5 Things to Gush About: July 8-14

After double earthquakes, we need something to take our minds off the shifting ground beneath us.
Will Young interview

“The Farewell”: I thought Awkafina was one of the stand-outs in “Crazy Rich Asians”, so I’m looking forward to seeing this film where she plays Billi, a Chinese-American woman who goes back to China to see her grandmother who is dying. Billi struggles with the cultural divide, not understanding why she’s told not to tell her grandmother how serious her condition is. Ah, it’s all in the trailer:

Will Young “Lexicon”: I love me some Will Young. Who? Will came to prominence in the U.K. as the winner of “Pop Idol” which was a precursor to “American Idol” and “X-Factor” etc. and he’s proved he was the real thing, sustaining a career now for almost 20 years, writing his own songs, acting in film and on stage, starting his own podcast, and recently hitting No. 2 on the U.K. charts with his latest album “Lexicon”. He’s working here with producer Richard X who had previously produced “Echoes”, my favorite of Will’s albums. From what I’ve heard of this new album, this is another winner.

“Aziz Ansari Right Now”: His latest standup special lands on Netflix on Tuesday. He’s been subject to a lot of controversy and unfortunately has been lumped in with Harvey Weinstein and other monsters. People who know him including Mindy Kaling have defended him and have gotten whomped in the process, but I would like to hear what he has to say so I will be tuning in.

“Sword of Trust”: Another indie film that looks like a whole lotta fun. This one takes a comedic stab at a sensitive subject, the type of angle that promises comedic gold. It stars Marc Maron (love his podcast) and Michaela Watkins (from a terrific series called “Casual”) and is written and directed by Lynn Shelton, a rare female multihyphenate in the film biz.

“Mary Poppins Returns”: Arriving on Neflix July 9th. This boasted very good casting, snappy songs, and some amazing visuals and yet…it does not quite live up to the high standards of the original Julie Andrews-Dick Van Dyke classic. But what could? Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda are perfectly cast but it’s Ben Wishaw who steals the show as Michael Banks all grown up, grumpy, and buckling under the strains of adulthood. And Dick Van Dyke makes an appearance! Some of the sequences are blissful (one where they fall through a bathtub into an underwater world) while some others seem unnecessary (the music hall number and chase scene), not really supported by or adding to the story. The “Step in Time” equivalent number called “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” is good but gets marred by some anachronistic extreme sport bicycle stunts. I know, not a glowing endorsement but I think it’s definitely worth seeing.

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