Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Sept. 27 2016 10:17 PM

Mads Mikkelsen Saves the Day in the New Doctor Strange Trailer

It’s always a smart move to cast Mads Mikkelsen, and the new trailer for Marvel’s upcoming Doctor Strange shows exactly why. Most of it is nothing new: Benedict Cumberbatch plays a sort of ersatz Bond—watch winders, tuxedos, and Lamborghinis—until Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One opens his eyes to a lot of mystical nonsense and special effects rather shamelessly stolen from Inception. But Mikkelsen’s dry delivery of “Mister doctor?” exchange is a breath of fresh air and gives hope that Doctor Strange might be closer to Ant-Man than humorless slogs like Captain America: Civil War, at least when Mikkelsen is on screen.

The trailer indirectly points to one of the great weaknesses of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the lack of great villains. One thing the best Bond films excel at is casting great actors and letting them hand in truly demented performances. Marvel, on the other hand, somehow managed to suck the charisma out of Lee Pace, and, despite casting a long list of A-listers, has really only managed a couple of memorable villains—and one of them wasn’t, really. The long-teased arrival of the charisma-free Thanos does not seem likely to improve matters. Can Mikkelsen’s dry wit breathe new life into the franchise? Why not? He’s done it before.

Sept. 27 2016 3:23 PM

Watch the Very Dancey Trailer for Netflix’s Justin Timberlake Concert Film Directed by Jonathan Demme

The end of a two-year-long, record-selling music tour is the subject of Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids, Jonathan Demme’s concert film recently acquired for distribution by Netflix. The movie goes behind the scenes of the final performance of Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, capturing the buildup before presenting the massive show itself.

Early reviews out of the Toronto International Film Festival premiere make clear that if you’re a fan of JT, his band the Tennessee Kids, or killer dance moves in general, this movie should hit the bullseye. But the best news here has to be the Netflix factor: Rather than awkwardly swaying in your seat with a bunch of strangers around, you can stream Justin Timberlake in the comfort (and privacy) of your own home, jamming and singing along to your heart’s content.

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Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids hits Netflix on Oct. 12.

Sept. 27 2016 2:29 PM

Patton Oswalt’s Explanation of What Life—and Winning an Emmy—Is Like After Losing His Wife Is Heartbreaking

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Patton Oswalt and Michelle McNamara in 2011.

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Patton Oswalt gave a lovely and incredibly touching interview on Conan on Monday night in which the comedian discussed coping with the unexpected death of his wife, true-crime writer Michelle McNamara, in April. Asked about his recent Emmy win for Best Variety Special, Oswalt explained that he had trouble capturing McNamara’s influence in his acceptance speech, which ended with a very brief tribute to her: “I want to share this with two people: my daughter, Alice, who is waiting at home, and the other one is waiting somewhere else, I hope.”

I was a different, better person from having met her and spent a life with her. And she was the reason that my comedy got better to get me to the point where someone would consider me for an Emmy. It was hard to encapsulate that in a very quick speech. Of anyone I’ve ever been with, especially romantically—people that I’ve gone out with have justifiably pulled the rip cord on me, like “This guy’s nuts.” And she was like, “I can work with this, I think.”
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It’s almost impossible to sit through Oswalt’s interview dry-eyed, but if there is any silver lining to be had from all this, it's that Oswalt is honoring his promise to start telling jokes again. “I’m like every bad ’80s sitcom where the dad is raising a kid by himself,” he told Conan O’Brien. “Except my ’80s sitcom sucks. There’s no punchlines. There’s a lot of me eating Cheetos for dinner. I’m waiting for my daughter to turn to the camera and go, ‘No wonder I’m in therapy.’ ”

Sept. 27 2016 12:21 PM

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis Star in the Powerful Trailer for the Adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences

For those fearing that Denzel Washington’s Fences adaptation would fail to do justice to August Wilson’s searing 1983 play, this debut trailer offers some hope. With Washington and Viola Davis returning to the roles that won them great acclaim (and Tony Awards) during the play’s 2010 Broadway revival—and with Wilson adapting the play himself for the screen—this first glimpse of the new Fences proves that a cast and crew who are intimately familiar with the original text can go a very long way in preserving the integrity of a work.

Fences offers a devastating portrait of an black family in 1950s Pittsburgh. Patriarch Troy Maxson (Washington) is a former Negro League baseball player now working as a waste collector; his son, Cory (Jovan Adepo of The Leftovers), is a talented athlete on the cusp of professional success. The bruised love between the two is bridged by matriarch Rose (Davis), who moves to the center of the story as her family encounters a series of painful choices and tragedies.

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This marks Washington’s first directorial endeavor in a decade, borne out of his longstanding passion for Wilson’s stage work. While Washington’s effort behind the scenes appears to be a faithful one—the trailer opens on a stirring reenactment of what’s arguably the play’s most powerful monologue—it’s his and Davis’ work in front of the camera that will likely demand the most attention.

Fences will be released by Paramount Pictures on Christmas Day and is expected to be a major awards contender across the board.

Sept. 27 2016 12:03 PM

Will & Grace Held a Special Election-Themed Reunion, and Karen Is a Trump Supporter

The cast of Will & Grace reunited for a mini-episode of the sitcom that was canceled a decade ago, and the message of the video is clear: Vote, honey. Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes, and Megan Mullally reprise their roles as Will, Grace, Jack, and Karen to discuss the current election, with Karen a diehard Trump supporter (surprise, surprise) and Jack considering not voting at all.

