The Weekender: Last Jedis, Austen on wheels, and mixed Nutcrackers

Lucasfilm Ltd.

Daisy Ridley as Rey in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

By Michael Andor Brodeur  Globe Correspondent 

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Ho ho ho! 

Please note: That’s not me being festive. That’s me buckling over in abdominal pain because, oh man, they just, right now in front of me, repealed net neutrality. Oh man. This is not good. Not good at all. My log will have something to say about this, but before this thing turns back into an actual newsletter, we’d best get on with it. First, let’s all start over and smile.


Smiling now? Great! It’s the weekend and whoa! So much happening. 

JEDI NIGHT: “It’s not a perfect film,” writes Globe film critic Ty Burr of the new installment of the “Star Wars” saga, “but it may be a great one.” Awarding “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” four big bright stars, Ty praises the film for its balance of “lightness and gravitas” and for staying “forward-thinking without losing the nostalgia that remains a primary source of the series’ appeal.” Tip: Since it’s mid-December and you have nothing but time on your hands, it’s highly recommended that you watch “The Force Awakens” beforehand if you haven’t already. It’s also worth a bit of emotional preparation, as these final scenes of Carrie Fisher playing Princess Leia may do a real number on you. They may. (I’m not crying, you’re crying!) Now screening all over the galaxy.

LEATHER TO DADDY: Elsewhere in elaborate regalia, there’s “Tom of Finland,” director Dome Karukoski’s biopic on the titillating titular Finnish homoerotic artist (nee Touko Laaksonen, here played by Pekka Strang). Known for his gently shaded (and roughly raunchy) renditions of cruisy sailors, swarthy soldiers, and motorcycle cops virtually busting out of their breeches, Tom of Finland himself wasn’t aware of his notoriety in the States until quite late in his life. Burr gives the film 2½ stars, calling it “a sweetly provocative story on its own terms — a curtain partly parted to reveal a secret history.” It’s also NC-17, so bring some pearls to clutch. (And hey, fellas: No cigars in the theater.) Now screening.

CASTER CHARACTERS: American Repertory Theater’s presentation of “Bedlam’s Sense and Sensibility” (a free-wheeling adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel) feels like a well-oiled machine — particularly because I wasn’t kidding about the wheelin’ part: Everything is on wheels. No, this isn’t some sort of mash-up with “Starlite Express,” it’s director Eric Tucker’s vision of actress and playwright Kate Hamill’s novel adaptation, which finds all of the characters (and set pieces) whirling around one another in a blur of shifting perspectives and unsteady bearings, not unlike a dream — or the experience of reading Austen. That’s at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge through Jan. 14. Find tickets here.

David L Ryan/Globe Staff

American Modern Opera Company co-artistic directors Zack Winokur (left) and Matthew Aucoin with managing director Jennifer Chen.

GROUP DYNAMIC: Also coming to the stage this weekend is the four-day opening salvo from the newly founded American Modern Opera Company. The “Run AMOC!” Festival is a multidisciplinary, multimedia, multivenue experiment in deep-but-fleeting collaborations. Among them, a “dialogue in music and movement” (as Zoë Madonna puts it) between violinist Keir GoGwilt and dancer Bobbi Jene Smith, a “Cage Match” of head-to-head duets, and “Were You There,” a meditation on black lives and police violence. The fest runs Friday through Sunday at various locations in Harvard Square. Find tickets and more information here.


OLFACTORY OUTLET: “Borne along by a score that features a handful of good songs but no truly great ones,” the 1963 Bock and Harnick musical “She Loves Me” is, to Globe theater critic Don Aucoin, “no masterpiece.” But in the hands of director and choreographer Ilyse Robbins at Greater Boston Stage Company, it “remains a pretty tasty confection.” A sharp wit and a soaring soprano from Jennifer Ellis makes her the “radiant center” of the show — one of two bickering clerks in a Budapest parfumerie unaware of their ongoing anonymous romantic correspondence) — but Robbins “consistently mines the musical for its small gems” (of which there are a bunch, Don!) and shines them up nicely. That’s in Stoneham through Dec. 23. Find more info and tickets here.

