And there we have it, folks: Another week on the books, another set of nightmares about Chris Pratt’s upcoming Mario voice on deck to roll out for the weekend. As usual, we here at The A.V. Club are here to help respectfully distract you as summer officially rolls its way into fall, hopefully keeping your mind off questions like, “Is he going to try to do an Italian accent?” and “How many fart jokes is Illumination going to shove into this one?”
But that’s enough about a children’s movie that we are probably not going to be able to stop ourselves from thinking about, late at night, for the next 15 months straight: Let’s talk instead about the actual good stuff happening in pop culture this week. Hence our regular weekend guide, The A.V. Club’s quick-and-dirty primer for the pop culture keeping us sane in a world where “It’s a-me, Jurassic World!” is now permanently echoing in our heads.
Look: We understand, as well as any people exposed to the absolutely vitriolic reviews that came out of TIFF surrounding it, that there’s probably a part of you that wants to watch Dear Evan Hansen this weekend. There’s parts of us that want to watch Dear Evan Hansen, craving that same high that Cats burned into our brains as relentlessly as Skimbleshanks’ tap-dancing feet. But, please: Resist the urge. If you need to see a film about manipulation, human failings, and a lead performer with a massive amount of make-up on their face, consider checking out Jessica Chastain’s The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, instead. Here’s Katie Rife, in her (mostly) positive review of Michael Showalter’s biopic of the famed televangelist:
The film satisfies most as an aesthetic object. From mauve shag carpeting to white wicker patio furniture, the set design is an enjoyably gaudy time capsule of ’70s and ’80s mid-American kitsch. The costumes, heavy on polyester, spangles, satin, and fur, are also deliciously garish, but the greatest below-the-line achievements in this film are from the hair and makeup team.
If only Ben Platt had managed half as well.
It’s a good weekend for streaming TV, as Netflix premieres the latest season of The Great British Bake-Off, and Apple rolls out its complex and challenging Isaac Asimov adaptation Foundation. (Oh, and if you’re in the mood for something darker, Korean import Squid Game has some nastily pointed social commentary lurking beneath its story of adults risking their lives on high-stakes children’s games.) But really, we can’t think of a weekend pursuit better than finally getting caught up on Nine Perfect Strangers, now that it’s finally wrapped its miniseries run on Hulu. Here’s Gwen Ihnat (who may, or may not, have a character based on her in the source material), writing about the moderate successes of its finale this week:
But much to this viewer’s surprise, Nine Perfect Strangers was able to stick the landing, giving all of its characters satisfactory endings—even more successfully than the book did… Kidman’s Masha was much more convincing as a grief-enveloped mother who would do anything to get to see her young daughter again. Her tragic circumstance goes a long way toward if not excusing, than at least understanding her beyond-unconventional methodology.
K-Pop or Montero? That’s the question this week, as Lil Nas X’s debut album, ambitious and wide-ranging and infused with personal feeling, goes up against the latest efforts from NCT 127, mounting an ambitious comeback album with Sticker. And, hey, great news: You totally have time to listen to both, drifting between the heartfelt yearning of Lil Nas’ “That’s What I Want,” and the EDM influences and rap hits of “Sticker” or “Lemonade.” Here’s Shanicka Anderson laying out why the latter release makes a case for NCT 127—who were just turning the curve toward superstardom when the pandemic hit—deserving to finally claim that crown:
The next track, “Lemonade,” gives listeners a better idea of what to expect, with NCT 127 at its best. The brassy song is bass-heavy and highly produced, made whole with the addition of powerful, honeyed vocals and lightning-hot rap verses. NCT 127’s ability to play around and experiment with outlandish, obscure samples is successful largely because its vocal execution is so tightly controlled and deliberate.
A “mystery” novel working in the shadow of a murder whose culprits were known to every person in America—and who went un-convicted, nevertheless—Percival Everett’s new book The Trees crosses genres wildly in its efforts to wrestle with the history of American lynching, and the death of Emmett Till specifically. In their review of the novel, Isaías Rogel praises both Everett’s skill at humor, and his mastery of the tension in telling a story featuring so many racist buffoons, noting that,
One of Everett’s talents is his ability to so deftly juxtapose parodies of racists with the gravity of racist violence. A case in point is when Daisy—wife of Junior Junior, son of fictional J.W. Milam, one of Till’s real-life murderers—visits local mortician Mr. Easy to arrange Junior Junior’s funeral. Daisy and Mr. Easy, before discussing service packages, hold a long conversation about the funeral home’s location, reminiscing over its previous identity as a Dairy Queen. “The kitchen became our embalming room,” Mr. Easy tells Daisy, as she remembers, “The soda fountain was right up against that wall,” all in the wake of her husband’s gruesome death. When Daisy reminds Mr. Easy that her husband’s face is beyond recognition, he reassures her, jokingly, that if she purchases the gold package, “he will look alive… like he might just sit up.” She asks if they instead offer a tin, aluminum, or wood package.
We’ll be honest: This is usually our favorite part of assembling this guide, as we get to highlight some of the great pieces that might have slipped through the cracks over the past week. Great pieces like Andrew Paul’s efforts to track down the origins of that live-action Far Side movie that occasionally rears its head online, a detective story in pursuit of a film that probably shouldn’t exist, but which will nevertheless live on in the annals of what might have been for director Alan Rudolph:
Despite the abrupt rise and fall of what Rudolph dubbed “the biggest little movie deal that never got made,” the announcement of a Far Side film caught the attention of Paramount Pictures in 1988. Interested in the idea and hoping to fast-track production, the studio first asked to see what something as arguably incomprehensible as a live-action Far Side movie would look like. Requests were put in for test stills for various characters and sets, something “more complicated than it sounds,” said Rudolph.
“To create Far Side characters in [sic] Far Side world for stills only would be like building a single tank or tract house. Like creating an entire opera production in costume for a poster,” Rudolph said. At first, the director considered making the project a black-and-white film akin to The Far Side’s early, monochromatic days. Instead, he used then-recently introduced, Larson-approved color calendar editions of the strip as his guide, employing copious amounts of Styrofoam to help construct the asymmetrical, oddball backdrops and set pieces.
And if you’re into something more sartorial than Dirk Blocker standing around in a sweaty undershirt, we’ve got you set there, too: Our own TV editor, Danette Chavez, diving into the looks of the various glorious, colorful “detective” coats that fill up Hulu’s Only Murders In The Building with costume designer Dana Covarrubias. Here’s the mindset behind that fabulous purple coat Martin Short rocks early on:
In this early scene, Covarrubias imagines Oliver has left a meeting with an investor, which is why he’s putting his best foot/coat forward. (As many sensible moms and fashion blogs will tell you, a great coat hides a lot of sins.) The look also had to elicit that response from Oliver, so Covarrubias and her team went through “three or four racks of coat options for that one coat look. We sourced them from literally all over the world. We had a lot of favorites that were in the mix, but that one, I think just that it was such a beautiful, bright, royal purple color, the length was really dramatic and it just had enough drama, but felt real too.” Oliver’s outburst was scripted, so Covarrubias “knew we had to find something that justified the line, but at the same time, Marty was very concerned with making sure that his costumes weren’t so over the top they overshadowed his character development.