It’s Friday. It’s Popculturology time.
We’re already two weeks into October, and with the WGA work stoppage over, the world of pop culture is starting to churn back to life.
We’ve been digging into some older movies lately at the Kuchman household. (You can only watch so much YouTube.)
I’ve been itching to rewatch Interstellar for some reason, so that’s how Caitlin and I spent last Friday night. I love Interstellar. I’ll even argue with you that it’s Christopher Nolan’s best movie. (He has a lot of best movies, so it’s not really an argument with a loser.) There’s something about its ambition and hopefulness that really connects with me.
We followed that up with ParaNorman on Saturday. This is one that slipped through the cracks for a lot of people when it hit theaters. I know it did for me. We didn’t watch it until a few years ago, but now it’s an annual viewing around Halloween. A wonderful movie from the folks over at Laika.
Our recent movie journey wrapped up with the Andy Samberg double feature of Hot Rod and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. I’m a big fan of both. (I was one of the twelve people who saw Hot Rod in theaters and died laughing as Rod rolled down that hill.) Caitlin isn’t on board with Popstar. It’s wild that Hot Rod came out sixteen years ago. (Long enough ago where it’s already had a few lookbacks and oral histories written about it.)
I actually cranked up the Blu-ray player to watch ParaNorman and Hot Rod. I have a digital copy of ParaNorman, but it’s 4K. A great chance to break out the 4K version of the film that came in a fantastic new steelbook. As for Hot Rod, it turns out I don’t own a digital copy of the film. Had to dig into my massive binder of DVDs to get that one.
Good reminders of the benefits of keeping a collection of physical discs when it comes to the movies you love.
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NEWS, NOTES AND TRAILERS
“We’re trying to marry the Marvel culture with the traditional television culture”
It turns out making TV isn’t the same thing as making shorter movies. Marvel Studios seems to have found this out hard way, culminating with the “significant creative reboot” of Daredevil: Born Again.
In a new piece, The Hollywood Reporter breaks down how Marvel Studios is resetting the upcoming Daredevil series along with what went wrong as Kevin Feige and company brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Disney+.
- What went wrong with Daredevil: According to The Hollywood Reporter, with less than half Born Again’s episodes shot, Feige and crew realized things weren’t working. “Sources say that [head writers Chris Ord and Matt Corman] crafted a legal procedural that did not resemble the Netflix version, known for its action and violence. [Charlie Cox didn’t even show up in costume until the fourth episode,” The Hollywood Reporter writes. “Marvel plans to keep some scenes and episodes, though other serialized elements will be injected, with Corman and Ord becoming executive producers on the two-season series.”
- Secret Invasion’s turmoils: Sounds like a ton went wrong with Secret Invasion, a show that’s widely considered the low point of the MCU. (I still haven’t watched it.) “Details are murky, but what happened next, in the summer of 2022, debilitated the production as factions became entrenched and leaders vied for supremacy during Secret Invasion’s preproduction in London,” The Hollywood Reporter writes. “‘It was weeks of people not getting along, and it erupted,’ says an insider.”
- Marvel discovers showrunners and show bibles: This one blew my mind. Having a showrunner — you know, someone in charge of running a show — wasn’t something that the Marvel Studios shows were doing. Not only that, they were shooting on the fly and figuring out what worked in postproduction. That’s apparently changing. “Showrunners will write pilots and show bibles,” The Hollywood Reporter writes. “The days of Marvel shooting an entire series, from She-Hulk to Secret Invasion, then looking at what’s working and what’s not, are done.”
- A more TV-y future: Instead of just one-off runs, expect to see more second seasons from the MCU shows on Disney+. Hopefully this means more Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk and Moon Knight.
Matt Shakman is still directing Fantastic Four — and we won’t get a casting announcement until the actors strike is over
On the movie side of the MCU, things are looking better. Despite rumors that he had left the project, Matt Shakman is still directing Fantastic Four. The WandaVision director chatted with Collider about how the film is coming along.
“Hard to say,” Shakman responded when asked by Collider about when a casting announcement could be made. “Like I said, we’re in the middle of a SAG strike, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they get a great deal really soon and we can go back. Then, once that's resolved, there’ll be a plan at that point, but I can’t say too much. There will be an announcement at some point! I know that the internet is very excited to find out, and I'm excited to share it. I just can’t do it yet.”
