21st Century ‘Black Widow’ Movie Review

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Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, Ray Winstone, William Hurt

Director: Cate Shortland

Running Time: 134 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: July 9, 2021 (Theaters and Disney+ Premier Access)

“Plug it in, plug it in.” That’s the classic slogan of the famed Glade air freshener line of products. I currently find myself revisiting it in light of having recently watched the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Black Widow, as my primary reaction to that movie was, “Well, that character has now been plugged into the MCU.”

Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova? She’s been plugged in. David Harbour as the Red Guardian? He’s certainly been plugged in. And Rachel Weisz as Melina Vestokof? Yet another character that’s been plugged in! Yes indeed, they plugged ’em all in.

Grade: 4 or 5 Tasks out of 1 Taskmaster

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 7/9/21

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Wellington Paranormal (CREDIT: The CW/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
Black Widow (Theaters and Premier Access on Disney+)

TV
Atypical Season 4 (July 9 on Netflix) – Final season alert!
The Patrick Star Show Series Premiere (July 9 on Nickelodeon) – He’s got his own show now.
-2021 ESPYs (July 10 on ABC) – Hosted by Anthony Mackie.
Wellington Paranormal Series Premiere (July 11 on The CW) – What We Do in the Shadows spinoff; already premiered in New Zealand.
Miracle Workers Season 3 Premiere (July 13 on TBS) – They’re on the Oregon Trail now.
Never Have I Ever Season 2 (July 15 on Netflix)

Music
-The Wallflowers, Exit Wounds

Jmunney’s 2021 Emmy Wish List, Part 4: Variety and Reality

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot

It’s that time again! The 2021 Emmy nominations will be announced on July 13, which means I’ve got a Wish List for the nommy noms I’d most like to see! In case you’re wondering, I haven’t held myself to any minimum or maximum number of entrants per category, nor do I strictly adhere to official Emmy rules. (I’ve included explanations for my deviations.) And of course, I must mention that I haven’t seen everything, so there are probably some worthy considerations I may have missed. Finally, on Day 4, we wrap things up with Variety and Reality.

Did you know that there’s a talk show hosted by an alien puppet on Disney+? If you didn’t before, you do now. And you’re going to want to watch all of it as soon as possible before you die. It’s called Earth to Ned, and it’s hilarious and boasts a lineup of fantastic guests. It’s got vibes of Jiminy Glick, but it’s much more kind-hearted. It’s a celebration of talk shows as an art form and general phenomenon, and that’s why I believe that it should win the Emmy for Variety Talk Series.

Variety Sketch Series is where the oddballs that don’t slot easily into any other category end up, and thus that’s where the inimitable How to with John Wilson deserves our love.

And as for Reality, my enthusiasm is much the same as it was last year, when I was demanding praise for the first season of mini-golf extravaganza Holey Moley while the second season was airing. And now this year, I’m demanding praise for Season 2 while we’re in the midst of Season 3.

KEY:
Bold=My winner

Variety Talk Series
Conan
Earth to Ned
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
WILMORE

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Jmunney’s 2021 Emmy Wish List, Part 3: Limited Series

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot

It’s that time again! The 2021 Emmy nominations will be announced on July 13, which means I’ve got a Wish List for the nommy noms I’d most like to see! In case you’re wondering, I haven’t held myself to any minimum or maximum number of entrants per category, nor do I strictly adhere to official Emmy rules. (I’ve included explanations for my deviations.) And of course, I must mention that I haven’t seen everything, so there are probably some worthy considerations I may have missed. For Day 3, Limited Series are on the docket.

Some years, I watch plenty of Limited Series (or “miniseries,” in the now-archaic parlance), and I have an abundance of requests on my Wish List. Last year was one of those years. This year, however, was very much not one of those years. Apparently, I watched two Limited Series in their entirety in the past 12 months (or at least, only two really worthwhile Limited Series). Luckily, those two shows are both richly deserving. One is among my favorite shows of 2021 thus far, while the other acquitted itself quite handsomely on my Best of 2020 coverage.

Elsewhere, Jessie Buckley manages to be my lone entrant from a different show.

KEY:
Bold=My winner
*=I have placed this nominee in a different category than the Emmy ballot.

