Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 2/26/21

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Tom & Jerry (CREDIT: Warner Bros/YouTube Screenshot)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Movies
The Father (Theaters) – Olivia Colman plays Anthony Hopkins’ father
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run (March 4 on Paramount+) – This is the day CBS All Access rebrands as Paramount+.
Tom & Jerry (Theaters and HBO Max) – Colin Jost in the Wedding of the Century!
The Vigil (Theaters and On Demand)

TV
RuPaul’s Drag Race: Corona Can’t Keep a Good Queen Down (February 26 on VH1)
-78th Golden Globe Awards (February 28 on NBC)

Music
-Alice Cooper, Detroit Stories – Loved him on The Muppet Show; glad to see he’s still making music.

‘Night of the Kings’ is a Visually Captivating Piece of Storytelling Emanating From a Prison in Côte d’Ivoire

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Night of the Kings (Courtesy of NEON)

Starring: Koné Bakary, Steve Tientcheu, Rasmané Ouédraogo, Issaka Sawadogo, Denis Lavant

Director: Phillipe Lacôte

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: R for A Bit of Nudity and a Fairly Violent Prison Milieu

Release Date: February 26, 2021 (Theaters)/March 5, 2021 (On Demand)

I recently had the pleasure of watching Night of the Kings, Côte d’Ivoire’s official entry for Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. If you’re familiar with classic international literature, it will probably strike you as it struck me, i.e., as a modern Ivorian version of the Arabian Nights. The setting is the notorious MACA Prison, which is essentially run by the inmates. A new prisoner who is dubbed “Roman” (Koné Bakary) finds himself thrust into the worst of it, as he is forced to tell a story over the course of the night, and if his fellow inmates don’t like what he’s offering, the penalty is death.

Luckily for Roman, he is able to summon his inner Scherherazade without too much fuss. And luckily for us, director Phillipe Lacôte has the requisite visual craftsmanship to match his main character’s imagination. There aren’t too many other movies nowadays that feature a woman dancing in a way that turns an elephant into a hawk, after all. As a lifelong American resident who only gets bits and pieces of African news, I don’t know much about the culture of Côte d’Ivoire, and I imagine that Night of the Kings represents only a very small piece of that culture anyway. But I think it offers a fine opportunity to take your first bite to discover what Ivorian cinema is all about. Much like the MACA inmates, I found it compelling because of the enduring, worldwide appeal of just listening to someone tell a story. On a narrative and thematic level, I’m not entirely sure how to best explain Night of the Kings, but on an emotional level, I can say with confidence that it felt just right and just so.

Night of the Kings is Recommended If You Like: City of God, Framing devices of characters telling a story, Giving a chance to movies from countries you know very little about

Grade: 3.5 of 5 Microbes

‘The Vigil’ Puts a Hasidic Spin on Supernatural Horror

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The Vigil (CREDIT: IFC Midnight)

Starring: Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig, Lynn Cohen, Malky Goldman, Fred Melamed

Director: Keith Thomas

Running Time: 89 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Creepy Creatures Who Have No Concerns About People’s Mental Health

Release Date: February 26, 2021 (Theaters and On Demand)

The Vigil is the sort of movie that tells you exactly as much setup information as you need to know in case you’re not a member of the community where it takes place. I would pitch it as a sort of Orthodox Jewish spin on The Babadook, with a few elements of The Grudge thrown in as well. At the heart of the film is the role of a “shomer,” a person who fulfills the task of looking over the body of a recently deceased person until it’s buried. Typically, this is performed by a family member, but in cases where that’s not an option, there can be shomers hired from outside the family. That’s where Yakov Ronen’s (Dave Davis) story begins when his old rabbi (Menashe Lustig) shows up asking for a favor.

