Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 10/15/21

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Good Timing with Jo Firestone (CREDIT: Peacock/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
Halloween Kills (Theaters and Peacock) – I also plan on watching every other Halloween movie in the near future.
The Last Duel (Theaters) – Matt Damon and Ben Affleck finally wrote another screenplay (along with Nicole Holofcener this time).

TV
Succession Season 3 Premiere (October 17 on HBO)

Music
-Finneas, Optimist
-Santana, Blessings and Miracles

Comedy
Good Timing with Jo Firestone (October 15 on Peacock) – Jo Firestone teaches senior citizens stand-up comedy.

‘Halloween Kills,’ and That Makes for a Bloody Mess

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Halloween Kills (CREDIT: Ryan Green/Universal Pictures)

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Anthony Michael Hall, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Kyle Richards, Nancy Stephens, Robert Longstreet, Charles Cyphers, Dylan Arnold, Scott MacArthur, Michael McDonald

Director: David Gordon Green

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rating: R for Blood, Guts, Viscera, Screaming

Release Date: October 15, 2021 (Theaters and Streaming on Peacock)

According to Halloween Kills, there are two main reasons why you should avoid mob justice:

1. You might go after the wrong person and end up killing an innocent man.
2. The guy you’re targeting seemingly can’t be killed.

That second lesson applies specifically to the Halloween film franchise (although it can certainly be extended to other horror classics). These seem like pretty obvious lessons, but I guess I should cut the characters in this film some slack, considering that they don’t have the same context that we viewers do. In case you need a refresher: the David Gordon Green-directed Halloween Kills is a direct sequel to the 2018 Halloween (also directed by Green), which was itself a direct sequel to the original 1978 Halloween that ignored all the other sequels. So while in the current continuity it might be a slight surprise to the residents of Haddonfield that Michael Myers is indestructible, it’s not at all surprising to the audience.

As the Halloween franchise is 43 years old and a dozen films deep, it’s forgivable if it doesn’t pull off too many genuine shocks anymore, so long as it has something to say. And Halloween Kills certainly wants to have something to say vis-a-vis that mob justice angle. But it seems to me like the townspeople seeking justice are actually fairly effective. Sure, the misidentification is pretty bad, but they eventually do manage to corner Michael. Their plan would have worked against someone a little more mortal!

But of course, the dictates of pre-planned sequel-dom make it clear that an ultimate victory is fully out of reach. A third entry directed by Green, entitled Halloween Ends, is already on the schedule for next October. So right now, we can feel pretty confident that Michael will return and that Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode will as well. Everyone else, even some returning favorites (including child star-turned-Beverly Hills housewife Kyle Richards herself), are a little more vulnerable.

So then, we’re left to hope that the set pieces are at least effective. Pretty much all of them are throwbacks to the style of the original. Some are pretty funny, others are melodramatic, all of them end in relentless violence. Probably the most amusing is the series of scenes with Michael McDonald (the steamroller-crushed security guard from Austin Powers) and Scott MacArthur (best-known for the short-lived Fox sitcom gem The Mick) as a couple just trying to have a relaxing Halloween night in. Unfortunately, they decided to live in Michael Myers’ former home, and that just doesn’t bode well for their future together. If Halloween decides to go in a sillier and campier direction, they’ve got the blueprint right here.

Halloween Kills is Recommended If You Like: Saw-style gore, Inevitable death, Anthony Michael Hall springing into action

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Masks

Todd Haynes Heads Down to ‘The Velvet Underground’

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The Velvet Underground (CREDIT: Apple TV+)

Starring: The Velvet Underground, Nico, and Friends

Director: Todd Haynes

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Rating: R for Rock ‘n’ Roll Language, Sex, and Drugs

Release Date: October 13, 2021 (New York)/October 15, 2021 (Apple TV+)

What would you hope to get from a Velvet Underground documentary directed by Todd Haynes? I imagine that’s what potential viewers of the documentary appropriately entitled The Velvet Underground are asking themselves. It’s certainly a question I asked myself before watching. After all, Haynes and Lou Reed’s crew are both known for doing things a little differently in their respective fields. So I’ll use this review to let you know what I was thinking and then how the movie lived up to or didn’t live up to those expectations. (I guess that’s what movie reviews usually are!)

