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Well we’re a week or so deep into February, so you know what that means: Love is in the air! The flu too, but also love — and I mean the good kind. Not this Pepe Le Pew garbage that’s been creeping around lately. The Mary J. kind.
You might think that with Valentine’s Day still days away, you don’t need to think about it. But like a pebble thrown into a pond, the reach of Valentine’s Day radiates outward; and its unique Wednesday positioning this year means Valentines will be faced with the rare phenomenon/predicament of an easily justifiable if grossly unofficial Valentine’s Week. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
With that possibility in mind, and since Valentine’s Day itself is sort of like “50 First Dates” x 5,000 (with a splash of “The Walking Dead”), I offer you this special Date Night edition of The Weekender!
CHEMISTRY SET: OK, as I type this I’m realizing it might be moving a little too fast but: The highly-anticipated (for a number of reasons) climax of the whip-cracking, lip-biting, toe-curling “Fifty Shades” trilogy arrives this Friday in the form of “Fifty Shades Freed.” I have not and will not be seeing this due to a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with your weekend, but our Meredith Goldstein is once again on the case, and gives it 1½ stars. Watching newlyweds Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) try to navigate a life of extreme luxuries, petty jealousies, and ceaseless leisure while still making time for spankings or whatever is a story any young couple can relate to. I’m guessing? No idea, actually. People seem to like it though.
CHOO STORY: At the far opposite terminal of the Questionable Date Movie Express is “The 15:17 to Paris,” the Clint Eastwood-directed real-life-hero story of three American men who employed the time-honored technique of tackling to thwart a terror attack on a Paris-bound train from Amsterdam in 2015. And playing those three American men? Those three American men! Civilian Anthony Sadler, Airman First Class Spencer Stone, and Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos make their big screen debuts as themselves. (Ty Burr gives the effort 1½ stars.) Also playing himself? Any dude who thinks his date is dying to see the new Clint Eastwood movie. Out Friday.
HOT SHORTS: The Oscars are creeping up (March 4), and lucky for you, there are only nine films nominated for best picture. What’s that, like 14 or 15 hours? About $100 in tickets [taps calculator], double that if you get a snack, parking, baby sitters. No problem! Totally worth it. In case you can’t tell, I’m gently suggesting here that movies — the whole movie thing — might be a fundamentally crazy thing to get involved with. (Like, that’s a lot of investment and work just to assure yourself that “Get Out” was the best film of last year.) If you’re anything like this newsletter, do not have time for this nonsense, and prefer your dates to bump along from one thing to the next, might I suggest the programs of Oscar-nominated shorts at the Kendall and the Coolidge? The former has programs of Oscar-nominated live action (which Ty Burr gives 3½ stars) and animated shorts (three stars) starting Friday; and the latter’s dual programs of nominated short documentaries (a 3½-star selection covering topics from metal illness and addiction to racism and aging) starts Friday. Both run all weekend.
HA x 3: Comedy always makes for a great date — provided the comedy part isn’t the date itself. On that front, it’s a veritable gutbustah of a weekend. On Friday night at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, you can catch the 17th installment of Mike McDonald’s Comedy Extravaganza, featuring Gary Gulman, Will Noonan, Sean Sullivan, McDonald himself, and Jim David — it’s sort of like giving your date a big bouquet of middle-aged pasty white roses. Tickets here. Meanwhile, hey! Women can be funny too! Like Jenny Zigrino, the Boston breakout star who dropped a Comedy Central special in September, an online cooking series for IFC (“The Filling Is Mutual”), and appeared on “Live From Here” with Chris Thile last month. She’s got a two-night stand at Laugh Boston on Friday and Saturday. Tickets here. And finally, the official grand opening of Medford’s Chevalier Theatre welcomes comic Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, whose got five sets worth of his “One Show Fits All” tour lined up Friday through Sunday. (So you only need to see one.) Tickets here.
