Tag Archives: Arts & Culture

The Evolution to Meek | Temple bITS Program youth take to the stage exploring history

Performed as a play in one act, The Evolution to Meek, played a lead role in connecting summer session participants of the Temple University Apps & Maps bITS Program to the unique history of Philadelphia. Delving into the past and choosing four historical figures (some known, some not as well known), the students linked to present time giving the audience an insightful look through the eyes of modern day Philadelphia rap star Meek Mill (played by Barry Taylor), as he receives Christmas-Carol-like visits from ghosts of Philadelphia past.

Henry Box Brown, W.E.B. Du Bois, Kenny Gamble, and Charlotte Forten Grimké, each carving their own place out in Philadelphia’s storied history as influential African-American figures, plead with a troubled Meek Mill to recognize his potential of positive influence, as he recovers from a nightclub attack and hard hit to the head. This blow conjures up the four spirits, who are eventually successful in swaying Meek to positively take part in his community, through conscious music he records and charity events he attends.

The portrayed transformation comes only after Meek’s initial apprehensive acceptance of his educators, serving perhaps as a snapshot of the modern youths’ short-sightedness and sense of entitlement. It also points to real changes in the city where murals, like one of W.E.B. Du Bois, have recently been covered up by new buildings — literally covering up the past.

Involved in every facet of the creative process, from researching, to writing, to performing in front of a live audience, the students starred in their roles, and each exhibited their unique talents bringing this educational story to life.


Written by: Saniyya Edge, Myana Dukes, Barry Taylor, and Jasmine Sewell.

Introduction: Prof. Joyce A. Joyce


  • Saniyyah Edge — Cecil B. Moore
  • Saniyyah Edge — W.E.B. Du Bois
  • Myana Dukes — Kenny Gamble
  • Barry Taylor — Meek Mill
  • Jasmine Sewell, Henry Box Brown
  • Artina Nimpson — Charlotte Forten Grimké
  • Jasmine Sewell — Thug 1
  • Artina Nimpson — Thug 2
  • Artina Nimpson — Doctor
  • Myana Dukes — Nurse
  • Saniyyah Edge — Omelly

Directors: Brian Skovron and Artina Nimpson

Guest Director: Ruben Ybarra

Technical Assistance: Walter R. Gholson III, Ed.D.

Executive Director: Joyce A. Joyce, Ph.D. Chairperson, Department of English



Two.One.Five | Morgan Heritage Exclusive Interview

For those who have not yet been introduced,  if you’re looking for a band that stays true to the conscious principles of reggae, blends in the latest sounds and musical influences of today, and boasts outstanding vocal talents, search no further than Morgan Heritage. For those fans already well acquainted, you know that these trademark characteristics have remained proud fixtures dating back to the early 90’s. We haven’t seen the Morgan family in unison the last several years, as each member has remained active but more individually, making this latest collective re-emergence that much more special.

The five siblings and original members of Morgan Heritage —  Una Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Peetah Morgan (vocals), Roy “Gramps” Morgan (keyboard/vocals), Nakhamyah “Lukes” Morgan (rhythm guitar) and Memmalatel “Mr. Mojo” Morgan (percussion) — shine on as the offspring and living legacy of famed Jamaican reggae singer Denroy Morgan. Recently, the next generation has joined in the shape and sound of Gramps’ own son Jamere Morgan.

In this current era with its generation criticized for its sense of entitlement, many seemingly too-often fail to recognize those who came before and struggled for the betterment of humankind. Morgan Heritage though, graciously gives due notice to the predecessors of their trade who battled and faced prejudice during a remarkable and transformative time. Yes this includes Bob and Peter, but stretches far beyond and into the isles of past icons the likes of Jacob Miller, Inner Circle, Dennis Brown, Third World, Jimmy Cliff, and Black Uhuru… the list certainly goes on.

Morgan Heritage remind their listeners that the work moving forward is not, nor will it ever be done. An ever-changing world provides new challenges, and needless to say, many of yesterday’s problems still remain far too prevalent today. But key is the road map their words in effect become, offering a guide to live better for your fellow woman and man. In the name of love and understanding.

