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November 3, 2014 at 1:20pm

Nerd Alert! for sci-fi opus "Interstellar," The F-Bombers, Jon Stewart and more ...

Matthew McConaughey as a farmer/astronaut/dreamer. Photo courtesy of Legendary Pictures

All right, all right, all right, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

THURSDAY, NOV. 6

The 2014 holiday movie season kicks off in a big way this weekend. That's right, Thursday brings Drafthouse Films' American release of the 2013 Japanese actioner Jigoku de Naze Warui, or, Why Don't You Play in Hell? (Technically, the Nipponese title translates to "What's So Bad About Hell?" Either English translation is chock full of awesome.) I quote the distributor's pitch word for word: "There's a war going on, but that won't stop the inexperienced but eager wannabe film crew The Fuck Bombers from following their dreams of making the ultimate action epic. Ten years ago, yakuza mid-boss Ikegami led an assault against rival don Muto. Now, on the eve of his revenge, all Muto wants to do is complete his masterpiece, a feature film with his daughter in the starring role, before his wife is released from prison. And The Fuck Bombers are standing by with the chance of a lifetime: to film a real, live yakuza battle to the death ... on 35mm!" Also, did I mention it's called Why Don't You Play in Hell? And there's a film crew of yakuza mobsters? And that crew name? And that apparently, the don is that sex-crazed atomic monster from last year's reboot of Godzilla?

OK, so maybe that won't be everybody's first choice at the cineplex; but it did get good reviews, despite a gleefully blood-soaked climax. If you prefer family-friendlier entertainment, your huckleberry this weekend is probably Disney's Big Hero 6, also known as Why Don't You Play in a Manga? You've seen the commercials and trailer by now, of course, but you may not be aware the movie's based on a recent Marvel Comics team. In the funny books, Japanese outfit Big Hero 6 was led by a mutant ronin dubbed the Silver Samurai, and - how cool is this? - based in a theme park called Cool World. (No, not the one animated by Ralph Bakshi.) Hiro's a tween-age boy who joins the ensemble along with his bodyguard, shape-shifting robot Baymax. The team also features super-chef Wasabi-no-Ginger, a woman named Honey Lemon who wields a magic purse, and a dude who transforms into a kaiju called Fredzilla. Amazingly, all these characters other than the Silver Samurai appear to have crossed the gap into the cinematic incarnation. Critics have fallen for the movie, despite its gleefully blood-soaked climax. Spoiler alert: Wasabi-no-Ginger gets diced, Honey Lemon is squeezed while searching fruitlessly for an Altoid, and Baymax goes POP under the tread of an incautious Fredzilla. There will be no Big Hero 7. It's an odd narrative choice, I feel, especially from The Walt Disney Company, aka The Fuck Bombers.

More cerebral viewers have been eagerly awaiting Jon Stewart's directorial debut, Rosewater, which launches its slow release schedule this weekend. If you're a regular Daily Show viewer, you doubtless know it's the film version of Iranian Maziar Bahari's book Then They Came for Me, which dramatizes Bahari's 2009 detention at the hands of Iran's state police under accusations of spying for the West. Among the clueless evidence presented was a tongue-in-cheek interview Bahari gave Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones. You might also want to check out Les Miz actor Eddie Redmayne, an early Oscar hopeful for his portrayal of the young Stephen Hawking, in biopic The Theory of Everything.

It's an amusing coincidence for the Hawking film to open the same day as Christopher Nolan's sci-fi opus Interstellar, as this perpetuates a longstanding (friendly) competition between Hawking and leading American astrophysicist Kip Thorne. In 1975, Hawking made a wager with Thorne that has since become notorious in space-nerdy circles. Thorne believed black holes are real and that X-ray-emitting object Cygnus X-1 is such a collapsed star. Hawking was also hopeful that Cygnus X-1 would turn out to be a black hole, but he bet on the converse as a way of covering all possible eventualities. The prize at stake? If Hawking won, he'd receive a four-year subscription to Private Eye magazine. Ultimately, however, Hawking conceded to Thorne. "I paid the specified penalty," Hawking writes, "which was a one year subscription to Penthouse, to the outrage of Kip's liberated wife." Chandrasekhar and marital limits aside, Thorne helped Carl Sagan with wormhole concepts for Contact, and now Thorne's the astrophysical brains behind Interstellar. This new film's said to be more 2001: A Space Odyssey than Gravity. Early reviews are somewhat mixed, but it's safe to assume we'll get killer visual effects along with the best-looking astronauts ever, Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. Space madness!

