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December 15, 2014 at 2:26pm

Nerd Alert! - Movies opening Christmas Day

"The Interview": Seth Rogen and James Franco star in the dirty Hope and Crosby-style film about assassinating Kim Jong-un.

Dwarves of Erebor, 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.

With The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies cutting Peter Jackson & Co. loose at long last to work on non-Tolkien projects, this holiday movie season arrives with a vengeance. That's awesome, too, because there's squat-all to watch on TV.

FRIDAY, DEC. 19

If ever I loved the musical Annie, and I'm not sure ever I did, a summer working as a publicist next door to six weeks of "It's the Hard Knock Life" rehearsals drummed it out of me. Still, even I find myself aghast at what Columbia Pictures and director Will Gluck (Friends with Benefits) have done with the popular property. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled Jamie Foxx and Quvenzhané Wallis are playing Daddy Warbucks and Little Orphan Annie, respectively, but who thought Cameron Diaz would make a great Miss Hannigan? And isn't Annie famously the story of a little girl struggling through the Great Depression? Why is this movie set in the present day?

On the other hand, what're ya gonna do, buy a ticket to Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb instead? Ha! As if! Oh, I crack myself up. But let's be serious for a moment: perhaps now would be a great time to tuck into a fun weekend read! Say, have I mentioned I'm an author?

THURSDAY, DEC. 25

Gentle Reader, I'm confused. (This happens oftener than I'd like to admit.) Specifically, I'm at a loss to comprehend this year's holiday movie releases. In past years, the last two weeks of December saw major prestige releases roll out in the last possible qualifying moments for Oscar consideration. This year, only one serious contender for Best Picture, Angelina Jolie's epic wartime drama Unbroken, premieres Christmas Day. It's the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who ran a 4:08 mile, then served as a bombardier in the Pacific theater before getting shot down by the Japanese. Zamperini survived 47 days on a life raft at sea before reaching the Marshall Islands, only to find himself captured and tormented for months. It's an amazing, true-life story, one richly deserving of cinematic enshrinement.

Unbroken debuts alongside Big Eyes, a Tim Burton biopic about shy Tennessee artist Margaret Keane. Keane's paintings of mutant children were everywhere in the 1950s, but her self-aggrandizing husband Walter became a national celebrity by claiming he painted all of them. The movie stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, two actors who've earned multiple nominations over the years and may well coast into awards consideration again. The film itself, however, is having a tough time gathering buzz.

Also opening on Christmas - not that its ubiquitous commercials and trailers have kept this a secret - is Disney's adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. If you've ever attended a live musical theater production, this was probably it. In the last few years I've seen two local productions, and passed on seeing yet another at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Early reports suggest the movie (directed by Chicago's Rob Marshall, who should know better) takes liberties with the musical we all know and respect. Sound familiar? Among other changes, it dispenses with the narrator altogether. I wish I could be more optimistic, especially given Woods' undeniably talented cast, but unless the trailers have vastly undersold it I think you may be happier driving to Ashland instead.

Ed. note: Sony pulled the release of The Interview after theaters refused to screen the film due to death threats from the Sony hackers.

One final movie opening Dec. 25 worth mentioning, if only for the damage it may have inspired, is Sony's The Interview. It stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as clueless TV personalities who are commissioned to kill North Korea's "Supreme Leader," Kim Jong-un. Of course, Kim Jong-un is a real person, known more for his purges, human rights violations and nuclear threats than his sense of self-deprecating humor, so this did not go unnoticed. No, it appears Kim got his supreme panties in a bunch about it, a reaction, perhaps, to his father's merciless savaging at the hands of Team America: World Police. Coincidentally or probably not, hackers invaded Sony's corporate network and leaked hundreds of damaging emails, including an exchange in which Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal called Angelina Jolie "a minimally talented spoiled brat." Ooh, or maybe you heard the one about how Sony was planning to sue Bill Murray for declining to costar in Ghostbusters 3? Yeah, this has not been a fun week on the Sony lot, and I have every reason to believe it will not get better soon.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may God bless Bill Murray, amen.

December 10, 2014 at 1:09pm

Nerd Alert! - Our American Godzilla, Scary Claus, The Man with the Golden Atom-Smasher ...

