A Review Called “Some Thoughts About ‘A Man Called Otto'”

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Purrer and Otto (CREDIT: Niko Tavernise/Columbia Pictures)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño, Truman Hanks, Rachel Keller, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Cameron Britton, Mack Bayda, Juanita Jennings, Peter Lawson Jones, Christiana Montoya, Alessandra Perez, Mike Birbiglia, Kelly Lamor Wilson

Director: Marc Forster

Running Time: 126 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: December 30, 2022 (Theaters)/January 6, 2023 (More Theaters)

When I finally managed to sit down to watch A Man Called Otto, I’d forgotten that Rachel Keller was in it. But I bet a lot of people never even knew that at all until they witnessed her first scene. I’m pretty sure she’s not in any of the trailers, though I did hear through the grapevine at some point after opening day about her inclusion in the cast, which certainly made me more excited, as I’ve liked in everything else I’ve seen her in previously. Weirdly enough, though, I’m also happy that I forgot that news for a bit, because her appearances in flashbacks as Otto’s wife are more devastating when you don’t see them coming.

Anyway, would I myself ever want to be a man called Otto? Eh, does it have to be this Otto? He’s so angry at the world! Understandably so, but it’s terminally exhausting. I’d rather he be my Abuelo Otto instead, like his new neighbors take to calling him.

Grade: Wait a minute: The Cat!

‘The Black Phone’ is Calling: Do You Answer It, or Take the Call From ‘Elvis’?

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CREDIT: Fred Norris/Universal Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures/Screenshot

The Black Phone:

Starring: Mason Thames, Ethan Hawke, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, E. Roger Mitchell, Troy Rudeseal, James Ransone

Director: Scott Derrickson

Running Time: 102 Minutes

Rating: R for Brutal Home Lives and Bloody Escapes

Release Date: June 24, 2022 (Theaters)

Elvis:

Starring: Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Olivia DeJonge

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Running Time: 159 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Rock Star Excess and Rock Fan Excess

Release Date: June 24, 2022 (Theaters)

I recently saw The Black Phone and Elvis on consecutive days, so it’s time for another two-for-one movie review! Do these two flicks have anything in common besides opening in theaters on the same day? Well, they’re both kind of overwhelming in their own particular ways. If you’re like me and enjoy any and every cinematic genre, you might be struggling to figure out which of these to prioritize this weekend, or maybe you’re planning to make time for both of them. So I’ll go ahead and let you know what I think while throwing in a bit of comparing/contrasting, and hopefully that’ll give you a bit of a confidence boost.

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In Paul Greengrass’ Western, Tom Hanks Sends the ‘News of the World’ and an Orphaned Girl on Their Way

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News of the World (CREDIT: Bruce W. Talamon/Universal Pictures)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Michael Covino, Mare Winningham, Elizabeth Marvel, Thomas Francis Murphy, Bill Camp

Director: Paul Greengrass

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for A Particularly Tense Shootout and a Few Other Occasional Bursts of Western Meanness

Release Date: December 25, 2020

The title of Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks’ latest collaboration might lead you to believe that America’s Dad is finally getting his Frank Sinatra on. And while he does indeed start spreading those titular news, the focus is much more squarely on his journey with a young girl in a sort of gentler spin on The Searchers. Both elements of the story are about the importance and difficulty of communication. Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kidd, a widowed Civil War veteran who traverses the Texas frontier to tell tales of recent events of notes to whomever is willing to listen to them. During his journeys, he encounters 10-year-old Johanna (Helena Zengel), who’s been raised by the Kiowa tribe ever since they killed her German immigrant parents. She fancies herself a Kiowa now, so when the family she’s been living with is also killed, she becomes an orphan twice over. She then winds up in the captain’s care as he attempts to deliver her to her aunt and uncle, which is not a plan she’s exactly a fan of.

News of the World demonstrates the value of an unexpected title. There are only a handful of scenes of Captain Kidd delivering those news, so I don’t think I would have considered them very deeply if the title hadn’t primed me to. In a setting with rudimentary mass communication, these stories are orphans that find themselves in as precarious a position as Johanna. There is no guarantee that the ears they fall on will even accept them. They benefit immensely from a patient medium like Captain Kidd. Both the news of the world and Johanna require love and support in getting from where they are to where they need to be going. I wasn’t expecting the philosophy of Marshall McLuhan to be so starkly clear in the latest Greengrass film, but in this case, the medium absolutely is the message.

News of the World is Recommended If You Like: A kind and gentle (but not that gentle) approach to Westerns, Clutch supporting turns from Bill Camp and Elizabeth Marvel

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Wagons

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.

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 7/10/20

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BRAVE NEW WORLD (CREDIT: Steve Schofield/Peacock)

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

Movies
Greyhound (Streaming on Apple TV+) – Tom Hanks joins the Navy.
The Old Guard (Streaming on Netflix) – Starring Charlize Theron and directed by Love & Basketball‘s Gina Prince-Bythewood!
Palm Springs (Streaming on Hulu) – Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti relive a wedding reception over and over again.

TV
Brave New World Series Premiere (July 15 on Peacock)
30 Rock Upfront Special (July 16 on NBC)

Music
-My Morning Jacket, The Waterfall II

 

Best Film Performances of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

Back in April, I revealed my lists of the best podcasts, TV shows, TV episodes, albums, songs, and movies of the 2010s. I declared that that was it for my Best of the Decade curating for this particular ten-year cycle. But now I’m back with a few more, baby! I’ve been participating in a series of Best of the 2010s polls with some of my online friends, and I wanted to share my selections with you. We’re including film performances, TV performances, directors, and musical artists, so get ready for all that.

