Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 9/4/20

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Tenet (CREDIT: 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
Tenet (In theaters, apparently) – I don’t know when I’ll actually be seeing Christopher Nolan’s latest, but I’ll see it at some point.
i’m thinking of ending things (Streaming on Netflix) – The kooky latest from Charlie Kaufman.

TV
Woke Season 1 (September 9 on Hulu) – Starring Lamorne Morris!

‘Bloodshot’ Offers a Sort-of Fascinating Spin on a Few Common Sci-Fi Tropes

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CREDIT: Sony Pictures

Starring: Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Eiza González, Lamorne Morris, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, Talulah Riley

Director: David S.F. Wilson

Running Time: 109 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Bullets and Explosions Here and There

Release Date: March 13, 2020

Bloodshot strikes me as more of a cinematic experiment moreso than a narrative presentation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The medium of film is robust enough that it can accomodate things that aren’t exactly telling a story or not doing so straightforwardly. Bloodshot actually does have some sort of plot, but that’s not the most interesting part about it. Based on a comic book series, it stars Vin Diesel as a Marine named Ray Garrison who gets killed but then is very quickly brought back to life stronger and more deadly. You know, that old saw that we love from the likes of The Six Million Dollar Man and RoboCop. He is bent on revenge against the man who “killed” both him and his wife, although the scientist who brought him back, Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), has a few missions he would like him to go on, but perhaps their motivations align with each other … or do they?

Ray’s enhancement is fueled by microscopic technology referred to as “nanites,” a word that I will never not find hilarious as I primarily associate it with the creatures of that name from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Basically, the idea is that these little creatures, or tiny robots, or whatever they are, work at an atomic level to repair any injury that Ray sustains thoroughly and immediately. In visual practice, this means that when he gets hit with bullets or other weaponry, fields of blood-red strands shoot off from his body, as his molecules re-assemble in mid-air and then return back into him.

Working alongside that idea of reassembling on the fly, the other major idea fueling Bloodshot is the series of false memories that uploaded into Ray’s head. His revenge mission, it turns out, may just be what he’s been programmed to do. In practice, this generally means that it never feels fully clear exactly what the practical stakes are. But on the plus(-ish) side, it also means we get some visual flourishes that I’ve never quite seen in any other movie, like one moment that virtually recreates the setting that Ray has been trained to remember. It looks like a behind-the-scenes video that shows the rendering of visual effects. I’m not sure that sort of thing belongs in a finished cinematic product, but I’m fascinated by its presence there nonetheless.

That mix of fascination and uncertainty is my general overall reaction to Bloodshot. Pretty much everything about it feels like it was made up on the fly, or meant to be about making it up on the fly. How else to explain the presence of New Girl‘s Lamorne Morris as an English hacker and the fact that he’s the best part of the movie? The second part is easy enough to explain: he’s Lamorne Morris, and he’s awesome. But presumably, he would’ve been just as awesome with his normal speaking voice. Is his character unmistakably English in the comic? Do we Americans just love accents that much? Look, you get your pleasures where you can with a movie that doesn’t seem to have thought through every little detail. Or you turn your brain off and admire the pretty pictures. Or you tap into some part of your brain that you didn’t realize you’d need to access for a movie as surprisingly un-pin-down-able as this one.

Bloodshot is Recommended If You Like: Vin Diesel gradually figuring it out, Lamorne Morris as the comic relief, DVD bonus features about special effects

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Nanites

‘New Girl’ Season 7 Review: The Most Epilogue-y Season of TV Ever, From the Show Perfectly Suited for It

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CREDIT: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

This review  was originally posted on News Cult in May 2018.

Network: FOX

Showrunners: Brett Baer, Dave Finkel, Liz Meriwether

Main Cast: Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone, Nasim Pedrad, Danielle Rockoff, Rhiannon Rockoff

Notable Guest Stars: Damon Wayans, Jr., Brian Huskey, Rob Reiner, Dermot Mulroney, Gillian Vigman, JB Smoove, Sarah Baker, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ralph Ahn, Robert Smigel

Episode Running Time: 22 Minutes

This review contains spoilers, but this isn’t really a spoil-able type of show.

New Girl Season 7 is one of the most inessential seasons in television history. That is not a criticism, but rather, a description of an unnecessary, but very satisfying batch of episodes. All television, and all storytelling more generally, is inessential, insofar as we could survive without it. Life would be much less enriching without entertainment, certainly, but it would be possible. But once a story begins to be told, there is a sense of necessity that it must be concluded. And it could easily be argued that by the end of Season 6, New Girl had reached that conclusion, with all of its main characters having achieved major milestones in personal and professional fulfillment. But this show, at its best, has been about so much more (or so much less, but in a good way) than checking off the major storytelling checkpoints.

