What to Watch: Jennifer Aniston Serves Up “Dumplin'”
Plus, a movie about memes and a bizarre archaeologist show starring Megan Fox.
Welcome to What to Watch, a series where we tell you the best shows, movies and series out right now, both on networks and streaming services.
Legends of the Lost With Megan Fox (Travel Channel)
Despite Megan Fox’s fall from Hollywood’s good graces in 2009, she apparently still has enough cache to pitch her own show in which she traipses around the globe and says words like “mankind” and “tomb.” One critic has already accused the show of “cheap aesthetic and jumping-to-conclusions,” with primitive “limited-evidence theories.” But considering Fox’s past as one of the last victims of misogyny-fueled hearsay before the #MeToo movement I say let her have her fun! She’s also a professional at soundbites—like that time she theorized High School Musical was about “boys who are all being molested by the basketball coach” then admitted to being high when she watched it. Expect more of that on this show. And hey, if all it takes is speculative “management experience” to be qualified for political office then I think discovering alien robots in the Egyptian pyramids on a Michael Bay film qualifies Fox to poke around Stonehenge.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2 (Amazon Prime)
Considering how much critical acclaim the first season received, the second was never going to be as good. But I expected different shortcomings than what befalls it this year. Full of beautiful sets and costumes (flowing straight from Jeff Bezos’ coffers), season two is what happens when you drink so much coffee you can’t get any actual work done. So much happens, yet Midge, the housewife-turned-divorcee-turned-comedian seems to make no personal or professional advances after working so hard to establish her new life in season one. Yet she flies off to Paris in the season premiere, and then to the Catskills for a two-month stay. I expected to watch her trailblaze into the world of standup this season, yet Midge and can’t seem to let go of her old season one hang ups.
Whether to watch the lengthy second season (an hourlong episode should only be possible on Game of Thrones) or not depends on why you’re watching. If you like the show because you love director Amy Sherman-Palladino’s style and want to watch a beautiful (again, Bezos-funded) show expertly depicting the constraints and possibilities put on women in the 50’s, go ahead. If you came back to the show for Midge specifically in hopes of seeing her hone her sharp-witted comedy, maybe browse Netflix’s stand up specials instead.
The American Meme (Netflix)
The ominous music in the trailer above would make you think a meme is something akin to bath salts. I’m genuinely surprised Bert Marcus, who has directed and written insightful documentaries about drug dealing, paparazzi, and stuntmen would take the completely wrong approach to documenting meme culture. Already the movie feels dated starring major talking head Hailey Baldwin now going by Hailey Beiber. The doc seems to focus not just on memes but social media influencers, which will no doubt be the better focus of Marcus’. The world of influencer marketing is still a murky, fast-growing swamp of ethical lapses and scams that seems to be the dream of every tween today.
You better believe figures like Paris Hilton will take their time in this movie only to further their brand, and not to speak openly about their true relationships with followers. And the idea of starring celebrities who’ve built their careers from social media (Baldwin, Emily Ratajkowski, and Brittany Furlow have all parlayed Instagram followers into modeling and movie deals) talking about how baseless social media is seems a bit … fake. But I like the use of names seen much more often on Instagram now on Netflix, and that’ll probably be enough to make me and many others watch.
Bad Blood season 2 (Netflix)
If nothing else on this week’s list interests you, you’ll probably want to stream Bad Blood. Originally airing in Canada and now acquired by Netflix, this show tells the true story of Montreal mafia leader Vito Rizzuto. The first season follows the final years of Rizzuto at the height of his success, moving drugs through Montreal across three different continents. In season two, Rizzuto is jailed in New York and the show goes fictional, pivoting to follow his (fictional) righthand guy Declan Gardiner as he fights other figures for control of the Montreal Mafia. The land of “ehhs” and maple syrup has never been so vicious.
There are so many reasons to watch this movie with equal measures of glee and disgust: the protagonist (Danielle Macdonald) is named Willowdean, Dolly Parton recorded a “haunting” rendition of ‘Jolene’ for the movie, Sia and Miranda Lambert also have songs in the soundtrack, and finally, Jennifer Anniston stars as a comically evil pageant mom.
I’ve been thinking about Aniston a lot this week after listing to Slate’s oral history of her tabloid era and can’t wait to see Jen portrayed not as a crazy, man-obsessed woman but as a crazy, self-obsessed woman instead! What’s she doing in Dumplin’ ? Aniston’s Rosie Dickson hates her daughter Willowdean because she’s not skinny and conventionally attractive like her and therefore can’t carry on her legacy of being Texas’ ultimate small town beauty queen. To spite her mom, Willowdean joins a teen pageant and enlists an army of Dolly Parton drag queens to glam her up and show her mom beauty standards are changing or something like that! Yeah it’s a bit of a cliché, but done well enough and with excellent performances by both Aniston and Macdonald to make the movie a good time.
Mowgli: Legends of the Jungle (Netflix)
Yes this is the second, SECOND, live action Jungle Book remake in two years. I blame the first one’s mild adorableness for why we have both this and the upcoming hollow copy of The Lion King remake coming. Critics have united in calling this a “dark and gritty” alternative to the Disney original. Apparently Andy Serkis stays closer to Rudyard Kipling’s adventure novel more than Disney ever did to create a “nightmarish” tale about survival. Despite how annoyed I am about the cheapest remake we’ve seen all year, I’ll watch Cate Blanchett’s Kaa over Scarlett Johansson’s any day (yes Blanchett voices Kaa in this one, also Christian Bale as Bagheera and Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan). This is a much more graphic Jungle Book, one you won’t want to watch with your kids (unless you’re trying to instill in them a life-long fear of chimps).