I spoke with lead vocalist Peetah Morgan about the current state of reggae music, the important  messages Morgan Heritage sings about in their songs, and discussed reggae’s transformation into a global music genre.reggae in the park

Get advance tickets to see Morgan Heritage — plus Steel Pulse, Inner Circle, Matisyahu, Konshens and many more at Reggae in the Park 2014  @  The Mann Center in  Philadelphia! And stay tuned for more two.one.five exclusive interviews.  Follow: @215mag // @aran_hart

Two.One.Five Magazine | Morgan Heritage Exclusive Interview


ARAN HART: Why does Morgan Heritage feel it’s important to shine light on the founding figures of Roots Reggae music?

PEETAH: It is important for us to pay homage to the pioneers because they’ve been through the struggles that we are free from facing today. They broke down so many barriers. And that has allowed us to go into countries and places that they weren’t able to go because of the stigmatism that was upon Rastafarian and Dreadlock people, playing rebel music. We are now playing in places, on TV, and on radio stations that they never played on. It’s a great feeling for us to be doing this today as a tribute to recognize the hard labor of those who came before us.

ARAN HART: Is Roots Reggae music’s future in good hands?PEETAH: Roots Reggae music forever will be in good hands. It’s great now because it’s not just Jamaica. The music has become global. You have great reggae bands playing roots music from here in America, in Europe, Africa, Japan, and the South Pacific. We still have Jamaicans like Tarrus Riley and Morgan Heritage, Anthony B, Luciano, the list goes on. But it’s not just us anymore… it’s foreigners who have joined us as torchbearers of the music.

Photo credit bassweightsociety.com
Photo credit bassweightsociety.com

So our eyes are not just looking at what is coming out of Jamaica, we are also seeing what is coming out around the world. Bob Marley prophesized it many years ago — that reggae music is only going to become bigger and more global. Now we are seeing those words become reality. If you go onto iTunes, you’ll see that most of the top selling reggae music is not from today’s Jamaica — you still have the Wailers and Peter Tosh. We give thanks to the international bands like Rebolution, Soja, J-Boog, The Green, Lord Alajiman, and others who are carrying the torch because Reggae music is beyond borders. Reggae music is beyond color. Reggae music is beyond the islands.

Most reggae was created out of Jamaica and it was Jamaican artists who faced persecution to establish this music globally. But we are not fools to not understand where the music is today. We appreciate what each and every one is doing for the music. At the end of the day it’s not about people, it’s not about race, it’s about the music.

ARAN HART: You touch on many issues and have many messages in your songs… What is at the top of your list right now of issues you feel people can and/or should be fighting against/for?

PEETAHWe fight against racism number one. We fight against segregation and oppression. We fight against injustice. And we fight against sexism. And we fight for equal opportunity in the working world. For example, we have women now who are doing twice the work of a man and still only getting paid half as much. We are about equality and justice for all people. No matter your race, your color, your gender, or your creed. So we fight for women’s equality and rights. Without the women, we wouldn’t have the world that we have today. These things are important to us as a people and as a family. All people are respected for what they bring to the betterment of humanity.

In Jamaica right now, our communities are being hurt by gun-men, violence, and sadly enough we have a lot of young children who are being raped. These are things that we want to see eradicated from communities across the globe and are at the forefront of what we pay attention to. We need to educate our youth. We need to reach out to prepare the next generation who are coming up in the world today and will lead tomorrow. Everything is all about a better world. Everything we do and focus on — from relationships, to our social commentary, to spiritual awareness. The foundation of all of this is love.

ARAN HART: Including songs like “She’s Still Loving Me” and your latest single “Put it on Me,” Morgan Heritage is known to produce beautiful Lover’s Rock. Do you believe that pure love, kindness, and romance are the solutions to these issues you just mentioned?

PEETAHWithout love we have nothing. Love is the biggest foundation to everything we do in life. So, when we write songs about love and relationships, this is a form of consciousness. You have to be consciously aware to experience or share love with the ones that you love. You will always get that side of Morgan Heritage through our music. Just as much as you get social commentary or the spiritual awareness, you will always get love songs through lover’s rock music because it is a major part of life. Without love we wouldn’t be here. Our parents come together and make love to bring forth more love, which is life.

ARAN HART: How does it make you feel, having this opportunity to bring these messages to people’s awareness across the globe?

PEETAHI’m grateful and thankful everyday because it could have been anyone else. It didn’t have to be us. But we are aware that we have been chosen to do this. It’s fascinating to go to a foreign land, in front of people that speak a foreign language, and realize that the music talks, and brings so many people together. So it’s fascinating to see how through our music we are able to communicate and inspire so many people, globally. It’s a blessing and it gives us encouragement to continue doing what we are doing, because this is why we do it.