Interstellar, of course, is an adjective that means "between stars." It's what lay people mean, more often than not, when they say intergalactic ("between galaxies"). Nolan hopped on board the Interstellar crew when Steven Spielberg, who first developed the project along with Thorne, lost interest. Originally, the script was called Why Don't You Play in a Wormhole?, in which Anne Hathaway morphed into a singing, sobbing kaiju.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may you never get hired as a production assistant by The Fuck Bombers. As résumé credits go, it'd look shady.

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Screens, Pop Culture,

October 30, 2014 at 3:37pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Saw" 10th Anniversary

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when the promo materials for a Saw flick could actually carry the tag line "Straight from Sundance!"

Well, here's a rarity for Judging by the Trailer: a movie I've actually seen! Yes, it's Saw, the movie that inspired a decade of tedious and disgusting American, mainstream torture-porn. Thankfully, this appears to be a genre that is dying out with the glut of haunted house pictures that we're currently experiencing, but I'll never pass over an opportunity to express my displeasure with Saw and its ilk, so let's begin.

In addition to inspiring Saw imitators, Saw also inspired a fanbase that would frantically argue with you if you dared to call into question the inherent morality that the franchise hinges upon. You see, the hero of the Saw movies is the murderer himself, known as Jigsaw - but even saying that could get you in trouble. Fans of the series will point out that Jigsaw actually does no killing. Rather, he puts victims into impossible circumstances with elaborate contraptions that effectively force them to kill or maim themselves. Fans will tell you all about the turgid, insincere backstory of Jigsaw (that he is a man dying of cancer who punishes people for not appreciating the wonders of life) and completely ignore the nightmare machines that rip people appendages off or poke their eyes out or whatever.

I can't say for certain, but I'm willing to bet that my first encounter with such a fan was with my brother. There's an impenetrable boundary when it comes to explaining to such people that Jigsaw could be dying of 10 different cancers, and that still doesn't justify putting someone in a device that explodes their head like a watermelon. Luckily, the series seems to have finally died out, so these conversations don't happen anymore. But, with the 10th anniversary re-release, I would advise steering clear of anyone that's seen more than one of these. They are not someone you'd like to have corner you at the bar.

October 29, 2014 at 7:24am

5 Things To Do Today: High Ceiling, shigoku oysters, "Inequality for All," minimum wage discussion ...

High Ceiling will fill Jazzbones with dubbed-out reggae tonight.

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 29 2014 >>>

1. Northwest music scene break-out since 2004, High Ceiling plays alongside some of the biggest names in jam-rock-reggae: John Brown's Body, Rubblebucket, Clinton Fearon, Kyle Hollingsworth, Junior Reid and many others. Roots reggae, world, trance and jazz sounds are infused with improvisation, defining High Ceiling's unique presence in the Northwest music and eclectic arts scenes. Catch the band with IWayne and Black Am I at 8 p.m. in Jazzbones.

2. Between 10-11 a.m., Red Wind Casino will cut the ribbon for its new 600-space parking garage. After the ribbon cutting, head inside for a $6 Sloppy Joe and fries meal in The Medicine Creek Deli. Then, hit the Craps table.

3. Today is the last day you can grab shigoku oysters at Salty's at Redondo Beach. For the uninitiated, the shigoku oyster has a light, clean taste of cucumber and salt with a finish of water chestnut and Jerusalem artichoke. Salty's tops each oyster with local huckleberries poached in champagne and then finish with a lemon thyme-infused verjus mignonette. It's the perfect balance of sweet and tangy flavors.

4. The rich get richer, the poor get the picture, as noted U.S. policy experts Midnight Oil once said. The gap in the U.S. between the rich and the poor has never been wider. As we learn in the film Inequality for All, earnings for the "1 percent" have doubled in the last 35 years, while wages for workers have diminished dramatically. The film features Robert Reich -professor, best-selling author, and Clinton cabinet member - as he demonstrates how the widening income gap has a devastating impact on the American economy. Catch the film at 6:30 p.m. in the Capitol Theater, then stick around for a post-film discussion.

