you, kids; cultivate a taste for chardonnay. Or something. I don't know. I'll contemplate it as I wait in line for Avengers: Age of Ultron tickets. A word to the wise: they're available now. Most theaters will start screening the movie on April 30, the night before official opening. I predict it'll earn over $210 million. In other words, it'll boast the most lucrative opening weekend of all time, a record it'll hold for exactly seven and a half months. Enjoy that Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, amigos.

FRIDAY, APRIL 24

No matter who's performing the melancholy Dane or where, one goes into any production of Hamlet with the luxury of confidence. That's because it's the greatest single play ever written in the English language, perhaps in any language. Director Sikander Sohail promises his take on the rottenness in Elsinore Castle will be "apocalyptic, revolutionary, and dangerous." Put us down for "to be."

HAMLET, 7:30 p.m. Fri. and Sat., University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, $6-$8, 253.879.3100

Actually, this is a big month for theater all over the South Sound. Continuing from last week are two manic comedies: The 39 Steps at Lakewood Playhouse and The Fox on the Fairway at Tacoma Little Theatre. The former runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 2 through May 10, the latter Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2 through May 3. Next month brings equally diverse offerings, including The Language Archive from Pulp Productions at Evergreen State College (opening May 1), Pinocchio at Olympia Family Theater (May 15), Cabaret at Tacoma Little Theatre (May 22), and a find-your-fate musical adaptation of Drood at Lakewood Playhouse (May 29).

SATURDAY, APRIL 25

Dozens of artists from Olympia and Tacoma will converge on King's Books for its 11th annual Wayzgoose festival. Bring any fabric item to be screen-printed by UPS students. Steamroller printing will also return, as will CLAW, the Cartoonists' League of Absurd Washingtonians. By popular demand, the event stretches an extra day this year, so watch for Godrun Aurand of Washington State Book Restoration and Jeremy Gregory of Candy Teeth Creative on Sunday.

WAYZGOOSE! LETTERPRESS AND BOOK ARTS EXTRAVAGANZA, 11 - 4 Sat. and Sun., King's Books, 218 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, free, 253.705.0760

Finally, let's look ahead to geeky summer entertainment. TV premiere dates include May 28 for Louis C.K. Live From the Comedy Store on FX, June 4 for Hannibal on NBC, June 12 for Defiance on Syfy and Orange Is the New Black on Netflix, June 21 for True Detective on HBO, June 28 for Falling Skies on TNT, and July 17 for Wet Hot American Summer on Netflix. The Strain will return for season 2 on FX, though no exact date has been confirmed.

On the big screen, set your calendars for Muppet documentary I Am Big Bird: the Carroll Spinney Story on May 6, the his-and-hers double whammy of Mad Max: Fury Road and Pitch Perfect 2 on May 15, the Poltergeist reboot and (much more promising) Tomorrowland on May 22, temblor San Andreas on May 29, Jurassic World and SNL documentary Live From New York! on June 12, Terminator Genisys on July 1, Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation on July 31, Josh Trank's darker take on Fantastic Four on August 7, and Netflix's first cinematic feature, the Yuen Wo-Ping wuxia sequel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend, opening August 28.

Assembling this column has been a blast, folks. I mean that. May the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may there be no fate but what you make for yourselves. Live long and prosper.

April 14, 2015 at 9:46pm

Nerd Alert has been issued for Celebrity Deathmatch and True Story

MTV2 is bringing back Celebrity Deathmatch for another round. Photo courtesy of Photofest

Part of the gauntlet of programming that originally sounded the death knell of MTV actually playing music videos, Celebrity Deathmatch stabbed its influence into the hearts and minds of a certain generation. Featuring battles between tangentially related celebrities, the claymation show was frequently more clever than anyone every really required it to be. It was enough that ever was a hyper-violent, zeitgeist-obsessed version of Mr. Bill; that there were any jokes at all was enough for millions of stoners and children and child stoners.

After ending its initial run in 2002, Celebrity Deathmatch returned briefly in 2006 before finally succumbing to the injuries of low ratings and a changing world. Still, the world of fame has only grown in in-fighting and vitriol, so it only makes sense that MTV would announce the return of their blood-spattered baby. Celebrity Deathmatch will rise again, this time with an element social media involvement and "hourly Twitter wars," which is just a series of nonsense words, so you might just be better off putting your flannel back on and forgetting about it.

