A pandemic sweeps the world. Locusts swarm in record numbers. Widespread civil unrest is in the streets. It’s starting to feel awfully apocalyptic out there, in the kind of noisy convergence of plotlines that any halfway-decent producer would reject. So perhaps you can’t blame Ted Cruz for looking vainly for a big, climactic battle scene to make sense of it all. As Cruz will proclaim until people find him vaguely human, the Texas senator really loves movies. So what better way to bring this over-the-top disaster epic to a head than a knock-down, drag-out fight with Hellboy himself, actor Ron Perlman? After all, whaling on a giant, liberal demon is way easier than seriously considering the myriad systemic failures that led us here.

Not that Cruz himself would be doing the whaling, you understand. Again, Cruz loves to watch—and in this case, he’s volunteered Ohio congressman Jim Jordan to step into the ring with Perlman while Cruz remains in his cushy seat, escalating a fight that had nothing to do with him. It all started as a Twitter beef between Perlman and Florida representative Matt Gaetz, after the latter declared that he would draft legislation forcing all U.S. soccer team members to stand for the National Anthem. Jordan got roped into the fray when Perlman took a swipe at Gaetz’s and Jordan’s looks. This is when Cruz—who never misses the chance to talk to the Hollywood elites he so despises—flounced into the fray, mocking Perlman for his phony tough-guy bluster by calling on another man to go and fight him.

“Listen Hellboy,” Cruz tweeted. “You talk good game when you’ve got Hollywood makeup & stuntmen. But I’ll bet $10k—to the nonpolitical charity of your choice—that you couldn’t last 5 min in the wrestling ring w/ @Jim_Jordan w/o getting pinned. You up for it? Or does your publicist say too risky?” 

Of course, as Perlman was quick to point out, wrestling is a bit of a sore subject when it comes to Jordan, whose athletic career is largely distinguished by the multiple allegations of sexual abuse he’s been accused of covering up while working as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State. Instead, Perlman suggested that they leave Jordan out of it and square off themselves, with Perlman offering to donate $50,000 to Black Lives Matter if Cruz agreed to face him. It was an honorable challenge, which Cruz weaseled out of handily: “I get it, you’re rich. But, apparently, soft,” Cruz replied. “You sure seem scared to wrestle Jordan (whom you keep insulting). Can’t take the heat? Need to get a manicure?”

Although Perlman continued to taunt Cruz for trying to “have another guy, probably asleep at the time, kick another guy’s ass”—even suggesting Cruz bring in Mitch McConnell as a tag-team partner if he has to—the senator seems to have moved on to targets that are a little more his speed, like Sesame Street. 

Elijah Wood Joins Ted Bundy Movie From Austin Screenwriter

Speaking of Teds, the exploits of notorious murderer Ted Bundy have inspired yet another retelling in No Man of God, a new thriller from Austin screenwriter C. Robert Cargill (Sinister, Doctor Strange). According to Deadline, Cargill’s fellow Austinite Elijah Wood will star in the film. It’s based on real-life transcripts from conversations between Bundy and FBI analyst Bill Hagmaier, who will be played by Wood. The film, which is being shopped at next week’s “virtual Cannes” festival, is still looking for someone to play Bundy, a role that’s been taken on multiple times over the years—most recently by Zac Efron in 2019’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. But No Man of God will attempt to find a fresh angle on this well-trod source material by focusing on Bundy’s later years spent on death row, where Bundy and Hagmaier developed an unusual and obviously complicated bond. To put it in Lord of the Rings terms, it’s kind of like the Ted Bundy version of The Silmarillion: a less compelling, probably unnecessary addendum that seems intended for completists only—but hey, at least Frodo’s in this one. 

Cinemark Begins Reopening Theaters, Offers Video Preview of Their Unnerving Future

Whether No Man of God will follow so many other Ted Bundy films straight to video is no longer just a question of its getting picked up by distributors at Cannes. As we’ve been witnessing ever since COVID-19 first set in, the ongoing pandemic has cast serious doubt on the entire future of movie theaters, the majority of which have been shuttered for these past several months. But this week, the Plano-based Cinemark chain is leading the charge to reopen, beginning a phased rollout on Friday, June 19, that will launch in Texas before moving on to more than three hundred of its theaters nationwide by mid-July. And this week, Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi appeared in a video that introduced some of the new safety protocols to be introduced at that reopening, demonstrating what moviegoing will look like for at least the foreseeable future.

As Zoradi explains, it will be a “shared, immersive experience” where groups will nevertheless be spaced at least two seats apart by an online reservation system, showtimes will be staggered to avoid crowding in halls and bathrooms, and masked and gloved employees will frequently spray down every surface, all under the direction of a newly installed “chief clean and safety monitor.” Meanwhile, although those employees will still be able to help you from behind sheets of plexiglass, all drink and popcorn refills, bulk candy stations, and other self-serve concessions have been suspended. Zoradi also says guests are “welcomed”—but not required—to wear face masks of their own. 

The whole uneasy “celebration” kicks off with $5 screenings of “Comeback Classics” like Ghostbusters, The Goonies, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Wonder Woman, while the chain awaits the return of new films delayed by the shutdown. To Cinemark’s credit, the chain is clearly doing everything it can to make returning to theaters as safe as possible, at a time when the entire business’s fate hangs in the balance. But man oh man, will it ever be a challenge to “immerse” yourself in blockbuster spectacle amid such dystopian surroundings. 