After a flurry of rumors over possibly casting picks, news surrounding Fantastic Four has been quiet lately …
🪧 “These companies refuse to protect performers from being replaced by AI”
After the WGA scored their historic labor deal, the hope was that we’d see SAG-AFTRA quickly land a deal of the same caliber from the studios. It turns out the studios are ready to repeat the same mistakes that caused the writers strike to go on for as long as it did.
SAG-AFTRA announced on Thursday morning that talks between them and the AMPTP have stopped, with the studios walking away from the bargaining table.
- From SAG-AFTRA’s statement: “It is with profound disappointment that we report the industry CEOs have walked away from the bargaining table after refusing to counter our latest offer. We have negotiated with them in good faith, despite the fact that last week they presented an offer that was, shockingly, worth less than they proposed before the strike began. These companies refuse to protect performers from being replaced by AI, they refuse to increase your wages to keep up with inflation, and they refuse to share a tiny portion of the immense revenue YOUR work generates for them.” Read the full statement.
- AMPTP’s response: The studios put out their own statement after talks fell apart, claiming “the gap between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA is too great, and conversations are no longer moving us in a productive direction” and saying that a major SAG-AFTRA proposal would “create an untenable economic burden.” Read the full statement.
- Our deal was good too, DGA insists: At one point earlier this year, it looked like all three major Hollywood guilds would go on strike, but the Directors Guild of America chose against a work stoppage and cut a deal with the AMPTP. And now according to a piece in The Ankler, the DGA is defending its new three-year contract as grumbling grows that their deal doesn’t live up to what the WGA got.
🎞️ New For All Mankind trailer takes us beyond Mars
I was already excited about Old Joel Kinnaman. Now you’re telling me Daniel Stern is in the upcoming season?
The Aquaman mess
To no one’s surprise, there’s a ton of drama behind the scenes of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. A new report from Variety dives into the myriad issues facing the film, which is set to be the last gasp of the DCEU before James Gunn and Peter Safran fully reboot the cinematic universe.
Beyond Jason Momoa’s alleged misbehavior around Amber Heard …
- All the previous Justice League actors are gone: No matter what Dwayne Johnson told Henry Cavill or what Gal Gadot claims to have heard from Gunn, Variety reports that “none of the stars cast by Zack Snyder for 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and 2017’s Justice League … will reprise their roles in the new DC universe in character.”
- But Momoa could return … Momoa is reportedly in talks to play Lobo, a different character in the DC universe, in either the upcoming Superman: Legacy or a standalone film. I dunno. Keeping an actor who played a major character in a 2023 superhero film around to play a different character in a different superhero film from the same studio a few years later feels like an easy way to confuse casual moviegoers.
- Elon Musk’s “scorched-earth” letter: Warner Bros. was allegedly ready to fire Heard from the Aquaman sequel but a sources tells Variety that Elon Musk, her boyfriend at the time, intervened with a threat to “burn the house down.”
“Pete, that’s not how it works. You can’t just say you’re hosting.”
Saturday Night Live is back this weekend. Pete Davidson was supposed to host one of last season’s final episodes, but the studios’ failure to agree to a fair deal with the WGA brought the show’s 48th season to an early end.
How much money is the Taylor Swift movie going to make this weekend?
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour will easily win the box office this weekend. The only real question is how much money it’ll make in doing so.
$75 million? $125 million? $150 million?
A $150 million opening weekend would give Taylor Swift the 29th biggest domestic debut, right between Spider-Man 3 ($151.1 million) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ($148 million). It would also be the second biggest opening weekend of 2023, behind only Barbie ($162 million).
🎞️ “We can all agree this is a scary cult and we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop”
I know it’s popular to compare Please Don’t Destroy to The Lonely Island (mostly because of their legacy of short videos on SNL), but the trio and their movie, Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain, remind me a lot of Derrick Comedy. Before he was a massive star, Donald Glover was part of Derrick Comedy alongside Dominic Dierkes and DC Pierson. They even released their own movie about friends with stunted emotional development, Mystery Team.
Disney Animation chief “blown away” by Frozen III work
Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee shared last week a brief insight into the work being done on Frozen III.
“All I’ll say is that last week, they carved out time for me to work with the creative team on it. And I’m blown away,” Lee said during the London Film Festival. “I’m so excited. I don’t know what I’m doing on it yet. I might be doing nothing.”
