Things to Do

The Weekender: Dark designs, rough commutes, and ‘Electric Dreams’

Daniel Day-Lewis stars in “Phantom Thread.”
Laurie Sparham/Focus Features
Daniel Day-Lewis stars in “Phantom Thread.”

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A note to readers: The Globe has made repeated requests to its regular Weekender columnist to release the transcripts of the Weekender newsletter covering Jan. 12-14. These requests have been met with either silence or stubborn refusals on the grounds that “there is nothing going on this weekend, nothing at all” and that “any reports of exquisite Chinese dance, Camper Van Beethoven reunions, or ironic polka shows are unsubstantiated fake news and also a hoax and also grotesque.” We’re honestly not sure what’s going on with him this week. 

In the interest of transparency, we just went into the system and pulled the list anyway. (He probably didn’t know we could do that.) A quick analysis reveals he was just being difficult. Surprise, surprise. There’s way more than enough to do this weekend. We’ve attached the full text below. (Bundle up and have fun!)

HAUTE STUFF: If you’re a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Day-Lewis, haute couture, and super shady zings, we probably don’t need to tell you about “Phantom Thread,” the latest film from the ambitious director (and perhaps Day-Lewis’s last role), but we’re going to anyway because the Boston Society of Film Critics called it the best film of 2017 (yes, I know) and the Globe’s Ty Burr among them gave it all the stars. “ ‘Phantom Thread’ is a thing of beauty with darkness at its center,” he writes, “absurdly pleasurable to watch and to listen to, an effortless display of poise from its camerawork and costumes to the characters and the things they say.” (On that last note, he also throws in a pro tip to see the film in its full 70mm glory on screen at the Coolidge Corner.) Opens Friday.

TRAIN GANG: If you love seeing Liam Neeson super stressed out and punching a bunch of people (as if there were some other version of Liam Neeson), consider seeing “The Commuter,” his fourth outing with director Jaume Collet-Serra, and a thriller that goes only slightly off the rails. Neeson plays a financially strapped and freshly fired insurance salesman pressed into a precarious predicament on his last train ride home from the office (no, he wasn’t forced to use our commuter rail). Reviewer Tom Russo gives it 2½ stars. I’m hoping the sequel is about a battle between a civilized woman who just wants the quiet car to stay true to its name and her monstrous tormentor. (For what it’s worth, lady, my advice is to just dump your Dunkaccino over her shoes, every single day until she stops, but that’s just me.) Opens Friday.

REY OF LIGHT: In this week’s Ticket, Maura Johnston says that “Lust for Life,” the new album from Lana Del Rey, “puts a content, self-aware spin on her Nancy Sinatra-through-an-Instagram-filter aesthetic.” And while past performances in Boston struck erstwhile Globe music critic James Reed as “static, often stiff” and “more about seeing a celebrity than a musician,” Del Rey has had some time to refine as a recording artist and (fingers crossed) as a live performer. Find out for yourself on Saturday when she comes to TD Garden along with R&B singer Jhene Aiko, a fast-rising 29-year-old Angeleno whom Ken Capobianco says possesses “one of the most identifiable sounds and uncompromising visions in pop.” Tickets here.


COUNTRY, FRIED: For something exponentially goofier, janglier, and (I’m just gonna say it) more fun, opt for the Downstairs show at the Middle East on Saturday night, which brings David Lowery’s two beloved crackpot country rock alter-egos — Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven — back to Cambridge for their apparently now ritual New Year’s-adjacent hoedown. Note to skinheads: There will be no bowling. Tickets here.

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FRANZIA FOREVER: For a good laugh (great substitute for ab work if you haven’t started that gym thing yet), hit the Wilbur on Saturday night for Ozark, Mo.-based comic Kathleen Madigan’s “Boxed Wine & Bigfoot Tour.” Madigan specializes in a simmering yet practical off-the-cuff exasperation with the state of the world — a la one of her biggest supporters, Lewis Black. (You can get a sample in her recent Netflix specials like “Bothering Jesus.”) “I don’t want to be my best self. I don’t want to be motivated. I don’t want to find a dream. All my dreams are horrifying in one way or another. I don’t want a dream,” she recently told Nick A. Zaino III. See? I told you she was a gas! Tickets here.

