The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items could vary, as could the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest, or from this week. The important thing is that it’s Friday, and we are here to have some fun.
ITEM NUMBER ONE – Enough
It is my opinion that dolls should not come to life. This kind of thing happens a lot in movies and I hate it every time. It is very creepy. If I am ever in a room with a doll and the doll looks at me and blinks, I can assure you at least one of us will not be in that room about five seconds after that happens, either because I have fled in terror or because I have heaved it out of a window or both. I do not even super enjoy dolls that are not alive but look lifelike. I do not like their faces and eyes. Why are their eyelashes so long? It’s not right.
Perhaps this “no living dolls” stance might seem at odds with my noted pro-Muppet position. I can see you sitting there right now cranking away on this one. “But Brian, aren’t the Muppets kind of like dolls that can walk and talk? How is that different?” Well, first of all, how dare you? The Muppets are not weird humanoid dolls with porcelain skin that gain sentience and a sudden thirst for blood. They are plushy goofballs who, as far as I am concerned, have always been alive. And they do not commit murders. I’m mad you even brought this up. Come on.
But yes, creepy dolls are back in the news, as they often are in spooky season, thanks to the trailer for the upcoming movie M3GAN, which took the whole damn internet by storm this week.
- I hate it
- I hope someone smashes it with a hammer
Maybe I’ll feel better about it after I read the description, though. Maybe it’s not as bad as it looks.
Gemma (Allison Williams), a brilliant roboticist at a toy company, uses artificial intelligence to develop M3GAN: Model 3 Generative Android a life-like doll programmed to be a child’s greatest companion and a parent’s greatest ally. After unexpectedly gaining custody of her orphaned niece Katie, Gemma enlists the help of the M3GAN prototype – a decision that has horrific consequences.
Jesus Christ, Gemma. Get it together. Watch one movie. This was all easily avoidable. Have you not seen Chucky? Have you not seen any other movie where some android gets half its face blown off and then turns its mangled undead head towards its assailant and stares sometimes literal lasers out of its exposed glowing red eye? It’s madness. Any good neighbor would have seen you unloading this doll out of your car and hopped in your driver’s seat and backed over it for your own good. Lots of people are at fault here.
I mentioned all of this earlier this week and a buddy of mine, Matt, made an excellent point: You rarely see movies like this set in Philadelphia. And there’s a good reason for that, which I say mostly as an excuse to remind everyone about the HitchBOT thing, which was written up by the New York Times under one of my favorite headlines ever: “Hitchhiking Robot, Safe in Several Countries, Meets Its End in Philadelphia.”
Good. Yes, sure, it was a friendly little thing at the time. A sweet little way to bring people together. But that’s how it starts. One day someone was going to look in the rearview mirror and that thing was going to sneer at them and try to strangle them with the seatbelt. You can’t be too careful with these things.
In conclusion, M3GAN should have been a very short movie that ended like this.
— AndreaWBZ (@AndreaWBZ) August 1, 2015
Thank you and Go Birds.
ITEM NUMBER TWO – Few developments in history have been less surprising than “Tom Cruise is going to outer space”
Tom Cruise is a maniac who will go to incredible lengths and risk catastrophic bodily injury if it means you will drive to a theater and buy a ticket to one of his movies. Or any movie, really. I kind of do not think he cares. If you saw Tom Cruise on the street and told him you’re excited to go see the new Mario movie in a theater I bet he would do that really intense clap and smile thing he does when he’s happy. You know the one. The Tom Cruise thing. You’re probably picturing it right now. That one.
Anyway, he’s going to space soon. Like, real space. Astronaut space. From an interview with the BBC with a movie executive named Donna Langley, who seems pretty excited about it all.
Langley tells BBC News that Cruise plans to take a rocket up to the International Space Station. The movie plot, which Cruise and director Doug Liman pitched to her on Zoom during the pandemic, “actually takes place on earth, and then the character needs to go up to space to save the day”.