5. Barbara Ehrenreich's 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is about her cross-country odyssey as a voluntary member of the working poor. Ehrenreich believes that even as poverty rates - and income inequality - climb, it's only getting harder to be poor. Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland has selected Ehrenreich's groundbreaking study of our nation's working poor for the 2014 Tacoma Reads community reading program.Throughout the month of October, the Tacoma Public Library has been hosting book discussions in various forms, covering topics such as income inequality, the death of the American Dream, the destruction of the middle class and certainly the battle to raise the minimum wage. What is the impact of raising the minimum wage on workers and businesses? Will it substantively address rising inequality and the broad decline of the middle class or, as some assert, result in more youth unemployment, higher prices and increased automation? Discuss it at 7 p.m. at the Tacoma Public Library Main Branch in downtown Tacoma.

LINK: Wednesday, Oct. 29 arts and entertainment events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

October 28, 2014 at 5:28pm

Nerd Alert! Black Panther movie, female Captain Marvel, LucasArts computer games re-release, With a Little Help From My Fwends ...

Did everyone feel that just now? It was the Earth’s mantle cracking from the impact of a cultural carpet-bombing by Marvel. Photo courtesy of Youtube

Marvel and LucasArts

This week was pretty big with the only kind of nerd news that seems to really exist anymore: Marvel and Star Wars shit. In order to ensure that the moviegoing public of the future will be utterly lost at the absence of a superhero on their cinema screens, Marvel announced their next five years of endless comic-book movies. In addition to sequels to properties like Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, and The Avengers, Marvel's biggest announcements were the arrival of a Black Panther movie, as well as a female Captain Marvel.

Called into play Black Panther will be Chadwick Boseman, whose recent outings as Jackie Robinson and James Brown (in the equally lukewarmly-received 42 and Get On Up, respectively) should have tipped anyone off to his inevitable stasis in the Marvel universe. More surprising is the reveal of a female Captain Marvel, which may be Marvel's way of responding to criticism that there is a serious deficit of strong women in their movies. Anything to avoid having to make a Wonder Woman movie, I guess.

Also, this week, it was revealed that the beloved LucasArts computer games of your childhood will be coming back, giving you absolutely no reason to engage in anything that has no nostalgic value. GOG.com is re-releasing classics like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Secret of Monkey Island and the Star Wars simulators TIE Fighter and X-Wing. All told, 20 games will be rolled out, making sure that you'll stay in your house forever, with the exception of opening weekend excursions to see a Marvel property.

The struggle is real.

The Flaming Lips

Continuing their career trend of slowly giving less of a fuck about anything that is not a wacky experiment, the Flaming Lips recently dropped their latest blasé mind-fuck: With a Little Help From My Fwends. As you might be able to deduce, the album is a re-imagining of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring guest spots from an eclectic group of contributors like Foxygen, Dr. Dog, Miley Cyrus, Tegan and Sara, My Morning Jacket and Maynard James Keenan from Tool.

Also, as you might expect, it's an interesting mess. Still, when the day comes that the Flaming Lips are no more, and we won't be getting any more zip drives encased in gummy skulls, or 24-hour-long songs, or off-the-wall collaborations that are this close to making sense - something tells me we'll miss the days when we would suddenly get confronted with a beautiful follies like With a Little Help From My Fwends.

October 28, 2014 at 7:41am

5 Things To Do Today: "Art and Craft," Coffee Cardamom Stout, "Sweet Dreams," Cirque Zuma Zuma ...

"Art and Craft" follows Mark Landis, a highly skilled art forger who donates his copies to museums. Photos by Oscilloscope Laboratories

TUESDAY, OCT. 28 2014 >>>

1. The paintings of Mark Landis have been featured in at least 46 museums in 20 different states over the course of 30 years. So why isn't this shy, slender Mississippian a renowned artist in his own right? Chalk it up to his knack for crafting expert forgeries of everyone ranging from Valtat to Picasso, Seuss to Schulz, as chronicled in the fascinating documentary Art and Craft, screening at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. in The Grand Cinema. Co-directors Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman, and Mark Becker allow museum registrars crackle about getting duped (one insists Landis should be in jail). But mostly the film steeps us in Landis's existence. He paints. He watches TV. He measures time by how many years it's been since his mother passed. The film's a fascinating portrait of loneliness, of the mind, of talent undirected toward purpose.