Yakov used to be a member of the Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood, but he’s recently opted for a less rigidly religious existence. But the community isn’t quite done with him, particularly in the form of Rabbi Reb Shulem, who offers him a few hundred bucks to be the shomer until dawn for an old man named Mr. Litvak whose widow (Lynn Cohen) lives alone and supposedly suffers from Alzheimer’s. Yakov could certainly use the cash, though he’s not sure it’s worth it since he’s been trying to cut off all contact with Reb. Ultimately, though, he takes the job, but it ends up being a lot more than he bargained for when evil spirits that had been haunting Mr. Litvak start turning their attention towards Yakov.

As in The Babadook, the supernatural forces in The Vigil also work metaphorically as a manifestation of the main character’s psychological state. The specifics of who or what these spooky beings really are is never specified, but ultimately that’s beside the point. I can imagine that Jewish folkloric creatures like dybbuks and the ghosts of the Holocaust served as inspiration. But what is most important here is the anxiety that Yakov is experiencing as a young man riddled by memories of guilt and trauma who’s also attempting to move forward in his life by learning fairly common but frequently challenging behaviors like learning how to talk to girls. Serving as a shomer on this particular night is like an hours-long panic attack manifesting as his worst nightmares come to life. It’s a gauntlet that could potentially lead to hospitalization or even a descent into Hell, or it could instead make him the strongest Yakov he’s ever been if he manages to somehow get through it. And those of us watching are liable to experience some secondhand catharsis.

The Vigil is Recommended If You Like: The Babadook, Spirits sneaking into technology, Cathartic horror

Grade: 4 out of 5 Shomers

Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Regé-Jean Page/Bad Bunny

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SNL: Bad Bunny, Regé-Jean Page, Melissa Villaseñor (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

Here’s something I’ve never done before: written a review of an SNL episode hosted by Regé-Jean Page with musical guest Bad Bunny. (How Bad is he?!) Here’s to new experiences!

I got up early on Sunday morning, enjoyed some heart-shaped Honey Nut Cheerios, visited the bathroom a few times, and got to watching the comedy.

If the real Britney Spears were to host a talk show, do you think it would go a little something like Oops, You Did It Again (Grade: “Oops”? Or Maybe It Was on Purpose?). For the purposes of the people who wrote this week’s cold opening, the answer is “Yes.” Much of this sketch was more stuck in the muckety-muck than it was ha-ha, but Pete Davidson as Andrew Cuomo was just plain-old counterintuitively inspired.

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That’s Auntertainment! Karaoke Korner 15

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Jeff asked his cousin Brady and the rest of the Maryland Malones to provide him with a Karaoke Korner lineup, and boy, did they deliver…

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 2/19/21

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Superman & Lois (CREDIT: DC/YouTube Screenshot)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Movies
Nomadland (Theaters and Hulu)

TV
Superman & Lois Series Premiere (February 23 on The CW)
Punky Brewster Revival Series Premiere (February 25 on Peacock) – I’ve never watched the original, but I liked the Peacock Saved by the Bell reboot, so I might check out this one too.

Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Regina King/Nathaniel Rateliff

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SNL: Nathaniel Rateliff, Regina King, Beck Bennett (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

For the third episode in a row, SNL has two guests making their Studio 8H debuts, and for the third review in a row, I’m making mention of that fact. The host is Regina King, who’s probably better known for her dramatic work nowadays, but she’s sitcom royalty to a lot of people thanks to her time on 227. That’s a show I’ve never seen an episode of, though I have seen all 6 of her guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory. And as for musical guest Nathaniel Rateliff, I’m more familiar with him when he’s credited with his backing band the Night Sweats, but it seems like his music is pretty dang similar even when he’s flying solo.

This episode aired in the midst of the Australian Open, which is something I also enjoy watching.

I’ll start with the cold opening (a very cold place to start), which was Tucker Carlson Tonight (Grade: 1 Coup out of 2 Coos), which, indeed, featured a Tucker Carlson, and indeed, aired during the night.

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That’s Auntertainment! Mini-Episode: Aunt Beth Tells Jeff to Listen to Black Pumas

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Aunt Beth has soul, and she wants Jeff to feel it by having him listen to Black Pumas’ 2019 self-titled debut album.

