Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 1/1/21

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The Chase; Celebrity Wheel of Fortune; The Hustler (CREDIT: Ron Batzdorff/ABC; Carol Kaelson/ABC; Christopher Willard/ABC)

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

Movies
Pieces of a Woman (January 7 on Netflix)

TV
Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks (January 1 on BBC America)
Earth to Ned Season 1 Part 2 (January 1 on Disney+) – A delightful talk show hosted by an alien. I wrote about it on my newsletter.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13 Premiere (January 1 on VH1)
Call Me Kat Series Premiere (January 3 on FOX) – Starring Mayim Bialik and cats.
The Great North Series Premiere (January 3 on FOX) – New animated show with the voices of Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Jenny Slate, Will Forte, and others.
-Alex Trebek’s last week of new Jeopardy! episodes (January 4-8, check local listings)
The Hustler Series Premiere (January 4 on ABC) – Another game show on ABC! This one’s hosted by Craig Ferguson.
History of Swear Words (January 5 on Netflix) – Hosted by Nicolas Cage himself.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Season 2 Premiere (January 5 on NBC)
Name That Tune Reboot Premiere (January 6 on FOX) – Hosted by the one and only Jane Krakowski.
Celebrity Wheel of Fortune Series Premiere (January 7 on ABC)
The Chase Reboot Premiere (January 7 on ABC) – Jeopardy! all-time greats Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and James Holzhauer square off against contestants. Sara Haines hosts.
Mr. Mayor Series Premiere (January 7 on NBC) – Ted Danson gets right back in the sitcom swing.

This Is a Movie Review: Venom

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CREDIT: Sony Pictures

How do you make a gelatinous black alien goo-villain like Venom the hero of your movie? As the makers of Venom have decided, you have it (him?) fall in love with Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). Although, it’s not so much love as it is deep platonic friendship. But maybe developing a deep platonic friendship is a kind of falling in love? Whatever you call it, it works.

Overall, this movie is filled with delights because of its unerringly playful approach. That applies to the action scenes, with Venom’s fluid presence shooting out in unpredictable directions. It of course applies to the back-and-forth repartee between Eddie and Venom inside his head. (Wisely, a few other key characters are aware of what is going on during these conversations, but that doesn’t make them look any less insane.) And it absolutely applies to Eddie/Venom’s constant attempts to figure out how to feed their ravenous hunger. And then there’s that tongue. Oh yeah, that tongue. We could’ve used more of the tongue, honestly. But Venom, and Venom, is more than just that tongue, and it’s better for it.

I give Venom 400 Tater Tots out of 500 Host Bodies.

This Is a Movie Review: Hotel Artemis

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CREDIT: Matt Kennedy/Global Road Entertainment

I give Hotel Artemis 2.5 out of 5 Rules: https://uinterview.com/reviews/movies/hotel-artemis-movie-review-an-intriguing-premise-can-only-carry-this-thriller-so-far/

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Despicable Me 3’ Plays to Its Strength Just Often Enough

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CREDIT: Universal and Illumination

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

Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Pierre Coffin, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel

Directors: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: PG for Off-Color Minionese Jokes

Release Date: June 30, 2017

“I miss the Minions,” Gru laments about halfway through Despicable Me 3. Ever since the 2010 release of the first in this series, missing the Minions could only ever be relative. But when those little yellow pills are not on screen, you feel it. They may be divisive, inspiring just as much ire as they do unbridled joy, but there is good reason why they have been the breakout characters. As much as they inspire little kids (and some adults) to babble incessantly in Minionese, they are not lacking in ingenuity. Indeed, their moments in the spotlight continue to be the most imaginative, inventive, and playful in the DM-verse. When in DM3 they stumble into a live singing competition and are forced to come up on the spot with a signature babbling version of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General,” their versatile ability to think on their feet is as inspiring as ever.

Alas, this buoyancy is not present throughout, as directors Pierre Coffin (also the voice of most of the Minions) and Kyle Balda and writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio commit the cardinal sequel sin of splitting up their characters into dispersed storylines. Gru (Steve Carell, having a ball as always), Lucy (Kristen Wiig), and the girls all head out to the European mash-up/Marx Brothers reference country of Freedonia to meet Gru’s long-lost twin brother Dru (Carell pulling double duty), but everyone has their own thing going on. The much more outwardly charming Dru tries to pull Gru back into a life of villainy to fulfill a family legacy, while Lucy is more focused on getting the girls (who have their own subplots that have essentially nothing to do with anything else) to really truly think of her as a mom.

The Minions’ storyline succeeds the most by following an instinct of loyalty and getting everyone back together. Dru is not the only one trying to drag Gru back to a life of crime, as his little yellow assistants commence an insurrection that results in a mass resignation. They ultimately wind up imprisoned (if you love the Minions, you will love seeing them become the ruling jailhouse gang), where they see the error of their ways and craft an impromptu aircraft out of prison toilets and washing machines. There’s that ol’ Minion ingenuity, implemented for the purpose of absurd goodness.

This is a busy movie, leaving little room for its ostensible villain to make much of an impression. This series has never really needed strong antagonists, as its most interesting conflicts have been more internal. But with the heroes all now mostly on the side of good, it would help if diamond thief Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker) were more of a complementary counterpoint. Instead, he is just a bizarre presence sticking out like a sore thumb, with his defining characteristic being his fetishization of the ’80s.

There is a weird tension at the heart of Despicable Me 3. So much happens, but so much is left teased. The ending suggests that this has been one 90 minute-long trailer for the next real Dru-centric adventure. But really, the problem here is that there is not a strong enough capitalization on this series’ enduring sweetness. The girls are adorable, they love Gru, Gru’s a great dad, Lucy never needed to try so hard to be accepted, and the Minions are so, so loyal. Everyone is on the same side, thus why it is such a shame that they are not all in the same scenes as often as possible.

Despicable Me 3 is Recommended If You Like: Cramming as Many Plotlines as Possible Into 90 Minutes

Grade: 3 out of 5 Minions Blowing Raspberries