Considering this pairing of director and subject matter, I expected something a little off-kilter. After all, Haynes’ last music-focused cinematic effort was the sort-of biopic I’m Not There, in which several distinct actors more or less played Bob Dylan. The focus with The Velvet Underground is a little more straightforward, but only when compared to how weird Haynes has been in the past. This is mainly a talking heads doc, but there’s fun in filling out the frame, with liberal use of split-screen providing the visual cortex much more to process than a simple camera on somebody’s face. Interview clips are paired with archival footage, lending the presentation a dollop of free-associative flair.

Overall, The Velvet Underground the documentary feels like a history lesson presented by the band members themselves, or as much as that can be the case with a few of them having passed. If, like myself, you’re not already a Velvet Underground expert, you’ll come away learning some new factoids, like how much Lou Reed cared about de-tuning the guitars and that their collaborator Nico made a splash in the Fellini film La Dolce Vita. Those are the sorts of takeaways that are typical of music documentaries, though less typical of Todd Haynes films. But that’s not necessarily a criticism. I knew from the jump that this wasn’t trying to be another I’m Not There, and that’s okay. It doesn’t need to be that; instead, it can do something like capture the droning energy of the Velvet Underground classic “Venus in Furs,” and it proves itself perfectly capable of pulling that off pretty well.

The Velvet Underground is Recommended If You Like: Rock ‘n’ Roll history, General transgression, Detailed epilogues

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Boots of Leather

Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Kim Kardashian West/Halsey

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SNL: Halsey, Kim Kardashian West, Cecily Strong (CREDIT: NBC/Screenshot)

For last week’s premiere episode, I reviewed the sketches in backwards order, and now this time I’m going to review them in alphabetical order. This can potentially be a little tricky, because sometimes I think certain sketches should have a different name than what’s listed on SNL‘s YouTube page. So I’ll say this to make sure that we’re all on the same page: I’m going with the sketch names that I think make the most sense.

But first, a first word on a couple of the new cast members: the “h” in “Aristotle Athari” is silent, so his last name sounds like a certain video game system, and I think that’s pretty cool. And there’s also Sarah Sherman, whose name sounds VERY similar to “Sarah Silverman,” who was also once upon a time a brunette SNL cast member.

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That’s Auntertainment! Karaoke Korner 22

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One of the many things that Jeff and his college roommate Brenton bond over is their love of music, so it only makes sense that Brenton would provide a lineup for Karaoke Korner.

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 10/8/21

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Muppets Haunted Mansion (CREDIT: Mitch Haaseth/Disney)

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

Movies
Lamb (Theaters)
No Time to Die (Theaters) – Daniel Craig is so happy that this is finally coming out.
The Rescue (Theaters)

TV
Muppets Haunted Mansion (October 8 on Disney+) – Ed Asner has passed away, but he was not murdered or scared to death on the set of this.
Nancy Drew Season 3 Premiere (October 8 on The CW)
Whose Line is it Anyway? Season 18 Premiere (October 9 on The CW)
Legends of the Hidden Temple Reboot Premiere (October 10 on The CW) – Formerly of Nickelodeon.
The Baby-Sitters Club Season 2 (October 11 on Netflix)
Chucky Series Premiere (October 12 on SyFy) – Chucky the Doll, that is.
A Night in the Academy Museum (October 12 on ABC) – Hosted by Laura Dern and Tom Hanks.
B Positive Season 2 Premiere (October 14 on CBS)
The Kids Tonight Show Series Premiere (October 14 on Peacock)

Sports
-WNBA Finals (Begins October 10, ABC and ESPN)

‘The Rescue’ Embeds Itself Within the Thai Soccer Team Cave Rescue

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The Rescue (CREDIT: National Geographic)

