Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 10/16/20

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The Trial of the Chicago 7 (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.

Movies
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (October 16 on Netflix)
The Witches (October 22 on HBO Max) – Bobby Zemeckis takes on Roald Dahl.

TV
Card Sharks Season Premiere (October 18 on ABC)
Supermarket Sweep Reboot Premiere (October 18 on ABC) – Host Leslie Jones sends the contestants on their grocery hunts.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Season Premiere (October 18 on ABC)
black-ish Season 7 Premiere (October 21 on ABC)
The Conners Season 3 Premiere (October 21 on ABC)
The Goldbergs Season 8 Premiere (October 21 on ABC)

Music on TV
-Miley Cyrus Backyard Sessions (October 16 on MTV)

Music on Stage as a Movie on TV
David Byrne’s American Utopia (October 17 on HBO)

Podcasts
Dead Eyes Season 2 (Premieres October 22) – Connor Ratliff is still wondering why Tom Hanks fired him from Band of Brothers.

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Welcome to Marwen’ is an Odd True-Life Story Made Odder by Fitting Into Feel-Good Movie Clichés

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CREDIT: Ed Araquel/Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures

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

Starring: Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Merritt Wever, Janelle Monáe, Eiza González, Gwendoline Christie, Diane Kruger, Neil Jackson

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Running Time: 116 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Bloody Doll-Based Violence, Neo-Nazi Assault Flashbacks, and a Few Unexpected Sexual References

Release Date: December 21, 2018

Welcome to Marwen is a low-key film whose gentleness belies its supreme oddity. At least it comes by its unusual nature honestly. It’s based on the 2010 documentary Marwencol, about the artist Mark Hogancamp, who was beaten nearly to death after he told a group of men that he was a cross-dresser. Then as a kind of therapy, he constructed a miniature Belgian World War II-era village and populated it with dolls representing himself and the people in his life. I haven’t seen Marwencol, so I cannot attest to any historical veracity or lack thereof, but given the premise, Welcome to Marwen was always going to be as tricky to make sense of as it turned out to be. Steve Carell, for his part, plays Hogancamp like the sort of meek, PTSD-afflicted, obsessive, highly impressive individual that corresponds with his story. But then there are ways in which Welcome to Marwen attempts to mold Hogancamp’s world into a traditional cinematic structure, and the movie itself feels like it is rebelling.

The biggest miscalculation is probably the romance storyline, which consists of a series of major miscommunications on the part of everyone involved. The doll version of Mark is typically accompanied by his female companions, and the scenarios he playacts quite clearly reveal the feelings he has for them. Figuring prominently is Mark’s new neighbor Nicol (Leslie Mann), which is pronounced just like “Nicole,” but spelled without the “e” for some inexplicable reason. She’s quite forward in her friendliness, which Mark interprets as romantic interest, which he appears to be correct about, until it is unmistakably clear that he is in fact very incorrect, rendering the audience confused by the ways in which Mark’s perspective is favored over everyone else’s.

While Welcome to Marwen has a few clear missteps, I am not sure how this story could have overall been presented much differently. One answer is that it should not have been made at all, leaving the documentary to stand on its own. But I reject that, on the basis of believing that all cinematic ventures, no matter how ill-advised, can theoretically turn out successful. However, while I am fascinated by this elaborate fantasy world created to deal with trauma and the way that director Robert Zemeckis presents it, I wouldn’t point to Marwen as the best example of this maxim.

Welcome to Marwen is Recommended If You Like: Extensive shoe collections, Romantic miscommunications, Playing with dolls and action figures at any age

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Glamonistas

This Is a Movie Review: Brad Pitt Takes Matter Into His Own Hands in the WWII Thriller ‘Allied’

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Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard plays Marianne Beausejour in Allied from Paramount Pictures.

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

Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Running Time: 124 Minutes

Rating: R for the Horrors of War

Release Date: November 23, 2016

The World War II thriller Allied has a hell of a premise: intelligence officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is informed that his French wife Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) may actually be a sleeper spy for the Germans. If she is, he must execute her himself or face hanging for high treason. This is the sort of flashy, adult-oriented actioner that can only get studio backing if the biggest star in the world is in it, and that few directors besides Robert Zemeckis (Back to the FutureBeowulfFlight) are interested in making anymore. That’s a shame. Allied does not set any gold standards, but it is the sort of perfectly enjoyable effort that Hollywood should be cranking out with ease.

Do not let my pleasant but uninspiring description fool you into thinking that Allied lacks personality. Indeed, its best scene is both Max and Marianne’s sexual linchpin and the prime CGI showcase. Their relationship is confirmed as more than just the bonding of fellow warriors as they find themselves stuck in their car in the middle of a sandstorm. The camera rotates with the force of the environment, as the editing pace intensifies, placing them in a transformational vortex, which serves as the point of no return.

As Max disobeys orders and takes the investigation into his own hands, the twists pile up and complicate the initial assessment of Marianne. Yet the plotting remains straightforward. This is the Occam’s razor of spy thrillers: British intelligence may have a reputation for playing head games with its officers, but sometimes the most simple subterfuge is the correct explanation. Furthermore, while Allied’s official reports may be fudged a few times, its emotions never are. Subtlety may suffer, but integrity (and honor in a very classic sense) survives.

Allied is Recommended If You LikeCasablancaValkyrie, Thrillers About the Wrongly Accused Directed by Alfred Hitchcock or Those Influenced by Hitchcock

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Looks of Anguish from Brad Pitt