"Neutralize Bond! Forthwith!" / photo courtesy of ©2013 FOX / bild.de

No one asked me what my opinion of the latest American version of Godzilla was, but it was largely the same as everyone else's: eh. Not enough Bryan Cranston, the lead actor might as well have been that cardboard cutout in the background of Three Men and a Baby, and I was uncomfortable with the expressiveness of Godzilla's face. Still, it was inarguably better than Roland Emmerich's 1998 monstrosity, which means that it was a step in the right direction for healing to begin.

Even with the relatively good quality of Our American Godzilla (which is a spinoff that I'd like to copyright and pitch to the This American Life people), the fine people over at Japan's Toho Studios have decided to return to their radioactive creation, a decade after their Godzilla: Final Wars SKREEONKed onto screens. Toho has brought together a wonder team of executives and directors - a team they've dubbed the Godzilla Strategic Conference, or Godzi-con. With a release date set for 2016, Toho's Godzilla should arrive two years before our Godzilla 2 hits theaters.

SKREEONK, indeed.

Friday, Dec. 12-Saturday, Dec. 13: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

The one Christmas tradition that I can totally back is The Grand Cinema's annual showings of the delightfully demented Finnish film, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. The new holiday classic is a pulpy, darkly comic take on what is essentially the Krampus mythology, where Santa isn't so jolly and children are dirty little urchins that deserve to be punished. The horror comedy is a gorgeously shot descent into yuletide madness, and it is a wonder to see on The Grand's (relatively) big screens. It's only shown in Tacoma two days a year, so see it while you can. It'll make you rethink candy canes.

Tuesday, Dec. 16: A Brief History of Time

Stephen Hawking has recently expressed interest in playing a Bond villain. That's it. Just wanted to tell you that.

It wouldn't be too much of a stretch, because everything has been coming up Hawking this year. The physicist was a guest vocalist on Pink Floyd's latest album, and the story of his life, The Theory of Everything, is the Oscar bait the world needs, not the one it deserves. In conjunction with his biopic playing at The Grand Cinema, the theater has decided to screen the 1991 Hawking documentary, A Brief History of Time, for its Tuesday Film Series. Directed by the great documentarian Errol Morris, the film is an exploration of the man and his work, with presumably a little more accuracy than The Theory of Everything.

There are two screenings on Tuesday, but the 6:45 one will be followed by a discussion of both the documentary and the biopic. The discussion will be led by ... David Gilmour? It can't possibly be that David Gilmour, but you never know. Stephen Hawking and Pink Floyd are apparently tight.

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Tacoma, Screens,

December 10, 2014 at 11:14am

When dinosaurs rule the Tacoma Dome

Raptor 1: "Hey, isn’t that Weekly Volcano theater critic Christian Carvajal?" Raptor 2: "Yeah, and they say WE'RE cold-blooded."

I guess every kid goes through waves of fascination. Some are mere passing phases; I doubt I've composed a sonnet or drawn a comic strip in years. Some endure. I'm as interested in astronomy and visual effects now as I was at age 12. Decades after my addiction to Land of the Lost (the show, not the godawful movie), I remain a shameless dinosaur geek. There's a majesty and mystery to those tyrants of the Age of Reptiles, before the six-mile-wide Chicxulub impactor smashed into the Yucatan peninsula and launched debris as far as the orbit of Jupiter. So when you inform me there's an arena show in which species from infant Plateosauri (a late Triassic herbivore) to mighty T. rex, eater of goats and corporate attorneys, make up the cast, well, you have my full attention. It's the type of show for which I'd love to get a behind-the-scene glimpse of how the magic is done - hint hint, Tacoma Dome! I've resorted to begging!

Of course, it'd be just as much fun to watch this show through the wide, ecstatic eyes of a preschooler. The creatures in Walking With Dinosaurs - The Arena Spectacular are so lifelike, it's easy for young viewers to imagine John Hammond and those mad scientists at InGen have been at it for real. But these aren't the modified movie monsters of Jurassic Park, these are puppets and animatronic actors that have been updated to keep pace with scientific discoveries. Instead of shooting 'roids into a featherless Deinonychus and calling it a Velociraptor, this show (with input from BBC Worldwide Ltd) gives us the ostrich-like (but still predatory) Utahraptor. In lieu of Tyrannosaurus duking it out with Stegosaurus -two species separated by almost 90 million years - Walking With Dinosaurs pits the plated herbivore against its contemporary foe, Allosaurus. The aim here is to educate as much as to entertain, so kids get a better idea how dinosaurs actually lived and died. They may even grasp paleontologists' current view of present-day birds as the direct descendants of Mesozoic dinosaurs. Yeah, that's right, folks: Big Bird has more in common with Grumpy from Land of the Lost than he does with Mr. Snuffleupagus.

