Welcome to a Godzilla-heavy edition of Popculturology. With the first trailer for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire debuting earlier this week and Godzilla Minus One turning into an event itself, the big guy is dominating pop culture. But more on that in a bit …
While we haven’t watched any of the previous season of FX’s Fargo, Caitlin and I jumped into the current season over the weekend. I’m loving the show so far, especially seeing Juno Temple in a role very different from her Ted Lasso character. (Jon Hamm is also fantastic in this season.)
I also found the time this week to finally finish Justified: City Primeval. This is one that Caitlin doesn’t watch (despite me making her watch all of Justified’s original run a year or so ago), so I’ve been stitching together random pockets of time to watch the limited revival. I don’t want to spoil how the show ends in case you’re like me and are still chipping away at City Primeval, but I’d put Boyd Holbrook’s Clement Mansell right up their with iconic Justified villains Walton Goggins’ Boyd Crowder and character actor Margo Martindale’s Mags Bennett. (Honorable mention to Jeremy Davies’ Dickie Bennett on account of how much fun he was.)
Hopefully everyone enjoys trailers. Since there were a ton of trailers that came out this week …
If you’re a Godzilla fan, life is good for you right now. The first trailer for Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire hit the Internet this week, revealing a new version of the King of Monsters. Godzilla Minus One has almost universal critical praise and is setting box office records for a Japanese film in North America. And Monarch: Legacy of Monsters has brought Godzilla to Apple TV+.
🎞️ Godzilla levels up
I love this trailer. I love the new take on Godzilla. He’s faster and pinker, which I’m sure will sell some new toys. I love the vibe here is that Godzilla took some time off to let Kong pretend to be the MonsterVerse’s apex titan only to return in his badass evolved form to help Kong defeat a new villainous monster.
(Don’t forget that in Godzilla vs. Kong, the only times Godzilla “lost” to Kong were when the Skull Island titan had the help of the military or a magical ax. And when Godzilla did have Kong beat, he chose to let him live. There’s only one King of the Monsters.)
There probably isn’t a franchise where Caitlin and I diverge more than the Godzilla movies. (At least the MonsterVerse versions.) She had to sit next to me in a theater while I cheered Godzilla unleashing his atomic breath for the first time during 2014’s Godzilla. And the end of this trailer where Godzilla and Kong run into battle while Godzilla roars? Yeah, that only earned a “I don’t get how you can watch these CGI battles” response from Caitlin. (This isn’t to say that she doesn’t have excellent taste in movies. See our shared love of Hot Rod for proof.)
I get that these movies aren’t for everyone. I do love that pop culture journalism elder statesman Matt Zoller Seitz wrote a love letter to the MonsterVerse back when Godzilla vs. Kong came out in 2021.
The Westernized kaiju films are a level up. They represent a marvelous attempt to reconcile the past and future, not just of monster movies, but cinema itself. The price of imaginative entry is accepting that humans are not the only important thing on earth, and our refusal to admit it is the reason we’re going extinct.
It’s impressive how far this version of the Godzilla franchise has come. Director Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot was a fantastic way to bring these characters into the modern world.
(And how wild was it that the franchise started off with Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson?)
Stop what you’re doing and buy a Godzilla Minus One ticket
I saw Godzilla Minus One on Thursday night, and I can confirm that the buzz is justified.
Not only is Godzilla Minus One the best Godzilla film I’ve ever seen, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in recent memory. If the Academy knows what it’s doing, we should see Godzilla Minus One among the Best Picture nominees in a few months.
Godzilla Minus One is the latest entry in the original Toho Studios franchise. Directed by Takashi Yamazaki, Minus One is a period piece set in the aftermath of World War II. It cracked the North American box office’s top five last weekend, coming in at No. 3 with $11.4 million. Toho has extended the film’s run through at least Dec. 14. And Minus One currently boasts a 97 percent critics rating and a 98 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Godzilla Minus One brings Godzilla back to how the franchise began. This isn’t the Godzilla American audiences have seen over the past decade. He’s not a protector of humanity. He’s not charging into battle flanked by fighter jets. He’s definitely not buddying it up with Kong.
The Godzilla we see in Godzilla Minus One is an unfeeling force of nature. This Godzilla doesn’t destroy because he wants revenge or because he’s angry or because he’s king of the monsters.
This Godzilla destroys because he is.
While the recent MonsterVerse movies have attempted to tell a human story, the concept that these movies are human dramas that happen around a Godzilla story was largely dropped after 2014’s Godzilla. Minus One nails this concept. At its core is the story of Kōichi Shikishima, a kamikaze pilot haunted by World War II, and the relationship he has with his found family.
