In Friday’s edition of Popculturology, I made Ghosted the featured What to Watch pick for the weekend. I figured I should follow my own advice, so I kicked off my Friday evening after our daughter was asleep by watching the Apple TV+ movie starring Chris Evans and Ana de Armas.
More on that below …
I also caught up on a few episodes of Atlanta’s final season after watching Ghosted. Turns out I had watched the first two episodes of that season when I binged the third season, which gave me a headstart on this project. Wild that I somehow forgot I watched those episodes, since one of them — “The Homeliest Little Horse” — is probably one of the more cutthroat episodes in the show’s entire run.
We wrapped up our weekend by taking Hazel to the National Zoo for the first time. She enjoyed seeing elephants in real life, laughed at some kids and wrapped up her visit with some fries and tenders. (It’s normal to feel weird about the animals stuck at the zoo, right? I was reminded of the Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” while watching an orangutan pace circles around their enclosure.)
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- Feature Presentation: Where’s the chemistry between Ana de Armas and Chris Evans in Ghosted?
- The News: National Treasure series canceled, Oscars announce 2024 dates, Beef defends David Choe,
- Trailer Watch: The Other Two
- Playlist: Succession, Barry, Bob’s Burgers
- Odds and Ends: Elizabeth Olsen really isn’t into doing stunts
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Where’s the chemistry between Ana de Armas and Chris Evans in Ghosted?
When I sat down to watch Ghosted on Friday night, I originally planned on including it in this edition’s Playlist section. I’d offer a few sentences on the movie and a fun quote and call it a day.
But then I actually watched Ghosted.
But worse? Ana de Armas and Chris Evans have virtually no chemistry in the movie.
Which is bizarre. Because they’ve oozed chemistry in every promotional bit I’ve seen them together on leading up to Ghosted’s release.
On Wired’s segment answering “the web’s most searched questions”?
In BuzzFeed’s co-star test?
So much chemistry.
In Vanity Fair’s test to see how well they know each other?
(It’s funny they’re wearing the same thing in all these promos. I’m shocked there isn’t an episode of Hot Ones with Evans wearing this shirt or de Armas wearing this dress.)
I had to google whether or not de Armas and Evans were dating. I’d believe you if you told me they were a real couple.
Let’s take a step back.
De Armas and Evans play Sadie and Cole in Ghosted. After a meet-cute argument over plants (a cringeworthy scene), the duo goes out for coffee, walks around the city and spends the night together. When Cole tries to text Sadie the next day, she doesn’t respond. (This is where the “ghosted” part of the title comes in. There are no ghosts in Ghosted.)
Cole discovers that Sadie is in London and goes there to surprise her. This is after one date. He winds up getting kidnapped and learns that Sadie is actually a CIA agent. Hijinks ensue.
You would think that putting two of the most attractive people in the world together would result in a believable romantic comedy, but Ghosted falls flat in that department.
In fact, it falls flat in multiple departments. The script isn’t clever. The dialogue isn’t good. Even the cameos feel stale.
I’m not sure what went wrong with Ghosted.
Was it the direction? Dexter Fletcher was behind the camera on this movie. You probably know his worth from Bohemian Rhapsody, where he took the reins from Bryan Singer, and Rocketman, the Elton John biopic.
Was it the writing? The screenplay is attributed to Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the writing team behind Zombieland and the Deadpool movies, and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, the duo behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man movies.
Or is it just the fact that these action movies — especially the MCU ones — no longer include romantic storylines so no one knows how to execute them anymore?
I do have to give Ghosted credit for doing a great job with its Washington, D.C., scenes. Movies and TV shows are notoriously bad when it comes to properly depicting the city and its surrounding areas. Designated Survivor barely tried to things make sense. The Americans had a shaky grasp on how the city and suburbs were related to each other. And Wonder Woman 1984 was a masterclass in how to get everything about D.C. wrong. Ghosted was actually filmed in the city and didn’t commit any egregious geography sins.
I was also intrigued by the inclusion of a rotating restaurant as the location for Ghosted’s final confirmation. There’s a rotating restaurant in Crystal City, just a few minutes away from Reagan National Airport, but it’s not the one shown in Ghosted. Turns out the movie used a more cinematic rotating restaurant in Atlanta.
