Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 8/12/22

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She-Hulk: Attorney at Law being green (CREDIT: Marvel Studios)

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

Emily the Criminal (Theaters)
Fall (Theaters)
Mack & Rita (Theaters) – Starring Diane Keaton.

A League of Their Own (August 12 on Amazon Prime Video) – Co-created by Abbi Jacobson.
Never Have I Ever Season 3 (August 12 on Netflix)
RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race Season 2 Premiere (August 12 on VH1) – Apparently this season has taken inspiration from The Masked Singer.
South Park: The 25th Anniversary Concert (August 13 on Comedy Central)
Better Call Saul Series Finale (August 15 on AMC)
The Legacy: The True Story of the L.A. Lakers Docuseries Premiere (August 15 on Hulu)
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law Series Premiere (August 18 on Disney+) – The “she” being Tatiana Maslany.

-Sylvan Esso, No Rules Sandy

-2022 Little League World Series (August 17-28 on ESPN)

‘Emily the Criminal’ Wonders: What’s the Deal with Student Debt Leading to a Life of Crime?!

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Emily the Criminal (CREDIT: Roadside Attractions and Vertical Entertainment)

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Theo Rossi, Megalyn Echikunwoke

Director: John Patton Ford

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: R for A Few Nose-Bloodying Encounters

Release Date: August 12, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: Emily Benetto (Aubrey Plaza) is an aspiring artist who has the chops and the connections to make a real professional go at it. But she’s a young adult in the 21st century, so it’s no surprise that she’s also tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Her gig delivering food orders is hardly making a dent. Ergo, she dips her toe into a scheme as a “dummy shopper,” in which she buys high-value goods with stolen credit cards for an underground operation. And she’s kind of good at it! But when you commit to a criminal lifestyle, you’ve also got to always be looking over your shoulder.

What Made an Impression?: I’m on vacation this week, but I wanted to make sure I checked in for a sec to give you my quick thoughts about Emily the Criminal. The One Big Thought I had was that the dummy shopper recruitment method kind of reminded me of a curse being passed on a la The Ring or It Follows. The colleague who gives Emily the tip seems like he’s ready to get out of  the game, you know? But ultimately, Emily kind of embraces it and we get the sense that maybe she’ll be running her own mini-empire soon enough. So in that way, it’s more like a multi-level marketing scheme. You find empowerment where you can when you’ve got all that debt.

Grade: 3 out of 5 Credit Cards

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 8/5/22

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CREDIT: NBC/Screenshot

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

Bodies Bodies Bodies (Theaters)
Bullet Train (Theaters)
I Love My Dad (Theaters) – Patton Oswalt’s in this.

LEGO Star Wars: Summer Vacation (August 5 on Disney+)
Password Reboot Premiere (August 9 on NBC) – Hosted by Keke Palmer!
I Am Groot Shorts (August 10 on Disney+)
Bump Series Premiere (August 11 on The CW) – This is an Australian show that already aired in Australia!

-Calvin Harris, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2

‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ Will Have You Laughing, But Not for Long, Because Things Get Stressful Quick, But in an Edifying Way

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Bodies Bodies Bodies (CREDIT: Eric Chakeen/A24)

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Pete Davidson, Lee Pace

Director: Halina Reijn

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: R for Generally Raucous Vibes That Make Everyone Ill-Prepared for the Bloodbath

Release Date: August 5, 2022 (Limited)/August 12, 2022 (Expands Wide)

What’s It About?: What’s the best thing to do during a hurricane? Hunker down for a house party, maybe? Eh, even if the building is sturdy enough to prevent any permanent damage, things could get messy. Which is to say, the characters of Bodies Bodies Bodies are putting themselves at risk. Emotional, physical, potentially lethal risk. The group of seven hanging out at the mansion are a mix of longtime friends and new lovers, as well as plenty of uninvited secrets and passive-aggressiveness. When the storm forces them inside for the night, they decide to play the titular party game, in which one person is assigned to play the “killer” who must be sussed out by the other players. But when one of them actually winds up dead, an impromptu murder investigation begins. And instead of banding together, they all find ways to be suspicious of each other.

