Photo by Michele K. Short / Universal Pictures

For the majority of vampire movies, there are two ways to go: scary or funny. Having a blood-sucking monster as the villain makes "scary" the natural option, but plenty of filmmakers have had fun with the subgenre, including Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk till Dawn), Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), and more.

The new film Renfield leans hard into the latter path, but the filmmakers don’t stick with comedy all the way through. The film also has a misplaced confidence that doesn’t always serve it well.

Renfield is named not after a vampire, but a man (Nicholas Hoult) who has been a longtime grudging assistant to Dracula (Nicolas Cage). But procuring victims for the Prince of Darkness is not exactly a fulfilling job, and Renfield turns to support groups for help.

Run-ins with police officer Rebecca (Awkwafina) and Tedward Lobo (Ben Schwartz), son of mob boss Bellafrancesca (Shohreh Aghdashloo), offer a chance at separation, but not without pushback from Dracula. Through a series of orgies of bloodshed, Renfield and Rebecca take on all-comers, with Dracula waiting in a final showdown.

Directed by Chris McKay and written by Ryan Ridley based on an original idea from The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman, the film is similar to the recent Cocaine Bear in that it derives a lot of its laughs from its graphic violence. There is no pretense to any of the carnage; almost every kill is accompanied by an explosion of blood, as if human skin was merely a thin balloon that gushes forth a flood of gore when opened in the right (vicious) way.

The effect of that style works well when it’s used, although the lack of variety makes for diminishing returns. It’s when the filmmakers are dealing with any other part of the story that they fumble the ball. Much is made of the mob side of the story with little effort put forth to actually make those characters interesting. And the juxtaposition of comedy and over-the-top action scenes makes for a somewhat jarring experience.

Cage is great casting as Dracula, and when he’s allowed to let loose, it’s entertaining, but they don’t go to him as often as you might think. Hoult puts on a similar demeanor as he did as a zombie in Warm Bodies, and he’s very enjoyable when he’s not involved in fight scenes. Awkwafina, Schwartz, and Aghdashloo all seem a little miscast in their respective roles.

Nicholas Hoult in Renfield

Photo by Michele K. Short / Universal Pictures

Nicholas Hoult in Renfield

Renfield is one of those films where the wild moments overshadow the fact that it doesn’t really have much else going for it. The rivers of blood that are unleashed are great for shock value, but the film as a whole is as empty as the bodies left behind.


Renfield opens in theaters on April 14.

Photo by John Medina/Getty Images

Taylor Swift shines brightly in first of three sold-out shows in Arlington

Concert Review

Friday night, pop megastar Taylor Swift brought the first of three sold out nights to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, delivering a three-hour show that artfully spanned highlights of her illustrious career.

Called the "Eras Tour," it's part of a U.S. tour that began in March and extends through August and serves as a career retrospective, featuring tracks pulled from key albums including Lover, Fearless, and Evermore.

Swift is only 33, but already has 10 albums under her belt, and has explored a variety of genres, from country to pop to indie. The show displayed her evolution as an artist, demonstrating how she has matured from teen pop star to seasoned performer able to connect with a wide demographic.

Every performer has fans but a Taylor Swift show is on another level: Virtually every one of the 70,000 people in attendance at AT&T seemed to know every song and every lyric. The audience was probably 80 percent women, lending a subtly empowering aspect. (I had seats on the floor and counted a total of 10 guys in my section, which had about 60-80 seats.)

The show was impressively staged. After openers Muna and Gayle had completed their sets, Swift's entrance was preceded by the image of a countdown clock, ticking down, setting off a wave of raucous screams.

The show cycled through albums, with Swift performing a few tracks from each, though not necessarily in chronological order. It was almost like a series of well-orchestrated mood swings, from fast-paced dance hits to the more subdued music of her 2020 album Folklore.

In between albums, the show would pause for mini-interludes, oftentimes with a video, serving as a transition and giving the stage crew time to quickly usher in a new set of props, many quite elaborate.

For example, the Folklore segment featured a quaint moss-covered A-frame house, complete with a chimney wafting smoke, as she crooned to the tour debut of her hit "The 1."

Taylor Swift 3-31-2023Set piece from Taylor Swift show at AT&T Stadium in ArlingtonGeoff Keah

During her Evermore set, a background video showed a dark, moonlit forest adorned with dark green trees reaching into the sky. Black-cloaked dancers emerged, slowly swinging glowing orange orbs as Swift crooned the haunting lyrics to her hit "Willow."

