Hello! If it’s Friday, there’s a new edition of Popculturology in your inbox. There’s a ton to discuss today, leading off with the end of the actors strike.
After 118 days, SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP agreed to a tentative deal, with the strike ending Thursday morning. This brings to close the historic double strike that saw the writers and actors shut down Hollywood as the studios dragged their feet on agreeing to fair deals with the two unions.
Hey, it’s also The Marvels day. (Well, the film technically came out yesterday, but those Thursday box office numbers count toward today. I don’t make the rules.) I’m seeing the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film tonight, and despite some lackluster reviews, I’m excited to see the movie. I enjoyed Captain Marvel and thought Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel was a huge home run.
The Marvels is tracking extremely softly for an MCU movie, with Deadline reporting this week that it’s on pace for a domestic opening weekend between $50 million and $60 million. For comparison, Captain Marvel opened with $153.4 million in 2019. A $50 million opening weekend would be the worst in MCU history. A $60 million opening weekend wouldn’t be much better, ranking ahead of only The Incredible Hulk ($55.4 million) and Ant-Man ($57.2 million).
Marvel Studios seems to be aware of The Marvels less-than-stellar trajectory, releasing a rare week-of-release trailer for the film on Monday. The vibe of this trailer is very different than what we’ve gotten from previous The Marvels teasers and trailers, invoking MCU legends like Iron Man and Captain America while also looping in the looming multiversal threat of the current MCU saga. Looks like we’re going to see our first incursion — the event where two universes collide into each other — something that John Krasinski’s version of Reed Richards warned us about in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.
🚨🚨🚨 I’m going to be back with a special edition of Popculturology on Saturday to check in on the state of the MCU after The Marvels hits theaters and I’ve had a chance to watch Loki’s season finale.
Have you all been keeping up with the latest season of Rick and Morty? It’s been pretty strong so far, and the new voices have gotten to the point where I have to remind myself that Justin Roiland isn’t working on the show anymore. (Which definitely appears to be a good thing.) Adult Swim is being super secretive about this Sunday’s episode, not even releasing a traditional promo for it. Should we expect Evil Morty? Rick Prime?
We also watched No Hard Feelings last weekend. I don’t know if I would’ve paid to see Jennifer Lawrence’s R-rated comedy, but it was worth the watch on Netflix. A bit sadder than I expected based on the trailers. I will say that No Hard Feelings had some serious Girl Next Door vibes. Skinny dipping! Never went to prom! A limo! (Seriously, folks, that Girl Next Door soundtrack is still fantastic. The Verve’s “Lucky Man” was played at our wedding reception.)
NEWS, NOTES AND TRAILERS
🪧 “We have achieved a deal of extraordinary scope”
For the first time since May 2 when the Writers Guild of America went on strike, Hollywood is fully returning to work. While the WGA work stoppage ended on Sept. 27, the SAG-AFTRA work stoppage, which began on July 14, continued to stretch on. A deal appeared close earlier this week, but the studios’ bizarre requests regarding AI were in the way.
On Wednesday night, SAG-AFTRA announced that a deal had been reached, and the strike was over.
- “A contract valued at over one billion dollars”: As of Thursday, SAG-AFTRA had yet to release the full details of the deal, but union leadership was enthusiastic about the deal, saying it “includes ‘above-pattern’ minimum compensation increases, unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI, and for the first time establishes a streaming participation bonus.” Read the statement.
- “A new paradigm”: The AMPTP was brief in their initial response, saying the deal “gives SAG-AFTRA the biggest contract-on-contract gains in the history of the union” and saying it “looks forward to the industry resuming the work of telling great stories.” Read the statement.
- “United, they win”: The WGA extended its congratulations to SAG-AFTRA after the deal was announced, writing that it was “thrilled to see SAG-AFTRA members win a contract that creates new protections for performers and gives them a greater share of the immense value they create.” Read the statement.