Some experts believe we humans project ourselves into the juggernaut strides of tyrannosaurs. They think pretending to be dinosaurs allows kids a parent-like feeling of power over their lives and environment. I don't know about all that; I just think maybe it's fun to roar and stomp and kick over sand castles. What I do know is this: when a Brachiosaurus, a species that weighed 30 to 60 tons and was able to reach foliage 30 feet off the ground, lumbers into a sports arena before our very eyes, there's a part of even the most jaded adult that turns 5 years old all over again. And that, my friends, is spectacular indeed.

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS-THE ARENA SPECTACULAR, 7 p.m. Dec. 17, 19, and 20, 11 a.m. Dec. 19-20, 3 p.m. Dec. 20, 1 and 5 p.m. Dec. 21, Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma, $27.50-$85.50, 253.272.3663

Filed under: Events, Nerd Alert!, Tacoma,

December 1, 2014 at 12:16pm

Nerd Alert! Trailers for Jurassic World and The Force Awakens, big theater week, anaconda to eat Paul Rosolie's head ...

The "Jurassic World" trailer shows the park opening, the two stars and some dinosaurs, all to a slightly chilling piano rendition of the original film’s theme.

Chomping the shark, 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 submit to you, Gentle Reader, that last week was among the most exciting in recent geek history. No sooner had Rev. Adam posted his Nerd Alert for the week than Universal pulled a surprise move, undercutting its own countdown clock by two days and releasing the Jurassic World teaser to an Internet clamoring for a break from sad Missouri news. I'm a dino buff from way back, so this teaser left stirrings in my genes. ("Ooh, it's Mr. DNA!") To answer your first objection, yes, the raptors are actually an overgrown version of a species called Deinonychus and have way too few feathers. Also, that big mothergator in the lagoon, the one that noshes on Bruce in a sly jab at executive producer Steven Spielberg, is a Mosasaurus - a Cretaceous leviathan almost 60 feet long that probably did swallow sharks whole, then digest them over time like an anaconda or the all-powerful sarlacc. Incidentally, look closely the next time you watch the teaser: those raptors aren't hunting Chris Pratt; they're hunting with him. They're in his motorcycle gang; and if that doesn't make Pratt the coolest dude on our planet, then I'm a veggie-saurus. Jurassic World comes out on my 47th birthday, because I am down with Jeebus.

"There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?" Based on how drastically my Internet slowed down Friday morning, I'll freaking bet you have. The Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser was released to near-ubiquitous fanfare, especially the John Williams fanfare that hailed the reappearance of the Millennium Falcon to the saga. Between TIE fighters, X-wings, new characters, cruciform lightsabers, snowy forest planets, soccerbots and what sure as hell sounds like Benedict Cumberbatch intoning his lines through a swig of battery acid, the 88-second teaser offered just enough to whet our appetite to the breaking point without giving away anything of significance. That's impressive for a teaser over a year in advance. I watched it alone in a dark room with my childhood so my wife wouldn't catch me having petit mal geek seizures.

THURSDAY, DEC. 4

Thursday, Christopher Walken stars as Captain Hook in NBC's second stab at Twitter-bait musical theater, Peter Pan Live! That exclamation point's emphatically theirs, by the way. I see live musical theater all the time, made by people who know what they're doing, yet have a hell of a time getting most people to give a wet slap about it. So if you insist on bypassing the three, count 'em, three live musicals opening this weekend in the South Sound in order to watch Marnie from Girls play a boy on a wire, that's on you. Otherwise, Joann Varnell and I will be at The Head That Wouldn't Die (Theater Artists Olympia), Scrooge: The Musical (Tacoma Little Theatre) or A Year With Frog and Toad (Lakewood Playhouse). The Stardust Christmas Commotion is still packing 'em in at Harlequin Productions. I'll also review Olympia Little Theatre's take on Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park, which opens Friday. There's no singing or flying, but I hear Lena Dunham gets naked in it.

SUNDAY, DEC. 7

On Discovery's Eaten Alive, environmentalist Paul Rosolie goads an anaconda into eating his head. That's an actual show, folks. I'm not even kidding. He can do this trick once.

