Is This the Sixty-First Review of ‘The Scary of Sixty-First’?

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CREDIT: Utopia/Screenshot

Starring: Madeline Quinn, Betsey Brown, Dasha Nekrasova, Mark Rapaport

Director: Dasha Nekrasova

Running Time: 81 Minutes

Rating: Unrated

Release Date: December 2, 2021 (Select Theaters)/December 24, 2021 (Digital)

I think Dasha Nekrasova is one of those people who’s living on another planet. Like metaphorically. Or maybe even also literally, if the multiverse theory is to be believed…

Anyway, you might know Nekrasova as Comfrey on Succession, or as co-host of the dirtbag left podcast Red Scare, or for her breakthrough performance as “Sailor Socialism.” Now she’s co-written, directed, and starred in a movie about a couple of girls who move into an apartment that supposedly formerly played host to the pedophiliac exploits of Jeffrey Epstein. There are some solid low-budget creeper scares and a few demented laughs, but mostly it’ll have you going “What chu talkin’ ’bout?” and “Why did you say it that way?” It’s worth it for a trip to the cinematic underground.

Grade: 3 out of 5 Pentagrams

Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Ariana DeBose/Bleachers

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SNL: Jack Antonoff, Ariana DeBose, Bowen Yang (CREDIT: NBC/Screenshot)

Good morning, I’m coming to you live from January 2022! It’s the first new Saturday Night Live episode of the year, that’s what I’m going to be talking about here. Speaking of firsts, it’s the first time that singing actress Ariana DeBose is the host and also the first time that Jack Antonoff’s band Bleachers is the musical guest, but not the first time that Jack’s been here, as he also performed with fun.) Hopefully that’s not too confusing!

In case this is your first time reading one of my reviews, you should know that this season, I’ve been ordering the sketches in a variety of ways, like alphabetical and reverse airing order. This time, I’m doing it in order of the number of speaking/singing roles per sketch. A few notes on this: narrators are counted, except for Darrell Hammond during the monologue (since that’s more a part of the opening credits). The person introducing the musical guest IS counted for the musical performances, while backup singers are NOT counted if they only sing backup. And for Weekend Update, the parts with guests are counted separately from the parts that are just Michael and Colin telling jokes.

Okay, here we go!

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That’s Auntertainment! Episode 39: West Side Story

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CREDIT: NBC/Screenshot

Aunt Beth and Jeff like to watch movies in America, which is good because they release a new West Side Story every 60 years.

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 1/14/22

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Single Drunk Female (CREDIT: Elizabeth Sisson/Freeform)

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

Movies
Scream (Theaters) – The FIFTH Scream, for those keeping count. (But the first without Wes Craven.)

TV
How I Met Your Father Series Premiere (January 18 on Hulu) – Kim Cattrall narrates Hilary Duff’s life.
The World According to Jeff Goldblum Season 2 Part 2 (January 19 on Disney+)
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee Season Premiere (January 20 on TBS)
Single Drunk Female Series Premiere (January 20 on Freeform) – Sofia Black-D’Elia gets a starring vehicle.

Music
-Elvis Costello & the Imposters, The Boy Named If
-FKA Twigs, Caprisongs

Sports
-NFL Wild Card Playoff Game on Nickelodeon – The Cowboys and 49ers are getting slimed.
-2022 Australian Open – Will Novak Djokovic be allowed to stay in the country for the entire tournament?

Podcasts
Fly on the Wall with Dana Carvey and David SpadeSNL alums chatting about folks connected to SNL.

‘Scream’ is Still Nailing the Horror Zeitgeist

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Scream 2022 (CREDIT: Paramount Pictures)

Starring: Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Mikey Madison, Mason Gooding, Dylan Minnette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Marley Shelton, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Kyle Gallner, Sonia Ben Ammar, Roger L. Jackson

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Running Time: 114 Minutes

Rating: R for A Lot of Blood, and a Few Chats About Getting It On

Release Date: January 14, 2022 (Theaters)

The latest Scream movie is the fifth in the slasher series, but it’s not called “Scream 5.” Instead, it’s just called “Scream,” exactly like the very first entry. This is the latest example of an annoying trend in which sequels that also work as reboots to long-running franchises have the exact same title as the original, with 2018’s Halloween perhaps the most notorious example. I had convinced myself not to talk about the title in my review, figuring that it would be more interesting to focus on the content of the actual movie. But then I watched the movie, and it turned out that there’s a very good reason for that recycled title. Because this time around, the Woodsboro stabbing crew is aiming its knife at those franchise “requels” and all the other cinema that inspires a certain breed of toxic fandom.

More than 25 years after the first killing spree, you could be forgiven for wondering how there still could possibly be anyone connected to Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) with enough bloodlust to justify another sequel. The answer is that this time around, the motivation is less logical, and therefore more brutal and disturbing. You know the sorts of people who complain about how the likes of latter-day Star Wars and female-led Ghostbusters have destroyed their childhoods? What if they were so upset that they resorted to murder to set things right? That’s a premise that could conceivably stand on its own as an original horror flick, but it feels all too appropriate that instead it has commandeered one of the most beloved scary movie franchises of all time.

In some ways, this latest Scream is like an original effort, insofar as it focuses on the new faces ahead of the legacy characters much more so than any of the other adventures of Woodsboro. But of course, it’s still very much a part of the franchise insomuch as it follows the formula of a killer (or killers) lurking within a friend group of horny young people while terrorizing them with creepy phone calls. (Roger L. Jackson returns once again as the voice of Ghostface, and his deep cadence sounds a lot like the deep, steady tones of original Scream director Wes Craven, to the point that I wondered if Craven had before his 2015 passing recorded some dialogue to be used later.) Don’t worry too much about staleness, though, as there are some zigs when you expect zags, as characters either don’t know – or don’t care – about the rules that supposedly determine who dies and how in a horror movie. Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have a knack for keeping audiences on their toes like this, which they demonstrated amply in their 2019 bloodbath Ready or Not.

