Archive | February, 2016

Stonewalled

27 Feb

Mural due to be painted over at Starbucks; revised design wasn’t brought to landlord

March 1 could see return to blank wall at Massachusetts Avenue shop

Lesley University artists Gary Chen, Ellie Lukova and Percy Fortini-Wright paint a mural on the Starbucks at Shepard Street and Massachusetts Avenue last fall.
Lesley University artists Gary Chen, Ellie Lukova and Percy Fortini-Wright paint a mural on the Starbucks at Shepard Street and Massachusetts Avenue last fall. (Photo: Timothy Dungan-Levant)

The colorful mural at Massachusetts Avenue and Shepard Street depicting ethnically diverse students and nearby academic landmarks will be painted over early in March. The alfresco painting, done by Lesley arts students through a collaboration by Starbucks and the Committee for Art on the Avenue, had become a point of contention between Starbucks and Stone Investment Holdings, which owns the building that houses the coffee franchise, the trending eatery Shepard and other retail and food fronts.

The reason for the impending eradication comes because of a “miscommunication” with the landlord, for which Starbucks takes responsibility. The coffee giant initially reached out to the community with an in-house mural idea, but was engaged by the neighborhood to do something more “local.” Starbucks spokeswoman Holly Hart Shafer admitted that its lease requires approval from the city and landlord for changes to the exterior of the building, and the company didn’t follow through with the landlord on the second proposal after the first had been approved. Continue reading

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Rolling Papers

24 Feb

<i>Rolling Papers</i>

Back in 2014, weed-wanting residents of Colorado were able to fire up the bong and feel the burn legally when the state became one of the first in the Union to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. As reefer madness swept the Rockies, the rest of the nation sat and watched pensively. It wasn’t the second coming of same-sex marriage in terms of divisiveness, but there was controversy and bilious outrage—just check out some of Nancy Grace’s shrill prophecies of lawless mayhem. Rolling Papers, Mitch Dickman’s somber, oft snarky documentary, doesn’t quite deal with the cornerstone legalization so much as the Denver Post’s decision to appoint a marijuana editor to provide journalistic coverage of the budding industry and culture emerging from the shadows of the black market.

The film’s focuses on Ricardo Baca, the newly minted editor of the “Cannabist” column (which later becomes a break out magazine section-cum-website), who registers as a relatively somber and reflective soul given the high nature of his subject. Pontifications about what to write about when penning pot-life pieces abound. Ultimately, the format boils down to reviews of the various strains and blends—think of it like a film or food review about getting baked—and lifestyle exposés of the different kinds of users and the ways that legal weed now melds into their lives. One such staff blogger, Brittany Driver, is a mom with a toddler, which doesn’t sit well with a fellow Post editor who covers child abuse and likens the prospect to parenting on a six-pack of beer.

Dickman’s film is a bit like its subject—smoky, comfortable and unfocused. While the narrative adheres tightly to Baca and the debut of the column, it also ventures a bit further afield, touching on broader issues like the erosion of journalism. Unfortunately, it does so without providing much additional context or insight. Another germane yet under-explored topic includes the use of medical marijuana and the positive effects it’s had (replete with a few testimonials), but then the film jumps to a sextet of charismatic brothers who hit it big in the medicinal sector, tersely branding them opportunistic charlatans, before jumping back to Baca and his staff. It’s a disjointed head scratcher that at times makes you feel like you need to be sampling the goods to be in on the game.

The film’s most fired up when Ry Prichard, the cannabis nerd (a term he was awarded in the pages of Rolling Stone) brought in to backfill for Driver’s inexperience, is clicking away close ups of bodacious buds and giving them the taste test. His sharp comic wit and voracious love for all things green and oily, becomes a necessary offset to the other, more dour personas who grace the screen.

Ultimately,, the biggest reason Rolling Papers fails to fully ignite lays in its inherent lack of conflict. Baca’s well backed by the paper’s brass, so we know “The Cannabist” isn’t going anywhere. Much of the tension comes through Driver’s anxiety over job security, an investigative piece that busts a regulated seller for shilling weak shit (near nonexistent levels of THC) and the disappointment of having Whoopi Goldberg signed on to pen a column, only to have her change her mind. If you check out the website, you’ll get a smattering of weed reviews and a lot of pictures sent in from happy partakers. It’s a fun, yet thin footprint, one that Dickman the filmmaker doesn’t bother to go outside the lines to explore. High times in high altitudes doesn’t necessarily spark an interest for those not at the party.

