Glen Weldon

The first episode of Luca Guadagnino's We Are Who We Are opens the way his film Call Me Your Name closes: in extended close-up of a young man's face. In the 2017 movie, the face belonged to Elio (Timothee Chalamet), who stared into the fireplace, wracked with sobs as he nurses his first heartbreak. In the eight-episode HBO series, which Guadagnino directs and co-writes (with Paolo Giordano and Francesca Manieri), the face in question is that young Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer).

I'm Thinking of Ending Things premieres on Netflix on Friday, September 4.

Cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt's recent work in TV animation — she designed the look of Bojack Horseman, and created the series Tuca & Bertie — is bright and bold and cartoony, shading occasionally into the absurd. But on both shows, that absurdist strain gets folded so deftly into the established visual texture that its essential weirdness ceases to register. Bojack may have been peopled with (animaled with?

Here is a list of things that the HBO series Lovecraft Country, premiering Sunday, August 16th, has in common with the 2018 film Green Book:

1. Setting: Jim Crow-era America

2. Acting: Subtle, nuanced performances (Viggo Mortenen's dese-and-dose Green Book gangster notwithstanding).

3. Subject: Story features a road trip involving a travel guidebook written to inform Black people where they can safely eat and stay. (Green Book: Entire film; Lovecraft Country: Opening episodes only.)

The prospect of spoofing Star Trek represents nothing new under the (binary) sun(s). The franchise has become an institution, and mocking institutions remains a thriving American cottage industry. Saturday Night Live started taking whacks at Trek way back in the '70s, as did MAD magazine, and the short-lived sitcom Quark.

"Go for a walk," urges Jane (Jane Adams), whose friend Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) has just called her sounding distressed, "or maybe watch a movie."

Amy sighs despondently. "A movie's an hour and a half," she says.

Been there, Amy. Am there, more often than it's comfortable to acknowledge. The events of 2020 have sent us all spiraling, albeit along different pathways, but one widely expressed common element is how difficult it's proving to muster the amount of sustained concentration required to sit through a film at home.

It's called The Go-Go's.

That's it. Just The Go-Go's. The new Showtime documentary about the first all-woman group to write their own songs, play their own instruments and snag a #1 hit doesn't come with a subtitle. That's notable because subtitles, in documentaries, often serve as thesis statements, organizing principles, saying, here is the throughline, the thematic infrastructure, of this film.

The moment it arrived on comics shelves in 1988, The Sandman was already its own distinct, idiosyncratic — and wholly weird — thing. Which is probably one reason it's resisted adaptation to any other medium for over three decades, despite repeated attempts.

The series, which ran for 75 issues, was written by Neil Gaiman and featured a series of artists including Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg, Chris Bachalo, Kelley Jones and many more.

Tom Hanks' screen persona is ...

This review contains spoilers for the first two seasons of Search Party.

"What does this mean for ME?"

That's Search Party's text — as in, a line of dialogue that crops up several times, in different characters' mouths — and its pervasive subtext. Because the true subject of the series, which began life on TBS but returns for a third season on HBO Max today, is self-important, self-involved, self-justifying selfishness.

The main impression left by 2018's pat, polished and inoffensive gay-teen rom-com Love, Simon was how consummately unqueer it presented. Sure, its protagonist, Simon, struggled with his sexual identity, but he did so from inside thick layers of privilege that kept him safe, like a suit of bougie, masc-for-masc chain mail. He was white, he lived in a tony Atlanta suburb with his liberal, warm, wet-eyed parents — he could and did easily pass for straight.

No, I hear you: Now doesn't seem the ideal moment to Netflix-and-chill with an animated series about the last vestiges of humanity struggling to survive.

I mean, imagine the pitch meeting:

The future.

Cities lie in ruin.

The surface of the earth is overgrown with plant life — and with overgrown animals: mutated beasts, 300 feet tall, that stomp across the land hunting for prey.

HBO Max, WarnerMedia's new streaming service launching Wednesday, grants subscribers access to all HBO series and hundreds of movies, as well as some shows in the Warners stable that were originally broadcast on other networks — like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Big Bang Theory.