The hope, she adds, is that Cruise will be “the first civilian to do a spacewalk outside of the space station”.
What I like about this is… well, two things. The first is that I saw this story earlier in the week and read the last sentence of that blockquote and my first thought was “yeah, that makes enough sense, I suppose.” Like, if I came up to you on the street and said “Hey guess who is gonna be the first civilian to do an astronaut-ass spacewalk,” I feel like you would get to Tom Cruise in three guesses. Probably less. It’s a very Tom Cruise piece of business.
The second thing I like about this is that it was announced the same week noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson had kind of a meltdown on Twitter about the science of Top Gun: Maverick.
“Late to the party here, but In this year’s @TopGunMovie, @TomCruise’s character Maverick ejects from a hypersonic plane at Mach 10.5, before it crashed. He survived with no injuries. At that air speed, his body would splatter like a chainmail glove swatting a worm. Just sayin’,” deGrasse Tyson tweeted. He added, “When Maverick ejected at Mach 10.5, he was going 7,000 mph, giving him 400 million joules of kinetic energy — the explosive power of 100 kg of TNT. A situation that human physiology is not designed to survive. So, no. Maverick does not walk away from this. He be dead. Very dead.”
I choose to believe Tom Cruise is going to space just to make Neil’s head explode a little bit. It’s more fun that way. It’s fun the other way, too. It’s really just fun. I guess that’s my point. And that I’m kind of nervous to see where Tom goes after this. It’s hard to get bigger than space. He might just start running around with sticks of lit dynamite while shouting “GO SEE A MOVIE.” It’s gonna get weird. I’m a little excited.
ITEM NUMBER THREE – I must have more popes
I think sometimes people think I’m joking when I tell them that the two seasons of Paolo Sorrentino’s extended papal universe — The Young Pope and The New Pope — were some of the most legitimately moving and beautiful television I’ve ever seen. I can understand that. I’m always posting screencaps of the weird stuff the show did. Like, the thing where the Australian government gave Jude Law — the Young Pope — a kangaroo as a gift and someone murdered it a few episodes later. Diane Keaton played a nun who was obsessed with basketball. The pope kind of prayed someone to death. It was wild.
And it might be coming back for a third installment, at least according to producer and Sorrentino collaborator Lorenzo Mieli, who said, and I quote, “There is an idea that Paolo has that maybe is going to happen. The third and last.” Yup, good enough for me. I hope Danny DeVito plays the pope this time.
That’s not all Mieli said, either. He also elaborated on the process of creating the show. It turns out he had been trying to work with Sorrentino for a while before they settled on this idea. And the way they settled on it was… I mean, pretty much perfect.
After two further failed pitches, Mieli eventually set a project with Sorrentino. The resulting project would be the director’s popular HBO TV series, The Young Pope. Sorrentino brought the idea for the show to Mieli.
“He brought me an idea about a pope, an American pope, that smokes cigarettes. That was the pitch, and I said fantastic. That seemed to me a very good pitch.”
Hmm. Yes, I love it. Imagine you’re a big-time Hollywood executive and some guy struts into your office and goes “okay, so there’s this pope, and he’s an American and he smokes cigarettes” and then he just stops talking. Silence and anticipation fill the air as you wait to see what he says next. And… nothing. Seconds pass. A full minute. He’s just looking at you, waiting. At some point, you realize he’s done and that was the entire pitch. You stroke your chin and ponder what has taken place. You ponder and ponder. Hmmmm.
I would greenlight it, too. Just out of curiosity.
ITEM NUMBER FOUR – My favorite trope is thriving on the dragon show
Regular readers of this column know about my deep and incredibly pure love of the thing where one character in a movie or television show looks another character in the eye and explains that the two of them are not so different, really. It makes me so happy, every time, and it’s one of those things that you can’t stop noticing once you have started noticing. It happens all the time. It happened just this week on House of the Dragon, during the series of toasts at the dinner where my sweet and miserable pile of loose skin King Viserys pleaded with everyone to get along for 30 seconds before he died. That’s the line up there in the screencap. It’s a modified “not so different,” sure, but has the same energy, which is enough for me to count it.
