Out of the 31 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve seen 28 of them in theaters.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was the first one where the feeling of “um, I don’t think I like this” crept over me as the movie progressed.
It was the same feeling I had while watching Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker the Thursday night that movie premiered.
Unlike with The Rise of Skywalker, though, this feeling didn’t dominate my entire viewing, and by the end of the second credits scene, I was comfortable calling Quantumania “OK.”
So here’s the deal with Quantumania. (Maybe some light spoilers going forward …) If you liked the first two Ant-Man movies and were expecting a sequel in the same tone, this one is going to be a problem for you. Almost the entire film takes place in the Quantum Realm, a world populated by humans that aren’t human (no explanation on that one) and bizarro creatures. Michael Peña’s Luis is not in Quantumania.
Much of the first hour of the movie is dominated by Scott Lang, Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym asking Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet van Dyne what she hasn’t told them about her time in the Quantum Realm.
Or other characters asking Janet if she’s told her family about her time in the Quantum Realm.
Or Janet finally admitting that she hasn’t been truthful about her time in Quantum Realm.
It was exhausting.
Jonathan Majors’ Kang saves the movie. (At one point, I realized I was rooting for him because I was so annoyed at the continuous gimmick of Janet not just telling the other characters about him.) He’s quietly threatening, and while Quantumania didn’t fully deliver, Majors is going to be an exciting addition to the MCU as we move through the Multiverse Saga. The two credit scenes are a quick peek at that potential.
Here’s the easiest way I can explain where Quantumania goes wrong: It’s a Rick and Morty episode wrapped in an MCU movie.
Nothing wrong with a Rick and Morty episode being a Rick and Morty episode. But when you try to cram that vibe into an MCU movie, it’s not always going to fit.
There’s a character in Quantumania who would be a seamless fit in Rick and Morty. His name is Veb. He’s made of … jelly. He asks the human characters to drink his ooze in order to understand the language of the Quantum Realm. And he’s obsessed with holes. Like, how many holes does Scott Lang have?
You wouldn’t think twice if Rick Sanchez and Morty Smith ran into Veb, but he — along with the rest of the Quantum Realm’s freedom fighters — never fully click with what we’ve come to expect from the MCU.
The average moviegoer likely has no idea that Marvel Studios has handed the keys to the MCU to a handful of Rick and Morty writers.
- Michael Waldron created the Loki series and wrote a couple episodes in its first season. He also wrote Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and is the screenwriter for Avengers: Secret Wars. Waldron wrote the Rick and Morty episode “The Old Man and the Seat.”
- Jeff Loveness wrote Quantumania and is the screenwriter for Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. He wrote several episodes of Rick and Morty, including “The Vat of Acid Episode.”
- Jessica Gao created the She-Hulk series and wrote several episodes. She wrote the Rick and Morty episode “Pickle Rick.”
These are brilliant creative minds. They’ve written standout episodes of Rick and Morty. (And show how little disgraced co-creator Justin Roiland has actually been contributing to the show.)
Quantumania was the first time, though, where things felt too Rick and Morty-y. Waldron’s Loki honored the title character and his place in the MCU, and there was never any way Multiverse of Madness wouldn’t feel like a Sam Raimi project. Gao’s She-Hulk was fresh and one of my favorite bits of recent MCU storytelling.
Marvel Studios has long trusted sitcom writers and directors with the MCU films. The megafranchise’s mix of humor and action has allowed talent like the Russo brothers to jump from directing episodes of Community to helming the record-breaking films.
Going forward, I’m curious to see how the Rick and Morty alumni blend that show’s brand of humor and storytelling with the two upcoming Avengers movies. Maybe Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton will balance Loveness’ Rick and Morty tendencies as he helms The Kang Dynasty better than Peyton Reed did in Quantumania.
A sidenote for this movie: I saw Quantumania at 9 p.m. on Friday. Do you all realize how late 9 p.m. is now? And that’s the time you start watching a two-hour movie … plus previews? I felt like I was going to a midnight screening.
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Fantastic Four casting process begins this month, will focus on Sue Storm first
Since pretty much the moment is was announced that Marvel Studios was making a Fantastic Four movie, casting rumors have swirled around the project. There was even the theory that Marvel would unveil the cast as San Diego Comic-Con or D23 Expo last year.
Those events came and went without a Fantastic Four cast announcement. Turns out casting hasn’t even begun on the project — but it’s about to gear up, according to Deadline’s Justin Kroll.
