TV

The Rundown: Is Anyone Else Freaking Stoked To Watch ‘A World Of Calm’?

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 — CHILL ME OUT, PLEASE

I love action. I love action movies and action-packed television shows. I love the Fast & Furious movies and their brand of increasingly nutty action that stretches the limits of both physics (cars flying through the sky!) and forgiveness (Jason Statham’s character killed Han — allegedly — but is now a beloved member of the team?). I love completely crazy shows like Zoo and nonsense movies like Money Plane. The world has yet to create a project that is too big/dumb/weird/chaotic for me. There is nothing I want more than a low-budget straight-to-VOD sequel to Face/Off that still stars Travolta and Cage. This is, in a somewhat simplified summary, what I am about.

Which is why this next part might seem odd at first: I am so freaking stoked to watch A World of Calm, the new celebrity-narrated meditation show that just premiered on HBO Max earlier this week. I’ve discussed it all once or twice before, but if you are not yet aware, please enjoy this trailer…

… and please read this longline for the show

A timely antidote for our modern lives, each half-hour episode takes audiences on an immersive visual journey into another world. Building on Calm’s Sleep Stories – bedtime stories for grown-ups – each relaxing tale is designed to transform how you feel. Viewers will be transported into tranquility through scientifically engineered narratives, enchanting music and astounding footage to naturally calm the body and soothe the mind.

Oh, yes. Yes, I will watch this. I will watch this every night at bedtime. I’m sad there are only 10 episodes, even if they do include such perfect ideas as “Oscar Isaac talks to you about noodles” and “Kate Winslet talks to you about horses” and “Idris Elba talks to you about outer space” and, blessedly, “Keanu Reeves talks to you about Latvian woodworkers.” I kind of want to binge them all in a furious five-hour spree and see if I can bring my resting heart rate down into the mid-40s, even if binging a show designed to help you chill out seems a little backward.

I just… I don’t know. I need it. It’s not exactly breaking news to say that a lot is happening in the world, in a way that is wholly different from previous ways a lot has happened. Couple that with everyone being stuck inside for months on end and it’s teetering on the edge of a mental health crisis. Humans aren’t meant to live like this. We’re not built for it. It’s okay if you’re feeling a little or a lot fried, even if you don’t realize it all the time. The key is to find something, anything, to help you relax a bit and turn the volume down in your head a bit, even if it’s just a 20-30 minute chunk of time. I flipped on the first episode of A World of Calm last night, a Lucy Liu narrated examination of coral reefs, and this was the first thing I saw on my screen.

HBO

Hell yes, lapping waves. The show appears to be a cross between “lowest stakes season of Planet Earth imaginable” and “if a celebrity narrated your screensaver” and I am fully on-board. Make 20 seasons of this. Give me Matthew McConaughey narrating an episode about waterfalls. Give me Scarlett Johannson narrating an episode about clouds. Give me Rihanna narrating an episode about Canadian marijuana farmers. I want hundreds of hours of familiar voices soothing me at night with relaxing bedtime stories set to beautiful images of nature filmed in sparkling high-definition. It says a lot about the world as presently constructed and my current frame of mind that I have been looking forward to this show almost as much as I was looking forward to the long-delayed and much-hyper fourth season of Fargo. And yet, here we are.

So, yes, for the foreseeable future, please do not text or email or call me after, say, 11 p.m., as I will be floating off to a happy place where people with symmetrical faces and voices like crushed velvet whisper lovely bedtime stories to me. I am legitimately all jazzed up about this. That somehow feels weird to say and feels perfectly normal at the exact same time. And that somehow makes sense. Again, everything is a little off-center right now. This show won’t actually solve any of that, nor should it be expected to. But it’ll give you pretty pictures of horsies and sentences intended to lower your blood pressure and, to be honest, that’s all I’m really asking for right now.

