Netflix’s Delightful Home Makeover Show Is a Balm for the Madness of 2018


In Amazing Interiors, Netflix’s first original home improvement series showcasing homes that look ordinary on the outside but are extraordinary on the inside, the subtext isn’t exactly subtle. We get it: you can’t judge a book by its cover, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and all that. But the show’s tone is so earnest, its approach so enthusiastic, that you can’t help but smile through the sap. And when viewed amid a grating spate of mindless reality remodeling shows that seem to be getting blander and lazier with each iteration, the show is undoubtedly a warm and lively upgrade.

Unlike many of its counterparts, Amazing Interiors doesn’t have a set of hosts supervising the projects and shepherding you from house to house. Instead, the showrunners zero in on homeowners who have opted to deck out their own places, often with a relatively modest budget and little-to-no professional aid. Installing these everyday people as the guides of their own spaces fills the show with a personal, genial spirit, and exploring their idiosyncratic homes feels less like a window into some interior design pipe dream than like a housewarming party at the home of your quirky neighbor.

The blueprint for each half-hour episode is to introduce three distinct residences: one that’s under construction, two that are already completed. The in-progress pad provides the episode’s arc, which begins with the homeowner’s plans for remodeling and unfolds as the venture progresses. The two finished living spaces are each revealed in one-off cutaways, before the episode ends on the initial project, rounded off and ready for use.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast — Entertainment


‘Super Mario Odyssey’ Is Nintendo’s Most Delightful Game in Years

Though Nintendo is home to some of the most iconic video game franchises of all time, including The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong, the Super Mario games are arguably the company’s flagship property. Every major Nintendo console has featured a Super Mario game and the franchise, as of now, is still the best-selling of all time. And for good reason.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast – Entertainment


Theater: Strictly Delightful “Strictly Dishonorable”

STRICTLY DISHONORABLE *** 1/2 out of ****

One of the greatest talents in film history, Preston Sturges is best remembered for four stellar comedies: The Palm Beach Story, The Lady Eve, The Miracle At Morgan’s Creek and Hail The Conquering Hero. Others also treasure Sullivan’s Travels and Unfaithfully Yours, but however you order them, these are some classic films. And of course he won the Oscar with The Great McGinty. But before all that he was a playwright. In 1928, he starred on Broadway in one show and wrote another one called The Guinea Pig that opened to raves in Massachusetts and transferred to Broadway. But the real monster success came next when Sturges delivered the comedy Strictly Dishonorable. He wrote it in six days, it ran for sixteen months and he grossed a remarkable $ 300,000 just as the Great Depression was hitting its stride. Sturges then wrote three more shows (including a musical!) but Hollywood came calling and he was soon gone for good.

Now The Attic Theater Company has revived Strictly Dishonorable with panache and it sure makes me hungry to see his other theatrical works too. Honestly, I only showed up out of polite interest as a Sturges fanatic, wondering if glimmers of his genius would be visible. Indeed, his sparkling, distinctive gift for dialogue and whiplash changes in emotion from sincere to silly are on full display. And from what I can tell by clips online, this production looks markedly better than the creaky 1931 film version and much, much better than the godawful 1951 remake starring Ezio Pinza and Janet Leigh. You’d be foolish to miss it.


Set in a speak-easy in 1929, it begins with the Italian staff squabbling amongst themselves until their regular customer the Judge (John Robert Tillotson) ambles in for just one drink. Almost by accident, a couple of squares arrive, the prickly Henry Greene (Thomas Christopher Matthews) and his sweet, Southern, slightly put-upon fiancee Isabelle ((Keilly McQuail). He wants to leave immediately but she’s eager to sample a speakeasy and surely none too eager to return to his mother-in-law in West Orange, New Jersey. (The play was written almost one hundred years ago and the jokes about Jersey are still getting laughs.)

Henry’s an unlikable fellow in the usual Sturges manner: he batters down his girl with fast talking, brusquely demands his drink and then wonders why the service is so poor, takes offense easily and is so clueless in his rude indifference to her and everyone around him that you can’t help feeling sorry for the guy just a little, even as you suspect most of us barrel through life just as blithely indifferent at times to others as poor Henry. In walks the good-looking professional opera singer and amateur (but very successful) lothario named Gus (Michael Labbadia) and, well, Henry hasn’t got a chance.

Director Laura Braza keeps this romantic comedy rolling with aplomb, striking the right note with the entire cast. Some judicious pruning might have made the first act fly by quicker. And it’s to be hoped the cast will tighten up and move things along even faster as they settle into the run of the show. But they are in sync with the material from the start and the actors are essentially faultless.

Gus might easily be a cheesy wooer of women, but Labbadia — in his New York debut — gives him heart and humor. And when he’s asked to sing, I imagined they might get a quick laugh by playing a record and having him lip sync (he’s supposed to be a world famous talent, after all) but instead he pulled off a nice little number well enough to maintain the illusion. Funny and winning, he also sports an Italian accent just this side of silly (like all the actors in the show) which is part of the evening’s charm.