2. Northern Pacific Coffee Company cold brewed Turkish coffee from Olympia Coffee Roasting Company and delivered gallons of it to Narrows Brewing Co.'s head brewer Joe Walts. Walts added the coffee and spices from Mad Hat Tea Co. to his cardamom stout recipe, brewed it slowly at low temperature to extract all of the brilliant notes of the coffee while reducing acidity for a balance between the coffee and malt in the beer. Walts then brought in a secret weapon to add a creamy finish. The easy drinking Coffee Cardamom Stout - 4.3 percent alcohol - will debut at 6 p.m. at a release party in Northern Pacific Coffee Company.

3. Pacific Lutheran University will host a free public screening of the multiple-award-winning documentary Sweet Dreams at 7 p.m. in the Anderson University Center Regency Room, followed by a Q&A session with its director, Academy Award-winner Lisa Fruchtman, with ice cream provided by Tacoma's female-owned Ice Cream Social. Sweet Dreams is the story of female survivors from both sides of Rwanda's 1994 genocide who defied devastation to form the country's first all-female drumming troupe - and later to open its first ice-cream shop, Inzozi Nziza (Sweet Dreams).

4. Radio and theater performer Harlan Zinck reads spooky stories for adults at 7 p.m. in the Lakewood Pierce County Library. Zinck, a frequent contributor to Lakewood Playhouse, has shared his talents with hundreds of listeners throughout the Puget Sound region in his popular "Story Time for Grownups" programs.

5. Cirque Zuma Zuma, a world music and dance show seen by millions on America's Got Talent, will bring spectacular African performers at 7:30 p.m. in Schneebeck Concert Hall at University of Puget Sound. Created as an "African circus," the 15-member troupe combines the mysticism of Africa with the nonstop excitement of a theatrical cirque performance. Described as an "African-style Cirque du Soleil" because of the rigorous standards of the performers - trained in Kenya and Tanzania - and the dynamic quality of the show, it's suitable for all ages.

LINK: Tuesday, Oct. 28 arts and entertainment events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

October 26, 2014 at 9:51am

5 Things To Do Today: Jerry Miller, Pacific Coast Brass, The Capitol Steps, Out of the Woods benefit ...

Jerry Miller performs tonight at The Spar in Old Town Tacoma.

SUNDAY, OCT. 26 2014 >>>

1. 1. Moby Grape was one of the most versatile San Francisco rock bands to emerge out of the summer of love. Sadly, through a combination of inner turmoil and bad management decisions, the mighty Moby Grape broke up in 1969. However, their debut album is still considered one of the best of all time by many critics, in part because of the nimble fingers of guitarist Jerry Miller. Miller was named one of the top 100 guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone above Eddie Van Halen, Johnny Winter and Randy Rhoads. The Tacoma native has enjoyed a rich career sharing the stage with countless musicians including members of the Doobie Brothers and Carlos Santana. Miller performs at 7 p.m. at The Spar in Old Town Tacoma

2. Pacific Coast Brass, a new ensemble of world-class performers, will make its debut with New York trombonist and guest artist John Rojak at 2 p.m. in in Schneebeck Concert Hall on the campus of the University of Puget Sound. Rojak, a faculty member at The Juilliard School, and musician in the American Brass Quintet, will join five of the new group's members - playing trumpet, French horn, tuba, and trombone - for the public performance.

3. Esteemed character actors Alfred Molina and John Lithgow play George and Ben, longtime partners who get married in Love Is Strange's opening scenes. After a celebration at their apartment things immediately fall apart. With his sexuality now a matter of public record, George is fired from his job as a choir director at a Catholic school, and the two must sell their apartment and stay with different sets of friends and relatives until they find a new place of their own. Indie filmmaker Ira Sachs creates finely observed relationship dramas (Forty Shades of Blue, Keep the Lights On) in which life's disruptions are characterized not by dramatic blow-outs but by small everyday scenes that slowly build to heartbreaking clarity. Here, a loss of a job leads to a drop in finances which forces Ben and George to give up their Manhattan apartment. After nearly four decades together, the pair is also physically separated, forced by the city's brutal real-estate market to seek temporary shelter apart: Ben bunks down with his nephew's squabbling family and George gets a couch with former neighbors, two young gay cops who stay up late. It's awkward for everybody. Catch the film at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. in the Capitol Theater.

