The trailer for GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE is the PD for 5/26/21. What do you say when someone asks, How about a chop-socky shoot-em-up with Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Paul Giamatti? The only appropriate answer is, “Yes, please.” (You could also add “and on Netflix, please.”) Headey: “There’s not a single person on Earth I’d rather kill people with.” Gillan: “Thanks, Ma.” -Jeff. Premieres July 14th on Netflix. Trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLMT5uXjFLY
ARMY OF THE DEAD is the PD for 5/22/21…. Not really a “pick,” but my obligatory commentary. We picked the trailer for this movie previously and we talked about it on The Pick podcast preview of 2021. Since I have long considered DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) director Zack Snyder’s best film, I was excited for his return to the genre. And the concept of a zombie/heist hybrid with a smash-bang trailer had the internets buzzing. So, it premiered on Netflix yesterday, and for me, landed with a dull thud. We long ago reached zombie capacity in pop culture, but I still hoped for something fresh. And there are some fun ideas here… a zombie tiger from Siegfried and Roy’s show, a former showgirl being the “queen” zombie, Tig Nitaro as a wise-cracking helicopter pilot. But really, the action was nothing new, the running time too long, and just a few too many defiances of logic. The first 10 minutes of DAWN OF THE DEAD packed more surprises, bravura camerawork, and original ideas than this film’s entire 148 minutes. If you haven’t seen that one, watch it instead. As for ARMY, you’ll have some fun if you love the genre, but it’s a mild thumbs down for me. -Jeff. ARMY is on Netflix. DAWN OF THE DEAD is available for rent.
THE DAY OF THE BEAST (EL DÍA DE LA BESTIA) is the Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday, 5/20/21. This is a lively and nutty horror/comedy from 1995, a Spanish/Italian co-production. It’s a cult classic that’s lesser known in the U.S. but is quite a kick. It centers on a Basque priest who has deciphered the date of the apocalypse: Christmas Day 1995. So he sets out to commit as many sins as possible to invoke the Devil and stop the birth of the antichrist. He enlists the help of a heavy metal record shop owner and an Italian occult TV host. You read all of that right. It’s a romp through Christmastime Madrid of crazy violence and mayhem. The matter-of-fact way the priest commits his sins is a delight; whether pushing a mime down a flight of stairs or stealing change from a beggar. Also, look for what’s written on slip of paper when the priest is requesting satanic music… Iron Maiden and Hace de Cé. Get it? -Jeff. Available for free on Tubi, or on subscription services Shudder and Kanopy.
MIDNIGHT RUN (1988) is the PD for 5/19/21. The great Charles Grodin passed away this week at the age of 86. He was a comedic actor best known for deadpan and put-upon characters, in such films as THE HEARTBREAK KID (1972), HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978), and BEETHOVEN (1992). He costarred with Robert De Niro in director Martin Brest’s MIDNIGHT RUN. This was De Niro’s first true comedy role, and the pairing of his former cop turned bounty hunter and Grodin’s mob accountant was golden. It came out the same year as DIE HARD (1988), which marked the beginning of a new era of high-tech, frenetic action film. So while Die Hard ushered in a new era with each film trying to out-explode the last, Midnight Run was marking the end of the 70’s/80’s style buddy comedy, like SILVER STREAK (1976) or 48 HOURS (1982), where character took the front seat to the action. Grodin’s breakthrough was really THE HEARTBREAK KID, but I choose MIDNIGHT RUN now as it is available on HBO. It also stars Dennis Farina in one of his earlier mob tough-guy comedy roles, Yaphet Kotto as a stoic but focused FBI agent, and Joe Pantoliano a few years after his breakout in RISKY BUSINESS (1983) as Guido the Killer Pimp. I watched RUN this week for the first time in years, and it was a joy to watch every scene with Grodin and De Niro. The scene where they scam a bar owner into handing over cash from the register is golden Grodin. Other than his film roles, Grodin was also great on multiple appearances on The Tonight Show, as he sparred with Johnny Carson, often insisting that he was being mistreated as a guest. Look for those on YouTube but check out MIDNIGHT RUN while it’s available. -Jeff. MIDNIGHT RUN is available on HBO. HEAVEN CAN WAIT is on Cinemax. BEETHOVEN is on fuboTV and Peacock.
A roundup of five new movies is the PD for 5/15/21: OXYGEN, STOWAWAY, THINGS HEARD AND SEEN, THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD, and THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW. The pandemic gives us the chance to see so many new films at home; note that all but one of these films (THINGS HEARD) was developed and produced with the intention of theatrical release. Four of the five have premiered on Netflix, with THOSE WHO WISH getting a theatrical release simultaneous with its premiere on HBO Max. All five have female leads. And in my view, the results vary, but none of them deserve its own Pick Daily recommendation. Here we go, from “least good” to “least bad”… THINGS HEARD AND SEEN is the one I’d advise to avoid the most. Amanda Seyfried is certainly ready to carry a film, but this one ain’t really worthy of any of its talented cast or directors. A fairly dull and unscary ghost story, with an ambiguous and disappointing ending. THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW should be good. The modern homage to the Hitchcock classic REAR WINDOW stars Amy Adams, rising above the material as an agoraphobe who believes she has witnessed a murder. Despite Adams’ usual talent (good fun to see her perform next to the also great Julianne Moore), the all-star cast, and some slick stylistic choices early on, this one falls apart under a plodding plot and predictable ending. STOWAWAY reminds us of several recent space exploration films, and works decently as a tense moral dilemma. The cast is top notch, led by Anna Kendrick, who displays her usual goofy charm alongside dramatic chops. Also on board are Toni Collette, who couldn’t deliver a bad performance if she tried, the under-used Daniel Day Kim, and the effective Shamier Anderson in the titular role. This one works as a Netflix offering, whereas a $50 night at the movies would have been a disappointment. OXYGEN was conceived as an Anne Hathaway movie but went through a development turnstile and now is a French-language thriller starring Mélanie Laurent, whom American audiences mostly know for her great role in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. She is excellent in a film that is almost all closeups of her lying down in a cryogenic chamber, unsure of why and even who she is. It’s a clever story and again, probably works better as streaming choice than a theater outing. And finally, Angelina Jolie returns in her first action role since 2010’s SALT. Although, THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD feels almost like an ensemble piece, focusing equally on several characters in addition to Jolie’s smokejumper: the boy (Finn Little) who witnesses his father’s murder, the baddies chasing him (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult), and the sheriff looking for them all (Jon Bernthal). The cast is all on point and the film works as a throwback to the DIE-HARD-inspired rush of films in the 90’s. Placing the action on the edge of a horrific forest fire works better than one might expect. Jolie seems a bit under utilized, but it is good to see her back in a suspenseful lead role. -Jeff. “Those Who Wish Me Dead” is on HBO Max for 31 days, and in theaters; the other four are on Netflix.
The opening scene for SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW is the PD for 5/11/21. Although I have gotten much more into horror movies in the past few years, I have never been enamored by the “torture porn” variety. I have seen some of the Saw films, but only really remember the first one, which is more psychological thriller than gory torture. But when Chris Rock is the star, and Samuel Jackson is also around to throw out a few “motherf****r”s, I’m definitely interested. Rock even provided the initial story treatment on this one as he was interested in branching his acting career into horror. So this in more of a clip than a trailer for Trailer Tuesday, and I apologize for its gruesomeness. Do NOT watch if you are squeamish. The Saw films have always provided the guiltiest of the guilty “pleasures,” if you will…. the peek-through-your-hands goriness we love to hate, or hate to love. And this scene from the film’s open is no exception. You’re welcome. – Jeff. SPIRAL open in theaters this Friday, May 14th. For the clip, go to YouTube and enter “Lionsgate” into search, or go to https://bit.ly/3hpjC01
TOM CLANCY’S WITHOUT REMORSE is the PD for 5/1/21. Ever since he emerged in the latter half of the fantastic series FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS in 2009, Michael B. Jordan has risen to a star status unattained by anyone else in that series. And now he’s given the full action-hero treatment in this tight thriller from Amazon Studios on Prime Video. Buff and brusque, Jordan is a Navy Seal whose wife is killed in by some shady Russians. He must team with his sergeant, played by the impressive Jodie Turner-Smith, and CIA agent Jamie Bell, in full-on prick mode, to uncover a plot to start a war between super powers. All technical aspects are top notch, and this is certainly looking to set up a franchise a la “Jack Ryan,” which is currently an Amazon series preparing its third season. Director Stefano Sollima is also one to watch, having helmed SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO (2018) and several episodes of two excellent series: the Italian GOMMARAH (2014-2020), and the multi-national Amazon series ZEROZEROZERO (2019). WITHOUT REMORSE may feel somewhat familiar in style and execution, but is unpredictable and engaging. Jordan’s big moment has arrived and he delivers. -Jeff. Rated R for violence and language. Available on Amazon Prime Video.
