Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 6/19/20

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Eric Andre: Legalize Everything (CREDIT: Brian Roede/Netflix)

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

You Should Have Left (On Demand) – Blumhouse horror starring Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried.

Sherman’s Showcase Black History Month spectacular (June 19 on AMC and IFC) – Just in time for Juneteenth!
-2020 ESPYs (June 21 on ESPN)
Perry Mason Series Premiere (June 21 on HBO) – The classic defense attorney returns to TV in the form of Matthew Rhys.
Search Party Season 3 (June 25 on HBO Max)
The Twilight Zone Season 2 (June 25 on CBS All Access) – Guest stars include Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, and Billy Porter.

-Eric Andre: Legalize Everything (June 23 on Netflix) – Legalize “everything”? Including … ranch?

-Bob Dylan, Rough and Rowdy Ways
-Neil Young, Homegrown

‘7500’ Sends Joseph Gordon-Levitt Airborne to Fend Off Hijackers

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CREDIT: Amazon Studios

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Omid Memar, Murathan Muslu, Aylin Tezel

Director: Patrick Vollrath

Running Time: 92 Minutes

Rating: R for A Visceral Approach to Hijacking

Release Date: June 18, 2020 (Amazon Prime Video)

My main reaction to the hijacking thriller 7500 is, “Did it take 18 years to make this movie?” In 2002, a movie about religious extremist terrorists taking over a plane would have been arriving way too soon for American audiences. A few years later, it would have been part of a cinematic reckoning with a post-9/11 world. But now that 7500 is arriving to Amazon Prime viewers in 2020, it feels like it is a relic of at least three eras ago. In a world run roughshod by climate change, a resurrection of populist fascism, and a deadly pandemic, terrorism is hardly the number one fear keeping people up at night that it was in the past couple decades.

Despite all that, a movie does not necessarily have to speak to its times to be an effective white-knuckle pressure-cooker. So when viewed within the context of itself, 7500 is at least admirably efficient and budget-conscious. There are only a handful of characters, and the way things commence, chances are they won’t all still be there by the end. On this flight from Berlin to Paris, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays American co-pilot Tobias, who manages to quickly lock off the cockpit from the terrorists, but things quickly turn to Moral Quandary Territory when the hijackers start taking hostages, including Tobias’ flight attendant girlfriend. Gordon-Levitt’s fundamental decency allows us to trust that he will figure a way out of this crisis, and focusing on his near-solitary struggle makes for a propulsive first act.

But from that point on, 7500 doesn’t have anywhere to go. Literally. The only goal of the moment becomes finding the closest option to make an emergency landing, and accordingly the only tension comes from whether or not Tobias can wait out the terrorists’ demands long enough to avoid any massive tragedy. Eventually the film settles into a sort of odd couple-style buddy picture as the immediate threat of violence dies down and the conflict becomes more existential. Ultimately then, what starts off as a somewhat intriguing setup peters out into a fizzling resolution that isn’t especially compelling with what it’s trying to say.

7500 is Recommended If You Like: Walls between combatants

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Cockpits

I Watched ‘Da 5 Bloods’ and ‘Artemis Fowl’ on the Same Weekend: Here’s What Happened

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CREDIT: David Lee/Netflix; Walt Disney Studios/YouTube Screenshot

Da 5 Bloods

Starring: Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Chadwick Boseman, Johnny Trí Nguyễn, Mélanie Thierry, Paul Walter Hauser, Jasper Pääkkönen, Jean Reno, Victoria Ngo

Director: Spike Lee

Running Time:

Rating: R for Sometimes Shocking, Sometimes Not-So-Shocking Graphic Violence

Release Date: June 12, 2020 (Netflix)

Artemis Fowl

Starring: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Tamara Smart, Nonso Anozie, Josh Gad, Colin Farrell, Judi Dench

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: PG for Goofy Fantasy Action

Release Date: June 12, 2020 (Disney+)

I was so worried that I was going to spend so much of my time watching Da 5 Bloods bemoaning its lack of a theatrical release. For one thing, the event status of a Spike Lee joint is unavoidably diminished by an at-home debut, and furthermore, I was concerned that even if I was really feeling it, there would be too many distractions fighting for my attention. Regarding the former, I just had to make peace with that fact. As for the latter, I can’t tell you the last time a Netflix release pulled me in with such a firm grip and refused to let go. A prologue swoops in hard and fast with real-world contextualizing footage from the Vietnam War era: Man goes to the moon! Muhammad Ali refuses to serve! Riots at the DNC! Nguyễn Ngọc Loan is executed! If you look away for even a second, you’re going to miss something essential.