That segued into her Reputation album, summoning the fast-paced energy reminiscent of her 2018 tour, as she kicked it off with the rambunctious hit "…Ready For It?"

She also played the 10-minute version of "All Too Well" from the Red album, a song that was originally five minutes long but which she re-recorded in her effort to regain control of her music after her back catalog was sold behind her back.

Setlists for this tour are being posted hours after each performance, including shows in Arizona and Las Vegas, a fact that Swift playfully acknowledged.

“You think you can just scroll the setlist? You think you can just come prepared? Let it be said about The Eras Tour … there’s hijinks,” she said, before offering surprise acoustic renditions of "Sad Beautiful Tragic" and "Ours."

The final half hour closed out with hits from her latest album Midnights, including “Lavender Haze” and “Anti-Hero." There wasn't an encore, but after a sprawling three-hour set that never flagged, it wasn't needed or missed.

Leading up to the weekend, there were gloomy reports anticipating traffic issues, but many fans arrived early and entrance to the venue went smoothly with virtually no lines even an hour prior to the show.

She'll be in Arlington for two more nights, on April 1 and 2.

Taylor Swift
Photo by John Medina/Getty Images
Taylor Swift, seen here peforming in Arizona on March 17.
Copyright 8 Ten, Inc.

Concert review: Garth Brooks thanks DFW at AT&T Stadium show in Arlington

Concert review

Seven years after his last area appearance, country singer Garth Brooks returned to North Texas on July 30, performing an electrifying two-hour concert that was as much a raucous, career-spanning show as it was a thank-you letter to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

In each city on Brooks' current Stadium Tour, the 60-year-old singer has paid tribute to one or more of his musical heroes, making no two shows the same. In Charlotte, NC, he played several James Taylor and Randy Travis songs. Salt Lake City was treated to three Keith Whitley covers. Birmingham got four Lynyrd Skynyrd songs.

On Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Brooks paid tribute to another entity that helped shape his career: Dallas-Fort Worth. In between nearly every song, Brooks reminded the sold-out crowd of about 90,000 of the instrumental role North Texas has played in his 40-year career.

"This is where we all started," he said multiple times, name-checking local bars and clubs, such as Cowboys and Borrowed Money, where he got his start in the late 1980s. "We lived here for the first two years of our careers."

He reminisced about past shows at American Airlines Center, the old Reunion Arena, and the now-gone Texas Stadium, where he played a string of special effects-laden shows in 1993.

Saturday's show put a clear focus on the music. Brooks' theatrical entrance — emerging on a platform beneath a rising drum kit — were about the show's only bells and whistles. Four large video screens, one on each side of the in-the-round stage, made sure every seat was a good one.

Following a short set by his wife, Trisha Yearwood, Brooks — dressed in a western shirt, Wranglers, boots, and cowboy hat — took the stage a little after 9:30 pm.

Backed by his longtime band, he opened with a triplet of boisterous, bar-room audience favorites — "All Day Long," "Rodeo," and "Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House" — that set the tone of the show.

"We brought ALL the old stuff," he said before launching into "The Beaches of Cheyenne," a cut from his third album, 1995's Fresh Horses.

During classics such as "Papa Loved Mama," "That Summer," and his cover of Billy Joel's "Shameless," Brooks roamed and ran across the stage like a 20-year-old, waving and pointing to fans, reading their signs aloud and, in one instance, wishing someone a happy birthday. By the middle of the show, he'd worked up such a sweat, his purple shirt appeared black.

At times the show seemed meticulously choreographed, as during "Standing Outside the Fire," when video screens lit up with images of smoke and flames. Other times, it felt refreshingly casual: During the acoustic "Unanswered Prayers," most of the band sat down on the stage and talked to one another while Brooks performed.

Later, Brooks strummed through acoustic versions of "The Red Strokes" and "We Shall Be Free" — requests he spontaneously plucked from the audience.

Throughout the show, Brooks wore his humility on his sleeve, introducing each member of his band, many of whom have been with him since 1988, along with his crew. Yearwood was given the I-love-you treatment from Brooks: The two shared a duet, a cover of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow," and an on-stage kiss.

The show was punctuated by a few guest appearances. Burleson native April Beck – a friend of Kelly Clarkson — joined the band for several songs, as did members of the G-Men, a group of Nashville studio musicians Brooks has worked with since he began his recording career but who've seldom performed live with him.