Fun fact: Rochester, N.Y., once had its own rotating restaurant. Changing Scenes closed years ago, and while I can’t find the sourcing on it now, I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that some of its key parts (you know, the ones that make the whole thing rotate) were sold as replacement parts to the rotating restaurant just outside of D.C.
Ghosted being a critical bomb isn’t going to affect either Evans or de Armas. Thanks to the MCU, Evans can do whatever he wants with the rest of his career and be financially set. (He’s weirdly chosen to be a streaming movie guy now. Between The Gray Man, Ghosted and the upcoming Red One and Pain Hustlers, all of Evans current batch of films are Netflix or Prime Video movies.)
De Armas, on the other hand, is on the verge of slingshotting into stardom. She got an Oscar nomination for Blonde. She’s going to star in Ballerina, a John Wick spinoff. (Which is somehow directed by Len Wiseman, the guy who helmed the a handful of Underworld movies and the Total Recall remake.) She’s going to get cast in a major franchise role like Sue Storm in the Fantastic Four reboot and become a part of the MCU — or her agent is going sign her up for one of Sony’s Spider-Man spinoff movies thinking she’s joining the MCU and not its weird half cousin.
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Disney+ cancels the National Treasure series
Goodbye, dreams of Nicolas Cage returning to steal the Declaration of Independence one more time. Deadline reported on Friday that Disney+ has canceled National: Treasure: Edge of History, the series based on the Cage movies.
Like with The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, the National Treasure series fell into the same nostalgia trap. Movies like The Mighty Ducks and National Treasure hold treasured spots in the memories of millennials. For years, we joked about a fourth Mighty Ducks movie featuring an older Charlie Conway who now has to bounce back and coach a youth team or a third National Treasure movie where Cage would return to execute one final historic heist.
When these franchises were resurrected as Disney+ shows, though, they weren’t for us. They were for kids. Like, you know, the original movies were. So now the audience that spent years asking for these revivals isn’t interested in the new shows and the audiences that the shows are directed toward never cared about the franchises in the first place.
Oscars announce 2024 dates
It’s never too early to talk about next year’s Oscars. The Academy announced key dates for the 96th Academy Awards on Monday, revealing that the television ceremony will be held on March 10, 2024.
Oscar nominations will be announced on Jan. 23, 2024.
Beef creator and stars defend David Choe
The success of Netflix’s Beef has been sullied by the reemergence of a podcast where David Choe boasted about being a “successful rapist” while he told a story about forcing himself on a masseuse. After a week or so of silence on the story, Beef creator Lee Sung Jin and stars Ali Wong and Steven Yeun released a statement on Choe on Friday.
“The story David Choe fabricated nine years ago is undeniably hurtful and extremely disturbing. We do not condone this story in any way, and we understand why this has been so upsetting and triggering,” the trio said in a statement first released to Vanity Fair. “We’re aware David has apologized in the past for making up this horrific story, and we've seen him put in the work to get the mental health support he needed over the last decade to better himself and learn from his mistakes.”
Have you watched Beef? If you haven’t, does the Choe controversy give you pause?
The live-action Lilo & Stitch remake fills out its cast
Disney is giving Lilo & Stitch the live-action remake treatment. If you’ve been reading Popculturology for a bit, you know my two major thoughts on Disney pumping out these remakes: One, please stop calling them “live action.” Did they find a real Stitch for this one? Two, don’t touch Moana.
It’s been interesting to see how Disney pulls together the casts for the remakes of the more recent animated movies. (James Earl Jones returning for The Lion King, for example.) Fans of Lilo & Stitch will be excited to learn that Chris Sanders is returning to voice Stitch.
The Hollywood Reporter broke the news on Friday that Sanders, who has voiced Stitch since the character debuted in the original 2002 film, had joined the remake’s cast. (Sanders also co-directed Lilo & Stitch with Dean DeBlois before the duo co-directed the first How to Train Your Dragon.)