That’s Auntertainment! Mini-Episode: Karaoke Korner 6

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Simon & Garfunkel/YouTube Screenshot

Who’s up for another edition of “Karaoke Korner”? If you answered “me,” hurray! The musical artists this time come from Jeff’s mom, and she’s sticking with the oldies: the Beach Boys, Herman’s Hermits, and Simon & Garfunkel.

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 6/12/20

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CREDIT: Mary Cybulski/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.

Artemis Fowl (Streaming on Disney+)
Da 5 Bloods (Streaming on Netflix) – Da latest Spike Lee joint.
The King of Staten Island (On Demand) – Pete Davidson teams up with Judd Apatow!

The Clothes Are Loose and the Genders Are Transient in the Impassioned ‘Aviva’

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CREDIT: Strand Releasing/Outsider Pictures

Starring: Zina Zinchenko, Bobbi Jene Smith, Tyler Phillips, Or Schraiber

Director: Boaz Yakin

Running Time: 115 Minutes

Rating: Unrated, But There is Enough Nudity Here to Flirt with an NC-17

Release Date: June 12, 2020 (Virtual Theatrical Release)

If you’re in the mood for a cinematic love story that can be described as “fluid” in every sense of the term, then Aviva sjpi;d be a treat for you. It’s written and directed by Boaz Yakin, who’s probably best known for Remember the Titans, but this is about as far from that family-friendly football flick as possible. The Parisian Aviva (Zina Zinchenko and Or Schraiber) and the New Yorker Eden (Bobbie Jene Smith and Tyler Phillips) find themselves in an intoxicating, tempestuous love affair that spans continents, genders, and various states of dress and undress (emphasis on the undress). To watch this movie, you need to be mature enough to handle how emotions can change a dime, and how the entire nature of reality can be just as capricious.

You might have noticed that I listed a pair of actors for each of the two main characters, and perhaps you’ve caught on that that means there is a male and a female version of both Aviva and Eden. If you only pay half of your attention while watching Aviva, you might not pick up on the consistency of these individuals as they switch genders. If you however remain totally focused, it might still take you a little while to register that fact, but once it clicks, it makes perfect sense. Call it the “Cloud Atlas Effect,” wherein the self doesn’t have to be bound by the laws of physics if you don’t want it to.

Besides the gender fluidity, the other major takeaway of Aviva is its delight in featuring plentiful nudity. I would call it shameless, but that sounds too vulgar for how artful the human body is presented here. Spending naked time in bed, doing naked ballet, or otherwise just hanging out naked is how Aviva spends a good chunk of its time. The whole movie is one long dance, both literally and figuratively. Aviva and Eden put clothes on when they head out to public spaces, but it’s pretty clear even then that they’re letting us see everything about them. If you’re prepared to allow all the body parts to fly right in your face (both the visible and invisible ones), then you may very well be ready to handle Aviva. There’s no other way to approach something so bold.

Aviva is Recommended If You Like: Cloud Atlas, Tasteful and passionate cinematic nudity, Did I mention the nudity?

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Countdowns

Original Streaming Movie Catch-Up: ’13th’ Quickie Review

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Every good civil rights movement needs its cool cucumbers that get you jazzed up and grinning from ear to ear. So when I finally sat down to watch 13th, I was on the lookout for folks delivering total zingers while refusing to let The Man get them down. That prayer is answered about a half hour in when Van Jones responds to an asinine comment from Grover Norquist about the infamous 1988 Willie Horton attack ad with a terse “Thanks, Grover.” Going forward, I would recommend that as a meme-ish stock response to anyone who refuses to acknowledge the part that race plays in the institutional failings of American criminal justice.

