The Rundown: Things I Would Do If I Had A Dragon

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 – I have been thinking about this a lot

If I had a dragon I bet no one would mess with me. Like, if I was at the grocery store and someone tried to cut in front of me in the express lane with way more than 10 items, I would be all nice about it but then I imagine one of the other customers would whisper in that person’s ear to tell them the guy they just cut off has a dragon in the parking lot and they’d get white in the face and apologize and take their full cart to another lane. I would play it cool, too. I would be all “oh, no, it’s fine, I’m not in a big rush,” but they would already be on their way to a longer line. I would get done with my errands so much faster.

I would probably name my dragon something cool, like Rex or Dina or Detective Randy Pasadena. It would depend if I had a girl dragon or boy dragon, I guess. I could always give it a unisex name like Razortooth or Scorcher. But that’s not as fun. I couldn’t really get honest feedback either, I bet, because of the first thing I mentioned about no one messing with me. People would probably just claim to like whatever name I picked because they would be afraid of getting torched with my dragon’s fire breath. I wouldn’t do it, of course, probably, but this is a problem I would encounter a lot, I imagine.

I would probably still be pretty lazy if I had a dragon. My friends would be like “Hey dude, can you give me a ride to the beach on your dragon? Traffic is really bad and the GPS says it’ll take like five hours in the car but if you can fly me over there quick I bet the whole round trip will be 45 minutes” and then I would pout and whine like a little snot for a while and they would get frustrated and be like “Fine, I’ll just drive if it’s such a big deal.” I would do it eventually, probably, because I’m a decent friend most of the time, but not before everyone got really annoyed with me about it all.

I bet it would get really expensive to have a dragon. The food alone would be a killer, especially if I don’t want my dragon running around killing goats and cows on nearby farms, which I definitely do not want, in part because it’s wrong and in part because I don’t want to get dragged into a bunch of town hall meetings about it. (“I am doing the best I can!” I would shout through tears as the mayor shakes her head at me with disapproval.) I would probably feed it meat from the grocery store, which would run me hundreds if not thousands of dollars every week. It would bankrupt me unless I can find some other dragon-based way to supplement my income, like maybe giving out rides like an Uber driver or charging admission for shows where me and my dragon do cool tricks. But that would take up a lot of the time I would have allocated for doing fun dragon stuff. This would be annoying, I suspect

I bet parking would be a pain in the neck if I had a dragon. I live in an apartment building now. I have an assigned spot where I park my car. I do not think a dragon would fit in that spot. So, first of all, I would have to pay for extra spots to give him room to chill while I’m working, which is another added cost, and I would also have to deal with the cleanup when my dragon uses the bathroom in the parking lot. You ever have a neighbor who doesn’t clean up after their dog? Now imagine that, but with a dragon. Someone would always be knocking on my door like “Brian, your dragon pooped in my parking spot and I can’t get my car in there” and I’d rub my temples in frustration and say “Dammit, Detective Randy Pasadena” and they’d say “What?” and I’d say “Nothing, I’ll be down in a second” because I don’t want to have another conversation about what I named my dragon.

People would always be asking to borrow my dragon, too, I bet. They’d want to go on joyrides or avenge someone and I would always have to be like “Actually, it doesn’t work like that. Only I can ride my dragon.” People would probably think I’m lying about that. They’d think it’s just an excuse I made up because I don’t want to share my dragon with them. I would have to get out the whole leather-bound book — like the ones wizards have that are always covered in dust they have to blow off — and show them the section that says dragons only have one rider. Then they’d be all “Well, where can I get my own dragon then?” or “Can we just breed your dragon with another one so I can have one of the eggs?” and I would be like “I already promised eggs to Larry and Heather and I’m going to have to promise one to Greg and Theresa as a wedding present” and then they’d get all mad and be all “Well how come they get eggs and I don’t?” and I would say “Because they asked first” and then they’d get mad and be like “But I’ve known you longer” and I’d be all “But you didn’t ask” and they’d get all mopey and be like “It would have been nice if you offered” and then it would be a whole thing.

I do not think I would enjoy having a dragon, now that I type it all out. Too much of a hassle.

ITEM NUMBER TWO – GOOD SHOWS COMING

I suspect it says a lot about the dilapidated funhouse where my brain should be that I saw this teeny tiny little teaser for the fourth season of Succession earlier this week and got so excited that I let out an audible “oooo” in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. I didn’t look up to see if anyone was looking at me mostly because you can’t be mortified about something you don’t know, but I have to imagine the older woman a few chairs away was pretty curious about what I had just seen on my phone. I’m glad she didn’t ask. There is definitely a universe out there where she did and I proceeded to blabber on and on to that poor lady about my sweet boy Cousin Greg and everything he’s been up to since the show started. Believe me when I say that writing this column every week is good for my personal relationships because it gives me a place to dump all my hooey without boring people I know to tears. You, the reader, are helping my family and friends more than you can possibly imagine.

