Movies

The Rundown: The Hollywood Space Race Is Ridiculously Out Of Control

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 — Meet me in the cosmos

Well guess what: Everyone is going to space. Not everyone everyone. I am not going to space, for example. And I suspect you are not going to space, either. But a lot of people are going to space. A lot of people involved in the movie business. Real and fictional. It’s a Hollywood Space Race and it’s getting completely out of control.

Let’s step back a bit first, because history is important. It has long been my position that the Fast & Furious movies will end up going to outer space. It has been my position for a number of reasons I’ve articulated many times, most of which boil down to “I mean, of course they’ll go to space eventually, be serious here.” And it appeared my suspicions were proven correct earlier this year, after the ninth movie had already been delayed for a year, when Ludacris popped up on a YouTube talk show and sort of winkingly confirmed it happens in the currently-shelved blockbuster.

“I will say that you are very intuitive, because you said something right, but I’m not going to give it away,” the rapper and franchise actor said.

Cunningham tried to pry the answer out of him, saying she bet it was space, which is when the actor covered his mouth as though he let a secret slip. Ludacris then tried to play coy. “I don’t know. I don’t know what you said,” the actor teased.

Yes, fine, great. The assumption here is that they are definitely going to space in some way because otherwise it would make Ludacris a huge jerk and troll, and I refuse to accept that as a possibility. And anyway, Michelle Rodriguez also went on a YouTube talk show and kind of confirmed it.

“Oh, no way. How did you guys find that out? See what happens? People start talking behind the scenes, man. When a movie doesn’t come out and forget about it, things get out. Nobody was supposed to know that…Oh, well, no, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not lucky enough to hit space, but we did get a female writer and showed a lot of love, I think, on this one. Thanks to…Justin Lin. We were able to, to find a little bit more attention and love for the girls in the movie. And so I’m really hopeful that that, that shows through in the final product.

So, for the purposes of our discussion here, let’s just assume that it’s true. The Fast & Furious movies are going to space. The prophecy has been fulfilled. It’s a big deal.

But if history has taught us anything over the last 30 or 40 years, it’s that Tom Cruise refuses to do one tiny droplet less than the absolute most every single second of every single day, and so he is also going to space for a movie. Notice what I did not say here. I did not say “in a movie.” I said “for a movie.” Tom Cruise — the human, not in character — is going to space to film a movie. And, if an unverified Twitter account that tracks upcoming space launches is to be believed, it’s happening next year.

Under the October 2021 part of the chart reads “SpaceX Crew Dragon,” with an image of a small space vehicle beside it. Next to the illustration are a list of three names: SpaceX Pilot Lopez Alegria, Tourist 1 Tom Cruise and Tourist 2 Doug Liman. The tourist flight also shows a vacant spot for a third visitor.

Who do you think the as-yet-unidentified third visitor will be? I hope it’s, like, Steve Harvey, and the movie turns out to just be a documentary about Tom Cruise and Steve Harvey going to space. I would see that in IMAX.

(UPDATE: After this article was published, I received an email from NASA — not joking, really happened — that said Tom Cruise is not currently on their launch schedule, as no private astronaut missions have been locked in yet. So let’s make that note.)

All of this space stuff does bring up an interesting question: Where do either of the extremely successful monuments to insane action — the Fast & Furious movies as a franchise; Tom Cruise as a human — go from here? Where can they go? It’s hard to top outer space. It’s quite literally been referred to as “the last frontier.” It makes me both very excited and very worried.

Think about it this way: The ninth Fast & Furious movie goes to space, let’s say briefly, not as a whole astronaut situation but maybe more like a “Vin Diesel must fly an airplane up through the atmosphere to thwart whatever evil Charlize Theron and her new bowl cut have planned” thing. This is a franchise that has raised the stakes with every movie, from high-speed train robberies to skydiving muscle cars to nuclear submarine heists on a glacier. How can they top space? Can they top space? If feels almost like there’s nowhere else to go from there, right? This could just be my own failure of imagination — I did not foresee “bringing Han back to life, again, why not?” to be fair — but it does make me worry the next movie will be a letdown.