At times, the acting may skew a little more melodramatic than is advisable, but overall, Scream remains as remarkably fun and fresh as it’s ever been. Where originally there were conversations about how blade-wielders patiently stalk their victims, now we have discussions about how the newest generation of horror tastemakers are enthralled by “elevated horror” like The Babadook and Hereditary, and how long-in-the-tooth franchises need to find that sweet spot of “not too different, not too repetitive” to succeed. Scream 2022 finds that sweet spot, and goes in for the kill.

Scream (2022) is Recommended If You Like: Defending all the Scream sequels, Ready or Not, You’re Next, Talking with your fellow movie -obsessed friends, Film Twitter, Listening to and/or hosting movie podcasts

Grade: 4 out of 5 Requels

‘The Power of the Dog’ is Not for the Dogs

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The Power of the Dog (CREDIT: Kirsty Griffin/Netflix)

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jesse Plemons, Thomasin McKenzie

Director: Jane Campion

Running Time: 126 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: November 17, 2021 (Theaters)/December 1, 2021 (Netflix)

I’m pretty sure there weren’t any dogs in The Power of the Dog. Actually, now that I think about it, there may have been a few mutts running around the ranch. But none of them had any speaking parts! (Or barking parts, for that matter.) Yes, I know the title is a metaphor from the Bible, so I wasn’t genuinely expecting any unforgettable canine thespian turns. But still! At least Kirsten Dunst is also around, though she spends most of her time drunk and in bed. What up with that?! Anyway, I didn’t think Benedict Cumberbatch’s character was too bad. Certainly not the friendliest, but I could deal with him.

Grade: I Do Not Want to Live in 1925 Montana

The Podcasts of 2021 That I Looked Forward to the Most

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For 2021, I’ve decided to elucidate my favorite podcasts of the year by recognizing the ones that I was most excited to listen to every week. (Or however often a new episode is posted!) But first, I’ve made a list of every podcast that I currently subscribe to on my feed and which I listened to at least one new episode of in 2021, because each and every one of them deserves to be called The Best!

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That’s Auntertainment! Mini-Episode: Aunt Beth Tells Jeff to Watch ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’

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Alice Hyatt may have left home, but Jeff Malone has remained a podcaster.

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 1/7/22

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Pivoting (CREDIT: FOX/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
A Hero (January 7 in Theaters, January 21 on Amazon)

TV
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 14 Premiere (January 7 on VH1)
Search Party Season 5 (January 7 on HBO Max) – Final Season Alert!
A Discovery of Witches Season 3 Premiere (January 8 on Sundance Now, Shudder, and AMC+) – I’ll probably wait until it airs on AMC proper, though.
Pivoting Series Premiere (January 9 on FOX) – Eliza Coupe in a sitcom that looks like it has some bite to it.
The Righteous Gemstones Season 2 Premiere (January 9 on HBO)
Superman & Lois Season 2 Premiere (January 11 on The CW)

Music
-The Weeknd, Dawn FM

‘The 355’ Features Lady Spies Fighting Off a Cyber-MacGuffin

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The 355 (CREDIT: Robert Viglasky/Universal Pictures)

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger, Penélope Cruz, Fan Bingbing, Sebastian Stan, Edgar Ramirez

Director: Simon Kinberg

Running Time: 124 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Very Loud Guns and Some Torture

Release Date: January 7, 2022 (Theaters)

Like pretty much every other spycraft movie ever, The 355 left me reeling with bewilderment over my lack of understanding about what exactly was going on. About 20 minutes in, I wondered, “Did I miss something while looking down at my phone or taking a swig of water?” That’s pretty par for the course. What’s less par is the fact that this particular spy movie stars a quintet of ladies who have all garnered plenty of awards recognition over the course of their careers. The title, after all, is a reference to a code name used by a female agent during the American Revolution. But ultimately that feminine energy makes hardly any difference whatsoever.

The 355 (CREDIT: Universal Pictures)

Basically there’s some to-do about some MacGuffin that could apparently destroy the world if it winds up in the wrong hands. So a team of allies and former rivals from all around the world forms on the fly to ensure that this doesn’t happen. There’s also some business about Jessica Chastain’s CIA agent character being betrayed by her partner (Sebastian Stan). I couldn’t figure out what his motivation was. Ultimately I began to entertain the idea that perhaps these actors were just as oblivious as I was about the details of their characters’ mission. They never betrayed any doubt in their performances, but it’s kind of interesting to consider the amount of blindness that could potentially go into pulling off a plot this knotty. Also, Penélope Cruz’s character is a therapist, and it’s clear that she is not used to field work that’s this high-stakes. So I kind of wish the focus had been more on her.

There might be some readers of this review who are shouting at me, “What are you talking about?! This made perfect sense! I know exactly what happened!” But a comprehensible plot is only half the battle here. There also needs to be style and momentum. Alas, though, The 355 for the most part alternates between deafening gun shootouts and frequently whispered conversations. Oh well, that’s January cinema for ya. The nonsense has to go somewhere.

The 355 is Recommended If You Like: The promise of a “Dewey Decimal System for Cyberattacks”

Grade: 2 out of 5 Common Enemies

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