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Welcome to Popculturology
James Gunn takes the reins of DC Studios, Tales of the Jedi premieres, Black Adam tops the box office again
A long time ago, I ran a website called Popculturology. It covered, well, pop culture. I wrote a ton for it. Movies. TV shows. A few reviews. Lots of movie trailers and casting news. Every so often I’d get a Reddit boost, which was always fun. (I also spent a ton of time writing about How I Met Your Mother, both for the now-defunct TV.com and Popculturology.)
Eventually, though, I got busy with life. The job of “running your own pop culture website with zero advertising income” didn’t fit into my schedule anymore. I think the final few articles on Popculturology were about Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ box office numbers — which was a lifetime ago in pop culture years.
After I accidentally let the domain expire, bots took over the url and basically tanked the entire venture. Years of links and search results gone. Oh well. We often hear that the Internet is forever, but it really isn’t. Go try to find those Geocities sites you made back in the early 2000s.
So why are you (hopefully) reading a Substack in 2022 that bears the name Popculturology? In the time since the original, my Twitter account became my way to share pop culture news and to connect with others who love movies and TV … and things aren’t looking so great over there at the moment. Let’s consider this my escape pod in case all the sane people on Twitter need to suddenly abandon ship.
Unlike the original Popculturology, the new version isn’t going to attempt to post every scoop, every bit of news, every movie trailer. That’s exhausting. And it stopped being fun. What I’d like to do, though, is shoot for a couple posts a week — some thoughts on whatever major pop culture news happened, share some fun movies trailers, go over what I recently watched (which is hopefully more than a ton of YouTube on the in the background).
Like the original Popculturology, I’m doing this for free. I’d love your comments, likes and shares.
It’s been awhile. I’m a bit older, a bit grayer. I have a kid now. Let’s see how this goes.
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James Gunn and Peter Safran take the reins of DC Studios
After years of trying to match what Marvel Studios was doing without a cohesive vision or creative mind overseeing its cinematic universe, the DC Extended Universe finally has its own Kevin Feige. Or, two Kevin Feiges. (Kevins Feige?) Warner Bros. Discovery announced last week that James Gunn and Peter Safran will be co-chairs and co-CEOs of the newly formed DC Studios.
This news came out of nowhere. The Hollywood Reporter had only a few weeks ago reported that there was a scramble in the DC corner of WBD between numerous parties to gain power over those franchises. Gunn was pitching stories. Matt Reeves had his own Batman. Todd Phillips was making Joker films. Dwayne Johnson had overridden execs like Walter Hamada to bring Henry Cavill back as Superman for a Black Adam credits scene.
All of those power struggles are moot now. Gunn and Safran will be setting the tone for the DCU going forward. Gunn was already heavily involved in the franchise, directed the Suicide Squad relaunch, bringing Peacemaker to HBO Max and even voicing himself in Harley Quinn. This is a new level of control, though. Forget whatever plans Johnson had for Superman. (He shouldn’t be fighting Black Adam. C’mon.) If Gunn wants to write and direct a Superman film, there’s no one stopping him. Cavill seems excited to be back as Superman, and I wonder if the knowledge that Gunn and Safran were going to be the DC Studios creative bosses made coming back easier.
I’ll miss Gunn’s storytelling in the MCU, but he’s exactly what the DC side of the superhero world needed.
The unstoppable MCU
Vision Quest: You didn’t think the MCU was done with Vision, did you? When we last saw Vision in WandaVision, he had just debated the Ship of Theseus with his alternate self before leaving to ponder who and what he was now. Paul Bettany will return as Vision in Vision Quest on Disney+, with WandaVision head writer and executive producer Jac Schaefer involved too. Will we see Elizabeth Olsen back as Wanda?
Wonder Man: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has already played Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, has a growing role in the Aquaman franchise and stepped into Laurence Fishburne’s shoes as Morpheus. He’ll now add an MCU title role to that résumé. I don’t know much about Wonder Man, but he’s coming to Disney+ with Abdul-Mateen playing the role. From my brief research on the character, he’s mixed it up with the Avengers, Stark Industries and was even romantically involved with the Scarlet Witch at one point (another chance for Olsen to return to the MCU?). Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton is on board to direct and executive produce, with Ben Kingsley also reprised his role of Trevor Slattery.
Tales of the Jedi
I love the idea of using a bunch of shorts to tell Star Wars stories that might not fit in other, longer projects. Tales of the Jedi tackles a few missing gaps in Ahsoka Tano’s story while also chronicling the fall of Count Dooku.