Same with Cruise. The man is a maniac. You’ve read the stories about him doing his own stunts. You know he taught himself how to fly a helicopter to do the sky chase in Mission: Impossible — Fallout himself. The surprise here isn’t that Tom Cruise is going to film a movie in outer space, it’s that he has not filmed a movie in outer space already. It is the most Tom Cruise thing I can think of. But… what happens when he’s done? What can he do next to get that lunatic adrenaline jolt? What happens when he wakes up the next morning and realizes there are no dragons left to slay? I’d say I’m worried he might fall into a pit of metaphorical despair, but I’m pretty sure Scientologists don’t believe in that. Which would make it even more shattering for him, on a deeply personal level, to pair this with the possibility that his entire belief system is a lie. Picture a depressed Tom Cruise. Really, picture it. It’s a little unsettling, right? Say what you will about the man and his eccentricities (no, really, say it all, loudly), but I don’t think my brain can comprehend him being sad. I don’t think his can, either.

What I’m saying here is that, with their respective space-based plans, both Tom Cruise and the Fast & Furious movies might be flying a little too close to the sun. Figuratively, yes, but also quite literally.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — I am so excited to tell you about the Sopranos fart machine

HBO

The first thing you need to know is that there are currently at least two different Sopranos-related podcasts hosted by former members of the cast. One of them, Talking Sopranos, is hosted by Michael Imperioli and was in the news recently because it is where we first learned that James Gandolfini, Tony Soprano himself, loved Green Day, specifically the album Dookie, and used to listen to it in his trailer, which is fascinating. The other podcast is titled Gangster Goddess Broad-cast and is hosted by Drea De Matteo and we’ll come back to it in a minute.

The second thing you need to know is that it is infuriating to me that there is not a Sopranos-related podcast hosted by Tony Sirico, preferably in character as Pauly Walnuts, where he has on celebrity guests and discusses the issues of the day.

The third thing you need to know, circling back to Drea de Matteo’s podcast as promised, is that Lorraine Bracco once masterminded a prank on James Gandolfini that involved misdirection, minor carpentry, and a fart machine.

When we pick up the story, Bracco has just explained that their set designer had helped her install a fart machine into the chair she sat in during the therapy sessions with Gandolfini. Take it away, Lorraine.

“I said to Jimmy, ‘Listen, I don’t feel good, I don’t know what I ate, I’m sweating,'” she said. “So I set it up — my stomach is killing me, the whole thing. Then with Marchetti, I would [clench up], and he would press the button.”

This is diabolical. I love it so much. Imagine James Gandolfini’s face as this is going on. Imagine him trying in vain to stay in character. The amount of thought that went into all of it. It’s devious and lively and I adore it.

We continue.

“So Jimmy finally said, ‘You’re f—ing around with me,’ and he grabs me and he takes my chair and he lifts up the cushion — but there’s nothing there!”

The ruse was eventually uncovered, of course, although it is really, really funny to picture a scenario where it wasn’t and James Gandolfini was riddled with guilt for the rest of his life about the time he accused a sick woman of lying about her embarrassing digestive issues and proceeded to lift her in the air. Almost as funny as it is to picture him having a hearty laugh about it later in his trailer, with his feet up on the table and a cigar clenched between his teeth as he sings along to “Longview” in that voice of his.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Vin Diesel has a new song

There is a long and storied history of celebrities dipping their toes into music after they become rich and/or famous enough that it becomes impossible to stop them, and yes, this sentence is mostly an excuse to link back to the thing I wrote about the Jeremy Renner Jeep commercials where he drove around the desert listening to his own album. But now that we’re in a new sentence, we have to move forward, quickly, in a manner one could describe as fast and/or furiously, because Vin Diesel — today, like, moments after I woke up — released a new song. He’s debuting it on The Kelly Clarkson Show, which is incredible from a historical perspective in ways you should stop to think about this weekend at some point. It’s called “Feel Like I Do” and it is kind of a beachy dance track, like something you’d hear playing at a cabana bar in a party town, or in an Old Navy the weekend they roll out their flip-flops and summer graphic tees that say like “WAIKIKI LIFEGUARD” on them for no immediately decipherable reason.