The service also launches with a handful of original series. We've got a quick preview of those that were made available to media early.

Craftopia

When we first meet The Great's young Catherine (Elle Fanning), she's dreamily pushing herself back and forth on a swing entwined with lush flowers. The year is 1762, or thereabouts.

"My time in Washington," Eleanor Roosevelt (Harriet Sansom Harris) says at one point in the Netflix miniseries Hollywood, "taught me a lot of things. I used to believe that good government could change the world. I don't know if I believe that anymore. However, what you do — the three of you — can change the world."

The nation's drag revues are shuttered, for now. Across the country, even as you read this, lace fronts are drying out, false eyelashes the size of tarantulas are losing their curl, and sequined gowns are gathering dust in dark closets, far away from any follow-spot that could set them shimmering. The collective experience of a live drag show, where you can smell the performers' perspiration, desperation and wig glue, is a pleasure denied us indefinitely.

The premise is big, bold, even broad: When they broke up in college, fifteen years ago, Ruby (Merritt Wever) and Billy (Domhnall Gleeson) promised each other that if either one of them ever texted the word "RUN" to the other ... and the other texted it back, they would drop everything and meet in Grand Central Station, hop on a cross-country train, and see what happened.

See? Big idea. High concept. Great elevator pitch. Sold in the room.

Note: This review discusses events depicted in the final season, and final episode, of Schitt's Creek.

From the opening moments of the first scene of last night's Schitt's Creek finale episode, it was clear: Nothing would change, and everything would.

The streaming service Quibi — short for "quick bites" — calls itself "the first entertainment platform designed specifically for your phone."

Translation: They're doling out their shows in 7-to-10-minute chunks — er, episodes — at a rate of one per day. Quick bites, get it? Perfect for the busy, distracted, on-the-go consumer! Too bad none of us are on-the-going anywhere these days.

Quibi divides its shows into three categories: Movies in Chapters (read: serialized narrative), Unscripted and Documentaries (read: episodic nonfiction) and Daily Essentials.

In these unsettled, unsettling times, some of us look to things like horror movies and dystopian novels as a means to keep things in perspective. Things are bad, these people think, as they delight in characters meeting various grisly ends, or huddling around barrel-fires in fishnet stockings and fingerless gloves, but they're not this bad.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

When it comes to videogames, I'm no bitter-ender.

In the opening minutes of Disney/Pixar's Onward, we are met with various manifestations of loss.

The first two episodes of Devs drop on FX on Hulu on Thursday, March 5th. The remaining six episodes will be published over the following six weeks.

Slow Burn premieres Sunday February 16th on EPIX.

Slow Burn isn't the first hit podcast to be adapted into a television series, and it won't be the last. In this, the age of streams and verticals, of IPs and platform-agnosticism, we are about to be deluged with content that began life nestled in millions of earbuds.

The degree to which any given Marvel or DC/Warners movie manages to distinguish itself from the slew of punch-em-ups that have come before is a function of tone, more than anything else. The demands of the genre (innocents to protect, evil to punish, MacGuffins to procure, training to montage) are such that filmmakers are forced to innovate around the margins.

Avenue 5 premieres on HBO Sunday, January 19th.

"A problem," decrees a character on HBO's sci-fi comedy series Avenue 5, "is just a solution without a solution."

The problem facing the crew and passengers of Avenue 5 — a massive space-cruise-ship in the not too distant future on its maiden 8-week cruise around Saturn — has to do with its trajectory.

The New Pope debuts on HBO Monday, January 13th.

There's an argument to be made that Catholicism is to Paolo Sorrentino's The Young/New Pope television series as Media is to Succession, as Oil was to Dallas and Dynasty, as Wine was to Falcon Crest, as McMansions are to the Real Housewives.

Which is to say: merely the setting, the ostensible backdrop before which the real drama plays out: endless, internecine struggles, betrayals, maneuvers, schemes and retribution.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

NPR's movie critic and Pop Culture Happy Hour hosts picked 20 of their favorite films of the year.

1917

Pages