ARAN HART: Talk about the latest projects Morgan Heritage have been working on and what we all have to look forward to…

PEETAHIn addition to our own recently released single and video, Put it on Me — which is doing very well globally and we are very grateful for — we have been producing and song-writing a lot for other artists like J-Boog, Irie Love, and many others from Africa. It is a work in progress and we will continue to be song-writers and developers of new talent. Also, look out for our own project set for release next year. Plus, we have been working a lot with Gramps’ son, Jamere Morgan. Morgan Heritage has a lot more in store for you, yah mon.

Keep up with the Royal Family of Reggae:

Facebook // @morganheritageofficial // Morgan Heritage TV

Stay tuned for more exclusive features from Aran Hart and Two.One.Five Magazine:

Follow Aran Hart // Follow @215mag // aranhart.tumblr.com

Coffee Culture Series: Part I

More than ever, and sure to remain true moving forward, building a successful business has become increasingly tied to thinking sustainably. Though it can seem to just be a word or label placed on a product these days, there is no denying that this business model makes a difference on the bottom line; both for the business and for the planet.

The food and beverage industries are often on this cutting edge looking for ways to bring their market the best quality product using sustainable methods.

In Part 1 of our Coffee Culture Series focusing on coffee culture and sustainability, we look at Counter Culture Coffee’s “Sustainable Spring” initiative, which is free and open to the public. This month-long series of events is designed to educate, explore and raise awareness about sustainability and green living and will take place every Friday throughout March at 11:30am (following Counter Culture Coffee’s free, weekly public coffee cuppings at 10am).

During the month of March the following topics will be covered at Counter Culture’s Philadelphia Training Center (2149 Unit B Catharine St):

  • March 21 – CSA: what is it, why is it important? Casey Spacht of Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. Casey is an organic farmer and member of LFFC. He will be talking about the perks of Community Supported Agriculture.
  • March 28 – Pollinators: Not Just Bee Business. Paul Dangel. Beekeeper and insect expert Paul Dangel will introduce other key insects (and animals) which are important contributors to pollination and why they are important to our food system.

Founded in 1995, Counter Culture Coffee is the much-loved coffee roaster dedicated to finding and bringing to market the most exciting and delicious coffees in the world. The company’s vision is to pursue coffee perfection by creating partnerships dedicated to environmental, social, and fiscal sustainability throughout the coffee chain, improving the natural environment and operating efficiently to minimize environmental impact. Counter Culture has eight training centers across the country including locations in New York; Chicago; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Asheville, N.C.; Atlanta; and Durham, N.C., with a new training center and roastery set to open in Emeryville, CA, later this year. Served in some of the country’s top restaurants, Counter Culture Coffee is available in coffee shops, specialty grocers and online at counterculturecoffee.com.

Stay tuned coming up we will be talking to industry innovators, experts on sustainability, and visiting coffee shops for events like Latte Art Throwdowns happening in and around Philly.

Film Review: Europa Report

I often find myself cursing the found-footage genre of film making that has remained persistent ever since the initial (and deserved) success of “The Blair Witch Project.” However, every now and again a film will come by that reminds me if done right, the style still has merit. “Europa Report,” from writer Philip Gelatt and director Sebastian Cordero, is such a film. Blending elements of documentary and found-footage techniques, “Europa Report” keeps the approach fresh, intelligent and engaging.

The story is presented as a documentary recounting the events of a privately funded space exploration mission to one of the ice covered moons of Jupiter. The space ship, Europa One, is wired with a number of onboard and remote cameras to record the crews attempt to discover extraterrestrial life (the idea is that where there is water and heat, life is possible). The ‘big-brother’ style of documenting the events makes intellectual sense and allows the illusion to take hold. You are not left suffering from a shaky-cam induced headache, or wondering why people are still filming during a crisis. At no point do you wish the movie had been filmed in a more traditional format.  

Along their journey, the live feed from Europa One experiences technical difficulties, and in an attempt to fix the issue, the crew loses one of their own.

Although the cameras are still rolling, the crew is left with no way of communicating to earth and are forced to decide whether they should turn back or stay the course – survive and wonder what might have been, or die trying to find out?

