Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 12/4/20

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MANK (CREDIT: Netflix)

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

Godmothered (December 4 on Disney+)
Mank (December 4 on Netflix) – Fincher on Mankiewicz.
Mulan (December 4 on Disney+, without the premium fee)
Let Them All Talk (December 10 on HBO Max) – Soderbergh directs Streep-Bergen-Wiest on a cruise.

Big Mouth Season 4 (December 4 on Netflix)
MTV Movie & TV Awards: Greatest of All Time Special (December 6 on MTV)

-Arctic Monkeys, Live at the Royal Albert Hall

SNL Review November 3, 2018: Jonah Hill/Maggie Rogers

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

This post was originally published on News Cult in November 2018.

Love It

Teacher Fell Down – Now here’s a welcome example of SNL being more experimental than usual: starting the scene right after the inciting incident, combined with generally weird (but mildly so) behavior. Then a bunch of confused spectators comment on the strangeness of the situation and try to restore some sanity, but without getting too worked up about it. Honestly, a lot of this is just solid sketch writing, but deployed in a way one would ever think to do.

6-year-old Adam Grossman cracking Catskills-style jokes at the Benihana never fails to be a delight. Giving him a (not actually) Jamaican nanny proves to be a stroke of genius for providing him with fruitful material…Oh man, those Pug Wigs are legendarily adorable.

Keep It

Jonah Hill’s Five-Timers Monologue – I always love a visit to the Five-Timers lounge, and since we’ve seen it multiple times before, subversion is a good idea, too. The basic idea here is that the #MeToo movement has spread to the Five-Timers Club, thus only female members are there to welcome Jonah. This approach doesn’t quite fit, though, as none of the male members are really known for their mistreatment of women (notwithstanding the recently arrested Alec Baldwin’s anger issues and Chevy Chase’s noted difficulty to work alongside). Of course, this could also be a commentary on the relative lack of women in the club and in the history of SNL and in comedy in general. Which is a fine idea, but then a lot of the jokes are just the ladies lightly teasing Jonah. This is all to say, there are several worthwhile avenues present here, but overall it’s a bit scattered. Side note: I gotta give it up to Candice Bergen for being a legend who just stares at her phone during the goodnights.

The Ingraham Angle has some funny gags about FOX News overreaction, though no great overarching point…The Democrat Midterm Ad‘s biggest laugh comes from Mom Aidy Bryant screaming that kidding about voting is NOT FUNNY!…Divided We Stand is fairly amusing self-satisfied theater, but I am most tickled by the fact that it is taking place at 43rd and “Lincoln Tunnel Service Road”…Michael and Colin really have to fight for desk time with all those correspondents, but at least they get a good crack about Gritty in there…I would say making fun of people’s appearances is not political satire, but Pete Davidson does acknowledge that and makes fun of his own looks as well, so he knows what he’s doing…Brittainy, Every Teen Girl Murder Suspect on Law & Order is one of those Update bits that pretty much perfectly captures the trope it’s tackling but doesn’t quite fully integrate itself within the context of Update; so: funny, but a little disorienting…Kenan’s David Ortiz really knows how to be a spokesperson for products and concepts that we never realized needed endorsing…America’s Got Talent: Wait, They’re Good? identifies what I assume is an actual overdone reality competition trope. It’s a good joke, but the execution is a little dragged-out…HuckaPM features some intense falling-over physical comedy; bangin’.

Leave It

KCR News Albany – Hoo boy, this is a mess. The writing is all wrong, what with the tone veering wildly in multiple directions, and the direction isn’t great either, with technical glitches and bad timing. The tragedy is, there are some decent jokes in there, but it is never clear what the base reality is. Thus, I am too confused to laugh. At least the sketch doesn’t end on a bummer, but alas, that happy ending only makes everything more confusing.

Jonah Hill

On a scale of SNL Five Timers, Jonah Hill is steady and effective enough. He has a memorable recurring character in his repertoire, so he hasn’t scaled this height with nothing, though he is still a far cry from the most legendary in this hallowed club. In this outing, it’s clear that he’s happy to play along pleasantly with the cast and that he doesn’t feel any need to go out of his way to make himself the star. It makes for a mostly functional episode.

Maggie Rogers

On a scale of musical guests I’ve hardly heard of before their SNL debut, Maggie Rogers has definitely caught my attention. For someone in her twenties, she sure looks and sounds polished. Plus, there’s always room in the pop scene for more folk music without getting all Mumford & Sons-artisanal about it. And you gotta love that Suspiria-style red dress.

Letter Grades:

The Ingraham Angle – C+

Jonah Hill’s Five-Timers Monologue – B

Benihana – B+

Democrats Midterm Ad – B

KCR News Albany – C

Divided We Stand – B-

Teacher Fell Down (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+

Maggie Rogers performs “Light On” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Pete Davidson – B
Brittainy, Every Teen Girl Murder Suspect on Law & Order – B-
David Ortiz – B

America’s Got Talent: Wait, They’re Good? – B-

Maggie Rogers performs “Fallingwater” – B

HuckaPM – B-

Pug Wigs – B+

This Is a Movie Review: Noah Baumbach and Adam Sandler’s Sensibilities Align Perfectly in ‘The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)’

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CREDIT: Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2017.

Starring: Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, Emma Thompson, Grace van Patten, Judd Hirsch

Director: Noah Baumbach

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Rating: Unrated, But It Would Probably Be (a Soft) R for Intrafamily Yelling and Artistic Nudity

Release Date: October 13, 2017 (Limited Theatrically and Streaming on Netflix)

It’s tempting to say that The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is Noah Baumbach’s version of an Adam Sandler comedy. That’s a good starting point, though it isn’t exactly right. It is most accurate to say that Baumbach happened to write a character that just happened to perfectly align with Sandler’s sensibilities. The same can also be said to a certain degree for Dustin Hoffman and Ben Stiller, two of the other Meyerowitzes with distinct styles, but it is Sandler’s shtick that leaves the most telling impression. This film could hardly be mistaken for a Happy Madison production, but it is a sort of cinematic half-sibling.

Hoffman is Harold Meyerowitz, a sculptor and retired art professor whose lack of greater commercial success is constantly referenced and bemoaned. His adult children Danny (Sandler), Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), and Matthew (Stiller) are all sorts of messed up. Danny and Jean are still recovering from all the time they didn’t have with their dad while growing up after he divorced their mother, while their half-sibling Matthew is still recovering from all the time that he did spend with Dad.

Each Meyerowtiz actor is aces in pulling off their own unique form of neuroticism, but this is primarily Sandler’s forte. It plays into his pet interests of fraught but tender father-son relationships and lovable man-children. Danny is probably talented enough to have been a professional musician, but instead he is terminally unemployed, though he occasionally crafts goofy piano-based tunes with his teenage daughter Eliza (Grace van Patten). But this is not really a matter of arrested development, as Danny tracks as a genuine adult, just one who never had to accept professional responsibility, especially because he could still manage to be a great father while retaining a childlike disposition. And I haven’t even mentioned all the moments of that patented Sandler yelling put to good use. In fact, the film opens with Danny and Eliza attempting to find a parking spot in Manhattan, a premiere situation for Sandler frustration if ever there was one.

The main narrative thrust involves the Meyerowitz siblings dealing with Harold’s extended critical hospital stay. Considering all the tension in these relationships, this could be a recipe for disaster. And while a few scuffles do break out, Danny, Jean, and Matthew instead mostly bond over their shared screwed-up natures and resolve to embrace forgiveness and gratitude. Plus, they also all get to gather around and watch Eliza’s work as a film student at Bard College, which consists of the surreal sexcapades of “Pagina Man.” It features a fair bit more nudity than you might think an 18-year-old would be comfortable sharing with her family, but despite any discomfort, they all agree she has talent. And since she comes from a family that is so naturally entertaining, how could she not?

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is Recommended If You Like: Noah Baumbach’s New York, Big Daddy, Goofy student films

Grade: 4 out of 5 Ex-Wives