What Made an Impression?: Like other great killer mystery thrillers, Bodies Bodies Bodies does a fine job of convincing us that everyone is a legitimate suspect. Just when I thought I’d identified the most secretive and cruel individual, somebody else does something equally thoughtless. Based on what we see, these are not very good friends. I was most reminded of 2015’s Unfriended, in which a Skype session turns deadly as each of the callers reveal just how profoundly awful they are. But the Bodies Bodies Bodies crew aren’t quite that terrible. Instead, they’re insecure young adults trying to figure out what to do with their lives, and they’re not finding any useful support from the other insecure people around them. If you add buckets of windy rain and a dead body to that powder keg, it’s not going to be a fun night.

It all resolves in a gut-punch of an ending that will have you going, “It’s just a movie. I should really just relax.” Because if you don’t, you’ll be stressed out for days, or potentially months even. These people shouldn’t be partying, they should be in therapy. (Well, maybe they can rage every once in a while if they maintain a healthy therapy schedule.) What if the sequel were a visit to a psychiatrist during a hurricane? I would definitely check that out. Anyway, if nothing else, Bodies Bodies Bodies is very much a warning that we should all come up with a plan ASAP for what to do if any of our friends suddenly winds up inexplicably dead.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is Recommended If You Like: Unfriended, Scream, Ready or Not

Grade: 4 out of 5 Machetes

Jo Koy Can Barely Handle His Family on ‘Easter Sunday’ – What Hope is There for the Rest of Us?

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Easter Sunday (CREDIT: Ed Araquel/Universal Pictures)

Starring: Jo Koy, Brandon Wardell, Lydia Gaston, Eugene Cordero, Tia Carrere, Jay Chandrasekhar, Eva Noblezada, Jimmy O. Yang, Lou Diamond Phillips, Tiffany Haddish, Asif Ali, Rodney To, Elena Juatco

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Language and a Surprising Amount of Guns

Release Date: August 5, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: In what I assume is a semi-autobiographical riff, Easter Sunday stars Jo Koy as Joe Valencia, a struggling comedian who’s about to land a big break in the form of a regular role on a network sitcom. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be occurring on a more chaotic weekend in his personal life. He’s a divorced dad who really wants to spend more time with his teenage son Junior (Brandon Wardell). And oh yeah, it’s Easter, and his very Catholic Filipino family very much expects him to show up for that. But they’re certainly not going to hide any of their conflicts. His mom (Lydia Gaston) and aunt (Tia Carrere) have basically decided that they hate each other, while his cousin Eugene (Eugene Cordero) has hatched a harebrained scheme that has him in deep debt with a local vengeful businessman (Asif Ali). Is there enough time amidst all this for another famous Filipino-American actor to show up as himself? You better believe it!

What Made an Impression?: Before Easter Sunday, I was really only familiar with Koy as a boyfriend of Chelsea Handler’s, but he’s been hacking it on the comedy circuit for decades, so clearly he must have a fanbase. Alas, I’m sad to report that he hasn’t captured his humor into cinematic form, or maybe it just didn’t appeal to me. It’s not easy to make that translation even with the best screenwriting intentions, but I have to wonder: did we need the subplot about violent debt collection? Couldn’t this have just been the story of a comedian dealing with his overbearing, oversharing family while stressing out about his career? Now, if you want to aim high, then aim high. Maybe there’s a successful high-wire version of this movie where that gangster-ish storyline does fit, but I couldn’t help but wonder “Why is this happening?” every time Eugene told Joe about the next unbelievably stupid thing he did.

As for the rest of the movie, I can’t say I was satisfied much there either, but I at least respected everyone’s instincts. But most of the time, I was flummoxed by how unreasonable most of the characters were being. For example, why does Joe have to spend the whole weekend on the phone with his agent (Jay Chandrasekhar, who also directed and pretty much exclusively appears on camera alone)? And why is the network finalizing casting on a Sunday? EASTER Sunday, no less! Yes, I know, plenty of Hollywood executives are Jewish, but there are also plenty of Christians in showbiz as well. Couldn’t this all wait until Monday? To be fair, for a movie to be entertaining, it doesn’t need to be reasonable. But when it’s being profoundly unreasonable, it helps when there’s at least some acknowledgement, and there’s not much of that here.

