Happy Friday! Welcome to this week’s edition of Popculturology.
Even in its new, brisker format, today’s newsletter is packed with news — and thoughts on the latest episode of Ahsoka. (Are you a viewer who never watched Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels? Does the show make any sense to you? I’d love to hear from people who didn’t watch the animated Star Wars shows.)
Speaking of animation, we rewatched Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse over the weekend. Still a goddam masterpiece. It better be in the discussion for Best Picture. You heard me, Academy. Best Picture. Best Animated Feature is a lock. Let’s aim higher.
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GHOSTS OF AHSOKA PAST
While The Mandalorian aired its third season, I once asked if the show was a cohesive story or just a checklist of Cool Star Wars Things™️. (There’s nothing wrong with being the latter, we just have to realize that’s what we should expect.)
The question also fairly applies to Ahsoka.
This week’s episode was full of “Cool Star Wars Things™️” that paid off on a decade of fans’ love of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka Tano and Hayden Christensen. But, like most of Ahsoka, the show continues to progress slowly. Not just in terms of episode-to-episode plot but in how the characters speak to each other. (I saw numerous mentions of George Lucas’ “faster”/“more intense” directorial advice over the last few days.)
Dave Filoni knows his Star Wars lore. He’s responsible for more of it than any person besides Lucas. These are his characters. His creations. But I’m not sure directing live-action projects is his strength.
- Ariana Greenblatt as Ahoska: This isn’t Greenblatt’s first time taking on the younger version of an iconic character. The actress previously played young Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War. She did a fantastic job bringing the Clone Wars era Ahsoka to life in this episode. Seeing Ahsoka in live action really drove home the idea that she was a child fighting this war. (Greenblatt might be a touch too young to play the version of Ahsoka that fought in the Siege of Mandalore, though.)
- Hayden Christensen returns: I love seeing this guy back in Star Wars. While Matt Lanter defined the Clone Wars era version of Anakin, it was fun to finally see Christensen in the character’s Clone Wars armor. The de-aging tech wasn’t distracting (unless you start doing the math on Anakin being in his 20s when fighting alongside the unmistakably young Ahsoka). And how cool was it to see an unarmored Vader wield his red lightsaber? The version of Vader that Obi-Wan Kenobi denied Palpatine.
- What is Anakin now? Before “Shadow Warrior” premiered this week, there was a lot of speculation that Anakin was now a Mortis god — something beyond a basic Force ghost, more powerful and central to holding the Force in balance. While this episode didn’t confirm that concept (which, honestly, would’ve been a lot for the part of Ahsoka’s audience that already is doing their best to follow along with the plot points from the animated shows), nothing in “Shadow Warrior” rules out that potential reveal. Anakin seemed to have control over the World Between Worlds in a way that we hadn’t previously seen in Star Wars Rebels.
Is the Rebels coda still canon? Ahsoka has played it coy when it comes to how the coda of Star Wars Rebels fits in with its own story. Did Ahsoka visit Sabine twice on Lothal? Was Ahsoka returning from World Between Worlds as Ahsoka the White? This episode muddied the waters even more, showing us that the Ahsoka the White look became a thing after her encounter with Anakin … which was after she reunited with Sabine …
Give Vader the Darksaber. With Christensen back in the mix, it’s time to do some kind of live-action Darth Vader miniseries. Let’s see him hunting down Maul, which would explain Maul’s state when we see him in Rebels. I’m sure there’s a way to give him the Darksaber too. What I’m trying to say here is let’s check some more Cool Star Wars Things™️ off the list.
Hey, it’s Captain Rex too: Disney released a trio of posters to promote this episode on Thursday. (Zero chill when it comes to almost immediatley spoiling anything about this show.) While he obviously wasn’t in the Captain Rex armor, it was fun to hear Temuera Morrison voice the iconic clone.
Turns out the Lando TV series is actually a movie
Speculation over the status of Donald Glover’s return as the charming smuggler has swirled for years. After Lucasfilm President Kathy Kennedy mentioned a Lando TV series during a Disney+ presentation, there’s been little official word from the studio.
News recently broke that Glover and his brother, Stephen Glover, had taken over writing the TV series. On Thursday, Variety reported that the project is actually a movie. No word yet on whether it’ll have a theatrical release or will go straight to Disney+.