The G-Men were responsible for the show's most unforgettable moments. When Brooks introduced fiddle player Rob Hajacos, telling him to look at the audience he’d helped build, Hajacos became visibly choked up. Later, G-Men guitarist Mark Casstevens, a Fort Worth native, innocently shuffled about the stage before playing the first four notes of "Friends in Low Places," steering the band into a rambunctious highlight of the show.

Before the song ended, Brooks revealed to the audience that the song's seldom-heard third verse was written in — where else? — Dallas.

Video screens surrounded the in-the-round stage.

Garth Brooks concert
Copyright 8 Ten, Inc.
Video screens surrounded the in-the-round stage.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Hamilton cast satisfies Fort Worth audiences with nonstop energy

Theater review

At this point in the history of the Broadway juggernaut Hamilton, anyone who has had a desire to see it has been afforded many opportunities. If it wasn’t at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York, where it’s still running more than six years after its debut, or during one of its multiple national tours, it was on Disney+, where anyone can watch a (fantastic) recording of the original cast performing in 2016.

That easy streaming accessibility is a double-edged sword for anyone now performing the show. On one hand, it maintains the high interest in the production, as the continued sell-out crowds attest. But it also invites unfair comparisons to the original performers, whose takes on the roles have become ingrained in the minds of many fans.

Based on the performances on display from the Angelica cast, the national tour appearing at Bass Performance Hall through February 6, the current actors have found a way to make their roles their own while staying true to the story fans know and love.

Edred Utomi stars as Alexander Hamilton, bringing an ebullience and energy to the role, typified by two extremely high hops while performing the early show-stopper “My Shot.” His performance seems to bring out the best in the rest of the cast.

On this night, understudy Kameron Richardson replaced Josh Tower as Aaron Burr, but his confidence and mellifluous voice made it seem as if he was always the star. Likewise, John Devereaux moved from the ensemble to the critical part of George Washington (replacing Paul Oakley Stovall), appearing as if he had inhabited the role for years.

Naturally, much of this has to do with the genre-spanning songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda. He managed to find just the right way to combine the early history of the United States with the personal lives of those involved, bringing both to vivid life.

While songs like “Yorktown,” “Non-Stop,” and “The Room Where It Happens” make the military/government aspects of the story fantastically interesting, it’s female-fronted songs like “Satisfied,” “Burn,” and “Finale” that bring the big emotions to make the story fully connect. Stephanie Umoh as Angelica and Zoe Jensen as Eliza hit those moments as effectively as any previous actresses playing the characters.

While the songs get the most attention, what really makes them pop are the precise movements of everyone onstage by choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and director Thomas Kail. The choreography is often so mesmerizing that it’s equally as entertaining watching the ensemble as it is watching the main players in any particular scene. That’s especially true when characters add in extra dance moves designed to draw laughter from the audience — small but effective touches that elevate an already-entertaining show.

As always, the cast is comprised of actors of multiple races and nationalities, including Utomi (Nigerian), Jon Viktor Corpuz (Filipino), and David Park (Korean), giving even greater meaning to the “Immigrants … we get the job done” line in “Yorktown.” A fact that’s neither here nor there, other than the visuals they provide, is the generally short stature of the cast. Corpuz, Richardson, and Jensen are notably smaller than their castmates, but the size difference is no impediment to their powerful performances.

Exactly seven years after Hamilton was first performed Off-Broadway (January 20, 2015), the musical remains as impactful and compelling as it ever was. Billed as “the story of America then, told by America now,” it’s a wholly original text that offers representation, thrills, heartbreak, and some of the best music a Broadway show has ever put forth.

Photo courtesy of Visit Houston

Major Texas airport flies high as best and cleanest in the U.S.

Soaring to new heights

Travel can be tenuous of late, and choosing a good airport for a layover or plane change can be more important than ever. Both airports in one major Texas city have just landed high honors on a prestigious global ranking.

Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport is the No.1 airport in the U.S., according to the Skytrax 2021 World Airport Awards, specifically in the World’s Top 100 Airports category.

Bush also ranks as the cleanest airport in the nation. Bush scored second-best airport in North America, achieving both honors for the second consecutive year. Soaring six spots this year, Bush now ranks No. 25 among the top 100 world airports on this list.

IAH also finished fourth in the rankings for Best U.S. Airport Staff, according to a press release.

Meanwhile, Houston's Hobby Airport received several accolades as well, including the most improved airport in the U.S. The bustling Southwest Airlines hub also ranked third in the Best Regional Airports in North America category.