The trailer for RIDERS FOR JUSTICE is the Pick Daily for Trailer Tuesday, 4/27/21. Scandinavian countries have upped their game in recent years, delivering Hollywood-style big budget films such as THE WAVE (Norway/Sweden 2015), LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Sweden 2008), THE QUAKE (Norway 2018), IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE (Norway 2014), TROLL HUNTER (Norway 2010), and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO (Sweden 2009) and its sequels. And now, from Denmark, we get RIDERS FOR JUSTICE, which looks to be Die Hard in, well, Denmark. It also stars one of the finest actors gracing the planet, Mads Mikkelsen, who starred in great Danish films such as THE HUNT (2012) and A ROYAL AFFAIR (2012), and also English-language films such as CASINO ROYALE (2006) and the HANNIBAL TV Series. Well, now, they have killed his wife, and boy is he pissed. It looks to be a story we’ve seen many times, but the way different countries spin these stories feels fresh. Please don’t let the dubbing or subtitles deter you from considering these movies! Foreign films and TV series have never been more accessible with the explosion of streaming options. -Jeff. See the trailer @ridersofjusticemovie or on YouTube. Premieres In theaters 5/14 and on demand 5/21
DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989) is the Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday, 4/22/21. “Seize the Day – Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May!” Still one of my all-time favorites. The late, great, one-of-a-kind Robin Williams won the Oscar for “Good Will Hunting,” but for my money this is his most memorable performance. I first saw this wonderful movie while home from college in the summer of 1989. It was inspiring then, and it still inspires today. Williams’ portrayal of English teacher John Keating blends two of his amazing gifts – signature improvisational comedy and under-appreciated dramatic skills. He’s the perfect choice to play the new faculty member whose unorthodox teaching methods ignite the energy and imagination of his students, while causing uneasiness among the administration at the stodgy Welton Academy. The film won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Peter Weir) and Best Actor (Williams). To this day, it continues to receive positive scores on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, and The New Yorker has even called it “a classic.” So be inspired by Mr. Keating, as he inspires his students, which include a young Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles and Sean Patrick Leonard, among others. And enjoy the lasting gift of “Dead Poet’s Society.” -Kevin. Available on fuboTV, or for $2.99 rental.
The Trailer for ANNETTE is the Pick Daily for Trailer Tuesday, 4/20/21. The biggest star that ended up coming out of HBO’s “Girls” was the boy, Adam Driver. There are few actors I can think of making more interesting choices while giving consistently strong performances. And now we get our first look at ANNETTE, a musical that was conceived as album for the American band Sparks, and then adapted to be a movie with French director Leos Carax, who brought us the cult favorite HOLY MOTORS (2012). Driver plays a stand-up comedian married to an opera singer played by Marion Cotillard. They give birth to a daughter, Annette, who has a “surprising gift”. The movie will be the French director’s English-language debut, but not spoken English…. everything will be sung. -Jeff. Premieres at Cannes on July 6. US release date TBD.
NOBODY (2021) is the PD for 4/19/21. And yes, I ponied up the $19.99 to rent this. But really, we’ll split it between 4 people, so it’s much cheaper than a theater outing. This is the continuing evolution of comedian and writer Bob Odenkirk. His character Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman on BETTER CALL SAUL will go down as one of the all-time great TV characters on an all-time great series. And now we see the diminutive actor tackle a John-Wick-style role of a suburban family man whose secret ops background comes boiling to the surface after he cowers before a petty robbery at his home. The action is ball breaking and flawlessly executed; the comedy perfectly subtle and sly. It’s a refreshing blast of joy in pandemic times. When a car chase/gun battle is about to commence, our hero pops in a cassette of “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar; and his gun-toting father is played by Christopher Lloyd. Mayhem doesn’t get much more fun. For the perfect complement, first listen to the CONAN NEEDS A FRIEND podcast from April 11, when Odenkirk was the guest and they discuss his evolution from comedy writer to dramatic/action actor. -Jeff. Rated R, Extreme violence and language. Available in theaters or for rent on most platforms.
THE POWER (2021) is your Friday Fright on The Pick Daily for 4/16/21. There are many reasons this film by writer/director Corinna Faith is so effective. Its use of an historical event as a backdrop; perfect use of the creepy hospital location; a breakout performance from lead actress Rose Williams; the clever double meaning of the title; the use of slowly rotating and panning camerawork. It is 1974 London, and to manage a labor strike the government has been cutting the power at night, plunging the city into frigid darkness. Val is a studious and impeccably coifed nurse eager to impress on her first day on the job at the East London Infirmary. She’s got issues of her own with the dark, so it comes as no comfort when she’s asked to pull a double shift and work through the dark night. Just what is that burning smell that seems to follow her? Why do doors keep opening on their own? And can you hear the whispers? This is the first great horror film I’ve seen this year, and one of the best films of 2021 so far. Don’t look for gore or heavy use of jump scares; this one earns your sense of dread by crafting a meticulous and affecting story. -Jeff. Available on Shudder.
Zombie tiger, anyone? How can I resist choosing the trailer for ARMY OF THE DEAD for the Pick Daily (4/14/21)? It missed the cut for Trailer Tuesday by a hot minute, since it was released yesterday, but this is Zack Snyder’s return to zombie-land after his excellent DAWN OF THE DEAD from 2004. And while that film popularized zombies that can run, this one brings us smart, organized zombies! In Vegas, of all places. From the looks of it, despite the trailer’s cheeky use of the Kenny Rogers classic, Snyder will not be holding or folding much in this bonkers action spectacular. We’ll also get to see how Dave Bautista will handle his first big leading role, and it will certainly be fun to see Tig Nitaro as a bad-ass militant, seen here only in a brief shot with cigar in mouth. Like I said yesterday with the Angelina Jolie trailer, don’t expect any awards, but place your bets for a fun time. – Jeff. Premieres May 21 on Netflix. See the trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tI1JGPhYBS8
The trailer for THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD is the Pick Daily for Trailer Tuesday, 4/13/21. The pedigree on this one is impressive. To start with, we get Angelina Jolie in her first all-in action film since 2010’s SALT. And she gets her first John McClane treatment in what looks to be Die Hard in a forest fire. Next, we get writer/director Taylor Sheridan, who has been killing it with his scripts for SICARIO (2015), HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016), and the upcoming Amazon Prime actioner TOM CLANCY’S WITHOUT REMORSE (2021). And then, we all know and love him as Littlefinger from GAME OF THRONES…. Aiden Gillen, teaming up with hunky Nicholas Hoult to play the baddies. Throw in some Tyler Perry and how could this movie possibly be bad? I can’t say my hopes are high for Oscars, but at least we’ll have fun. And bonus: we get this one on HBO Max. -Jeff. Premiers May 14 on HBO Max and in theaters. Trailer link in bio, or on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjQLaYkcUjE
THE WRETCHED (2020) is the Pick Daily for your Friday Fright on 4/9/21. Some horror films can be dark and somewhat dour as they tell their harrowing tales, like last week’s pick DON’T LISTEN (2020). Still, others can be a bit more fun and still pack some pretty good scares. THE WRETCHED falls into the latter category. At times it feels like it might be a summer teen comedy; if it weren’t for the shocking prologue, that took place “35 years previously,” where something quite unpleasant is happening in the basement. Flashing forward to “5 Days Ago”, a teenaged boy comes to a small town to spend time with his father, and becomes concerned that the young boy next door is being tormented by something, well, wretched. The story behind the film’s monster and folklore don’t make a lot of sense and the film doesn’t take pains to explain much, but it doesn’t really matter much. It’s just a fun mix of monster-in-the-woods and Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a pretty clever twist thrown in. -Jeff. Not rated – minor nudity and language, the violence and gore is moderate, tending to be more slimy than bloody. Available on Hulu, or for rent.
