Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 12/9/22

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This is the End (CREDIT: Rachel Lears/Roadside Attractions)

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

Movies
To the End (Theaters) – Follow-up to Knock Down the House.

TV
Kindred Season 1 (December 14 on Hulu) – I’ve yet to dive into the world of Octavia Butler. Maybe now’s the time?

Music
-SZA, SOS

I’m Not Entirely Sure What to Say About ‘The Whale,’ But I’ll Do My Best

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CREDIT: A24

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Running Time: 117 Minutes

Rating: R for Profanity Borne of Anger and Frustration

Release Date: December 9, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: Charlie (Brendan Fraser) spends all of his days sitting on his couch, teaching an online English class and ordering delivery. Hardly anyone ever sees him, including his students, as he keeps his laptop camera disabled. He tells them it’s broken, but really, he just doesn’t want to have to deal with their reactions to the fact that he weighs 600 pounds. This may just be the last week of his life, as he’s enduring congestive heart failure and refusing to go to a hospital. So instead he’s looked after by his no-nonsense friend Liz (Hong Chau), who’s also a nurse. They’re occasionally interrupted by door-to-door missionary Thomas (Ty Simpkins), who becomes obsessed with counseling Charlie through what he believes is the impending apocalypse. And in the meantime, Charlie also does his damnedest to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter, the disaffected and manipulative Ellie (Sadie Sink).

What Made an Impression?: I’m really not quite sure how to react to The Whale. And I’m not even talking about the controversy that tends to always surround fat suit prosthetics. As far as I can tell, the physical demands of playing someone this big actually demand an actor who’s fit and hardy. So if you are going to make a movie with a character who weighs as much as Charlie, the only way to do it is with someone who doesn’t weigh anywhere near as much as he does. This is all to say: I certainly get the criticism around this sort of casting, but I also understand why it was made the way it was made.

But that doesn’t mean I understand everything about this movie. It’s based on a play by the film’s screenwriter, Samuel D. Hunter, and that theatrical pedigree is present every which way. The action is limited to one location, and the emotion is delivered all the way to Pluto. That overwrought style can be fine, you just have to convince the audience to buy into it. And on that point of whether or not I’m convinced? I’m confounded.

Charlie is a supremely frustrating character. He likes to see the good in everybody, especially Ellie, who he insists is just wonderful, despite pretty much all evidence to the contrary. Part of that is just what a long-absent dad would typically say when trying to reconnect to his kid. But at a certain point, you think he ought to admit that she’s not exactly what we call friendly. To anybody. At all. He does value honesty above just about everything else, though, even when it’s brutal. But to that point, we viewers might want him to confront the brutality in his own life, particularly the loss of a boyfriend that led to his reclusiveness and disordered eating. Fraser undoubtedly gives it all, as he wrings just about every note he can out of what he’s asked to do. But while I recognized the ambition, I was also left ultimately responding, “Well, gee… Hmm.”

The Whale is Recommended If You Like: Distorted optimism

Grade: 3 out of 5 Moby Dicks

Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Keke Palmer/SZA

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Keke and Her Friends (CREDIT: NBC/Screenshot)

Score! The host of this particular Saturday Night Live episode is Keke Palmer. Sounds like we’re in for a treat. And the musical guest is SZA. That’s pronounced “SIZZ-uh.” She makes songs that are sizzling.

Since this is the first new episode of SNL after Thanksgiving 2022, I’m going to review each sketch by revealing what I’m thankful for from each of them.

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That’s Auntertainment! Mini-Episode: 2022 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions

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CREDIT: Jeopardy!/Screenshot

Happy Post-Thanksgiving! This year, Jeff and His Dad were thankful for the 2022 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions.

Can We Hear You Now, ‘White Noise’?