Nick and Jess are one of my favorite TV couples of all time, and if the last we saw of them was their kiss in the elevator at the end of “Five Stars for Beezus,” I would have rested easy in the belief that they had a long and happy union together. But I am usually hungry to see what happens when the tension of a potential couple turns into the comfort of an actual couple, and New Girl has shown itself to be the type of show uniquely suited for making that pivot interesting. With a three-year time jump to kick off the season, it seemed like we would be heading into a new status quo, but then we discover … Jess and Nick still aren’t married yet? There’s no need to panic; they are still together and happy, they have just been busy with other things, like Nick’s book tour for The Pepperwood Chronicles. But still, you would think they could find some time to put a ring on it. It turns out that much of the delay is attributable to Nick ensuring that his proposal is absolutely perfect. That obsession could have caused major strife in the past, but it is a mark of maturity for both the characters and the show that it is ultimately no big deal.

While Jess and Nick remain the last two residents of the loft, and perhaps a little bit stuck in neutral, the rest of the main crew has decidedly moved ahead to the next stages of their lives. Schmidt and Cece’s toddler Ruth Bader (Danielle and Rhiannon Rockoff) is genuinely adorable but also filled with the sort of moxie and traces of anxiety you would expect in a child whose parents are a mix of blunt and high-strung. Winston and Aly are expecting their first child; his strange propensities, and her incredible ability to accept them, are still intact, just transferred to the minutiae of pending parenthood. For the most part, the unique ways that this whole group communicates with each other remains just as intact. They are sometimes applied in fascinating new ways, as when Schmidt and Jess hash out who has the best approach for Ruth auditioning to a prestigious pre-school. But that sameness also results in hijinks that probably should not be happening anymore, as when Cece and then Nick get locked out of Ruth’s school and get mistaken for creepy lurkers, and it is like: okay, guys, we’re getting a little too old for these shenanigans.

Season 7 is not completely allergic to big final season moments, but it presents them in the uniquely askew New Girl manner. There is a one-year anniversary memorial service for a close friend who died during the time jump, and that close friend is … Furguson, of course. Winston insists that everything be performed in the Jewish manner, because he always saw his cat as Jewish, and while that does sound ridiculous, it also sounds perfectly logical when Lamorne Morris explains it with such certainty. We also, rest assured, do get that last anticipated bit of matrimony, but it all goes delightfully sideways, with a scratched cornea, an impromptu service in a hospital, and Tran’s first ever spoken line of dialogue.

Naturally unnaturally enough, there is still one more episode left to go. “Engram Pattersky” does at first appear to fit into a classic series finale box, i.e., the pack-up-and-move conclusion. It really is time for for Nick and Jess to get out of that rickety old loft and start a new chapter in their lives, even it takes an eviction notice to get them to that realization. The final reveal that the eviction angle is actually Winston’s greatest prank ever is perfectly in line with the show’s ethos, but also a little stunning. Winston never suggests that he was just trying to give his friends the motivation they needed to move forward. And that really is the New Girl way. If you want to find meaning in this young adult life, then you have to do so amidst all the chaos and indirect communication, as you scream and hopefully laugh along the way.

Best Episodes: “The Curse of the Pirate Bride,” “Engram Pattersky”

How Does It Compare to Previous Seasons? This is definitely an epilogue season, but for this show, that means it has never been more sure of its identity than at any other time during its run. It does not reach its most classic heights, but that is perfectly okay.

New Girl is Recommended If You Like: Happy Endings, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, How I Met Your Mother, Parks and Recreation, Friends

Where to Watch: Season 7 is currently available on Hulu, while Seasons 1-6 are on Netflix.

Grade: 3.8 out of 5 Messarounds

2015 Emmy Nominations Predictions and Wishlist

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For my detailed thoughts on my predictions and wishlists in the major Drama, Comedy, and Variety categories, check out these links:
Comedy
Drama
Variety

Guest Actor, Comedy
John Hawkes, Inside Amy Schumer
Michael Rapaport, Louie
Chris Gethard, Parks and Recreation
Dwayne Johnson, Saturday Night Live

Guest Actress, Comedy
Susie Essman, Broad City

Guest Actor, Drama
Mel Rodriguez, Better Call Saul

Guest Actress, Drama
Allison Janney, Masters of Sex
Linda Lavin, The Good Wife

Directing, Comedy
Rob Schrab, “Modern Espionage,” Community

Directing, Drama
Adam Arkin, “The Promise,” Justified

Writing, Comedy
Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna, “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television,” Community

Writng, Drama
Thomas Schnauz, “Pimento,” Better Call Saul

Animated Program
Bojack Horseman – “Downer Ending”
American Dad! – “Dreaming of a White Porsche Christmas”
The Simpsons – “Treehouse of Horror XXV”

Commercial
Android – “Friends Furever”

Host – Reality/Reality Competition
RuPaul, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

Interactive Program
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Main Title Design
Man Seeking Woman

Single-Camera Picture Editing, Comedy
Bojack Horseman – “Downer Ending”

Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program
Too Many Cooks
Billy On The Street With First Lady Michelle Obama, Big Bird And Elena!!!

Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or a Variety Program
Community

Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role
Man Seeking Woman – “Traib”