I’ll still see Fast & Furious 9 the day it is released, of course. I must know what happened to Han. Although I don’t think it would hurt if the whole thing is explained by Vin Diesel over ambient sounds and stunning drone shots of the Tokyo streets where the accident happened. Something to consider. I assume there’s time for some quick reshoots.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Yes, thank you, I would like to know about Jason Momoa’s breakfast

Getty Image

Jason Momoa is in Detroit. Or he was in Detroit recently. I know this for two reasons: One, because of this news story from a local Detroit outlet about him eating a fancy brunch in a fancy neighborhood; two, because there are not a lot of dudes running around who look like Jason Momoa, so the odds of mistaken identity here are pretty low. Like, I don’t think a lot of people are like “YO HOLY CRAP IS THAT JASON M-… wait, no. It’s just Jeff.” If you think you saw Jason Momoa, you probably did see Jason Momoa. So let’s go ahead and call this Detroit thing confirmed.

Anyway, my favorite part of the Jason Momoa Detroit Brunch story was this paragraph about halfway down the page:

“The posting from Toast said Momoa ordered the Novia Scotia Benny which has poached eggs, smoked salmon, spinach, heirloom tomato, choice of biscuit or english muffin, dill hollandaise and balsamic drizzle. It’s also served with home fries, bacon fried rice or grits.”

I’ll tell you what I like about this: the almost specificity. They know what he ordered, generally: the Nova Scotia Benny, which sounds delicious. But they didn’t get the exact details on his carb or choice or side order. A problem! A hole in the story! So they did what any good journalist would do when confronted with an unanswered question: they investigated. By, apparently, pulling up the menu online and listing the entire entry. I like it. I kind of love it, to be honest, because it’s created a fun game for me. You can play it, too. Just read the paragraph again and try to guess — based on everything you know about Jason Momoa — how he filled out this order. I’ve been at it for over a day and I’ve settled on “served on a biscuit with a side of home fries.” I do not see Jason Momoa as a grits man. Do not ask me why.

Hey, speaking of physical marvels who are currently or have been married to Lisa Bonet, here’s a profile of Lenny Kravitz that dropped in Men’s Health this week. The profile was written by Alex Pappademas, so you know it’s probably good. And it is! Here are some things I learned about Lenny Kravitz:

  • Lenny Kravitz is somehow 56 years old
  • Lenny Kravitz has been living alone in his one-bedroom house in the Bahamas since the pandemic started
  • Lenny Kravitz brought one pair of jeans with him and has been wearing them every day

In short, Lenny Kravitz is exactly who you think he is: a very chill dude who is impossibly cool and who uses a tree branch as his bench when he lifts weights, which he does often enough to have a lean eight-pack even though he is over half a decade older than Paul Giamatti. It turns out genetics helps with that last thing, too.

His roots in this part of the world go deep. His grandfather Albert Roker was born on Inagua, down by Cuba and Haiti at the southernmost point of the Bahama island chain. “He lived up until his 90s, but even up into his 80s, he was ripped,” Kravitz says, shedding light on his enviable genetic legacy. “Black island man. Like iron. He had a workout that he would do in the backyard that consisted of a tree and a leather belt and, like, a broom handle. All resistance.”

It must be nice to trace your lineage to a naturally ripped island man made of ir-… hold on. Did that say Albert Roker?

Was Lenny Kravitz’s grandfather named Al Roker?

Do you think… no.

Do you think Lenny Kravitz and Al Roker are related?

To Wikipedia.

WIKIPEDIA

Between this and Jason Momoa’s choice of breakfast side, I have really given myself a lot to think about this weekend. And I have an excuse to post one of my favorite tweets ever.

What a ride this was.

ITEM NUMBER THREE — Sorry, but I am still not over this

This clip blew up on my Twitter timeline early in the week. You might have seen it. If you have, watch it again because it gets no less fascinating with multiple views. If you haven’t seen, hoo boy, are you in for a treat. I could give you 5,000 guesses and you’ll never be able to correctly pick who shows us as Michael Jordan’s opponent at this charity event. I could give you 5,000 guesses a day. For a year. Still no chance.

