Labor Day weekend has traditionally never been a particularly bright spot for entertainment, what with everyone going on vacation and traditional TV seasons only starting to peek out from around fall’s leafy corner. That might have changed this year, though.
In the wake—or midst—of the COVID-19 pandemic, studios and networks have gotten a little creative with their release dates. Though movies like Top Gun: Mavericks, Jackass Forever, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife got pushed back this week, Marvel is going forward with the release of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, which hits theaters exclusively this weekend. Hulu is also firing on all cylinders with some prestige TV series, with new episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers and the excellent, just-released Only Murders In The Building. So sit back, veg out, and let The A.V. Club tell you what to watch this long holiday weekend.
Just give in and accept that Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings is going to be a global phenomenon. It’s well-acted, well-made, and, if you’re somehow not well-versed in the past decade-plus of Marvel movies, it’s a great place to enter the world, since there’s not a whole lot of backstory, you have to know to pick up the story. It’s exclusively in theaters starting Friday, and—spoiler alert—there’s a cute little monster in it.
“The MCU is extraordinarily popular in China, which helps explain why so much of this new film takes place there. That said, at its core, Shang-Chi is an Asian American superhero story. Themes of homecoming, legacy, and balancing cultures and identities run throughout the movie. The soundtrack is multicultural, featuring both traditional Chinese music and southern hip-hop. The script, by director Destin Daniel Cretton and co-writers Andrew Lanham and Dave Callaham, retcons some of Marvel’s more insensitive depictions of Asian culture, while crafting an inspirational message about creating your own destiny and embracing the things that make you you.” [Katie Rife]
A show with a confounding name and bang-up cast, Only Murders In The Building is Hulu’s new true-crime send-up starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. Its first three episodes are available on the streamer now, and that’s just enough to get you hooked. The half-hour mystery comedy is charming and funny, with Martin and Short’s long-standing chemistry on full display. Gomez is a perfect millennial foil, and the premise—the three are true crime podcast fanatics who come perilously close to a murder in their own NYC building, only to set out to try and solve the case—is perfectly teased out over each episode. You’ll want more, but you’ll have to wait until Tuesday, when the next new episode hits the service.
“Sly, boisterous, and a bit melancholy, Hulu’s Only Murders In The Building would be a great pick-me-up even if we weren’t in the doldrums of late summer. The dramedy, from creators Steve Martin, John Hoffman, and Dan Fogelman, glides out of the gate, introducing characters and conflict with great elan and efficiency. There are no opening night jitters for Martin and his fellow leads Selena Gomez and Martin Short; a three-shot in an elevator establishes them as a cohesive trio even before they start investigating a crime (or what they believe to be a crime) in the massive pre-war building they all live in on the Upper West Side.” [Danette Chavez]
Long-teased, somewhat awaited, and incredibly hyped by its creator, Kanye West’s Donda has finally been released. Meant as a tribute to West’s late mother, the record is packed with controversial guest appearances, tracks that West may or may not have wanted to include on the album, and obtuse imagery that only West himself probably understands. While the reviews aren’t great (it’s pulling just a 51 on Metacritic, and we gave it a withering C-), it could be worth a listen if you’re either a current Kanye fan, a former Kanye fan, or just someone who likes to keep up with the zeitgeist and/or Kardashians.
“The record drags at a whopping 27 songs, spread out over one hour and 48 minutes. Opener ‘Donda,’ which is 52 seconds of chanting, would indicate that the listener is in for something revolutionary. But that momentum burns out pretty quickly—and the listener begins to wonder what the record is actually about. West’s mother, whom the record is named for? West’s relationship to God? Or West’s relationship with his uber-famous wife and their four children? By the end of it, it’s not clear if West himself even knows.” [Nina Hernandez]
We’re partial to a few pieces this week, if only because they represent the full range of what we do around these parts. First—and selfishly—there’s this writer’s Random Roles interview with character actor Siobhan Fallon Hogan, who’s made notable and memorable appearances in everything from Saturday Night Live to Forrest Gump to What We Do In The Shadows. Our lengthy chat is an interesting look at how a journeyman actor works in Hollywood, playing on connections, reputation, and a genuine desire to take up a maximum amount of screen time.
We’d also be remiss to mention the newsworthy and hypnotic power of James Corden’s thrusting mouse crotch, which set Twitter ablaze earlier this week. Captured by a bystander during a taping of one of Corden’s “Crosswalk Musicals” for his late night show, the gyrating Brit in a mouse costume is something that cannot—and perhaps should not—ever be unseen.
Lastly, because it’s the long holiday weekend, what the heck is up with McDonald’s ice cream machines? Those darn things never seem to work, right? Turns out the FTC is investigating, and you can read all about it right here.