What’s on TV Thursday: ‘Spelling the Dream’ and ‘Rambo’

What’s on TV Thursday: ‘Spelling the Dream’ and ‘Rambo’


SPELLING THE DREAM (2020) Stream on Netflix. If someone walked up to you on the street and asked you to spell the name of the state fish of Hawaii by its Hawaiian name, humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, could you do it? How about when you were 6 years old? Such intricate words are sprinkled throughout this upbeat documentary, which looks at a yearslong winning streak of Indian-Americans at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The film splits its attention among four young contestants, interspersing their stories with commentary from figures including the comedian Hari Kondabolu and Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent. “Inoffensively comforting” is the way Bilal Qureshi described the movie in his review for The New York Times. “Spelling the Dream,” he wrote, “is a film about winning, delivered with glossy visuals and a gratingly optimistic score that draws to a close with its champion showered in confetti — an obvious symbol for this overarching (and under-questioned) celebration of American multiculturalism.”

THE CONJURING (2013) Stream on Hulu; rent on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube. Early in this horror movie, a large family moves into a Rhode Island farmhouse, where they discover a boarded-up cellar. After investigating the cellar and finding little beyond cobwebs and an old piano, the family’s patriarch, Roger Perron (Ron Livingston), emerges and reports his findings to the rest of the family. “Got extra square footage, anyway,” he says. They’ve got more than that. Directed by James Wan, the film follows the Perrons as it becomes increasingly clear that their house is, in fact, haunted — an issue that draws to their door a pair of paranormal investigators (played by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson). “Wan — whose first sly shot is of a cracked, smiling face — sets a relentlessly uneasy tone that imperceptibly shifts between intense seriousness and lightly mocking,” Manohla Dargis wrote in her review for The Times. Dargis called it “a fantastically effective haunted-house movie.”

RAMBO (2008) 6 p.m. on AMC. In a recent article in The New York Times, Wesley Morris wrote about box-office figures from a weekend in May 1985. That weekend, “Rambo: First Blood Part II” had just come out and, Morris wrote, a “smooth, rippling and outrageously oily” Sylvester Stallone tightened his grip on the American psyche as the super soldier John Rambo. In 1988, “Rambo III” came out, then Stallone shelved the character for two decades. A reborn Rambo — grizzled, yes, but still oily after all those years — appears in this ultraviolent follow-up, which features jungle warfare, venomous snakes and lines like, “Live for nothing, or die for something.”

SUMMER RUSH 10 p.m. on Food Network. A pinch of family conflict and a dash of competition are on order in this cooking reality show, which shows three restaurants in the Adirondacks competing for customers during crucial summer months. The catch? Each eatery is run by members of the same family.



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