‘Titane’ Review: Julia Ducournau Follows Up ‘Raw’ by Trading in Cannibals for Cars

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Titane (CREDIT: NEON)

Starring: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent London, Garance Millier, Laïs Salameh, Myriem Akheddiou, Bertrand Bonello

Director: Julia Ducournau

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Rating: R for Metallic Sex and Violence

Release Date: October 1, 2021 (Theaters)

After watching Titane, my primary reaction is, “I sure hope that doesn’t happen to me!” Let me explain:

Main character Alexia’s (Agathe Rousselle) entire life has been shaped by the car accident she was in as a child. She had to have a titanium plate permanently placed in her head, and that seems to have given her an appetite for cars. And when I say “appetite,” I mean “lust.” There’s no way around this: she has sex with a car. Even after watching that scene, I’m not sure how the mechanics work, but it definitely happened. She also has a taste for killing (which may or may not be related to the titanium), as we see her murder a whole bunch of people, including her good friend/lover. She then goes on the run and pretends to be a young boy who disappeared ten years ago. That boy’s dad (Vincent Lindon) somehow believes that she really is his son, so he takes her in and introduces her to his crew at the fire station he runs. And oh yeah, Alexia has somehow been impregnated by that car.

So when I said that I’m glad that this didn’t happen to me, which character’s experience was I referring to specifically? Pretty much all of them! Alexia goes on quite the adventure, but it’s way too stressful for my tastes. As for the pregnancy, I would like to have kids someday, though I don’t have a body built for carrying a child. But if I did, I’d prefer it not carry a human-automobile hybrid. Regarding Vincent, his experience of the world is just so far removed from my own. He can’t see the ruse right in front of his eyes, and he’s injecting hormones in his butt, so we simply just don’t have very much in common. And I think it’s also safe to say that I don’t want to be any of Alexia’s victims, because at the moment, I’m not quite ready to die.

There’s one other person I haven’t mentioned yet who’s right in the thick of it all. That would be writer-director Julia Ducournau (whose last film was the coming-of-age cannibal flick Raw). Being Julia Ducournau sounds like a bit of a nightmare, what with a significant percentage of the world’s population surely believing that she’s positively sick and twisted. But then again … during the Titane press tour, she must be having so much fun talking about how sick and twisted she really is. So actually, I would find it lovely if her career happened to me. When I consider it that way, I see the appeal of Titane.

Titane is Recommended If You Like: David Cronenberg’s Crash (which I haven’t seen, but the premises are certainly similar, and actually now that I think about it, Titane is actually like a more metallic version of Videodrome), The Imposter (2012), Sex positivity

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Titanium Plates

That’s Auntertainment! Mini-Episode: 2021 Emmys

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CREDIT: Television Academy/Screenshot

On September 19, 2021, at 8:00 PM Eastern, Jeff was … at a wedding. And Aunt Beth was … watching something that wasn’t the Emmys.
Then later they watched the Emmys. And made a podcast about it.

Don’t Cry for Me, Macho; I’ll Cry for YOU!

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Cry Macho (CREDIT: Warner Bros. Pictures/Screenshot)

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Eduardo Minett, Dwight Yoakam, Natalia Traven, Fernanda Urrejola, A Rooster

Director: Clint Eastwood

Running Time: 104 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: September 17, 2021 (Theaters and HBO Max)

I was all set for Cry Macho to make me indeed want to cry “Macho!” at the top of my lungs. What I wasn’t quite prepared for was “Macho” to be the name of an actual character, and for that character to be a rooster. Yes, it’s true, Macho is a prized cockfighter, and he’s the star of the show, hands down. I can understand why Warner Bros. didn’t emphasize that in their advertising; Clint Eastwood is the ostensible draw, after all. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it’s a nice surprise that we get to discover Macho shining as brightly as he does. He literally saves the day at one point when he pops out and pecks away when our heroes are in a tight spot. I’ll be crying macho all the way to the farm, you can count on that.