Hobby ranked 49th in the Top 100 Best World Airports category — up from 67th in 2020, per a release. Additionally, Hobby ranked tenth in the Cleanest Airports - North America category.

Notably, Houston is the only U.S. city to have two airports in the Best Airports in North America and Cleanest Airports categories.

Neither D-FW Airport nor Dallas Love Field made the list.

To generate the annual rankings, the Skytrax World Airport Awards rankings analyze the annual airport customer survey for the Passenger’s Choice Awards, conducted from August 2020 until July 2021. Many travelers voted for their favorite and/or best airport based on pre-pandemic travel experiences, while other customers voted after their COVID-19 airport experience during the past 12 months, a release notes.

Photo courtesy of Jubilee Theatre

Poignant Southern Boys soars as Jubilee Theatre's first Bass Hall show

Theater Review

In its first production at Bass Hall, Jubilee Theatre is making full use of the venue's big, gorgeous stage. Southern Boys: Sons of Sharecroppers may only have a single set, but it's beautifully filled with a talented cast, poignant story, and effective choreography.

Written by Kathy D. Harrison and directed by Jubilee's artistic director D. Wambui Richardson, Southern Boys focuses on a group of recently emancipated men and women in the post-slavery era who find themselves only able to make a living doing what they — or their parents — were once forced to do: pick cotton.

While the headstrong young Johnny (Jonah Munroe) dreams of hopping a train to find a better life in the north, academic-minded Titus (Dameron Growe) secretly teaches his friends how to read and write. Leader Malachi (Nijel Smith) keeps everyone on task, except for the perpetually on-break Otis (Davian Johnson).

Honey (Kris Black Jasper) is the group's matriarch and sets an example for Delilah (L'Paige Bedford), whom Johnny would like to whisk away to Chicacgo but who's content to stay on the plantation.

The story is punctuated with a mix of gospel, blues, country, and traditional musical theater tunes, all led by a skilled onstage trio comprised of music director Steven A. Taylor, Josh Willis, and Jason Bell.

Quintin Jones' choreography is simple and stylized, conveying longing, tedium, frustration, and hope with just a perfunctory march or an outstretched arm.

Lush lighting from Nikki DeShea Smith complements Allen Dean's set of the cotton field, anchored by a ramshackle lean-to that cleverly holds props.

Though Harrison recently wrote the show — it was a Best Musical nominee at the 2020 New York Theatre Festival — it's still incredibly relevant.

In fact, teacher and activist Opal Lee was in attendance for the performance I reviewed, receiving a standing ovation from the audience for her tireless work in getting Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday. A reminder that history isn't so far away, especially if we remember it through art.


Jubilee Theatre's production of Southern Boys: Sons of Sharecroppersruns at Bass Hall through August 15.

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'Yellowstone' stars to greet fans at Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

Yellowstone news

Yellowstone fans, get your comfy shoes ready - there'll be a long line for this one. Cole Hauser a.k.a. "Rip Wheeler" on Yellowstone, and Taylor Sheridan, the show's co-creator, executive producer, and director of the series, will meet fans and sign autographs at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

The event will take place from 4:30-6:30 pm only on Friday, February 3. Location is the 6666 Ranch booth near the south end of Aisle 700 in the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibits Hall.

According to a February 2 announcement from FWSSR, "fans will have the opportunity to snag an autograph as well as purchase some distinctive Yellowstone and 6666 Ranch merchandise while also enjoying all the features the Stock Show offers."

The event is free to attend (with paid Stock Show admission) and open to the public.

It's the second year in a row for Hauser to appear at FWSSR; in 2022, he and fellow cast mates drew huge crowds.

Sheridan, a Paschal High School graduate, is no stranger to Fort Worth; he lives in a ranch near Weatherford and filmed 1883, the prequel to Yellowstone, in and around Fort Worth. Currently, another spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, is filming in North Texas.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is winding up its 2023 run on Saturday, February 4.

New brunch cafe cracks top spot in this week's 5 most-read Fort Worth stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. New cafe in North Fort Worth does eggtastic breakfast, brunch, and lunch. There's an exciting new restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and brunch in Fort Worth's Alliance Town Center: Called Eggtastic Brunch Cafe, it's located at 9160 North Fwy. #452, in the same shopping center as Sam Moon, where it opened in mid-April and is already drawing raves from locals for its hearty and well-made dishes, doting service, and cheerful bright atmosphere.