TUESDAY, DEC. 9

I already clued you in to Thursday's Blu-ray and DVD release of Guardians of the Galaxy, so instead I ask you to pick up your visual scanning and look at a couple of books. Frank Portman's 2006 YA novel King Dork was one of my favorites that year. It's a cross between Catcher in the Rye and High Fidelity, in which high school sophomore Tom Henderson navigates the tricky adolescent social sphere six years after his cop father's death. Now Portman offers a sequel, King Dork Approximately, in which Henderson is still in the 10th-grade but unlocks the challenging "first girlfriend" level. No less an authority than John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) said, "Basically, if you are a human being with even a vague grasp of the English language, King Dork will rock your world." I have nothing further, Your Honor.

Then there's Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz, in which an American Pinkerton detective, the aptly-named Frederick Chase, awaits Moriarty's nefarious successor. Remember, Sherlock Holmes pushed "the Napoleon of crime" to his just demise at the Reichenbach Falls ... or did he? That's the tension driving the action of a novel endorsed by the Conan Doyle estate. Personally, they had me at "Sherlock," but if you need more, consider this: the London Daily Mail calls Moriarty "the finest crime novel of the year." Read it now before the inevitable movie starring Pratt as Dr. John Watson, Christopher Walken as Moriarty, and Kristen Stewart as Holmes' sad, empty chair.

Sons of Anarchy wraps Tuesday. I've never seen the show, but here's a spoiler anyway: everyone dies except Horatio and Fortinbras. Meanwhile, Square Enix releases a new co-op Tomb Raider adventure, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, in which the titular British adventurer must crisscross Egypt in search of yet another ancient MacGuffin. What was that? No, I said "titular," meaning "mentioned in the title." Why are you snickering?

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and if Kristen Stewart chases you, run.

November 25, 2014 at 9:38am

Nerd Alert! Small Business Saturday, The Theory of Everything, Birdman

We all need cinematic heroes, and Birdman, both character and film, fits the role with aplomb.

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY

The season is coming when not much of anything non-Christmas-related is going on in town. Soon, we'll be inundated with colorful lights and an unending parade of cloying holiday songs. As Seasonal Affective Disorder officially begins to take hold, a pall of false cheer will stand as the only line of defense against crippling depression. In other words: Happy Holidays!

Still, there are glimmers of brightness in nerd events that will also help to keep our minds off of the all-encompassing miasma of winter. For instance, the last Saturday before December rears its ugly head is an opportunity to embrace not only local literature, but local small businesses. Small Business Saturday is like the Captain Planet to Black Friday's vile Hoggish Greedly. Instead of getting trampled and maced at Walmart, Small Business Saturday encourages you to relax the day after Christmas, and then shower your local stores with love.

Working in conjunction with Small Business Saturday are two events designed to connect you to local authors and fellow book-lovers. King's Books will be hosting the Tacoma chapter of Indies First, an event started by Sherman Alexie that gathers local authors and has them take turns as booksellers at various independent bookstores. Book recommendations, readings, and general merriment will be coming from authors such as Erik Hanberg, Mark Lindquist, Joshua Swainston and others.

Meanwhile, literary magazine Creative Colloquy will be stationed at the Nearsighted Narwhal, with readings from Michaela Eaves, Jack Cameron, J. Anne Fullerton and our own Christian Carvajal. Needless to say, in addition to rubbing elbows with these authors, buying some written words of your own should be the order of the day. And, while you're at it, take a moment to stroll down Sixth avenue and pick up some stuff from places such as Hi-Voltage Records and Retrospect.

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

The other bright spot in this long stretch of darkness is that awards season is upon us! And, what better way to mark this season than with the release of the fall's first big, meaty piece of Oscar bait: The Theory of Everything. Having only seen the trailer, I can basically just tell you that the biopic of Stephen Hawking sure looks like it's swinging for the maudlin fences. Still, the actor they got to portray the famous physicist (Eddie Redmayne) is the spitting image of Hawking, so kudos to that guy and his inevitable Oscar nomination.

Really, though, this is the time to be rejuvenated and remind yourself that there really are good films still out there, even though the rest of the year may mostly tell you otherwise. I've already recommended this one before, but I will continue to sing its praises when I tell you that you absolutely must see Birdman, if you care anything at all about the art of film. Luckily for you, both of these movies will be playing at The Grand Cinema, so you have absolutely no excuse not to see them.

November 17, 2014 at 1:54pm

Nerd Alert! Mockingjay, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, geeky gift suggestions ...

