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Review: Lotsa grinding, little plot in ‘Magic Mike XXL’

Warner Bros. Pictures photo by CLAUDETTE BARIUS -- All eyes are on Stephen 'Twitch' Boss as Malik, in 'Magic Mike XXL,' which opened in theaters Wednesday.

There’s an early scene in “Magic Mike XXL” that hints at what this much ballyhooed sequel woulda, coulda, shoulda been. Mike Lane, played by the well nigh irresistible Channing Tatum, is alone in his furniture workshop. As he saws, measures and sands, the beat of the music he’s listening to starts to transport him. He can’t stop… Continue reading →

Review: Arnold (but little else) is back in ‘Terminator’

This photo provided by Paramount Pictures shows, Arnold Schwarzenegger, left, as the Terminator and J.K. Simmons as Detective O'Brien, in "Terminator Genisys," from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions. (Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Pictures via AP)

Thirty-one years and counting, and the Terminators keep rolling off the assembly line like new iPhones, upgraded with shape-shifting abilities, rebooted Sarah Conner assassination levels and, one presumes, better selfie cameras. “Terminator Genisys,” directed by Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World”), is the fifth entry in the series begun by James Cameron and a naked money grab… Continue reading →

From floats to boats, there’s something for everyone this Fourth of July

Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Greta Loffler, then 4, watches the start of the Kenilworth Civic Association's 42nd annual Independence Day Parade in 2014.

The nation marks Independence Day all weekend, and communities across South Louisiana are, of course, joining the celebrations. Two of the largest local events will be the USS KIDD’s 4th of July Spectacular in Baton Rouge and the Cajun Country Jam in Livingston. Both of these gatherings will be star-studded events, with the reigning Miss USA and this… Continue reading →

Review: Smashburger adds tasty options to BR’s gourmet burger list

Advocate photo by GEORGE MORRIS -- The regular size of the buffalo and blue cheese burger at Smashburger was surprisingly light but filling.

This may be the ultimate First World problem: Which gourmet hamburger restaurant shall we patronize tonight? Smashburger recently complicated that question for Baton Rouge diners, who already have specialty burger chains and an abundance of creative burger offerings in the city’s bars and grills. Smashburger’s particular take on this American classic is the use of a special… Continue reading →

Shows to Watch for July 3-9, 2015

Photo provided by -- Jonathon 'Boogie' Long -- Fiery Baton Rouge blues singer-guitarist Jonathon 'Boogie' Long will perform Saturday at Lava Cantina.

The Shows to Watch calendar is a listing of events taking place in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas from July 3-9, 2015. It covers rock, reggae, jazz, country and everything in between. Continue reading →

Review: An ‘Overnight’to remember

The Orchard photo by John Guleserian -- From left, Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling and Jason Schwartzman share a scene in 'The Overnight.'

Thirty-something couple Alex and Emily and their young son R.J. have been Los Angeles residents for two weeks. They moved to L.A. for Emily’s job, which means it’s the unemployed Alex who takes R.J. to the park to play. In the park, R.J. befriends the son of L.A. couple Kurt and Charlotte. When Kurt sees the… Continue reading →

Outlying areas calendar for July 3-9, 2015

Advocate file photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Denise Holly smells parsley as she and her neighbor, Beth Gray, shop at the Hammond Farmers Market last year. The Hammond Downtown Development District hosts the Farmers Market from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday  in downtown Hammond.

FRIDAY NIGHT COOKIE JAR FISHING TOURNAMENT: 7 p.m.-midnight, LA Express Boat Dock, Jarreau. Entry fees apply to fish the tournament and fisherman must qualify to fish the final “classic tournament.” $30. (225) 293-3402 or FOURTH OF JULY FISHING RODEO: Quintana Boat Launch, La. 319 at Beach Lane, Cypremort… Continue reading →

Review: ‘Max,’ about a kid, his dog and those gun smugglers

This photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures shows,  Josh Wiggins as Justin Wincott, Dejon LaQuake as Chuy and Mia Xitlati as Carmen with Max in Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures' family drama "Max," a Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures release. (Kent Smith/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

It’s officially summer. What better time for a heartwarming caper movie about a troubled but noble Texas teen, his troubled but noble dog, and those crazy mean gun smugglers they tangle with? Yes, we said crazy mean gun smugglers. Mexican cartels, too. If that doesn’t sound like normal PG-rated fare to you, well, you’re right, there’s nothing… Continue reading →

Review: Overstuffed plot spoils irreverent, silly ‘Ted 2’

Photo provided by Universal Pictures -- Mark Wahlberg , from left, the character Ted, voiced by Seth MacFarlane, and Amanda Seyfried share a scene in 'Ted 2.'