First up is Film Performances. Any individual performance from any movie released between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019 was eligible, whether it was live-action, voice-only, or whatever other forms on-screen acting take nowadays. For actors who played the same character in multiple movies, each movie was considered separately.

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Jeff’s Wacky SNL at Home Review: Tom Hanks/Chris Martin

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CREDIT: NBC/YouTube Screenshot

Saturday Night Live Season 45 wasn’t meant to end early, after all. Social distancing restrictions might make a live broadcast a little difficult right now, but they haven’t diminished our capacity to create and consume comedy. Thus, we have our first ever “SNL at Home” episode. It’s all pre-recorded, but so was a significant portion of the 1984-85 season, and that was a great year!

Tom Hanks and Chris Martin are officially announced as the host and musical guest, and I see no reason not to include this episode towards the official all-time ledger. Erg, Hanks has now entered diamond status as a ten-time host!

On to the show, which begins with the cast quickly saying hi via Zoom and then goes into an at-home-ified opening montage. Meanwhile, I prepared for the show by running about 12 miles on Saturday morning, going to bed early, getting plenty of z’s, and then watching the sketches early on Sunday (as per usual). Bananas seem important in this era (and all the time), so I had one with my cereal for breakfast.

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That’s Auntertainment! Episodes 1-8 (Plus 5 Mini-Episodes)

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I started hosting a podcast with my aunt several months ago, and I’ve come to think that I should post my new episodes here so that all my readers can conveniently access them. So below are the first eight episodes of That’s Auntertainment! (as well as five mini-episodes, and one “update” episode).

Episode 1: 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards

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‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ Demonstrates the Life-Changing Power of Meeting Someone Who Treats You Like the Most Important Person in the World

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CREDIT: Lacey Terrell/Sony Pictures Entertainment

Starring: Matthew Rhys, Tom Hanks, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper, Enrico Colantoni, Christine Lahti, Tammy Blanchard

Director: Marielle Heller

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: PG for A Small Skirmish

Release Date: November 22, 2019

How can the cinema industry justify releasing a Mr. Rogers biopic just a little over a year after a documentary about the longtime PBS host came out? This isn’t the first time that two such films about the same subject have come out in such close proximity, and while at first blush it might appear to be overkill, this is actually an excellent example in which both movies are distinctly valuable. As A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood demonstrates, people like Fred Rogers lived lives that were rich enough to have multiple stories worth telling, thanks to the other lives they touched dearly. One of those lives was that of journalist Tom Junod, whose 1998 Esquire article “Can You Say… Hero?” inspired the film. Matthew Rhys plays Junod avatar Lloyd Vogel, who believes he’s meeting just another interview subject but instead finds himself a therapist and a dear friend.

Director Marielle Heller makes a fantastic filmmaking choice to open up Beautiful Day, presenting a framing device in which Lloyd’s story is introduced as a segment on an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers (thoroughly inhabited by Tom Hanks) is showing his viewers a board featuring pictures of some of his friends, including his new friend Lloyd, whose photo sticks out distressingly, thanks to a nasty bruise between Lloyd’s eyes and a wild look on his face. It’s a jarring image in this context (for multiple reasons), but Mr. Rogers gently guides us through it with such spectacular empathy, informing us that Lloyd is having a hard time forgiving someone who hurt him. That someone is Lloyd’s father Jerry (Chris Cooper), who has suddenly reappeared in Lloyd’s life decades after sleeping around on his terminally ill wife and abandoning his young children. Lloyd’s default state when Jerry is around is a fiery coil of resentment, but luckily his next assignment has him meeting someone who treats whomever he is talking as the most important person in the world.

Lloyd’s life and profession have trained him to be skeptical, which is how he initially approaches Mr. Rogers. Surely and obviously, this man who speaks so gently and fastidiously must be putting on an act whenever the cameras are rolling. But what Tom learns, and what we all get to witness, is just how genuine Fred is. It takes practice to be as thoughtful and concerned as he is, but that effort makes his persona no less real. Instead, it makes it even more powerful and effective. We should all be as concerned for and interested about the people in our lives as Fred is to Lloyd. When a film is as useful an empathy how-to guide as A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is, it is truly something special.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is Recommended If You Like: Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Wonder, Magazines

Grade: 4.5 out of 5 Special Friends

Super Fun-Time Movie Review: Toy Story 4

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CREDIT: Pixar/YouTube

As I wrote this review of Toy Story 4 almost a week after seeing the movie, the main feeling that I have upon reflection is one of peacefulness. When Toy Story 3 arrived more than a decade after its predecessors, it brought with it familiarity but also emotional upheaval with all the life changes it sought to deal with. Number 4 is similarly concerned about new chapters, but the kind that you never saw coming, yet somehow feel so perfectly right when you let them happen. So did I cry when Woody made his final decision? I did not, not because of a cold heart, but because my warm heart was so proud of the scary, but promising, step forward I had never considered as a possibility in this series. If toys and franchises are basically immortal, sometimes they have to make big bold choices, and it’s a feat when one of them feels like the best decision for everyone involved.

I give Toy Story 4 10 Voice Boxes out of 12 Skunk Cars.

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