The games are over, but the cash-in continues. Photo courtesy of Moviestore Collection/REX

Volunteering as tribute, 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, NOV. 20

Despite the enduring success of Chess and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, perhaps no geek musical ever has been more popular than Little Shop of Horrors. Let's face it, Audrey (I) and Seymour speak to the dweebs in all of us. He just wants to grow a man-eating plant, and she just hopes she'll survive another date with her sadistic boyfriend. OK, so maybe they're not terrific role models. The point is, I for one never get tired of seeing it live on stage, perhaps because the original finale is grimmer than the version we know from the 1986 film adaptation. Frank Oz, Muppeteer, Jedi Master and director of that movie, even shot the stage ending, but it tanked with preview audiences. (A black-and-white workprint of that reshot conclusion was unearthed a few years ago and included in recent video releases.) Anyway, North Thurston High completes its run of the show this weekend. It's always fun to watch fresh-faced adolescents evoke bloodlust and sadomasochistic relationships on stage. "That thing went bang, kaboom, and he's havin' some fun now." 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, North Thurston High School, 600 Sleater Kinney Rd. NE, Lacey, $6-$10, 360.412.4800

When last we left our heroine Katniss Everdeen, she'd just been yoinked by insurgents and informed storm troopers under the command of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) burned her home state, District 12, to the ground. This was followed by some of the finest eyeball acting in cinema history, courtesy of America's klutziest sweetheart, Jennifer Lawrence. Fellow Hunger Gamers Peeta and Johanna (Jena Malone, in a memorably sexy performance) were captured and taken to the Capitol, where they'll be used as pawns against a rising rebellion. The success of this series' previous installment, Catching Fire, was good news for anyone who wanted book three, Mockingjay, to be lavishly envisioned, bad news for anyone who wanted it to fit into a single holiday movie. So Thursday night marks the sneak opening of The Hunger Games Colon Mockingjay Em Dash Part Numeral 1 Comma Electric Boogaloo, and thank Suzanne Collins and Lionsgate we only have one year to wait till the grand conclusion in Part 2.

Speaking of long, goofy titles, Disney recently announced Star Wars, Episode VII will be henceforth known as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The phrase "Episode VII," in fact, appears only in the December 2015 installment's iconic opening crawl. It's hard to complain about that subtitle, actually, to the extent that even Internet haters have given up trying. Instead they've returned to making troglodytic fools of themselves over Gamergate.

This being MY last Nerd Alert before Black Friday, it's time to offer geeky gift suggestions. And hey, if you've enjoyed this column these last few years, far be it from me to restrain you from buying any of this fine swag for your humble commentator!

Let's start with the Blu-ray of the year: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy comes loaded with hours of special features, including more of respawned Groot and another '70s classic from Star-Lord's Sony Walkman. True, the movie won't hit video till Dec. 9, but feel free to preorder it for me, I mean a loved one, right now.

If for some bizarre reason your gamer buddies don't yet own Titanfall, now's your chance to pay it forward till Halo: Spartan Strike hits Dec. 12. Wort, wort, wort!

It's a year old, but I for one would swoon over the gift of Battlestar Galactica Vault: The Complete History of the Series, 1978-2012, an abundantly illustrated coffee table compendium that follows the saga all the way from its origins as a cheesy Star Wars knockoff through Caprica and Blood & Chrome. And if you know what Blood & Chrome is, then you're probably a superfan who should just buy the frakkin' thing for yourself.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and so say we all.

November 12, 2014 at 10:58am

Nerd Alert! Nolan brothers, "Rosewater" at The Grand, Todd Barry at Tacoma Comedy Club

With a delivery that sits somewhere between controlled exasperation and a hypnotic, stoic ache, Todd Barry never lets loose.

Nerd news this week had a bit to do with the Nolan brothers, Christopher and Jonathan. Jonathan Nolan was announced to be in talks with HBO to be adapting Isaac Asimov's classic sci-fi series Foundation. The Nolan stranglehold on (relatively) hard science fiction has continued, after Jonathan's writing partnership with his brother, Christopher, on the likes of Interstellar, as well as HBO's JJ Abrams version of Westworld. Of course, Asimov's brand of science fiction was dense with plotting and impenetrable logic, which has notoriously eluded the Nolan brothers, as staunch opponents of Interstellar, Inception and The Dark Knight will tell you. Still, critics of the Nolan brothers may well point to their frequently impersonal storytelling as quite fitting for Asimov's robotic world.

