Arts/Life

Movie Reviews
3:12 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

A Tart Take On Bitter Realities In 'Tangerines'

Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak) is a pacifist. But NPR film critic Bob Mondello says Tangerines is an "object lesson in the resilience of ancient animosities."
Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 8:05 pm

It's 1992, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union in the Oscar-nominated Tangerines, and in a bleak, northwest corner of the Republic of Georgia called Abkhazia, the world has more or less come apart. Warring factions — Chechen separatists, Georgian troops — patrol rural roads in jeeps outfitted with bazookas and machine guns. The locals have mostly fled for more urban areas.

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Monkey See
1:41 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

The Challenges Of War At A Distance

Ethan Hawke and January Jones in Andrew Niccol's Good Kill.
Lorey Sebastian Clear Skies Nevada LLC/IFC Films

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 2:32 pm

The opening moments of Good Kill, a new drama starring Ethan Hawke and written and directed by Andrew Niccol (who also directed Hawke in Gattaca), almost eerily resemble the opening moments of American Sniper. A man watches and tries to interpret the movements of a woman and child who don't see him, deciding whether to kill them. This man, however, isn't concealed nearby. The woman and child are in Afghanistan and the man is piloting a drone from an air conditioned trailer on a military base in Nevada.

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Movie Reviews
11:17 am
Fri April 17, 2015

In 'True Story,' A Shamed Journalist Interviews A Fugitive Who Stole His Identity

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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Monkey See
6:03 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'Daredevil' And Credulity

NPR

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 9:28 am

Last Friday, Netflix dropped its latest 13-episode bundle of original programming: the grim and occasionally grisly superhero drama Daredevil, based on the Marvel Comics mainstay of the same name. Starring Charlie Cox and a large supporting cast, the show takes place in a bleak New York City neighborhood that's ruled by a murderous crime syndicate and defended by blind lawyer Matt Murdock, whose other heightened senses make him an oft-overmatched but extremely resourceful crime-fighter.

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Television
2:39 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Clone Drama 'Orphan Black' Returns, As Complex And Complicated As Ever

Tatiana Maslany (center) plays several different clones on the BBC America series Orphan Black.
BBC America

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 1:25 pm

For fans of BBC America's majestically complicated drama Orphan Black, this might be the toughest task they face all year: Explaining to newbies what the heck is going on just before the new season starts on Saturday.

Spoiler alert: Several plot points from the new season are discussed below

The series started with Sarah Manning, a con artist and onetime street urchin, stumbling upon a well-dressed woman who looked exactly like her, crying on a train platform — just before jumping in front of an oncoming train.

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Code Switch
1:40 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Deaths Of Unarmed Black Men Revive 'Anti-Lynching Plays'

Lauren Lattimore (left), Wi-Moto Nyoka, Edmund Alyn Jones and Courtney Harge rehearse a scene from Blue-Eyed Black Boy, a play about lynching that was written around 1930.
Hansi Lo Wang NPR

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 12:06 pm

An obscure but riveting genre of theater is being revived in New York City.

They're called "anti-lynching plays." Most were written by black playwrights during the early 1900s to show how lynchings devastated African-American families.

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Movie Reviews
3:33 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

The Internet Of Spooky Things Is Alive In 'Unfriended'

Shelley Henning stars as Blaire in Unfriended.
Universal Pictures

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 8:41 am

What scares teenagers?

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

'Monkey Kingdom' Is Best When It's All Monkeys All The Time

Monkeys on Castle Rock from Disneynature's Monkey Kingdom.
Jeff Wilson Disney

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 2:44 pm

As much fun as a tree full of toque macaques, Monkey Kingdom is arguably the most entertaining of Disneynature's eight features. But purists will recoil as soon as The Monkees theme enters, and there are times when the story told by narrator Tina Fey probably doesn't reflect the extraordinary images directors Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill captured.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Two Unmoored Souls Too Gloomily Drawn In 'Felix And Meira'

Hadas Yaron and Luzer Twersky in Felix and Meira.
Oscilloscope

In the 2012 drama Fill the Void, Israeli actress Hadas Yaron was incandescent as an Ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv girl who, following the sudden death of her beloved older sister, is pressured by rabbis and relatives to marry her brother-in-law in order to preserve family unity. She suffers agonies over the decision, but never doubts the legitimacy of the Hasidic community that sustains her.

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Theater
2:21 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Broadway Passes The Bechdel Test With 'Fun Home'

Sydney Lucas as Small Alison and Michael Cerveris as her father in the new production of Fun Home.
Joan Marcus

Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 5:40 pm

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The Two-Way
1:05 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Yoda? Is It Thou? Figure In 14th-Century Manuscript Looks Familiar

A religious volume from the early 1300s includes this image of a monk who resembles the Jedi Master Yoda of the Star Wars films.
The Britsh Library

Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 1:34 pm

A long time ago, in a place far away, a manuscript was created with an enigmatic figure who looks a great deal like a certain little — and yet powerful — green guy from the Star Wars films. It's an unlikely connection between a religious tome and science fiction.