FRIED NOODLES: Maybe you and your longtime Valentine met decades ago in college during the go-go ’90s, when your rugged socks-and-Birks chic was the talk of the co-op, her way with a bo-ho skirt that started out as a wall tapestry struck you as an early signal of her irresistible resourcefulness, and you both subsisted on a diet of ramen and jam bands. Or maybe you both went to Berklee. In either case, Trey Anastasio from Phish is playing at Sanders Theater on Saturday night and (d’oh!) it’s sold out. (Resales maybe? Which is sort of like recycling when you think about it.) I think my work is done here.
ONE OF THE OLD DUDES: In 1969, a young British band called Silence changed its name to Mott the Hoople, which was I suppose the very bad decision to balance out the very good decision of taking on David Bowie’s “All the Young Dudes” — a song which ensconced the proto-glam pioneers forever in the annals of rock history. On Saturday and Sunday, Hoople frontman Ian Hunter — now 78 — brings his Rant Band to City Winery for a pair of shows that will pull from his latest album, “Fingers Crossed” as well as a deep bag of hits and sleepers. (Meanwhile, “Silence” has, of course, been snatched up. Anyone for Slovenian synth-pop?) Grab tickets here.
SAD SONGS: Our beloved copy editors hate (HATE!) when we force them into all-caps situations. So I’ll keep mention of singer-songwriter-millennial of the moment Garrett Borns (a.k.a. BORNS) to a minimum. The Michigan-bred 26-year-old’s swooning, lovelorn electro-pop channels a bit of Bowie himself, as well as kindred spirits like Marc Bolan, Roy Orbison, and the Beach Boys. (Fun fact: Prince dug him.) He’s at House of Blues Sunday night; and you can warm up for all the emotional highs and lows by hunting for resales, for it is sold out. (DRAT! Whoops, I mean “drat.”)
2 WEST: If your idea of a perfect date is wandering separately through a building in complete silence for a few hours, not only are you speaking my language, but also there are two art shows out west that are well worth the trip. In Williamstown at the Clark Art Institute, you can catch “Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings From the Thaw Collection” — a show Cate McQuaid calls “magnificent” and “epic” in scope. It’s up through April 22; more info here. And in North Adams at Mass MoCA, you can experience “Liz Glynn: The Archaeology of Another Possible Future,” a “massive, dystopian installation that digs into the impending obsolescence of a human workforce, apart, maybe, from newsletter writers, who are arguably indispensable. More info here.
MATH APPEAL: And finally from the outside world, one for the nerds — whom I treasure. True love between true nerds is what makes this world a smarter place. So I can think of no better hot date than the Museum of Science’s new temporary exhibition “A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature.” Featuring 86 mirrors and 30,000 LED lights over 700 square feet, it’s sort of a James Turrell meets “What Not to Wear” meets acid trip down the halls of infinity type thing. It also explores the way math shapes our world and our perceptions of it. Pro tip: Don’t make out in the middle of this thing. Everyone will see. Open through April 25; more info here.
OR STAY IN! You don’t have to go out for Valentine’s Day, if you know what I mean. That’s exactly right! I mean TV! “Life in 12 Bars” is the new Eric Clapton documentary from director-producer (and Leominster native) Lili Fini Zanuck, airing Saturday night on Showtime. It’s as good an excuse as any to pop on “Wonderful Tonight” and tell your sweetie how well they rock those pajamas. And for you “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood” fans, there’s a new series from Alan Ball called “Here and Now” coming Sunday night to HBO. “The show is a cable-era adults-only ‘This Is Us,’ in a way,” writes Matthew Gilbert, “but it’s anxiety-ridden enough to make you long for just a dash of kumbaya.” (Eh, not tonight. I have a headache.)
And that, lovebirds, is all I’ve got for you this week. Good luck with Wednesday if these options don’t end up counting. And until next time, here’s to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If those don’t work there’s always Monday. See you next week!Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.