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!

‘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

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 4/30/21

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The Mitchells vs. the Machines (CREDIT: Sony Pictures Animation Inc.)

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

Movies
22 vs. Earth (April 30 on Disney+) – Prequel short to Soul.
Limbo (Theaters)
The Mitchells vs. the Machines (April 30 on Netflix)

TV
Pose Season 3 Premiere (May 2 on FX) – Final season alert!
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Series Premiere (May 4 on Disney+)
Girls5eva Season 1 (May 6 on Peacock) – A 90s girl group tries to make a comeback…
That Damn Michael Che Series Premiere (May 6 on HBO Max)

Music
-Royal Blood, Typhoons

Sports on TV
NBA Special Edition: Marvel’s Arena of Heroes: Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans (May 3 on ESPN) – An NBA game with Marvel superheroes mixed in.

Podcasts
The Deep Dive with Jessica St. Clair and June Diane Raphael – Jessica and June and friends talk about what it’s like to be a woman.

‘Limbo’ is an Offbeat and Lovely Ode to Refugees

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Limbo (CREDIT: Focus Features)

Starring: Amir El-Masry, Vikash Bhai, Ola Orebiyi, Kwabena Ansah, Kenneth Collard, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Kais Nashef

Director: Ben Sharrock

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Rating: R for Occasionally Angry Language

Release Date: April 30, 2021 (Theaters)

Limbo is like Napoleon Dynamite, but if it were about refugees on a remote Scottish island instead of high schoolers in Idaho, and if the Pedro character were the lead and the Napoleon character his wacky roommate. Both feature oodles of quirky cinematography of patient wide shots. Both have a charmingly contemplative spirit. Both have their hearts in the fringes of society. Both include awkward classroom scenes. And both feature a climactic musical sequence: where once Napoleon boogied down to Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat,” Limbo‘s Omar strums out a triumphant performance on his grandfather’s oud.

Writer-director Ben Sharrock is fully attuned to the light surrealism of an existence in which so much of your day-to-day life is beyond your control. Omar (Amir El-Masry) is a little hard to read, but it seems like he’s happy to have escaped the strife of his native Syria. And while he puts on a stoic face, he’s clearly yearning for something more permanent. He lives in a mostly unfurnished house with three fellow refugee roommates, and the rest of his routine is just as starkly unfurnished. He spends much of his time attending cultural assimilation classes that cover everything from English grammar to role-playing scenarios for sexual harassment awareness. Every few days, he calls his parents via a payphone on the side of an empty road. And when he goes grocery shopping, he appears to be the only customer, and all he hopes to find is his beloved sumac spice.

Omar’s refugee experience could be a whole hell of a lot worse, but his melancholy predicament makes you hope that he can improve it by taking some small measure of control wherever he can. So when he asks the shopkeeper about the sumac and it eventually shows up, we feel that victory. And when he reaches out to his estranged brother, it cuts even deeper. And when he finally picks up his oud after betraying no interest in it for most of the time we spend with him, it’s cause for doing cartwheels in the aisle. I can’t speak for everyone else who’s seen Limbo, but I know that I couldn’t help but air-oud to that performance.

Limbo is Recommended If You Like: The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Wes Anderson symmetry, Cliff-filled seaside isles

Grade: 4 out of 5 Apricots

Existential Swedish Vignette Adventure Time: ‘About Endlessness’ Review

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About Endlessness (CREDIT: Magnolia Pictures)

Starring: Martin Serner, Jessica Louthander, Tatiana Delaunay, Anders Hellström, Jan-Eje Ferling, Bengt Bergius, Thore Flygel

Director: Roy Andersson

Running Time: 78 Minutes

Rating: Unrated, But It Should Be Rated E for “Extreme Existentialism”

Release Date: April 30, 2021 (Theaters and On Demand)

About Endlessness is so far afield from any other movie I’ve ever seen. I make an effort to watch as many new films as possible, so it’s nice to know that hard-to-define surprises can still arrive every once in a while. And sometimes when one of those new experiences makes its way through, I find myself at a total loss to respond. If I were assigned to review About Endlessness for an outlet with multiple critics, I would probably ask someone else to take over the job. But since this is my own blog, I feel compelled to do my best. So world, for the record: I’ve seen About Endlessness, and it’s fair to say it challenged me.