Everything about the world Cordero crafts is convincing. And considering his low budget, it is frustrating to see larger films fail so magnificently (*cough* World War Z *cough*). From the sets to the dialogue and even some actual press footage of everyone’s favorite space nerd, Neil deGrasse Tyson, there is some actual science in this movie; which is good, especially if you like science in your science-fiction.

The cast, which includes Sharlto Copley (also starring as this summer’s most ruthless bad guy Kruger in Elysium), give strong performances all around. You are able to connect with them as human beings struggling to choose between their passion for science and their innate desire for self-preservation.

Casting shadows of Stanley Kubrick’s masterwork “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Europa Report” is a thrilling and convincing science-fiction thriller. Capitalizing on wonderful acting, writing and directing, the film manages to do what so many big-budget films can’t these days: surprise us.   

“Europa Report” opens today at the Ritz Bourse Theater. 

Film Review: V/H/S/2

Following up “V/H/S,” last year’s passable entry into the indi horror market, this year’s sequel, “V/H/S/2,” maintains the found-footage anthology style that managed to bring a level of novelty to a technique that has been beaten to death since 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project.”

There is not much by way of a general plot: two private detectives are hired to search for a missing college student. During their investigation, the pair enters an abandoned house filled with a slew of video cassette tapes. Assuming there might be evidence on the cassettes; they view the ambiguously labeled films and come to realize something more sinister is at play. 

That’s basically it. The ‘investigation’ is used as a vehicle to spotlight four individual horror vignettes. All of the short films are, essentially, watchable. However, like every box of chocolates, some pieces are better than others.

The first short we are introduced to, “Phase 1 Clinical Trials,” chronicles the post-surgery recovery of the recipient of a robotic eye. As Herman (director Adam Wingard) adjusts to his new prosthetic, he begins to, well, see dead people. Fortunately for Herman, a fellow implantee (Hannah Hughes) arrives to teach him how to control the visions. Unfortunately for Herman, she also brings along her own poltergeists.

In the next tape, “Blair Witch” writer and director, Eduardo Sanchez, returns to try and breathe some life in the overrun zombie genre with “A Ride in the Park.” This story finds us peering out the helmet cam of an unsuspecting bicyclist as his delightful morning ride turns into a zombie apocalypse. Not much here by way of originality, but there are a few clever visual tricks worthy of a gander.

Tradition has us usually save the best for last. However, in this case best falls third with, “Safe Haven.” What could (and should) be developed as a stand-alone feature film, Haven has us follow a TV crew as they are invited into an Indonesian compound to interview the leader of an uber-secret cult. As the crew slowly uncovers the unsettling natural horrors of the cult, all too soon the unnatural horrors start to reveal themselves as well. “Safe Haven” is a nightmarish ride worth seeing.

The fourth and final tape brings us to “Slumber Party Alien Abduction.” Like the title would lead you to believe, this is about an alien abduction at a slumber party. The immature, adolescent interaction of the young cast provides for a minor laugh or two, but the film itself fails. With camera techniques that are close to seizure inducing, there is not much here worth staying around for.

V/H/S/2 opens this Friday at the Ritz Bourse theater.


Film Review: The Lords of Salem

With his 6th and latest cinematic entry, “The Lords of Salem,” it is clear that Rob Zombie is trying to establish himself as one of America’s premier horror directors. Unfortunately though, Zombie’s only accomplishment with Lords is an illustration of how a deep love for a genre does not necessarily translate to a positive contribution to it (for an additional example, see Roger Ebert’s 1970 catastrophe, “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”).

As also the films Writer, Zombie should be applauded for moving into an intriguing subject area that allows him to touch on themes in sexuality, religion and the occult; namely, the Salem witch trials. And unlike his previous films that employed sound and fury for effect, Lords provides a subtle, supernatural tale of possession and revenge.

The film begins in 1696 with a coven of witches (led by Meg Foster) being condemned to death by the Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne (Andrew Pine). After watching the coven burn in the woods surrounding Salem, MA, we are then transported back to the modern day version of that very town and introduced to Heidi Hawthorn (Sheri Moon Zombie), the distant relative of the murderous reverend. As the host of a local death metal and occult radio show, Heidi receives a record from an unknown band called the Lords. After playing the record on-air, a number of the town’s female residents, including Heidi, seem to fall under a strange spell. As time passes, Heidi falls deeper under the control of the spell and it becomes apparent that something dark has returned to Salem to exact revenge.  