The best part is that it’s not even the first time the show has done this, in slightly modified fashion. There was this, too, from earlier in the season.
It’s delightful. It brings me so much joy. It’s probably one of the reasons I’m enjoying the show so much more than I expected. It might be the main reason. Well, Matt Smith and his smirking are up there, too. I need him to say it next. Straight into the camera. I do not ask for much but I am asking — begging, pleading — for this. I’ve been very good and think I deserve it.
ITEM NUMBER FIVE – This is probably too many episodes
Hey, let’s check in with Netflix to see how th-
In a data point sure to fuel more quantity-versus-quality debate, Netflix broke its own record for number of original episodes released in a single quarter — with 1,026 in the third quarter of 2022, according to a tally by Wall Street firm MoffettNathanson.
This seems like too many episodes to me. It definitely seems like a lot of episodes. Like maybe they should be making fewer of them. But maybe this is just normal for a big fancy streaming serv-
That’s more than five times any other streaming rival: Amazon Prime Video and Hulu released 223 and 194 episodes, respectively, and Disney+ debuted 140 original episodes, per the report. HBO Max, now owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, released 114 episodes in the third quarter — significantly fewer episodes than usual and comprising the lightest slate for the service since Q2 2020, the second quarter after launch.
Okay, yeah, this is too many episodes. Maybe they should try t-
Netflix has taken a “something for everyone” strategy, as Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos has said — although that doesn’t mean everyone will be a fan of everything on the service. (Indeed, watching more than 1,000 episodes in a 90-day span would be virtually impossible.) According to the streamer, customers on average watch six different genres every month, ranging from drama to horror and from comedy to kids.
I don’t know. It feels to me like maybe Netflix should chill out a little and make a smaller amount of shows that are cool and good. Shows like, to cite an example completely at random and also because I put it right at the top of this section under the bold letters, American Vandal. That was a good show. I know I make this point a lot but I only do that because it’s true and I want everyone to know. I feel great about it. The end.
If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org (put “RUNDOWN” in the subject line). I am the first writer to ever answer reader mail in a column. Do not look up this last part.
My college buddy is getting married in a couple of weeks in one of those weird fall weddings. Me and the other groomsmen want to get name tags and put dumb fake names on them and force everyone at the reception to refer to us by those names only. This whole thing was at least partially inspired by your affinity for a good fake name, so I figured I’d come to you for some suggestions. I know you won’t let us down.
Chris, I am honored. In a few different ways. Here are 10 decent ones to get the ball rolling:
Tell the bride and groom I say congratulations and that I am sorry.
AND NOW, THE NEWS
Several explosions inside of Italy’s Stromboli volcano sent enormous plumes of smoke into the sky and major streams of lava into the Tyrrhenian Sea over the weekend.
Lava oozed from the northern crater of the volcano after a partial collapse of the crater terrace, Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said. Authorities issued a middle-level warning to about 400 residents who live on the island – which is part of the Aeolian archipelago off the northeast coast of Sicily – after the eruption was confirmed on Sunday morning, the agency said.
I need to be clear about two very important things here:
- I hope everyone is safe and healthy and not substantially impacted by the gushing lava and plumes of ash spitting out of this thing
- If I went to an Italian restaurant and saw something on the menu called “The Stromboli Volcano,” I would order it sight unseen
I bet it would be delicious.
The Stromboli volcano, active almost continuously for at least 2,000 years, has erupted several times this year alone, according to records from the Smithsonian Institution.
Two more things:
- This is kind of terrifying
- This paragraph would also be a fun description of the Stromboli Volcano on the menu or that Italian restaurant
I’m sorry. I’m very hungry.