WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Glen Weldon

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This Saturday, May 22, on or around 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, you may sense a diffuse but palpable shift in the global marketplace of finite resources. At that time, vast stockpiles of sequins, lasers, dry ice and fireworks scattered around the world will dry up spontaneously—only to reappear all at once, en masse, on a stage in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Yep: It's Eurovision time.

M.O.D.O.K. is a Marvel Comics villain. He is goofy. Defiantly so.

Comics are a visual medium, and M.O.D.O.K. has always been all about his visuals: He's a guy with a great big giant head who toodles around in a flying metal chair, zapping folk with mental blasts and whatnot (M.O.D.O.K. stands for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing, of course).

Personality wise, he's not much, historically. Shouts a lot. Vows vengeance a lot. Plots world domination a lot. Goes to the "puny-minded fools!" well ... just really a whole lot.

There exists, in some alternate universe, a version of the new HBO Max series Hacks that is spikier, faster, meaner — and as a result, considerably thinner, less generous and less rewarding — than the one that premieres today.

Happily, this one's pretty great, because it achieves and maintains a delicate balance born out of: 1. Knowing its subject and 2. A determination to treat its two lead characters fairly.

You'd be forgiven for wondering how Netflix's Jupiter's Legacy compares to other recent entries in the glut of "Wait, what if superheroes ... but, you know, realistic?" content currently swamping streaming services. (To be fair, this "realistic superheroes" business is something we comics readers have been slogging through for decades; the rest of the culture's just catching up. Welcome, pull up a chair; here's a rag to wipe those supervillain entrails off the seatback before you sit down.)

So here's a cheat sheet. Netflix's Jupiter's Legacy is ...

American animated films strive to serve two masters: Kids, who are generally up for anything bright and colorful and noisy, and their harried Adult Caretakers, who just want to plop said kids in front of a piece of entertainment that's bright, colorful and noisy enough to keep them occupied for a couple hours.

Knowing that adults often experience these movies alongside kids, the big producers of US animated films (Disney/Pixar, Dreamworks, Warner Bros. and Sony) attempt to thread the "Fun for the Whole Family!" needle, with mixed results.

Let's get the cheap joke out of the way right at the top, just so we don't have it hanging over our heads for the entire review:

Do not be misled by its title. Shadow and Bone does not, in this instance, refer to the two things James Bond does in every movie.

Ok, good, that's out of our systems, lets move on.

Unfocused and overstuffed, the first four episodes of HBO's The Nevers provided to critics lack a sufficiently strong narrative backbone to support the surfeit of characters, subplots, themes and familiar storytelling tics thrown at the viewer. The series pairs all this tumult with a frustratingly incremental approach to disclosing What Is Really Going On; as a result, allegiances shift, plots twist and characters take actions for reasons we can only guess at — provided we're willing to bother.

When we asked our trusty Pop Culture Happy Hour listeners to vote for the Best Muppet, we knew they'd come through. Over 18,000 votes were cast; over 150 different Muppets received votes.

Yes. Some brave, beautiful, misguided soul voted for H. Ross Parrot. As Best Muppet. That is a thing that happened.

Much will, and deservedly should, be made of the setting of the gorgeously wrought Disney film Raya and the Last Dragon: A fantasy world drawn from a variety of Southeast Asian cultures.

No reasonable filmgoer came away from a screening of Guillermo del Toro's 2013 film Pacific Rim or its 2018 sequel (directed by Steven S. DeKnight) thinking, "You know what that needed? More lore."

As you watch Supernova — writer/director Harry Macqueen's light-on-dialogue, heavy-on-emotion tale of a gay couple coming to terms with the fact that one of them is experiencing early-onset dementia — you keep getting struck by the amount of trust the film places in its two leads.

Which makes sense, considering that the two leads in question are Colin Firth, as British concert pianist Sam, and Stanley Tucci, as American novelist Tusker. The latter is the one who is losing himself, and who seems, of the two of them, much more sanguine about it.

Things Resident Alien has in common with previous television series like My Favorite Martian, Mork & Mindy, ALF and 3rd Rock from the Sun:

1. Main Character: An alien (or aliens).

2. Premise: The alien/s in question is/are on Earth, attempting to pass as human.

3. Reasons Hijinks Ensue: See 2., above.

"Bob Ross was wrong," grumbles musician/actor John Lurie, in a voice grown so gravelly it's like listening to a rock tumbler. It's late at night, he's bent over the watercolor he's painting in his home on what he only refers to as "a tiny island in the Caribbean." Between each sentence he delivers to the camera, the rhythmic peeping of tree-frogs outside his window reasserts itself.

