Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 12/18/20

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

Movies
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (December 18 on Netflix) – Viola Davis plays the title role alongside Chadwick in his final role.

TV
American Dad! Holiday Episode (December 21 on TBS)
Jeopardy!: “Around the World with Alex” (December 21-January 1, check local listings) – 2 weeks of classic episodes of Alex presenting clues from across the globe.

Music
-Paul McCartney, McCartney III – Macca making more music.
-Taylor Swift, Evermore – This came out last week. Taylor keeps sneaking up on us with surprise releases.

Music Documentary
Excuse Me, I Love You (December 21 on Netflix) – Ariana Grande in concert, hurray!

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Widows’ is the Best Cinematic Crime Saga in Quite Some Time

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CREDIT: Twentieth Century Fox

This review was originally published on News Cult in November 2018.

Starring: Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Jacki Weaver, Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Lukas Haas, Garret Dillahunt, Molly Kunz, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo

Director: Steve McQueen

Running Time: 129 Minutes

Rating: R for Professional Criminals at Their Scariest

Release Date: November 16, 2018

Sometimes I am at a loss of what to say about a film because of how powerfully it has affected me. Widows is one of those films. Its immediate effect was similar to that of The Dark Knight, in which I sat stunned, not quite sure what had happened, but certain that I had seen something special. Steve McQueen’s massively sprawling saga about Chicago crime and politics is populated by a ridiculously sterling cast, with at least ten, or maybe fifteen, of them receiving the gift of really juicy material to bite into.

Chief among them, in all fairness, are the titular widows, who are left to clean up the very expensive mess left behind by their recently deceased criminal husbands. Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) are forced to form an uneasy alliance or run the risk of the rest of their livelihoods dissolving away. While each actress is compelling, their characters are not necessarily likable. Do they bear some guilt for benefitting from their husbands’ activity despite not knowing what they were tup to? On the other hand, they are in many ways trapped in a situation with no good options for escape. Their predicament demonstrates the limits of feminism and standing up for a yourself in a world ruled by violence.

Thus far in this review, I have barely touched upon even 10% of this film. It runs just a little over two hours, but it is so stuffed with goodness that I am amazed it is under three hours, yet it is simultaneously so sleek that it feels like it is running for just an hour and a half. There are about six (maybe more) stories running alongside each other and somehow they run seamlessly together. There’s Bryan Tyree Henry as a crime boss trying to break good by running for alderman in a gentrifying neighborhood and Daniel Kaluuya as his brother and terrifying enforcer. His opponent is Colin Farrell, who is struggling with maximal agita as he finds his place as a successor in a long line of Chicago politicians. And we cannot forget Cynthia Erivo as a babysitter/beautician/hustler who also plays a big part in all this. Plus there is plenty more to know about the shadowy machinations of ringleader Harry Rawlins (Liam Neeson), Veronica’s husband. And how is there also room for Matt Walsh to show up for one key scene?! McQueen is dynamite with his clear, effective craftsmanship. If you see Widows, you will likely understand everything that happens plot-wise, and you might also just feel compelled to take part in the exhaustive analysis of every frame that is sure to follow in the years to come.

Widows is Recommended If You Like: Heat, The Town, The Dark Knight, “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” by Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin

Grade: 4.5 out of 5 Aldermen

 

This Is a Movie Review: Fences

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Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

Every baseball stadium’s fence is unique. Some of them are harder to breach than others. I suppose we all put up different sorts of fences of varying difficulties in our own lives. Some of them are covered in ivy, sometimes we crash into them, sometimes we stand on top of them. If we break through them, no matter how we do it, and regardless of whether or not it is a good idea, it is usually at least somewhat painful.

Does it feel a little obtuse that this whole review is an extended baseball metaphor? Well that is pretty much the only way that garbageman/former Negro Leagues player Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) talks, and it is indeed maddening.

I give Fences 78 out of 100 … well, Fences.