The Witch

19 Feb

There’s plenty that beguiles in Robert Eggers’ moody film “The Witch,” the Sundance Film Festival hit that opens widely in theaters on Friday, February 19. Masterful in composition and imbued with a deep sense of intimacy, dread and gritty authenticity, it takes place in the 1600’s — sometime between the arrival of the Mayflower and the onset of the Salem witch trials — in a New England highland that is bucolic but harsh. There, a family of settlers are banished from the main plantation for vague religious reasons and then struggle to make a go of it. Their cupboards are bare and the fields are barren. Clearly the dream of a better way of life in the New World has listed for these folk.

It doesn’t help that William (Ralph Ineson), the able family head who works nonstop in a futile attempt to provide, is saddled with a wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie), who’s on the verge of dead weight. She frets incessantly and retains an unproductive desire for all things England. Their oldest child Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), a blonde ingénue on the cusp of womanhood, helps out by tending to the twins (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson) and the infant Samuel while her younger brother Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) accompanies William in his daily work on the farm. A hunting sojourn underscores the frailty of their existence, as William’s musket misfires when trained on a lone hare. That ominous rabbit and many other things from the woods come back to haunt the exiled clan.

Deadpool

13 Feb

“Deadpool” sets its acerbic, deconstructive, fourth-wall-breaking tone right off the bat. The camera pulls out slowly on some contorted guy frozen in mid-tumble in the passenger seat of an SUV, a burn imprint on his head from the car’s cigarette lighter; there’s a random “People” magazine cover floating nearby featuring the “Sexiest Man Alive” (Ryan Reynolds, who plays the facially disfigured hero of the title); another baddie’s getting a wedgie from the merry red-suited hero; and a random wallet shows a flashcard from “Green Lantern,” (2011) Reynolds’ poorly received other superhero project – and during all this we get the canny credits that approximate “Starring some British actor as the villain,” “with a computer generated creature,” “Directed by a Hollywood Hack” and “Produced by Asshats.”

021216i DeadpoolSomber and serious like “X-Men” this is not, and that’s where “Deadpool” draws its energy, with high quirk and black comedy as endless graphic dismemberings and gorings fill the screen. It’s what another Marvel offering, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” did so effortlessly throughout, but this is to such a gonzo degree that it has Deadpool in mid-sword fight talking casually to the audience to elaborate on his social views and past, even while taking a bullet or two for his trouble. But don’t worry; he regenerates like Wolverine, though not quite as fast. The wicked wit, so good and so rich early on, also happens to be the Achilles heel of “Deadpool,” as such a nosebleed level of hyperbole and genre-skewering becomes impossible to sustain.

In small slices we get Deadpool’s backstory: He’s a former Special Forces guy named Wade who becomes an enforcer for hire, doing your dirty deeds for the right price. He falls for a saucy goth pixie (the very lovely Morena Baccarin) who works at the local ruffian waterhole. One thing leads to another and through unhappy happenstance Wade becomes injected with a mutant serum – thus the Jabba the Hutt pizza face and ability to regenerate. Some of this, sans Wade and his gal’s very kinky sex life – replete with a strap-on scene to make you wince – runs fairly flat, though Reynolds, blessed with a snarky crack comic wit branded back in his “Van Wilder” days, holds the pedantic backstory aloft. The introduction of mutants from Dr. Xavier’s X-Men school, a titanium hulk called Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and a punked-out adolescent by the monicker Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) elevates things. They’re looking to politely corral Deadpool into the ranks of the X-Men, but their do-good mantra doesn’t sit well with his mission to exact revenge against those who mutantized him.

Ultimately, and unfortunately despite all good intentions, “Deadpool” saddles up and rides the rote genre arc. The situational gags never let up, though; Deadpool’s skewing of Negasonic as an angry Sinead O’Connor, the “127 Hours” crack as he lops off a shackled hand and the ensuing masturbation jokes about the infant-sized regenerating appendage, plus his rooming with a blind black woman who likes to assemble Ikea furniture and harbors a hankering for blow, are riotously worthy and wicked, not to mention that the stunt choreography, set designs and FX integration are masterful and seamless. Like its hero, however, “Deadpool” the movie is something of a mutant hybrid: part high production, part sophomoric slapstick, part witty revisionist reengineering, but also totally boilerplate. It’s a tangy olio that lacks substance and consistency, and despite that, its in-your-face moxie comes at you in all the right ways, gripping you by the gunny sack with a big glorious joker smile and never letting go.