The question remains, though, as to who will be the lucky celebrity to pummel Justin Bieber's face into oblivion. My pick? That monster truck Bigfoot. Well, either him or Eddie Vedder. Anyone with a deep, growling yarl, really. Contrast is king on Celebrity Deathmatch.

Friday, April 17: True Story

I finally got around to seeing The Wolf of Wall Street, recently, and while I wasn't incredibly impressed with the film, overall, what I was surprised by was Jonah Hill's scene-stealing performance. While I had already seen his Oscar nominated performance in Moneyball, I was really taken by Hill's turn as the geek-turned-greed-monster in The Wolf of Wall Street. Hill's been making a self-conscious, concerted attempt to escape from the prison of type-casting as a comedic actor and find richer roles elsewhere.

This trend has continued with the pairing of Hill and James Franco in True Story, which is, predictably, based on a true story. Following Michael Finkel, former writer for The New York Times, who was fired after partially fabricating a story on the African slave trade. A couple years later, he learned that a man named Christian Longo convicted of killing his family had been hiding under the alias of Finkel. True Story follows their relationship as Finkel and Longo collaborate to definitively tell Longo's real story - whatever that may be.

The trailer for the movie seems desperate to convey how important this story is, while also coming across as an ersatz fusion of Shattered Glass and Capote. Still, both Franco and Hill have been incredibly effective actors in the past, and the story is one of those stranger than fiction pieces of work that could inspire a powerful movie-though I think I'd rather see the documentary. In any case, this is one that you'll have to see for yourself when it opens at The Grand Cinema.

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Screens, Tacoma,

April 6, 2015 at 4:02pm

Nerd Alert issued for Game of Thrones, Ex Machina, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot ...

What we saw in the Game of Thrones Season 5 trailer is Varys wants Tyrion to help Daenerys take the Iron Throne. Of course, when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. Photo courtesy of HBO

Struggling through the Voight-Kampff test, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

THURSDAY, APRIL 9

Louie, one of TV's best and least predictable series, returns for season 5 at 10:30 on FX. A half hour before that, FX debuts one of TV's most soon-to-be-cancelled shows, The Comedians with Billy Crystal and Josh Gad.

FRIDAY, APRIL 10

Sooner and more fully than we comprehend, artificial intelligence will be woven into our daily lives. Some experts predict the next two decades will see the advent of a machine and/or uploaded sentience equal to or surpassing our own. Today's gay and trans civil rights movements will give way to the struggle to understand and empower synthetic personalities. It'll be a true paradigm shift, a transformative moment in the way we define personhood. It'll unravel centuries of assumptions about what it means to be alive and aware. Religion, art, law, philosophy, indeed, every avenue of human thought and self-identity will be challenged by this societal horizon some have rightly defined as a "singularity." No one alive can see beyond it to the other side.

In the meantime, of course, we'll keep right on making slick popcorn movies about how robots who look like hot chicks want to take over the world. Ex Machina's scoring highly on RottenTomatoes.com, and HAL knows we could use something halfway intelligent to cleanse our collective palate after Furious 7. Hey, maybe it'll be three-quarters-of-the-way intelligent like It Follows!

Also on Friday, 13 episodes of Marvel's Daredevil, aka The Man Without Fear, debut on Netflix, the Network Without Standards and Practices.

SATURDAY, APRIL 11

White-hot playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis penned The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, a seriocomic meditation on free will set in a limbo night court beyond time. Its characters are all your Gospel favorites, including Uncle Pino. Wait ... what? This production, directed by 2015 grad Grace Caruso, comes courtesy of Saint Martin's University Theatre Department. "The subject may be religion," notes critic Ben Brantley of The New York Times, "but questions are encouraged. Thank Heaven...at least the person in charge is the class cutup."

THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT, 7:30 p.m. April 11 and 14-18, 2 p.m. April 12, State Theatre, 204 4th Ave., Olympia, $7-$12, 360.438.4506

SUNDAY, APRIL 12

When last we left our Westerosian heroes and villains, a certain Lannister was having a bad day on the crapper, another was enjoying an unexpected sea cruise, and Cersei was mastering level-23 bitchcraft. The last two episodes of season 4 finally lived up to Game of Thrones's promise, balancing oversize visual spectacle against compelling adventure and character development - with nary a brothel boob in sight, no less! Here's hoping David Benioff and company keep this spectacular train on the rails as it speeds past George R. R. Martin's literary source material.

Speaking of lit, today marks the 20th anniversary of Barnes & Noble (1530 Black Lake Blvd.) in Olympia. Expect author signings, story readings, princesses on the loose, and other fun moments throughout the day.

TUESDAY, APRIL 14

Timothy Olyphant hangs up his Stetson as Justified rides into the sunset, leaving Harlan County, Kentucky to its own drug- and violence-addled devices. That's a real county, by the way, though the series has never shot a minute of footage there. I bet Harlanites are super proud of their depiction on screen.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and always pay your debts.

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Screens, Theater, Olympia,

April 1, 2015 at 11:11am

Nerd Alert issued for Trevor Noah and "It Follows" horror film

It Follows is horror at its most artful and rigorously disciplined, arousing fear not through jump scares or gimmicks, but rather through nimble editing and precise compositions. Photo courtesy of Northern Lights Films

Lots of comedy and politics fans were shocked and dismayed to learn that Jon Stewart would be retiring from his role behind the desk of The Daily Show. Immediately, speculation abounded about who could possibly take his place. Some names thrown around included Louis CK, Amy Poehler and Amy Schumer - all of whom may very well have been fine replacements. Earlier this week, however, it was announced that Daily Show newcomer Trevor Noah would be taking the helm.

At first blush, the news that South African actor-comedian Noah would be taking over sounded like great news - with him on The Daily Show and Larry Wilmore hosting The Nightly Show, that would mean the entire 11 o'clock hour on Comedy Central would be populated by people of color, which is certainly a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, with this era of being able to publicly post any lame, sexist, anti-semitic joke that pops into your head, there was bound to be a little bit of dirt for people to dig up on Noah.

Jokes buried in Noah's Twitter feed were far from encouraging with regards to his future as the biting social satirist that The Daily Show needs. Example? Here: "'Oh yeah the weekend. People are gonna get drunk & think that I'm sexy!' - fat chicks everywhere." Also: "Behind every successful Rap Billionaire is a doubly rich Jewish man. #BeatsByDreidel"

Besides the obviously squicky viewpoints on display in these tweets, the most troubling thing for me is that they are painfully unfunny. Granted, some of these go back as far as four years, but Noah already had a successful talk show in South Africa, at the time, so he shouldn't be given the out of being young, dumb, and oblivious. At this time, Comedy Central is responding by defending their new Daily Show host, so let's hope he can grow up as quickly as possible before he permanently sinks a comedy institution.

Friday, April 3: It Follows

Really solid horrors movies can be hard to come by, these days. Even critically acclaimed ones tend to leave me cold (I'm looking at you, The Conjuring). Still, when you find one that can legitimately scare the pants off of you with ingenuity and tact, it's a moment to be cherished (I'm looking at you, The House of the Devil and The Descent).

This Friday sees the arrival of the most buzzed-about horror movie in some time: It Follows. The film has an ingeniously simple premise. Our heroine is plagued by an entity that slowly and patiently follows her everywhere, sometimes appearing to her as friends and loved ones. If the being gets her, she's dead. The only way to get rid of the spook is to sleep with someone, thereby transferring the evil presence onto them. It's a sneaky way of exploring STDs and relationships - two longtime preoccupations in the horror genre - in new and terrifying ways.

Find me at The Grand this weekend. I'll be the one with my hands over my eyes.

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Comedy, Screens, Tacoma,

March 24, 2015 at 1:14pm

Nerd Alert has been issued for Emerald City Comicon, Rock Candy Burlesque, Scientology, "Interstellar" ...

Jewel Staite of "Firefly" joins the geeky goodness in Seattle this weekend.