S#!%HOUSE (2020) is The Pick Daily for 4/7/21, a sweet little indie film with a horrible name. I won’t say this movie blindsided me because I was somewhat aware of it from an NPR review. So I at least knew to ignore its profane and sophomoric title and to expect a comedy/romance in the vein of BEFORE SUNRISE (1995). But what I discovered exceeded my expectations. It is really good. Soon after the film starts, college freshman Alex (Cooper Raiff) attends a party at the legendary “Shithouse”, known for its awesome parties. Also there is sophomore Maggie (Dylan Gelula), the RA on Alex’s dorm floor. The two leave together and end up spending a sweetly quiet night involving long walks and talks and softball. Only this structure, which comprises the film’s first half, is what reminds you of SUNRISE. Otherwise, the movie charts its own course and is much more about how awkward and lonely the first year of college can feel, and how the aftermath of one-night stands can be so different for the two involved. Raiff is also the writer and director, and his style is unforced and natural. He and Gelula are excellent on screen and each manage to nail that boy or girl you probably had a crush on in college. The film being called “Shithouse” is unfortunate. The party scene there is brief, and we don’t get much sense of how “awesome” the house or the party is. After that, the house never appears again, and we are left with a wonderful indie film that risks being skipped by those thinking it’s a bad remake of Animal House. Don’t be swayed! – Jeff. Rated R for strong language, drug use, heavy drinking, and sexual content. Available on Showtime, or for rent.
The trailer for THINGS HEARD & SEEN is the Pick Daily for Trailer Tuesday 4/6/21. Netflix serves up a ghost story based on the novel by Elizabeth Brundage. Amanda Seyfried (a long way from Karen in MEAN GIRLS) is an artist whose husband (James Norton, LITTLE WOMEN) just purchased a new home, one that may reveal a sinister darkness about their marriage. The cast also boasts Rhea Seehorn (BETTER CALL SAUL), Natalia Dyer (STRANGER THINGS), and even Karen Allen (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK). It is directed by wife and husband team Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who both also directed AMERICAN SPLENDOR (2003) and THE NANNY DIARIES (2007). – Jeff. THINGS HEARD & SEEN premieres April 29th on Netflix. Trailer on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/HCAaonjgDEA
THE WAY BACK (2020) is the PD for 4/3/21. As college basketball crowns its champions this weekend, here’s another basketball movie pick. The game is the backdrop in a story about a man struggling with addiction, grief and loss. Ben Affleck plays a one-time high school basketball legend who’s recruited by his Catholic alma mater to coach their struggling team, which hasn’t been competitive for years. He’s a bloated heavy drinker who brings a box of booze to a family Thanksgiving, pays the bills by working construction jobs, and has a regular evening routine of closing a local dive bar and getting carried home by a friend to his crappy apartment. He reluctantly takes the coaching job, and predictably, turns the losing team into a winner. Affleck has been nominated for several acting awards for this role, and what makes the film work is his close-to-home portrayal of the lead character. Affleck’s well-publicized struggles with sobriety help him effectively portray anguish and self-disgust, reminding you that he’s a better actor than he gets credit for. Also worth noting: he’s an Oscar-winning writer (GOOD WILL HUNTING) and Golden-Globe-winning director (ARGO). – Kevin. Rated R for language. Heavy alcohol use and abuse. Available on HBO and Cinemax
DON’T LISTEN (VOCES) (2020) is your Friday Fright on The Pick Daily for 4/2/21. Netflix has become a truly global service in the production and acquisition of movies and shows from all over the world. And it has been exciting to have the exposure to genre films from countries from which U.S. viewers would previously only see art house fare. Horror has been a standout, with unique and scary films from places such as India, Brazil, and Japan. VOCES (Voices), translated to DON’T LISTEN for English-language audiences, comes from Spain. Although it’s a film with recognizable horror-film tropes: a haunted house, shadows in the background, figures in the windows, flashlights that just won’t stay on, wrinkly hands reaching from the darkness; unlike many of its lame Hollywood counterparts, it is actually pretty scary. A family of three are renovating an old country home, and the little boy keeps hearing voices. And while the elements of the film may not be wholly original, the production and acting are top notch. And there’s even a connection to something no one expects: The Spanish Inquisition. Also, look for sly visual references to classic horror films, including The Amityville Horror, The Omen, and The Shining. -Jeff. Rated TV-MA for violence and gore, frightening and intense scenes, mild language. Available on Netflix
Tuesdays are now Trailer Tuesdays on The Pick Daily, and the pick for 3/30/21 is the trailer for WRATH OF MAN. Director Guy Ritchie reteams with Jason Statham for a Los Angeles heist/revenge/shootemup/doublecross/action flick. We’d expect nothing less from either. Statham plays a new employee for an armored truck security firm who clearly has ulterior movies when he dispatches a would-be heist team with detached efficiency. The film costars Josh Hartnett and the underrated Holt McCallany (Mindhunters). Premieres in theaters on May 7th. -Jeff. Link to view: https://youtu.be/EFYEni2gsK0
KILL LIST (2011) is the PD for 3/28/21, from “Jeff’s House of Horror.” So, I’ve gotten more heavily into horror movies in the last five years or so. From great films like HEREDITARY (2018), to comically strange cult classics like SOCIETY (1989). Fair warning: anything appearing as a “Jeff’s House of Horror” entry is NOT for everyone. You have to be willing to subject yourself to the weird, the disgusting, and or the super scary. KILL LIST is the second feature from Ben Wheatley, who is proving himself unwilling to make a conventionally plotted film. From the upcoming ecological horror film IN THE EARTH (2021), to the Brie Larson shoot ‘em up FREE FIRE (2016), you are not sure what to expect from his films. KILL LIST starts off in the middle of a shouting match between husband and wife, and looks like it might be a drama about the stress unemployment puts on a family. A few minutes later you think, oh, it’s going to be a hitman thriller. That’s all I’m going to say, because part of the fun here is not knowing where it’s going. Suffice it to say it will get darker, bloodier, and certainly weirder. -Jeff. Rated R for violence and gore, nudity, language. Available on AMC+ or IFC Films Unlimited subscription services, or for rent.
JUSTICE LEAGUE, THE ZACK SNYDER CUT (2021) is the PD for 3/23/21. Okay, so I know I kinda dissed this when I picked Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) last week. But I DID end up watching it…. And no one is more surprised than I that I am now recommending it. Hear me out. The 2017 two-hour release was not good. It was a mess of a film with a muddled story and a feckless villain. Director Snyder had stepped down midway through production due to the tragic death of his daughter, and was replaced by Avengers director Joss Whedon. Many fans thought this is what ruined the film, and clamored for Snyder to release his own cut. Well, along came a pandemic, and in the Hollywood malaise HBO put up millions for it to happen, and here we have a FOUR hour version. And…. It worked! It is helped by a device that turns out to be more clever than may have been intended: it is divided into six parts and an epilogue. That helps segment the story for better comprehension, but it also gives you perfect break points to watch over multiple sittings. I watched it in three chunks over three days and came away with a full understanding of the story and stronger appreciation for ALL of the six actors playing superheroes. And the villains are fleshed out better with the addition of Steppenwolf’s “boss,” Darkseid, who had been completely removed from the 2017 version. So if you look at it as more of a miniseries, the four-hour runtime becomes less daunting. In the end, this is the second best DCEU movie to date, after the first WONDER WOMAN (2017). And the epilogue serves as an Easter egg hunt for DC-geeks, even featuring Jared Leto as The Joker. -Jeff. Violence with a little bit of gore, some strong language. Available on HBO Max.
I USED TO GO HERE (2020) is the PD for 3/20/21. Kate is a fledgling novelist in her mid-30’s whose fiancé has left her and whose publisher has canceled a book tour due to tepid response to her first novel. She is invited to her alma mater to do a reading, and ends up finding herself awkwardly ingratiated with the students living in her old college house. That Kate is played by Gillian Jacobs is what makes this movie work. Jacobs is an indie darling who I feel could become a big star if she took roles in bigger films. But she gratefully sticks to smaller and likely better projects. She is classically beautiful but is always convincing playing dorky characters out of their depth. This movie is a perfect fit for her; a funny and sweet story about how reconnecting with your past can bring clarity to struggles in the present. -Jeff. Not rated. Some strong language and sexual situations. Available on HBO Max, Hoopla, and for rent.
HOOSIERS (1986) is the Pick Daily for 3/19/21. March Madness starts today, and this year’s NCAA Tournament could be full of surprises after COVID made this an unprecedented season. It could be a year when a perennial underdog, an unknown, or a small school rises to the top of the heap. I certainly hope so. That intriguing possibility, along with the entire tournament being played Indiana this year, reminds me that I’m overdue to watch my favorite sports movie, 1986’s Hooisers, starring Gene Hackman. It’s based on the true story of a team from a tiny high school in rural Indiana toppling a much larger urban powerhouse squad to win the state championship in the early 1950’s. Hackman plays Norman Dale, a highly successful college coach from New York who for some reason comes to America’s heartland to coach the Hickory Huskers, the pride of an Indiana farm town. Hackman wasn’t optimistic about the film’s prospects, calling it a potential “career killer.” Instead, the film grossed $28 million at the box office and received mostly glowing reviews, as well as Oscar nominations. For both sports junkies like me and non-sports fans alike, I recommend this slice of Americana. -Kevin. Available on Showtime, Philo, fuboTV, Sundance, YouTube Premium, and for rent.
DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) is the Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday, 3/18/21. With the loud and plodding “Zack Snyder cut” of JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017/2021) clanging onto HBO Max this week (the frickin’ thing is 4 hours long!), I am reminded of a good Zack Snyder movie… one of his earliest. This remake of the shopping-mall-based George Romero classic is better than the 1978 original (if you disagree, I will FIGHT you) and came before the current zombie craze we are still mired in. It was even before “The Walking Dead,” which seems as if it’s been going on forever. And watching it now would be good prep for Snyder’s return to the zombie genre, with his ARMY OF THE DEAD coming to Netflix on May 21st (not a sequel, however). After DAWN and his hit “300” (2006), the director went on to make a string of disappointments, including WATCHMEN (2009), SUCKER PUNCH (2011) and BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016). I don’t yet know whether to subject myself to his “original vision” of Justice League, a movie I did not like before and can’t imagine enjoying with two hours added. Snyder has never been a director for nuance, but DAWN doesn’t really need any. It starts out quickly with almost no exposition — a 10-minute thrill ride before the opening titles. And it was our introduction to the idea of zombies who can run. It was a terrifying idea first explored in 28 DAYS LATER (2002), but those weren’t technically zombies, so we can call this the first. -Jeff. Rated R. Graphic violence and gore, language, nudity. Available on AMC+ or for rent.
YAPHET KOTTO Is honored on the Pick Daily 3/16/21. Anyone my age grew up seeing this actor in some big roles, from a Bond bad guy in LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) to a space miner in ALIEN (1979, HBO Max). He held a commanding presence on the screen with his 6’4” frame and distinctive voice. He played an auto worker in BLUE COLLAR (1978), alongside Richard Prior in one of Prior’s few dramatic roles; also alongside Robert DeNiro in MIDNIGHT RUN (1988, HBO Max), Robert Redford on BRUBAKER (1980, Cinemax), and Schwarzenegger in THE RUNNING MAN (1987). Other films include ACROSS 110TH STREET (1972, Hoopla, PlutoTV), REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER (1975), and the title role in the 1972 comedy BONE (Prime Video). Still for others, he will be most remembered as part of the excellent cast of TV’s “Homicide: Life on the Street,” which ran for seven seasons between 1993-99. Easily one of the all-time great police series. Kotto died on March 15, 2021, in the Philippines at age 81. He will be fondly remembered. -Jeff
FREAKY (2020) is the PD for 3/13/21. Freaky slyly picked its name as a riff on Freaky Friday. This time, rather than switching places with mom, a high school girl switches bodies with a serial killer. That the killer is played by Vince Vaughn, and that he spends the majority of the movie as a teenaged girl, is what makes this movie so worth the $5.99 rental. Vaughn has been on a bit of a roll lately, albeit a bit of an underground one, appearing in a string of decent indie films such as Dragged Across Concrete, Fighting with My Family, Seberg, North Hollywood, and Arkansas. But this is certainly a departure. The movie has some typical slasher scares and gore, but it’s mainly a comedy. A scene where the 6’5” Vaughn flirts with the girl’s high school crush in the backseat of a Pinto is priceless. -Jeff. Available for rent on most platforms. Rated R for violence, gore, sex, and language.
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (2020) is the PD for 3/9/21 (from The Pick contributor Michelle Staley Mahoney). This film has spurred prismatic reactions from critics and my friends, which is all the more reason to check it out. Director Emerald Fennel and lead performer Carey Mulligan have described it as a study in the cycle of addition, which builds and builds to its tragic, yet predictable, end. And whether you love or hate this movie, it will stay with you long after the final shock. Aside from the distinct performances by this perfect cast, the gorgeous sets and dreamy pastel atmosphere are candy for the eyes, and Carey’s hair is an additional character in itself. Also, Bo Burnham is my latest Hollywood crush. – Michelle. Available for rent on your favorite streaming platform.
Billie Eilish THE WORLD’S A LITTLE BLURRY (2021) is the PD for 3/6/21. We’ve been blessed with some great music documentaries in the past year, including The Go-Go’s, Beastie Boys, and The Bee Gees. The diversity of the styles in storytelling, and the differences in the stories the films tell have been invigorating. Joining the group, and perhaps being the best yet, is this extensive look into the making and subsequent success of Eilish’s first album. Recorded entirely in her bedroom by her and her brother, Finneas, the album already demonstrated unique artists at work. But this film shows how deep that goes, with amazingly supportive and inspiring parents and a shockingly mature (although sometimes bratty) teenaged artist. Unprecedented access into the construction of a pop masterpiece. -Jeff. Available on Apple TV+ (worth the free trial, and you can also watch Ted Lasso!)
NOMADLAND (2020) is the PD for 3/1/21. The Golden Globes may have flubbed and snubbed on some nominations, but they picked a winner here. Yes, it is slow, contemplative, and sparse… but I really think a film every American should see. Writer, Director, and Editor Chloé Zhao is masterful as she paints a portrait of nomads living in the beautiful (and often brutal) American Midwest. Frances McDormand is perfect in the lead, and most of the supporting cast are actual nomads playing themselves. I had put off watching this film, but I can say I was glued to the screen more so than anything I have watched in awhile. An important American movie, one of the best of 2020. Look for Zhao’s next film, “Eternals,” a Marvel superhero movie with Angelina Jolie, coming late 2021. She’s one to watch! -Jeff. Available on Hulu, or for rent.
THE CAR (1977) is the PD for 2/27/21. Out of the Utah desert and into this 10-year-old’s nightmares came The Car, a horror tale from the 70’s that actually holds up. It may seem cheesy on the surface as a bad-ass and possessed black sedan is running over bicyclists and drifters, among others. Okay, well, it IS cheesy… but it’s actually got some style and some pretty creepy shots and scenes. James Brolin is the lead as the town sheriff. And yes, that’s Escape To Witch Mountain’s Kim Richards as one of his daughters. You’ll never hear a distant car horn the same way again. -Jeff Rated PG, violence is subdued, not bloody but shocking. Available on Netflix, or for rent.
Introducing The Pick Daily. We’ll give you one Pick every day… a movie, show, song, album, artist, video, and more! The Pick for 2/25/21: A Good Woman Is Hard To Find (2019) A taut little thriller with an unwieldy title. Sarah Bolger is excellent as a widowed mother who must protect her kids from local hoodlums. Although it is currently on horror channel Shudder, it is not a horror film, unless you count a grisly scene involving a hatchet. -Jeff Available on Shudder, also for rent. Not rated; language, nudity, violence, gore would warrant a hard R.
TV & video
THE LINDA LINDAS are the PD for 5/25/21. The Linda Lindas are an LA band consisting of four girls: guitarists Lucia (14) and Bela (16), bassist Eloise (13), and 10-year-old drummer Mila. All four alternate singing both lead and backup. They have already performed a few live shows, including opening for Bikini Kill at the Hollywood Palladium, and appeared in the Netflix movie “Moxie.” But it wasn’t until they went viral last week with their performance in the Los Angeles Public Library that they signed a record deal with punk label Epitaph. In the video, they tear through several punk songs including “Monica,” an original about Bela’s cat, and covers of songs by Bikini Kill and The Muffs. But the song getting all of the attention is their original “Racist, Sexist Boy,” inspired by an encounter with a classmate. From the LA Times: // Members of Rage Against the Machine and Sonic Youth offered heartfelt endorsements. “One of my fav new punk bands since about the time they came out of the womb,” added Paramore’s Hayley Williams on Twitter. Flea posted the video with a comment, “The kids are alright.” \\ The entire 41-minute video, which includes all songs plus an interview in the middle, is a great watch. It is inspiring to see such young kids excited and driven to create music, rattling off their favorite bands spanning decades and genres, such as Paramore, Bikini Kill, The Franks, and Blondie. Watch the whole video if you can, but definitely don’t miss “Racist, Sexist Boy”. You will know quickly this will be a song for the ages. -Jeff. Racist Sexist Boy: https://fb.watch/5JnWJo6gcP/ Full performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3msSlr4PkDE
STARTUP is todathe PD for 5/23/21. The streaming service Crackle has been around since 2007, but has never had a breakout hit among its original offerings. Like most, I only became aware of STARTUP because it showed up on Netflix recently. This is a top notch thriller about a Latina coder (Otmara Marrero) who invents a Bitcoin-like currency called GenCoin and teams up with an investment banker (Adam Brody) and a Haitian gang lord (Edi Gathegi) to scare up some investors. But from the start they’re entwined with shady money, drug dealers, and one bad FBI guy (Martin Freeman). It’s a unique premise, unpredictable, and definitely binge worthy. We also get a supporting turn from the criminally underused Jocelin Donahue, and Ron Perlman and Mira Sorvino turn up in the latter seasons. Even though it originally aired over three seasons from 2016-2018, it feels fresh. We are just getting into season 2 and loving it. -Jeff. Available on Netflix.