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Look at how White all that Noise is! (CREDIT: Netflix © 2022)

Starring: Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Raffey Cassidy, Sam Nivola, May Nivola, Don Cheadle, André Benjamin, Jodie Turner-Smith

Director: Noah Baumbach

Running Time: 136 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: November 25, 2022 (Theaters)/December 30, 2022 (Netflix)

My favorite part of White Noise is the exuberant supermarket end credits dance number, to the point that I wished the entire movie had been one long choreographed performance. But in a way, it kind of was, if you interpret the unnatural dialogue as a sort of dance. And I’m going to choose to remember it that way. I’m sure Jack and Baba would approve.

Grade: A Whole Lot of Air in That Airborne Toxic Event

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 12/2/22

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merry christmass (CREDIT: 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
Spoiler Alert (Theaters)
Violent Night (Theaters)

TV
HouseBroken Christmas Episodes (December 4 on FOX)
His Dark Materials Season 3 Premiere (December 5 on HBO) – Final Season Alert!

Duty Calls for a Battle-Hardened Santa in ‘Violent Night’

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“No, Mr. Santa, I expect you to be Violent tonight.” (CREDIT: Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures)

Starring: David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Leah Brady, Beverly D’Angelo, Edi Patterson, Cam Gigandet

Director: Tommy Wirkola

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: R for The Bloodiest Xmas Ever

Release Date: December 2, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: So many (and I mean, SO MANY) Christmas films proclaim that we just have to BELIEVE that Santa is real, and if we believe hard enough, he’ll come through for us. According to Violent Night, that belief means that the big guy will save you from a gang of merciless thieves who have their hearts set on stealing your family’s fortune, even though he’s a full-on drunken mess. So it makes sense that he’s played in this go-round by David Harbour, a burly bear of a man who’s still lovable even when he’s barfing over the side of his sleigh. And Violent Night pulls off a similar trick by delivering plenty of treacly holiday sweetness alongside its profoundly massive levels of gore and dismemberment.

What Made an Impression?: The commercials for Violent Night told me that it would be “Die Hard meets Home Alone.” To which I responded: “Die Hard and Home Alone are already pretty similar.” Well, it turns out that description is exactly 100% accurate, because this movie does indeed answer the question “What if John McClane were Kris Kringle and he teamed up with Kevin McAllister as a young girl in a sickeningly wealthy family?”

So it was especially fortuitous that I happened to watch some of Home Alone 2 a few days earlier, and with adult eyes, it helped clarify that every blow to the head surely resulted in (at least) a concussion for the Wet Bandits. Violent Night continues that thought by taking the bloodshed and injuries wrought by rusty nails and bowling balls to their logical conclusions, and also adding plenty of gunfire to the mix. If you’re in the mood for something this deadly, you’ll probably laugh a fair amount, though you might get exhausted a bit by all the mayhem.

Director Tommy Wirkola made his name with the 2009 Nazi zombie flick Dead Snow, so the unrelenting demented mayhem was very much to be expected in Violent Night. Naturally enough then, the most fun is had by those who are most allowed to revel in the bloodbath, particularly Harbour, whose Santa originated as a Viking warrior; John Leguizamo as Mr. Scrooge, the leader of the burglars; and Leah Brady as Trudy the troublemaker (who’s still very much on the nice list). The soapy family drama dynamics aren’t quite as fulfilling, though they are appropriately foul-mouthed, with Beverly D’Angelo setting the right non-motherly tone as the family matriarch. But it’s a messy world that we live in right now, and this may just be the Santa we need to deliver us holiday cheer in 2022.

Violent Night is Recommended If You Like: Milk and cookies chased with top shelf liquor

Grade: 3 out of 5 Candy Canes

What Happens When a TV Journalist Experiences His Own Tragic Love Story? ‘Spoiler Alert’!

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Spoiler Alert: These guys are in the movie (CREDIT: Giovanni Rufino / © 2022 FOCUS FEATURES LLC.)