Pouring one out for Xenu in his electronic mountain trap, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

FRIDAY, MARCH 27

Sadly, Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood), Morena Baccarin (V, Homeland) and Jenna Coleman (the lovely and charming Clara Oswald) had to bow out of appearances at this weekend's Emerald City Comicon. The event recovered, however, by adding Jewel Staite and Gina Torres of Firefly. Also in attendance: Hayley Atwell (aka Agent Carter), Kurt Busiek (Astro City and Marvels), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Grant Imahara of Mythbusters, Lucy Knisley (Displacement and Relish), STAN LEE, Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), Bruce Timm (DC's animated series), Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) and dozens of other folks you'll recognize or should. The second level of the Washington State Convention Center will be devoted to gaming tournaments, including a dozen demos. Genre authors Kevin J. Anderson, Greg Bear and Michael A. Stackpole offer informed advice to new writers. A kids' area includes a costume parade, a workshop devoted to clay animation, and a visit from Emperor Palpatine's feared 501st Legion. For superhero, sci-fi and fantasy geeks all over western Washington, this weekend-long festival is annual home base.

EMERALD CITY COMICON, Friday through Sunday, Washington State Convention Center, 800 Convention Place, Seattle, $10-$295, 888.372.3976

The shamelessly sentimental comedy I'm directing for Olympia Little Theatre, Charles Morey's Laughing Stock, is about a summer of rep plays at a star-crossed theater in a refurbished barn in New England. The year is 1993, as "The Playhouse" struggles through rehearsals and performances of Dracula and Hamlet, with Murphy's Law in full effect and love and chemical fog in the air. Here is my promise to you, the consumer: if you laugh harder at any other play this year, I will personally buy you a Coke.

LAUGHING STOCK, 7:55 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 1:55 p.m. Sunday, through April 19, Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia, $8-$14, 800.838.3006

An unsettling drama from Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Nurse Betty) reunites a pair of estranged brothers two decades after devastating childhood events In a Dark, Dark House. It's not a musical. It sure ain't a comedy. It is, however, perfect for the dark, dark Midnight Sun Performance Space, and for avant-garde Theater Artists Olympia. Christopher Rocco directs. There will be trigger scenes.

IN A DARK, DARK HOUSE, 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday, through April 11, 2:30 p.m. April 12, Midnight Sun Performance Space, 113 Columbia St. NW, Olympia, $15, 360.259.2743

SATURDAY, MARCH 28

The self-described "legendary sexpots" of Olympia's Rock Candy Burlesque celebrate their third anniversary with host Tyler Lockwood, special guests Bananas Foster and Mae Zing, and cake, if you know what I mean. (I mean cake. I like cake. Count me in.)

ROCK CANDY BURLESQUE: A TIME FOR CAKE-PAST, FUTURE AND PRESENTS!, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Rhythm & Rye, 311 Capitol Way N., Olympia, $10-$13, 360.705.0760

SUNDAY, MARCH 29

HBO and documentarian Alex Gibney take on the Church of Scientology in Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, based on Lawrence Wright's jaw-dropper of a book and debuting tonight at 8. Our lawyers inform us Scientologists are a fine organization of people who haven't been duped by a schlocky extended space opera con of a pseudo-religion. Also, our fondness for that noble body should in no way be attributed to its propensity for devastating lawsuits.

TUESDAY, APRIL 1

Christopher Nolan's mind-expanding masterpiece Interstellar, which gives 2001: A Space Odyssey a run for its monolith as best hard-SF epic of all time, arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD. April Fools! Oh, Interstellar does hit video today, but its screenplay is light-years from being as clever as it thinks (and, frankly, declares) it is. That third act in the LSD library is rather a mess. I did like the cameo and robot.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may you attain the full glory of the state of Clear.

March 18, 2015 at 10:04am

Nerd Alert has been issued for Let the Right One In, Welcome to Night Vale and What We Do in the Shadows

"What We Do In The Shadows": "Real World: Transylvania", except in Wellington.

Let the Right One In

Because Hollywood just can't fucking leave well enough alone, we are now being faced with yet another adaptation of the Swedish masterpiece, Let the Right One In. We've already been given an English-language version that hewed so close to the original that it gets a pass, for lack of ruining greatness. Now, I fear, we've flown too close to the sun, because the showrunner behind the Teen Wolf TV series is helming an American version of the new classic in television form.

