The Challenge All-Stars Season 1
A Movie & TV Update

I haven’t shared what we’ve been watching lately, so this will be an all-streaming Friday Five. Below, I’ll discuss some movies and shows worth mentioning that we’ve watched over the past couple months.

1. The Challenge: All Stars: I’ve been working my way through MTV’s The Challenge for months (there are approximately 20 out of 37 season currently available to stream). Recently, John and I dove in to The Challenge spin-off All Stars, featuring Real World, Road Rules, and RW/RR Challenge participants from years past. Season one features more recent familiar faces as well as surprising but familiar faces. A few cast members hadn’t done a Challenge in literally almost two decades!

For people of a certain age, it’s very entertaining and inspiring to watch a cast of mostly 40-somethings, many of whom are now parents, navigate physical and mental struggles. Add a ’90s soundtrack underneath it all and you have nostalgic gold. And because it’s streaming on Paramount+, they don’t have to bleep any swearing. Fuck yeah. We’re now watching All Stars season two.

The Challenge All-Stars Season 1
Image Credit: Paramount+

2. Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings: I’m sad we didn’t see this Marvel movie in the theater, because I’m sure it would have been an even better experience. Though we watched at home via Disney+, it was still very enjoyable. Simu Liu was a great casting choice for the titular hero, and Awkwafina brought her welcome brand of humor to the character of Katy. The effects and cinematography were gorgeous, and the fight scenes were dope as hell (that’s official film critic speak). It’s wonderful to see characters of Asian descent finally taking center stage in major superhero movies like this. And, it did very well at the box office despite being released in theaters during a global pandemic.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Image Credit: Marvel

3. The Power of the Dog: I’m not too familiar with Jane Campion’s work, but her new Netflix release is a beautiful piece of cinema. Benedict Cumberbatch is phenomenal as Phil, a Yale-educated cowboy with a (somewhat understandable) mean streak. Kirsten Dunst’s performance as his sister-in-law spiraling in a boozy hole of despair is 100% award-worthy. Jesse Plemons did solid work as Phil’s brother George, but the one thing that bothered me about the film is that George disappeared for a chunk of time, seemingly with no explanation. The film’s ending is a bit open to interpretation, so it encourages discussion afterward. Highly recommend.

The Power of the Dog
Image Credit: Netflix

4. Don’t Look Up: on Christmas, we hit play on this Adam McKay-helmed Netflix satire, and it was a fun watch. The film does bang you over the head with its not-at-all-subtle message. But the star-studded cast (Jonah Hill, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, and more) made it super watchable. Jonah Hill in particular was a standout as a Donald Trump Jr.-slash-Gary from Veep type (see Presidential purse-holding below). Is the movie rage-inducing at times because it shines a light on our current day, real life Idiocracy? Yes. Will conservatives hate it? Very much so.

Don't Look Up
Image Credit: Netflix

5. Hawkeye: Bro! We binged Marvel’s most recent series this week and loved it. Hawkeye is the most approachable of the four Marvel series that have come to Disney+ over the last year, and I really don’t have anything bad to say about it. Jeremy Renner’s depth as an actor is on full display here, and Hailee Steinfeld is perfectly cast as wunderkind archer and all-around-badass Kate Bishop. There’s some inclusive representation in Maya, a Native American character who happens to be deaf and has a prosthetic lower leg (played by the appropriately cast Alaqua Cox, who killed it).

Due to the casting inclusivity, this is a rare action series featuring entire scenes in which characters read lips and communicate in sign language or via ASL interpretation. I also love that they filmed in landmark NYC locations (hello, Times Square and Rockefeller Center). There were many laugh-out-loud moments along with trick arrows, excellent surprise appearances, and Rogers: The Musical! I need this musical to be real. If you’re a Marvel fan and haven’t watched Hawkeye yet, what are you waiting for?


Image Credit: Marvel