Starring: Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, Sally Field, Bill Irwin

Director: Michael Showalter

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Straightforward Talk About Adult Relationships and Serious Illness

Release Date: December 2, 2022 (Limited Theaters)/December 9, 2022 (Expands Nationwide)

What’s It About?: Michael Ausiello probably would’ve been perfectly fine writing about TV and living on his own for the rest of his life. Or maybe I’m being a little presumptive… Either way, the version of him played by Jim Parsons in Spoiler Alert (based on Ausiello’s memoir of the same name) seems pretty content with his cushy TV Guide gig and heading home on his own to his Jersey City apartment at the end of every workday. But then he goes out drinking one night and just happens to really hit it off with a fellow by the name of Kit Cowan (played here by Ben Aldridge). It’s the early 2000s, so it’s becoming a gradually easier time for a gay couple to be visible in America. But just as soon as Michael and Kit become comfortable in their togetherness, Kit is suddenly struck by terminal cancer. And there’s nothing for Michael to do except constantly be by his side, and then adapt their story into a big screen-worthy romantic journey.

What Made an Impression?: Parsons and Aldridge’s chemistry is low-key and pretty dang believable, surely partly because Ausiello was on hand as one of the producers. There’s not really any effort to make this story representative of all queer love stories, and it’s nice to be free of that burden. There can be value in speaking for the community at large, but in this case it just makes the most sense for it to be only Michael and Kit’s story, and their story alone

But what really sells Spoiler Alert to me are the flashbacks to Michael’s childhood with his brothers and widowed mother. They’re presented like a stereotypical cheesy family sitcom, which is basically catnip to a generation that was raised on the likes of Growing Pains and Full House. Of course, it also speaks right to my heart as a fellow professional connoisseur of entertainment. But I think this approach can also work for any adult who stays in touch with their inner child by searching for a way back to a comfortable home.

And it also helps that Sally Field and Bill Irwin are on hand as Kit’s fully supportive parents. Field is a veteran of director Michael Showalter’s oeuvre, and well, if you’ve been paying attention to cinema of the past 40 years, you know that her casting makes 1000% perfect sense. Irwin is a bit more of an oddball choice, as he’s known primarily for mind- and body-bending roles, like a mutant scientist on FX’s Legion and the voice of TARS in Interstellar. But weirdos have hearts too, and some of them grow up to be dads, so he proves to be an inspired choice. Overall, the tone is just spot on throughout. Spoiler alert: your heart will swell full-to-bursting by the end.

Spoiler Alert is Recommended If You Like: Bittersweet romcoms, 80s Sitcoms, 90s Sitcoms, The rise of Peak TV culture

Grade: 4 out of 5 Doctor’s Visits

‘Glass Onion’: A Friends Out Moviegoing Experience

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Will they solve it? (CREDIT: John Wilson/Netflix © 2022)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline

Director: Rian Johnson

Running Time: 139 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: November 23, 2022 (Theaters)/December 23, 2022 (Netflix)

I saw Glass Onion (one of those newfangled Knives Out mysteries) in a cinema with a larger-than-normal party than I usually go to the theater with. And I’m very grateful for all of that! That’s what it called for, and if I’d been watching on Netflix, I’m worried that my attention would have strayed too much during the first act. Undoubtedly, that mental wandering would have been a HUGE problem if I’d looked down while Ed Norton was dressed just like Tom Cruise in Magnolia. And that just simply would have been unacceptable.

Grade: A Satisfactory Amount of Flavor When Peeling the Layers of the Onion

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 11/25/22

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A Willow that’s NOT whipping hair back and forth
(CREDIT: Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved)

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

Movies
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Theaters)
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (November 23 in Theaters, December 23 on Netflix)
Nanny (November 23 in Theaters, December 16 on Amazon Prime)
Strange World (Theaters) – I could’ve sworn I heard Will Forte in the trailer, but apparently not.
White Noise (November 25 in Theaters, December 30 on Netflix) – Based on a book that is postmodern.

TV
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (November 25 on Disney+)
Willow Series Premiere (November 30 on Disney+) – I remember watching the movie when I was really young.
Gossip Girl Season 2 Premiere (December 1 on HBO Max)

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