- “The most important project”: The dual strikes sidelined a ton of release dates, with the studios pushing titles back or pulling them from the calendar. One of those projects is Deadpool 3, which was scheduled to open on May 3, 2024. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel Studios sees the third Deadpool film as its “most important project for the studio outside of anything with Avengers in the title.” With Variety reporting that Deadpool 3 should resume production before Thanksgiving, Disney now has a path to get its tentpoles back on track. The studio announced Thursday night that Deadpool 3 will move to July 26, 2024, bumping Captain America: Brave New World to Feb. 14, 2025. Elsewhere in the MCU, Thunderbolts shifts from Dec. 20, 2024, to July 25, 2025, and Blade slides from Feb. 15, 2025, to Nov. 7, 2025.
🎞️ Inside Out 2 trailer has Anxiety
You’ll notice that Maya Hawke as Anxiety isn’t the only new thing about the first trailer for Inside Out 2. Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader are no longer voicing Digust and Fear, with Liza Lapira and Tony Hale stepping into those roles. Puck reported (via Vulture) in September 2022 that Kaling and Hader chose to not reprise their Inside Out roles after being offered only $100,000 for the movie while Amy Poehler was offered $5 million “plus additional fees and bonuses.”
Bizarre move for a film that relied on its ensemble cast.
🎞️ “You and I are the same. So, who’s the monster?”
The first trailer for Echo debuted this week, giving us a look at what Alaqua Cox’s Maya and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin have been up to since we last saw them in Hawkeye. (You know, when Maya took Kingpin’s eye and stuff. I’m sure they’re cool now.)
Disney is trying something different from its usual release strategy with Echo. Instead of premiering an episode a week on Disney+, we’re going to get all five episodes of the miniseries at once on Jan. 10, 2024, with the show being simultaneously available on Disney+ and Hulu. Echo also scored an TV-MA rating, the first Marvel Studios TV show to do so.
Marvel Spotlight shines on Echo
After over a decade of movies and TV shows, it can be a bit hard to follow all the storylines and Easter eggs in the MCU. Marvel Studios doesn’t want this to be a problem, and is introducing the Marvel Spotlight banner to let viewers know that a project can be enjoyed as a standalone story, with Echo being the first to premiere under that banner.
“Marvel Spotlight gives us a platform to bring more grounded, character-driven stories to the screen, and in the case of Echo, focusing on street-level stakes over larger MCU continuity,” Marvel Studios Head of Streaming, Television and Animation Brad Winderbaum said in a statement. “Just like comics fans didn’t need to read Avengers or Fantastic Four to enjoy a Ghost Rider Spotlight comic, our audience doesn’t need to have seen other Marvel series to understand what’s happening in Maya’s story.”
- So these characters aren’t connected? Look, it’s great to see Marvel Studios looking for ways to keep people interested in its Disney+ shows, but Echo seems like an odd place to introduce the Marvel Spotlight banner. You watched that trailer above, right? We have Echo, a character introduced in Hawkeye, and Kingpin, played by the same actor who played the character in Netflix’s Daredevil series, reprised the role for Hawkeye and will continue playing him in the Daredevil: Born Again series. It’s not like this is Werewolf By Night.
“Fallen Avengers returning, is that new? I have literally not even seen that, is that a new rumor?”
We discussed last week the report that Marvel Studios was considering bringing Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson back for a future Avengers movie. Entertainment Tonight’s Ash Crossan asked Kevin Feige himself about that during The Marvels’ Las Vegas premiere on Tuesday.
“We did not discuss that at the retreat, is the truth,” Feige told Crossan. “We’re doing a project with Scarlett. I love Robert, who is part of the family. In terms of returning, we’ll have to see.”
Good thing Kevin Feige has always told the truth about what’s happening in the MCU …
Blade director confirms R rating
I’ve never understood the absolute obsession some people have with movies getting an R rating. Give me a good movie and worry about the rating later. (The Spider-Verse movies are PG!) But people really, really want the third Deadpool movie and the upcoming Blade reboot to be R-rated. Blade director Yann Demange has good news for those people.
“They gave me the R, which is so important,” Demange told Deadline, acknowledging that Marvel Studios gave him the green light to go in that direction.
“For Blade, we are going to have fun because [Mahershala Ali] is such a deep actor,” Demange continued. “I’m excited to show a kind of ruthlessness, a roughness he has, that allows him to walk the earth in a particular way. I love him for that. He’s got a dignity and integrity, but there is a ferocity there that he usually keeps under the surface. I want to unleash that and put it on the screen.”