ANNIE UP: Meanwhile over at Laugh Boston on Friday and Saturday nights you can catch Annie Lederman, whom you may recognize from her appearances on “Girl Code,” “Adam Devine’s House Party,” and “@Midnight” or sort-of recognize from her voice-over work (like “Grand Theft Auto V”).  Her richly satisfying deadpan riffs can wander through topics as varied as Alzheimer’s and flossing (“I didn’t realize how much blood I had stuck between my teeth.”). Grab tickets for one of her three weekend sets here.

Jimmy Tingle brings his “Where Are We Now?” show to the Center for Arts in Natick Saturday night.
David L Ryan/Globe Staff/file
Jimmy Tingle brings his “Where Are We Now?” show to the Center for Arts in Natick Saturday night.

JIMMY LEGS?: Lastly in this value-pack of comedy, longtime local political wit (and founder of Humor for HumanityJimmy Tingle recently filed papers to run for lieutenant governor in 2018 (and Barney Frank and I are all about it), but he’s warming up for the stump by getting back on the stage, bringing his Age-o’-Trump-inspired “Where Are We Now?” show to the Center for Arts in Natick on Saturday night. You can find tickets here.

CAST OF SHADOWS: If the screen in your palm or on your desk is starting to give you a headache, I recommend the one set up for “Ada/Ava,” the fascinating new production from Chicago’s Manual Cinema. The show uses “hundreds of small, paper puppets, some live actors, and a few overhead projectors” to “achieve an effect that is similar to a live film,” writes Jeremy D. Goodwin. With it’s play of light, shadow, art, and artifice, “Ada/Ava” takes a nostalgic path toward forward-thinking theater. (Note to your husband: Everybody already knows how to make a shadow duck; please sit down.) The ArtsEmerson presentation of the show is up at the Paramount Center through Jan. 14. Get tickets here.


GRIEF LIGHTENING: Over in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts is Melinda Lopez’s solo drama “Mala,” inspired by the final year of her mother’s life. A careful, cutting exploration of love and grief, it originally premiered at ArtsEmerson in 2016 (and was selected by the Globe as one of the 10 best shows of the year) and returns for a limited engagement (through Jan. 28) at the Huntington Theatre, again directed by David Dower. You shouldn’t miss this. Find tickets here.

STEPPING OUT: And finally from the outside world (that’s the slush-filled one), a two-fer of international dance. This weekend at the ICA, you can catch the World Music/CRASHarts presentation of Compagnie Herve Koubi, the acclaimed French/African company that brings two works to the stage: A repeat performance of “Ce que le jour doit à la nuit” (What the Day Owes the Night) on Friday, and the Boston premiere of “Les nuits barbares ou les premiers matins du monde” (The Barbarian Nights or the First Dawns of the World) on Saturday. Get there a half-hour early for free pre-performance talks with Boston Dance Alliance executive director Debra Cash, and stick around on Friday after the show for a post-performance Q&A with the artists. Tickets here. And Friday night at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre, the Shanghai Dance Theater arrives with the balletic drama “Soaring Wings: Journey of the Crested Ibis,” a visually stunning dance examination of the natural world (and what we’re doing to it). Tickets for that here.

Janelle Monae in an episode of “Phillip K. Dick's Electric Dreams.”
Elizabeth Sisson
Janelle Monae in an episode of “Phillip K. Dick's Electric Dreams.”

OR STAY IN! You know you want to. (I know I do.) And that’s not a bad option given what’s on the tube. If the new season of “Black Mirror” hasn’t delivered the goods (or the very very bads), take heart — or don’t — because there’s a whole other dystopian universe to dive into. “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams,” a British/American anthology series adapted from the legendary sci-fi author’s stories, premieres Friday on Amazon. Be warned, however, as Matthew Gilbert says the series is “wildly uneven,” with some episodes feeling downright “soggy with pretention and vagaries.” 

Alternatively, for a taste of the dystopian recent past, there’s Jack Black’s new project “The Polka King,” following the rise and fall of polka magnate Jan Lewandowski (Black). (And some of it was filmed in Rhode Island.) That premieres Friday on Netflix.

And that, fair Weekenders, as he likes to refer to you, appears to be all he had on the docket. We’re sure he’ll be more cooperative next week, but in the meantime: Here’s to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — and if those don’t work there’s always Monday. Cheers, and see you next week. 

Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur