If there is a litmus test for the new Star Wars entry “Solo,” it lies in one’s perception of actor Alden Ehrenreich who takes on the role of the young Han Solo, once embodied by the one-and-only Harrison Ford. Can this young upstart capture the swagger, arrogance and sense of humor that Ford brought to the part? For my money, I say, “Yes.”

Directed -at least in part- by Oscar-winner Ron Howard, “Solo” is a worthy entry in the “Star Wars” canon, a handsomely produced spectacle and involving origin story that finally reveals how the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. We also discover how Han befriended Chewbacca, how he won his ship from Lando Calrissian, played by the charismatic Donald Glover. We’re introduced to his first love, played by Emilia Clarke from “Game of Thrones,” and the leader of a roguish band of thieves, played by Woody Harrelson.

While “Solo” isn’t in the class of the original classic “Star Wars” trilogy, it’s more involving and a lot more fun than the other prequels. As Han once said, “You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.”

From the other end of the cinematic universe comes “Little Pink House,” a modestly budgeted social drama featuring a strong lead performance from Catherine Keener. She plays Susette Kelo, a woman who took on the government of New London, Connecticut in an eminent domain case. The city wanted to turn her property over to drug maker Pfizer to make way for a luxury office park. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While it plays a bit like “Erin Brokovich-lite,” “Little Pink House” is an agreeable and informative look at an important issue that probably deserves a good deal more attention.

Susan and Russ have two very different takes on “Disobedience,” starring Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivola. The director is Sebastian Lielio, whose Chilean film “A Fantastic Woman” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film this year. Weisz plays a worldly photographer who returns to her stifling Orthodox Jewish community upon the death of her father. She rekindles a lesbian romance with McAdams, the wife of a young rabbi.

Take Two: “Disobedience” (R)
Episode date : May 25, 2018
On Take Two

With Trump’s New War Cabinet in Place, Danger of U.S. Conflict with Iran Rises
Interview with Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for Policy and Political Affairs with Peace Action, conducted by Scott Harris

With the May 17 Senate confirmation of Gina Haspel, President Trump’s pick to head the CIA, the administration’s installation of a new “War Cabinet” is complete. Haspel, who oversaw the torture of U.S.-held detainees after 9/11 and destroyed video evidence of that torture, was a disturbing choice to head the spy agency, given that Trump has aggressively advocated the re-establishment of torture, despite U.S. and international laws that classify torture as a war crime. Story continues

Poor Peoples’ Campaign Actions Call Attention to Systemic Racism
Excerpts of talks delivered by Bishop John Selders and Muslim chaplain Nora FItzpatrick at the Poor People’s Campaign Action, May 21 in Hartford, CT, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus

Connecticut is one of about 40 states participating in a 40-day series of actions called the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Each state is holding an action in its capital city on six consecutive Mondays between May 14 and June 23. Each Monday’s action will focus on a different priority issue, such as poverty, racism and the environmental crisis. Story continues

After Senate Victory, Net Neutrality Defenders Prepare for Fight in House
Interview with Candace Clement, Free Press’ campaign director, conducted by Scott Harris

By a vote of 52 to 47 on May 16, the U.S. Senate voted to overturn the Federal Communications Commission repeal of net neutrality rules. The vote, taken under the Congressional Review Act, now moves the debate on the fate of net neutrality to the House of Representatives, where the legislation faces a tougher fight.
Story continues

Compiled by Bob Nixon

Three-quarters of a million Rohingya Muslims who fled massacres in Myanmar face a potential health crisis as monsoon season arrives for refugees in Bangladesh. Those who fled violence Myanmar are now endangered by the prospect of disease, landslides, flash floods and death according to Foreign Policy magazine. (“The Rohingya Have Fled One Crisis for Another,” American Prospect, May 15, 2018)
Trillions of dollars of dark money move though the British territories in the Caribbean. The Panama Papers that exposed global tax havens, revealed hundreds of shell companies in the British Virgin Islands including the Cayman Islands. (“Disclosure in the Caymans: Global walls of financial secrecy are falling,” Christian Science Monitor, May 3, 2018)
As Amazon made a short list of cities for locating its second corporate headquarters, the retail giant’s home city, Seattle adopted a new head tax on large employers, including Amazon and Starbucks, to fund solutions to Seattle’s escalating housing and homelessness crisis. (“Seattle’s head tax fight goes to the next round,” Seattle Times, May1618, 2018)

The liberal lion of the US Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is the subject of a loving documentary “RBG.” The film focuses on her rise to prominence and her feminist perspective. While it can be a bit fawning, Russ and Susan agree that it’s a compelling look at a fascinating individual.