As galvanizing as that moment is, it is not where Ava DuVernay ultimately leads us with her documentary survey of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery only to create a new form of slavery. It is a thorough diagnosis of the problem of how American prisons have perpetuated a de facto form of subjugation for people of color. Knowledge is the first step towards fixing a problem, but 13th ends on a bleak note that suggests that this particular social ill might just be too intractable to ever fully remove. Simply put, it’s in the most profitable interests of certain powers to permanently designate as criminal a significant segment of the population. But maybe there is room for some small hope that there could be a chance for a sliver of change. I watched 13th in 2020, amidst the rage of the most intense civil unrest of my lifetime, and it actually seems like some people in power are now actually considering taking revolutionary measures to address the problem. That undoubtedly has to happen if this country wants to work its way out of all the devil’s bargains it’s made.

That’s Auntertainment! Episode 13: Movie Musicals

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

Jeff and Aunt Beth welcome Jeff’s sister Kaity Malone to tackle an entire cinematic genre: musicals! Aunt Beth and Kaity attempt to convince Jeff to love those song-and-dance flicks as much as they do, and then everyone reveals their favorite classic and recent musicals. That leads into a pitch session for some ideas for new potential musicals.

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 6/5/20

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

Shirley (Hulu, On Demand, and Drive-In Theaters) – Another excellent performance from Elisabeth Moss!

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 5 Premiere (June 5 on VH1)
Hollywood Game Night (New Episodes Return Starting June 7 on NBC)
Don’t Series Premiere (June 11 on ABC) – New wacky game show hosted by Adam Scott

-Run the Jewels, RTJ4

Josephine Decker’s ‘Shirley’ Presents Elisabeth Moss as Shirley Jackson in Her Latest Acting Tour de Force

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Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young, Logan Lerman

Director: Josephine Decker

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: R for Acid Tongues and Sexual Encounters in Multiple Directions

Release Date: June 5, 2020 (Hulu, On Demand, and Drive-Ins)

When writing a movie review (or a review about anything, really), it is wise to focus on the details that you care about most. So with that in mind, after watching Elisabeth Moss play Shirley Jackson in the Josephine Decker-directed biopic Shirley, I must say: I love the shirts! Shirley favors short-sleeve button-downs, including an absolutely tremendous one with a mallard pattern. The film takes place in Vermont, but you wouldn’t know it from all the exposed forearms. In another context, her sartorial choices could easily fit on a painfully ironic hipster or a dad joke-spewing goofball, but when Shirley wears them, they say, “This is who I am: deal with it. Or don’t. Either way, I’ma do me.”

That vibe of defiance is thick in the air of Shirley, in which the writer and her Bennington College professor husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg) “welcome” newlyweds Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rose (Odessa Young) as guests into their home. If that setup has you thinking Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, you’re in the right area. If you’re also thinking there might be a heavy influence of Jackson’s most famous works, that, however, is not precisely accurate. There’s no stoning of anyone like in the short story “The Lottery,” nor are there any hints of the supernatural akin to her oft-adapted novel The Haunting of Hill House (save for the ghosts of marital discord). Despite the lack of one-to-one connections, the Jackson home is plenty scary, which Rose and Fred soon discover as they get caught up in a swirling psychosexual adventure.

When it comes to successful visionary movies, they let audiences in on a way of feeling that they fundamentally just get in their psyches (or souls, or hearts, or whatever) without necessarily having to understand the logic of it all. And that’s Shirley for me (and perhaps for some of you as well). I didn’t quite feel that way with Decker’s last film, Madeline’s Madeline, which struck me as a bit too foreign (at least on first viewing) to truly attach to it. But with Shirley, I have the key to open its lock for the cinematic language to feel just right. The psychology of why Stanley feels compelled to torture Fred over his dissertation or why Shirley and a very pregnant Rose find themselves frolicking by the bathtub is not spelled out in concrete terms. Travelling into this abode is like a trip through Hades. It’s pretty exhilarating, at least if you know you’re going to come out eventually. But for those stuck there, it’s a little more exhausting, and my mind will be stuck on them for a while.

Shirley is Recommended If You Like: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Making sarcastic comments at a party, Patterned Short-Sleeve Button-Downs

Grade: 4 out of 5 Typewriters

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