James Gunn delivers the best MCU movie since ‘Endgame’ with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’

I loved this movie. Absolutely loved it. PLUS: The writers’ strike continues, ‘Dune: Part Two’ gets its first trailer, and the new ‘Star Wars: Visions’ season is gorgeous.

James Gunn delivers the best MCU movie since ‘Endgame’ with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’
Sean Gunn, Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. / Marvel Studios

Hey, it’s Friday. Thanks for wrapping up your week with Popculturology.

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 on Thursday night. We’ll discuss that down below. (Spoiler alert: I loved it.) I will say that I’m old enough now where a 6:30 p.m. showing is so much more reasonable than how I saw Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania at 9 p.m. Nine o’clock at night!

The big news of the week has been the writers’ strike. Looking for a more fair cut of residuals during the streaming era, better job security in writers rooms and a guarantee that the studios won’t replace everyone with AI, the Writers Guild of America began the industry’s first work stoppage since the 2007-08 strike.

A huge thanks to Damion Schubert for a Bluesky invite. You can find me on there at @billkuchman.bsky.social. (No, I don’t have any invites to give out yet …)

This edition is for supporting subscribers. If you’re interested in becoming a supporting subscriber, please consider upgrading your subscription. For $5 a month or $50 a year, you get the two weekly editions of the newsletter plus Deep SNL Thoughts and The Box Office Report.

And regardless of your subscriber level, I appreciate you reading Popculturology.

In Today's Edition
  • Feature Presentation: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the best MCU movie since Avengers: Endgame
  • Bonus Features: The writers’ strike continues, Star Wars: Visions is gorgeous
  • The News: James Gunn discusses Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Superman project, Jason Reitman making an SNL movie, Kevin Costner bails on Yellowstone
  • Trailer Watch: Dune: Part Two, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Gran Turismo
  • Playlist: White House Plumbers
  • What to Watch: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hits theaters
  • Odds and Ends: A belated happy May the 4th

Feature Presenation
Zoe Saldaña in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. / Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the best MCU movie since Avengers: Endgame

I loved Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Absolutely loved it.

(I’m going to avoid spoilers here so everyone can read this and not have to worry about skipping past it.)

Here’s to James Gunn on this one. Not only is the Guardians trilogy the only MCU trilogy directed by one person all the way through, Vol. 3 is the best third movie of any MCU trilogy. (Yes, even better than Captain America: Civil War, which performed double duty as a mini-Avengers film and had to set up a ton of dynamics for the MCU leading up to Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.)

It’s baffling to think that there was any universe where Gunn didn’t get to direct this movie and didn’t get to close out the story he was telling. It totally makes sense that Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige insisted on using Gunn’s script even after Gunn had been fired by Disney.

I can’t imagine a third Guardians movie that isn’t this movie.

Years ago when Marvel Studios announced they were making a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the concept seemed ridiculous. A movie with a talking raccoon? Now it’s 2023, and that talking raccoon is the heart of this movie.

Remember when there was the push to recognize Andy Serkis’ work in the Planet of the Apes movies with an Oscar? Well, I want that for Rocket. I’m not sure how that happens or who gets it, since bringing this character to life was a team effort between Gunn, the amazing special effects artists, Sean Gunn doing the motion-capture work and Bradley Cooper voicing the character.

At one point, the couple next to me in the theater was crying. I was on the verge of tears. I’ll probably watch Vol. 3 when it’s out on home media and have a cathartic cry at some point. (Cathartic cries are healthy, and you should all have them from time to time.)

The MCU has struggled to find its footing after Endgame. There have been great shows. There have been mediocre shows. (Have there been too many shows?) There have been good movies. There has been Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. A pandemic put the entire megafranchise on hold for a year. The actor playing the major villain of the current saga is facing legal trouble and might have to be recast.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is nothing but a win for the MCU and for the fans who love this cinematic universe.

I hate to say it, but seeing an MCU movie started to feel like a chore. You want these movies to be good, but then the reviews and poor word of mouth start kicking in. So you trudge through Thor: Love and Thunder and Quantumania, trying to justify in your head why, no, you actually like this movie.

That’s not the case with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Every part of this movie clicks.

For Gunn, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Cooper and Vin Diesel, they’ve been in this for three movies now. Pom Klementieff has been a full-fledged member of this group since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. (Not to mention these actors portraying the Guardians characters in two Avengers movies and a holiday special.) Not only do I believe they’re a family on screen, I believe that they’re a family off screen.

Chukwudi Iwuji’s High Evolutionary immediately shoots into the upper echelon of MCU villains.

The loyalty these actors have to Gunn and his vision is on another level. His take on the characters, to them, is the only take. Pratt recently told GamesRadar that while he could see himself returning as Star-Lord “down the road if something makes sense,” he thinks “it would be strange to continue Peter’s story without James.”

