Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 5/14/21

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The Underground Railroad (CREDIT: Amazon Prime Video/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
Army of the Dead (May 14 in Select Theaters, May 21 on Netflix)
Oxygen (May 12 on Netflix) – Directed by Alexandre Aja, but no piranhas.
Profile (Theaters)
Spiral (Theaters) – Chris Rock joins the Book of Saw.
Those Who Wish Me Dead (Theaters and HBO Max) – Might check out to see what Angelina Jolie is up to.
The Woman in the Window (May 14 on Netflix) – Joe Wright directs Amy Adams.

TV
The Underground Railroad (May 14 on Amazon)
-2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards (May 16 on MTV)
-2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards: Unscripted (May 17 on MTV)
-2021 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions (May 17-28, check local listings) – 19-game winner Jason Zuffranieri looks like the one to beat.

Music
-Aly & AJ, A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun – This came out last week.
-St. Vincent, Daddy’s Home
-The Black Keys, Delta Kream – Dan and Pat cover hill country blues.

2021 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions Preview

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CREDIT: Jeopardy!

When it comes to my game show fandom, there’s no semi-regular occasion I look forward to more than Jeopardy!‘s Tournament of Champions. For the past few ToC’s, I’ve been handicapping the field in an attempt to identify the probable champions. My guesses have been decent thus far, as each of my #1 picks has made it to the Finals each time (and at least one of them won it all). But I’ve also come to realize that the entire ToC field is always filled with potential diamonds. You gotta keep an eye out for everybody. Having said that, I do feel confident in identifying certain favorites based on their performances in their initial winning streaks. So listed below are the 5 contestants in this year’s ToC who have impressed me the most, and listed below them are the other 10 contestants, who have also impressed me. (And sadly not included on the list is Brayden Smith, who won 6 games over December and January but passed away unexpectedly before the ToC.)

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‘Profile’ Brings Timur Bekmambetov’s Screen Life to the World of Jihadi Recruitment

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Profile (CREDIT: BEZELEVS and Focus Features)

Starring: Valene Kane, Shazad Latif, Christine Adams, Morgan Watkins, Amir Rahimzadeh, Emma Carter

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rating: R for Language and Images of Violent ISIS Activity

Release Date: May 14, 2021 (Theaters)

I’m a sucker for a good gimmick, and Timur Bekmambetov has hit upon a pretty dang excellent one with his series of “Screen Life” films. With the likes of Unfriended, Unfriended: Dark Web, and Searching, he’s produced some weirdly irresistible flicks that are presented entirely within the confines of a computer screen. Now he’s stepped into the Screen Life Director’s Chair himself for Profile, based on the nonfiction book In The Skin of a Jihadist, which documents journalist Anna Erelle’s efforts to contact an ISIS recruiter via Facebook. I’ve watched these movies on the big screen and on the TV screen, but not once have I ever watched them in their entirety on a computer. They certainly don’t lose any effectiveness they might have had by playing out just a few inches away from my face. No matter what distance I watch them from, they’re thoroughly intimate and all-encompassing, and Profile is no different.

Profile‘s stand-in for Erelle is Amy Whittaker (Valene Kane), a constantly stressed-out London-based reporter with an assignment that promises a rewarding payday but at the expense of her emotional stability. Under the guise of “Melody,” a 20-year-old convert to Islam, she soon attracts the attraction of Bilel (Shazad Latif), an ISIS leader in the market for recruiting young European women to Syria to join the fight for the Islamic State. Both Amy and Bilel are making their cases through layers of dishonesty, as she concocts justifications for her investigates instincts and he underplays his organization’s propensity for violence and human trafficking. But the best undercover work is driven by honest emotions, and Amy and Bilel do appear to forge a genuine connection. Bilel also has roots in London, and they’re both disillusioned by a country that failed to take care of their families. Everyone has their vulnerabilities, and Profile makes it inescapably clear how they can be preyed upon.

I’ve been singing the praises of Screen Life from the beginning, and this might just be its best use yet. We’re entirely stuck within the point of view of Amy, someone who’s losing any outside perspective that could keep her from losing herself. She gradually merges with the Melody persona, and for an hour and a half, you just might as well. Our online lives are not our entire lives, and it is important to be regularly reminded of that. Profile‘s entire raison d’être may be that everything is always connected, but weirdly enough, it might also be one of the most effective tools to convince us to step away every once in a while. Indeed, this is a movie that has been made by people who have beheld modern society and wondered, “What have we wrought?”

Profile is Recommended If You Like: The Screen Life genre, Undercover work, Freeze frame detective skills

Grade: 4 out of 5 Winking Cat GIFs

Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Elon Musk/Miley Cyrus

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SNL: Miley Cyrus, Elon Musk, Cecily Strong (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

Happy Mother’s Day! How come Richard Roundtree has never hosted SNL? Instead, this Mother’s Day Weekend, the host is Business Man Elon Musk, whose booking reminds me of that of Steve Forbes (i.e., Teve Torbes) in 1996. Musk is famously Not-A-Comedian, but can he successfully appear in funny comedy sketches? I have decided to find out. Miley Cyrus is the musical guest. She likes to appear on this show frequently!

I received my second COVID vaccination dose approximately 16 hours before I began watching this episode. I think the shot made me especially hungry, so it helped that I had a hearty breakfast that included some combination of eggs, strawberries, crumbs, and other nutrient-packed selections.