For those unfamiliar (and, by the way, get familiar already), Let the Right One In is a tender, spooky, violent, unexpectedly moving take on the vampire story. Centered on the friendship between a socially awkward little boy and a girl (who happens to be an eternal bloodsucker) that lives in his apartment complex, the film is an absolute triumph and a signal that there's more to tell about vampires than that they're sexy and glitter in the sun. Based on what I know of the Teen Wolf TV show (which features lacrosse, instead of basketball, barf), there will be a higher rate of chiseled abs in this incarnation of Let the Right One In than I would prefer.

How long can you tell a story that was perfectly laid out in under two hours? A thousand years, if you monsters watch this abomination.

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel

The success of Welcome to Night Vale was unlikely, but not unwarranted. Bite-sized bits of podcast that revolved around a velvet-voiced radio host named Cecil giving updates to the citizens of the dire, bizarre, Lovecraftian town known as Night Vale doesn't exactly scream mainstream appeal, but the fans have been vocal and fervent. Over time, the half-horror-half-comedy world of Welcome to Night Vale has expanded its considerable mythology into something that would be better off contained in a book, if only such a thing were to exist.

But, wait! What luck! A novel is approaching, and it goes by the handy title of Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel. Centering on the travails of pawnshop owner Jackie Fierro and treasurer Diane Crayton, the book will offer a more narrow view of the expansive madness that is Night Vale. Even though the book won't be out until October, it has already become the No. 5 most ordered book on Amazon. Clearly, the thirst for The X-Files and The Twilight Zone is strong, in America. Just don't look at that light on the edge of town. You know why.

What We Do in the Shadows

If, like me, you're INFURIATED about the Let the Right One In TV adaptation, why not indulge yourself in an actually quite good vampire movie? Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, of HBO's Flight of the Conchords, star in What We Do in the Shadows, the story of four vampires living in a house together. And what happens when four bloodsuckers stop being polite and start getting real?

Clement has proven himself to not only be a facile and hilarious comedian, but also a competent actor. If there's anything left to be injected into the genre of the vampire movie, some humor can only help. If I see another immortal monster brooding, I will take a flamethrower to Hollywood.

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Screens, Books,

March 9, 2015 at 1:28pm

Nerd Alert issued for Leonard Nimoy, Kenneth Branagh, Yahoo! Screen ...

Leonard Nimoy represented the best of humanity. ©2003 By Paramount Pictures All Rights Reserved

Wishing Harrison "fly yes, land no" Ford a speedy recovery, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

I'd be remiss if I didn't begin this installment with a tribute to the late, lamented Leonard Nimoy. (Cue the Vulcan salute and "Amazing Grace" bagpipes.) Mr. Nimoy was a hell of a lot more than half-human, but of course I have to start with his most beloved character. Spock represented, not the alien, but the alienated. He stood for all of us who got picked on for being smart and socially awkward - pretty much all of SF fandom. I was addicted to Fringe, on which he played a recurring role, and the docu-series he hosted on Nickelodeon, Standby: Lights, Camera, Action! I loved his stage Sherlock. He was probably the first actor I knew by name. In short, I've been a Leonard Nimoy fan for 40 years. We all have. He lives in us now. Nimoy has been, and always shall be, our friend.

Our nation has contributed hundreds of characters to the planetary mythos over the years, a fact about which we should be patriotically proud. Yet many of those characters are defined by their ability to kill. Others are famous for quests purely vengeful or materialistic. Spock's goal is different: he wants to understand as much as possible of the universe. He seeks to find kinship with those least like himself. His favorite word, "fascinating," attaches value to the "merely" interesting. His catchphrase, "Live long and prosper," is both secular and applicable to all. That character lives on, of course, in Zachary Quinto's respectful performances, and his spirit owes to the labors of multitudes. Yet I think it's important to remember why Spock and Leonard Nimoy were synonymous in so many people's minds: they stood for the same unimpeachable goals. I hope future guardians of Star Trek and its ideas will remember that.