Take Two: “RBG” (PG)
Episode date : May 18, 2018
On Take Two

Shamelessly raunchy, unapologetically profane and completely irreverent, Marvel’s R-rated 2016 superhero parody “Deadpool” became a surprise box office smash. The equally obscene sequel doesn’t quite match it, but with a zippy pace, well-staged action and Ryan Reynolds’ cheeky performance, “Deadpool 2” comes close. Marvelites will relish the movie’s self-referential humor, cocky attitude and energy. For hardcore fans, “Deadpool 2” is dead on.

The sex lives of women of a certain age get the lighthearted sitcom treatment in “Book Club.” Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen play friends who are inspired to spice up their love lives when they read “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It’s all very cardboard and cliché, but a great cast makes it seem better than it is.

Strong performances from Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivola propel the thoughtful drama, “Disobedience.” Weisz plays a worldly photographer who returns to her stifling Orthodox Jewish community upon the death of her father. She rekindles a lesbian romance with McAdams, the wife of a young rabbi. It’s slow moving but builds to an emotional payoff.

John Carroll Lynch and Matt Bomer star in “Anything,” a well-meaning but fitful drama about a widower and his relationship with the troubled transvestite next door. Lynch is fine but much of the story never quite rings true.

Julianne Binoche stars in the oh-so-French character study, “Let the Sunshine In.” Binoche can’t seem to make an emotional connection with her many lovers. This very talky drama from filmmaker Claire Denis depends on Binoche’s charisma to get past a lot of self-pity and navel gazing.

Also opening this week, “Show Dogs” is a family comedy about a human detective and his pooch pal who work a case undercover at a dog show. “Pope Francis – Man of His Word” is a documentary about the pontiff from renowned German director Wim Wenders.

Move over, Baby Boomers. The Millennials are going to overtake you in number in 2019 and they’ve gone from Slacktivism to Activism over the past few years with the advent of #METOO, Black Lives Matter and the March for Our Lives. We’ll be talking to several students and graduates of the Lee’s Summit School District aged 16-22 and we’ll listen to some music by Kansas City’s own Kate Rose, back from college in Tennessee for the summer. Find out who makes up the new majority and what’s on their mind.


This week on CounterSpin: The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza says Israeli soldiers killed at least 60 Palestinians and wounded as many as 2,700 in an eight-hour period pm May 14. Palestinians protesting both the horrific living conditions in Gaza and their inability—despite international law—to leave it, to return to the homes from which they were expelled, along with hundreds of thousands of people, in the 1940s. At the same time—and for many US TV viewers, on a sickening split-screen—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, celebrating the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, declared it a “great day for peace.”

Media could hardly avoid revealing the disjunction, even as many worked hard to tell you you weren’t seeing what you thought you were seeing—that the overwhelmingly unarmed people were a violent mob, that the snipers picking them off from a distance were defending their lives.

That sort of dissonance has marked elite US media coverage of Gaza for many years. This week we revisit conversations with just three of the people that CounterSpin has heard from who are working to expand and deepen US audiences’ understanding of Gaza—the conflict, the context and the possible ways forward. We’ll hear from James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute; from Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights; and from the Institute for Policy Studies’ Phyllis Bennis.

Gaza & the US Press
Episode date : May 22, 2018
On Counterspin

This week’s show is going to focus on music. With us in the studio, we will have Bailey Larkin, a local trans woman who performs solo as Bailey Larkin, and in the queer indie punk group, eggdropsoup.  We’ll be talking to her and some otehr members of of eggdropsoup about their lives, music and inspiration.

We will also be talking to Anthony Stembrite about their music, life and inspiration as well as introducing him to listeners as a regular Trans Talk host.

We will have a new take on the transgender news of the month, and finish up the show with the community calendar update. I do hope you will be able to join me this Saturday, May 26th at 1:00 pm on 90.1 KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org, or via various apps on your phone.

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