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The Salt
12:31 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

The Chinese-Mexican Cuisine Born Of U.S. Prejudice

In the Fortune Garden kitchen in El Centro, Calif., near the Mexican border, cooks speak to each other in Cantonese, and waiters give orders in Spanish.
Courtesy of Vickie Ly/KQED

Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 5:16 pm

If you ask people in the city of Mexicali, Mexico, about their most notable regional cuisine, they won't say street tacos or mole. They'll say Chinese food. There are as many as 200 Chinese restaurants in the city.

North of the border, in California's rural Imperial County, the population is mostly Latino, but Chinese restaurants are packed. There are dishes in this region you won't find anywhere else, and the history behind them goes back more than 130 years.

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Book Reviews
8:03 am
Thu April 16, 2015

'Natural Born Heroes' Is Self-Help The Special Operations Way

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 8:16 am

In April 1944, a Nazi commander on the island of Crete was somehow mysteriously and miraculously kidnapped right under the nose of the Germans. No shots were fired, there was no bloodshed and no sign of a struggle. General Heinrich Kreipe simply vanished.

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Monkey See
6:47 am
Thu April 16, 2015

Is There Anything Left To Say About 'Saturday Night Live'?

Live From New York
Edie Baskin Tribecca Film Festival

Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 8:33 am

Why open a film festival whose reputation is for independent voices with a documentary salute to Saturday Night Live?

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Thu April 16, 2015

Lewis And Clark Battle Giant Spiders In 'Dead Lands'

Emily Jan NPR

Originally published on

I saw the title of Benjamin Percy's new book Dead Lands and I immediately thought, Oh, another zombie book. I read the synopsis — super-flu, nuclear bombs, a post-apocalyptic re-telling of the Lewis and Clark story — and I thought, yeah, but there's gotta be zombies in it, right?

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Television
12:48 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

Billy Crystal And Josh Gad: Separated By A Generation But United By Laughs

Billy Crystal (left) says that onstage Josh Gad (right) "lights up."
Ray Mickshaw FX

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 3:58 pm

In the new FX series The Comedians, Billy Crystal and Josh Gad star as satirical versions of themselves. The show is about how the two comedians are hesitant to work together and share the spotlight, but they do, and they begin a strained relationship, in which they're separated from each other by a generational comedy gap.

But in real life, when Crystal and Gad met, they hit it off.

"Even though there's 30-something years between us, there's a lot of commonalities and a lot of interesting parallels in our careers," Crystal tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

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Television
12:22 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

'Justified' Ends With An Unpredictable, Poetic And Memorable Finale

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. The TV series "Justified" ended its run on the FX cable network last night. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, couldn't wait to talk about it, so here he is.

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Book Reviews
8:03 am
Wed April 15, 2015

'All The Rage' Has All The Despair, And All The Confusion, Too

All The Rage jacket
Courtesy of St. Martin's Press

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 3:00 pm

The title of Courtney Summers' latest young adult novel, All The Rage, doesn't quite earn its seeming double meaning. It's a single entendre — "all the rage" really does just refer to anger, though the book could also have been called All the Confusion, All the Defiant Loneliness or All the Sublimated Self-Destruction.

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Book Reviews
5:04 am
Wed April 15, 2015

'The Fishermen' Ventures Into Dark Waters

Courtesy of the Hachette Book Group

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 10:19 am

"Omi-Ala was a dreadful river," explains Ben, the young narrator of Chigozie Obioma's The Fishermen. "Like many such rivers in Africa, Omi-Ala was once believed to be a god; people worshipped it." But everything changed when Europeans colonized and Christianized the part of Nigeria where the river lay. "[T]he people, now largely Christians, began to see it as an evil place. A cradle besmeared."

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Goats and Soda
1:33 am
Wed April 15, 2015

From Horses To High-Rises: An Insider 'Unmasks' China's Economic Rise

As China continues its massive economic growth, especially in cities, the government continues to severely limit people's rights. Is that system sustainable?
Johannes Eisele AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 6:11 am

When Henry Paulson first visited Beijing in 1991 as a banker, cars still shared major roads with horses.

"I remember getting into a taxi that drove too fast on a two-lane highway ... [that was] clogged with bicycles and horses pulling carts," says the former secretary of treasury under George W. Bush. "You still saw the hutongs — the old neighborhoods [with narrow streets] — which were very, very colorful and an important part of life."

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The Salt
3:46 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

How AeroPress Fans Are Hacking Their Way To A Better Cup Of Coffee

Twenty-four competitors put their brewing techniques to the test last week at the World AeroPress Competition in Seattle.
Jonathan Vanderweit Courteys of World Aeropress Championship

Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 1:14 pm

Perhaps it takes a hacker to lure a hacker.

And Alan Adler, 76, is the ultimate hacker. A serial inventor based in Silicon Valley, Adler has 40 patents to his name. But among coffee aficionados, it's an incredibly simple device that's earned him accolades: the AeroPress.