NEWS, NOTES AND TRAILERS
🎞️ “Well, I hate this job”
The end of the DCEU is finally here. Sure, the DCEU has been sputtering out even before James Gunn and Peter Safran took the reins of DC Studios (Black Adam, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, The Flash …), but this is actually the end. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is the final film on the docket before Gunn’s Superman: Legacy hits theaters at some point.
🎞️ Monarch: Legacy of Monsters trailer brings Godzilla to Apple TV+
A Godzilla TV show? Absolutely. Even cooler that we get the father/son duo of Kurt Russell and Wyatt Russell playing the same character during different times.
Are Alfonso Cuarón and Shawn Levy in the mix to direct Secret Wars?
While the WGA and SAG-AFTRA work stoppages have brought Hollywood to a standstill (a standstill that the studios can end at any second by agreeing to the fair deals the unions seek), we have plenty of time to speculate over who’ll direct Avengers: Secret Wars.
Last week’s rumor was that Marvel Studios wanted Sam Raimi. This week? Speculation that Alfonso Cuarón and Shawn Levy could find themselves in the director’s chair for the sixth Avengers film. Both bits of speculation came from Twitter scoop accounts, with Daniel Richtman dropping Cuarón’s name and CanWeGetSomeToast adding Levy to the mix.
Cuarón directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, arguable the best film in that series, in addition to films like Gravity and Children of Men. I’m sure his talents could be used better elsewhere, but I’d be very curious to see what he’d do with a Marvel Cinematic Universe film. Levy is already in the MCU ecosystem, helming the upcoming Deadpool 3.
🎞️ Yes, Joel Kinnaman’s old-man makeup is spectacular
I love almost2 everything about For All Mankind. It’s optimistic. It’s hopeful. It’s inspirational. And it continues to age Joel Kinnaman in a way that’s supposed to convince he can play both a man who landed on the moon in the 1960s and an old man in the 2000s.
Apple announced this week that For All Mankind returns for its fourth season on Nov. 10.
🪧 ‘Work being done is scabbing’
Drew Barrymore made herself the enemy of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA this past week after she announced that The Drew Barrymore Show would begin shooting again despite the dual work stoppage.
“I own this choice,” Barrymore wrote in a rambling Instagram post. “We are in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind. We launched live in a global pandemic. Our show was built for sensitive times and has only functioned through what the real world is going through in real time. I want to be there to provide what writers do so well, which is a way to bring us together or help us make sense of the human experience. I hope for a resolve for everyone as soon as possible. We have navigated difficult times since we first came on air. And so I take a step forward to start season 4 once again with an astute humility.”
Based on her lofty language, it seems like Barrymore has confused being a scab with landing on the moon. And, yes, despite what she wants you to believe, this is scab behavior.
“The reality is that bringing a show back without your writers is an attempt to devalue our labor and devalue the work that we do,” WGA captain Chris Hazzard said (via The Hollywood Reporter). “And there’s no way to make a show without writing. So whether that’s picking guests or talking about who’s going to speak when or doing pre-interviews to update your hosts about what the topic is going to be, all of that is writing. And so that work being done is scabbing and we will be out here with a picket sign until it stops.”
- WGA condemns the move: “[The Drew Barrymore Show] is a WGA covered, struck show that is planning to return without its writers,” the union tweeted on Sunday. “The Guild has, and will continue to, picket struck shows that are in production during the strike. Any writing on The Drew Barrymore Show is in violation of WGA strike rules.”
- Union-supporting audience members booted: Two fans wearing WGA pins were asked to leave Monday’s taping of The Drew Barrymore Show. “If they think we’re part of the strike, we might as well be,” Dominic Turiczek, one of the fans, told The Hollywood Reporter.
- ‘It will prolong the strike’: Cristina Kinon, one of The Drew Barrymore Show’s co-head writers, talked to Variety about her boss’ decision. “We’re standing with all of labor and all of the unions across the world, because that is how it works,” Kinon told Variety. “Unions only work when you stick together with unions across the labor spectrum.”
- Barrymore and the blowback: Vulture’s Josef Adalian and Kathryn VanArendonk discuss why Barrymore became the lightning rod for backlash.
- Jennifer Hudson, Bill Maher follow: Does Barrymore’s return open the floodgates? On Monday, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that The Talk, The Jennifer Hudson Show and Sherri would all resume production. On Wednesday, Bill Maher announced on Twitter that Real Time would also return without its writers. (“As somebody who's known you since 1978: Fuck you, Bill, you selfish and unfunny scumbag,” Keith Olberman tweeted in response to Maher’s return.) None of the legitimate network late-night shows have announced they’re coming back.