Grade: 75/91

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 9/24/21

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The Tony Awards® Present: Broadway’s Back! (CREDIT: Tony Duran)

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

TV
-74th Tony Awards (September 26 on Paramount+) – Most of the awards will be presented on this broadcast.
-The Tony Awards Present: Broadway’s Back! (September 26 on CBS) – The three biggest awards will be presented here.
Bob’s Burgers Season 12 Premiere (September 26 on FOX)
Celebrity Wheel of Fortune Season Premiere (September 26 on ABC)
Family Guy Season 20 Premiere (September 26 on FOX)
The Great North Season 2 Premiere (September 26 on FOX)
The Simpsons Season 33 Premiere (September 26 on FOX)
Supermarket Sweep Season Premiere (September 26 on ABC)
The Problem with Jon Stewart (September 30 on Apple TV+) – What’s the problem?

Music
-Alessia Cara, In the Meantime
-Caleb Landry Jones, Gadzooks Vol. 1
-William Shatner, BILL
-Sufjan Stevens and Angelo De Augustine, A Beginner’s Mind

‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Made Me Feel a Lot of Very Different Emotions, and I Can Think of Worse Ways to Spend an Evening

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Dear Evan Hansen (CREDIT: Erika Doss/Universal Pictures)

Starring: Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Danny Pino, Colton Ryan

Director: Stephen Chbosky

Running Time: 137 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Thematic Material Involving Suicide and Mental Health Struggles

Release Date: September 24, 2021 (Theaters)

My brain is so frazzled by Dear Evan Hansen, and I just don’t know what to say. Part of that is due to the movie itself, which offers an occasionally offbeat and fairly frightening mix of tones. And it’s also certainly a matter of the mocking buzz I encountered in the buildup to the film’s release. Sure, the trailer can be seen as too-earnest-for-its-own-good inspirational fluff. And yes, the hairstyling makes 27-year-old Ben Platt look ten years older instead of ten years younger. But I wanted to wait it out to discover what I actually thought about it myself. Maybe I would be won over by the earnestness! Or maybe I would find it just as ridiculous as it loudest naysayers. Or perhaps I could enjoy that ridiculousness in a campy fashion. So now that I’ve actually seen the movie itself … it hasn’t really cleared things up.

It does have a premise designed to keep plenty of audiences on edge, after all. Based on the 2015 stage musical of the same name, it’s about the anxiety-stricken teenage title character (Platt) who is given the therapy assignment of writing a letter to himself, which then gets mistaken as the suicide note of Connor (Colton Ryan), a classmate he barely knows. From there, the lie just keeps snowballing as Evan lets everyone believe that Connor was his best friend, and their story becomes a viral sensation that anyone who’s ever had mental health struggles can take solace in. I’m most impressed by DEH when it leans into its inherent discomfort. A waking nightmare threatens to envelop us all as Evan tries to explain the truth but Connor’s mom (Amy Adams) practically begs him to stick with the version of the story she so desperately wants to believe. This movie could have made us feel just as anxious as Evan does all the time if it had wanted to. Instead, it only does that occasionally, while also making us bawl up and heartily chuckle and just let everyone know that they’re not alone.

There were definitely parts of this flick that fully worked on me. The rendition of the signature song, “You Will Be Found,” had me unabashedly bawling. And Nik Dodani, who plays Evan’s “family friend” Jared, is making quite a name for himself as a mischievous little scamp. But I would’ve liked it if we had seen a bigger fallout from the truth finally coming out. And when it comes to movies about a lie regarding someone’s death spinning out of control, I must say that I much prefer the bracing dark comedy of the Robin Williams-starring World’s Greatest Dad. Anyway, my friend who I saw DEH with was won over completely, so it’s definitely for somebody. And in truth, parts of it are for parts of me.

So let’s get to the One Million Dollar Question: would I want Evan Hansen to write a “Dear Evan Hansen” letter to me? I think that would be fun! But only if we could tell the truth (the whole truth!) from the get-go. Anything else would be too stressful.