Selena Gomez–Produced Rom-Com to Help Reopen Theaters

Cinemark and other theater chains had originally pegged their reopening to July 17 and the debut of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, widely viewed as the one tentpole that’s still standing in a washout summer movie season. But then last week, Warner Bros. pushed Tenet’s premiere to July 31, meaning the first new films to welcome moviegoers to this new reality will instead be the Russell Crowe road-rage thriller Unhinged, debuting on July 10, followed by the Selena Gomez–produced romantic comedy The Broken Hearts Gallery on July 17. And if it seems like a lot to pin the survival hopes of movie theaters on the low-key story of a young art-gallery assistant who turns all the souvenirs of her failed relationships into a pop-up museum, Deadline reports that Sony sees supporting an indie comedy from first-time filmmaker Natalie Krinsky as a show of commitment to “counterprogramming”—even when there’s not much programming to counter. The Texas singer backed this notion in a statement: “Hearing from more female writers and directors is very much needed,” Gomez said. “Natalie is a wonderful talent, and I am happy to be a part of her debut film.” Besides, while the allure of a bug-eyed, screaming Russell Crowe may not be enough to get anyone to risk their well-being right now, you definitely shouldn’t discount the dedication of Gomez’s fans.

Shout Factory Bets on TV Revival of Kenny Rogers’s The Gambler

In the meantime, of course, your safest entertainment bet remains your television, where the demand for new content is still insatiable. Into that bottomless pot, Shout! Factory has now anted up a TV series adaptation of The Gambler, the classic story-song from the late Houston singer Kenny Rogers that spawned five TV movies, one of the eeriest segments in Muppet Show history, and countless drunken singalongs. Rogers himself played Wild West cardplayer Brady Hawkes in a series of charmingly ramshackle films that found him riding the rails, tangling with famous cowboys and outlaws, and romancing lady bounty hunters all across America, with the fifth and final one airing in 1994. And while the movies were fairly popular in their day, there’s no doubt that they also traded heavily on the likability of Rogers himself—which makes the prospect of a Rogers-less “reboot” seem like a … what’s the word for when you take a risky action, hoping for unlikely payoff? 

Padma Lakshmi’s New Food Series Kicks Off in El Paso

You’ll definitely never go broke betting on the continued popularity of tacos, which is why Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi has wisely made learning about tacos—when to hold them, when to fold them, etc.—the maiden topic of her new Hulu series. Lakshmi’s Taste the Nation kicked off its streaming run on June 18 with a visit to El Paso’s own Elemi (whose pato al pastor earned high marks from Texas Monthly taco editor José R. Ralat). The episode also features an appearance from chef Rico Torres of San Antonio’s Mixtli, an El Paso native who was reportedly mentioned with such reverence by local chefs that the show invited him home to participate. 

Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, and Beyoncé Dominate the (Virtual) BET Awards

Even with much of the entertainment world shut down, there’s simply no stopping awards season. While we wait to see how shows like the recently confirmed Emmys plan to move forward in a world of social distancing and COVID-19 fears, we may get an early glimpse on June 28 with the BET Awards, which will be holding its first-ever “virtual ceremony.”

Unsurprisingly, multiple Texas artists lead the 2020 nominations, with Houston’s Megan Thee Stallion scoring an impressive five nods in all, second only to Drake’s six. Megan will also face off against her city-mates Lizzo and Beyoncé in Best Album of the Year, while Lizzo and Beyoncé battle for Best Female R&B/Pop Artist. The ever-versatile Lizzo is also up against Megan Thee Stallion for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist, while fellow Houstonian Travis Scott and El Paso singer Khalid garnered their own nods for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist and Best Male R&B/Pop Artist, respectively. Megan Thee Stallion is also set to perform as part of the show’s remote lineup, alongside artists like Usher, John Legend, and Alicia Keys. You can catch the simulcast on BET and CBS from 7 to 10 p.m. Central. 

THIS WEEK IN MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY

It was another relatively quiet one for Matthew McConaughey, who last week pledged to spend more time sitting back, listening, and learning during his “Uncomfortable Conversation” with Texas NFL star Emmanuel Acho. That promise—and their talk—still seems to be on the actor’s mind, seeing as his only social media post this week was a behind-the-scenes look at how that video came to be. Your interest in the clip will greatly depend on your own relative desire to hear a near-minute-by-minute account of exactly how McConaughey got Acho’s phone number, then called that phone number, all of it relayed over some generically pensive piano music. Still, we suppose it helps to illustrate just how organic and sincere McConaughey’s interest was in Acho’s mission—so much so that he doesn’t seem to be focused on anything else at the moment.

Publicly, McConaughey’s spot was held down by a just-released cover story for Town and Country, after the actor sat for a rare joint interview with his wife, Camila Alves McConaughey, to talk about their Just Keep Livin Foundation and the trials of raising three children. While it’s a fairly innocuous chat about the couple’s charities and family life—with McConaughey talking about the “tough love” of saying “no” to a child that he could conceivably give anything to, as well as the personal gratification he says he gets from giving back to his community—Fox News still managed to spin it into a headline where McConaughey whines about being rich and calls philanthropy “selfish.” Meanwhile, British tabloid The Daily Mail seized on an offhand comment McConaughey made about talking out loud to his dad’s “spirit,” kind of making it sound like McConaughey is Hamlet pacing the ramparts, swearing laidback vengeance to his dad’s ghost. Still, as Ted Cruz can tell you, amid the doldrums of a global crisis, sometimes you have to gin up a little excitement.