Overrated/Underrated: The shallow appeal of ‘Ready Player One,’ and why do we care about Madame Tussauds?
Pip Torrens in ‘Preacher’: AMC’s “Preacher” is ridiculous, relentlessly violent and incapable of taking itself seriously. But amid all its outrageous “you think we can get away with this?” antics, the series has found an absurdist anchor of sorts in this actor, who can also be seen in much more stately settings on Netflix’s “The Crown.” But he’s clearly having plenty of fun as Herr Starr, an executioner whose tolerance for pain and thirst for order comes complete with a German accent. Much of Starr’s over-the-top antics are played for dark laughs — like the series — but he’s a magnetic presence as the second season of this oddball show goes on.
Valerie June: The Memphis, Tenn.-born singer-songwriter’s “The Order of Time” is among the most irresistible albums of the year. June’s armed with a voice that can slip into the drawling, sandy-edged tributaries of Southern R&B or the creaky folk-blues of Karen Dalton, and her music defies easy categorization. On a track like “Shakedown,” she’s the leader of a fiery roots-rock band with barbed guitar and hand claps, but she also can purr through the spacey “Astral Plane,” a ballad written for the moody electronic act Massive Attack but entirely hers. In moments, June somehow sounds from another time — in other words, timeless. She performs Thursday at the Santa Monica Pier.
Madame Tussauds: For all its faults, ours is a world of nearly “Westworld”-ian entertainment options, minus all the period garb and robots — for now. And yet this tribute to limited tourism options still makes the news from time to time, most recently for a bizarre wax interpretation of Beyoncé at the Manhattan location that re-imagined the most recognizable pop star on Earth into what resembled a courtroom drawing of Shakira. After a Bey-hive of acolytes shamed the museum into removing the figure last week, Beyoncé doesn’t need more defending, but it’s worth wondering what still draws people to these places. Are images of celebrities really that hard to find in 2017?
‘Ready Player One’: With maybe the most eagerly anticipated trailer to emerge from Comic-Con in San Diego, this movie faces an uphill battle, given that its source material — a bestselling 2011 science fiction novel by Ernest Cline — takes a smart premise involving virtual reality as a narcotic-level escape from a dystopian future and reduces it to a hollow, increasingly repetitive exercise in self-gratification for those who have filled their heads with ’80s pop culture. Of course, if anyone can give such materials heart, it’s the adaptation’s director, Spielberg, but given the trailer is as much of an exercise in recognizing old ideas as the book, we may be asking too much.
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