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‘The Walking Dead’ Review: ‘Guardians’ Hits The Brakes on the Season 

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “The Walking Dead” Season 9 Episode 12, “Guardians.”]

This Week On “The Walking Dead”

After two relatively strong episodes, “Guardians” settles directly into the typical “Walking Dead” mid-season slowdown period, where the plot moves ever-so-slightly forward and some characters are given attempts at development. We spend a considerable amount of time with the Whisperers while learning virtually nothing new about them, but on the bright side Michonne finally realizes what a jerk she’s been and finally lightens up, probably just in time for something truly terrible to happen before the season finale to completely vindicate her previous stance.

Man Is The True Monster

We spend a good chunk of “Guardians” following the Whisperers as they lurch their way back to camp. Since the new group has mostly been defined by the mother-daughter relationship between Alpha and Lydia, the group could stand some more specifics about what sets them apart from previous “Walking Dead” villains beyond their affinity for cosplay, but if this hour is any indication their primary tenant is just by-the-numbers “only the strong survive” rhetoric.

Alpha gets challenged by some Whisperers who take umbrage with Alpha’s retrieval of Lydia – a direct violation of Alpha’s own rules to leave the weak behind. Alpha duly decapitates the woman and then stabs her boyfriend for crying about it, and it’s all stuff you’ve seen in a hundred movies to prove a villain’s bonafides. It’s also unfortunate that the Whisperers’ modus operandi reduces all their verbal sparring to hisses and murmurs that are more giggle-inducing than creepy. It’s still too early to declare the Whisperers a bust, but there’s not enough so far to inspire optimism.

Cassady McClincy as Lydia, Samantha Morton as Alpha - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 12 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

“The Walking Dead.”

Gene Page/AMC

A Shred of Humanity

Henry tracks the Whisperers but is immediately noticed and captured, because he’s Henry. Alpha’s prepared to make Lydia kill Henry to prove her loyalty, but fortunately, Daryl and Connie are able to pull off a last-minute rescue with an assist from a convenient herd of walkers. They wind up bringing Lydia along as they escape in the chaos, which is a nice gesture, but pretty up there on the “war provocation” scale. There’s no way something awful isn’t going to happen at the fair, right?

Speaking of which, Michonne spends the entire episode getting dressed down by everybody, starting with Gabriel and Siddiq, who correctly point out that the council has no real power since Michonne just vetoes anything she disagrees with. Michonne stomps off only to get owned by flipping Negan of all people, who offers to lend his dictatorship expertise in order to keep the Alexandrians under Michonne’s thumb. If that wasn’t enough of a red flag, Michonne finally gets a talking to from Judith, who argues that Negan has changed. When Michonne says that people don’t change, Judith retorts with a chilly, “You did.”

“The Walking Dead.”

Gene Page/AMC

After getting absolutely roasted, Michonne decides that if the council wants to have another vote about participating in the fair, she won’t stand in the way. Aaron thinks it could be a mistake, but Michonne finally believes that it’s the council’s right to accept the danger if they so choose. You see, Michonne is does believe in freedom deep down, unlike Alpha, who chooses everything for her people. This would all be well and good if the fair didn’t feel like the sword of Damocles. “The Walking Dead” has so conditioned us to expect the worst (especially when characters start displaying empathy), that it taints what should be a nice redemptive moment for Michonne. The most radical storytelling decision “The Walking Dead” could make is if everyone just goes to the fair and has a nice time without anyone being eviscerated.

The Remains

  • The less said about Father Gabriel’s subplot wrestling with whether or not to leave Rosita, the better. Eugene correctly points out that it’s really Rosita’s decision, and Gabriel shouldn’t be a doofus about it. In the end, he decides not to be a doofus. Good one, Gabe.
  • Lydia has no skinsuit and zombies will always notice she’s a human, so why does Alpha’s group still do the undead shuffle back to camp? If you run across real zombies you can always start acting, so why not traverse the wilderness as quickly as you can? Sure, they live their gimmick, but Alpha already broke the rules getting Lydia back; seems silly to risk her during the trip home.
  • Lydia doesn’t divulge the Kingdom’s existence to Alpha and really doesn’t want to kill Henry, so at least her conversion is genuine. Take the nice things when you can!
  • Placing Alexandria’s one prisoner right where he could eavesdrop on all their community meetings seems like a flaw in city planning.
  • Continuing last week’s trend of ominous lines: “I hope we don’t regret this.” Stop saying stuff like that!