The pop culture references remind us that this a Will & Grace for our times: Fifty Shades of Grey! Brangelina! Ryan Lochte! Mullally even gets in a Hamilton zinger: “Honey, if you don’t vote for Trumpy, there will be […] hordes of brown people pouring over our borders from every direction. I mean, it’s one thing if you're sitting in the audience at Hamilton, but do you really want to see those people everywhere?”

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The video, which was posted shortly before Monday night’s presidential debate, comes down pretty solidly pro-Clinton, but the overwhelming message of the reunion is that there’s no such things as a wasted vote—and that Grace still can’t sing.

Sept. 27 2016 11:09 AM

Annette Bening Is on a Search for Meaning in the Trailer for 20th Century Women, From the Director of Beginners

Most of the attention going A24’s way right now is due to Moonlight, the festival darling primed to top many critics’ best-of lists at the end of this year. But the ever-impressive independent film distributor has another promising title in the pipeline for 2016 that has yet to premiere: Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women, a cinematic ode to “the people who raise us and the times that shape us.”

A heartfelt comedy-drama in the vein of Mills’ last film, Beginners, 20th Century Women stars Annette Bening as a single mom striving to teach her son (Lucas Jade Zumann) the right ideas about love, connection, and freedom. The film tracks her efforts as she comes into contact with Julie (Elle Fanning), a friend of her son’s, and Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a young photographer—all while adjusting to life with the hunky slacker (played by Billy Crudup) renting out the bungalow behind her house.

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The film is set in 1979 Santa Barbara, at the twilight of the Jimmy Carter era. This first trailer opens with a pointed acknowledgment of its time period, introducing its characters against the audio of Carter’s infamously controversial “malaise” speech. In its language and its tone, the speech illustrates the big, complicated ideas to be tackled by 20th Century Women: the hope for a better future, the perils of animosity, and the longing for meaning.

20th Century Women will premiere Oct. 8 as the centerpiece of the New York Film Festival before a Christmas Day theatrical release.

Sept. 27 2016 10:53 AM

Colbert Knows Exactly Why Donald Trump Kept Sniffling During the Debate

The Late Show followed up Monday night’s presidential debate with a live broadcast in which Stephen Colbert picked apart the showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald “Uses Cyber as a Noun” Trump. In his monologue, Colbert first laid out the wildly different expectations for each candidate going in to the debate.

Clinton:

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  • Be confident but not smug
  • Be knowledgable without being a know-it-all
  • Be charming but not affected
  • Be commanding but not shrill
  • Be likable
  • Be warm
  • Be authoritative
  • Don’t cough

Trump:

  • Don’t commit murder (on camera)

So how did the two candidates stack up, in Colbert’s eyes? Clinton told the first lie of the night (“Donald, it’s good to be here with you”) and seemed otherwise hyperprepared, earning her the affectionate, if extremely unfortunate, nickname of Preparation H. Meanwhile, Trump, who has spent months questioning his opponent’s health, spent a inordinate amount of time during the debate sniffling. “Trump sounded like he was fighting off a cold—with cocaine,” offered Colbert. “He sounded like the coked up best man in the bathroom at a wedding.”

Still, the real winner of the night, according to the Late Show host, was moderator and sometime jazz musician Lester Holt: “Which makes sense, since he’s hosted Dateline and is used to two rich white people who want to murder each other.”

Sept. 27 2016 8:33 AM

RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Phi Phi O’Hara on RuPaul: “We’re Just Game Pieces for Her Show”

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Spoilers ahead for RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Phi Phi O’Hara’s redemption arc—sorry, Rudemption—didn’t go quite as planned on the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. He entered the workroom during the premiere dressed as the Riddler, then saying, “I’m Phi Phi O’Hara, and I’m playing a villain! Get it?” What he thought was an ironic joke turned out to be a statement of things to come. Once again, Phi Phi found himself playing the villain. Throughout the season, he appeared to be undermining other contestants, strategizing, and in the most recent episode, getting into a fight with Alyssa Edwards, a fan favorite of the show. Everyone could agree on this: It wasn’t a good look.

On tonight’s episode, Phi Phi was sent packing by two of the previously eliminated queens, Tatianna and Alyssa Edwards, for their “Ruvenge.” Since the RuPaul’s Drag Race premiere, Phi Phi has declared herself done with the show, going on a tweet storm saying that the show had “broken” her and edited the episodes to make her appear like a villain. RuPaul himself unfollowed Phi Phi on Twitter. Vulture spoke with Phi Phi, whose real name is Jaremi Carey, to get his story.

Sept. 27 2016 8:02 AM

How the Failures of Blair Witch Clarify the Problems With American Horror Story’s New Season

In Blair Witch, the horror sequel that thudded at the box office with all the grace of a terrified camper falling out of a tree, a group of doomed twentysomethings once again venture into the Maryland woods in search of a mythical evil. They’re kitted out with all manner of modern gadgetry, from GPS units to drone cameras, but after the witch starts doing them not-so-mythical harm, they’re unable to make their way out of the forest. Even traveling in a straight line brings them right back to the campsite where they started, and the world seems to fold in on itself; the sun stops coming up altogether, and the local guides they’d abandoned the previous day crop up again to say they’ve been wandering for nearly a week. Everyone is wandering around in the dark, and they’re getting nowhere.

Sept. 26 2016 11:36 PM

Watch Hillary Devastate Trump With an Ace “Jim From The Office” Stare

Ah, the dreaded Jim Halpert technique.

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