🎞️ “Kill these men who killed my family”
Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorcese’s upcoming film, continues to look very, very good.
Disney and Spectrum call a truce, kill a bunch of channels
If Spectrum is your cable provider, there was a period last week where you were unable to watch the slew of channels that Disney owns. Due to a carriage dispute between Disney and Spectrum, channels like ABC, ESPN and FX were missing. The two companies reached a deal to resolve this dispute just before Monday Night Football was set to air.
“Our collective goal has always been to build an innovative model for the future,” Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger and Charter Communications CEO Chris Winfrey said in a joint statement. “This deal recognizes both the continued value of linear television and the growing popularity of streaming services while addressing the evolving needs of our consumers. We also want to thank our mutual customers for their patience this past week and are pleased that Spectrum viewers once again have access to Disney’s high-quality sports, news and entertainment programming, in time for Monday Night Football.”
Things aren’t as great as the two companies want customers to believe, though.
While Spectrum will continue to offer “ABC Owned Television Stations, Disney Channel, FX and the Nat Geo Channel, in addition to the full suite of ESPN networks,” customers will no longer have access to Baby TV, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FXM, FXX, Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo. The joint statement calls this a “more curated lineup.”
This battle between Disney and Spectrum likely won’t be the last of its kind, as companies look to protect the value of their streaming services.
“When we looked across the portfolio to try to identify where the greatest value in this deal was to us, we definitely made some trade-offs with the following thinking in place: The digital networks are for the most part targeted, and they super-serve an audience in the linear ecosystem, but they are also windowed onto what we are calling our primary channels [Disney Channel, FX, Nat Geo],” Disney Entertainment Co-Chariman Dana Walden told The Hollywood Reporter. “So you know the Nat Geo suite, ultimately that programming also airs on Nat Geo and then it is windowed over to Disney+, similarly with Disney Junior and Disney XD. And then FXX has been a valuable source of programming for Hulu, and so we don’t intend to change how we program that channel right now. It’s very much connected to our pipeline of general entertainment to Hulu.”
I can’t imaging creators of shows on FXX are going to by happy about this one. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is no longer available to anyone who gets their cable through Spectrum?
🎞️ The Creator generates a final trailer
I don’t know if I’ll get out to a theater to see The Creator, but I’m excited to see what Gareth Edwards does as his long-awaited follow-up to Rogue One. As I’ve mentioned in previous editions of Popculturology, his debut film, Monsters, is fantastic. If you haven’t watched that before, fix that this weekend.
We’re pretending the Fantastic Beasts movies don’t exist now, huh?
As Warner Bros. Discover CEO David Zaslav looks to wring every penny out of the media company he controls, he’s repeatedly mentioned returning to franchises like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. The media overlord once again went back to that well last week — and did so in a confusing way.
“We haven’t done anything with Harry Potter for more than a decade. We haven’t done anything with Lord of the Rings,” Zaslav said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia and Technology Conference.
That’s an odd thing to say about Harry Potter considering that three Fantastic Beasts movies hit theaters in 2016, 2018 and 2022, with each one pulling in additional familiar elements from the original Harry Potter movies. (They even cast Jude Law as Sexy Dumbledore!)
I’m sure what Zaslav means to say is that they haven’t cashed in on Harry Potter himself in over a decade.
Donald Glover’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith reboot pushed back to 2024
Prime Video announced on Thursday that its remake of Mr. and Mrs. Smith will now premiere in early 2024. The series stars Donald Glover and Maya Erskine, with the duo filling the roles previously played by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
I’m never going to watch the Frasier revival, so there’s no way any of you can ever convince me that the plot of the show isn’t that Frasier is wanted for the murders of all his Seattle friends and is on the run in Boston.
- Justin Roiland used his Rick and Morty fame to pursue young fans, text messages show (Kat Tenbarge, NBC News)
- Conan O’Brien’s Late Night Legacy Was Born By Breaking Late Night Rules (Josh Spiegel, Slash Film)
- 4 Lessons From a Box-Office Summer of Hopeful Highs and Panic-Inducing Lows (Chris Lee, Vulture)
- It’s Time for Critics to Leave Rotten Tomatoes (Matt Goldberg, Commentary Track)
AND FINALLY …
🐭 100 Disney movies for just $1,500
To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Disney will release the Disney Legacy Animated Film Collection this November. For the low, low price of $1,500, you can buy a collection of 100 animated Disney movies (and the Pixar library) in one massive set.
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