Grade: C+

5 Best New Amazon Shows to Binge in March, and the Best Reasons to Watch 

1. “Catastrophe” Season 4 (available March 15)

Why Should I Watch? Like many half-hour “comedies” these days, “Catastrophe” will often go dark: Alcoholism and depression are treated with the same unflinching honesty as parenthood. But unlike those other quote-unquote comedies, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s Channel 4 original — about a one-night-stand that results in a baby, marriage, and moving abroad — doesn’t skimp on the laughs. The humor is fast and ferocious, and you’ll be howling with laughter way more often than you’re moaning in misery — often simultaneously.

Bonus Reason: The third season was the fourth best reviewed series of 2017, which not only puts “Catastrophe” in elite company, but indicates it’s only getting better as it goes. Season 4 is the last season, sadly, but all signs point to going out on top.

2. “Hanna” Season 1 (available March 29)

Hanna Amazon Prime Series, Season 1

Esme Creed-Miles in “Hanna”

Amazon

Why Should I Watch? Whether you like Joe Wright and Saoirse Ronan’s 2011 film of the same name or you’ve never heard of the “Atonement” duo’s (superior) follow-up, “Hanna” aims to please. Much of the first season’s initial story smartly expands the story — about a baby girl experimented on by the government, rescued, and then raised in the woods for 15 years — while not relying on any previous knowledge from the film. Perhaps the adaptation’s success is due to David Farr, who co-wrote the film and showruns the series. Maybe it’s Sarah Adina Smith’s sharp direction. Or it could also be a strong lead performance from Esme Creed-Miles. Whoever deserves the bulk of the credit, “Hanna” is a clever and absorbing action series.

Bonus Reason: Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, reunited at last. “The Killing” stars come together once more in “Hanna” (and thankfully not for another season of AMC’s drama of diminishing returns): She’s a government agent trying to retrieve the lost kid. He’s the rebellious ex-operative trying to protect her. Who wins? The game is afoot, and it sure is fun early on.

3. “The Practice” (available now)

The Practice Dylan McDermott

Dylan McDermott in “The Practice”

Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

Why Should I Watch? Back when procedurals were king, “The Practice” was among television’s elite series. It won Best Drama Series at the Emmys twice, three Golden Globes in 1999 alone, and raked in a PGA win, a Peabody, and much more over eight seasons. Focusing on Robert Donnell and Associates — though the firm went through many name changes over the years — Dylan McDermott plays Robert “Bobby” Donnell, an idealistic young attorney who starts up his own firm with big, positive plans in mind. Slowly, though, he realizes what pays the bills and how the legal profession and system runs aren’t always as simple as a fresh law grad may hope.

Bonus Reason: Really, it’s Dylan McDermott. After the unfortunate cancellation of “L.A. to Vegas,” the idea of watching McDermott in 168 episodes of anything sounds good. Bring on the binge.

4. “Boston Legal” (available now)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Abc-Tv/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5884972ah) James Spader, Monica Potter Boston Legal - 2004 ABC-TV USA Television

James Spader, Monica Potter in “Boston Legal”

Abc-Tv/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Why Should I Watch? A twofer! Right when “The Practice” ended, David E. Kelley found another hit legal drama with his spinoff series starring James Spader and WIlliam Shatner. In “Boston Legal,” Spader’s Alan Shore starts up his own firm (after popping in for the final season of “The Practice”) while Kelley starts infusing more humor into his procedural formula. “Boston Legal” helped illustrate Kelley’s interest in developing beyond one format and trying out new styles of writing. Later, he would succeed, but right now, this is an ideal digestif for once you’ve finished “The Practice.”

Bonus Reason: This was arguably David E. Kelley’s last hit procedural before he (successfully) transitioned over to prestige serialized fare like “Goliath,” “Mr. Mercedes,” and “Big Little Lies.” Go back, dig in, and see what elements from Kelley’s old network days made the transition over to streaming.

…and if you have Amazon Channels

5. “Veep” Season 7 (HBO)

Veep Season 7 Kevin Dunn

Kevin Dunn in “Veep”

Colleen Hayes/HBO

Why Should I Watch? “Veep” is ending. Long live “Veep.” The Julia Louis-Dreyfus-led HBO comedy is among the best ever made, and its final season (beginning March 31) doesn’t look to disappoint. The persistent-to-the-point-of-insanity Selina Meyer (Louis-Dreyfus) is running for higher office yet again, after losing an election or two and being kicked out of office in favor of another female president. Tune in to watch the curses fly, the insults cut, and the bone-deep political satire take its last shots at a failing American institution.

