I Saw ‘Spiral’ and ‘Wrath of Man’ on the Same Weekend, and I’m Happy with That Decision

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(CREDIT: Brooke Palmer; Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

Spiral:

Starring: Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisol Nichols

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: May 14, 2021 (Theaters)

Wrath of Man:

Starring: Jason Statham, Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Hartnett, Chris Reilly, Laz Alonso, Raúl Castillo, DeObia Oparei, Eddie Marsan, Scott Eastwood, Niamh Algar, Babs Olusanmokun, Josh Cowdery, Andy García, Rob Delaney, Lyne Renée

Director: Guy Ritchie

Running Time: 119 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: May 7, 2021 (Theaters)

I’m tempted to say that Spiral is my favorite Saw movie, but that wouldn’t mean all that much, as it’s only the second one I’ve ever seen. And it might not even be true anyway, since I enjoyed the philosophical conundrums that Saw 2 made me ponder. But Spiral has a whole “surprisingly favorite” vibe to it in opposition to the rest of the series. It may not be entirely different from its predecessors, but it diverges enough for me to go, “I’m pleased with the new direction.” I may not have seen Saw, Saw‘s IIIIV, Saw 3D, or Jigsaw, but I’m familiar enough with them to feel like I’m emerging upon a new horizon. The torture is still too mentally and visually taxing, but the game’s rules and players have been updated.

As for Wrath of Man, I can confidently say that it is indeed my favorite Guy Ritchie movie. Although I should note that I haven’t seen his early stuff, so this might sound like faint praise. (My previous favorite by default was probably Aladdin. Or the parts of The Gentleman with Hugh Grant.) But Wrath of Man nevertheless stands tall on its own, and in opposition to the rest of its director’s filmography. Instead of being about a bunch of gangsters having a bloody good time, this is about a bunch of criminals and working stiffs being deathly, DEATHLY serious about everything. This movie is so bleak. It’s as bleak as a butt. It’s an elemental examination of Violence, Retribution, and Pure Evil. I don’t want to spend all my moviegoing hours in Wrath of Man Land, but visiting there every once in a while provides a healthy catharsis.

GRADES:
Spiral: 3 out of 5 Minghella Rocks
Wrath of Man: 4 out of 5 Statham Hartnetts

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 5/14/21

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The Underground Railroad (CREDIT: Amazon Prime Video/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
Army of the Dead (May 14 in Select Theaters, May 21 on Netflix)
Oxygen (May 12 on Netflix) – Directed by Alexandre Aja, but no piranhas.
Profile (Theaters)
Spiral (Theaters) – Chris Rock joins the Book of Saw.
Those Who Wish Me Dead (Theaters and HBO Max) – Might check out to see what Angelina Jolie is up to.
The Woman in the Window (May 14 on Netflix) – Joe Wright directs Amy Adams.

TV
The Underground Railroad (May 14 on Amazon)
-2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards (May 16 on MTV)
-2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards: Unscripted (May 17 on MTV)
-2021 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions (May 17-28, check local listings) – 19-game winner Jason Zuffranieri looks like the one to beat.

Music
-Aly & AJ, A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun – This came out last week.
-St. Vincent, Daddy’s Home
-The Black Keys, Delta Kream – Dan and Pat cover hill country blues.

I Have One Important Thing to Say About ‘The Witches’ (2020)

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The Witches 2020 (CREDIT: Warner Bros./YouTube Screenshot)

Starring: Octavia Spencer, Anne Hathaway, Jahzir Kadeem Bruno, Stanley Tucci, Chris Rock, Codie Lei-Eastick, Kristen Chenoweth

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rating: PG

Release Date: October 22, 2020 (HBO Max)

There’s one thing I really want to mention about the 2020 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches. It’s something that caught me by surprise, and I was happy to have it. It wouldn’t have surprised me if I had seen the trailer ahead of time, but I still would have been delighted by it nonetheless. I’m talking about Chris Rock’s narration! I had no idea he was playing the older version of our hero (who’s named Hero). But oh yeah, I totally approve of the flavor that he added to the mix. And at the end when we got a glimpse of him in the flesh, I was thrilled to see what he’s up to now. The rest of the movie is mostly more-or-less standard kids adventure fare. I would have hoped for something a little weirder from Bob Zemeckis taking on Roald Dahl. Maybe I missed some hidden weirdness!