Starring: Junior Soccer Players, Cave Divers, Thai Navy SEALs

Directors: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: PG for Dangerous Situations

Release Date: October 8, 2021 (Theaters)

If you want to experience very high levels of vicarious stress, then I recommend watching The Rescue. If that sounds awful, know that you’ll also be rewarded with plenty of inspiration! This documentary tells the story of the Thai soccer team that was trapped in and subsequently rescued from a cave in 2018. The operation lasted a few weeks, and while the film lasts less than two hours, you really get a sense of just how long the boys were waiting to be freed. The whole time I was watching, I just wanted it to be over. I knew the major details about the story, so I could rest assured that it was going to be a happy ending, but that didn’t make it any more bearable. That’s not a criticism about the filmmaking; on the contrary, the fact that I could experience that much secondhand claustrophobia and still be enthralled speaks to the power of the presentation.

The Rescue is about once-in-a-lifetime ingenuity fueled by whatever hope is available, all undergirded by the question “What does the impossible look like?” An international team of the best cave divers in the world is assembled. If anybody can retrieve the boys safely, it’s these guys, but their assessment is that it will be the most difficult job they’ve ever had to pull off. With poor visibility, lowering oxygen levels, and rising water levels that are only going to get higher with the looming monsoon season, the task is urgent and requires levels of expertise that have quite possibly never been utilized. Solutions are made up on the fly that theoretically sound like terrible ideas to the people capable of pulling them off, but they’re certainly better than doing nothing.

I can tell you this with genuine certainty: I won’t be doing any spelunking anytime soon. Not that I was planning on doing that before watching The Rescue, but now I have something I can point to if anybody ever asks me why I’m so against it. Maybe I’ll dip my toe in a cave or two, but never so far that I can’t see where I entered from. But thank God there are people on this world who feel very differently than me about this. As this documentary demonstrates, we kind of need them.

The Rescue is Recommended If You Like: your documentaries inspirational and death-defying

Grade: 4 out of 5 Tham Luangs

‘Lamb’ Will Have Audiences Everywhere Baa-ing Cries of Joy

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Lamb (CREDIT: A24)

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snaer Gudnason, Björn Hylnur Haraldsson

Director: Valdimar Jóhannsson

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: R for Some Bursts of Blood and a Few Sexy Moments

Release Date: October 8, 2021 (Theaters)

The best way I can describe the appeal (or potential appeal) of Lamb is by linking to this art installation piece of a dog-human hybrid by Australian artist Patricia Piccinini. It went viral as a supposedly real example of a cross-bred canine-human species to the point that Snopes had to debunk it. You don’t have to believe in actual missing links to find this uncanny mix-up compelling, which is why I believe that there is a healthy appetite for something like Lamb. Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snaer Gudnason play María and Ingvar, a childless couple in the Icelandic countryside who suddenly find themselves in the presence of Ada, a creature that has the face and fleece of a baby sheep but the bipedalism and mannerisms of a human child. Director/co-writer Valdimar Jóhannsson has concocted something undeniably strange, though the presentation is mostly heartwarming.

A premise like Lamb‘s definitely isn’t for everyone, but skittish viewers might just be surprised to discover how much Ada can wiggle her way into their hearts. María and Ingvar treat her as lovingly as they would any child. They make sure to ask her how she’s feeling and if she’s hungry … all the things that you do to be attentive to a little one. They even give her a crown of flowers that makes her like the Midsommar Queen. And on top of all that, there’s even a scene featuring one of the characters’ old music videos on a VHS tape that results in an impromptu dance party. There’s just so much spontaneous joy in this movie!

But alas, there is also some terror lurking around the edges. For one thing, Ingvar’s brother Pétur comes to visit for a few days, and he just doesn’t understand how a human family could raise Ada the way that his brother and sister-in-law are. He also tries to make some moves on María that are very much not welcome. Then there is the sublime nature of Iceland itself to contend with. It’s a beautiful country, but it’s the kind of place that looks like it’s going to swallow you up whenever it feels like it. And then there’s the question of whether or not this living arrangement with Ada can last. Is it indeed too unnatural for everybody to accept? Sadly, it might be, but we can definitely remember the good times.