Bonus Reason: Kevin Dunn. The man behind Ben Cafferty will never win any Emmys for his work on “Veep”; his work is too low-key, settled in, and nuanced to be appreciated by a massive voting body like the TV Academy. But that’s also exactly what makes it great. All those adjectives also describe Dunn’s character. Ben doesn’t often get worked up. He’s accustomed to his lot in life, even if he’s not exactly happy with it, and what he brings to the table is invaluable yet not immediately obvious. He’s a good analyst, gives great advice, and truly understands Selina. Of course, that’s also what’s slowly killing him (along with those Big Gulp-sized coffees), but Dunn makes every moment of Ben’s journey through the D.C. political landscape hysterical. We’re already looking forward to him coming back, one more time.

The Rest of Incoming TV

“Little House on the Prairie” Seasons 1 – 9 (available now)
“The Unit” Seasons 1 – 4 (available now)
“The Widow” Season 1 (available now)
“Costume Queen” Season 1 (available on March 8)
“Made in Heaven” Season 1 (available on March 8)
“Tin Star” Season 2 (available on March 8
“The Royals” Seasons 1 – 4 (available on March 11)
“The Stinky & Dirty Show” (available on March 22)

Documentary Filmmaker Andrew Berends, Cameraman on ‘Free Solo,’ Dies 

Andrew Berends, the director of five documentary films and most recently a cameraman on the Oscar-winning “Free Solo,” has died.

Berends spent his career making films that illuminated underreported aspects of various international conflicts, particularly in Africa. His 2012 film “Delta Boys” covered an evolving battle over the oil-rich regions of Nigeria. In 2015, his film “Madina’s Dream” highlighted the story of a young girl caught in the ongoing aftermath of the Sudanese civil war.

Prior to the premiere of “Madina’s Dream” at the SXSW Film Festival, Berends wrote to IndieWire: “I want the SXSW audience to be saddened and outraged by what’s happening in the Nuba Mountains. I want people to be uplifted by the magic of the region, and the spirit and beauty of girls like Madina. I want them to leave the theater with the awareness that the war is continuing with children under threat at this very moment.”

“Free Solo” director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi shared a remembrance of Berends with IndieWire:

We have lost a wonderful friend and important filmmaker – Andrew Berends. I first met Andy in 2006 when I saw his film “Blood of my Brother.” I was taken by his poignant and human images and asked our mutual friend Gwyn Welles to introduce us. We found that we had a lot in common including our passion for Africa. Andy and I went on to make 2 films together, “Incorruptible” and “Little Troopers.” We also collaborated on many other projects. We traveled throughout West Africa, Europe, Kosovo, the US and most recently he filmed with jimmy and my team on Free Solo. Andy’s intelligence, sensitivity, loyalty, strength, perfectionism and fierce sense of justice made him an excellent filmmaker and a trusted friend. Andy the images you captured and the stories you told are beautiful and critical and they will live on. Thank you for being my friend and collaborator all these years. I will miss your goofy sense of humor, your infectious hope, your [gravelly] voice, your sensitivity, your great notes giving, your creativity, your biking outfits, your unique morning routines, your fraught but hilarious relationship stories, your unbridled passion, your exacting perfectionism, your love and your friendship. You protected me when things got tough in the field. Your work was so good. You accepted me and other friends warts and all — yet always demanded that we rise to our best selves. You required the same of yourself and that’s why you were such a good filmmaker and such a complex friend. You touched so many lives. I know the pain you felt was profound, real and relentless. I know you suffered. I can only hope you have finally found some peace and justice as you so deserve it. I’m sorry it was this way. Our community lost an amazing person. I will always love and remember you Andy. I encourage everyone to watch Andy’s remarkable films. “Urk” (2003), “The Blood of My Brother” (2005), “Delta Boys” (2012), and “Madina’s Dream” (2015).

A tribute website, with more information on Berends’ films and public memorials, has been set up here.

‘Patriot Act’: Hasan Minhaj Looks at Civil Rights Rollbacks During the Current Administration 

One of the pitfalls of having a current administration riddled with chaos and turnover is that it seems counterproductive to talk about people who aren’t in public office anymore. Still, that didn’t stop Hasan Minhaj and “Patriot Act” from taking a look at some of the long-reaching ramifications of multiple departments’ rollbacks of federal protections over the past few years.

Oversimplified Harry Potter analogies aside, this is an efficient overview of how actions taken under the departmental leadership of Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, and the now-jobless Jeff Sessions have had significant effects on the status of civil rights for minorities and the LGBTQ community in states across the country. It’s enough to get Minhaj to tell the studio audience at one point, “This is not funny.”

