#SetTheVCR: August 16 – 22, 2021

Hang in there like that classic cat poster: August is almost over and Fall shows will be starting soon. That doesn’t mean there isn’t compelling TV choices this week…there’s a few. Barely.

Monday, August 16

Western Stars (Anytime / Netflix (Canada))

Musical performances harmonize with archive footage and intimate stories in a visual companion to Bruce Springsteen’s acclaimed album of the same name.

Sammy Suggestion: Inside Man (Anytime / Netflix (Canada))

A detective matches wits with a thief who’s always one step ahead of the cops, and when a loose-cannon negotiator arrives, things spin out of control.

Inside Man is a 2006 American heist thriller film directed by Spike Lee and written by Russell Gewirtz. Gewirtz spent five years developing the premise before working on what became his first original screenplay. Now that’s how it is won and done! So that explains why there is a lot of soul and guts in Inside Man. This isn’t a traditional heist…there is ah…an Inside Man with the sort of twist M Night would appreciate. Nothing like a well planned heist to spark inspiration and get your To Do List for this week off to a strong start.

Tuesday, August 17

Untold: Deal with the Devil (Anytime / Netflix)

Following the previous Untold doc: Malice at the Palace; the next Untold sports doc is Deal With the Devil tells the story of Christy Martin, the women’s boxing champ who survived a murder attempt by her then-husband in 2010.

Sammy Suggestion: Godzilla vs. Kong (Anytime / HBO Max)

Legends collide in Godzilla vs. Kong, as these mythic adversaries meet in a spectacular battle for the ages, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

The fourth Godzilla film to be completely produced by a Hollywood studio suffered from poor timing. Godzilla was unable to go all atomic at the box office because it was finally released beginning on March 24, 2021. Not a lot of cinemas were open (especially in Canada!) however it is now on HBO Max for your ruckus delight. (Canadians still hafta wait: it’ll be on Crave on August 20). As you can tell from the title this is Monster Fight Club. Though of course the first rule of Monster Fight Club prevents me from saying much more. So enjoy: I’m rooting for Godzilla to win. Who do you want to win?

Wednesday, August 18

The Defeated: Season 1 (Anytime / Netflix)

In 1946 Berlin, an American cop searches for his missing brother while helping a novice German policewoman fight the violent crimes engulfing the city.

Sammy Suggestion: Nine Perfect Strangers: Mini-Series (Anytime / Hulu)

Takes place at a boutique health-and-wellness resort that promises healing and transformation as nine stressed city dwellers try to get on a path to a better way of living. Watching over them during this 10-day retreat is the resort’s director, Masha, a woman on a mission to reinvigorate their tired minds and bodies. However, these nine “perfect” strangers have no idea what is about to hit them.

Nine Perfect Strangers is a 2018 novel by Australian author Liane Moriarty. I didn’t read the book so much like my high school English assignments I’ma just check out the movie instead: or rather this 8 episode mini-series co-created by David E. Kelley. (David E. Kelley is quietly having a resurgence on streamers…we truly don’t acknowledge it. Did you see his fantastic work on Mr. Mercedes? And of course The Undoing with Nicole Kidman who returns for Nine.) Thankfully weirdness than wellness is unfolding at this retreat so I’ll help myself to this and wait for “The Secret” to be revealed.

Thursday, August 19

Jakob’s Wife (Anytime/ Shudder)

Anne, married to a small-town Minister, feels her life has been shrinking over the past 30 years. Encountering “The Master” brings her a new sense of power and an appetite to live bolder. However, the change comes with a heavy body count.

Sammy Suggestion: Marlon Wayans: You Know What It Is (Anytime / HBO Max)

Marlon explores his fears onstage, including the greatest one that is the realization that his bad decisions are what tore his family apart, and he sums up his way through self-awareness with the phrase “You know what it is.”

An actual stand-up comedy special…a full hour of jokes in front of a live audience. Good Gravy I am home. Not the biggest Marlon Wayans fan but it’s been so long since we’ve had one of these. And he mocks his famous family with spot on impressions. Welcome back live comedy. It’s been too long.

Friday, August 20

Godzilla vs Kong (Anytime / Crave)

The epic next chapter in the cinematic Monsterverse pits two of the greatest icons in motion picture history against one another – the fearsome Godzilla and the mighty Kong – with humanity caught in the balance.

Sammy Suggestion: Annette (Anytime / Prime Video)

Los Angeles, today. Henry (Adam Driver) is a stand-up comedian with a fierce sense of humor who falls in love with Ann (Marion Cotillard), a world-renowned opera singer. Under the spotlight, they form a passionate and glamorous couple. The birth of their first child, Annette, a mysterious little girl with an exceptional destiny, will turn their lives upside down.

Surely this’ll “spark” some interest in you: Annette is a musical with a screenplay by Ron Mael and Russell Mael of Sparks. (If you haven’t seen Edgar Wright’s 2021 documentary The Sparks Brothers watch that instead…it’s most excellent.) I ain’t a musical guy but I’m a Sparks guy so let’s go down this musical road. The movie follows a stand-up comedian (Adam Driver) and his opera singer wife (Marion Cotillard) and how their lives are changed when they have their first child. Hopefully this is more Amélie and less La La Land.

Saturday, August 21

Sammy Suggestion: Beverly Hills Cop I (Anytime / Crave)

A freewheeling Detroit cop pursuing a murder investigation finds himself dealing with the very different culture of Beverly Hills.

Before Lethal Weapon, before Barry, before The Hitman’s Bodyguard and so many others there was 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. This was one of the earliest and one of the best examples of real comedy and real violence (people could and did die in this movie.). This is Eddie Murphy at his energetic best: “a street smart Detroit cop tracking down his best friend’s killer in Beverly Hills. Axel quickly learns that his wild style doesn’t fit in with the Beverly Hills Police Department.” This is a classic and always worthy of a rewatch.

Sunday, August 22

The Walking Dead: Season 11 (9 p.m. / AMC)

Our heroes set off to confront the Reapers, while Eugene’s group assimilates to the Commonwealth.

Sammy Suggestion: Chapelwaite: Season 1 (10 p.m. / Epix)

Captain Charles Boone , who relocates his family of three children to his ancestral home in the small, seemingly sleepy town of Preacher’s Corners, Maine after his wife dies at sea.

Chapelwaite is a horror television series based on the short story Jerusalem’s Lot by Stephen King. (I never liked Jerusalem’s Lot, a short story first published in King’s 1978 collection Night Shift so hopefully this is better than King’s work.) Following his wife’s tragic death at sea, Captain Charles Boone (Adrien Brody) and his children return to the small town of Preacher’s Corners, Maine, where a dark family history haunts them until confronted. This is the first TV/movie adaptation ever of this short story; a rarity for King. Chapelwaite premieres tonight on Epix in the United States and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada.


Sammy Younan is the affable host of My Summer Lair: think NPR’s Fresh Air meets Kevin Smith: interviews & impressions on Pop Culture.

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