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 2/12/21

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Kenan (CREDIT: NBC/YouTube Screenshot)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Movies
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (On Demand) – A new comedy classic.
Judas and the Black Messiah (Theaters and HBO Max)
Minari (February 12 in Theaters, February 26 On Demand)

TV
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Season 8 Premiere (February 14 on HBO)
Momma Named Me Sheriff Season 2 Premiere (February 14 on Adult Swim)
Young Rock Series Premiere (February 16 on NBC)
Kenan Series Premiere (February 16 on NBC) – Kenan Thompson is still on SNL, but he’s also got his own sitcom now.

Music
-The Pretty Reckless, Death by Rock and Roll

The Writers of ‘Bridesmaids’ Ramp Up the Delightful Absurdity in ‘Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar’

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Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (CREDIT: Lionsgate/YouTube Screenshot)

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans Jr., Michael Hitchock, Reyn Doi, Kwame Patterson, Vanessa Bayer, Fortune Feimster, Rose Abdoo, Phyllis Smith, Wendi McClendon-Covey, Richard Cheese

Director: Josh Greenbaum

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Very Playful (and Kind of Explicit) Sexual Dialogue

Release Date: February 12, 2021 (On Demand)

A young boy in a canary yellow hat rides his bike down a picturesque suburban street while delivering newspapers and singing along to “Guilty,” the 1980 Barbra Streisand/Barry Gibb smooth jazz duet. Encountering a robot owl, he heads purposefully underground into a world of intrigue. A super-secret, super-important mission appears to be afoot. And that’s when we meet Barb and Star (Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, respectively), two fortysomething best friends who appear to have absolutely nothing to do with everything we’ve seen up to this point. Instead, they spend their days gabbing away about whatever absurd notions pop into their heads while sitting on one of the showroom couches at the furniture store where they work. But alas, horror of horrors: the store is closing forever, and Barb and Star have no idea what to do with all their newfound free time! They could hang out at their rigidly regimented friend group gabfest (run by a fantastically tightly wound Vanessa Bayer), but then an opportunity comes knocking in the form of a vacation to the resort town of Vista Del Mar. They’ve never been the type to venture outside their hometowns, but heckfire, what better time than now to throw caution to the wind and spread their wings!

Often when reviewing movies, I like to ask myself, “Does this film make me want to do the thing it says in its title?” So with that in mind, does Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar make me want to go to Vista Del Mar? And the answer is … heck yeah! It’s a beachside town full of bright colors, romance, magic, and Mark Jonathan Davis as his lounge act persona Richard Cheese singing naughty songs in a hotel lobby, after all. And if I could spend my stay there right alongside Barb and Star and their versatile culottes, oh wow, would I be in hog heaven. The world has made no effort to stop them from being who they really are, and their conversations reflect that, as Wiig and Mumolo bring an astounding improvisatory yes-and energy to every single one of their interactions.

There’s also so many more elements in this movie that I haven’t mentioned yet, mostly because I don’t want to mention them, as this is the most satisfyingly unpredictable comedy I have seen in quite some time. Wiig and Mumolo co-wrote the screenplay, and it feels like a passion project of two best friends daring each other to indulge in their most outré excesses. Playing straight(-ish) man to their whirligig of whimsy is Jamie Dornan, who seems to have found his perfect niche as a lovelorn hopeless romantic agent of espionage. Also of note: Wiig pulls double duty as a supervillian best left unremarked upon, Damon Wayans Jr. shows up for a running gag of very silly inadvertent secret-revealing, and Barb and Star’s conversations about a hypothetical woman named “Trish” eventually pay off handsomely. In conclusion, this is one of those funny flicks that delights me immediately and endlessly, but I’m not quite sure how to fully put into words why it makes me feel that way (the last few paragraphs notwithstanding). But I hope to continually revisit it and think about it much more in the coming years and then explain it as best I can when the proper time comes along.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is Recommended If You Like: Zoolander, Hot Rod, AM Radio hits of the 70s

Grade: 4 out of 5 Seafood Jams

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