🎞️👻 It’s ice to meet the Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire trailer
Wait, the Ghostbusters franchise is actually doing something that isn’t just a retread of the first film?
Nintendo announces a live-action Legend of Zelda movie
Nintendo announced on Tuesday that a live-action Legend of Zelda movie is in the works — a no-brainer when you consider how much money The Super Mario Bros. Movie made ($1.36 billion worldwide!) and how successful The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom was for the company.
The Zelda film doesn’t have a title or release date yet, but Nintendo’s announcement included the news that the film will be directed by Wes Ball. In addition to directing the Maze Runner trilogy, Ball is at the helm of the upcoming Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.
- Monkey business: I do wonder what this means for Ball’s involvement in future Planet of the Apes installments. Matt Reeves directed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes without breaking for another film — much less a film that’ll be involved as Legend of Zelda — in between them.
- From the writer of … Derek Connolly will write the script for the film, according to Deadline. Not sure what to think about Connolly’s involvement. His credits are all over the place, starting with Safety Not Guaranteed but stretching to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Jurassic World Dominion.
The longest Bluey episode ever is on the way
Something big is coming to Bluey. The show announced on Thursday that a 28-minute episode will premiere in 2024.
“We’re so excited to share that a 28-minute special episode is coming in 2024” Ludo Studios said in a statement. “There’ll be lots of laughs, exciting guest voices, and definitely a few tears. We’re so incredibly proud of the awesome team behind the series and we can’t wait for Australia and the world to watch this very special Bluey episode with their family and friends.”
Let’s speculate what this extended episode will be about. Chilli is pregnant? Frisky is pregnant? “I assume that Bluey episode will be emotionally devastating for some reason,” Caitlin remarked in our text thread thread with my brother and sister-in-law.
Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang heads back to the movies
It’s been eight years since the Peanuts crew starred in a movie. Apple is ready to end that drought. The studio (streamer? phone company?) announced this week that a new film is in the works and will send Snoopy and his human friends to “the Big City.”
“With our unmatched library of Peanuts titles, and award-winning collection of stories that bring kids and families together, Apple TV+ is the preeminent home for Snoopy and friends, and offers a world-class selection of series and films featuring the most globally cherished animated characters,” Tara Sorensen, Apple’s head of children’s programming said in a statement. “We can’t wait for everyone to experience this heartwarming new adventure with Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the gang in the Big City.”
- Getting the gang back together: I’m a big fan of 2015’s The Peanuts Movie, so it’s great to see that Apple is reuniting a lot of the team who brought that movie to life to create the next cinematic adventure for Charlie Brown. Steve Martino will return to direct, along with Craig Schulz (Charlies Schulz’s son) and Bryan Schulz (Charles Schulz’s grandson) on the script.
- Charles Schulz’s legacy: “It is so special to carry on my father’s legacy with an original story from me, my son Bryan, and his writing partner Neil,” Craig Schulz said in a statement. “We are excited to be partnering with Apple TV+ and working with WildBrain Studios to bring audiences a brand-new Peanuts adventure, along with the talented Bonnie Arnold as producer and Steve Martino as director. Peanuts fans have been clamoring for another feature for years, and this film will bring joy to our millions of fans around the world.”
- Fandango it? I’m hoping Apple gives the next Peanuts movie a theatrical run before it moves to Apple TV+ …
🔒 Warner Bros. sends John Cena’s Coyote vs. Acme to the vault
Warner Bros. must’ve really like the tax write-off it got for canceling the Batgirl movie since it’s doing it again with Coyote vs. Acme. The hybrid live-action/animated movie starred John Cena, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, had completed principle photography last year. The film was directed by Dave Green with James Gunn (the guy currently in charge of Warner Bros.’ superhero movies) contributing to the story.
“I have seen this movie and it is excellent,” screenwriter Brian Duffield said of the news. “It also tested in the high 90s repeatedly. It also had interested buyers. The people working at Warner Bros are anti-art and I hope multiple anvils drop on their heads.”
🎞️ “We’re concerned you’re either doing drugs or having a toilet baby”
If I didn’t already know that a Mean Girls movie existed, I’d be excited to see the Mean Girls movie being promoted with this trailer. But since I know a Mean Girls movie exists, I’m confused why this trailer doesn’t play up the fact that it’s a movie adaption of Mean Girls: The Musical — and not just a straight-up remake of the original Mean Girls but with Jon Hamm added.
