Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 4/10/20

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CREDIT: FX/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.

TV
SNL at Home (April 11 on NBC) – A remotely produced new episode of Saturday Night Live.
Insecure Season 4 Premiere (April 12 on HBO)
Killing Eve Season 3 Premiere (April on AMC and BBC America)
-NBA HORSE Challenge (April 12 on ESPN)
American Dad! Season 17 Premiere (April 13 on TBS) – Still one of the most consistent shows on the air!
Mrs. America Series Premiere (April 15 on Hulu) – Starring Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly.
What We Do in the Shadows Season 2 Premiere (April 15 on FX)

Music
-The Strokes, The New Abnormal

Podcasts
A couple of great-so-far podcasts have recently launched:
The Darkest TimelineCommunity co-stars Joel McHale and Ken Jeong answer your questions.
Oh, Hello: the P’dcast – Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland have discovered a new medium in which to deliver their tuna.

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Uncle Drew’ Shows the Youngbloods How It’s Done

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CREDIT: Quantrell D. Colbert/Lionsgate.

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

Starring: Kyrie Irving, Lil Rel Howery, Erica Ash, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, Lisa Leslie, Nick Kroll, Tiffany Haddish, JB Smoove, Mike Epps

Director: Charles Stone III

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for General Shenanigans and a 7-Foot-Tall Man’s Bare Behind

Release Date: June 29, 2018

One of the joys of growing up in the 1990s was savoring the plethora of sports movies and athletes moonlighting as movie stars. It was something of a golden age, or at least that’s how it appeared to my impressionable mind. There were the minor, but era-defining hits like Rookie of the Year, Shaq was basically allowed to do whatever he wanted, even Dennis Rodman teamed up with Jean-Claude van Damme before he became buddies with Kim Jong Un. And of course there was the landmark success of Space Jam. This is all to say, movies like Uncle Drew, which stars NBA star Kyrie Irving as a character he originated for Pepsi Max, don’t really get made anymore. And while it certainly does not reinvent the sports flick or old-people-drag genres, it is heartening to know that something like this can still exist.

The title character, a Harlem streetball legend spoken about in mythical terms, certainly plays into a desire to return to past glories, as he chastises and schools young ballers on the right way to play the game. He is also prone to decry the “rappity-hippity-hop” music of today’s “youngbloods,” instead preferring to listen to hours-long funk jams on the eight-track player in his vintage van. But the film manages to avoid unhealthy nostalgia, as Drew’s version of the past is too goofy and demented to tempt anyone away from dismissing reality. The humor of this team of old farts, while certainly broadly drawn, is based on actual characterization instead of shallow punch lines. Actual NBA and WNBA stars like Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie have plenty of natural charisma. And there is just something inherently satisfying about dressing Shaq up like Wolverine’s grandfather and continuing to rib Chris Webber for one of the biggest mental lapses in basketball history.

What will make Uncle Drew a great choice over the coming years to watch for the hundredth time with friends is its fundamental niceness. We come to meet Drew via Dax (Lil Rel Howery), a streetball manager dedicated to the game but who gave up playing it years ago after a mortifying middle school defeat. Recently homeless, he is desperate to win the $100,000 grand prize at a high-profile Harlem tournament, thus why he turns to Drew and his band of old coots despite their clashing personalities and body temperatures. When the team finds out about Dax’s financial troubles, they feel a little betrayed upon discovering his true motivations, but they mostly encourage him to get back in touch with his love of the game. That ethos of bonhomie is matched by Uncle Drew‘s fundamentally welcome silliness and lovingly shot footage of between-the-legs dribbling, lights-out three pointers, and slam dunks.

Uncle Drew is Recommended If You Like: Space Jam, Coming to America, ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries

Grade: 3 out of 5 Boom Boom Rooms

This Is a Movie Review: Loving

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loving-movie-ruth-negga-joel-edgerton

This review was originally published on News Cult in November 2016.

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Nick Kroll

Director: Jeff Nichols

Running Time: 123 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Prejudice and the Paranoia That Goes with It

Release Date: November 4, 2016 (Limited)

Director Jeff Nichols is known for including a tinge of the supernatural in his films, especially the apocalyptic Take Shelter and the little-kid-with-mysterious-powers thriller Midnight Special. But even in his ostensibly more realistic pics, like the Southern McConaissance drama Mud, there is a spiritually arousing sense of magic in the air. His latest, Loving, which tells the true-life story behind the 1967 Supreme Court case that struck down the last of this country’s anti-miscegenation laws, achieves that same miraculous sense of wonder by keeping the focus on the day-to-day realities of committed romance under siege.

As Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) Loving’s case makes it way from the local county court to the Virginia Supreme Court all the way to the highest court in the land, there are surprisingly few scenes that actually take place inside a courtroom. The message effectively becomes: love speaks for itself. The film does not see the need for showstopping dramatic speeches, because who needs to be convinced about the rightness of what those speeches would say? Instead, the story mostly sticks with the Lovings’ domestic life, which is constantly under siege, but resolutely tender.

Despite Loving’s lack of interest in legal jargon or courtroom clichés, it does make time for a mini-arc for the titular couple’s main lawyer. When we meet him, Bernard Cohen (Nick Kroll) has little experience with civil rights cases, but he is ambitious enough, or foolhardy enough, to plow right ahead to a potential meeting with the Supreme Court. The casting of Kroll, as much of a novice to high-profile drama as Cohen is to precedent-setting litigation, proves surprisingly apt.

As essential as Kroll’s performance is, it is (like the rest of the movie, and as it should be) all in service to the Lovings. The key line comes when Cohen asks Richard, who has declined to appear during the Supreme Court hearing, if he would like him to tell the justices anything. “Tell the judge I love my wife,” he declares softly but demonstrably.

Edgerton plays Richard as a man who just wants to get on with making a good life for his wife and children. He is uncomfortable with the media attention his marriage receives and flummoxed by the prejudice it engenders. This is in sharp contrast to Negga, who plays Mildred with fragile expressions that belie her steely emotions. Their complementary approaches to overcoming the ordeal of their life are inspiring. It feels like they were destined to be the couple to break down barriers. The poetic perfection of their last name also contributes to that sense. If they were not already called the Lovings, supernaturally inclined Jeff Nichols would have had to christen them thus.

Loving is Recommended If You Like: To Kill a Mockingbird, That feeling you got when the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage constitutional, Actors who look just like the real people they’re portraying

Grade: 4 out of 5 Loves That Conquer All