When I’m at a loss when writing a review, I find it wise to fall back on what can be objectively stated. So with that in mind, what we have here is a series of vignettes courtesy of septuagenarian Swedish auteur Roy Andersson. It opens with a couple sitting on a bench overlooking a city. A man walks through a town carrying a cross while a crowd chants “Crucify!” Some young women dance while some young men watch. A priest despairs, “What should I do now that I have lost my faith?” Hitler even shows up at one point. The whole thing ends with a guy having car trouble in the middle of the road.

I was raised Roman Catholic, so obviously the parts with the priest and the cross-carrying resonate with me. But beyond that, I have to chalk the point of this whole affair up to Andersson’s emotional/creative/existential whims. Is the experience of About Endlessness satisfying enough for me to recommend it? I’m not sure it’s supposed to be “satisfying,” unless you can be satisfied by the despair of mundanity. For some viewers (and you know who you are), that may actually sound appealing. But if you still have doubts, you should know that it’s only 78 minutes long. So if you’re feeling even just a little bit adventurous, why not give this oddball concoction a chance?

About Endlessness is Recommended If You Like: A Nordic outlook on life

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Park Benches

I LOVE ‘SHIVA BABY,’ IT MADE ME LAUGH SO MUCH!!!!!

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Shiva Baby (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

Starring: Rachel Sennott, Molly Gordon, Danny Defararri, Polly Draper, Fred Melamed, Dianna Agron

Director: Emma Seligman

Running Time: 77 Minutes

Rating: Unrated

Release Date: April 2, 2021

After watching the very Jewish Shiva Baby, I discovered that its lead, Rachel Sennott, is not Jewish but Italian Catholic. Meanwhile, Dianna Agron, who plays the shiksa wife, is Jewish! But after the initial shock wore off, I realized that this actually wasn’t terribly unbelievable. American Jews and Italian-American Catholics do have some cultural similarities after all, especially if we’re talking about the ones in or around the New York City area. Sennott is from Simsbury, Connecticut, which is fairly close to NYC, while Agron was born in Georgia and raised in Texas and California, so perhaps the real difference is geographical. So much of American cinematic Jewish culture is New York Jewish culture!

Anyway, I enjoy stories about people with taboo jobs who are also just taking care of their lives, you know? And that certainly applies here as Sennott plays Danielle, a soon-to-be college grad who makes extra cash through a sugar daddy app. While attending a shiva with her parents, she runs into one of her clients, and it’s about as awkward as you can possibly imagine! Throw in some bagels, a bunch of nosy aunts and family friends, and a confrontational childhood friend/ex-fling, and that’s Shiva Baby!

Grade: 3-5 Bagels out of 1 Ripped Pair of Tights

93rd Oscars Predictions/Preferences

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It’s looking good for Nomadland (CREDIT: Searchlight Pictures/YouTube Screenshot)

Here’s my quick rundown of who’s most likely to grab the gold on Sunday, April 25, 2021, and whom I would vote for if I had a ballot.

Best Picture
Prediction: Nomadland
Preference: Promising Young Woman

Best Director
Prediction: Chloé Zhao
Preference: Emerald Fennell

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Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 4/23/21

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Rutherford Falls (CREDIT: Peacock/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
Mortal Kombat (2021) (Theaters and Streaming on HBO Max)
Together Together (April 23 in Theaters, May 11 On Demand) – Ed Helms, Patti Harrison, and surrogacy, oh my!

TV
Rutherford Falls Season 1 (Premiered April 22 on Peacock) – Mike Schur, Ed Helms, and a town bordering a Native American reservation walk into a sitcom.
Romeo and Juliet (April 23 on PBS) – A new production from London’s National Theater starring Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor
A Black Lady Sketch Show Season 2 Premiere (April 23 on HBO)
-93rd Academy Awards (April 25 on ABC) – Handin’ out those Oscars.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Premiere (April 28 on Hulu)

Music
-Eric Church, Heart & Soul – A three-part album released over the course of a week!
-Dinosaur Jr., Sweep It Into Space

The 2020 jmunney Academy Awards

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Promising Young Woman fulfilled plenty of promises for me this year (CREDIT: Focus Features/YouTube Screenshot)

If I were in charge of unilaterally selecting the Oscars, here is who would be selected. Nominees are listed alphabetically, winners in bold.

Best Picture
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Da 5 Bloods
The Invisible Man
Promising Young Woman
Tenet

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