Alan Cumming at the Café Carlyle

The Café Carlyle is one of the last intimate showrooms in New York, holding about a hundred patrons in close proximity to great talent. Bobby Short was its resident genius before his death, and we’ve seen incredible talent usually from a few feet away over the past 40 years or so. (One night a week, Woody Allen plays clarinet with a jazz band, and it’s sold out months ahead.) Last evening we sat a yard away from Alan Cumming, whom …


Theater Review: The Rant

Rhode Island is blessed with outstanding regional theater. One of them GAMM, is now home to The Rant, a gripping play by Andrew Case. Case has a fascinating background, having spent ten years investigating police misconduct for New York City. His play begins with an anguished monologue by an African-American woman whose son has been killed on her porch, supposedly by a white police sergeant. I say “supposedly” because in this Rashomon-like, multi-narrative, everyone lies: the mother, the civilian investigator …


Movie Reviews from The Critic-in-Chief

My completely biased and accurate reviews of recent major films: • 12 Years A Slave: Predictable (I kept thinking “Roots” of 30 years ago) and often implausible with a magnificent performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor but a hugely overrated performance by Lupita Nyong’o, who did not merit the Academy Award. I think this is a film people feel guilty about not liking. • Gravity: Almost laughably ridiculous (e.g., Sandra Bullock using a fire extinguisher to maneuver in space), with George Clooney …


The Critic

We had some pretty bad weather in Florida (though far better than the Northeast) so we caught up on some movies. Herein are my reviews so that you can enjoy, yet not waste time. Enough Said: A tour de force with Julia Louis Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (his final film), underscoring the agony of adult dating and the wonder of finding someone who is a soulmate. Extraordinary. All Is Lost: Robert Redford might have three lines in the entire film, …


The Critic: Downton Abbey, Gravity, Chris Christie

Downton Abbey is one of the finest period dramas around, but this year’s new season began with a thud. There is the terminally boring Lady Mary, who quite clearly is going to finally snap around—on the advice of a chauffeur now a family member—to confront her fussbudget father about running the wasteful estate. The good Lord’s wife is constantly trying to bring him back to earth with soft mutterings, (as opposed to decent lines and acting) and there seem to …


Review of Pacific Rim

On the flight to Dubai I watched Pacific Rim, because my wife isn’t crazy about science fiction movies and I am. However, this wasn’t science fiction. It was garbage. This makes the legendary Plan Nine from Outer Space (supposedly the worst movie ever made in any genre) look like Hamlet. The writing is juvenile; the acting is mechanical; the plot line is trite and ridiculous. While the special effects are excellent, they are repetitive and often hard to follow. There …


Forever Tango

We dined last night in Barbetta, which is the oldest continually owned restaurant in New York, and one of our favorite Italian places in the City. We’ve been going there for 50 years (this is our 45th anniversary) but the restaurant has been open for 104! There’s a pianist, an elegant room, and a garden. It was too humid for us outside, so we dined inside, with great service. It’s not everywhere you can get bagna cauda. We then went …


Air France Beats Alitalia

We found the Alitalia flight from Boston to Rome very average. The service was present but not gracious. Only one flight attendant smiled. No one checked to see if you needed anything, you had to ask. There was no electrical power connection. The food was mediocre. The luggage did arrive fairly promptly in Rome. Air France, from Firenze to Paris to Boston, was very good. The flight attendants were charming and proactive. The food was plentiful and excellent. Priority bags …


I’ll Eat You Last

This one-woman, Bette Midler show about famed agent Sue Mengers was reviewed today by Terry Teachout, the notorious Wall Street Journal reviewer who has dreams he’s Clive Barnes or Charles Isherwood. He’s having an all-too-frequent hissy-fit because Ms. Midler doesn’t leave the couch, and talks too much like the real Sue Mengers did (of course, that’s not to be tolerated). He’s probably also disappointed that she doesn’t sing and dance. I saw this in previews with a packed house that …


Game of Moans

Game of Thrones was so boring last  night that if it were the first one I’d watched, I’d never come back. Apparently, with its popularity, the writers became confused and thought they were writing Don Quixote or The Grapes of Wrath, except those works have more action. We’re watching this for dragons, battles, revenge, the creatures outside the wall, and intrigue. Last night there was so much exposition that it was like watching a Congressional subcommittee on estate taxes. Breath …