Christopher Nolan, meanwhile, has signed on to guest edit December's issue of Wired magazine. Ostensibly as a way to shore up viewership amongst intellectuals for the space exploration of Interstellar, Nolan's edit of the magazine will also take advantage of the magazine's format to present a "five-dimension"-based layout, so that as the reader gets deeper into the magazine, the concepts presented will grow further complex. For those not completely invested in getting their minds blown, photos of Matthew McConaughey may or may not be present.

FRIDAY, NOV. 14: ROSEWATER

Last year, Daily Show host Jon Stewart took a few weeks off from his show to make his directorial debut. As anyone who's been paying attention to the comedian over the years from his satirically political hosting duties could've predicted, his filmmaking debut would bear little resemblance to that of his acting roles, in fluffy things such as Death to Smoochy, Half Baked and The Faculty. Instead, Stewart decided to make a pointedly political movie about journalist and one-time Daily Show guest Maziar Bahari.

After appearing on The Daily Show, Bahari went to Iran to document the elections, and was imprisoned for more than 100 days over allegations that he was a spy. The film follows Bahari (as played by Gael Garcia Bernal) as he is tortured for information that doesn't exist, and Stewart emphasizes the dark humor inherent in being stuck in a situation without escape. Bahari survived, but more importantly, he survived with his humanity intact.

Rosewater opens at The Grand Cinema Friday, Nov. 14.

SATURDAY, NOV. 15: TODD BARRY

One of the greatest comedians working is heading to Tacoma. Todd Barry's comedy is defined by his deadpan delivery, which barely conceals an acerbic wit. As anyone who's seen his scathing appearances on Louie can attest, Barry is more than just a measured joke-teller. There is a surging undercurrent to Barry's comedy that elevates him above the level of your standard, low-key wit. Whereas other subtle comedians might come across as meek, Barry never seems other than in full control of his presence and his material, which may make him one of the most frightening stand-ups out there. 7:30 and 10:30 p.m., Tacoma Comedy Club, 933 Market St, Tacoma, $20 253.282.7203

November 8, 2014 at 8:05am

5 Things To Do Today: D20 Brass Band, Jet City Comic Show, The Cottonwood Cutups, All Freakin' Night ...

Downtown Tacoma will be blasted with funk as the D20 Brass Band rides the Tacoma Link from the Tacoma Dome to Dorky's Arcade today. Photo credit: Kevin Freitas

SATURDAY, NOV. 8 2014 >>>

1. Forged in the fires of Mount Doom then relocated to Seattle,the D20 Brass Band plays all of your favorite music from the video games, movies, and television you love, and whips it all up into a funky groove reminiscent of old school classics such as James Brown, The Meters and Sly & The Family Stone. We're talking music from the games, TV shows, movies, cartoons, and anime you love played to a deep funky groove. The D20 Brass Band will hit the streets of downtown Tacoma today. Beginning at noon, D20 will hop on the Tacoma Link at the Tacoma Dome station then will the University of Washington-Tacoma Steps with their funky Nintendo beats. Then, the band will hop back on the Link to the Tacoma Convention Center to perform for the crowd at the Jet City Comic Show. Last, it's back on the Link to the end of the line for a performance at Dorky's Arcade at Ninth and Pacific Avenue. We imagine it could be a short set as, well, the joint is filled with video games.

2. Speaking of the Jet City Comic Show, the second annual celebration of pop culture, tights, zombies and the arts runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Tacoma Convention Center. Comics are the stars of the show; it's bringing a wide array of artists, writers and publishers to the South Sound. There's also a little something for TV and film nerds. Actors Dirk Benedict of The A Team and Battlestar Galactica and Richard Hatch - who featured prominently in both the original Battlestar Galactica and the 2000s reboot - will be in attendance for photo ops and autographs. Author/screenwriter Peter Beagle of the cult classic The Last Unicorn will also be on hand.

3. We have a hankering for bluegrass tonight. Maybe it's the rain, the flannel shirts and the switch from summer's gin to autumn's whiskey. Whatever the case, it's nice. Tacoma's The Cottonwood Cutups are bringing that satisfying pluck and twang and funk to The Spar in Old Town Tacoma for a hot 8 p.m. set. The three brothers - who enjoy Dr. Dre, campfires and the Hoh Rainforest - deliver toe-tapping Americana, tickled by mandolin and banjo, with guitar and an upright bass to root it all down. The Spar is the perfect backdrop - intimate, wood floors, nice people, warm food and cold beer.