FRIDAY, MARCH 13

Who's got big balls? Disney princess geeks, that's who! So don your blue ribbon, transmogrify Bruno, Gus, Jaq and Luke, and saddle up, fellow Mouseketeers! Kenneth Branagh, acclaimed director of Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and umpteen Shakespeare adaptations, has lavished his talents on a live-action retelling of Cinderella. It stars Lily James (Downton Abbey's Lady Rose) as Ella, Cate Blanchett as her snotty stepmum and Helena Bonham Carter as the world's greatest personal stylist. As I write this, RottenTomatoes.com rates the flick a bippity-boppity-beautiful 94 percent. Ah, Cinderella: disparaging stepparents in favor of the patriarchal monarchy since 1634.

SATURDAY, MARCH 14

Feel like getting your act on? Olympia's Shakespeare-in-the-Park company Animal Fire Theatre is auditioning for King John at 11 a.m. in the Midnight Sun (113 N. Columbia). Think Game of Thrones minus zombies and whores, but with bloodthirsty mosquitos the size of direwolves. At 7 the next evening, Lakewood Playhouse would love to see actors and singers for Drood, a musical adaptation of Dickens's unfinished novel. The Kander & Ebb musical Cabaret, which features both prostitutes and Nazis, holds auditions at Tacoma Little Theatre on March 22. It's springtime for Hitler!

Two promising stage productions open this weekend: Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard at Evergreen State College, and Steve Martin's thinky Picasso at the Lapin Agile at Tacoma Little Theatre. I've peeked through the windows of the real Lapin Agile on Montmartre. It's the size of a Starbucks. Who knew?

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17

After getting unceremoniously expelled from NBC's prime-time campus, season six of Community moves to something called Yahoo! Screen, where it probably streams between levels of Candy Crush. In a related story, Generalissimo Francisco Franco and Chevy Chase are still dead to us.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may you live long and prosper.

March 4, 2015 at 12:19pm

Nerd Alert issued for Modest Mouse, Chappie and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

"Chappie "promises to be a 21st century "Short Circuit" - if the cult 1980s action-comedy romp had been set in Johannesburg and co-starred Die Antwoord.

It's been eight years since the last Modest Mouse album has hit stores, after the disappointing We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. But, over the past few weeks, singles from their forthcoming Strangers to Ourselves have been appearing online. While the songs I've heard have proven to be more of the same sanitized Modest Mouse we've come to except over the past decade, it's always nice to have some more Isaac Brock in our lives.

Perhaps it should come as no shock, then, that Brock - whose writing has frequently sparred with the vast mysteries of the universe - would find himself influenced by a night of unexplainable phenomena. As laid out in a recent interview on Studio 360, Brock recounts the flight he took to Phoenix in 1997 to master The Lonesome Crowded West. Apparently, the plane was grounded under mysterious circumstances, which he later realized were tied to the now-infamous Phoenix Lights, a notorious incident of UFO sightings. That night has now informed the latest single from Strangers, "The Best Room," about the hotel he was sequestered in while officials sorted out all the chaos.

While Modest Mouse might no longer be the mad genius underdog of the indie world, there's no doubt that Brock remains one of the more fascinating figures in American rock music. Now, if only he can turn that madness back toward the quality of his earlier work. ...

Choppie

Director Neil Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) has been in the news quite a bit, recently, with announcements that he will be directing the next installment in the Alien franchise, and he admits maybe, sorta fucked up the landing with Elysium. All of this is coming in anticipation of his third studio feature, Chappie. So, how does it look?

Judging by the trailer, Chappie is refreshingly multi-cultural, featuring British, American, South African, and Australian actors - gasp! - using their actual accents. Centering around the world's first sentient robot, and the rest of the world's fight to destroy it, it feels like a hyper-violent take on WALL-E. Weirdest of all, though, is the presence of Ninja and Yolandi of rap provocateurs Die Antwoord.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Part of The Grand Cinema's Tuesday film series, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night continues the trend - as epitomized by Only Lovers Left Alive - of the "vampires hanging out" film genre. The Iranian/American film centers around a ghost town in Iran called Bad City, and the lonely vampire that haunts it. If it's anything like the sumptuous Only Lovers Left Alive, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is not to be missed. 1:15 and 6:25 p.m., Tuesday, March 10, The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, $5.50-$9, 253.593.4474

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Music, Screens, Tacoma,

February 23, 2015 at 1:05pm

Nerd Alert issued for The Lazarus Effect and Neill Blomkamp vs. Alien

"The Lazarus Effect": When a team of research students mapping the human brain accidentally kills one of their own, they unwittingly unlock a deadly force by reanimating their colleague.

