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Jeff Simon

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Jeff Simon is the News' Arts and Books Editor. He has been writing for the paper since Spiro Agnew was the vice president.

This much we all know: The moment, in 1979, when the alien monster exploded out of John Hurt's belly in Ridley Scott's "Alien" will always remain one of the scariest and most horrifying jolts in movie history. That brings up an interesting subject, now that Scott's first-rate new prequel, "Alien: Covenant," is ready to keep audiences in suspense for two hours. What i…

Sometimes, even Ecclesiastes got it wrong. It's not true that there's nothing new under the sun -- not in current movies, anyway. We are seeing an extraordinary new kind of virtuosity from young film actors and the audacious directors who know how to use them. These are movies of severely limited location that are brilliant one-man shows from some of the least likely st…

"Snatched" is the most disappointing movie comedy since the all-female "Ghostbusters." And thereby hangs a tale. The two unfunny botches share a writer--Katie Dippold, who is also known for such successes as "The Heat" and TV's "Parks and Recreation." Forget, for a moment, the ugly and unseemly online sexual raillery at the very idea of an all-female "Ghostbusters." Som…

I used to watch ESPN's "The Sports Reporters" religiously. Not to worship, of course; just for the edification. What Dick Schaap moderated 0n Sunday morning TV in the 1990s was a panel of some of the nation's best sportswriters to comment weekly on the erupting number of issues involved in contemporary sports. Sports coverage had completely changed. It wasn't just…

JAZZ Diana Krall, "Turn Up The Quiet" (Verve) There's more than a little sorrow attached to Diana Krall's newest surefire favorite for her fans. Krall hadn't worked with producer Tommy LiPuma since 2009 before she recorded this last year. The two of them wanted to go back to the most intimate possible sound -- with trio, quartet, quintet and strings. Tragically, L…

“I’d Die For You And Other Lost Stories” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Anne Margaret Daniel, Scribner, 358 pages, $28. In 1934, Esquire editor Arnold Gingrich wrote to F. Scott Fitzgerald that he should, under no circumstances, return to Hollywood for the money, no matter how much he needed it. “It would be awful to see you piss away your talent in Hollywood…

JAZZ Sarah Partridge, "Bright Lights and Promises: Redefining Janis Ian" (Origin) An extremely interesting if not entirely convincing record. Once upon a time, Janis Ian's fame came as a teen folk singer whose espousal by Leonard Bernstein of all people jolted everyone. "Society's Child" was written and recorded when she was 14 years old. "At Seventeen"  became p…

JAZZ Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow, and Bobby Previte with Iggy Pop "Loneliness Road" (Rare Noise) What's this? you might well ask. Excellent question. Drummer/composer Bobby Previte has been playing with composer/keyboardist Jamie Saft for a while now. But on these slo-mo ballads, the two of them are playing with maximum sensitivity with the most lyrical and delic…

That thunderous whirr you hear from everywhere books are actually read is the sound of all of the following whirling in their graves: Sir Thomas Malory, Geoffrey of Monmouth, T. H. White, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Mark Twain, Chretien de Troyes and John Dryden, just to name a few. Guy Ritchie has just given us the trashiest and most impudent vulgarization of King Arthur an…

BLUES Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo', Tajmo (Concord) Sure, sure, sure. They wouldn't let Taj Mahal and Keb' Mo' make a disc together without some visitors flocking to the studio to give their benediction to the project and lend their voices. So before this disc is over, Bonnie Raitt, Joe Walsh, Sheila E., and Lizz Wright show up. Raitt joins them for a version of John Ma…

CLASSICAL Britten and Purcell, "Chaconnes and Fantasias" performed by the Emerson String Quartet (Decca Gold) Henry Purcell and Benjamin Britten certainly aren't the only composers whose affinities are discernible across a divide of three centuries. When you're talking about Purcell and Britten the cause is helped in no small measure by Britten's 20th century delight…

The trouble with the "Guardians of the Galaxy" is they're outflanked on all sides. The Avengers are way cooler. And tougher. The Suicide Squad is a lot hipper, crazier and funnier. If I were to need a squadron of Superheroes to save the universe--or even to repair a Sunday School TV monitor, I'm not sure I'd put the fate of either the cosmos or the kiddies in the hands …

I'll say this for the cover of In Touch Magazine. It stopped me in my tracks at the supermarket checkout line. I immediately dove in and started reading the cover story as I waited t0 pay for my cottage cheese. Here's what the cover promised. "Matt (Lauer) Replaced by Megyn (Kelly). It's Personal! Inside the Ultimate Betrayal His 'Today' Co-Workers Speak Out …

CLASSICAL Novak, "In the Tatra Mountains," "Lady Godiva Overture" and "Eternal Longing" performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by JoAnn Falletta (Naxos) This is interesting. Vitezslav Novak (1870-1949) is hardly ever going to exceed the fame and affection that Smetana and Dvorak have achieved among Bohemian composers. But that's not the point of…

"Chuck Klosterman X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century" by Chuck Klosterman, Blue Rider Press, 444 pages, $27 He once, early on, memorably described himself as being the exact opposite of a "no-nonsense guy." That is, he's an "all-nonsense kind of guy," the kind of guy who eats "all-sugared cereal exclusively." We're talking about…