Now onto the part of the review where I talk about the sketches! The Cold Opening (Grade: 3.5/5 Mothers) features Miley Cyrus singing a song and the cast members bantering with their moms. It all culminates with a quite-possibly-record-breaking 36 people declaring, “LFNY,ISN!” at the same time.

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That’s Auntertainment! Episode 30: Best Pop Culture Dogs of All Time

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

ARF! (Translation: Aunt Beth and Jeff are ready to reveal their Favorite Pop Culture Dogs of All Time.)

 

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 5/7/21

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Ziew (CREDIT: Showtime/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
Mainstream (Theaters and On Demand)
Wrath of Man (Theaters) – It’s the latest from Jason Statham, can you handle it?!

TV
Mythic Quest Season 2 Premiere (May 7 on Apple TV+) – I’m still on Season 1, though!
Ziwe Series Premiere (May 9 on Showtime) – I’m hearing big things are in store for this Ziwe Fumudoh lady.

Music
-Weezer, Van Weezer
-Nancy Wilson, You and Me – One of the Heart sisters goes solo!

Watch And/Or Listen to This: Conan Has A Very Punchable Face

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CREDIT: TBS/YouTube Screenshot

Conan O’Brien has a long and storied history of goofing around with Jeopardy!, so it was only appropriate that this fate should befall him:

‘Together Together’ Review Review

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Together Together (CREDIT: Bleecker Street/YouTube Screenshot)

Starring: Ed Helms, Patti Harrison, Julio Torres, Rosalind Chao, Tig Notaro, Sufe Bradshaw, Fred Melamed, Nora Dunn, Anna Konkle, Evan Jonigkeit, Jo Firestone

Director: Nikole Beckwith

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: April 23, 2021

Now that I’ve seen Together Together, I’ve got to wonder, can I now call it “Together Together … Together“? Do Ed Helms and Patti Harrison have room for a third. And would that third be anybody (and everybody) in the audience to see their little film? That might sound like an awkward arrangement, but it surely fits with the vibe of a fortysomething single dad-to-be forging a tight platonic bond with his twentysomething surrogate. But anyway, what I’d really like to focus on is Anna Konkle, who shows up for one scene as a New Age-y birthing coach. Excuse me while I fan myself. Also, Nora Dunn and Fred Melamed are on duty as Ed Helms’ parents, which is significant because I’ve also seen both of them in other parental roles recently (Dunn on the new ABC sitcom Home Economics and Melamed in the sensational Shiva Baby).

Grade: Julio-Torres-as-One-Man-Greek-Chorus Energy

What’s in the Swedish Rainwater?: ‘The Unthinkable’ Review

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The Unthinkable (CREDIT: Magnet Releasing)

Starring: Christoffer Nordenrot, Lisa Henni, Jesper Barkselius, Pia Halvorsen

Director: Crazy Pictures

Running Time: 129 Minutes

Rating: Unrated, But PG-13-Level for General Disaster Movie Energy

Release Date: May 7, 2021 (Theaters and On Demand)

If you’ve ever seen M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 eco-thriller The Happening and thought, “I like this, but I wish it were more Swedish,” then The Unthinkable just might be the movie for you! The Happening is frequently dinged as one of the twist-meister’s silliest efforts, but it does feature striking images of people inexplicably shooting themselves and walking off the roofs of skyscrapers. The Unthinkable ramps that energy up to 11 with its scrumptious selection of chaotic vehicular pile-ups. One sequence plays out like the highway chase from Bad Boys 2, but as if Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were just sitting in their squad car, gaping on as the mayhem crashes in on them. But unlike the typical wham-bam actioner, we’re invited to linger upon this violence and truly ponder why society is suddenly crumbling into apocalyptic chaos right before our eyes.

This phenomena remains unexplained for a while, which is positively chilling. Eventually we do learn the cause behind all the calamities, even though I for one probably would not have recommended straying from the ambiguity. But the explanation we do get is a doozy: it turns out there’s some sort of agent in the rain that makes people forgetful in a way that’s likened to “getting Alzheimer’s in 15 minutes.” The Russians are the suspected culprits.

Honestly, at this point, this actually sounds more American than Swedish, save for the fact that it’s taking place against the backdrop of the Midsummer holiday. Also, there’s some sort of domestic drama wherein a fellow named Alex (Christoffer Nordenrot) is dealing with the fallout of growing up with his abusive father Björn (Jesper Barkselius). Plus, Alex may or may not still be carrying a flame for his childhood friend (Lisa Henni). I’m not sure what all of that backstory adds, but it’s at least interesting that The Unthinkable is basically three movies in one. Ultimately, though, I just care a lot more about the business with the sudden-onset Alzheimer’s and kind of wish Alex were also more focused on solving that mystery.

The Unthinkable is Recommended If You Like: The Happening, Melodramatic family drama, The cinematic persistence of Evil Russia

Grade: 3 out of 5 Car Crashes

That’s Auntertainment! Mini-Episode: 93rd Oscars

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Credit: offical.alankim/Instagram

On the Thursday after the Academy Awards, Jeff and Aunt Beth hopped on the mic quick to talk about what the heck happened at Los Angeles’ Union Station!

 

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