Point being, spoilers, it’s M.A.S.H. star Elliott Gould, age 50 at the time, taking on a young Michael Jordan in a charity basketball contest. Here’s the full clip from YouTube, which somehow only contains Jordan’s shots even though all I want to know right now — literally the only thing — is how good Elliott Gould is, or was, at basketball.

Luckily, a little digging got me closer to an answer, and no, it is not important to know what I was supposed to be doing when I was furiously hunting clips of Elliott Gould discussing the time he played Michael Jordan at basketball for charity. Here’s a clip of the actor on a recent episode of The Rich Eisen show claiming 1) that he took a letter or two off of Michael in HORSE by shooting old-man YMCA two-handed set shots, which rules; and 2) that he, Elliott Gould, beat a young Michael Jordan in a game of Around the World.

Someone load up these clips on an iPad and hand them to Michael Jordan, Last Dance-style. I demand to see his face as he watches them. And I demand to hear his reply after watching Elliott Gould claim to have defeated him at Around the World. There’s a non-zero chance he challenges Elliott Gould to a nationally-televised Around the World rematch. Like, today. Like he might send his private plane to pick up Elliott as soon as he sees it. Michael Jordan is a maniac.

I would watch. You would, too. Please do not lie to me.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Screw it, mash it all together, see what I care

SONY

Because nothing can just be one thing and be cool about it anymore, the Spider-man universe went and got a little weirder this week. It was already weird, with the Sony/Marvel rights fight resulting in Spider-man being detached from and later folded into the Marvel Cinematic Universe once Tom Holland took over the role from Andrew Garfield. And it was a little weirder when the new Marvel movies snuck JK Simmons back in there in the J. Jonah Jameson role he started playing back when Tobey Maguire was Spider-man. And then Michael Keaton popped up as the Vulture in Morbius.

And now there’s this.

Jamie Foxx, who played classic Spidey villain Electro in the Andrew Garfield-starring The Amazing Spider-Man 2, is in final talks to reprise the role for the latest Spider-Man installment, starring Tom Holland and being made by Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures.

“Final talks” is sometimes code for “let’s just float this out there before we all sign the deal to be sure we’re not missing something that will get us all yelled at,” so let’s assume this is a real thing. And let’s assume this is real, too.

Marvel had no comment.

Story details are being kept under the mask, but having Foxx return is a stunner as it shows a further melding of the previous Spider-Man movies into the current Holland series, which is the first one that has Marvel running point on production.

More than a few people became very excited when this news broke, in large part because it continues cracking open the door for a live-action Spider-verse movie that brings back both Maguire and Garfield and loops them into the current Spider-man universe. Which… fine? Cool? Please do not let me dampen your enthusiasm if you are excited about that. We all need something to get us through what is shaping up to be a long winter. God bless, etc.

I do not think I would like it, though. The thing that made Into the Spider-verse so cool was how inventive and original it was. Taking that and trying to recapture it with a handful of winking cameos and nostalgia traps would probably bum me out. It’s okay to let cool things just be cool things and not tinker with them forever. But I’m also the guy who almost started hyperventilating on the way into the theater to watch John Wick 3 a while back, so take that with a few grains of salt, I guess. Either way, it’s given me yet another opportunity to share one of my favorite tweets ever.

What I like about this tweet is that it’s somehow both a very smart cultural critique of the world as it presently exists and it’s also just stupid as hell. A real double whammy.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — I know I just made fun of Christmas movies starting to advertise in October last week but this is different

Netflix

Just last week, only seven days ago, in this very column, I got a little snarky about Christmas movies starting so early, especially the Hallmark ones, which start airing before Halloween this year. I stand by all or most of that. But I also stand by this: Netflix started advertising Dolly Parton’s new Christmas movie this week, and I love it. Granted, it doesn’t actually drop until close to Thanksgiving so it’s not quite as egregious, but still. They could release it today and I’d be okay with it. Look at this.