Offering a useful overview of terms like consent decrees, this “Patriot Act” installment also addresses ongoing issues related to housing discrimination and investigations of school safety that somehow avoid researching gun control. And, as tends to happen with shows like this, there’s even a Person You Probably Weren’t Aware of Before This segment. This time it’s Roger Severino, Director of the Office for Civil Rights at Health and Human Services. Minhaj has some thoughts on him that we’ll let him elaborate on.

The fact that this show can switch between discussions of systemic changes at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the greater implications of streetwear brand decisions (like it did a few months ago) makes this one of the more versatile, valuable series in late night.

As usual, the show’s segments are available on YouTube the day of a new installment, so watch the full overview (including an unexpected James Harden joke) below:

“Patriot Act” releases new episodes every Sunday on Netflix.

John Candy: Watch This Tribute to the Actor 25 Years After His Passing 

It’s hard to overstate how big an impact John Candy had on the world of comedy during his time as one of the genre’s biggest movie stars. The actor tragically died at the age of 43 in 1994 after a fatal heart attack, but not before leaving behind an impressive body of work that helped shape some of the most enduring comedies of the 1980s and ’90s.

Monday marks the 25th anniversary of his passing, and as a tribute to Candy’s achievements, fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds shared a collection of some of the actor’s most memorable roles. The video runs through his work on films like the 1987 John Hughes classic “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” in which he co-starred alongside Steve Martin. Candy and Hughes would go on to work together again two years later in the fan-favorite “Uncle Buck.”

Aside from Candy’s ability to deliver an iconic line (the “I like me” monologue from “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” gets prominent placement here), he could also elevate some of the best sight gags anywhere. This tribute features not only Candy’s racquetball scene from “Splash,” but the exercise bike sequence from “Who’s Harry Crumb?”

Candy also became a recurring figure in the sports movie realm, playing Irv the manager in the 1993 bobsled classic “Cool Runnings.” He also appeared in the 1985 version of “Brewster’s Millions,” alongside Richard Pryor.  (It’s not featured in this video, but apparently the actor’s mere presence in a Miami stadium helped calm down the San Francisco 49ers enough for them to win Super Bowl XXIII.)

From “Spaceballs” to “Stripes,” it’s a reminder of how many enduring hits from his era owe a big chunk of their success to his contributions.

Watch the full remembrance (with, of course, a snippet of the “You’re going the wrong way” scene from “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”) below:

‘How to Train Your Dragon’ On Top Again as Annual Box Office Down 25 Percent 

This weekend was a first for 2019: Two films grossed over $25 million, led by the second weekend of “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” and a better-than-expected opening for “A Madea Family Funeral.” That’s great news ahead of next weekend, when Disney’s “Captain America” is expected to open over $100 million. Still, with “Black Panther” performance in the a comp, year-over-year performance remains at a staggering 25 percent down.

Astrid (America Ferrera) and Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) in DreamWorks Animation’s How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, directed by Dean DeBlois.

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”

© 2019 DreamWorks Animation LLC

“Dragon,” which surprised with its series-best domestic opening, fell 45 percent its second weekend, just about even with the previous release. It is at $375 million worldwide, with most countries now open. The DreamWorks Animation series is on its third distributor (now at Universal, previously Paramount and 20th Century Fox), so anything close to the previous success is particularly gratifying for the studio.

It’s the best second-weekend result this year, and the best second weekend for an animated release since “The Grinch” — and that’s with “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse,” and “The LEGO Movie 2” opening since. That’s particularly promising, since March means spring vacations and elevated weekdays staggered through the month. This boosts the film’s chances of hitting $200 million.

A Madea family Funeral

“A Madea Family Funeral”

Lionsgate

Marketing for the latest Tyler Perry film suggest it represents the end of the very-successful Madea series, a strategy that likely helped it hit $27 million; pre-opening estimates figured closer to $20 million. As the ninth entry in a franchise that started in 2005, it is an impressive performance and a third better than “Boo! 2” last Halloween. The series’ demise is likely well timed; overall, it is only seventh-best among series entries.

Greta

TIFF

“Greta,” the other wide opener, fell short of its limited goals. Veteran director Neil Jordan’s first film in over six years, and his first wide release since “The Brave One” in 2007, featured two acclaimed actresses in Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Grace Moretz in a thriller about a widow who increasingly becomes a threat to her new friend.

Its Toronto premiere saw initial indications of mixed reviews; that was borne out with a 53 Metacritic score. With a reported $4 million acquisition before marketing, a lower-end gross was expected. However, a per-theater average of under $2,000 — less than 20 percent of “Madea,” which played in about the same number of theaters — is a disappointment. (Most studios want to avoid weeks when a monster opener like “Captain Marvel” lurks ahead.) Still, it is a fun notion to see the iconic Huppert as co-lead in a wide release film. The last time that happened was 32 years ago in Curtis Hanson’s “The Bedroom Window,” to more successful results.