Let’s see what the audience thinks.

You know, there’s a lot to be upset about right now, from politics to viruses to not being able to see your family and friends or go get a haircut, but I won’t lie: Vin Diesel debuting a new single on Kelly Clarkson’s talk show as her audience dances along awkwardly via webcam… it’s really taking the sharp edges off this morning. I do feel like you do, Vin. I do.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Amber Ruffin rules

Amber Ruffin has a new late-night show premiering on Peacock this week. This is good news because Amber Ruffin is awesome. You might have seen her on Late Night with Seth Meyers, where she is a writer and performer. You should have seen her on Detroiters, where she was a writer and guest star. I’m still mad that show was canceled. What a perfect television program.

Anyway. Ruffin has this infectiously fun personality, even when addressing heavy topics. It’s refreshing and a blast even in reasonably good times, but it’s just about the only way I can handle discussions of current events right now. She’s the best. Go bounce around YouTube and watch a bunch of her appearances with Seth Meyers. Then go read a bunch of the interviews she’s been doing to promote the show. Like this one, from the New York Times.

How did you finally get your own show?

A couple years ago, we put together a show idea, and it didn’t go. But then NBC came to us and were like, hey, there’s this thing called Peacock. Can we do that show you pitched a while ago?

Were you disappointed when they previously passed on the show?

It was their fourth pass on me, sir, so I’m good. I’ve sold them three pilots, one of which we shot. At least with this, it was just a pitch document. Unlike a sitcom, you don’t have to spend a year writing it and rewriting. You just pitch it, like: It’s a late-night show. Do you want it? No? Cool.

I would pay a reasonable monthly fee for a podcast featuring her and John Mulaney. In lieu of that, I will happily watch her show on Peacock, for free, with commercials. I am willing to make sacrifices like this to support artists I enjoy. I am a great person.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — Cousin Greg, whomp me over the head with a Yield sign and shove my limp body into a ravine

HBO

Nicholas Braun plays Cousin Greg on Succession, which would be enough to earn my admiration by itself. I love Cousin Greg, my sweet lanky boy, the non-blood Roy who shuffles through his privileged life with more awkwardness than you could stuff into an airplane hangar. What a treasure. Cousin Greg and NoHo Hank from Barry are probably two of my five favorite characters on television right now. I want a show about the two of them opening a diner together. I’m barely joking.

Braun isn’t just Cousin Greg, though. He’s also a funny guy who recently released a parody punk rock music video titled “Antibodies,” about the pandemic, which is beautiful. And more recently (like, Tuesday recently), he recorded this video where he thanked the internet for their somewhat concerning expressions of admiration.

View this post on Instagram

I had to address this head on

A post shared by nicholasbraun (@nicholasbraun) on

This is one of those things that is borderline impossible to explain to anyone who is not very online all the time. Try doing it today. “See, Aunt Paula, sometimes, when people like another person, they’ll go on their public social media account and post something like ‘cousin greg knead me into a tight ball with your strong hands and then roll me out paper-thin and cut me into beautiful strips of fettuccine that you throw into a pot of boiling water and eat half of tonight at dinner and the other half of two days later out of a microwave-safe plastic container’ with no capitalization or punctuation. It is the highest form of admiration they know how to show.”

I’m serious. Do it. Tell me how it goes. I honestly want to know. Because I sure as heck do not plan on doing it.

ITEM NUMBER SIX — Merry, uh… Christmas?

This week marked the beginning of fall, which means it is time… for… Christmas? It is time for Christmas. Apparently. According to the Hallmark Channel, at least, because they just went ahead and released the titles and descriptions of their annual barrage of holiday-themed movies, which start airing before Halloween and most of which star actors and actresses who you kind of remember from shows you kind of watched a few years ago. Or, to put it another way, it is officially Lacey Chabert season.