At this point, the only thing we really know about the third Frozen film is that Lee herself won’t be directing it. After co-directing the first two Frozen films with Chris Buck, Lee is understandably a bit busy being the full-time COO of Disney Animation.
I do hope that the progress on Frozen III that’s “blown away” Lee is an improvement on Frozen II. If you haven’t had a chance to watch any of the behind-the-scenes stuff on that movie, I’d recommend giving it a watch. The creative team behind Frozen II struggled deep into development of the movie — like, songs were being written — without actually knowing how the movie would end or what Elsa was going to find.
🎞️ “He doesn’t like it when people say ‘poor’”
Hey, it’s a new trailer for Wonka. I’m still not sure we needed a prequel to this story (sorry, Timothée Chalamet), but director Paul King gave us the two Paddington movies so I’ll give him a chance on this one.
🎞️ Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White enter the ring
From the director of Martha Marcy May Marlene comes The Iron Claw, the story of the Von Erich wrestling family. Lots of familiar faces in this one, including Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White and Lily James.
👑 The Crown teases its final chapter
Netflix revealed this week that it’s splitting the final season of The Crown into two batches. The first four episodes will drop on Nov. 16 with the final six episodes premiering on Dec. 14.
Netflix saves Star Trek: Prodigy
One of the big promises of the streaming era was that not only would everything would be available forever, you’d be able to have single homes for iconic franchises. Everything Star Wars and the MCU is available on Disney+. All of the Batman and Superman movies were supposed to be available on HBO Max. And Star Trek fans thought Paramount+ was finally going to be the home of the franchises’ growing roster of movies and shows.
The streaming era is not what we were promised. Not only did Paramount+ cancel Star Trek: Prodigy but the show was completely removed from the service. Killing content for a tax break.
Netflix took a break from playing its role as the streaming era’s preeminent grim reaper to save the animated Star Trek show, announcing on Wednesday that the first season of Star Trek: Prodigy was coming to its platform later this year and that a second season would be on the way in 2024.
By the time you’re reading this edition of Popculturology, the second episode of the new season of Loki will have already dropped on Disney+. Unfortunately, that’s not enough time for me to watch the episode and turn it around for this newsletter. So let’s talk about the season premiere.
Watching the episode, I was struck by how weird it is that the entire Multiverse Saga is seeded by this show. The idea of timelines, the TVA, Kang — all from a Disney+ show. (Which is even wilder now that we know Marvel Studios wants to make its TV shows more TV-y.)
Time slipping: Loki’s temporal glitching isn’t exactly what we saw from characters who were outside their own universe in the Spider-Verse movies, but it’s fun to see this concept stretch across the connections between the MCU and Sony’s Spider-Man universe.
Who pruned Loki in the future? I imagine this is going to be an overarching question for this season. (The second episode revealed who pruned Loki in the future, didn’t it?)
“Something that’s already dead. Nothing with a face”: While Loki was bouncing around time, the episode closed out with Sylvie arriving in 1982 Oklahoma and heading to McDonald’s. From the previews, we know that she gets a job at McDonald’s, but that can’t last longer considering …
TVA on the hunt: For some reason, the TVA’s General Dox (played by Game of Thrones’ Kate Dickie) and Hunter X-5 are overzealously ready to find Sylvie. And armed to the teeth to do so.
Those hair flips: I counted five. Is Tom Hiddleston doing it too much now?
O.B.: How great is Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan? Hopefully he’ll journey beyond TVA headquarters as the second season of Loki moves along.
- The Daily Show still doesn’t have a host. Why not? (Elahe Izadi, The Washington Post)
- The Crimes Behind the Seafood You Eat (Ian Urbina, The New Yorker)
- In Vegas, the only thing we have to Sphere is Sphere itself (Maura Judkis, The Washington Post)
- The Truth About the Taylor Swift, Jets Game, Google Search Conspiracy Theory (Angela Watercutter, Wired)
AND FINALLY …
A new Animal Crossing island to neglect
I worry about my Animal Crossing island. It’s been years since I last visited. While the perfect storm of the beginning of the pandemic and me breaking my foot gave me ample time to craft my island, it’s been a long time since I had the bandwidth to make the rounds, do some fishing and talk to my neighbors. I hope they’re not dead.
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.