“Ted 2” asks a question that we never needed, or particularly wanted, to know the answer to: Is Ted, the magical, foul-mouthed, pot-smoking teddy bear, a person in the eyes of the law? While it’s unfair to judge a comedy simply for a ridiculous premise, here, it also happens to be the unlikely killer of the… Continue reading →

Music, empowerment: the Essence of it

Photo provided by GMc+Co. Advertising -- Usher

The Essence Festival returns to New Orleans for the July Fourth weekend with four nights of evening concerts in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and three days of the Empowerment Experience at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Among the nation’s largest events, the Essence Festival is expected to draw more than 550,000 attendees… Continue reading →

Former Baker Middle School teacher Dee-1 turns to hip-hop ‘as a form of expression’

Photo by Brittany Baham -- Dee-1

New Orleans hip-hop artist Dee-1 puts a different spin on rap. Rapping for a higher purpose, he writes positive rhymes about being real, righteous and relevant. An LSU graduate and former Baker Middle School teacher, Dee-1, aka David Augustine, went pro with his rap music in 2011. That was the year he released his… Continue reading →

VooDoo Music Experience announces lineup

Associated Press file photo -- Ozzy Osbourne

English indie rock band Florence + The Machine, heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne and Atlanta-based country act the Zac Brown Band will headline the 2015 Voodoo Music Experience. The Halloween-timed music festival returns to City Park in New Orleans Oct. 30- Nov. 1. Now in its 17th year, the… Continue reading →

UpStage presents ‘Dance on Widow’s Row’

Photo provided by UpStage Theatre Company -- The cast of  'The Dance on Widow's Row' includes, seated from left, Seynabou Diack, Krystal Blatcher, and Alexander Scott; and standing: Anthony Weaver, Aleyah Moore, Victor Robison and Brittany Tanner.

Written by Samm-Art Williams (“Martin,” “Fresh Prince of Belair”), “The Dance on Widow’s Row” is a situation comedy via a two-act theater production. It’s also a fan favorite of Baton Rouge’s UpStage Theatre Company audience. It’s the story of four wealthy widows living in fictional Port Town, North Carolina, all willing… Continue reading →

Review: Film on teens confronting terminal illness can’t always connect

Photo by ANNE MARIE FOX -- Olivia Cooke plays Rachel, Thomas Mann is Greg and R.J. Cyler is cast as Earl in 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.'

In “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” Pittsburgh high school senior Greg thinks he’s got it all figured out. He glides by all of the social groups or, as he calls them, the nations that populate his school. Simultaneously, he’s a member of none of these groups. Greg prides himself on keeping his distance. Greg… Continue reading →

From playing with Prince to debut in N.O., new album, Andy Allo spreads wings

Photo provided by Captivate Management Group -- Andy Allo

This weekend, Andy Allo, the 25-year-old singer, guitarist and songwriter who spent two years in Prince’s New Power Generation band, will simultaneously make her Essence Festival and New Orleans debuts. Allo left New Power Generation in 2013, which means she wasn’t in Prince’s band when he headlined the Essence Festival last year. This year she’s… Continue reading →

Review: Excellent food, good atmosphere make up for less-than-stellar service at Bin 77

Advocate photo by Ellen Zielinski  --  The shrimp and crab au gratin offered a pepper jack cheese sauce with seafood and roasted poblano peppers, served with a side of French bread.

For our first foray into the world of food writing, we sought out a classy date-night dinner venue, Bin 77. The restaurant mostly delivered on its promise of good atmosphere and delicious food. Located on a corner in Perkins Rowe, the former wine bar expanded to include a lovely courtyard for outdoor seating and a… Continue reading →

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon embraces chance to helm ‘Me and Earl’

Photo by ANNE MARIE FOX -- Producer Jeremy Dawson, left, confers with director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, center, on the set.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s earned two Emmy nominations for the New Orleans-set “American Horror Story: Coven.” His first feature film, 2014’s well-received, Shreveport-shot “The Town That Dreaded Sundown,” is in the horror vein, too. Gomez-Rejon, a native of Laredo, Texas who’s based in Los Angeles, very much enjoyed directing those 12 episodes of “American Horror Story.” He… Continue reading →

Outlying areas calendar for June 26-July 2, 2015

Photo provided by Gerald Guilbeaux -- The Acadian Wind Symphony will present 'From Sea to Sky' at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

FRIDAY NIGHT COOKIE JAR FISHING TOURNAMENT: 7 p.m.-midnight, LA Express Boat Dock, Jarreau. Entry fees apply to fish the tournament and fisherman must qualify to fish the final “classic tournament.” $30. (225) 293-3402 or WEDDING PARTY: 7 p.m., Burke Theatre, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, 231 Hebrard Blvd.,… Continue reading →

Fairs and Festivals for June 26-July 2, 2015

Associated Press file photo -- Payton Sudbury, then 5, of Hoover, Ala, listens to a children's story with her father Shannon Sudbury during family day at the Essence Festival in New Orleans in 2014.