I’m not sure if Godzilla Minus One will be in theaters beyond next week, so I’d encourage you all to check it out this weekend. Seriously, take a break from reading this newsletter, open the AMC or Fandango app on your phone and buy yourself a ticket.
- “I’m really hoping I will get a call and they will bring me on Star Wars”: Godzilla Minus One director Takashi Yamazaki told /Film that he’d love to hear from Lucasfilm, telling the site that he thought “a more Japanese or even just Eastern take on Star Wars, would be really, really interesting, so I hope they call me up.” Read the article at /Film.
🎞️ “This is your legacy”
Godzilla’s also having a moment on TV. Apple TV+ released a promo for upcoming episodes of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. I caught up with the first five episodes of this show, and I’m really enjoying it. (A new episode is available today.) Looks like there’s a lot more Godzilla coming up on the show, too.
If you’ve been watching Monarch, back me up: Those rainbow-y bursts of light coming from the ground in the episode with the Frost Vark are teases at Hollow Earth, right?
NEWS, NOTES AND TRAILERS
🎞️ Donald Glover’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith reboot activates
Here’s a fact that’ll make you feel old: Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the movie that turned Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie into a couple, came out eighteen years ago. That’s almost two decades ago!
It does, however, seem like enough time to go by to justify a reboot. (You know what’s not enough time? The nine years between the original Moana and Disney’s upcoming live-action reboot. I’m looking at you, Dwayne Johnson …)
Donald Glover and Atlanta writer Francesca Sloane have done just that, bringing a TV series reboot of Mr. & Mrs. Smith to Prime Video this February, with Glover and Pen15’s Maya Erskine in the title roles.
- Those guest stars: Glover and Erskine aren’t the only actors in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. The teaser trailer revealed that Paul Dano, Parker Posey, Wagner Moura, John Turturro, Ron Perlman, Michaela Cole, Eiza González, Alexander Skarsgård, Sharon Horgan and Sarah Paulson will also have guest roles in the series.
Ryan Reynolds asks everyone to cool it with the Deadpool 3 spoilers
With the actors strike over, Deadpool 3 has jumped back into production. Over the past few weeks and days, photos from the film’s shoot have wound up on social media, possibly spoiling the return of characters and elements from elsewhere in the vast expanse of Marvel shows and movies.
Ryan Reynolds is hoping everyone can cool it.
“It’s important for us to shoot the new Deadpool film in real, natural environments, using practical effects as opposed to making the movie indoors and digitally,” the Deadpool star wrote on his social media. “Telephoto lenses continue to spoil surprises and create a difficult situation for everyone.”
Points for shooting Deadpool 3 in the real world and not on The Volume.
“Here’s hoping some of the websites and social channels hold back showing images before they’re ready,” Reynolds continued. “The film is built for audience joy — and our highest hope is to preserve as much of that magic as possible for the finished film and the big screen.” Read Ryan Reynolds’ post on Threads.
- PLEASE don’t overuse the phrase, “Deadpool Leaks”: Reynolds also posted some of his own spoilers from Deadpool 3 on Thursday. They seem dubious to me, but check them out … Read Ryan Reynolds’ post on Threads.
🎞️🐉 “No war so bloody as a war between dragons”
Otto Hightower describing the whole “killing of Rhaenyra Targaryen’s son with a dragon” thing as “errors were made” to start the new trailer for House of the Dragon is hilarious.
🚫 Apple TV+ cancels Central Park
While I hadn’t thought of the show in a few years, Central Park randomly popped into a conversation I was having a few days ago — which became an even weirder coincidence when shortly after word began circulating that Apple TV+ had canceled the animated series.
Central Park star Josh Gad confirmed the cancelation on Threads on Sunday. “Sadly, it’s done,” he wrote in response to a fan asking if the show was coming back. Read Josh Gad’s post on Threads.
- You may remember Central Park from … It’s been a few years since Central Park was in the news, with the show’s casting of Kristen Bell as a biracial character (who sings about her natural hair being her superpower) earning a ton of criticism in 2020. Central Park eventually recast Bell with Emmy Raver-Lampman.
Disney FINALLY sends Pixar’s Soul, Luca and Turning Red to theaters
Disney announced this week that Soul, Luca and Turning Red will receive brief theatrical releases. Thanks to a mixture of the pandemic and Disney’s need to find premium content for Disney+, these three Pixar films never received domestic theatrical runs.
The past power of Pixar: Before the pandemic, Pixar was a box office force. The last two movies from the studio before Covid both crossed $1 billion worldwide.