4. Every year, the Washington D.C. comedy troupe Capitol Steps descends on the South Sound bringing with it a full bag of political humor and clever song parodies about things that rhyme with Scalia. Major laughs ensue. The Steps will perform at 3 p.m. in  the Pantages Theater, no doubt full of new material thanks to a whole year of new inspirations - American political attack ads, Obama administration's drone wars, NSA spying scandal, Bridgegate. ...

5. Seattle's Jennifer Kelly Band will perform their high-energy blend of folk and rock at the Out of the Woods benefit show at 7 p.m. in Traditions Café. Olympia's Out of the Woods shelter is one of only two family shelters in Thurston County. A rocking band, an amazing vocalist and helping families with children find stability and safety in a home environment makes for a great Sunday night.

LINK: Sunday, Oct. 26 arts and entertainment events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

October 23, 2014 at 2:22pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Ouija"

"Ouija" filmmaker Stiles White has ??" you guessed it ??" never directed a picture before. ...

We're through the looking glass, here, people. Thirty years after Clue became a movie and everyone began simultaneously making snarky comments about what other board games might limp out of uninspired Hollywood producer's closets and out onto the screen, we now have Ouija. Of course, this does come after the brutal disappointment that was Battleship (how they made it through that entire movie without getting Liam Neeson to solemnly utter, "You sunk my battleship," is beyond me), and presumably before the adaptation of Candyland, but this must still be a milestone of some sort.

Yes, the classic sleepover game does have a fair bit more traction as a property that could reasonably be made into a movie - pulling taffy and "light as a feather, stiff as a board" might have a rougher transition - though the trailer seems to reveal a movie that is blissfully unaware of the inherent hokiness of its concept. If I gave you five minutes to come up with what the Ouija movie would be about, something tells me you'd present me with something like this.

Think of it like Jumanji with ghosts, which might be the exact pitch that got this movie made. A girl finds an Ouija board in her house, creepy stuff happens, she dies and then a group her way-too-old-to-believe-in-Ouija-boards friends decide to use the spirit board to reach her on the other side. And then, it's just more of the same haunted house jump scares that have dominated mainstream horror movies since Paranormal Activity came out. Dear god, I hope audiences will grow as tired of surreal mirror gags in these movies as I have. Here's hoping slashers come back in style.

But, if we're adapting board games, might I suggest Sorry? That game's some backstabbing bullshit. I can see it easily becoming a David Mamet war of the sexes and/or world of finance psychodrama.

October 22, 2014 at 7:24am

5 Things To Do Today: Hispanic Film Festival, brewer's nights, Well Wednesday, Speeding Kills Bears ...

"Con la pata quebrada" is a detailed study of the role of women in Spanish cinema.

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 22 2014 >>>

1. The University of Puget Sound will bring five cutting-edge Spanish and Latin American films to campus for its 10th Annual Hispanic Film Festival. For the first time, the college has partnered with the Spanish Film Club, an initiative of the Spanish government's PRAGDA film distribution group, which aims to familiarize global audiences with Hispanic and Latino cultures. The critically acclaimed films will be screened at 6:30 p.m. on consecutive Wednesdays in Rausch Auditorium on campus. Con la pata quebrada (Barefoot in the Kitchen) kicks it off at 6:30 p.m. The film - which won best documentary at both the Turia Awards and the Platino Awards for Ibero-American Cinema - meshes fragments from 180 movies, chronicling how Spanish cinema has portrayed women from the 1930s to today.

2. Portland's Breakside Brewing may hold the record for the highest number of different beers brewed in a year (it released 83 in 2012, 92 in 2011, and 100 in 2013). Now with two locations and a doubled capacity in 2014, their explosive growth doesn't look like it will slow anytime soon. Pint Defiance will host the brewery and some of its rare beers from 5-7 p.m. Puyallup River Alehouse, the downtown Puyallup face for Puyallup River Brewing's beers, as well as multiple guest beers on tap, welcomes back Backwoods Brewing Company from little ol' Carson, Wash. Head brewer Jordan Tanasse will load up the jalopy with Backwoods brews, plus swag for the raffle, and hit the trail for the 6-9 p.m. spotlight. Jeff Lee from Alpha Distributing will be in the house, too.