Dear Evan Hansen is Recommended If: You Think You’re Going to Love It, But Also If You Think You’re Going to Hate It, Because Our Opinions Will Be Found

Grade: 3 out of 5 Letters

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 9/17/21

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The Wonder Years (CREDIT: Matt Sayles/ABC)

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

Movies
Blue Bayou (Theaters)
Cry Macho (Theaters and HBO Max) – MACHOOOOOOOOOO!
The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Theaters)
The Nowhere Inn (Theaters and On Demand) – Carrie Brownstein and Annie Clark (St. Vincent) team up on screen.

TV
Sex Education Season 3 (September 17 on Netflix)
-Creative Arts Emmy Awards (September 18 on FXX)
-73rd Primetime Emmy Awards (September 19 on CBS)
Teenage Euthanasia Series Premiere (September 19 on Adult Swim) – Animated at a funeral home.
Alter Ego Series Premiere (September 22 on FOX) – The “world’s first avatar singing competition.”
The Conners Season 4 Premiere (September 22 on ABC) – Another live episode.
Dear White People Season 4 (September 22 on Netflix)
The Goldbergs Season 9 Premiere (September 22 on ABC)
Home Economics Season 2 Premiere (September 22 on ABC)
The Masked Singer Season 6 Premier (September 22 on FOX)
Star Wars: Visions (September 22 on Disney+) – Anime-style.
The Wonder Years Reboot Series Premiere (September 22 on ABC) – Don Cheadle takes over narrating duties from Daniel Stern.

Music
-Lil Nas X, Montero
-Lindsey Buckingham, Lindsey Buckingham

2021 Emmy Predictions/Preferences

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CREDIT: televisionacad/Instagram

You may have noticed that there’s a lot of TV on TV these days. I sure have! And so has the TV Academy, as they’ve nominated a bunch of those aforementioned shows for the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards. My predictions and preferences for the major categories are listed below. We’ll find out what happens together on the evening of September 19 on CBS!

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‘Blue Bayou’ Tells a Tender and Painful Tale of Deportation Limbo

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Blue Bayou (CREDIT: Focus Features)

Starring: Justin Chon, Alicia Vikander, Mark O’Brien, Linh Dan Pham, Sydney Kowalske, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Emory Cohen

Director: Justin Chon

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: R for Adult Language and Up-Close Violence

Release Date: September 17, 2021 (Theaters)

Blue Bayou should spur many people to a very specific action: if you were born outside the United States and adopted by an American family, check your citizenship status as soon as you can! I doubt that you’re in as much danger as tattoo artist Atonio LeBlanc (Justin Chon, also the writer and director), but that’s not a risk worth taking.

As a message delivery system, Blue Bayou is clear and effective. But how does it work as an experience to be viewed and digested for a couple of hours? Well, that’s what I’m here to write about, isn’t it? I can tell you this for sure: Chon is a compelling screen presence. He’s been doing his thing on movies and TV for about a decade and a half, but I’m pretty sure this is my first time encountering him (save for a guest spot on an episode of New Girl, apparently). And it’s not hard to care about Antonio’s predicament, considering how blatantly unfair it is. He was adopted from Korea when he was three years old, making Louisiana very much the only home he’s ever known. But because of a quirk in American law, he’s not actually a citizen, and that combined with his criminal record suddenly makes him a target for deportation, thereby threatening to tear him apart from his pregnant wife Kathy (Alicia Vikander) and beloved stepdaughter Jesse (Sydney Kowalske).

A lot of Blue Bayou is powerfully painful, as Antonio is tortured not just by a racist bureaucracy, but also by the scars of his abusive foster childhood. Then there are also the other everyday stressors like a mother-in-law who thinks he’s too much of a burden for her daughter, as well as Sydney’s police officer dad Ace (Mark O’Brien), who’s trying to sneak his way back into the picture against everyone’s wishes. And on top of all that is Ace’s violently unpredictable partner Denny (Emory Cohen), who may just be the biggest threat of all.