Incredibles 2 opened with $182.7 million and went on to gross $608.6 million domestic and $1.24 billion worldwide. Toy Story 4 opened with $120.9 million and went on to gross $434 million domestic and $1.07 billion worldwide.
The pandemic hits: Onward was the end of that success. Hitting theaters just days before the world shut down, the 2020 film opened with just $39.1 million and closed with $133.4 million worldwide. After that, Disney relegated the next three Pixar movies, Soul, Luca and Turning Red, to Disney+. (All three would be nominated at the Oscars for Best Animated Feature, with Soul winning the award in 2021.)
Damage done: Whether on purpose or by accident, this move established that Pixar was a streaming brand — not a brand that you see in theaters — a move that would doom Disney’s attempt to send Pixar movies back to theaters.
Lightyear opened with $50.6 million and went on to gross $118.3 million domestic and $218.8 million worldwide. Elemental opened with $29.6 million and went on to gross $154.4 million domestic and $486.7 million worldwide.
“The way they were meant to be seen”: Disney notes in its press release that fans can now “experience three Pixar films the way they were meant to be seen” — a pretty implicit acknowledgment that the studio screwed up sending these Pixar films directly to Disney+. As Bob Iger has tried to right the studio after returning as CEO, it’s become apparent that moviegoers fully understand that if they skip a movie in theaters (whether it’s Pixar’s latest or a holiday season tentpole like Wish), they’ll be to catch these movies on Disney’s streaming service a few months later.
🎞️ “All democracies fail because people are fucking stupid”
I like The Boys. I think it’s a well-made deconstruction of superheroes, especially the place they’ve come to claim in the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But, god, is the promotion around The Boys exhausting.
We get it, you’re edgy.
Don’t even get me started on my theory that at least fifty percent of people who watch and love The Boys absolutely miss the satire and are rooting for the characters for the wrong reasons.
“Brian and Fiona, call me!”: The Hollywood Reporter surveyed a ton of showrunners for an end-of-the-year piece, with of the prompts being “IP I’m dying to get my hands on.” The Boys executive producer Eric Kripke responded that Saga, the groundbreaking comic series from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, would be his pick.
First off, boiling down anyone’s creative work to “IP” is cringeworthy. Second, please don’t adapt Saga. I don’t think I can’t listen to the team behind The Boys gloat about “whoa, look how edgy this upcoming season is!” about a Saga adaption. Read the story at The Hollywood Reporter.
🎞️👑 “I’m afraid we don’t do fathers and sons very well in this family”
The second part of The Crown’s final season hits Netflix next Thursday. The final batch of episodes will balance telling the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy while also focusing more on the younger royals like William and his relationship with Kate Middleton. I’m a bit surprised there hasn’t been a push to extend The Crown another season or two to cover the current drama surrounding the royals.
Adam Driver returns to SNL
Adam Driver hosts Saturday Night Live this weekend, returning to the show for the fourth time. He’s delivered a ton of iconic sketches across those four episodes — I know you all love the Undercover Boss ones, but nothing lives up to “Career Day” and “Del Taco” for me — and I hope he adds a few new ones to that showcase on Saturday.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and WandaVision
Since I’ve repeatedly brought up the importance of owning physical media in Popculturology and the topic is in the news again this past week, I figured I’d put my money where my mouth was and give readers of the newsletter a look at what I’ve recently added to my collection.
- Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny: I missed this one in theaters but wasn’t going to miss adding the Best Buy exclusive steelbook to my collection. I picked up the fantastic four-movie steelbook pack last year, and while I wish Dial of Destiny matched those cases, I get that they’re different products from different studios.
- WandaVision: Disney has finally started releasing Disney+ titles on 4K Blu-ray. They started with Loki Season 1, just released WandaVision and will send the first two seasons of The Mandalorian out to buyers in a week or so. (These discs are steelbooks and don’t come with digital copies.) The collector in me dreads that I’m going to have to pay for The Book of Boba Fett …
- Power Showrunners: Hollywood’s 50-ish Most Influential Writer-Producers of 2023 (Mikey O’Connell and Lesly Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter)
- The call of Tokitae (Caitlin Gibson, The Washington Post)
- How To Build a Car That Kills People: Cybertruck Edition (Kea Wilson, Streetsblog USA)
- How Guy Fieri became the Food Network’s $100 million man (Emily Heil, The Washington Post)
- What is CosMc’s? McDonald’s shares first details about its new beverage-led store (Mark Wilson, Fast Company)
AND FINALLY …
Today marks two years since we had to unexpectedly say goodbye to Roxy, our beloved beagle. She was the best dog, and it’ll be impossible to never not miss her.