3. Pierce County Democrats Chair Jeannie Cavitt Mitchell will discuss the importance of precinct committee officers to the political process at Tacoma Brewing Co. from 6-8 p.m. There will be other speakers and surprises.

4. Speeding Kills Bears will rock Jazzbones at 8 p.m. If you encounter Speeding With Bears, do not run. Avoid direct eye contact. Walk away slowly, if Speeding Kills Bears is not approaching. If the band charges, stand your ground (you cannot outrun it). Don't scream or yell. Speak in a soft monotone voice and wave your arms to let the band know you are human. If you have pepper spray, prepare to use it. If the band charges to within 25 feet of where you're standing, use the spray. If the band makes contact, curl up into a ball on your side, or lie flat on your stomach. Try not to panic; remain as quiet as possible until the attack ends. While in Jazzbones, be aware that you may encounter Speeding Kills Bears at any time. Be sure the band has left the area before getting up to seek help. We don't have advice if the other band, Pasadena, charges.

5. In 2011, readers of this fine rag voted the Top of Tacoma Bar and Cafe the best bar in Tacoma. This was due in no small part to its Well Drink Wednesdays. Two dollar well drinks after 7 p.m. Are you kidding? That's, like, riding the train to funkytown for only eight bucks. Yes, please. The kitchen stays open to midnight. Choo, choooo!

LINK: Wednesday, Oct. 22 arts and entertainment events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

October 21, 2014 at 7:22am

5 Things To Do Today: "The Kill Team," harpist Cynthia Zechmann, "Nickel and Dimed," choral concert ...

Spec. Adam Winfield considered being a whistleblower, as shown in the documentary "The Kill Team." Instead, he ended up on trial and fearing for his life. Photo credit: Dan Krauss/Oscilloscope Laboratories

TUESDAY, OCT. 20 2014 >>>

1. At the heart of every war documentary is an often unspoken question: Why do we fight? Some films suggest that the answer is patriotism or courage. Others point the finger at big business. The Kill Team posits the most disturbing answer of all: Men and women go to war because they like to kill. This gripping documentary unravels the story of the so-called "Kill Team," a group of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan who manufactured combat kills by murdering unarmed civilians in Kandahar province. Catch the film at 1:30 and 6:45 p.m. at The Grand Cinema.

2. The melodic sounds of the harp will be featured at the next Music @ 11 recital when Cynthia Zechmann presents selections from her repertoire of Broadway, classical, pop, easy listening and Christian music at, well, 11 a.m. in Kreielsheimer Hall on the Saint Martin's University campus. Zechmann, who began her study of harp when she was 12, is a freelance harpist based in Olympia. She has also performed for President Jimmy Carter, President George Bush, Sr., and at three governor inauguration ceremonies. Zechmann studied at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and at the Salzedo Harp School in Camden, Maine, for two summers.

3. Whether you're a military spouse looking for work, a transitioning servicemember seeking out the next step or an employer searching for veteran hires, Washington State Service Member for Life Transition Summit can help. The summit will span three days, from Oct. 21-23, across various locations on JBLM - and shuttles will be provided. There are no registration fees due to the summit's generous sponsors.

4. Barbara Ehrenreich's 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is about her cross-country odyssey as a voluntary member of the working poor. Ehrenreich believes that even as poverty rates - and income inequality - climb, it's only getting harder to be poor. Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland has selected Ehrenreich's groundbreaking study of our nation's working poor for the 2014 Tacoma Reads community reading program. Amanda Westbrooke, host of TV Tacoma's CityLine, will chat with Ehrenreich at 7 p.m. in the Olympic Room at the Tacoma Public Library Main Branch.

5. Four Pacific Lutheran University choral ensembles - Choir of the West, University Chorale, University Singers and Men's Chorus - will take the stage during PLU's Fall Choral Concert at 8 p.m. in the Mary Baker Russell Music Center.

LINK: Tuesday, Oct. 21 arts and entertainment events in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

October 20, 2014 at 1:05pm

Nerd Alert! John Wick, Constantine, Benedict Cumberbatch ...

The death of Keanu Reeves' dog really lights a fire under his ass in the new action thriller "John Wick."