LE FESTIVAL DE LA VIANDE BOUCANÉE DE LA LOUISIANE: Ville Platte. This festival showcases local smoked meats including sausage, tasso, pounce bourée, deer, pig, rabbit and fish. Music runs both days, alogn with arts and crafts booths. LOUISIANA PEACH FESTIVAL: Civic Center, Ruston. Festival goers can indulge in Ruston’s famous peach… Continue reading →

Review: Batman takes epic final flight in ‘Arkham Knight’

Photo provided by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. --  In the new video game, 'Batman: Arkham Knight,' Scarecrow has returned on Halloween night to threaten Gotham with a citywide chemical attack.

Rocksteady Studios proved with 2009’s “Batman: Arkham Asylum” that a video game inspired by superhero mythology could be an impeccably cerebral affair, not just another name association money grab. The company affirmed that with the 2011 follow-up, “Batman: Arkham City,” by increasing the Dark Knight’s wingspan in a larger landscape with more fluid movement.… Continue reading →

Review: Musgraves wows with ‘Pageant Material’

Photo by KELLY CHRISTINE MUSGRAVES -- Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves strives for a classic ’60s country sound on her second album, “Pageant Material.” Ditching the loops and other contemporary flourishes of her ground-breaking, Grammy-winning 2013 debut, “Same Trailer, Different Park,” the native Texan presents carefully arranged tracks focused on steel guitar, orchestrated strings and brushed rhythms. Lyrically, she shifts… Continue reading →

From Belafonte to the blues: Guy Davis’ uncommon life

Photo provided by Joseph A. Rosen -- Guy Davis

The blues, at its best, strikes a common chord: Guy Davis unspools everyman’s tale with earnest, engaging ease — but his own story is uncommon. This down-to-earth bluesman wears the larger-than-life mantle of his late parents: activist-actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. The New York native travels the world sharing… Continue reading →

Review: Geeks go gangster in fresh, lively ‘Dope’

Open Road Films photo by Rachel Morrison -- Shameik Moore stars as Malcolm in the new film, 'Dope.'

“Dope” hooks you fast and strong. The coy, over-the-top Sundance hit from writer-director Rick Famuyiwa about a couple of geeks who get entangled in gangster culture is a fresh and slightly rebellious take on the series of escalating events story. Our hero, Malcolm (Shameik Moore), is introduced in his senior year of high school. His… Continue reading →

Review: Pixar’s poignant production ‘Inside Out’ worth applauding

Photo by Disney-Pixar --  From left, bottom row, 11-year-old Riley's emotions -- Sadness, Anger, Disgust. Joy and, top, Fear -- experience a crisis in 'Inside Out.'

“Inside Out” has the cute characters, lively and deep storytelling, technical marvels and beautiful production values audiences expect from Pixar Animation Studios. The movie is also an especially poignant entry in the Pixar catalog. Humor, while not entirely absent, takes a backseat to dramatic, escalating crisis. Co-directed by Oscar-winning Pixar veteran Pete Docter… Continue reading →

Review: Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson subject of bittersweet biopic

Photo by FRANCOIS DUHAMEL -- Paul Dana, center, plays Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson in 'Love & Mercy.'

“Love & Mercy,” a biopic about Brian Wilson, casts two actors as the musical genius behind The Beach Boys. Off-putting as the unusual approach may be, it works. Beautiful and heartbreaking, “Love & Mercy” earns its place alongside the best biopics, including Oscar winners “Ray” and “Capote.” Paul Dano (“12 Years a Slave,” “Little Miss Sunshine”)… Continue reading →

Neon Trees to play Dixie Landin’/Blue Bayou on Saturday

photo by Mathew Hartman -- Neon Trees

Singer and keyboardist Tyler Glenn and guitarist Chris Allen formed Neon Trees, the pop and neo-new wave band whose hits include “Animal,” “Everybody Talks” and “Sleeping with a Friend,” in college town Provo, Utah, in 2005. The band’s lineup solidified in late 2007 with the addition of bassist Branden Campbell and drummer-singer Elaine Bradley. “Chris and Tyler… Continue reading →

Bonsoir, Catin: ‘When we play here in Louisiana, everybody’s dancing’

Photo by GREG MILES -- Bonsoir Catin are, from left, Anya Burgess, Christine Balfa, Danny Devillier, Kristi Guillory, Ashley Hayes, Maegan Berard.

Two weekends ago in New Orleans’ Armstrong Park, the Grammy-nominated Bonsoir, Catin made its debut at the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival. The nearly all-female Lafayette band adds swamp pop, zydeco and rock ’n’ roll to its Cajun foundation. “We love all kinds of music,” said Kristi Guillory, the group’s co-founder, singer and accordion player. “Whenever I write… Continue reading →

Junior Brown brings guit-steel prowess to Baton Rouge

Photo provided by the Paradigm Agency -- Junior Brown

Junior Brown and his world-famous guit-steel — a hybrid of an electric six-string guitar and a steel guitar that Brown invented — are returning to Baton Rouge on Thursday, June 25, for a show at the Manship Theatre. Brown first envisioned the guit-steel in 1980. Texas guitar maker Michael Stevens completed the first guit-steel in 1985.… Continue reading →