Hey, speaking of cool things I can’t and won’t shut up about, here’s the trailer for the new Natasha Lyonne-starring, Rian Johnson-created Peacock series Poker Face.

This looks… awesome. It looks awesome. And not just the part where the Knives Out guy is making a show where Natasha Lyonne solves crimes while wearing cool sunglasses. That’s pretty awesome, too, though. There’s also the thing where these two beautiful maniacs are making an effort to bring back the Mystery of the Week genre of television.

Johnson and Lyonne are friends, and they describe the project as one that arose organically through their mutual love of a good mystery-of-the-week series. “Never underestimate the power of a good dinner conversation between friends,” the two shared in a statement. “What started as a discussion over steak frites about detective shows and what made them such a reliable pleasure—the exploration of little worlds within each new setting, the guest stars playing killers and victims, and most importantly, a scrappy protagonist you were always ready to kick back with and see win—ultimately resulted in the creation of Charlie, the driving force behind Poker Face.”

This rules. Yes, sure, I do love a season-long exploration of a single crime or theme. I watch a bunch of those shows, like, for example, Succession, which I just mentioned. But there’s also something cool about a show where you can just click on a favorite episode a few years later and watch it without being lost about where in the multi-episode arc you are. Neither one is inherently better or worse, but it would be nice to have both, which is why I enjoy this development. We have plenty of outlets making plenty of shows. Give us a little nibble of everything. Call it Tapas-style programming if you want to look fancy. Whatever it takes to make it happen.

ITEM NUMBER THREE – Five minutes is so long

AVATAR
FOX

There’s a big chat over in the New York Times with a bunch of the people involved in the new Avatar movie. It’s interesting, I suppose, and if you want to read all of it you can click on this link right here, but I want to talk about holding your breath a long time.

What’s the longest amount of time you can hold your breath? Test it right now. I’ll wait. Open up the stopwatch on your phone and inhale as deeply as you can and then start the clock. I did it earlier this week and I made it to a minute. Barely. I was lightheaded and not doing well by the end. I am very glad I did not pass out, if only because I did not want to explain to an ER nurse that I was rushed to the hospital because I decided halfway through a competition with no one that I could hold my breath for 60 seconds and that I would sooner risk death than see the clock stop at 59.47. I know exactly what face that nurse would make if I said that. People have been making it at me my whole life.

Anyway, the cast of Avatar had to learn how to hold their breath a long time because James Cameron is a maniac. Kate Winslet held her breath for seven minutes, which feels impossible. Zoe Saldana made it to five, which is also a really, really long time to not breathe. Look.

CAMERON No, and she didn’t either! But Kate’s a demon for prep, so she latched onto the free diving as something that she could build her character around. Kate’s character is someone who grew up underwater as an ocean-adapted Na’vi — they’re so physically different from the forest Na’vi, that we’d almost classify them as a subspecies. So she had to be utterly calm underwater, and it turned out that she was a natural.

SALDAÑA I got almost up to five minutes. That’s a big accomplishment, you guys.

CAMERON Five minutes is huge. Sig did six and a half.

Three things here:

  • Five minutes is a long time to do almost anything, and if you don’t believe you are free to start that stopwatch back up and watch five minutes tick by without even holding your breath
  • It is wild to me that James Cameron decided to solve the “I want to shoot underwater for a long time” problem by making a bunch of actresses almost die of oxygen deprivation instead of just, like, doing some CGI
  • The “Sig did six and a half” at the end refers to Sigourney Weaver and represents one of the sickest negs ever committed to paper

Everyone involved in this is out of their mind a little. Including me.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR – LEAVE KEANU ALONE

keanu
Getty Image

Here’s what happened…

Matthew Perry wrote a book about his life and career and struggle with addiction. Little bits and pieces of it have people spilling out as the promotional tour kicks into high gear. It was all going pretty great for everyone until the internet got its hands on two brief excerpts. Specifically, this one about River Phoenix dying of an overdose…

“River was a beautiful man, inside and out — too beautiful for this world, it turned out. It always seems to be the really talented guys who go down. Why is it that the original thinkers like River Phoenix and Heath Ledger die, but Keanu Reeves still walks among us? River was a better actor than me; I was funnier. But I certainly held my own in our scenes — no small feat, when I look back decades later.”

… and this one about his Almost Heroes co-star Chris Farley dying of an overdose…

“His disease had progressed faster than mine had. (Plus, I had a healthy fear of the word ‘heroin,’ a fear we did not share),” Perry writes. “I punched a hole through Jennifer Aniston’s dressing room wall when I found out. Keanu Reeves walks among us. I had to promote ‘Almost Heroes’ two weeks after he died; I found myself publicly discussing his death from drugs and alcohol. I was high the entire time.”

