Let's kick off this entertainment round of the weekly buffet with a recommendation. A show that you can watch at home without leaving the house. What show?
YELLOWSTONE. While it's a Paramount Network production, this Kevin Costner-starring series about a powerful--yet internally crumbling--Montana rancher family can also be found on Amazon Prime and Spike TV.
It has everything you want in a drama series. Good acting, steady pace, competent action, just enough romance, and an edge. Costner is John Dutton, the patriarch of the largest ranch in the state, and someone with a bunch of enemies. While Gil Birmingham and Danny Huston provide trouble, it's Dutton's own family that may bring him down. A man-eating daughter in Kelly Reilly's Bethany, an ambitious attorney in Wes Bentley's Jamie, a loyal henchman in Dave Annable's Lee, and a loose cannon in Luke Grimes' Kayce. Add it up and you have the roughneck version of HBO's Succession.
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Look, it's not a perfect series. There is a fair amount of melodrama, zero true bad guys, too many characters for the plot to handle, and the first season ends on an anti-climatic note. However, Costner is riveting to watch as an imperfect man losing his grip on his land, family, and reputation. Series Creator Taylor Sheridan, who penned the brilliant scripts for Hell or High Water and Sicario as well as Wind River, knows how to write gritty, addictive dialogue. Cole Hauser puts in good work as Dutton's muscle, but Reilly steals scenes as a negotiator with the bite of a cobra. It's ten episodes long and moves well. Give it a shot.
THE END OF LUKE CAGE
While Yellowstone is currently in production on a second season, the Netflix superhero phase took another blow this week. A week after Danny Rand's Iron Fist was retired, Mike Colter's Harlem hero is stepping down after two seasons. Let me save you the drama and admit it was time for this hero to turn in his hoodie and t-shirt. The biggest problem with these shows are the 13 episode length of each season. It drags out the story, wears out the viewer, and turns your interest level for more down. Cage is indestructible and reluctant, which made his change of attitude at the end of season 2 odd and out of place. Some things are better in small doses. The writing suffered here...like someone putting too many bars on the bench press at the gym.
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VENOM IS MAKING MONEY, BUT STILL STINKS
I love when people try to tell me that a movie making money means it's a good film. Wrong. While it's true that a studio will take a healthy box office run over good reviews, the critical reaction shouldn't waver because it's popular. I thought Venom was trash, and my opinion hasn't changed as it recoups its budget in less than two weeks. A sequel is probably in the works. Tom Hardy signed a three-picture deal. Woody Harrelson is lined up for the second film. All is heading in that direction. That doesn't change the fact that the film carries a 31% Rotten Tomatoes score, a number that reflects top critics and small timer reviewers. It doesn't change the fact that I laughed in parts that shouldn't have been funny. Venom wasn't an abomination thanks to Hardy, but it sure wasn't good.
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MUMFORD AND SONS GET BACK TO BASICS
After a slight departure from their usual norm with their last album, the British folk rock band's new single, "Guiding Light", from their upcoming album, Delta, reveals similar sounds to their breakout debut, Sigh No More. The second album, Babel, carried a similar tune as their first, but Wilder Park stepped away from the banjo-infused music, and branched out. All bands can use some change here and there, keeping their freedom intact, and helping them reach a level of integrity. However, Mumford made their name with the folky punch of that banjo, creating infectious songs that grew legs with each week of release. "Guiding Light" is a throwback to tunes like "Awake My Soul" and "Dust Bowl Dance" while showing some flavor of "I Will Wait". A hopeful ballad with some kick to it. More of that, Marcus. More.
WORD OF ADVICE FOR UBER RIDERS
Be ready. In other words, don't get the uber until you are ready to go. Every weekend night I drive, there are at least 2-3 rides that never show up, forcing me to cancel. Others involve me waiting in my car outside, idling like an old car in the dark heart of winter. It's frustrating to see something like this endure over the months. Riders must understand this is the opposite of calling a cab. One could bake a cake, take a shower, and rediscover the meaning of life while waiting for a cab to arrive; an Uber takes around five minutes or less. We are only making 15 cents per minute, so you are costing us money by making us wait. So don't. Thanks.
I'D LIKE TO DRIVE MICHAEL SHANNON AROUND
No, I am not talking about the St. Louis Cardinals announcer, even though that would be a fun ride. I can imagine Shannon shouting "deuces wild" in my backseat while sipping on a cold frosty one and telling me a story about Bob Gibson, which would be nice. I am actually talking about the actor. Shannon is one of the best thespians working today. He can truly play any character. When he's not playing eclectic weirdos with a death wish on screen, he's playing cynical older brothers like Nick in the upcoming drama, What They Had. He brings an authenticity to every single role. I'd like to discuss that with him during a ride. He'd climb into my Elantra, scan the car, look me in the eye, and probably make me extremely nervous before I broke the silence with a question about The Shape of Water. Something tells me he is pretty close to some of the guys he plays on screen.
WILL AND JADA PINKETT SMITH ARE STILL MARRIED...I THINK
There's nothing better in Hollywood than couples who play with the media. Over the past few years, The Smiths have had their share of fun with their marital status. Are they married? Happy? Do they swing with other couples? After claiming they were no longer married this past summer and at another level in their relationship, Jada stated during an interview this week that they never got divorced. Frankly, everyone is confused. If someone asked me on a radio show if my wife and I were still married, I'd just answer the question. The shadow games only make people more curious, as if you are hiding something. Actors seriously take their craft home with them and on the road. It's tiring. Just say you are married and happy. You don't have to give anything else.
THE APPEAL OF MOVIE PREVIEWS
Some critics watch trailers. Others do not. I personally can't get enough of them. You show me a two minute tease of an upcoming flick and I'll start foaming at the mouth. I don't mind being spoiled with a few plot details for the thrill of a good trailer. Bring it on. I can handle the fact that this person may die, another could be shot, and a heart will be broken. I've loved them since I was a kid heading to the theater with dad. Sometimes, a good round of trailers beat the actual movie.
~Have you tried the fried ribs at Edibles and Essentials? Just do it. Stop eating the same stuff.
~I prefer a good comedy show over a concert these days. A good laugh is more important.
~I miss Gene Hackman.
~A television show should be ten episodes or less. More is just filler.
~Lawn mowing is almost retired for the year. I think we should drink to that. A Bloody Mary should do it.
~There's nothing worse than a self-important film critic ruining the fun for the rest of the group. Sometimes, a little professionalism and restraint goes a long way in forging a bond with another party or group of people.
~I don't miss Freddie Prince Jr.
~Something tells me Nicole Kidman is going to be nominated for another Oscar for Destroyer. She looks half-dead, driven and in a role she's never played before.
That's all I have. Consider this stream of consciousness closed.