While it’s been exciting to see Clone Wars and Rebels characters make the jump into live action, I hope that Tales of the Jedi is a sign that Lucasfilm isn’t ready to abandon animation. There’s something different watching these characters (especially someone like Ahsoka) in animation. Not only do we get to hear the voice actors we’ve listening to for over a decade, but we get to enjoy how far the quality of animation has come since Clone Wars launched in 2008.
I pitched this on Twitter a few days ago, but Lucasfilm has a real opportunity to continue this format into other eras and groups in Star Wars lore. Imagine a Tales of the Sith series of shorts that follows Maul as he’s on the run from Darth Vader and the Inquisitors before winding up on Malachor.
Andor just keeps getting better. I’m shocked this show exists. We went from the historic clunkiness of “somehow, Palpatine returned” only a few years ago to gems like “the pace of oppression outstrips our ability to understand it” — and that was before Andor released an episode highlighting prison labor.
Although, not everyone got the message …
The only complaint I have about Andor is that we’re watching a Star Wars story with almost zero nonhuman characters. I get that this is a restraint when it comes to live-action shows, but it really stands out. We’ve seen a few aliens on Ferrix, but that’s it. Star Wars canon more or less retroactively established that the Empire didn’t employ nonhumans, but what about the rest of the planets? Is Narkina 5 a prison for only humans?
In the glory days of the original Popculurology, I used to recap every episode of Saturday Night Live. I’d watch an episode, take notes during it, write my review, go to bed, wake up the next morning, pull clips from Hulu, publish the recap. It was exhausting.
These days, we usually don’t watch SNL until the following day (amazing how a baby will completely change how you view staying up late).
So how about one SNL sketch per episode you should watch? This weekend’s return of David S. Pumpkins and his skeletons was the predictable pick, but Bobby Moynihan’s return of Drunk Uncle during Weekend Update was my favorite part of the show.
Moynihan brought a specific energy to SNL, one that the show has been missing. (A hint of chaos? An odd unpredictability? The Huey Duck vibe?) Like with Stefon, it’s easy to assume Moynihan is making up Drunk Uncle as he goes, but those tangents and non sequiturs are all on the cue cards. Except when Moynihan accidentally called Colin Jost “Seth,” a moment SNL seems to have replaced on streaming with the dress rehearsal version.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Marvel Studios launching these Special Presentations was a stroke of genius. Some stories don’t need feature-length films or eight-plus-episode TV series to unfold. Werewolf by Night planted the seeds for future stories but didn’t need more than fifty minutes to do so.
An established MCU franchise gets to play in the Special Presentations sandbox next, with the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. (Yes, the full title has two “specials” in it.” The first trailer for this one weirdly came out hours before Gunn was announced as the co-head of DC Studios.
Anyone else getting a bit of whiplash with how the Guardians are being portrayed? While they were exclusively Gunn’s toys with the first two Guardians movies, the Russo brothers took control of them with Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame before Taika Waititi had to cram them into the beginning of Thor: Love and Thunder. Gunn now gets to guide them to what’s likely the end of line for a few of these characters.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
How did Ant-Man go from an afterthought to one of the pivotal pieces of the MCU? Peyton Reed has worked magic with this trilogy, and he now gets to launch Phase Five with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
We got a glimpse of Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains in Loki, and now Quantumania is going to show us his his truly villainous side in Kang. Scott Lang may have saved the world in Avengers: Endgame with his van, but it looks like he’s going to be the to accidentally unleash Kang on the world, leading to the events in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars.
Reed is still one of my guesses when it comes to who’ll direct Secret Wars. He’s introducing Kang in Quantumania — will he finish the saga in the final Avengers film of the Multiversal Saga?
Weekend of Oct. 28-30, 2022
Black Adam $27.7M weekend ($111.1M domestic total)
Ticket to Paradise $10M ($33.7M)
Prey for the Devil $7M ($7M)
Smile $5M ($92.4M)
Halloween Ends $3.8M ($60.3M)
Black Adam’s second weekend numbers hit a bit differently now that we know Gunn and Safran are leading the DCU. The era when it actually looked like Johnson was calling the shots turned out to be quick, which means Black Adam isn’t the cinematic-universe-altering movie they wanted us to believe it was. It’ll pass Shazam, the film it should be compared against, but Shazam also cost almost less than half to make.
She-Hulk behind-the-scenes clip
I loved She-Hulk. The Disney+ shows have been a roll with this one and Ms. Marvel. She-Hulk got some flak for its CGI, both before and after the show premiered, but by the end of the series, I thought they had the CGI locked in pretty well.
This look at how the special effects team brought She-Hulk to life really drives home how much work this team did and how different this series was thanks to having a CGI lead.