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley in

Green Book

Universal Pictures

The big holdover story comes in the post-Oscar response to Best Picture winner “Green Book.” Unlike most recent winners, it has yet to appear other than a premium price in home availability; it rose to fifth place, more than doubling its gross from last week while also nearly doubling its theaters. Its $4.7 million gross is triple what “The Shape of Water” managed last year after winning, and the best post-awards boost since “The King’s Speech” eight years ago.

The film will still fall short of $100 million, though it’s reached the highest number for a Best Picture winner since “Argo.” However, it will end up with the lowest total of any recipient from a major studio. When films like “Argo,” “The Departed,” “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “A Beautiful Mind, “Titanic,” and other studio films win, they gross (adjusted) far above $100 million.

“Green Book,” which now is turning into a surprise international success, ended up playing more like a high-end film from Weinstein, Focus, or Fox Searchlight.

“The LEGO Movie: The Second Act” held best otherwise with a 32 percent drop, despite competition from a new animated release. Also of note: In its second weekend of wide release, wrestling comedy/drama “Fighting With My Family” had a 40 percent drop. That’s normally positive for most second weekends, but this started off somewhat lower than hoped.

The Top 10

1. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Universal) –  Week 2; Last weekend #1

$30,046,000 (-%) in 4,286 theaters (+27); PTA (per theater average): $7,010,000; Cumulative: $97,696,000

2. A Madea Family Funeral (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 41; Est. budget: $20 million

$27,050,000 in 2,442 theaters; PTA: $11,077; Cumulative: $27,050,000

3. Alita: Battle Angel (20th Century Fox) –  Week 3; Last weekend #2

$7,000,000 (-43%) in 3,096 theaters (-76); PTA: $3,096; Cumulative: $72,231,000

4. The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Act (Warner Bros.) –  Week 4; Last weekend #3

$6,615,000 (-32%) in 3,458 theaters (-375); PTA: $1,913; Cumulative: $91,670,000

5. Green Book (Universal) –  Week 16; Last weekend #

$4,711,000 (+121%) in 2,641 theaters (+1,388); PTA: $1,784; Cumulative: $75,921,000

6. Fighting With My Family (MGM) –  Week 3; Last weekend #4

$4,691,000 (-40%) in 2,855 theaters (+144); PTA: $1,643; Cumulative: $14,946,000

7. Isn’t It Romantic? (Warner Bros.) –  Week 3; Last weekend #5

$4,645,000 (-35%) in 3,325 theaters (-119); PTA: $1,397; Cumulative: $40,2

8. Greta (Focus) NEW – Cinemascore: (not yet reported); Metacritic: 53; Est. budget: $4 million (acquisition cost)

$4,585,000 in 2,411 theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $4,585,000

9. What Men Want (Paramount) –  Week 4; Last weekend #6

$2,700,000 (-49%) in 2,018 theaters (-371); PTA: $2,018; Cumulative: $49,641,000

10. Happy Death Day 2 U (Universal) –  Week 3; Last weekend #7

$2,516,000 (-48%) in 2,331 theaters (-881); PTA: $1,079; Cumulative: $25,283,000

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Solange Releases Visual Companion for Latest Album, Featuring Contribution From Terence Nance 

It’s early March, but Solange’s “When I Get Home” may end up as one of the most talked-about musical experiences of the year. After a surprise album drop on Friday, the full experience continued in different venues over the course of the weekend.

Part of that is a new half-hour film designed to accompany “When I Get Home” and pay tribute to the musician’s home state of Texas. The video spans multiple different storytelling formats, going from computer animation to selfie videos to slow-motion outdoor dance sequences. The experimental visual companion piece runs just shy of the album’s 39-minute runtime.

The video is ambitious in its scope, stretching from neighborhood scenes to visions of the future with abstract technology-based costumes. One striking centerpiece features an outdoor stadium setup with rodeo bulls, horse-riding tricks, and individuals dressed in black moving in unison around the center of empty seats.

Read More: Solange Saves the Day: Indie Filmmakers Break Down Their Approaches to Engaging Audiences in Unexpected Places

Solange directed this additional component of “When I Get Home,” with multiple outlets listing Terence Nance as offering assistance to the project. Nance and Solange previously collaborated on last year’s HBO series “Random Acts of Flyness,” which ran for a half-dozen episodes late last summer. Currently, Nance is prepping “Space Jam 2,” set to film in the upcoming offseason and star NBA multihyphenate LeBron James.