Rethinking that bite of Weyland-Yutani cornbread, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

FRIDAY, FEB. 27

The Lazarus Effect stars Mark Duplass, Donald Glover and Olivia Wilde, three actors I like. There is nothing else to highlight about this picture. It's a horror movie. You know: a horror movie. It's every contemporary horror movie. Will a woman's eyes turn jet black as she makes asthmatic exhaling noises? Will a character record supernatural events on a 1990s-era camcorder? Will our hero be startled by the lunging reappearance of a pet? Do I even need to answer these questions? It's about oh who cares. Y'know, now that I think about it, a movie about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead has serious potential as a horror movie. The Lazarus Effect, however, does not.

A recent trending headline on Facebook read, "Joyland Amusement Park: Kansas park's stolen clown found in convicted sex offender's home, police say." That headline is scarier than anything in The Lazarus Effect. That headline, in fact, is scarier than anything I've ever seen ever. It should be made into a horror movie starring Mark Duplass, Donald Glover and Olivia Wilde. Then, it should be buried and the earth around it salted, because nothing that evil should be allowed to exist. A year later, Mark Duplass, Donald Glover and Olivia Wilde could be given their own sitcom about life on the set of a run-of-the-mill horror movie. That sitcom would be charming. It'd also be scarier than anything in The Lazarus Effect.

It was recently announced that Neill Blomkamp will direct a sequel to Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece of interstellar grotesquery, Alien. Blomkamp is the South African-Canadian auteur (based in Vancouver, B.C.) behind Elysium, the modern genre classic District 9, and next weekend's promising Chappie. Before that, he was lead animator for Dark Angel on Fox. His promo shorts for Bungie/Microsoft's Halo almost netted him a feature set in that techno-militaristic future. When funding for Blomkamp's Halo fell through, we were denied his take on a 'verse that owes a ton to James Cameron's 1986 sequel Aliens, which both Blomkamp (and I) admire deeply. While Chappie was going through post-production, Blomkamp concocted ideas for a sequel that'd feature Sigourney Weaver's Ripley and Michael Biehn's Hicks, despite the fact that both characters were killed in Alien3. (Ripley was reanimated in the ill-fated four-quel Alien: Resurrection.)

Over the last 18 years, the Alien franchise has fallen on hard times. Scott returned to that domain in his sporadically entertaining Prometheus, yet ignored the so-called "Xenomorph" parasite designed for him by Swiss surrealist H. R. Giger. Thanks in large part to its pop-cultural ubiquity, the Alien now seems scarier in claustrophobic computer games than in amplified blockbuster cinema. While Blomkamp's concepts offer glorious fan service, it should be remembered that Cameron's sequel owes much of its success to how far it strays from its predecessor. While Scott made a locked-mansion slasher film in space, Cameron wrote and directed a Vietnam-style combat movie in which the villains were undeniably slaughter-worthy. So what scares us now? What kind of Alien movie should Blomkamp make? I think it's clear we need to see something new, but something that flows logically from where we went in at least the first two films. (I, for one, would be happy to retcon this series by ignoring everything since 1986.) I think the solution underlies John Hurt's memorable demise aboard the Nostromo, Jeff Goldblum's dive into the gene pool in the 1986 remake of The Fly, and Sharlto Copley's degeneration in District 9. So what scares us now? Why, the realm of the medical.

So why won't that cut heal? Am I catching a faint, putrid whiff of sub-enamel tooth decay? Did I spend too many hours in a tanning bed? As we get older, and God knows we Alien fans have been doing that, it's the slow ruination of our bodies that keeps us up nights. I think it's time for the Xenomorph to crawl back under our skin.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and remember to nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Screens,

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