Lamb is Recommended If You Like: The Muppets, E.T., Modern Fables, the Adorable Side of the Uncanny Valley

Grade: 4 out of 5 Cats

Review of ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye,’ Hurray!

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The Eyes of Tammy Faye (CREDIT: Searchlight Pictures © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved)

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Sam Jaeger

Director: Michael Showalter

Running Time: 126 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: September 17, 2021 (Theaters)

How many eyes did Tammy Faye Bakker have? Just two, but it feels like more. There was a lot of attention around them! Also, the biopic starring Jessica Chastain as her was released just a couple weeks before The Many Saints of Newark, so I kept wanting to call it The “Many” Eyes of Tammy Faye, which I think would’ve been pretty cool. Director Michael Showalter is sketch comedy royalty, after all, surely he would’ve been able to make something out of that prompt. Anyway, the movie that we actually got is mostly straightforward and empathy-inducing.

Grade: 1 out of 2 Eyes Sometimes, 2 out of 2 Eyes Other Times

It’s Not Time to Die, Because It’s Time for a Review of ‘No Time to Die’

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No Time to Die (CREDIT: Nicola Dove/© 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Ana de Armas, Rory Kinnear, Billy Magnussen, Christoph Waltz

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Running Time: 163 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Spy Violence with the Bloodiest Moments Artfully Obscured

Release Date: October 8, 2021 (Theaters)

The Daniel Craig version of James Bond carries the weight of his previous chapters: the physical scars, the emotional scars, all the expectations of the world. Ergo, the conclusive entry No Time to Die really goes out of its way to tie everything together and put a nice little bow on the whole affair. That was also actually kind of the case six years ago with Spectre, but that earlier film had a lot of viewers going, “Wait-wait-wait, hold on, you don’t have to tie ALL of these seemingly disparate threads together.” But now that I’ve seen No Time to Die pull it off, I appreciate the effort, and I can confidently say that the Craig Era is fully synthesized with a satisfying emotional resolution.

As we check back in with Bond, he’s hanging out with Léa Seydoux’s Dr. Madeleine Swann in Italy, and they appear to be a full-fledged item. I preferred him with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, but she’s dead now. She’s not forgotten, though, as James makes sure to set aside some of his time in Italy to visit her tomb. At this point in his life, he’s really trying his damnedest to get out of the spy game once and for all, and Madeleine can be a chance for him to do that, but he doesn’t fully trust her. Besides, go-to evil organization SPECTRE is still causing plenty of chaos, and new foe Safin (Rami Malek) has dangerous world-altering plans that James and Madeleine eventually get caught up in. There are a bunch of motivations working at cross-purposes here.

The most satisfying element of No Time to Die is the bonhomie. Everyone at MI6 respects each other as colleagues. Some of them would even go so far as to call each other friends. James is given the space he needs to be retired, but when it’s time for him to spring back into action, everyone is happy to have him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Q, Moneypenny, and Felix Leiter more pleased and honored to be in the company of their fellow agent. Even Lashana Lynch as the newly designated 007 has nothing but mutual respect to offer James. Ralph Fiennes as M, meanwhile, just looks eternally stressed out. He obviously has to answer to a multitude of masters, but I’m sure he appreciates his agents in his own way.

Anyway, Safin has this whole plan involving poison that’s going to usher in a new world order or something like that. I’m not entirely sure how the mechanics of it work, but I’m happy that it underscores (instead of getting in the way) the emotional resonance. James Bond is no longer just the uber-cool guy with the tuxedos and the gadgets and the martinis. Now he’s also a true part of our parasocial family.

No Time to Die is Recommended If You Like: The emphasis on character and continuity in this Bond era

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Missiles

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