4. For years, both in the Puget Sound area and in Brooklyn, Ben Roth has been a career musician, collaborating on countless projects and lending his guitarist talents to tons of bands. Taking a break from his role in Oberhofer and Crater, Roth has formed his own band, giving him the opportunity to step into the spotlight and showcase his songwriting talents. His new band, Bod, brings his intricate guitar-playing to the fore, making it the backbone of a hazy mix of math-rock, psych, and grunge. Catch Bod with Burning Palms, Jarvis Clayton and BS System at 9 p.m. in The New Frontier Lounge.

5. The late-night mini-fest of blood-injected spazzmatic anti-cinema All Freakin' Night is sure to cause at least one of your major organs to fail when the projector is flicked on at midnight. As part of the Olympia Film Festival, and running through early morning Sunday at the Capitol Theater, Morbius, The Burning, Mr. Magoo Meets Frankenstein, The Incredible Melting Man and The Fog will flicker with enough carnage to terrify, not just sicken. Host Sam Miller will pass out enough coffee to keep your head spinning - completely around. Wedged between the movies will be contests with plenty of putrid prizes.

PLUS: The Harvey Girls are in the South Sound for the second night in a row. The Portland band joins the Wheelies, Neighbors and Fruit Juice at 8 p.m. in Bob's Java Jive.

LINK: Saturday, Nov. 8 arts and entertainment events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

November 3, 2014 at 1:20pm

Nerd Alert! for sci-fi opus "Interstellar," The F-Bombers, Jon Stewart and more ...

Matthew McConaughey as a farmer/astronaut/dreamer. Photo courtesy of Legendary Pictures

All right, all right, all right, 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, NOV. 6

The 2014 holiday movie season kicks off in a big way this weekend. That's right, Thursday brings Drafthouse Films' American release of the 2013 Japanese actioner Jigoku de Naze Warui, or, Why Don't You Play in Hell? (Technically, the Nipponese title translates to "What's So Bad About Hell?" Either English translation is chock full of awesome.) I quote the distributor's pitch word for word: "There's a war going on, but that won't stop the inexperienced but eager wannabe film crew The Fuck Bombers from following their dreams of making the ultimate action epic. Ten years ago, yakuza mid-boss Ikegami led an assault against rival don Muto. Now, on the eve of his revenge, all Muto wants to do is complete his masterpiece, a feature film with his daughter in the starring role, before his wife is released from prison. And The Fuck Bombers are standing by with the chance of a lifetime: to film a real, live yakuza battle to the death ... on 35mm!" Also, did I mention it's called Why Don't You Play in Hell? And there's a film crew of yakuza mobsters? And that crew name? And that apparently, the don is that sex-crazed atomic monster from last year's reboot of Godzilla?

OK, so maybe that won't be everybody's first choice at the cineplex; but it did get good reviews, despite a gleefully blood-soaked climax. If you prefer family-friendlier entertainment, your huckleberry this weekend is probably Disney's Big Hero 6, also known as Why Don't You Play in a Manga? You've seen the commercials and trailer by now, of course, but you may not be aware the movie's based on a recent Marvel Comics team. In the funny books, Japanese outfit Big Hero 6 was led by a mutant ronin dubbed the Silver Samurai, and - how cool is this? - based in a theme park called Cool World. (No, not the one animated by Ralph Bakshi.) Hiro's a tween-age boy who joins the ensemble along with his bodyguard, shape-shifting robot Baymax. The team also features super-chef Wasabi-no-Ginger, a woman named Honey Lemon who wields a magic purse, and a dude who transforms into a kaiju called Fredzilla. Amazingly, all these characters other than the Silver Samurai appear to have crossed the gap into the cinematic incarnation. Critics have fallen for the movie, despite its gleefully blood-soaked climax. Spoiler alert: Wasabi-no-Ginger gets diced, Honey Lemon is squeezed while searching fruitlessly for an Altoid, and Baymax goes POP under the tread of an incautious Fredzilla. There will be no Big Hero 7. It's an odd narrative choice, I feel, especially from The Walt Disney Company, aka The Fuck Bombers.