Taking the red pill, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

Last week Oly police arrested a woman for drunk driving, then found she was cruising the streets with a blood-alcohol content of 0.322. In a related story, scientists have discovered a human who cannot be killed by alcohol.

FRIDAY, OCT. 24

I'd like you to step into the WABAC machine with me and return to the spring of 1999. Our average reader was probably in grade school, but if you're closer to my age, you vividly remember the fever-pitch excitement over a certain science-fantasy prequel. The Phantom Menace was due out in less than two months. Already you wondered which would be your favorite new hero. Would it be preteen Anakin Skywalker, or that all-CG character Jar Jar Binks? He seemed charming. Only one thing was sure: with 17 years of build-up, this movie had to be amazing. Then some techy-looking Keanu Reeves actioner came out, and you thought, "Oh, what the hell, I've got a 10-spot burning a hole in my pocket. I'll eat some wait time by checking out The Matrix." Two and a half hours later, you picked your jaw up off the popcorn-strewn carpet and staggered into the world a changed geek. The Matrix not only stole Lucasfilm's thunder, it represented the absolute state of the art in movie technology, told a riveting and thought-producing story, and still marks the pinnacle of cyberpunk cinema to this day-not that its sequels put up much of a fight.

Of course, that was 15 years ago, a more innocent time, when we feared the non-threat of Y2K more than the non-threat of airborne Ebola. A new Star Wars episode is 14 agonizing months away, you carry cyberpunk technology in your pocket, and there's a pre-Hallowe'en weekend to kill. Who should appear on the movie horizon but your old pal, Wyld Stallyns' co-lead guitarist Keanu Reeves. Whoa! His new actioner is called John Wick, and let's be honest, you don't give two hoots in a hurricane about it.

Except its Tomatometer score at time of writing (which, granted, is a week early) is a whopping 100 percent.

How did that happen? Did only one or two fanboys review it? Nope, it's earned upward thumbs from Forbes, IGN, Screen International and Drew McWeeny of HitFix among lesser evaluators. It's said to be dripping with style, a solid example of world-building, and is that most overused of all critical metaphors: a rollercoaster thrill ride. (Save theater hours waiting in line by reserving a FastPass.) Apparently Keanu brings the noise, popping a cap in everyone and everything while rocking the latest in skinny men's fashions. It could be fun; and besides, what else were you gonna do, play with your on-the-card Jar Jar Binks action figure? Mesa no tinken so!

Of course, you could watch TV instead. It's a big night for entertaining nonsense on NBC. At 9, Grimm returns for season four, so fans of ludicrous cop dramas set in worlds of pure fantasy need no longer content themselves with Hawaii Five-O. At 10 comes the debut of Constantine, a series based on the DC Vertigo horror comic Hellblazer. This adaptation, however, has nothing to do with Keanu or his 2005 movie version, and everything to do with Welsh actor Matt Ryan and a crap ton of CGI. Y'know how sometimes you wake up and discover that the terrestrial plane of which we think we're the masters is in fact crawling with invisible demons and ghosts, and now it's your job to send them off to divinely mandated afterlives? No? Well, now you understand why you don't have your own show on NBC, then.

MONDAY, OCT. 27

Out of curiosity, are there any Benedict Cumberbatch fans in the house? Pretty much all of you? Great! Now, how about classic horror icons? Yes? Quite a few of you? OK! Any huge admirers of the National Theatre in London? (Crickets.) Fine, but what if I told you Benedict Cumberbatch got pretty much naked in the National Theatre's 2011 production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire fame? Aha, I see some of you sitting up straighter. Happily for you and your shameless depravity, that production was videotaped. Even better, it'll be shown in American cineplexes Monday, as, for example, at the Regal Martin Village in Lacey at 7. Then the event repeats two days later ... with the roles of Dr. Frankenstein and the monster reversed! Cumberbatch switches roles with Jonny Lee Miller of Trainspotting! I know! And I'm not gonna tell you which day Cumberbatch plays which part, either, because that I do not know! Check Fandango.com for further details as the date of each screening approaches. It's alive! Exclamation points! Wizard, Annie!

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may Episode VII be Gungan-free.

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News and entertainment from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s most awesome weekly newspapers - The Ranger, Northwest Airlifter and Weekly Volcano.

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