As part of the rollout for both the new album and this visual component, Solange will stream a discussion about “When I Get Home,” beginning at 7:45 p.m. ET on Sunday night. The album “When I Get Home” is now available to stream via multiple music services, while the video can be watched on Apple Music.

In a clip posted online, Solange referred to the project as “a Texas film.” Watch a few “When I Get Home” excerpts below:

 

‘To Have and Have Not’: Kate McKinnon Puts a Literal Spin on Iconic ‘Whistle’ Scene 

Sometimes “Saturday Night Live” works best when sketches get out of their own way and let insanely gifted comedians do what they do best. And sometimes that means letting Kate McKinnon contort herself in the more bizarre, entertaining ways possible. Turns out, the only to make that better is to pair those antics with a little bit of cinema history.

The 1944 Howard Hawks film “To Have and Have Not” is an undeniable classic for any number of reasons: Lauren Bacall’s debut screen performance, a screenplay based on an Ernest Hemingway novel punched up by William Faulkner himself. But that immortal “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve?” line lives on for plenty of people not also named Steve.

If all this sketch had was McKinnon following through on that literal whistling technique, that would be enough. The second version of the joke is almost better than the first one. (It’s telling that her scene partner John Mulaney doesn’t even bother with trying to pull off a Humphrey Bogart accent. Just get out of the way and let the magic happen.) Toss in the black-and-white photography — always an “SNL” treat, whether it’s in Vincent Price sketches or other period-appropriate throwbacks — and you have one of the best parts of this week’s episode.

One other thing about this worth pointing out is that this is Exhibit No. 15,983 of how Kenan Thompson can elevate any sketch he’s in, no matter how thankless. In lesser hands, that intro might seem slapped on or drawn out. But just listen to the barely restrained glee he has pronouncing his own character name. The guy’s a total pro and he should definitely get an Emmy one of these years.

Watch the full clip below:

‘Apollo 11’ Soars in IMAX, ‘Climax’ and ‘Transit’ Sustain Foreign-Language Trend 

As a handful of Oscar-winners rode a post-Oscar burst, a surge of new movies added vitality to the specialty market, filling the box-office void as award players ebb away.

Best among these was “Apollo 11” (Neon), CNN’s Sundance documentary premiere that brings back the 1969 moon landing with innovative reformatting of 50-year-old NASA archive footage and spectacular presentation. Its IMAX break delivered solid results ahead of its further expansion.

Climax” (A24) and “Transit” (Music Box), two subtitled films from established European directors, both showed strong initial limited results. The foreign-language rebound sparked by “Roma,” “Cold War,” and “Shoplifters” is crossing over to non-awards titles as well. This combined with the enhanced interest in documentaries marks a major rebound for the struggling specialized world.

Opening

Apollo 11 (Neon) – Metacritic: 92; Festivals include: Sundance 2019

$1,650,000 in 120 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $13,750

Underscoring the golden age of documentary quality and box office appeal, another compelling non-fiction feature has opened to great reviews and initial success. Reversing the trend of a fiction film following a successful documentary, this CNN Film presentation retells the events of the recent “First Man,” making the results even more impressive. Opening in all IMAX theaters boosted the gross (higher ticket prices), but impressively this also topped the results from “Free Solo” did the same thing at the height of its successful Oscar campaign.

While most of those screens move to “Captain Marvel” next week, “Apollo 11” marks a successful launch for this mixture of familiar and new footage from the first moon landing.

What comes next: This expands wider nationally on Friday.

“Climax”

Wild Bunch

Climax (A24) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2018

$121,655 in 5 theaters; PTA: $24,331  (U.S. only)

Taboo-busting French director Gaspar Noe’s “Irreversible” and “Enter the Void” both drew stateside interest. His latest bravura effort, with his usual distinctive visual inventiveness, is his biggest opener yet. A rare subtitled film from A24, the younger appeal of this recounting of a hallucinatory party with a sexy group of aspiring dancers rode favorable reviews to strong initial reaction. The numbers are more impressive as San Francisco and Austin joined the usual bookings in New York and Los Angeles.

What comes next: Initial expansion comes this week with wider quickly to follow.

Transit (Music Box) – Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: Berlin, Toronto, New York 2018

$35,368 in 2 theaters; PTA: $17,684

In a crowded week for new films, German auteur Christian Petzold’s newest film rode strong reviews to open even better than his last two films, “Barbara” and “Phoenix,” which grossed an impressive $3 million. Set during World War II, a refugee in France finds that their assumed identity leads to unforeseen complications. This looks to be yet another potential winner among multiple recent subtitled successes. (It won’t be next year’s Oscar contender, as Germany chose “Never Look Away” instead.)