More cerebral viewers have been eagerly awaiting Jon Stewart's directorial debut, Rosewater, which launches its slow release schedule this weekend. If you're a regular Daily Show viewer, you doubtless know it's the film version of Iranian Maziar Bahari's book Then They Came for Me, which dramatizes Bahari's 2009 detention at the hands of Iran's state police under accusations of spying for the West. Among the clueless evidence presented was a tongue-in-cheek interview Bahari gave Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones. You might also want to check out Les Miz actor Eddie Redmayne, an early Oscar hopeful for his portrayal of the young Stephen Hawking, in biopic The Theory of Everything.

It's an amusing coincidence for the Hawking film to open the same day as Christopher Nolan's sci-fi opus Interstellar, as this perpetuates a longstanding (friendly) competition between Hawking and leading American astrophysicist Kip Thorne. In 1975, Hawking made a wager with Thorne that has since become notorious in space-nerdy circles. Thorne believed black holes are real and that X-ray-emitting object Cygnus X-1 is such a collapsed star. Hawking was also hopeful that Cygnus X-1 would turn out to be a black hole, but he bet on the converse as a way of covering all possible eventualities. The prize at stake? If Hawking won, he'd receive a four-year subscription to Private Eye magazine. Ultimately, however, Hawking conceded to Thorne. "I paid the specified penalty," Hawking writes, "which was a one year subscription to Penthouse, to the outrage of Kip's liberated wife." Chandrasekhar and marital limits aside, Thorne helped Carl Sagan with wormhole concepts for Contact, and now Thorne's the astrophysical brains behind Interstellar. This new film's said to be more 2001: A Space Odyssey than Gravity. Early reviews are somewhat mixed, but it's safe to assume we'll get killer visual effects along with the best-looking astronauts ever, Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. Space madness!

Interstellar, of course, is an adjective that means "between stars." It's what lay people mean, more often than not, when they say intergalactic ("between galaxies"). Nolan hopped on board the Interstellar crew when Steven Spielberg, who first developed the project along with Thorne, lost interest. Originally, the script was called Why Don't You Play in a Wormhole?, in which Anne Hathaway morphed into a singing, sobbing kaiju.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may you never get hired as a production assistant by The Fuck Bombers. As résumé credits go, it'd look shady.

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Screens, Pop Culture,

October 28, 2014 at 5:28pm

Nerd Alert! Black Panther movie, female Captain Marvel, LucasArts computer games re-release, With a Little Help From My Fwends ...

Did everyone feel that just now? It was the Earth’s mantle cracking from the impact of a cultural carpet-bombing by Marvel. Photo courtesy of Youtube

Marvel and LucasArts

This week was pretty big with the only kind of nerd news that seems to really exist anymore: Marvel and Star Wars shit. In order to ensure that the moviegoing public of the future will be utterly lost at the absence of a superhero on their cinema screens, Marvel announced their next five years of endless comic-book movies. In addition to sequels to properties like Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, and The Avengers, Marvel's biggest announcements were the arrival of a Black Panther movie, as well as a female Captain Marvel.

Called into play Black Panther will be Chadwick Boseman, whose recent outings as Jackie Robinson and James Brown (in the equally lukewarmly-received 42 and Get On Up, respectively) should have tipped anyone off to his inevitable stasis in the Marvel universe. More surprising is the reveal of a female Captain Marvel, which may be Marvel's way of responding to criticism that there is a serious deficit of strong women in their movies. Anything to avoid having to make a Wonder Woman movie, I guess.

Also, this week, it was revealed that the beloved LucasArts computer games of your childhood will be coming back, giving you absolutely no reason to engage in anything that has no nostalgic value. GOG.com is re-releasing classics like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Secret of Monkey Island and the Star Wars simulators TIE Fighter and X-Wing. All told, 20 games will be rolled out, making sure that you'll stay in your house forever, with the exception of opening weekend excursions to see a Marvel property.

The struggle is real.

The Flaming Lips

Continuing their career trend of slowly giving less of a fuck about anything that is not a wacky experiment, the Flaming Lips recently dropped their latest blasé mind-fuck: With a Little Help From My Fwends. As you might be able to deduce, the album is a re-imagining of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring guest spots from an eclectic group of contributors like Foxygen, Dr. Dog, Miley Cyrus, Tegan and Sara, My Morning Jacket and Maynard James Keenan from Tool.

Also, as you might expect, it's an interesting mess. Still, when the day comes that the Flaming Lips are no more, and we won't be getting any more zip drives encased in gummy skulls, or 24-hour-long songs, or off-the-wall collaborations that are this close to making sense - something tells me we'll miss the days when we would suddenly get confronted with a beautiful follies like With a Little Help From My Fwends.

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