BOB’S YOUR UNCLE: And finally on this little theater kick I’m having right now, Fosse! Fosse! Fosse! (I was doing jazz hands just then in case that wasn’t clear.) Through Jan. 21, Harvard Film Archive hosts “The World of Bob Fosse” — a film series celebrating the many sides of the legendary dancer/choreographer/director — but this weekend’s selection is especially good. Friday through Sunday you can catch “All That Jazz,” “White Christmas,” “Lenny,” “Star 80,” and “My Sister Eileen” (and if you want to catch one of Peter Keough’s favorite film musicals of all time, “Cabaret” screens on Monday, which, you know, isn’t really my turf). More info and tickets here.

FEVER PITCH: For those of you seeking a comedown from two nights of Street Dogs madness at the Sinclair (Friday and Saturday night), the same club is hosting rising roots star Samantha Fish the next night and, well, just being real here, you oughta go. Fish is a sick guitarist, a talented vocalist, and a powerhouse songwriter whose “Chills & Fever” was named by the Times as one of 2017’s best albums. On Sunday she’ll be joined by Dane-via-NOLA Louie Fontaine and his Starlight Searchers (a.k.a. The Most Expensive Band in the World). Grab tickets here.

OFF COURSE: Fans of programs that find contestants overcoming obstacles, confronting adversity, and falling face first into tanks of freezing water (like “American Ninja Warrior” and “Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge”) will flip out over Netflix’s Sylvester-Stallone-produced “Ultimate Beastmaster.” And for those who’ve caught the new episodes, you’ve likely heard the comedic commentary of one Chris Distefano (perhaps a familiar face to you from MTV’s “Guy Code.”) He’s also a busy stand-up comic, giving four sets on Friday and Saturday nights at Laugh Boston. Please note: Feats of strength performed at the club will not land you a spot on TV, except, depending on what you do, the news. Tickets here.

MIXED NUTS: One of my Christmas presents to you folks, because I like you, is not telling you about three-time Grammy winner Pentatonix’s Christmas tour coming to the Boch Center Wang Theater on Saturday night (drat! I really screwed that one up. Tickets here.) Instead, because I like you, but also because of my allergies, I offer this trio of mixed Nutcrackers. There’s a two-for at the BCA’s Plaza Theatre on Friday and Saturday, with selections from Peter DiMuro’s “alternative family inspired” (wait, what did you call me?) “Gumdrops & The Funny Uncle” as well as “Nut/Cracked,” choreographer David Parker’s tap-infused spin on the story. Then there’s the ever-popular (because it’s just better) Urban Nutcracker, now in its 17th year, and still bringing well over 100 performers of all ages (and a lot of Duke Ellington) into the tale. That’s Friday through Dec. 28 at John Hancock Hall. Tickets here. And finally, there’s the enchantingly intimate (and swiftly streamlined) approach to the dream taken by José Mateo Ballet Theatre at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester from Friday through Dec. 24. Tickets here.

Mark Schafer/Netflix

Bob Balaban in “Wormwood.”

OR STAY IN: On the tubes this week is the new Netflix miniseries from director Errol Morris (which is usually enough info for me). The Globe’s Matthew Gilbert calls “Wormwood” “masterful”: “The miniseries that Morris has built around the shadowy death of Frank Olson — a documentary with fictionalized re-creations — is so much broader and more exciting than an ordinary whodunit,” he writes, “‘Wormwood’ isn’t about solving the crime and delivering the truth to us after relentless investigation; it’s about the pain-filled pursuit of the truth.” Keywords: CIA, LSD, OMG. That’s available Friday.


And for something a little lighter (and prone to screw-ups for us Grinches), there’s the live television production of “A Christmas Story: Live,” Sunday night at 7 p.m. on Fox. Those crossing their fingers for NBC-live-event levels of cringey chaos might tamp their schadenfreudey expectations, as stars Maya Rudolph, Matthew Broderick, Ana Gasteyer, and Jane Krakowski (among others) have plenty of experience with this live action stuff. Pro tip: Do not put your tongue against a cold TV screen. Trust me. 

And that, fellow Weekenders, is all I’ve got for you. (Well, there’s more, but I’m gonna lay off the second sackful of Christmas goodies until next week, when I actually accept that the holidays are happening and go shopping and cook things and ugh nooooooo.)

Until then, however you spend your weekend, make it one you’ll miss come Monday! See you next time!

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