Grade: 5 Giant Chickens Out of 3 Mice

Jeff’s Wacky Back-in-Studio SNL Review: Chris Rock/Megan Thee Stallion

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SNL: Megan Thee Stallion, Chris Rock (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

If we’re responsible during a pandemic, we can return to some of our pre-pandemic routines before the pandemic has fully run its course. And Saturday Night Live sure looks like it’s being responsible, which is presumably how we can explain its return to Studio 8H (with a real-live host, musical guest, and studio audience to boot!) after a trio of resourcefully assembled remote episodes back in the spring.

Pretty much every sketch in this Season 46 opener has something to do with the pandemic in one way or another, which is perfectly reasonable, considering that every part of daily life currently has something to do with the pandemic in one way or another. But host Chris Rock and MG Megan Thee Stallion aren’t here because of pandemic reasons; they’re here because, as is usually the case with SNL guests, they’ve got something to promote (Fargo Season 4 and new music, respectively).

As for me and my SNL viewing routine, as per yoozh, I woke up early on Sunday morning and fired up my DVR. I was feeling a little congested, so I popped some phenylephrine and it seemed to hit the spot. Then I ran 10 miles after Update, and it was off to the races!

In deference to pandemic precautions, I have decided to give each sketch its own line in my review so as to visually represent 6 feet apart. Let’s get to it!

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SNL Love It/Keep It/Leave It: Adam Sandler/Shawn Mendes

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CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

Jeffrey Malone watches every new episode of Saturday Night Live and then organizes the sketches into the following categories: “Love It” (potentially Best of the Season-worthy), “Keep It” (perfectly adequate), or “Leave It” (in need of a rewrite, to say the least). Then he concludes with assessments of the host and musical guest.

Love It

Holes – So Beck and Kyle discovered that clothes are just holes to cover up your bodily holes, and then they made a song about it, and now we get to bask in the joy of their wonder. It sounds like a cheesy ’80s power ballad, although the sartorial style is more reminiscent of Michael Bolton and other over-the-top soft rockers. And there’s even some “We Didn’t Start the Fire” influence there with the rhyming of Federico Fellini and Roberto Benigni. Wonderfully singular.

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SNL Recap November 1, 2014: Chris Rock/Prince

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SNL: Chris Rock Monologue (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in November 2014.

In the past year, “SNL” was widely criticized for its lack of diversity, hired a new black cast member following that public pressure, debuted its first black Weekend Update cast member, and from the writer’s room brought on another black cast member.  So an episode hosted by Chris Rock seemed poised to be the most head-on examination of race on “SNL” in years, or even decades.  While that element was present, it was not really any more so than it has been in the past couple of years.  Overall, in fact, this edition ended up like most episodes of the past couple of years: consisting of mostly new material that was mostly more interesting than fully successful and at its best when it got weird.  Let’s take a closer look at each of the sketches.

The Kelly File – There was no particular need for “SNL” to parody this particular Fox News talk show to cover the Kaci Hickox Ebola story.  This sketch did not break apart the form of “The Kelly File,” nor did Cecily Strong offer that strong of an impression.  Thus, the whole thing was rather formless.  Bobby Moynihan continued to play Chris Christie as loud and obnoxious, which is fine, while Kate McKinnon played Kaci Hickox as a typical Kate McKinnon character who won’t take any guff from someone like Chris Christie, which is also fine.  But ultimately, this sketch didn’t really say anything. C

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