Welcome to a quiet edition of Popculturology. We’re a third of the way through August, and it’s another slow period of summer news.
The WGA strike passed the 100-day mark this week, and there’s still no sign that the studios will agree to the fair deals that the writers and actors are looking for during their historic dual strike.
The news that Sony had pushed back a bunch of its films slipped through my notes for last Friday’s edition of the newsletter. The studio shuffled its release calendar in the midst of the work stoppages, sending Kraven the Hunter from Oct. 6 to Aug. 30, 2024, and the untitled Ghostbusters: Afterlife sequel from Dec. 20 to March 29, 2024.
The most important film shifted by Sony was Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse. The sequel was scheduled for release on March 29, 2024, but now doesn’t have a release date. Honestly, not a shocker. The cast and crew had long been hinting that there was still a ton of work to be done and hitting that March release date wasn’t a priority if it meant sacrificing quality.
Before heading into the rest of this edition of Popculturology, I leave you with the immortal words of Nandor the Relentless from last week’s episode of What We Do in the Shadows:
“Oh, shitty shit, I fucked it.”
(You all should be watching What We Do in the Shadows, a show that continues to get more creative with each new season.)
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- The News: The Rock won’t let Black Adam go, Barbie sequel plans
- Trailer Watch: Vacation Friends 2, Solar Opposites, I Am Groot
- What to Watch: Harley Quinn
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The Rock won’t let the Black Adam thing go
Sometimes you gotta take the loss. If you’re Dwayne Johnson and that loss was the critical and box office failure of Black Adam, that’s hard to do.
Here at Popculturology, I’ve spent way too much time and energy chronically how Johnson’s attempt to control the DC superhero movies basically tanked whatever chances the cinematic universe had left at succeeding while also dragging poor Henry Cavill into the muck in the process.
It’s been awhile since Johnson tried to spin away Black Adam’s failure, but he was at it again during a recent appearance on Kevin Hart’s Hart to Heart interview series.
“Black Adam got caught in a vortex of new leadership,” Johnson told Hart (via Variety). “It was so many changes in leadership. Anytime you have a company, a publicly traded company, and you have all those changes in leadership, you have people coming in who, creatively and fiscally, are going to make decisions that you may not agree with.”
So it wasn’t that it was just a clunker of a movie and people didn’t want to pay to see it?
“That will always be one of the biggest mysteries,” Johnson continued. “You have the biggest opening of your career. Sure, no China, which could’ve been maybe 100 or 200 million more dollars. You have a superhero and you want to grow out the franchise. You bring back Superman and Henry Cavill, which the world went crazy. And we created a diverse superhero portfolio, where we have just men and women of color in Black Adam.”
Look, kudos to Johnson for what was a diverse cast, but Black Adam was a disaster. So was bringing Cavill aboard and pretending that the world was eagerly awaiting a cinematic brawl between Superman and … his non-nemesis Black Adam. Maybe you should’ve started smaller and cameoed in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, the movie featuring Black Adam’s actual nemesis.
‘You are taking away the wrong lesson’
Even before Barbie became a $1 billion worldwide box office hit, there was the question of if — and when — we could expect a sequel. Warner Bros. and Mattel (both separately and together) have plans for a bunch of other toy-based movies, but don’t expect a Barbie sequel anytime soon.
Would Warner Bros. and Mattel attempt to make a Barbie sequel without Gerwig, Robbie or Gosling? I mean, this is the same industry that once planned on making Pixar sequels without Pixar, so let’s not call this idea completely out of line. It’d be a mistake, though, to move forward without the core creative team behind Barbie.
“Maybe Hollywood is smart enough, which is the funniest start to a sentence, ever,” one producer told THR about future movies based on toys. “But if anyone is watching Barbie and saying, ‘You know why this movie worked? It’s because of a toy’ you are taking away the wrong lesson.”
The ‘will Disney sell to Apple?’ rumor rises again
The storyline that Apple could buy Disney has long been a favorite rumor both in entertainment news and tech news. Two of the biggest companies combining? When has that ever caused an issue?
The rumor made the rounds again this week thanks to a THR article that appears to be based solely on a single insider telling THR, “I don’t think [Apple] would buy the company as it presently exists. But if you see [Bob Iger] start to divest things … that feels like he’s prepping for a sale. And there’s clearly no buyer like Apple.”
Sure, Iger might sell off some Disney properties like ESPN or Hulu, but selling the entire company is a taller order. How much cash would Apple need to make that happen? Would the government step in and squash a deal that massive?
Count me in the camp of people who think that Apple could use a studio to help populate Apple TV+, but there are so, so many barriers to acquiring Disney. It’s much easier to acquire a smaller studio like Amazon did with MGM.
- Elemental “will certainly be a profitable film.” Turns out Pixar’s latest isn’t a box office dud. After opening behind The Flash ($29.6 million vs. $55 million), Elemental’s staying power has it cruising past $400 million worldwide, with Pixar President Jim Morris singing the film’s praises to Variety.
- Sam Mendes and Armando Iannucci launch The Franchise. The upcoming HBO series will focus on “the crew of an unloved franchise movie fight for their place in a savage and unruly cinematic universe” and star Himesh Patel, Aya Cash, Jessica Hynes, Billy Magnussen, Lolly Adefope, Darren Goldstein, Isaac Powell, Richard E. Grant and Daniel Brühl.
- What is “scab” for $500? Despite not having writers or one of its hosts, Jeopardy! plans on plowing ahead with recycled clues for its 40th season. Host Ken Jennings seems to be OK with all of this …
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Vacation Friends 2
Vacation Friends was a great Hulu movie, especially in late 2021 when movies still weren’t playing in theaters. I’ll definitely watch this one when it comes out. There’s also something funny about John Cena with this much hair.
Vacation Friends 2 premieres on Hulu on Aug. 25.
You’ll notice that this new trailer for Solar Opposites focuses completely on The Wall. It’s pretty wild that this show basically consists of two pretty separate storylines now: What’s going on with the Shlorpians and what’s going on with The Wall. Will we ever see these storylines fully merge again?
Solar Opposites Season 4 premiers on Hulu on Aug. 14.
I Am Groot
I never finished the first season of I Am Groot and honestly had no idea there was a second season on the way. I know we all looooove Baby Groot, but this gets tiring after awhile.
I Am Groot Season 2 premieres on Disney+ on Sept. 6.
💬 💬 💬 Comments, questions or recommendations? Let me know!
- The Violent Delights of Harley Quinn (Inkoo Kang, The New Yorker)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Finally Makes Them Cool Again (Barry Levitt, The Daily Beast)
- “It Was the Perfect Time in History for the Movie”: An Oral History of Freaky Friday (Christy Piña, The Hollywood Reporter)
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A new episode of Harley Quinn hit Max on Thursday, which makes this either your chance to get up to date on the show or to start watching if you haven’t yet.
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