Another thing that kind of got my goat was how there seemed to be more than 24 hours on this particular holiday. The family has a full-on picnic in the park for lunch, and then a plentiful homemade spread for dinner at Joe’s mom’s. And in between all that, Joe and Eugene are driving all over town to clean up Eugene’s mess. Do we have a crew of Jack Bauers on our hands here? A movie-time clock on the corner of the screen would have been appreciated.

There is one scene, though, that really worked for me, despite being equally nonsensical. I’m talking about when Joe interrupts the priest’s homily during mass and then basically delivers his standup routine about what it’s like to have a Filipino-American family. That would NEVER happen at a Catholic church, and certainly not on Easter Sunday. But it allows Koy to be in his element, and it’s rousing enough that you can forgive the breach of decorum.

Easter Sunday is Recommended If You Like: Weirdly violent family dinners

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Burritos

‘Bullet Train’ Zooms Past Sensible Storytelling But Manages to Have Some Fun Along the Way

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Bullet Train (CREDIT: Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures)

Starring: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benito A Martínez Ocasio, Michael Shannon, Sandra Bullock, Zazie Beetz, Logan Lerman, Karen Fukuhara, Masi Oka

Director: David Leitch

Running Time: 126 Minutes

Rating: R for Blood from Guns, Swords, Knives, and Poison

Release Date: August 5, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: If a movie takes place on a speeding train, you can bet on non-stop action! Or can you? Well, you can at least rely on a captive set of characters. As the titular transport in Bullet Train charges ahead from Tokyo to Kyoto, our main fellow to follow is Ladybug (Brad Pitt), who appears to be some sort of assassin, except that he doesn’t seem very violent, at least not on this mission. Then there’s the brotherly pair of Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), who are much more comfortable whipping out their firearms. And there’s no way to miss Prince (Joey King) in her short skirt and tight bubblegum pink sweater; it’s obvious right away that underneath her schoolgirl facade lurks the heart of a killer. Is the fellow known as The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada) the one pulling all the strings? Maybe! Or maybe it could be that one of the other famous faces that pops up along the way will clear up the confusion. Also, there’s a very poisonous snake wriggling around.

What Made an Impression?: For most of Bullet Train‘s path of destruction, I was never really sure what anybody’s mission was. And quite frankly, none of them seemed to either. Sure, there’s a briefcase with plenty of cash that certainly is worth keeping an eye on. But if anything, that’s the reward and not the job itself. Flashbacks pop up to provide backstory, but they don’t fully answer how everyone ended up on the same departure. MINOR SPOILER ALERT: The conclusion spells it all out eventually. But before then, screenwriter Zak Olkewicz and director David Leitch ask for a lot of patience from the audience. Or they request that we just embrace the ambiguity and enjoy Bullet Train as an exercise in frenetic style and a freaky parade of accents.

I at least appreciated how the casting was in part an inversion of this year’s The Lost City, with Pitt and Sandra Bullock switching the roles of bewildered lead and glorified slightly-more-than-a-cameo. And it’s also fun to behold King subsuming herself into the kinda-sorta Big Bad villain role. But in the meantime, questions abound, such as: is that accent real? And also: is that other accent real? And furthermore: why don’t any of the non-criminal passengers seem to notice the gore and bullet holes all over the place? The ending had me going, “Oh wow, that’s what that was all about?” But beforehand, I was somehow against all odds comforted by the steady hand of a cast willing to do everything that was asked of them without any winks to the camera. Vengeance really never turns out how you expect it to go, especially when all the plot twists feel like they were determined by whacking a piñata and throwing what spilled out into a blender.

Bullet Train is Recommended If You Like: The magnetic charm of Brad Pitt, The reveals on The Masked Singer, Derailments

Grade: 3 out of 5 Boomslangs

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 7/29/22

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B and B-H 2022 (CREDIT: Paramount Plus/Screenshot)

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

DC League of Super-Pets (Theaters)
Vengeance (Theaters)
Sharp Stick (Theaters) – Lena Dunham’s getting back into movies.

Reservation Dogs Season 2 Premiere (August 3 on Hulu)
Beavis and Butt-Head Reboot Premiere (August 4 on Paramount+) – Fire!