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Movie Interviews
3:38 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

More Fear Of Human Intelligence Than Artificial Intelligence In 'Ex Machina'

In Ex Machina, the world's first artificial intelligence, played by Alicia Vikander, possesses more emotional intelligence than originally intended.
Courtesy of A24 Films

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 5:45 pm

Unlike most films about artificial intelligence, Ex Machina isn't about technological anxiety. "The anxiety in this film is much more directed at the humans," director Alex Garland tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "It was more in defense of artificial intelligence."

Garland tackled the zombie apocalypse as the writer behind the film 28 Days Later. In Ex Machina — his first film as director — he introduces us to Ava, a creation that is part woman and part machine. There's no hiding that Ava is a machine — but a very, very smart one.

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The Salt
1:26 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

Tea Tuesdays: The Evolution Of Tea Sets From Ancient Legend To Modern Biometrics

Ryan Kellman NPR

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 4:28 pm

People have been drinking tea for so long that its origin story is rooted in mythology: More than 4,700 years ago, one popular version of the story goes, a legendary Chinese emperor and cultural hero named Shennong (his name means "divine farmer") discovered how to make a tea infusion when a wind blew leaves from a nearby bush into the water he was boiling.

By the 4th century B.C., as Jamie Shallock writes in his book Tea, the beverage had become part of everyday life in China — though in a very different form than we might recognize today.

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Television
12:32 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

Forget Right And Wrong: 'House Of Cards' Is About Pragmatism And Power

In House of Cards, Kevin Spacey plays Frank Underwood, a politician who climbs to power using ruthless manipulation. Underwood's wife is Claire, played by Robin Wright.
David Giesbrecht Courtesy of Netflix

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 1:05 pm

["Spoiler" alert: This interview about House of Cards discusses plot points from first two seasons, as well as themes addressed in the third season.]

In the pilot of the Netflix series House of Cards, politician Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, strangles a dog that was hit by a car. According to creator and showrunner Beau Willimon, there was a big debate among the producers whether to show the dog or not.

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Book Reviews
12:29 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

'The Children's Crusade': A Heavily Plotted Family Saga To Dive Into And Savor

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 3:13 pm

Ann Packer's new novel, The Children's Crusade, opens in California, on a scene that's so bedrock American, it's borderline corny.

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Monkey See
11:18 am
Tue April 14, 2015

The 'Justified' Finale Brings An End To Another TV Western

Timothy Olyphant plays Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens on FX's Justified. The series finale airs tonight.
Prashant Gupta FX

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 3:30 pm

Here's why I'm going to miss FX's modern-day Kentucky Western, Justified, so much.

In last week's episode, our hero, unflinching U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, has ambushed his bitter rival, backwoods Kentucky crime lord Boyd Crowder, shooting at him from across a darkened field on the side of a mountain in hopes of finally putting down the man who is most like his opposite number.

"You've given up everything that you are, so you can murder me," Crowder (Walton Goggins) yells at Givens (Timothy Olyphant) while hunched behind a rock for cover.

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Book Reviews
8:15 am
Tue April 14, 2015

'Cold Silver' Drags Epic Fantasy Through The Mud, Wonderfully

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 1:54 pm

Early in A Crown for Cold Silver — the debut novel by Alex Marshall (a pseudonym for an established author striking off in an epic new direction) — an old woman's battle scars are mistaken for matronly wrinkles. It's a tiny detail, but it speaks volumes. In Marshall's fictional, vaguely medieval world, Cobalt Zosia is a legendary retired general who once led her fearsome Five Villains to victory in a land rife with injustice, mostly of the haves-and-have-nots variety.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Tue April 14, 2015

'Gutshot' Is Gloriously Grand Guignol

Gutshot, by Amelia Gray
Courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 10:22 am

There's a label that occasionally gets slapped on works like these. I'm sure you've heard it before: "This book," reads the label's inevitably bold lettering, "is not for the faint of heart."

It's put there sometimes by censors, more often by sensationalizing marketers, and it always aims to warn you about things like Amelia Gray's Gutshot — a book brimming with blood, sexual deviance, mucus and madness. A book, in other words, that won't fail to make you shudder once or twice.

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Code Switch
2:14 am
Tue April 14, 2015

How Asian-Americans Found A Home In The World Of K-Pop

Asian music hitmaker Jae Chong, at work in a studio in Seoul. His work is all over Asian charts, but his passport is American.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 6:33 am

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Author Interviews
4:27 pm
Mon April 13, 2015

Take It From David Brooks: Career Success 'Doesn't Make You Happy'

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 9:38 am

The day after Japan surrendered in 1945, and World War II ended, singer Bing Crosby appeared on the radio program Command Performance. "Well it looks like this is it," he said. "What can you say at a time like this? You can't throw your skimmer in the air — that's for a run-of-the-mill holiday. I guess all anybody can do is thank God it's over."

New York Times columnist David Brooks cites this and other aspects of that 70-year-old radio program as evidence that America once marked triumph without boasting.

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