MARE OF EASTTOWN is the PD for 5/17/21. Yes, we have seen limited series about crime in a small towns before. But damn if HBO can’t nail it almost every time. This time we get Kate Winslet playing Pennsylvania detective Mare Sheehan who is haunted by the case of a missing girl which has remained unsolved for a year. When another girl is found murdered, the possible connections are on everyone’s mind. And in this town, everyone knows everyone else. It is nothing new on paper, but it’s executed with the precision and perfection you’d expect from HBO. SNL recently had a parody sketch based on this show called “Murder Durdur,” and it that was spot on. But the repetitive elements we expect should not detract from the achievement of a compelling story and excellent performances. MARE OF EASTTOWN delivers. -Jeff. New episodes Sundays on HBO and HBO Max. 5 of the 8 have already aired and are available on demand.
SHADOW AND BONE is the Pick Daily for 5/2/21. Netflix reveals its limitless budget prowess again with this fantasy series. It’s a family-friendly Game of Thrones, taking place in an ancient place that is not Earth but everyone has British accents, and some people have mystical powers. There are even dragons (kind of), but rather than an ice wall there is a deadly black fog called “The Fold” which divides the land down the middle. And the lead character’s last name is Stark(ov). There is violence but almost no blood, no profanity, and some sex but off-screen and without nudity. So the whole family can watch! (At least those over 10 or 11.) The 8-episode Season 1 centers on Alina Starkov, a cartographer who holds previously unknown powers, played by Jessie Mei Li, and her childhood cohort and crush Mal, played by Archie Renaux. The world is well realized and explained in the early episodes, the production value and action are engaging, the humor is light but not too clunky. The source material is a trilogy of novels by Leigh Bardugo, so this is definitely setting up to be a multi-season affair. I’d say maybe 3.5 stars for adults, 4.5 stars for tweens and teens, and 5 stars for my wife (she LOVED it). -Jeff. Available on Netflix.
The trailer for AIRPORT (1970) is the Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday, 4/29/21. Get ready for a real treat. How could anyone see this trailer back in 1975 and then NOT go see this movie? Burt Lancaster yelling, “What the hell you think I’m doing about it?!” Dean Martin as a pilot who likes to kiss stewardess Jacqueline Bisset very aggressively. Female characters who are very devoted to their men. George Kennedy will chomp on a very long cigar and will “have this mother out of here by midnight.” How can you miss the biggest all-star cast ever assembled for a single Universal motion picture? And just wait until the slapping starts. You’ll suddenly have new appreciation for the gritty realism of 1980’s AIRPLANE! -Jeff. Trailer is available on YouTube, search “Airport Trailer”
THE HANDMAID’S TALE is the PD for 4/28/21. It took me until early 2020 to find out Hulu is worth its price. And there can be no *single* reason better than The Handmaid’s Tale, which premieres its season 4 today with three episodes, and then a new one each week to follow. In a dystopian future, female fertility becomes scarce, so the United States is renamed Gilead, and fertile women become handmaidens, forced to be the concubines to their upper class owners. The series has been a bold, dark, and thrilling telling of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, and the first three seasons are a riveting binge. Elisabeth Moss, great as always, is the lead character June, renamed Offred, as in “of Fred”, because Fred is the man who owns her. He is played by Joseph Fiennes, and his wife by Yvonne Strahovski, both also excellent. Now with the 4th season starting, the time is right for that free Hulu trial. -Jeff.
The review of GANGS OF LONDON at Collider.com is the PD for 4/11/21. Yes, I already picked this show once for the Pick Daily, but now that it’s airing Sunday nights on AMC (previously was only on the AMC+ subscription service), I wanted to remind y’all you should be watching it. So I’m using Collider.com’s review, since I think they nail what makes the series work. The writer mentions the B-movie violence that series creator Gareth Evans became known for in his Indonesian action classics such as THE RAID. And these scenes do pack a wallop. But I must mention the absolute bonkers episode 6, which features an attack on a farmhouse (pictured), as being one of the craziest action sequences ever to grace a television series. It’s a hybrid series like none other. -Jeff. New episodes Sundays on AMC (episode 2 premieres tonight). Entire series streaming on AMC+. TV-MA for extreme and graphic violence, language, nudity. Collider review: https://bit.ly/3g3DmVZ
FREAKS AND GEEKS (1999-2000) is the Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday, 4/8/21. I know I am speaking to two groups here: those who have seen this series, and those that have not. The first group will likely be nodding vigorously as they read this. To the latter group I say: it has been over 20 years since this wonderfully conceived and critically adored series first aired on NBC, so it is high time you get on it! Created by Paul Feig before BRIDESMAIDS (2011) and executive produced by Judd Apatow before 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN (2007), I have always believed it is better than any other movie or show either has made. It is set at a high school in a 1980’s Detroit suburb, and centers on two groups: the Freaks, stoners and stoner-adjacent “cool” kids; and the Geeks, the uncool “A” students navigating the hallways and social awkwardness of their early teens. It is one of the funniest shows ever made, but its humor can be subtle, and always wrapped around relatable and heartwarming stories of youth; the struggle to define who you are and who you will become before high school graduation. But I may be burying the lead. This was the first significant appearance of a cadre of actors who are now established stars: James Franco, Seth Rogan, Linda Cardellini, Jason Segel, Busy Phillips, and Martin Starr. And guest appearances by Lizzy Caplan, Ann Dowd, Ben Foster, Kevin Tighe, Leslie Mann, Kevin Corrigan, David Krumholtz, Rashida Jones, and Jason Schwartzman. It was sadly canceled before a second season, but we are left with 18 wonderful episodes that make for one of the best TV shows ever made. -Jeff. Available on Hulu.
THE SERPENT (2021) is the PD for 4/4/21. The latest Netflix drama series is truly unique. It’s based on the true story of thief, grifter, and killer Charles Sobhraj, who menaced traveling hippies in mid-70’s Bangkok. It frankly would be too hard to swallow the story if you didn’t know it is mostly true. Sobhraj is played by French actor Tahar Rahim, and his French girlfriend by English actress Jenna Coleman. Both are excellent, and the episodes are tense. We jump back and forth in the timeline from the plight of several travelers who were his victims of either captivity or murder, and forward several months as a Dutch embassy worker investigates the disappearances of tourists from several countries. The series was coproduced by BBC One and Netflix. Without recognizable star power for U.S. audiences, this one might slip by with less notice, but it continues the Netflix trend of high quality drama production and I hope is not overlooked. – Jeff. Rated TV-MA for mild violence, drug use, profanity, brief nudity. Available on Netflix in the US and BBC in the UK.
SONG EXPLODER is the PD for 3/29/21. This is a popular podcast that Netflix picked up as a TV series, with eight episodes currently available. Each episode is under a half-hour, and sees creator and host Hrishikesh Hirway interview popular artists about the production of a single song. The members of R.E.M. are interviewed to discuss their biggest hit, “Losing My Religion.” Watch as Michael Stipe winces when they playback his vocal track without any of the instruments. And for a more current release, this year’s Grammy winner Dua Lipa breaks down the production of “Love Again” from her 2020 album Future Nostalgia. Another standout is Trent Reznor recalling the emotional resonance of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt,” and how it was later covered by Johnny Cash. The show spans decades and several popular genres, with episodes featuring The Killers, Natalie Lafourcade, Alicia Keys, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Ty Dolla $ign. It’s a unique approach to examining the diversity, creation and power of music past and present. — Jeff. Rated TV-MA for language and smoking. Available on Netflix.
THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER is the PD for 3/27/21. This is the latest TV series from Marvel Studios, part of its grand design to take over all of entertainment. Available on Disney-Plus, it follows the funny, strange and ultimately satisfying WANDAVISION (any Marvel-faithful should soldier through its first quirky episodes to get to the mythology laden latter half). FALCON wears the Marvel cred on its Vibranium sleeve as a big-budgeted cinematic continuation of the post-ENDGAME storyline. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan play up the unlikely-buddy roles with all of the Gibson/Glover magic they can muster. It also tackles race issues as Mackie’s Falcon turns down the Captain America job only to see a new great white hope wield the shield. Two episodes have aired so far, and while not amazing, it certainly delivers on the usual Avengers mix of action, humor, and comic book faith. After FALCON’s run, we get follow-up series HAWKEYE with Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld, LOKI with Tom Hiddleston, and even Tatiana Maslany as SHE-HULK! And that’s only scratching the surface. That’s right supplicants: you are destined to subscribe to Disney-Plus for life. -Jeff. Available on Disney Plus.