I’m sure Marvel Studios will find a way to bring the Guardians to the big screen again someday. It’s too lucrative of a property to shelf. But whoever follows Gunn is going to have Groot-sized shoes to fill.

I love writing about pop culture, and I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter. If you enjoy reading Popculturology, please consider gifting a subscription to a friend.

Bonus Features
Writers Guild of America West headquarters in Los Angeles, Calif. / Amanda Scott/Creative Commons

Updates from the writers’ strike

The Writers Guild of America work stoppage continues.

Late-night TV goes dark

The strike has already made an impact on TV, with the late-night shows immediately going into reruns. After some questions about who would be covered as the strike progresses, we learned on Wednesday that NBC will pay staffers on The Tonight Show and Late Night for the first two weeks of the strike, with Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers paying their staffs for a potential third week.

That’s a wrap for SNL

Saturday Night Live canceled this weekend’s show on Tuesday. Pete Davidson will have to wait to make his return to the show as a host. On top of that, Deadline reported on Thursday that the final two hosts for Season 48 would have been Kieran Culkin and Jennifer Coolidge.

Writers? House of the Dragon doesn’t need writers!

Variety reported on Tuesday that House of the Dragon will push forward with production of its second season. Apparently all of the season’s scripts are finished. Phew. No show has ever had to do rewrites once they begin shooting. If Season 2 is just Caraxes spinning his wedding ring on a desk, I’m fully on board.

Showrunners? Rings of Power doesn’t need showrunners!

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will take House of the Dragon’s move one step further and continue production on its second season without its showrunners on set. In addition to being Rings of Powers’ showerunners, J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay are also writers, which means they’re prohibited from working during the strike.

Welp, this should be a mess.

More like Drew Barry-less …

The MTV Movie & TV Awards lost its host on Thursday, with Drew Barrymore dropping out in solidarity with the writers.

“I have listened to the writers, and in order to truly respect them, I will pivot from hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards live in solidarity with the strike,” Barrymore said in a statement (via Variety). “Everything we celebrate and honor about movies and television is born out of their creation. And until a solution is reached, I am choosing to wait but I’ll be watching from home and hope you will join me.”

I can’t wait to keep watching Star Wars: Visions

I was able to watch the first two episodes of the new season of Star Wars: Visions before having to hit send on this edition of Popculturology. It should come as no surprise that they’re absolutely gorgeous.

“Sith” and “Screecher’s Reach” kick of Season 2 of Star Wars: Visions. While I was unfamiliar with El Guiri, the animation studio behind “Sith,” the look of Cartoon Saloon was instantly recognizable when I started “Screecher’s Reech.” The studio received Best Animated Feature nominations at the 2018 and 2021 Oscars for The Breadwinner and Wolfwalkers. This short is stunning.

Star Wars: Visions is Star Wars unleashed. (No, not the video games.) Questions of canonicity or timelines don’t matter with these shorts. You don’t need to know 46 years of movies, books and TV shows to watch and understand Star Wars: Visions. Sure, an understanding of the mythos will help (when a character’s eyes suddenly glow yellow, you know what that means), but these shorts stand alone.

I can’t wait to jump into the rest of these episodes.

If you’re enjoying today’s edition of Popculturology, please share it with your friends.

The News
Val-Zod, one potential version of Superman who Ta-Nehisi Coates’ take on the character could’ve focused on. / DC Comics

Will Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Superman still take flight?

As Warner Bros. attempted to figure out what to do with Superman before Gunn became co-chief of DC Studios, rebooted everything and chose to direct Superman: Legacy himself, the studio hired Ta-Nehisi Coates to write a movie about a Black Superman that J.J. Abrams would produce.

With the recent shuffle at DC, it was unclear if Coates’ project was still going to happen.

“Those two things are totally unrelated,” Gunn told io9. “That’s an exciting movie. I know that Chantal Nong, who is the executive on that project, is extremely excited about it. So if it comes in and it’s great, which I haven’t read the script, and if the timing is right, that could absolutely happen. That’s totally unrelated. It would be an Elseworlds tale like Joker.”

It’s be a shame for DC Studios to waste the work that a talent like Coates put in on a potential Superman story. This one was one that I was very excited about when it was announced, and I’d hate to see it not become a reality. There was even speculation that Michael B. Jordan would play this film’s version of Superman.

Live from Saturday night, it’s Jason Reitman

While Saturday Night Live is paused for the writers’ strike, the wheels are turning on a movie about the show’s launch. Deadline reported on Monday that Jason Reitman will direct a movie for Sony about the very first episode of SNL.

The movie won’t be based off a preexisting source, with Deadline writing that Reitman and his cowriter Gil Kenan will draw from “the pair’s series of interviews with living cast, writers and crew members from the original production.”