The It’s a Wonderful Life-esque Christmas on the Square stars Christine Baranski (The Good Fight) as Regina, a rich and nasty woman who returns to her small hometown after her father’s death to evict everyone and sell the land to a mall developer — right before Christmas. However, after listening to stories of the local townsfolk, reconnecting with an old love, and accepting the guidance of an actual angel (Parton), Regina starts to have a change of heart.

Three things worth noting here:

  • Christine Baranski entering the “playing a Scrooge-like character in a Christmas movie” stage of her career is thrilling to me, because Christine Baranski was born for that, which I mean very much as a compliment
  • Dolly Parton, per other reports, is playing an angel named “Angel”
  • Dolly Parton has been posting Christmas-themed images almost exclusively on her Instagram page since mid-August

Here, proof.

And so, I guess, allow me to officially wish all of you a Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays. If Dolly Parton says it’s time, even if it just became October, that’s good enough for me.

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 Mark:

Here are a couple of tough questions, but I know you’ve been thinking about them for a while…

1. When the inevitable day comes that you have to leave town and relocate to another city and become a Regular Human Bartender, what are the top three Regular Human Bartender names that you would consider using?

2. When you inevitably find yourself embroiled in a wacky crime caper in the upper midwest, what are the top 3 Fargo names that you are likely to take on?

I realize that I could’ve gone to any other TV writers with these questions, but it has to be you.

Mark, this is a fantastic question. I appreciate that you realize there’s a difference between the two categories. There’s an art to a fake name. The first category, your Jackie Daytona names like in What We Do in the Shadows, is a little punchier. Harder consonants, locations as a last name, etc. The second category, the Fargo names, tend can be a little more goofy and mushmouthed, like a Lorne Malvo from the first season or a Banjo Rightway from the season that just premiered on Sunday. As someone who thinks about fake names a lot (too much), I am honored to give this a crack. I’ve used some of these before, full disclosure. But I refuse to let that get in my way.

JACKIE DAYTONA DIVISION

1. Tex Montreal
2. Clyde Tokyo
3. Victor Montecarlo

FARGO DIVISION

1. Mitch Casino
2. Percy Billions
3. Bash Catnip

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do this. Please know that I spent longer working on this than any other section of this week’s column.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To London:

A British zoo has had to separate five foul-mouthed parrots who keepers say were encouraging each other to swear.

You know how sometimes you read a sentence and it just keeps getting better as it moves toward its end? This is one of those sentences. I was intrigued by “has had to” because it implies all other options have been exhausted, and I was completely won over by the phrase “five foul-mouthed parrots,” but the real chef’s kiss of it all was the “encouraging each other to swear.” I had not ever considered the possibility of parrots peer pressuring each other to misbehave. I don’t even think that’s what was really happening here. But the phrasing leads to the implication and that is good enough for me.

I love these rascal parrots.

“We are quite used to parrots swearing, but we’ve never had five at the same time,” said the zoo’s chief executive, Steve Nichols. “Most parrots clam up outside, but for some reason these five relish it.”

I want to adopt all five of them and drive around with them in the backseat with the windows down so they can cuss out other drivers for me. Can’t get mad at a parrot, chumps! I mean, you can, but then you look like the jerk. It’s a perfect plan. Until I get pulled over and they start cussing at the cops.

It’s an almost perfect plan.

“When a parrot tells tells you to ‘f-— off’ it amuses people very highly,” he said Tuesday. “It’s brought a big smile to a really hard year.”

THE PARROTS ARE LIFTING THE SPIRITS OF A NATION WITH THEIR BLUE-STREAKED LANGUAGE AND FEATHERS

WHY ARE YOU SEPARATING THEM?

GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON

Nichols said the parrots have been separated to save children’s ears. They were moved to different areas of the park so they don’t “set each other off,” he said.

That settles it. We need an adults-only zoo. This is another perfect plan. Do not steal it from me.

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