GANGS OF LONDON is the PD for 3/21/21. This is a gritty and violent series about the fractured alliances of rival mob families in London. Someone has killed the patriarch of the most powerful crime family and the city will be turned upside down to find out who ordered it. The show’s creator (and director of the first two episodes) is Gareth Evans, the Welsh writer/director behind Indonesian action classics THE RAID: REDEMPTION and THE RAID 2. And he delivers hand-to-hand combat set pieces reminiscent of his earlier blood-soaked outings. But this is more mob drama than action series, with Game of Thrones veterans for good measure (Catelyn Stark AND Walder Frey!). I’m definitely hooked for the 10-episode run on this one; I think this could have the talent and grit to become your next obsession. The show premiered in the UK on Sky Atlantic last April. AMC is airing it the US and has partnered to produce the show’s second season. It will premiere on the regular AMC April 4th, and can be streamed now with an AMC+ subscription -Jeff. Brutal, graphic violence, language and nudity. Available now on AMC+; premieres April 4 on AMC.
DICKINSON is the PD for 3/15/21. Although this series focuses on the life and times and horniness of a young Emily Dickinson, I couldn’t stop thinking of Gossip Girl as I made my way through the first season. This is a frothy, shiny and scandalous ride with a literary bent, but one does not need to be a student of 19th century American poetry to enjoy—in fact, it’s probably better if you aren’t, as the show will cheerfully crumble under basic fact checking. Still, each episode focuses on one of DickInson’s poems, and they somehow feel freshly alive and new here. And, I’m there for the sweet and sexy love affair between Emily and her sister-in-law, Sue. -Michelle. Two seasons available on Apple TV+.
The new trailer for THEM, a horror series coming to Prime Video, is the PD for 3/12/21. A top-notch trailer for the upcoming series about a Black family moving to a Los Angeles suburb in the 50’s, and then bad stuff happens, including a cadre of Stepford-ish white neighbors. Not only does this remind me of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us,” but it also features Shahadi Wright Joseph playing the daughter, just as she did in “Us.” And although it shares the title (sans exclamation) with 1954’s man-eating giant-ant horror classic “Them!”, it looks like this series’ scares might linger… like that dude in the dark corner at the end. Whatcha goin do? -Jeff. Premiering April 9 on Prime Video. Trailer: https://youtu.be/TFmiaKEFqdc
GOMORRAH is the PD for 3/10/21. This is not an Italian version of The Sopranos. This is a dark and brooding series about the underbelly of the Naples drug trade. Humor is almost entirely absent, but the characters are as rich as the multi-season storylines are addictive. The series premiered in Italy in 2014 and has aired 4 seasons, with a 5th in production. HBO Max now has the first three seasons available, and the rights to stream the 4th and 5th, and a spinoff movie called “The Immortals” as well. This was a binge-watch for me. If you are subtitle-averse, the English dubbing is decent. Interestingly, my friend in Milan told me she had to watch the show with Italian subtitles, because the Naples dialect the characters speak is authentic and so thick that many Northerners can’t understand it! – Jeff. Available on HBO Max.
ST. PANTHER- TONIGHT’S SPECIAL: THESE DAYS is the PD for 3/7/21. My pick for best new artist of 2020, I cannot get enough of St. Panther’s EP “These Days.” It only contains six tracks and leaves you wanting more. So until we get a full-length from the Irvine singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, we have this video of her performing at a small, sparsely populated club in LA. The camera follows her from her Uber, into the joint and through a 16-minute set, and then as she leaves, playing the saxophone to the ending of the EP closer “Something’s Gotta Give” as she walks down a Hollywood street. It may remind you of how much you miss live shows, and how anxious we are to see great new artists like St. Panther perform live again. Until then, watch this video. -Jeff. YouTube: https://youtu.be/_WYOFg5x2mA
“These Days” EP on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/4diSmDkClyS8ZDaiidTYWZ?si=ND-WZxQMTrSkdSUDOdk6AA
SUCCESSION on HBO is the PD for 3/5/21. Spent the last 2 weeks watching Seasons 1 & 2 of this critically acclaimed American comedy/drama/satire – and it was definitely worth it! Legend has it Rupert Murdoch and family are the inspiration for the Roy family, a spoiled, uber-rich, dysfunctional, powerful and often pathetic group. The Roys own of Waystar RoyCo, a global media and hospitality empire, and the four children are fighting for control of the company amid uncertainty about the health of their father, who serves as CEO. The writers pull off pretty impressive: keeping these misfits interesting and at times even sympathetic despite their over-the-top behaviors, vanity and unabashed cruelty. Much credit also has to go to the outstanding ensemble cast, led by Golden Globe winner Brian Cox as the family patriarch. Surrounding him are Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, Matthew Macfadyen, Nicholas Braun and Alan Ruck. Also, look for guest starring roles from Holly Hunter and James Cromwell. HBO has renewed Succession for a third season, and it’s expected in 2021. -Kevin. Available on HBO and HBO Max.
TED LASSO is the PD for 3/3/21. A winning American football coach is recruited to be head coach for a struggling British soccer team by the ill-intentioned owner who got the team out of a divorce settlement. Little does coach Lasso know, she wants him to fail and lead her ex’s beloved team into irrelevance. That’s the set up for one of the best new shows of 2020. Jason Sudekis took home the Golden Globe for best actor, TV comedy, and it is well-deserved. But although his character is the show’s namesake and also its heart, one of the reasons for its strength is its stellar supporting cast. Other than Juno Temple, the lot are mostly unknowns to US audiences, but they elevate the proceedings far beyond its cheeky setup. It’s one of the strongest reasons to subscribe to Apple TV Plus, which still lags behind Netflix or Hulu but is slowly adding to its offerings. -Jeff. Available on Apple TV Plus.
LIZ PHAIR LIVESTREAM event is the PD for 3/2/21. One of my favorite artists since her 1993 debut album “Exile In Guyville,” Liz is still going strong and slated to release her 7th studio album, “Soberish”, in 2021. I know a livestream concert ain’t quite the same thing, but for the time being, it’s all we got. And $20 without parking or a ten-dollar beer ain’t bad.-Jeff From her website: Liz Phair’s her first ever streaming event! “Hey Lou Hey Liz”. In addition to new songs “Hey Lou” and “Good Side,” Liz will be performing classic songs from her catalogue with her first producer and longtime collaborator Brad Wood. The two will also discuss their long history of work together. Wednesday, March 3, 10PM EST / 9PM CST / 7PM PST.
For tickets: https://boxoffice.mandolin.com/collections/liz-phair
Latest single “Hey Lou”: https://open.spotify.com/track/3seYVj09zE4j5u5z665SND?si=652556ccf45f430f
Music & audio
BLUE WEEKEND, the new album from WOLF ALICE, is the PD for 6/5/21, the fourth album in the Pick’s Summer of Music. Yesterday (Friday), was like Christmas for me, with new releases on the same day from the artist who in many ways kicked off the adult phase of my love for music, Liz Phair, and also Wolf Alice, the London band that has in some ways buttoned my alternative rock years. I will get to Liz tomorrow, but first we have the third full-length from Wolf Alice, who exploded onto the scene with 2015’s MY LOVE IS COOL. That is the only album in my top 50 of All-Time that’s been released in the last decade, and thus in my ears it’s hard for any band to best that record. But I enjoy Blue Weekend a bit more than the Mercury-Prize-winning second album, 2017’s VISIONS OF A LIFE. The four year wait was worth it. Wolf Alice are a bit of a throwback to 90’s alternative, sticking to guitar rock and minimal keyboards, equal parts foot-stomping rockers and soaring ballads. Although they can’t quite match the raw rock ferocity of their first album’s “Giant Peach,” or the anthemic power of “Your Loves Whore,” the new album’s “Smile” and “The Last Man On Earth” come close. Other standouts include “Lipstick On Glass”, “How Can I Make It OK?” and “No Hard Feelings.” I have seen them play in Portland three times, and have my tickets for their October 2021 date in the Crystal Ballroom, their largest Portland venue thus far. They are a fantastic live band, but the first thing anyone uninitiated must do is listen to MY LOVE IS COOL. But if you’re already in the WOLF ALICE loop, you’ll dig BLUE WEEKEND. – Jeff. Spotify: https://spoti.fi/34Nr8u2
SOUR by OLIVIA RODRIGO is the PD for 5/28/21. Far be it for me to pre-judge, but I didn’t expect much from the debut album by the 18-year-old actress from “High School Musical: The Musical – The Series,” currently streaming on Disney Plus. The advance single “drivers license” came out in January and was the “it” song for a hot minute. But now she’s released the full-length SOUR, and with it joins the ranks of Lorde, Billie Eilish and the growing number of teenaged singer/songwriters who have more to offer than pop hooks and sell-out concert tours. Rodrigo wrote most of the songs when she was 17, and as she puts it in the album’s punk-infused opener, “brutal”: “I’m so sick of seventeen, Where’s my f**kin’ teenage dream?, If someone tells me one more time, ‘Enjoy your youth,’ I’m gonna cry,” she isn’t going to let her recording career get watered down. The record settles in sonically to be more ballad-ish, but the lyrics are always fresh, clever, and often funny. Mainly, she seems either sad about, or pissed off at, past love interests. As in “drivers license”: “‘Cause you said forever now I drive alone past your street;” or in “deja vu”: “So when you gonna tell her, That we did that too, She thinks it’s special, But it’s all reused;” and “happier”: “So find someone great but don’t find no one better, I hope you’re happy, but don’t be happier.” It isn’t as deep or introspective as Lorde or Eilish, both of whom debuted with unique sounds and intricate songwriting, but it’s an impressive debut. The future of music is bright, even if it’s a little young to be so bitter. -Jeff. Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3yUDcaP
BOB DYLAN, on his 80th birthday, is the PD for 5/24/21. Appreciation and knowledge of Dylan is perhaps the biggest gap in my personal music experience, so today I’m listening to what are widely considered to be his four greatest albums (in chronological order, of course): BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME (1965), HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED (1965), BLONDE ON BLONDE (1966), and BLOOD ON THE TRACKS (1974). The first three were released within a 14-month period, establishing him as one of the most significant and influential singer/songwriters in history. He influenced The Beatles…. need we say more? Kevin and I pledge to have an expert on The Pick podcast one day soon to school us on the Dylan discography, but until then, exploring his best is gleefully easy in this age of streaming. The man released his 39th studio album in 2020, making him the first artist to have released original LP’s in seven separate decades. -Jeff
DADDY’S HOME, the new album by ST. VINCENT, is the PD for 5/21/21. The second installment of the Pick’s Summer of Music is a delicious retro trip of 70’s style funk and psychedelia. Annie Clark, who performs as St Vincent, reinvents her look and sound with every release. Whether the frizzy-haired purplish-blonde of 2014’s self-titled LP, or the razor-sharp black bob and fembot look of 2017’s MASSEDUCATION, the changes (pun intended) have garnered the description as her generation’s closest thing to David Bowie. But it is Prince, Stevie Wonder, and even Pink Floyd that come to mind as DADDY’S HOME spins. Clark now sports a blonde bob and retro wardrobe, looking like she stepped out of a 1978 fashion magazine. Humor has always been an element of her lyrics and her persona, and she sure looks to be having fun in her music videos and appearance on Saturday Night Live last month. The album’s title is also literal: Clark’s father was recently released from prison after serving a sentence for stock manipulation. Clark told Vogue: “That title to me is funny, cringe-y, perv-y, and also literally true,” she says. “Yes, my father did, quite literally, get out of prison after serving 10 years. The way that I talk about it in the music, though, is with all the complexity of the situation.” This is her best album in my opinion by a long shot. -Jeff. Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3oHp8N8
DELTA KREAM, the new album by THE BLACK KEYS, is the PD for 5/14/21. I mentioned this week that many anticipated releases are coming this summer, so we can kick it off with this one, just released today. It’s a cover album of all hill county blues; the music band members Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney grew up with. It features multiple tracks originally released by Junior Kimbrough, and others by R.L. Burnside, Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Ranie Burnette, and the album opens with a 6-minute jam version of John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling Kingsnake.”. I confess, I am not versed in the originals, but this collection makes me want to explore. Great album to play while cooling off on the porch after a hot summer day. -Jeff. Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3tMQ2nD
FOR THE FIRST TIME by BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROAD is the PD for 5/12/21. We are on the cusp of a summer with many anticipated releases, but this debut LP was released in February and is certainly the most interesting thing I have heard in awhile. Three 90’s bands come to mind: SOUL COUGHING, MORPHINE, and even CAKE. The fusion of jazz, post-rock and post-punk conjures their memories, but the comparisons don’t run too deep as BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROAD forges their own path. This is a septet out of Cambridge in the UK. They’ve been around in various incarnations for awhile, but this lineup and their 6-track LP promises interesting things to come. It isn’t for everyone, but with all new and especially unique music, it certainly deserves a listen for any music fan… at least so you know it is there. -Jeff. Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3fhCAmB
LIZ PHAIR is the Pick Daily for 4/18/21. It’s Liz’s birthday weekend! She turns 54, just like me. And the release of her 7th studio album (and first in 11 years), entitled SOBERISH, has been announced for June 4th. So why not celebrate by binge listening to her four best albums: Exile In Guyville (1993), Whip-Smart (1994), Whitechocolatespaceegg (1998), and Liz Phair (2003). Then, hear the three songs pre-released for Soberish: “Spanish Doors,” “Hey, Lou,” and “Good Side.” If you have not heard Liz before be sure to give her a shot. She’s one of my all-time favorite artists; a singer/songwriter who has not been afraid to release edgy songs about female sexuality; something male singers had long done brazenly. -Jeff. All albums and the three new songs available on Spotify and Apple Music.
CONAN O’BRIEN NEEDS A FRIEND podcast is the PD for 4/17/21. Conan’s podcast is NOT merely an extension of his late night shows interview format. It’s a much more expansive and free-flowing chat with one guest. And many of the guests have comedy backgrounds. Conan was a writer for Saturday Night Live in the early 90’s before being tapped, mostly as an unknown, to replace David Letterman on Late Night on NBC. So he has many common experiences with his guests. So the roughly 50 minutes chats are a wildly entertaining mix of reminiscences, absurdity, comedy history and technique, Loren Michaels anecdotes and impressions. Some of the best I have heard are episodes with Tina Fey, Martin Short, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and a recent one with Bob Odenkirk. O’Brien and Odenkirk were writers together on SNL and share crazy stories and memorable performances before each becoming famous, albeit on different timelines and different genres. To hear Conan marvel at Bob’s latest foray as an action movie star with the just released NOBODY, and then pitch his own ridiculous action hero concept to cohost (and put-upon assistant) Sona Movsesian and producer Matt Gourley, is pure podcast bliss. There’s also a 6-part series of episodes with Dana Carvey from 2019 that should not be missed -Jeff. Available on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
KENNY ROGERS AND THE FIRST EDITION Greatest Hits is the Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday on 4/15/21. After hearing the cover of “The Gambler” in yesterday’s Army Of The Dead trailer, I was reminded of Kenny Rogers’ early work with the First Edition. When he passed away in 2020, we covered this late 60’s/eraly 70’s mash-up of country and psychedelic rock in episode 4 of The Pick podcast (thepickcast.com). Classics such as “Something’s Burning, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” and of course, attaining cult status after its use in the psychedelic dream sequence in The Big Lebowski: “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In).” The man was one of the biggest country singers to ever live, but his early work was far out, man. -Jeff. Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3e1cvYd