Sanders joins a cast that now includes Maia Kealoha as Lilo, Zach Galifianakis as Dr. Jumba Jookiba, Billy Magnussen as Agent Pleakley, Sydney Agudong as Nani, Kaipo Dudoit as David, Tia Carrere as Mrs. Kekoa (Carrere voiced Nani, Lilo’s sister, in the original film), Courtney B. Vance as Cobra Bubbles and Amy Hill as Tūtū.
- Big Mouth renewed for an eighth and final season. Deadline reported on Monday that Nick Kroll’s animated Netflix series will come to an end in 2024. (There’s still a seventh season coming this year.)
- It’s Zero Day for Lizzy Caplan, Jesse Plemons, Joan Allen and Connie Britton. They join Robert De Niro’s political thriller limited series in production for Netflix.
- Christina Hodson and Oren Uziel to co-write final Fast & Furious. Deadline reported on Monday that Universal is bringing some fresh writing talent into the franchise for its (allegedly) final film. Hodson has written scripts for Bumblebee, Birds of Prey, The Flash and the unreleased Batgirl movie. Uziel is best known for The Cloverfield Paradox.
- ‘We’re going to do [Sherlock Holmes 3] when it’s right.’ Susan Downey told TheWrap that there are still plans for Robert Downey Jr. to play Sherlock Holmes again.
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The Other Two
It’s a miracle that The Other Two is still alive these days, surviving a jump from Comedy Central to HBO Max and then making it through the carnage over at HBO Max from the Warner Bros. Discovery merger process. The show’s third season premieres in May.
The Other premieres on HBO Max on May 4.
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Episode: “Kill List”
Kieran Culkin’s gonna win an Emmy for this season of Succession. (As a lead actor?) While the entire cast has been firing on all cylinders these past few episodes, Culkin is on another level. We can talk about Lukas sending bricks made of his blood to former lovers or Greg trying to make Quad Squad happen or I can just leave with with Roman’s emotional breakdown directed at Lukas …
“You really couldn’t push this a week, could you? You just couldn’t, like, there was no part of you that could just be, like, hey, let’s reschedule and move this because their dad just died. My sister’s kind of — she’s fucked up about it, my brother’s a mess, and I’m fucking — I’m gone, I’m, like, I’m on the fucking — I’m dead, it’s over for me. It’s OK, it’s fine, but you just drag us out here, you inhuman fucking dog-man …” — Roman
Episode: “you’re charming”
Bill Hader has always been great on Barry, revealing a side of himself as an actor we didn’t see during his time on Saturday Night Live, but the version of Barry that we saw in “you’re charming” was something else. Disheveled. Unhinged. Hader transformed into something else during Barry’s phone call with Hank.
I have a pretty firm rule against Fred Armisen cameos, but I’m going to let it slide for this episode. Armisen’s nervous assassin might be his greatest work.
“Hank, have you ever been called Boo-Boo the Fool before?” — Fuches
Episode: “Gift Card or Buy Trying”
This episode made me flash back to my childhood and how thrilling it was to get a gift certificate for your birthday or Christmas. A gift certificate, not a gift card. Like a printed out piece of paper that declared that you had $25 to spend at the mall, and you now had to do the math to decide which stores and which items you’d spend that gift certificate on.
“Spending somebody’s else money is thrilling. Anything can happen.” — Bob
- Goodbye to Netflix DVDs, The Last Good Tech Company (Aaron Gordon, Vice)
- ‘Fuck Him, He Loses’: The Inside Story of How Disney’s Attempt to Buy BuzzFeed Fell Apart (Ben Smith, Vanity Fair)
- Why Do Streaming Services Love Blue So Much? (Eric Vilas-Boas, Vulture)
- Wrexham’s Hollywood promotion: How Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney helped end 15 years of hurt (Richard Sutcliffe, The Athletic)
- How Elon Musk Turned the Blue Checkmark Into a Scarlet Letter (Alex Kirshner, Slate)
- The Stealth Campaign That’s Getting Your Kids Hooked on Chess (Matt Richtel, The New York Times)
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‘A waste of everyone’s time’
Elizabeth Olsen has appeared in some of the biggest blockbusters in movie history, playing Wanda Maximoff in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it turns out she doesn’t think very highly of her ability to pull off the stunts in those films.
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