You know a Hallmark Christmas movie even if you’ve never seen one. The SNL sketch up there does a nice job of parodying them and their “a high-powered executive gets stranded in a small town on the eve of a big meeting and falls for like the local mechanic who fixes both her car and her heart and teaches her the true meaning of Christmas” plots. That really is the plot of most of them, or at least something not entirely unlike that. Read through the whole list for yourself if you want. Or just look at the description for A Glenbrooke Christmas, which is maybe the single most Hallmark Christmas movie thing I’ve ever seen.

As Christmas nears, heiress Jessica Morgan (Autumn Reeser) seizes what seems like her last chance to experience a relaxed Christmas and heads off to the small town of Glenbrooke, where she meets a handsome fireman (Antonio Cupo).

Taylor Townshend from The O.C. is an heiress who is in search of a peaceful Christmas and falls for the local hot fireman. It’s perfect. I love it. I hope Hallmark makes these movies until the end of time. I hope one of them is about a person who is hooked on Hallmark movies and but the cable goes out because the cable company has been cutting costs to maximize profits and then the cable company executive crashes his or her helicopter in that person’s backyard on Christmas Eve and gets stranded and sees the harm in those harsh profit-extracting actions and also they fall in love. Starring Lacey Chabert and, oh, let’s say Adam Brody. Air it next year on October 3rd. The machine stops for no one.

READER MAIL

If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at brian.grubb@uproxx.com (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.

From Jason:

Please tell me you’ve seen the commercials for Kim Cattrall’s new Fox series where she plays a very wealthy Southern televangelist whose husband dies and leaves her with a bunch of secret love children. It looks so ridiculous. I’ve seen these ads about a hundred times during the first two weeks of football this season (really nailing that target audience) and every time I see them I think “I hope Brian knows about this show.” I’m sure you do. But I had to be sure.

Two notes here:

  • This email came in on Sunday, before the show in question, Filthy Rich, debuted on Monday night
  • Yes, Jason, I was and am very aware of it, in large part because of the strong “Judith Light doing cocaine at the rodeo on the modern-day TNT continuation of Dallas that aired a few years ago” vibes it has been launching into the universe

I watched the premiere on Monday night. The important thing to know is that the whole thing opens with Kim Cattrall torching a beautiful New Orleans mansion while wearing a white fur wrap as a cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” plays.

FOX
FOX

Lots of other things happen, too. There’s a farm-based camgirl virtual sex operation, and a plane crash that kills a millionaire and what appears to be three or four prostitutes, and all of that also happens before the opening credits of the first episode. But I feel like you probably knew all of that from seeing the screencaps of the fancy arson. Yes, I will be monitoring this program.

Judith, your thoughts?

TNT

Well said.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Egypt!

A total of 27 sarcophagi buried more than 2,500 years ago have been unearthed by archaeologists in an ancient Egyptian necropolis.

They were found inside a newly-discovered well at a sacred site in Saqqara, south of the capital, Cairo.

I’m so torn. On one hand, we should definitely not open these sarcophagi. Definitely not. There’s the first thing, which is that it’s probably disrespectful to the dead. On a cultural level, sure, but also, I mean, I don’t think I’d want a bunch of creepers digging me up in 2500 years and looking at my bones and stuff. Leave me alone. Come on. And then there’s the second thing, which is that they could be full of demons and spirits who will curse us and our descendants for 10,000 years, and, to be honest, I really don’t need all of that right now. There’s enough going on.

But on the other hand… I really want to know what’s in there. What if it’s treasure? Or a friendly demon or spirit who can solve all of our problems and turn Earth into a glorious utopia? Or a friendly spirit who has treasure? We won’t know until we know, you know?

Might be worth a roll of the dice.

“Initial studies indicate that these coffins are completely closed and haven’t been opened since they were buried,” Egypt’s antiquities ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

See? See?! They’re toying around with us. Now I really want to know. What if the friendly demon is named Daryl and we teach him about our world and he becomes a huge fan of NBA basketball and just like an all-around chill dude. You and Daryl sitting there watching hoops, eating chips and guacamole that he conjured up out of thin air. A win for everyone. We almost have to do it now.

The ministry said it hoped to reveal “more secrets” at a press conference in the coming days.

Say it with me…

OPEN

THOSE

SARCOPHAGI

Or don’t. Probably don’t. But think about it.

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