"Everyone can't paint," he continues. "It's not true."

Wonder Woman 1984 premieres in theaters and on HBO Max on December 25.

As much as 2017's Wonder Woman came steeped in muddy browns and muted grays, every frame of its sequel Wonder Woman 1984 radiates bright, retina-sizzling neons and pastels. That stark contrast goes beyond their respective visuals — it extends to their very different emotional landscapes and narrative drives.

It has been a momentous year for everything we consider TV.

A pandemic, civil rights reckoning, streaming war and presidential election shook up the industry in a dozen different ways. It blurred lines between genres, platforms and story forms, while also encouraging us to develop our own, deep rabbit holes of favorite media. So when our team of four critics sat down to figure out what we liked most onscreen this year, we each had a lot of stuff on our lists no one else did.

"We must do what we're told!"

"But why, Father? Why?"

"... I'm afraid."

That sudden, self-lacerating epiphany comes near the end of the animated film Wolfwalkers, debuting on AppleTV+ on Friday.

It's not the kind of tidy object-lesson generally served up in movies made for kids, which tend to run more in the Believe in Yourself/Follow Your Passion/You are Special vein.

The term "Oscar bait" is one of the more deeply cynical notions tossed around by film critics and — increasingly — audiences. There's something smugly dismissive about it, certainly, and its rise to prominence in recent years doesn't reflect any uptick in one specific kind of cinematic performance. After all, Hollywood's been cranking out films featuring actors nobly struggling with various physical and emotional challenges since its inception.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Some quick back-of-the-envelope math: By my reckoning, this represents the 1,523rd review I have written over the course of my career to feature the phrase, "an underused Judy Greer," and I am officially sick of it.

But writer/director Alan Ball's achingly well-intentioned melodrama Uncle Frank, which premieres on Amazon Prime on Wednesday, November 24th, has even more to answer for. Because it's not just an underused Judy Greer (sigh) who spends the bulk of the film languishing on the sidelines.

Before we chew over the new LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, reader, it behooves us to embrace the historical perspective. We must cite precedent, examine trend lines, peruse the vicissitudes of causation. For only then may we place it in its rightful cultural context.

In Showtime's six-episode series Moonbase 8, about a group of pathetic astronauts-in-training living in isolation at a mock moonbase in the desert, the comedy is sometimes broad (John C. Reilly's blustering buffoon of a team leader), sometimes dry (Fred Armisen's passive-aggressive science officer), and sometimes ...

Nothing's quite what it seems to be in the Amazon original series Truth Seekers, which re-teams (sort of) Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, the duo who starred together in the brilliant British series Spaced, as well as in the genre-mashing comedies Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End.

The amount of enjoyment you get out of Netflix's wan remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 swooning gothic romance Rebecca depends entirely on how familiar you are with that original film, and the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier from which it was adapted.

As you consider whether you should invest in Hulu's Helstrom, which features a pair of squabbling sibling demon-hunters from the pages of Marvel Comics, you should know that the series has already been condemned.

Netflix's 2018 series The Haunting of Hill House was a gorgeous ghostly journey that arrived at a too-tidy destination. Based loosely on the Shirley Jackson novel, it chronicled the way violence leaves a hole in the world, and how trauma lingers, shaping memories and sundering families.

It uh ... it was a lot more fun than that sounds, though.

If seven seasons' worth of Mad Men's Roger Sterling taught us anything, it's that watching John Slattery in Smug Jerk Mode is dependably fun.

Inspired, at least in part, by critic Stanley Kauffman's challenge to gay playwrights to ditch all the hinting and coding and veiled metaphor so as to honestly and openly depict the lives of homosexuals in their work, Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band debuted off-Broadway in 1968.

The structure was simple and not, to any regular theatergoer, unfamiliar: Over the course of an evening, characters gather, get drunk and turn on one another. Things get said that cannot be unsaid. Secrets are revealed. Curtain, house lights up.

Does it even matter that it's fall? We're stuck inside much of the time, anyway, and new TV shows come at us all year round. Well, yes, there's reason to celebrate precisely because of how the pandemic disrupted things. Broadcasters couldn't develop new material, thanks to production being halted. So, viewers watched more streaming services. Even HBO, FX and Showtime were forced to push back some of their best material to ensure they could get through the long summer.

"What did you do today to earn your place in this crowded world?"

It's a question one particular character in Amazon's new eight-episode series Utopia demands of others, frequently. Given that the Amazon show is adapted from the first, six-episode season of a well-regarded 2013 British series, you may find yourself demanding something similar of various scenes and characters in the comparatively overlong and overstuffed US version, and even — ultimately — of the show itself: