A ridiculous drama, a nostalgia-fest of a movie and a delightful baking show make up this week's offerings.
I’m going to start using my intros to talk about stuff, which is ironic, because I want to start that tradition by talking about not talking. Specifically, during a movie or TV show.
Don’t do this! I saw “Hereditary” at Hollywood 11 a few weeks ago, and while the movie itself was phenomenal, the experience wasn’t. People decided that talking through the movie was going to enhance the experience for everyone. Or, more accurately, those people decided their experience was more important than everyone else’s. The chatter took me out of the movie on multiple occasions.
Theater crowds can be great, of course. Hearing the audience’s collective gasp every time something terrible happened to Toni Collette and Co. was worth the price of admission, and when seeing a comedy, the experience is always better in a group than alone. Those reactions are natural. But talking, or screaming at the screen, is a choice. It’s selfish and unnecessary, just like texting on your phone the whole time. I’m sure I sound like a grouch, but I’m really just standing up for common courtesy. I hope it never happens to you, but if it does, you might start to see my side of things.
Thankfully, talking is less of an issue when you’re binging at home, and that’s good because this week’s binge recommendations are a doozy. After last week’s two (great) downers, I decided to recommend some marginally more joyful things this week. Kind of. You’ll see what I mean.
Netflix, TV-14, two seasons (35 total episodes), run times between 42-46 minutes
Attention, parents: If you want to know what your kids are talking about, watch Riverdale.
The “Archie Comics”-based murder drama (yep) is a cultural phenomenon, with stars KJ Apa, Camila Mendes, Lili Reinhart, and Cole Sprouse becoming household names in the social media world. You might know Sprouse as Ross’ son Ben on “Friends,” or as that kid from “Big Daddy,” but the other three are newcomers. Get to know them before it becomes embarrassing that you don’t — or at least before the season three premiere Oct. 10 on The CW.
“Riverdale” follows the tale of Archie Andrews (Apa) and his friends as they … You know what? I don’t have the space to explain this show’s plot lines in full. Here’s some of what the show contains: Romance, football, music, wrestling, school dances, out-of-control parties and milkshakes. Normal teen hobbies, basically. Here’s also what the show contains: Serial killers, drug running, gang fights, some guy named “Papa Poutine,” brothels, illegal street racing, student-teacher relationships, fake identities, a neighborhood watch made up entirely of high school sophomores called the “Red Circle” and so much more. Like blood oaths. Man, I can’t believe I forgot about the blood oaths.
Every instinct I have as a lover of good film and television tells me I shouldn’t like this show, but I do.
Showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa knows exactly what he wants the tone of the show to be, and that tone is “ridiculous.” It’s set in modern times but feels like its characters are living in the ‘50s. The dialogue, like my mom’s macaroni, contains just the right amount of cheese, delivered perfectly by the cast. Madelaine Petsch is especially fun as Cheryl Blossom, a rare villain you come to root for over the show’s two seasons (she won “Best Scene Stealer” at the 2018 MTV Movie and TV Awards last week, so you know she’s the real deal). The show manages to wink at the audience without making a big deal of the fact that it’s winking. It's a fine line to walk, but it succeeds.
“Riverdale” is a soap opera for Generation Z, but us outside of that age can still take pleasure in the fun its cast and crew is so clearly having. If you’re still not convinced, know that some of the parents are portrayed by Molly Ringwald, Luke Perry, Mädchen Amick and Mark Consuelos, which means that respected, real-life adults got the scripts for these episodes and thought, “Yep, this rules. I’m in.”
I’d trust Molly Ringwald with my life. You should at least trust her enough to give the show a chance to steal your heart.
Netflix, Rated R, 107 minutes
This movie from director Greg Mottola ("Superbad," "Paul") didn’t get great reviews from audiences upon its release (critics enjoyed it), but I think that had more to do with expectations than anything. You see the movie’s poster, and names like Jesse Eisenberg, Bill Hader, Ryan Reynolds and Kristen Wiig, and you think “Oh, this is going to be a hilarious romp about young adulthood in the ‘80s.” It’s not, despite having some laugh-out-loud scenes. “Adventureland” is instead the sweet saga of Eisenberg’s James Brennan and Kristen Stewart’s Em Lewin. They meet at a local amusement park, where James is working after college graduation to earn money for a tour of Europe. Em works there, too, mostly because she needs an excuse to get out of her father and stepmother’s house.
A quick aside, if I may: Kristen Stewart rules, both in this movie and others. She gets a lot of hate for being emotionless in the “Twilight” movies (I never saw them), but she’s great here, portraying the type of sarcastic girl-next-door with a secretly big heart that everyone knew in their youth. She’s also great in last year’s “Personal Shopper,” a nail-biting film which may show up in this blog one day. Give her a chance and I think you’ll be surprised.
Anyway, James and Em’s relationship is one of the more realistic ones I’ve seen in this type of movie. From the jump, there’s things getting in their way, and both parties say and do things to potentially ruin it. This creates the emotional backbone of the movie, and it's a strong one. These moments are supplemented with chirpy dialogue between Brennan and his other amusement park coworkers (Hader, Wiig and Reynolds, among others), all of whom are different shades of strange.
“Adventureland” also has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard, eschewing cliched ‘80s hits for songs from cult artists like Big Star, The Cure and Lou Reed, with one exception that makes for a running joke in the film.
The movie manages to both make me care about its characters and give me feelings of nostalgia for a time I never experienced. That’s a winner in my book.
“Nailed It!” (2018)
Netflix, two seasons (13 total episodes), 33-minute run time
“Nailed It!” is a baking show about cooking disasters. Delicious, delicious disasters.
Hosted by the wonderful Nicole Byer, the show has three amateur bakers try to replicate desserts created by a guest judge in a certain amount of time. That judge, Byer and permanent judge Jacques Torres then, uh, judge their creations. The show also gives contestant different powers, like the ability to stop the clock for three minutes or for Byer to go incessantly annoy the other two contestants while they work. It’s not unlike an absurd version of “Chopped.”
What makes “Nailed It!” so delightful is the fun everyone has. Both the judges and the contestants know that the replica desserts will be failures, which gives Byer room to poke fun at them without coming off as mean. She openly laughs at some of the desserts, and so do the bakers themselves. There’s a $10,000 prize for the “winner,” but everyone wins when the competition is this much fun.
This is the perfect show to watch when you don’t want to take anything too seriously, or when you’re hungry, or while settling in for a Sunday nap, or any time really. The world is bad a lot of the time. This show makes it better. And wouldn’t you know it, season two drops today! There’s no better time to get into the wackiness.
I forgot to mention this last week, but if you take any of my recommendations, I want to hear from you. Loved it, hated it, whatever. I want this column to be a living, breathing thing, and that requires participation, so shoot me a note and tell me how unfunny I am at [email protected]. Or give me recommendations of your own! I’m flexible. Also, I apologize for having all three recommendations be on Netflix this week. I’ll spread the love around for you non-Netflix people next week. These three binge-ables were just too good to ignore any longer.
See you next week!