As the speakeasy owner Tomas, Christopher Tocco is also excellent, anchoring much of the evening with his affable presence and mining subtle laughs throughout. William John Austin as an Irish cop who happily looks the other way when a glass of “ginger ale” is offered as an inducement, is similarly fun in a smaller role. As a waiter and lookout, Ryan Trout and Nick Ritacco are also spot-on. It’s a pleasure to see a show so well directed where everyone is on the same page.

The handsome Matthews for me was the most empathetic to the style of performing perfected by the actors who worked with Sturges in film after film. He steamrolled through his dialogue with verve, exploded in futile anger with just the right level of indignation and even took a nice pratfall. If Sturges were around, he’d make sure Matthews worked in his next project as well.

Tillotson is a pro as the Judge. I’m not sure if it’s the writing or his performance choices, but I wasn’t always clear as to where the Judge was coming from. And with Sturges, characters are often driven by an all-consuming quirk or passion. Is the Judge in love with Isabelle himself? Or perhaps fancies Gus? An old busy-body? A self-important fool? Mostly Tillotson plays him — rightly — as sweet and good-intentioned. To be clear, he delivers some of the play’s best lines with dead-pan accuracy.

The Judge is perhaps a gentle voice of conventional morality when Sturges will have none of that — we soon see Gus proving his love for Isabelle by not sleeping with her while she’s convinced his refusal to bed her is proof that he doesn’t. And when he begs her to marry him, why she’s convinced even more that he doesn’t! (It makes sense, somehow, while it’s happening.)

And that brings us to the show’s star Keilly McQuail. This is a very fun revival that would surely work with another actress in the part. But McQuail is a genuine find — convincingly Southern, sweetly sexy, timidly bold, believable in her relationship with Henry (hey, it gets her out of Yoakum, Mississippi!) and yet just as believable when she finds the courage to blaze her own path. McQuail brought out the best in everyone around her, handled physical comedy and emotions ranging from aroused to uncertain and looked great in her flapper outfit while doing it.

With modest means at their disposal, the scenic design by Liz Sherrier, the costumes by Travis Chinick and the lighting (David M. Upton) and sound (Beth Lake) all worked in harmony. I’ll be remembering this show fondly at the end of the year. Given the talent on display, I’m hopeful it will be even tighter and better at the finale of what should be an extended run as it was at the beginning. Now bring on The Guinea Pig!


Beautiful: The Carole King Musical ***
Rodney King ***
Hard Times ** 1/2
Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead **
I Could Say More *
The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner **
Machinal ***
Outside Mullingar ***
A Man’s A Man * 1/2
The Tribute Artist ** 1/2
Transport **
Prince Igor at the Met **
The Bridges Of Madison County ** 1/2
Kung Fu (at Signature) **
Stage Kiss ***
Satchmo At The Waldorf ***
Antony and Cleopatra at the Public **
All The Way ** 1/2
The Open House (Will Eno at Signature) ** 1/2
Wozzeck (at Met w Deborah Voigt and Thomas Hampson and Simon O’Neill)
Hand To God ***
Tales From Red Vienna **
Appropriate (at Signature) *
Rocky * 1/2
Aladdin ***
Mothers And Sons **
Les Miserables *** 1/2
Breathing Time * 1/2
Cirque Du Soleil’s Amaluna * 1/2
Heathers The Musical * 1/2
Red Velvet, at St. Ann’s Warehouse ***
Broadway By The Year 1940-1964 *** 1/2
A Second Chance **
Guys And Dolls *** 1/2
If/Then * 1/2
The Threepenny Opera * 1/2
A Raisin In The Sun *** 1/2
The Heir Apparent *** 1/2
The Realistic Joneses ***
Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar & Grill ***
The Library **
South Pacific ** 1/2
Violet ***
Bullets Over Broadway **
Of Mice And Men **
The World Is Round ***
Your Mother’s Copy Of The Kama Sutra **
Hedwig and the Angry Inch ***
The Cripple Of Inishmaan ***
The Great Immensity * 1/2
Casa Valentina ** 1/2
Act One **
Inventing Mary Martin **
Cabaret ***
An Octoroon *** 1/2
Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging ***
Here Lies Love *** 1/2
6th Annual August Wilson Monologue Competition
Sea Marks * 1/2
A Time-Traveler’s Trip To Niagara * 1/2
Selected Shorts: Neil Gaiman ***
Too Much Sun * 1/2
Broadway By The Year 1965-1989 ***
In The Park **
The Essential Straight & Narrow ** 1/2
Much Ado About Nothing ***
When We Were Young And Unafraid
Savion Glover’s Om **
Broadway By The Year 1990-2014 ***
The Lion ***
Holler If Ya Hear Me * 1/2
The Ambassador Revue ** 1/2
Dubliners: A Quartet ***
The National High School Musical Theater Awards *** 1/2
Wayra — Fuerza Bruta * 1/2
Strictly Dishonorable *** 1/2 out of ****


Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the founder and CEO of the forthcoming website BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free tickets to shows with the understanding that he will be writing a review. All productions are in New York City unless otherwise indicated.
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