A third helping of The Bear
After the first season of The Bear aired, I didn’t think the show needed a second season. The first batch of episodes told a complete story. Why ruin that? Well, the second season of The Bear absolutely didn’t ruin the show, instead delivering a fantastic sophomore run, including standout episodes “Fishes” and “Forks.”
I’ll trust that FX and Hulu know what they’re doing when it comes to announcing a third season of The Bear.
📖 Unleash The Bright Sword
Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians trilogy (the one that inspired the fantastic Syfy series that ran from 2015-2020), unveiled the cover to The Bright Sword on Wednesday.
Grossman first teased his take on the Arthurian legend a few years ago, and revealed that he sent the final edited proofs of The Bright Sword to his publisher this week.
“It’s different in different times. I wanted to find a King Arthur for this moment we’re in right now,” Grossman told Today. “"It was incredibly fun getting to build a whole new world, but I also realized pretty quickly that King Arthur was a very different proposition from The Magicians. People have been telling his story for a thousand years. With Arthur you’re not just making things up, you’re joining a long and ancient tradition," he says.
The Bright Sword will be available to read on July 16, 2024. I’ve already preordered my copy.
Timothée Chalamet breathes it in
Timothée Chalamet takes one step closer to Saturday Night Live’s Five-Timers Club this weekend (OK, so he has three more hosting appearances left to go). Season 49 has given us a few unconventional SNL hosts (including Nate Bargatze and the now-iconic “Washington’s Dream” sketch), but Chalamet is the season’s first A-lister to lead an episode.
Jason Momoa returns to host on Nov. 18
Between Chalamet and Jason Momoa, SNL now has a few movie stars who can host and promote their upcoming projects now that the SAG-AFTRA strike is over. (But does Momoa even want to promote Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom at this point?) Momoa first hosted SNL in 2018. The “Day of the Dorks” sketch from his episode — DORKS! — still lives in my head.
Behind the Sketch: I’m Just Pete
ALL HAIL THE KING
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters hits Apple TV+ on Nov. 17, and the promotional machine is gearing up for the show. I’ve read good things about the Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, which will fill in some of the gaps and history surrounding the discovery and rise of the titans from the MonsterVerse movies. (Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla vs. Kong.)
Godzilla and his friends
Godzilla isn’t the only titan we’ll see in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. Executive producer Matt Fraction revealed to Entertainment Weekly a few of the other monsters we’ll see in the upcoming MonsterVerse show.
An inside look at Monarch: Legacy of Monsters
I love that this show has Kurt Russell and Wyatt Russell playing the same character at different ages.
Cue the credits
OK, it’s actually kind of funny that studios are releasing the credits sequences to their new shows. We have Game of Thrones to thank for this trend, right?
🎞️ Godzilla Minus One trailer
While Monarch: Legacy of Monsters continues the story being told in the American branch of Godzilla movies, the original Toho Studios franchise has a new movie: Godzilla Minus One. No word yet on a release date for the United States, but this is a stellar trailer.
- The Twilight of Prestige Television (Michael Shulman, The New Yorker)
- What the Debate Over Long Movies Gets Wrong (Sam Adams, Slate)
- The Taylor Swift And Travis Kelce Relationship Is Its Own Economy (Paige Skinner, HuffPost)
- What Does It Mean That Elon Musk’s New AI Chatbot Is ‘Anti-Woke’? (John Herrman, New York Magazine)
- First-Gen Social Media Users Have Nowhere to Go (Jason Parham, Wired)
- A Dedicated Taylor Swift Reporter Faces Swift Criticism Online (Madison Malone Kircher, The New York Times)
AND FINALLY …
For $500, you can own a massive Lego Avengers Tower
I’m absolutely out of space when it comes to new giant Lego sets, which is a shame since the new Avengers Tower looks awesome. Sure, it’s $499.99, but for that price you get a whopping 31 minifigures (including a Kevin Feige minifig!) and 5,201 pieces that create a three-foot-tall version of the Avengers’ headquarters.
Lego also has a bonus taxi set which includes Black Panther available as a gift-with-purchase.