Reitman and Kenan have previously delivered Ghostbusters: Afterlife for Sony and are currently working on a sequel.

Kevin Costner in Yellowstone. / Paramount+

Kevin Costner bails on Yellowstone

Turns out the reports from a few months ago that Kevin Costner would be exiting Yellowstone were true. ET reported on Wednesday that Costner will leave the show after its fifth season due to drama between the star and Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan.

Paramount+ has built a franchise around Yellowstone, with Costner as the flagship show’s lead actor. According to ET, his commitment to the show has become a sticking point.

Taika Waititi will get around to that Star Wars movie at some point

Taika Waititi is gonna make a Star Wars movie. Someday. Eventually. After he writes and directs some other movies. And gets inspired. Definitely.

In a Deadline report earlier this week about Waititi coming aboard to direct an adaption of Klara and the Sun, the trade mentioned that Waititi still plans on making good on the announcement that he’s working on a Star Wars movie, writing that insiders “he is still excited about the project and committed to direct that next year.”

Wild that there are just amorphous Star Wars projects lingering out there without any urgency.

Nikki Glaser on Fboy Island. / HBO Max

Quick hits

  • FBoy Island finds a new home. The CW announced this week that it had picked up the reality dating show. The Nikki Glaser-hosted series was dropped by HBO Max after two seasons. “I’m so damn excited that my favorite reality TV show is coming back,” Glaser said in a statement.
  • “It’s a huge episode — like a movie.” The Succession series finale will run 90 minutes, the show’s composter, Nicholas Britell, revealed to Variety.
  • The Santa Clauses cast Tracy Morgan as the Easter Bunny. What a ridiculous statement. I dunno what to make of Deadline’s report on this one. If you haven’t read the Wikipedia page for The Santa Clauses, the Disney+ series continuing the story of the Tim Allen movies, please do. It’s wild.
  • Dancing With the Stars returns to ABC. The long-running reality show jumped to Disney+ for its most recent recent season. Vulture reported on Tuesday that DWTS will air its upcoming season on both ABC and Disney+.
  • Netflix renews Sweet Tooth for a third and final season. It’s nice to see Netflix renewing a show instead of canceling it.
  • Connie Britton won’t be staying at The White Lotus. TVLine reported on Monday that the actress, who appeared in White Lotus’ first season, won’t be in the show’s third season.

Enjoy reading Popculturology? Share this edition!

Trailer Watch

Dune: Part Two

I didn’t see Dune: Part One in theaters due to *waves hands* the pandemic of it all. We watched it at home, which really didn’t do the expansiveness of Denis Villeneuve’s film justice. (Please tweet Caitlin your thoughts on why we need a 75-inch TV.) I’m going to do my best to catch Dune: Part Two in theaters. Based on this trailer, it needs to be seen that way. (Sorry, I think Christopher Nolan just took over my body for a second.)

Dune: Part Two opens on Nov. 3.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

This will be the first season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to premiere after the launch of The Always Sunny Podcast. I’ve enjoyed watching Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton pull back the curtain on the process of the creation of the sixteenth season of the show while discussing older episodes.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 16 premieres on FXX on June 7.

Gran Turismo

It’s great to see Neill Blomkamp back with another film. The director burst onto the screen with District 9 (wow, that seems like a million years ago now), but never seemed to recapture that magic with Elysium or Chappie. Gran Turismo is surprisingly based on a true story.

Gran Turismo opens on Aug. 11.

💬 💬 💬 Comments, questions or recommendations? Let me know!

Justin Theroux and Woody Harrelson in White House Plumbers. / HBO

White House Plumbers

Episode: “The Beverly Hills Burglary”

Quick thoughts

We started White House Plumbers on Wednesday night. I expected more right off the bat, but we’re going to stick with the show for now. The cast is too good to walk away from.

But what’s up with the voices Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux are doing?


“You made stationary for a covert op?” — Howard to Gordon

The Links

Spread the news! Share Popculturology on social media.

What to Watch
Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. / Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

In theaters

This is the MCU movie you’ve been waiting for. If you loved the original Guardians of the Galaxy, this is a must-watch movie. It has so much heart, and I’d hate for the Internet to spoil it for you before you have a chance to see it.

Star Wars: Visions


If heading out to a movie theater isn’t something you’re interested in doing this weekend (which is totally understandable), the second season of Star Wars: Visions is available on Disney+.

Did you know that Popculturology is on Instagram?

May the 4th be with you

Lucasfilm released a promo video for May the 4th highlighting all the Star Wars content available on Disney+. It’s pretty cool to see so many different parts of Star Wars lore together like this.

That’s the end of this issue of Popculturology. Thanks for reading. If you don’t already subscribe, please hit the “Subscribe now” button. Tapping the ♥️ at the bottom of each post also helps the newsletter.