The premise of the film is not what hurts it; it’s the execution. For starters, had Zombie cast an actual actor instead of his wife, his directorial fumbles may not have been as noticeable. Instead, we are left with an insufficient lead actor hacking her way through mostly derivative plot devices. Additional problems include that fact that, although the film is rich with atmosphere, it is entirely absent of any actual scares. And even in moments that could have provided at least a jump or two, the special effects render the scene laughable.

Zombie should not be criticized for trying to attempt something new. However, as we all know, newer does not always mean better (have you seen Scary Movie 5?). His screenplay is filled with as much promise as it is pitfalls. Zombie would be wise to engage in a critical self-inventory as a director, and surround himself with talented people that can help him learn how to create in a genre that he clearly adores. (Oh, and stop casting your wife.)


“The Lords of Salem” is currently playing at the UA Riverview Plaza Stadium.  

Accessories To Die For: Philly Fashion Week 2013


By Jenna Tripke; photography by Sarah Winn

Designer Jaclyn English of Game Jewelry
Designer Jaclyn English of Game Jewelry

Every year, designers and fashionistas city-wide congregate for a weekend full of colorful jewelry, clothing and couture. Philadelphia has steadily been making its mark as a fashion-conscious city with its eclectic mix of the avant garde and the wearable. This year, dozens of designers showed off their wares, culminating in three extravagant fashion shows during the last weekend in February.

Philadelphia Fashion Week 2013 kicked off to a glamorous start at the Crane Arts Building in Northern Liberties with its Accessories show, featuring an array of Philadelphia accessories designers.

Designer Jermaine Pratt of J.Pratt Footwear
Designer Jermaine Pratt of J.Pratt Footwear

From the delicate to the funky, there was something for everyone, including Eco-conscious jewelry from Kevin Molnar Designs and blinged-out shoes from designer Jermaine Pratt. Philadelphia’s finest gathered to shop, socialize, and admire the various forms of wearable art.


Four Corners at Design Philadelphia

Four Corners: Design from Philly Surrounds

A Highlight from Design Philadelphia


Four Corners: Design from Philly Surrounds, an exhibit by Caroline Tiger and Royce Epstein for Design Philadelphia, is all that the title encompasses. Tiger and Epstein focused intently on works from and around the Philadelphia area to create Four Corners, a purposefully designed lived in loft space with furniture, toys, art, and electronics all made locally. The objects range from a table by renown craftsman George Nakashima, who once lived and worked in New Hope, PA, to re-purposed items, such as a chair made of used skateboards by Philadelphia artist Toby McQueston.


Other re-purposed objects in the show include Farmhaus’ Ben McBrien’s work, who considers his own style a study of ‘castoffs and rejects’, worthless console. Some of the objects are appearing in Philadelphia for the first time in over half a century. Anne Tyng, a Philadelphia architect, designed the Tyng Toy, a group of modular building sets, in 1947. Some one familiar to Philadelphia craft and design heritage is Amuneal’s second-generation owner Adam Kamens. Originally, a manufacturer of military equipment Kamens has turned transformed the business into customized commercial and residential work as well as furniture manufacturing. The vitrine from Amuneal in the loft recreation that is Four Corners, while made recently, recalls late 1800’s Philadelphia museum culture.


Much like contemporary Philadelphia itself, the loft consists of the new and the old, but all particular to the design inspirations of the geographical area. “What is the design at this time in Philadelphia?” Tiger uses this question as a reference point for the show, and she is hoping people will look at the loft and think that same question themselves. She and Epstein see the loft space as telling a story that encompasses Philadelphia Design, the craft, the heritage, the combination of the contemporary with the classic. The women found this all over Philadelphia as they planned the show, meeting at a different area coffee shop every few weeks and delving into the design specific to those shops. Philadelphia design, they found, truly surrounded them.



Four Corners: Design from Philly Surrounds

Above Minima Gallery

118 N 3rd Street, Philadelphia


Opening Party:

Friday October 12, 2012 6-9 PM


October 10-20 2012, open daily 11 AM– 6 PM


Panel Discussion Saturday October 13th, 2-3 PM

Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

116 N 3rd Street, Philadelphia


Film Review: Argo

Dir. Ben Affleck
Score: 7.3

About the only way a yarn as good as the true story of the freeing of the six Americans holed up in the Canadian embassy amid the Iranian uprising back in 1980 could be completely unheard of is if it had been classified by the C.I.A. Which is precisely what it was, up until 1997, when then President Clinton finally declassified it, allowing the amazing truth to come out.