RECKONING by R.E.M. is the PD for 4/10/21, on (the day after) its 37th birthday. Released April 9, 1984, it was the second album from a then little-known band from Athens, Georgia. Admittedly, I was probably listening to something by Quiet Riot that day, as I was immersed in my high school rock and roll nirvana and unaware of the wonders that alternative music was exposing to the classmates I probably thought were weird. As I strutted around Puyallup High School wearing my AC/DC “Flick of the Switch” concert t-shirt, Michael Stipe crooned now-classics such as “Pretty Persuasion,” “(Don’tGo Back To) Rockville,’” and “So. Central Rain.” The album shot to #1 on the college radio charts, and despite scant radio or MTV presence, actually peaked at #27 on the Billboard 200. The album’s spine includes the phrase “File Under Water,” which Stipe has said is the album’s true title (water is a recurring theme in many of the songs). I wouldn’t discover the band until two albums later, with “Life’s Rich Pageant,” when I was expanding my musical tastes in, of all places, college. My favorite track is “7 Chinese Bros.” What’s yours? -Jeff. Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/1pSsHEkqT4hlvJWDBlpVKU?si=EvaNflj2SbKSynU3n_WP-g
PLUNGE /\ SURFACE (2019) is the PD for 4/5/21. This is the latest full-length release from the Los Angeles outfit GOLDROOM, who I admittedly had not heard of until the track Yellow Flowers rolled over my ears on streaming radio last week. I would describe it as dreamy, chill-infused dance pop. And the whole album follows through, with vocalists on most tracks, edging toward house but never getting overly repetitive or heavy. It’s a sunny LP released right before the pandemic, so maybe this year it will get its time in the sun. Standout tracks include Cocaine Girl, You’re Incredible, and I Think. It’s never too late to discover great music! Follow this account for a recommendation in music, movies, TV every day – Jeff Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/7vMwq73CmR2Q7MzTxcgz4H?si=tozCFi2VQh2OYYkC4D8_Ug
LITTLE GREEN BAG by George Baker Selection is The Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday on 4/1/21. This was the debut single from the group, released in 1969. It became an international cult classic in 1992 when Quentin Tarantino, ever the musicologist for his film soundtracks, used it in the opening credit sequence for Reservoir Dogs. Also that year, it hit number 1 in Japan after being used in a whiskey commercial. As Wikipedia explains: “The track’s original title was ‘Little Greenback’, in reference to the colour of the US dollar. However, the single was given the erroneous title ‘Little Green Bag’, which some took to be a ‘bag of marijuana’… The “Little Green Bag” title was then retained for all subsequently released versions of the single, as well as the group’s 1970 debut album, also titled Little Green Bag.” – Jeff. Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/4DR5MStkWtDYf17jBUOo0V?si=f56842589f0947e2
SMILING WITH NO TEETH, the new album from GENESIS OWUSU, is the PD for 3/26/21. Owusu is a Ghanaian Australian artist and this is his debut LP, a powerful concept album which takes dual meanings from the term “Black Dog”. It’s commonly used to describe depression, but also can be used as a racist epithet. I have had the track “The Other Black Dog” on my playlist since its pre-album release last year, and love it. The album is an eclectic blend of funk, soul, hip-hop… once again a new artist who transcends traditional genres, creating a sound all his own. -Jeff. Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/7LI6T5cy6Et8RDZXCoCEtJ?si=5Fo3ds7OSzGV5gePt8C-mQ
TOURIST by ST GERMAIN is The Pick Daily for Throwback Thursday, 3/25/21. Ludovic Navarre, stage name St Germain, hasn’t released a ton of original music since his 1996 debut, but TOURIST from 2000 is his most successful and revered work. Navarre is a French musician who still performs and releases occasional singles or EPs. He was in the lineup at Coachella in 2016. The tracks “Rose Rouge” and “Sure Thing” from this album have been on my perpetual playlist since it was released. The music has been described as a combination of house and nu jazz. Always a great chill record for me. In January this year he released the remix album TOURIST 20TH ANNIVERSARY TRAVEL VERSIONS, which contains several versions of my two favorite songs plus a few others. But for my money, the original release from 2000 never gets old… and I don’t just mean that as the cliché that it is… the music sounds fresh two decades later. -Jeff. Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/0YqCvOMhp8enM01an9Nntj?si=p_9PaQawS3-Ety_IMiFL1Q
BACK TO MINE by Digby Jones is the PD for 3/22/21. Jones is a British musician and producer who specializes in “chill” music. His tunes are always a nice addition to the playlist, or for a relaxing afternoon in the hammock, this latest album from 2020 can do the trick. -Jeff. Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/79BwnjRgRxvuK3fzc5KrUD?si=an_INa60QnG3JVPno7Vjuw
“ANYTHING” by ALISON WONDERLAND is the PD for 3/17/21. I have been digging this dance track from the Australian producer/singer/DJ. She’s making a name for herself (a clever one, at that) down under, and although her two albums topped the U.S. Dance charts, I think she is poised to break bigger with her next album. Alison paired with LA producer/DJ Valentino Khan to release “Anything” as a single in 2020. It may be speaking to the isolation we have all been feeling (“I just wanna feel anything with you”) or, if you watch the video, maybe she’s just tripping. In any case, it’s a catchy dance number. And if you like it, you can check out some of her other even catchier tunes, albeit a bit poppier, such as “Peace,” “Church,” and “Easy.” (She seems to favor one-word titles). -Jeff. Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/48fPdAwGVoSkGK8GSez9yx?si=W1gL2EyWSOeyNmjsaktFqg
BLACK PUMAS is the Pick Daily for Grammys Sunday, 3/14/21. Their self-titled debut album came out in June of 2019, but through the magic of qualification rules it is up for Album of the Year in tonight’s Grammys, and their single “Colors” is nominated for Record of the Year. “Colors” was one of the first songs we featured on The Pick podcast in our new music selections. The whole album is dynamite, and there’s a great extended video of a live studio session of “Colors” on YouTube. -Jeff. YouTube video: https://youtu.be/0G383538qzQ
Throwback Thursday! KISS YOU ALL OVER by Exile is today’s Pick Daily. I was reminded of this song when it played at the end of the movie “The Big Ugly” (2020), which I watched last night on Hulu. The song has no real connection to the film or what happens in the end, but I think they just wanted to use it on their soundtrack. And it is a pretty good song, after all of these years. It was used in an episode of “Mindhunters” on Netflix as well, which is why it has been on my playlist for a couple years now. The song held the #1 spot for four weeks in 1978, and was the band’s only pop hit before they became a country band in the 80’s. In 2010, Billboard ranked the song ninth on its list of “The 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time”. -Jeff. #kissyouallover #exileband Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/3FGcQkWQlkeB82RdZwlw8V?si=241a738735a545d6
BEING A WOMAN by Lake Street Dive is the PD for 3/8/21. I fully admit it, I am stealing the idea to pick this song to observe INTERNATIONAL WOMAN’S DAY from KCRW and their daily Top Tune…. A free song download every weekday. It’s one of the main ways I discover new music; both listening to the station at kcrw.com (or 89.9 in LA) and also downloading most of their Top Tunes. I already had a song by Lake Street Dive called “Just Ask” which I really like. This new one is good, too, so I need to check out more of this band. Their eighth album “Obviously” is due out this Friday (Mar 12). And hey, out of the 12 Pick Dailys so far, this is the eighth to feature a female-led or themed choice. It just goes to show how much great entertainment from women is out there right now. Happy IWD to everyone! – Jeff. KCRW download: https://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/todays-top-tune/lake-street-dive-being-a-woman Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/5gyOqh7CqJFudjLj9ElfPf?si=b46b5b11b474477c
Throwback Thursday! SHE SELLS SANCTUARY by The Cult (1985) is the PD for 3/4/21. Many of us got into the Cult when they released their album “Electric” in 1987. But we also knew this standout single from their previous album “Love.” She Sells Sanctuary is often considered their greatest song. The band never became as big as many thought they would. -Jeff. From The A.V. Club (music.avclub.com): “The Doors are in there—Astbury’s voice assures that—but as with a lot of mid-’80s alternative rock, the beat is steady and walloping enough that “She Sells Sanctuary” could be played in dance clubs. Billy Duffy’s guitars alternate between grinding metallic riffs, Johnny Marr-like shimmer, and the kind of propulsive acoustic rhythms that peers like The Cure and Echo & The Bunnymen were also experimenting with. The Cult crammed it all into a recording that goes through simple changes throughout, from the soft build-up of the intro to the drama of its instrumental break. This was the band’s big swing: its crack at making a “River Deep, Mountain High,” or “Good Vibrations.” In its wake, the band narrowed. But for one moment, “She Sells Sanctuary” explored all The Cult could be.”
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH by Wolf Alice, is the PD for 2/28/21. This rock band from London had a smash debut in 2015, and if you haven’t yet listened to that album, My Love Is Cool, stream it now. This new song is the first single from their upcoming third album, Blue Weekend. You’ll be hearing a lot on The Pick podcast about this band this year…. Kevin is a fan, too. – Jeff
Music Video: https://youtu.be/xzH6toY_EPw
Podcast website: https://thepickcast.com
PD for 2/26/21: LA NOCHE DE ANOCHE by Bad Bunny, a track that features flamenco/reggaeton favorite Rosalía, from his latest album EL ÚLTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO. Rosalía appeared alongside him on last weekend’s Saturday Night Live, sparking rumors of a possible romance. But since Bunny is dating Gabriela Berlingeri, the pairing is limited only to this track! I am a fan of Rosalía and this adds to her long list of collaborations. This track and BB’s whole album is worth checking out. -Jeff
Their performance on SNL: https://youtu.be/7yb4HX5gwqI