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Entertainment Outlook for May 2021

Movies and TV

A veteran Irish actor and young up-and-comer are in two highly-anticipated movies finally making their way to theaters – or your living room, or wherever you watch movies these days.

Actress Niamh Lynch

Irish actress Niamh Lynch has a supporting role in the new Disney flick Cruella, out on May 28. 

Based on the classic 101 Dalmatians, Cruella stars Emma Stone and tells the backstory of the titular evil dognapper.

Emma Thompson also appears in the film with Lynch, who’s previously been seen in Normal People, and will appear in the 2022 Agatha Christie action flick (directed by Belfast native Kenneth Branagh) Death on the Nile.

Actor Cillian Murphy

Also later this month, catch Cillian Murphy in A Quiet Place Part II, the sequel to the action-horror flick directed by The Office star John Krasinski, and starring his real-life wife Emily Blunt, who was last seen trying on an Irish accent – to much criticism – in Wild Mountain Thyme.

As for those only interested in streaming their entertainment these days, The Boys from County Hell has been slowly building buzz, with the New York Times recently highlighting this Irish comic-vampire flick.

“Much of the credit goes to the actor Jack Rowan, who’s all pluck and charm as the young man who defends his blue-collar hamlet against an ancient evil,” the Times applauded.

Two recently released Netflix documentaries also have strong Irish American links. 

This is a Robbery – about an art heist in Boston – takes a long detour into the Irish underworld on both sides of the Atlantic, exploring the potential involvement of gangsters like “Whitey” Bulger, as well as the Irish Republican Army in the crime, which took place in 1990 amidst late-night St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Journalist and author Jimmy Breslin

And Sons of Sam – a new investigation into a notorious 1970s murder spree in New York City – highlights legendary Irish American newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin, who carried on a correspondence with the man eventually nabbed for the murders, David Berkowitz. 

(Without revealing too many secrets, the documentary suggests Berkowitz did not act alone.)

Among the prominent victims featured in Sons of Sam is survivor Carl Denaro, who was shot in Queens while sitting with his Irish American girlfriend Rosemary Keenan – whose father turned out to be a New York City cop, only intensifying the search for the killer.

Music

Paul McCartney has talked at length about his Irish roots, but just in case they weren’t clear enough, he’s teaming up with an acclaimed Irish poet.

The former Beatle will soon publish a book about his song lyrics, based on chats with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon. 

“These commentaries are as close to an autobiography as we may ever come,” Muldoon said recently. “(McCarthey’s) insights into his own artistic process confirm a notion at which we had but guessed – that Paul McCartney is a major literary figure who draws upon, and extends, the long tradition of poetry in English.” 

Due out in the fall, the Muldoon-McCartney project is described as a “self-portrait in 154 songs.”

Meanwhile, rock fans of a certain age and attitude will be happy (though not too happy, because that’s not their style) to hear that the influential Irish alternative band My Bloody Valentine will be re-releasing much of its extensive catalogue, and making it available for streaming services. 

My Bloody Valentine frontman Kevin Shields

Formed in Dublin in the early 1980s, MBV frontman Kevin Shields – born in New York to Irish parents before returning home – recently explained: “My nieces and nephews — they would complain to me because when they would try and show their friends, they can’t find (our music) anywhere,” Shields said. 

“They’re like, ‘Why are you so purposely obscure? You know, it seems stupid.’ That kind of stuff that made me think, ‘Yeah, I guess my perception of the world isn’t the world.’ There’s a whole world out there I know nothing about.”

Theater

Speaking of obscure…

If there was a playwright made for life during a pandemic, it’s Ireland’s Samuel Beckett. Now, you can catch an inventive new take on Beckett’s most famous work starring Ethan Hawke and John Leguizamo.

The New Group Off Stage’s latest (streaming, of course) production of Waiting for Godot is described as “an experimental exploration of a storied play… A combination of theatrical invention and innovative filmmaking. At once both a faithful realization of a classic work and an artistic expression of now.”

If that sounds like the kind of thing you are looking for – with a three-hour running time – go to https://thenewgroup.org/production/waitingforgodot/ for more details about how to see this production.

Books

Former President George W. Bush has been an outspoken critic of what he describes as an anti-immigrant faction in today’s Republican party.

An index page from former President George W. Bush’s book Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants. Northern Ireland golf legend David Feherty is pictured in the 2nd column 4th from the top.

Fittingly, Bush’s new book is a collection of portraits of dozens of immigrants – including Northern Ireland golf legend David Feherty.

Quite a few people are appreciating Bush’s second career as an artist because Out of Many, One has hit # 1 on bestseller lists.

Bush’s Introduction touches on various stages of the Irish experience in America.

“Fifty years” after America’s founding, Bush writes, “the sight of Europeans fleeing revolution and famine stirred up what I call the three ‘isms’ that pop up in our country from time to time: nativism, protectionism, and isolationism. This time, they took the form of an anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant political party that came to be called the Know-Nothings.”

Bush then nods to a famous great-grandson of that famine.

“John F. Kennedy published a book called A Nation of Immigrants, in which he explained immigration’s role in our history. ‘The wisest Americans have always understood the significance of the immigrant,’ he wrote. “Among the ‘long train of abuses and usurpations’ that impelled the framers of the Declaration of Independence to the fateful step of separation was the charge that the British monarch had restricted immigration.’”

Ellen McGarrahan’s book Two Truths and a Lie

Two other gripping Irish American reads are Two Truths and a Lie by Ellen McGarrahan, a true-crime murder saga that spans the globe from Florida to Ireland, in search of the real story behind a shooting that left two police officers dead, yet also raised serious questions about the suspect who was eventually put to death for the crime.

Also, check out Patrick Radden Keefe’s first book since his epic about Northern Ireland Say Nothing. This time, Keefe explores America’s opioid crisis in Empire of Pain, through the Sackler family, who made billions in pharmaceuticals.

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