-Beyoncé, Renaissance
-Maggie Rogers, Surrender

Inside Jeopardy!Hosted by actual Jeopardy! producers!

‘Fire of Love’? Sounds Dangerous

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Fire of Love (CREDIT: National Geographic/Screenshot)

Starring: Katia Krafft, Maurice Krafft, Miranda July

Director: Sara Dosa

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: PG

Release Date: July 6, 2022 (Theaters)

Oh hey, by the way, I saw Fire of Love this past weekend, and I gotta say … I think we should maybe ban people from becoming volcanologists. It’s just too dangerous! I understand the value in gathering data about those lava-gushers, but the risk-reward ratio appears to just be way too out of whack. That’s the biggest takeaway for me from Katia and Maurice Krafft’s story, I must say. Anyway, Miranda July is a soothing narrator.

Grade: Lo-Fi Natural Disaster to Chillax To

B.J. Novak Heads Down to Texas to Orchestrate Some Vengeance

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Vengeance (CREDIT: Patti Perret/Focus Features)

Starring: B.J. Novak, Boyd Holbrook, Issa Rae, Dove Cameron, J. Smith-Cameron, Isabella Amara, Ashton Kutcher, Lio Tipton, Eli Abrams Bickel, John Mayer

Director: B.J. Novak

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Rating: R for A Few Bursts of Language and Violence

Release Date: July 29, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: New York-based journalist Ben Manalowitz (B.J. Novak) would really love to host a podcast that gets people talking. If you’ve ever met someone whose response to listening to Serial was “I could do that!”, then you know the kind of guy we’re dealing with here. As serendipity would have it, he gets a call from the family of Abilene Shaw (Lio Tipton), an old hookup of his. They inform him that she’s died of an overdose, as they’ve confused him for a serious boyfriend, so he suddenly finds himself flying down to Texas for the funeral. Abilene’s brother Ty (Boyd Holbrook) suspects that there’s more to the story, so he recruits Ben into his plan to track down who’s really responsible and deliver some Lone Star-style vengeance. And so, Ben now has his podcast premise: a probing examination into the American opioid crisis through the lens of conspiracy theories that are more comforting than the truth.

What Made an Impression?: If that synopsis has you screaming, “This sounds like the most insufferable movie ever!!!”, I can see where you’re coming from. But those alarm bells should be tempered by the creative guiding hand of Novak, who writes, directs, and stars. But maybe you’re worried that even a self-aware version of this story would still be pretty insufferable. Understandable! But here’s the thing: it’s all played pretty sincerely. This isn’t satire, but rather, an engrossing tale of a messy tragedy. Ben certainly starts off a little condescending, but he allows himself to be drawn into Abilene’s family. They have their fair share of Deep South middle-of-nowhere quirks, but they also have access to modern amenities, so they know what’s what in the 21st century. (If you were looking for something more mean-spirited, you can at least relish John Mayer’s self-mocking cameo as himself.) Ben is won over by the clan, and he eventually gets drawn in enough to realize that Abilene really doesn’t seem like the type of girl who would have OD’d and that her death indeed warrants further investigation.

In a very strongly cast movie, the one performance in Vengeance that really blew me away was a career-best turn from Ashton Kutcher as local record producer Quinten Sellers. He could easily have more clients in a bigger city, but he’s an idealist who doesn’t want to see talent go to waste in this little town. Ben is all ready to dismiss him as a flim-flam man, but Quinten wins him over with a stunning monologue about how writers are the translators of life. (I was inspired quite a bit as well!) I’ve never seen Kutcher’s charm put to such profound use before, and it’s kind of intoxicating.

While most of Vengeance is disarmingly openhearted, it ultimately barrels forward to a sour, ugly conclusion befitting its title. That doesn’t negate all the hope-filled moments that preceded it, but it does cast a pall over the optimistic scenes. I’m not going to dismiss the whole movie for that questionable swerve, but it is worth noting that it’s stuck in my craw despite my generally satisfied experience.

Vengeance is Recommended If You Like: Looking past stereotypes

Grade: 4 out of 5 Whataburgers

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

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Nope (CREDIT: Universal Pictures)

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

Nope (Theaters) – Yep.

-Jack White, Entering Heaven Alive
-She & Him, Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson
-Ty Segall, Hello, Hi

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