Amidst all the instability (and humidity), some moments of the random beauty of everyday life manage to shine through. That’s certainly clear in Antonio’s tender relationship with Jesse, which is filled with motorcycle rides and traversing swampland. But what ultimately sets Blue Bayou apart as something truly unique are Antonio’s encounters with Parker (Linh Dan Pham), a woman dying of cancer who becomes an unlikely customer and confidant. She comes from a family of Vietnam War refugees, and she has plenty to teach Antonio about accepting his fate by virtue of simply being her openhearted self. To sum it all up, there’s a lot of empathy being generated by this movie, and that makes for a fulfilling viewing experience.

Blue Bayou is Recommended If You Like: The personal meeting the political

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Tattoos

English Village High School Goes Drag When ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’

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Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (CREDIT: Amazon)

Starring: Max Harwood, Sarah Lancashire, Lauren Patel, Shobna Gulati, Ralph Ineson, Sharon Horgan, Richard E. Grant, Adeel Akhtar, Samuel Bottomley

Director: Jonathan Butterell

Running Time: 120 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Cruel Words and a Few Dustups

Release Date: September 10, 2021 (Select Theaters)/September 17, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)

Drag is huge nowadays. But it wasn’t that long ago when playing around with gender expression in many public spaces was totally verboten. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is coming out in 2021, the same year as RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13, but the stage musical it’s based on premiered in England four years ago, and the TV documentary that inspired it aired back in 2011, way before Drag Race broke into the mainstream. That is all to say, the story of 16-Year-Old Prom Drag Queen Jamie New (Max Harwood) is an Instant Period Piece. I don’t come anywhere close to batting my eye when I hear that a boy in an English village revealed in front of his whole school his propensity for dressing and performing in traditionally femnine garb, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. But not everyone is currently that open-minded, but nevertheless we know that Jamie is going to find his allies by movie’s end.

Since there’s not much need for worry, Jamie’s story will be satisfying so long as it’s compelling and features interesting characters. (And of course, also, if the tunes are catchy … which they are, if you’re into the whole modern rock opera sort of thing.) So we see him hanging out with his best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel), who’s always there to encourage him, just so long as it doesn’t get in the way of her Life Plan too much. And then there’s his mom Margaret (Sarah Lancashire) and her best friend Ray (Shobna Gulati), who are his biggest, most undying supporters. Meanwhile, Jamie’s trying to reach out to the dad that abandoned him (Ralph Ineson) while also dealing with some bullies and a teacher (Sharon Horgan) who simply must insist on always doing everything the proper way. This is, as I’m sure many viewers will recognize, a fairly typical teenage experience. These moments all feel like the biggest deals in the world when they’re happening, and prom feels like the massive culmination of all that. But really, this is a time when your mortal enemy could easily become your friend, and prom is mostly just an occasion to hang out with all your buds.

What’s not so typical of this tale is Loco Chanel, the veteran drag queen brought to dramatic, achingly heartfelt life by Richard E. Grant. Jamie is profoundly fortunate to encounter someone like this, and so are we. The mentorship Loco provides is invaluable. We should all be so lucky to be able to know someone who immediately encourages us to be our truest selves while also lavishly explaining the world that we’re about to enter into. So many kids today are excited to enter the world of drag, and watching Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a perfectly decent way to get a sense of what that might be all about.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is Recommended If You Like: Well-timed Bianca Del Rio cameos, Modern Rock-Style Musicals, Rebelling against the stuffy English school system

Grade: 3 out of 5 High Heels

That’s Auntertainment! Episode 35: In the Heights and the Return to Theaters

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CREDIT: Warner Bros. Pictures/Screenshot

In case you haven’t noticed, Aunt Beth and Jeff love going to the movies. They weren’t able to do that very much in 2020. Fortunately in 2021 they’ve been able to head back out to the theater much more often, like when they saw the hot new musical In the Heights. So now it’s time to talk about what makes movie theaters so great … yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

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