2. Fort Worth chef Tim Love cooks up collection of premium jeans and accessories. Fort Worth chef Tim Love’s next project trades chef’s whites for blue jeans: Love Collection, his debut line of premium women's and men's apparel and accessories, launched Friday, May 19 online and at one of Love’s properties in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

3. Burleson's Jellystone Park unlocks grain bin cabins, covered wagons, and tipis for summer glamping. Ahead of the busy summer travel season, the North Texas Jellystone Park in Burleson has added a few of the coolest new "glamping" accommodations in Texas. Furnished tipis, covered wagons, and grain bin cabins opened to guests on May 19.

4. New lagoon-waterpark with lazy river dives into Dallas-Fort Worth. A long-awaited waterpark in Cedar Hill is debuting Memorial Day weekend with two of Texas' favorite splashy attractions: a lagoon and lazy river. The Lagoon at Virginia Weaver Park will open Saturday, May 27 after more than a year in development.

5. Action-packed Fast X drives home the ridiculousness of series' premise. Believe it or not, we are now over 20 years into the existence of the Fast & the Furious franchise, evolving from a street-racing story to one that could be compared to the Mission: Impossible and James Bond series. Our critic reviews the latest entry, Fast X.

Fort Worth Symphony launches summer concerts with sparkly extra: drones

Fireworks News

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra returns in 2023 with its annual summer concert series, Concerts in The Garden, featuring 11 concerts taking place at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, starting May 26 and running through June 11.

This year's lineup includes tributes to the Beatles, the Eagles, and Led Zeppelin, as well as nights featuring cinematic themes such as Harry Potter and Star Wars.

But the coolest part of the 2023 series might be the light show: For the first time, they're replacing old-school fireworks with the use of cutting-edge drones.

Drones are an innovative technology that creates stunning night-sky displays using LED lights. The practice of using drones to create light shows has only been around a few years, but has been used in high-profile Olympics ceremonies as well as by the city of Dallas, who added drones as an enhancement to its 2022 New Year's Eve fireworks display.

They're an up-and-comer with many benefits, both practically and aesthetically, says FWSO VP of operations John Clapp, including avoiding the potential to start fires, as Fort Worth endured on July 4, 2022 when a fireworks show at Panther Island Pavilion started a grass fire and the event had to be shut down.

"The Botanic Garden has a lot of grass, trees, and other landscaping that could pose an issue if fireworks were to go astray," Clapp says. "Parts of Texas are so dry and fires are not uncommon. This seems like a safer option."

"It also reduces the impact on homes and residences in the area - we don’t need that noise late at night and drones don’t have that problem," he says.

"We’re doing all kinds of enhancements to our indoor concerts, and we thought, why not do something with our outdoor concerts, too?" he says.

The company helping the FWSO with its programming is headquartered in North Richland Hills: Called Sky Elements, they're risen to become the top name in drone shows, flying all over the country, from Seattle to Key West to the Santa Monica Pier in California, where they'll be headed for Memorial Day.

The company employs a team of 3D animation specialists who can create displays with customized themes, says VP of development Rick Boss.

"That's one of the fun things about the Symphony's program, it has multiple unique themes like Star Wars, which is quite fun, like putting together pieces of a puzzle," Boss says.

Sky Elements started out as a pyrotechnics company, and they still do fireworks, but they're shifting all of their resources to drones, and can't keep up with demand.

From a practical standpoint, drones surpass fireworks because there's no risk of fire, and they're silent. Noise from fireworks is extremely harmful to people with PTSD as well as to wildlife and pets who get spooked and run in fear; the worst days of the year for animal shelters are July 4 and New Year's Eve.

Drones have also come down in cost to be about the same as fireworks, which have become more expensive in recent years.

The duration of a drone show is 10-15 minutes and is dependent on the drones' battery life. You measure the splendor of a drone show by how many drones. Ross says they've done shows with up to 1,000 drones; their shows for the Concerts in the Garden will deploy approximately 100 drones.

"It's a nice size, and most people haven't seen this before, so it will be a fun one," he says. "I get such a kick out of seeing the joy it brings to people."

Beyond the pragmatic element, drones also offer a more nimble and expansive palette, allowing designers to create designs and displays that fireworks cannot, says the FWSO's Clapp.

"Fireworks kind of spread out and do what they do," he says. "Pattern-wise, it's nice to look at, but the drone shows are artistically fantastic, with images that animate and move into 3D. They let you tell a story."