What comes next: Los Angeles and Washington begin the expansion this Friday.

Giant Little Ones (Vertical) – Metacritic: 71; Festivals include: Toronto 2018

$13,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $13,500

This Canadian independent film about popular high school teens whose lives are changed by an encounter at a party.  This opened exclusively in Manhattan at the Angelika, and found an unexpected strong initial gross.

What comes next: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington begin the expansion this week.

The Wedding Guest (IFC) – Metacritic: 59; Festivals include: Toronto 2018

$20,156 in 4 theaters; PTA: $5,039

From veteran director Michael Winterbottom, this thriller (though it sounds like a comedy) stars Dev Patel as a man who travels to his native Pakistan to interfere with an arranged marriage in an outlying city. With mixed reviews, the opening in New York and Los Angeles suffered against so many strongly reviewed titles.

What comes next: This will expand nationally starting this week.

“Woman at War”

Woman at War (Magnolia) – Metacritic: 83; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto 2018

$(est.) 19,000 in 5 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,800

Opening in five New York/Los Angeles theaters, this Icelandic film about an eco-terrorist takes an unusually comic tone as it tackles serious issues. Backed by some of the best reviews this year so far, it had a mixed initial result in appropriate theaters in its initial markets.

What comes next: Strong word of mouth should help this expand in prime specialized theaters over the coming weeks.

Furie (Well Go USA)

$145,400 in 14 theaters; PTA: $10,386

Vietnam joins other Asian countries as a source for genre films released to select American theaters. This thriller about a mother searching for her daughter kidnapped by traffickers opened in Southern California and Houston opened to strong initial results.

What comes next: These numbers should get it additional dates in select locations.

Saint Judy (Blue Fox) – Metacritic: 48; Festivals include: Los Angeles 2018

$41,234 in 55 theaters; PTA: $750

The subject of this documentary is an attorney who crusaded to help immigrant women fighting for asylum to escape abuse. It opened unusually wide for this kind of film, with minor results.

What comes next: This is set for further expansion this Friday.

“The Iron Orchard”

Week Two

The Iron Orchard (Santa Rita)

$65,450 in 42 theaters (+34); PTA: $1,558; Cumulative: $121,140

This independent period drama set in a Texas-oil field added New York and Los Angeles limited runs to its home state expansion with modest results.

Wrestle (Oscilloscope)

$4,200 in 2 theaters (+1); PTA: $2,100; Cumulative: $12,503

Los Angeles opened this well-reviewed documentary which, similar to “Hoop Dreams,” recounts how high school athletics works to transform the lives of students,

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

Green Book (Universal) Week 16

$4,710,000 in 2,641 theaters (+1,388); Cumulative: $75,920,000

Peter Farrelly’s Best Picture-winner doubled its theater count while keeping its gross nearly the same after its big Oscar win. This gross is more than triple last year’s winner “The Shape of Water” on the same weekend, which at that point was still playing on a third as many screens and had more extensive at home viewing opportunities.

Fighting With My Family (MGM) Week 3

$4,691,000 in 2,855 theaters (+144); Cumulative: $14,946,000

In its second wide week (after an initial limited opening), this recounting of WWE star Paige and her early days as a wrestler dropped 40 percent. This Dwayne Johnson-supported project could still easily pass $20 million.

Olivia Colman,

“The Favourite”

Fox Searchlight

The Favourite (Fox Searchlight) Week 15; also on Video on Demand

$825,000 in 742 theaters (+454); Cumulative: $33,217,000

Olivia Colman’s Best Actress win made all the difference in bringing Yorgos Lanthimos’ film back to many theaters and adding to the strong total this contender already had amassed.

Everybody Knows (Focus) Week 4

$481,000 in 209 theaters (+138); Cumulative: $1,277,000

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s star-driven subtitled film starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz continues to show decent results amid other recent foreign language successes as it expands more broadly.

Arctic (Bleecker Street) Week 5

$362,124 in 268 theaters (+11); Cumulative: $1,627,000

This adventure in the polar regions tale fell from its peak gross last week, when it expanded to close to its widest level.

Free Solo (Greenwich) Week 23; also on Video on Demand

$364,100 in 238 theaters (+148); Cumulative: $16,948,000

Its Oscar win prompted a new boost to its theater count, as this sheer rock climbing feat recounting approaches $17 million.

They Shall Not Grow Old (Warner Bros.) Week 7

$340,000 in 368 theaters (-70); Cumulative: $16,986,000

Tied with “Free Solo” among recent hit documentaries, Peter Jackson’s World War I footage documentary has actually outgrossed his recent high-budget production of “Mortal Engines” in domestic returns.

“Cold War”

Cold War (Amazon) Week 11

$143,616 in 128 theaters (-131); Cumulative: $4,368,000

Depending on what the still unconfirmed actual figures of “Roma” turn out to be, “Cold War” looks to be the highest-grossing arthouse subtitled release in several years.

If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna) Week 12

$137,546 in 126 theaters (-1); Cumulative: $14,644,000

What is a major Oscar worth? Post Regina King’s expected Supporting Actress win, the film dropped around 40 percent from last weekend.

Never Look Away (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 7

$136,474 in 122 theaters (+42); Cumulative: $671,886

The last of the Foreign Language nominees to be released, the three-hour German entry was the least-played of the group and now will continue its run to new theaters. The results remain modest.

2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films (ShortsTV/Magnolia) Week 4; also on Video on Demand

$(est.) 80,000 in 79 theaters (-336); Cumulative: $(est.) 3,406,000

Continuing its run after the awards, this annual compilation of shorts has once again hit a record level this year.

Roma (Netflix) Week 15; also streaming

$(est.) 75,000 in 65 theaters (-20); Cumulative: $(est.) 3,975,000

Still selling out some shows in key city theaters, Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar winning film looks to end up by our estimate somewhere over $4 million in theaters in its four months of non-stop play.

Capernaum (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 12

$72,087 in 58 theaters (-57); Cumulative: $1,370,000

After its Oscar competition, this Lebanese film looks to be settling into the end of its decent run.

Birds of Passage (The Orchard) Week 3

$64,652 in 31 theaters (+21); Cumulative: $165,837

The well-reviewed Columbia drama about the impact of drug wars on an indigenous community is gaining enough traction to earn ongoing art house presence.

On the Basis of Sex (Focus) Week 10

$61,000 in 96 theaters (-33); Cumulative: $24,587,000

The impressive non-awards impacted performance of this recounting of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s younger days will end up at around $25 million.

Stan and Ollie (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 10

$52,926 in 71 theaters (-51); Cumulative: $5,076,000

The late stages of this biopic of a comeback attempt by the great Laurel and Hardy has reached $5 million.

Also noted:

The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) – $36,942 in 58 theaters; Cumulative: $9,524,000; also on Video on Demand

To Dust (Good Deed) – 23,872 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $100,221

Lords of Chaos (Gunpowder & Sky) – $18,668 in 28 theaters; Cumulative: $218,415

CatVideoFest (Oscilloscope) – $18,500 in 3 theaters; Cumulative: $57,733

Ruben Brandt Collector (Sony Pictures Classics) – $12,577 in 15 theaters; Cumulative: $34,314

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Ian McKellen Delivers Extensive Apology for Spacey and Singer Comments 

Ian McKellen faced public scrutiny late last week after comments he made on the #QueerAF podcast, in which he claimed that alleged crimes perpetrated by actor Kevin Spacey and director Bryan Singer were the result of them having to live life as closeted gay men.

Given McKellen’s history of working with both Spacey and Singer and his joke that “I’m waiting for someone to accuse me of something,” the Oscar-nominated actor was criticized in multiple online venues, prompting a response from the man himself.

In a statement posted to social media this weekend, McKellen retracted those comments and apologized for what he said was a remark that was “clumsily expressed.” “I deeply regret my careless remarks and apologise unreservedly for any distress I caused,” McKellen wrote.

McKellen closed his post by stating, “When it comes to abuse by people in positions of power, the correct response is clear. The accusers must be heard and the accused given the opportunity to clear their names. If the accusations prove credible, the abuser’s access to power should be removed.”

Read More:  Ian McKellen Wants to Play Gandalf on Amazon’s TV Series: ‘He’s Over 7000 Years Old, So I’m Not Too Old’

For a recent appearance in which McKellen speaks extensively about his own experiences dealing with being a young actor being forced to deny his own sexuality (and did not make a statement necessary of retraction), listen to his episode of “David Tennant Does a Podcast With…” from last month. The two actors also talk about the process of handling criticism and the loss of privacy that comes with particularly high-profile acting roles.

McKellen’s next film role is slated for this fall, when he’ll reteam with frequent collaborator Bill Condon for the film “The Good Liar,” in which he’ll play a con artist. The director/actor pairing previously worked together on “Gods and Monsters” and “Mr. Holmes.”