… and the world as a collective saw Keanu’s name being dragged through the mud and gasped in horror and demanded to know who exactly Matthew Perry thinks he is. It was really great. One of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. Matthew Perry had to issue a full-on apology statement. To Keanu Reeves. Who, I suspect, had no idea Friends star Matthew Perry had been waging one-sided flame war against him for decades. I can’t wait until Keanu is out promoting his next movie and someone asks him about it. I hope I get to be the one who does it. This would make me happier than I can possibly express in text form. You should see my face right now. I am beaming just thinking about it.

If anyone who has a part in any of this has any sense of humor at all they’ll cast Matthew Perry in like John Wick 6 and let Keanu decapitate him with a sword. I think that would square things for a lot of people.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE – I’m listening…

Things are going great for Nicolas Cage. He’s back, baby. Ever since he made the surprise hit Pig and people remembered he’s one of the few just naturally compelling people on screen in the whole world, his phone has been ringing again. This makes me happy. Things got weird for a while there. Nicolas Cage movies played an important role in me becoming the person I am today, which I would appreciate if we all treated as a good thing. Thank you.

Buried in the article about him rising from the ashes like a shouty phoenix was this little tidbit that has altered the course of my year.

He had six live-action credits in 2019, four in 2018 and five in 2017. His fee for leading those VOD-type movies fell into the $1 million to $1.5 million range, with some profit participation thrown in. That salary would have taken up at least a third of the budget for Pig, the movie that changed his current trajectory, as sources say it cost only $3 million.

On top of reopening studio doors — in addition to Massive Talent and Renfield, he is in various stages of discussions for sequels to such big productions as National Treasure and Face/Off — Pig’s success has allowed the actor to raise his price. One indie movie source says Cage’s quote is now $4 million.

Did you see it? Did you see the thing about a potential Face/Off sequel? Did you, at any point this week, hear what sounded like a muffled shout of “YES” echoing through the wind? Because that was probably me shouting from my living room in Pennsylvania. I’m sorry for startling you. I just got a little excited.

I have only three requests here and I think they are all reasonable: One, bring John Woo back to direct; two, give him however much money James Cameron is getting to make the Avatar sequel; three, let a dove fly into the face-off machine while Nicolas Cage is in it and give me a whole movie about a human with a bird face and a bird with Nicolas Cage’s face. I know the sizing is off and it shouldn’t work, but it’s not like John Travolta and Nicolas Cage had the same size heads either. We’ve already agreed to suspend disbelief on this one, now we’re just talking about a matter of degree. It can work.

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 Derek:

Status check to see how you’re doing with the Phillies in the World Series. For some reason I picture you like Charlie from Always Sunny, about 8-10 coffees deep, in front of a yarn wall with lots of pictures and stats and lineup projections, fully melting down. I swear I mean that in a nice way. Good luck, buddy. Go Phillies!

Oh yeah, I’m a complete disaster right now. The combination of nerves and excitement flowing through my body could power the entire stadium when the series comes back to Philly on Monday. This brings up an important point that a wise old man — me — made on Twitter this week.

It’s going to be madness. The Phillie Phanatic might be in full costume on a four-wheeler. Purge rules could be in effect if the Phillies win, especially if they can steal one of the first two in Houston this weekend. Hell, the city lost half of its mind when the team just made it to the playoffs. Did we have people climbing street poles and slamming beers outside the Ritz Carlton? We did.

Did we have a dude in an Elmo costume leading a drum line through City Hall? You know it.

I am thrilled and terrified and nervous and there’s at least a 50 percent chance that I puke in the middle of Game 1 tonight just from all the emotions crashing together inside my body. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To the Midwest!

An investigation into the theft of several semi-trailers and loads of frozen beef in the Lincoln and Grand Island areas has uncovered an alleged crime ring based in Miami that targeted packing plants in six states.

MULTISTATE BEEF HEIST

A semi loaded with more than $232,000 worth of beef had been stolen in Grand Island on June 26 and found empty in Emerald, a small town west of Lincoln, according to court records.

My favorite thing about this — other than the part where I just got to type “MULTISTATE BEEF HEIST” while on the clock — is that now I have this image in my head of the first movie in the Fast & Furious franchise, exactly the same in every way, but now they are stealing beef instead of DVD players. Everything about this makes me very happy except for the thing where I can’t go back in time and make it the actual plot of the movie.

Yet.

I can’t go back in time yet.

I’ll keep working on it, though.

Peschong said, in working with Homeland Security Investigation in Omaha, officials now believe the same people involved in the thefts were responsible for 45 others — an estimated $9 million loss — since June 2021 in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

I like the idea of some criminal buying a million-dollar piece of South Beach real estate and a bunch of his fellow shady neighbors asking him what line of business he is in — “Coke? Pills? E?” — and just getting the word “Beef” in reply.

I guess what I’m saying here is that I would really like someone to make a movie about the beef heist that is half Fast & Furious and half Scarface. Maybe a little bit of Heat, too. You don’t even need to release it in theaters. Just bring it straight to my house. More efficient that way.

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