ST. LOUIS — Mother Nature has a sense of humor. I called the weather drunk three weeks ago before St. Louis got 11 inches dropped on it, and ever since then, it's been snow, rain, cold, and nasty winds. Be careful what you wish for is all I'm saying.
As I pour a cup of coffee on my shoulders and another down my throat, let's talk about some entertainment topics at this latest buffet of topical discussion.
The Best Five Minutes of Television can be found on Netflix's Fightworld
Paddy McKinley and Frank Grillo picked up a camera a little over a year ago and stalked the world for fight culture and meanings that could tie together communication, acceptance, and possibly some hope for a better tomorrow. There are five episodes of this docu-series, but if you want the real deal, a perfect tease, watch the final five minutes of the Israel hour.
In a country where there are no rings or tournaments, only survival, Grillo and company cut to the core of the true motive of the show: finding hope in unlikely places. During the hour, he trains with people such as Eitan, an intense soldier and family man, and Giora Orman, an instructor. Both men inform Grillo about Krav Maga, a fighting system they swear by in Israel. Near the end of the hour, Orman makes a powerful point about how fighters all around the world carry the same goal in their hearts and fists. How the reasons one seeks out fighting is a universal truth more than an individual desire. Widely seen as a last measure or deadly option, fighting can unite people. I implore you to watch this series. Start with this episode.
Fascinating line of dialogue: Grillo telling someone in Israel he feels safer there than he does in New York.
Learning to appreciate a movie: Getting caught in a Den of Thieves
A year ago, Christian Gudegast's cops and robbers Los Angeles-set action flick came out, and I had no need to see it. Perhaps it was the idea that Gerald Butler was slumming again, or it was gift-wrapped as a January turd. I didn't watch it then or at all in 2018.
Flash-forward to today, and I have watched it four times. If it comes on, I catch at least 30 minutes of it. In the end, Gudegast's film is a love letter to my favorite movie of all time, Michael Mann's Heat. It's one of Butler's best roles, playing Big Nick O'Brien, the leader of a renegade department of the L.A. County Sheriff's division. He goes up against Pablo Schreiber's crew, and the inevitable events occur. Gudegast's movie doesn't rewrite the book on action thrillers, but it provides a fine exercise in that particular corridor.
Mann's film set the bar high for bank heist shootouts, and Den of Thieves pays homage to that 1995 gem with a breathtaking shootout on a highway near the end of the film, including a final exchange between Butler and Schreiber that reminded me of Pacino, De Niro, and LAX. This is the grunge rock version of Heat, and I can't get enough.
The lesson is simple, ladies and gents. Don't judge a book or movie by its cover. There could be a fun toy waiting in that gift you didn't care to unwrap.
SAG Awards shows love for Emily Blunt "quiet" and powerful performance
John Krasinski's A Quiet Place got little love from The Academy Awards, and I think that's a travesty due to the fact that was a groundbreaking twist on the monsters/horror genre. A tightly wound and packed 90 minutes, the film deserved many accolades from the Oscars, but only got sound editing. Blah. Meh. You get it.
The Screen Actors Guild Awards did something right on Sunday, giving Emily Blunt the award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of the matriarch of the family hustling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by creatures who prey on sound. Without any real dialogue, Blunt gave her best performance yet, capturing the eerie defiance of a mother and wife unwilling to gentle into the dark night. The bathtub scene alone should have earned her the award.
Shameless is back and it's still just okay
Last season, the Showtime series reigned supreme for drama series across network and premium cable shows. Led by Emmy Rossum and William H. Macy, the show cut between drama and comedy like a knife, yielding well-earned humor and tough yet realistic and tense dramatic sequences. It had it all and looked strong so deep into its run.
A year later, and the show is spinning its wheels, rerouting in familiar territory, and looking flat. Take Rossum's Fiona. She's got the same old issues: guy troubles, substance abuse problems, and a true lack of care for herself. She's spiraling out while the rest of the Gallaghers are stuck in the same tropes as before. Carl in commitment, Lip in relationship quarrels, and Macy's Frank in sucking every bit of dollar from the government as a decrepit man can.
In a single season, it's gone from fresh to tiring. What happened? I'm not quite sure, but I'll say it's all just as sharp this year. Fun to watch at times, but not as great. It could be natural, or something else. With Rossum gone next season, the show will only suffer more. Take a page from Ray Donovan, and at least lean into what you are good at--or quit while you are still somewhat ahead.
The Oscars don't have a host, and here's why it's completely fine
Seriously, instead of shoehorning someone into the role and ruining the night, just run with a committee of entertainers. When Kevin Hart got the job, held it for a few days, backed out due to controversy, and refused to return to it, the showrunners were sent into a mini-panic. The frenzy most likely included many calls, several refusals, and finally came to the realization that no single host was taking the job.
It's all good. Run with a few people. See what happens. The main idea of the show shouldn't be the host telling bad Donald Trump jokes and soaking up attention; the art and movies should be the focus. For the first night in years, it will be, and I like it.
Let's sprint a little before I wrap this up:
*While I am dismayed at Lady Gaga not getting the Best Actress love she deserves, it's hard to stop the career achievement train that is Glenn Close. I've accepted it.
*With Bradley Cooper joining Gaga on stage in Vegas, I hope the two perform "Shallow" at the Oscars next month. Just give them the award already.
*The new Chevy Chase film on Netflix is just bad. When did the funny guy go so wrong? Alienating everyone who supports you in Hollywood may not be a good idea after all.
*A sequel to Coming to America? No thanks.
*Molly's Game is also on Showtime, and I highly suggest you watch it. Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, and Kevin Costner are aces. Aaron Sorkin's script couldn't be sharper.
*If you liked The Upside, please go watch the original, The Intouchables. Don't whine about the subtitles. Show some sensibility and give it a shot.
That's all I have for now. Thanks for reading.