Limited or Anthology Series
The Good Lord Bird
WandaVision

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Jmunney’s 2021 Emmy Wish List, Part 2: Drama

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot

It’s that time again! The 2021 Emmy nominations will be announced on July 13, which means I’ve got a Wish List for the nommy noms I’d most like to see! In case you’re wondering, I haven’t held myself to any minimum or maximum number of entrants per category, nor do I strictly adhere to official Emmy rules. (I’ve included explanations for my deviations.) And of course, I must mention that I haven’t seen everything, so there are probably some worthy considerations I may have missed. Today, it’s Drama’s turn.

My Drama Wish List this year is a tale of two shows whose two most recent seasons were nearly two years apart. But weirdly enough, they were both eligible last year, and they’re both once again eligible this year. One is resurgent, while the other is just as excellent as ever. I’m of course talking about The Handmaid’s Tale and Pose. The former was nowhere to be seen on my 2020 Wish List, while the latter was one of my favorites last time and is even more so this time, as it’s my top choice in Drama Series and ALL the main acting categories. (It’s also striking up plenty of heat in the Guest fields.)

I’d also like to send some love to Disney+’s winning basketball series Big Shot. Who knew that John Stamos coaching high school girls would be the cure for what ails us?! The more you know…

KEY:
Bold=My winner

Drama Series
Big Shot
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Mandalorian
Pose

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Jmunney’s 2021 Emmy Wish List, Part 1: Comedy

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot

It’s that time again! The 2021 Emmy nominations will be announced on July 13, which means I’ve got a Wish List for the nommy noms I’d most like to see! In case you’re wondering, I haven’t held myself to any minimum or maximum number of entrants per category, nor do I strictly adhere to official Emmy rules. (I’ve included explanations for my deviations.) And of course, I must mention that I haven’t seen everything, so there are probably some worthy considerations I may have missed. First up: Comedy and Animation.

Almost every single one of my Comedy Series preferences from last year is not eligible this year, whether because of series finales or longer-than-average breaks in between successive seasons. Luckily we have a plethora of streaming services to fill the gaps, and plenty of them are represented here. We’ve got Hulu! We’ve got Peacock! We’ve got Apple TV+! We’ve even got that dang HBO Max. There’s also some room for basic cable in the form of Syfy’s Resident Alien. And it looks like for the first time since I’ve been making Emmy Wish Lists, there is no broadcast network series making my cut (although one of my choices began as an NBC show and another is a reboot of an NBC show).

In the acting categories, it’s an absolute embarrassment of riches in the Lead Actress category, with every one of the ladies I’ve selected giving the performances they were born to play. That’s also true of Alan Tudyk, who’s my easy winner in the Lead Actor field. (He’s an alien … pretending to be a human! Can you imagine?!) Over in Supporting, it’s a mix of newbies and usual suspects, with plenty of sitcoms really making full use of their deep ensembles these days.

KEY:
Bold=My winner
*=I have placed this nominee in a different category than the Emmy ballot.

Comedy Series
A.P. Bio
Dickinson
Pen15
Resident Alien
Saved by the Bell
Search Party

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Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 7/2/21

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Still gossipin’ after all these years… (CREDIT: HBO Max/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
The Forever Purge (Theaters) – ABP: Always Be Purging
Summer of Soul (Theaters and Hulu)
Zola (Theaters)

TV
I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson Season 2 (July 6 on Netflix) – We’re all trying to find the guy who made this show!
The Good, the Bart, and the Loki (July 7 on Disney+) – Crossover short.
Gossip Girl Reboot Premiere (July 8 on HBO Max)
grown-ish Season 4 Premiere (July 8 on Freeform)

Music
-Lana Del Rey, Blue Banisters

‘The Tomorrow War’ Review: Mike Mitchell Edition

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The Tomorrow War (CREDIT: Amazon Studios)

Starring: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, Edwin Hodge, Jasmine Mathews, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Keith Powers, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Mike Mitchell

Director: Chris McKay

Running Time: 140 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Alien Scum

Release Date: July 2, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)

The Tomorrow War stars Chris Pratt as the leader of a fight between Earth and invading aliens in which he must be sent 30 years in the future. He teams up with a ragtag crew, including a future version of his young daughter (Yvonne Strahovski). But I’m not here to talk about them. Instead, this review is all about Mike Mitchell, who’s about 12th on the call sheet, but he’s pretty much the only reason I wanted to watch this movie. Mitchell is primarily known as a podcaster and a member of the Birthday Boys sketch comedy group, the latter of which featured him as a friendly alien who sings a jingle at birthday parties. His podcasting duties include co-hosting Doughboys, in which he reviews chain restaurants. The Tomorrow War, meanwhile, does not feature him chowing down on any good grub, which feels like a missed opportunity.

I’m guessing that Mitchell was cast to be the comic relief character, or one of the comic relief characters. And there needed to be multiple ones! Because, you see, the best part involving Mitch happens when Chris Pratt asks Mary Lynn Rajskub’s character what her name is, and she says “Norah,” which is indeed her character’s name. And then he immediately asks Mitch’s character what his name is, and he also says “Norah.” It’s really well-timed, I promise!

If you’re like me and watching The Tomorrow War only for the Mike Mitchell, you’ll have to be patient, because he’s only in a small percentage of it. But luckily today’s technology allows you to fast-forward and rewind as you please.And there’s also perhaps a consolation prize, as Sam Richardson (of Veep and Detroiters fame) has much more screen time, a good portion of which is meant to be funny. There’s one moment in particular when he continuously shouts a certain four-letter word over and over about a couple dozen times in a row. So I guess this review wasn’t entirely focused on Mike Mitchell. I hope you can forgive me.

The Tomorrow War is Recommended If You Like: Fast-forwarding through Amazon Prime Video’s viewing experience

Grade: 2 out of 5 Doughboys

‘The Forever Purge’ is a Modern Dystopian Nightmare

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The Forever Purge (CREDIT: Universal Pictures/YouTube Screenshot)

Starring: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rabin, Alejandro Edda, Will Patton

Director: Evarardo Gout

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Rating: R for Sniveling, Racist, Terroristic Violence

Release Date: July 2, 2021 (Theaters)

I thought we were done with The Purge. With the 2016 release of The Purge: Election Year, a new administration ascended and officially ended the annual night of state-sanctioned lawlessness. But horror franchises never say die, so this one went the prequel route with 2018’s The First Purge. There was also a two-season TV series that debuted that same year, which I watched one episode of. As far as I know, it has little, if any, bearing on the movies. Now all the legal crime’s been reinstated in The Forever Purge, and as the title indicates, there’s a contingent intent on it never ending. But after such a satisfying conclusion in Election Year, that’s such a depressing prospect to me. So pretty much the only way I can find The Forever Purge palatable is by pretending that it’s essentially a standalone entry, so that’s what I’ll do.

It’s not too hard to pull off this mental trick, as Forever carries over no characters from any previous entries (save for the ever-present specter of the “New Founding Fathers of America” regime that conceived of The Purge in the first place). This time around we’re in Texas, with a white ranch-owning family and a Mexican family that works on the ranch as our requisite set of people who would prefer to barricade themselves up during this here Purge, thank you very much. (Josh Lucas’s Dylan Tucker, the biggest jackass of these clans, has the most selfish reason for opposing this ritual, as he declares, “I hate the damn Purge. It’s just hard to be social on that night.”) Then there are the truly demented forever purgers, among the most thoroughly evil caricatures of any good grindhouse flick.

After living through a pandemic and its attendant heightened anxiety, I’m not exactly in the mood for the 24/7 terror promised by The Forever Purge. Hell, I’m not usually ever in the mood for that, but at least when the earlier Purge editions came out, they felt much further removed from reality than they do now. But insurrectionists demanding that the government make their already-extreme policies even more extreme is very much a part of recent American history. At least The Forever Purge allows for some catharsis by making it very clear that it is on the side of the systemically downtrodden. This has always been an “eat the rich” franchise, and this time that’s clearer than ever, what with the villains aiming to essentially start a race war. In conclusion, I can’t remember any other mainstream film in my lifetime basically saying “Maybe Mexico is a better place to live than America right now,” so I have to applaud The Forever Purge‘s gumption and conviction.

The Forever Purge is Recommended If You Like: Revisiting a nightmare world

Grade: 3 out of 5 Purges

Do Yourself a Favor and Check Out the Questlove Documentary Jawn ‘Summer of Soul’

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Summer of Soul: Sly Stone (CREDIT: Searchlight Pictures)

Starring: The Performers and Attendees of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival

Director: Questlove

Running Time: 117 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Rock ‘n’ Roll

Release Date: June 25, 2021 (New York and Los Angeles)/July 2, 2021 (Expanding Theatrically/Hulu)

The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival is widely known as “Black Woodstock,” and if you watch the Questlove-directed concert documentary Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), it’s pretty obvious why. Two landmark music festivals, held in the same summer, in the same state, only about 100 miles apart. One of them has enjoyed one of the biggest footprints in American cultural history. The other was permanently relegated to the dustbin … until now.

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