The only truly surprising thing, then, is how long the story took to get made into a Hollywood prestige picture. It pretty much has everything you’d want in an international thriller — intrigue, danger, a cockamamie plan that very nearly goes belly up, an American hero of an intelligence officer, and, best of all, a chance to give props to the Hollywood machine itself, even as it tweaks the inanity of the movie making industry along the way.

Ben Affleck wouldn’t seem the most automatic choice to helm this production, either. True, he’d made two pretty well-regarded features previously (Gone Daddy Gone and the vastly superior The Town), but they’d been based in his Boston-area comfort zone and had suggested precious little of a world outside that clam chowder cocoon. But I’m here to say Affleck has done this amazing story proud and come out with a crowd-pleasing, nervy thriller that will absolutely have something to say come award season.

After the U.S. Embassy was swarmed over back in ’79 — a response to America’s shameful extradition of the Shah, who fled his country after the uprising — there was pretty much chaos in the building, with foreign service officials frantically trying to destroy classified documents in the last few minutes they had, and people scrambling to safety. The only people to actually escape, however, were six officials who thought to sneak out a back door and look for safety amongst the other embassies in the area. The only embassy to heed their call was Canada, whose ambassador (Victor Garber) and his wife (Page Leong) were pivotal to the Americans’ survival.

The six Americans — played by Tate Donovan, Rory Cochrane, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Joe Stafford, Christopher Denham and Kerry Bishé, respectively — were then unable to leave their little bunker for fear of being recognized. It was only a matter of time before the Iranians discovered a discrepancy in the number of people in the office accounted for. Working then with very little time, Tony Mendez (Affleck) a C.I.A. agent expert on “exfils” hatches a complicated scheme that calls for the six to pretend to be a film crew, on location in Iran to shoot a Star Wars ripoff sci-fi flick, called, you might have guessed, “Argo.”

Before he can get to Iran to pull off his caper, however, he has to travel to L.A. and enlist the aid of a couple of movie industry veterans, John Chambers (John Goodman) an award-winning monster prosthetics artist, and Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), a fast talking Hollywood producer whose best years, it was thought, were behind him. Together, the three men produce a script, movie poster, storyboards and even a little buzz from Variety to authenticate the experience. So armed, Mendez heads to Iran to try and convince his group of prisoners to believe in him enough to pull the scheme together in just several days.

What director Affleck has done is slip past much of the laboriousness of the mission, including the depth of politics involved, and cut right to the suspense thriller aspect of the predicament. Once on the ground in Tehran, the tension continues to mount, and the Americans attempted escape in the airport — with multiple parallel elements, including Iranian security officials finally identifying the missing hostages and U.S. government officials frantically trying to re-engage the operation after it had been deemed too dangerous and shut down — plays like a well-tuned orchestra of tension. Each jangling phone or grinding bus gear only adds to the nerve-wracking anxiety, a point Affleck seems almost gleeful to exploit. He also gets a lot of mileage out of the late-’70s era soundtrack (“When the Levee Broke,” being just one prime example) on top of Alexandre Desplat’s taut Middle-Eastern-tinged score.

If the final product is, perhaps, a bit too light on its feet — so much of the politics are left unexplored in favor of the orchestrated exposition — and too quick to glad-hand all comers rather than explore even tangentially the real roots of the uprising, it is, at least a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners thriller, the likes of which real Hollywood stopped churning out shortly after the era this film explores.

More impressively, Affleck shows a good deal of restraint, intentionally downplaying his own character to better set up everyone one else. Mendez, with his Kris Kristofferson beard, his estranged wife, and his penchant for fast food and cigarettes could have been much larger than life, but Affleck wisely keeps him mostly to the sidelines of the twisty narrative, guiding it without taking a lot of center space. Goodman and Arkin, by contrast, have an enormous amount of fun chewing up their scenes together and spouting lines such as “You can teach a rhesus monkey to be a director in a day.” While that might well be true, even an extremely seasoned and well-learned monkey would have had difficulty putting together a thriller as distinct and sharp-edged as this one.