Focusing on Sue Storm is a smart move by Marvel Studios. While we love fancasting Reed Richards (I mean, that’s how John Krasinski wound up in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), Sue is a much stronger audience surrogate character.
This makes the recent meeting between Fantastic Four director Matt Shakman and Mila Kunis all the more interesting. Is Kunis in the mix for the role of Sue Storm? Hopefully Marvel and Shakman are screentesting their Sue Storms against Tenoch Huerta’s Namor.
The Marvels shifts from July to November
In addition to spreading out its Disney+ shows, Marvel Studios is also giving its theatrical releases a bit more breathing room. The studios revealed on Friday that it was pushing back The Marvels from a July 28 release date to Nov. 10, releasing a new poster for the movie in the process.
Marvel Studios had originally staked out Nov. 3 for Blade, but that one was pushed back to September 2024.
Mighty Ducks: Game Changers canceled
The phrase “I guess this isn’t for me” would make pop culture discourse so much friendlier. Sometimes, a movie or show isn’t for you. And you just move on.
Despite Millennial fans of the Mighty Ducks being the ones asking for a revival of the franchise, Disney brought the property back as a Disney+ show aimed at a younger crowd.
“I guess this isn’t for me,” I said and pretty much forgot the show existed. (I also didn’t become a toxic fan on social media blasting Disney and the Mighty Ducks: Game Changers cast and crew for ruining my childhood.)
The streamer also canceled Big Shot, the John Stamos’ basketball show.
Zach Galifianakis cast in the live-action Lilo & Stitch movie — but as who?
Lilo & Stitch is getting the live-action movie treatment over at Disney. (But if they don’t have a real alien playing Lilo, is it really live action?) The Hollywood Reporter broke the news on Friday that Zach Galifianakis had joined the movie. And despite your initial assumption that he’s voicing Lilo, THR says that “details of Galifianakis’ role are being kept in the dog pound.”
Dean Fleischer Camp, the co-creator of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, will direct the Lilo & Stitch adaption.
Galifianakis is absolutely voicing Lilo, right?
Kelly Ripa replaces Ryan Seacrest with her husband
The morning talk shows aren’t something that I’d usually write about in Popculturology, but I find this one especially funny. Ryan Seacrest announced on Thursday that he’s leaving Live With Kelly and Ryan. His replacement? Kelly Ripa’s husband, Mark Consuelos.
Congrats to Ripa on playing a 22-year long con, joining Live With Regis in 2001, sticking around after Regis Philbin, outlasting Michael Strahan and now finally swapping out Seacrest for her husband.
SNL announces Travis Kelce and Jenna Ortega as hosts
Saturday Night Live announced who’ll host the two shows after the upcoming Woody Harrelson episode, and if you’re a Philadelphia Eagles fan or a fan of just about any AFC team besides the Kansas City Chiefs, the March 4 episode is going to be a rough one.
Bills fans like myself should be able to enjoy SNL without having to be subjected to Travis Kelce.
Sequels to Constantine and I Am Legend in the works
If you’ve spent the past 16 to 18 years waiting for a sequel to Keanu Reeves’ Constantine and Will Smith’s I Am Legend, you’re in luck. (You’re also a pretty specific person. This is what you’ve spent the past 16 to 18 years doing?) Writer/producer Akiva Goldsman revealed to Deadline last week that he’s working with Warner Bros. to produce sequels to the two films.
“We’re starting with two projects that are fun and very much Warners: the sequel to I Am Legend, with Will and Michael B. Jordan, and the sequel to Constantine with Keanu Reeves that Francis Lawrence is going to direct,” Goldsman told Deadline.
“This is a credit to Keanu, who endlessly has said, ‘this is the character I want to return to,’” Goldsman continued. “Finally, he said it enough times that it stuck.”
The most intriguing part of Goldsman’s talk with Deadline was the news that the I Am Legend sequel will work from the film’s alternate ending (which was superior and they should’ve gone with it from the start) instead of the ending where Smith’s character sacrificed himself.
“We trace back to the original [Richard Matheson] book, and the alternate ending as opposed to the released ending in the original film,” Goldsman told Deadline. “What Matheson was talking about was that man’s time on the planet as the dominant species had come to an end. That’s a really interesting thing we’re going to get to explore. There will be a little more fidelity to the original text.”
Edited versions of HBO shows ‘Silicon Valley’ and ‘True Blood’ are heading to TBS and TNT
If you were to cut down episodes of Silicon Valley and True Blood to be appropriate for basic cable, what’s would be left? For True Blood, you’d pretty much be down to the opening theme and then Bill the Vampire just saying “Sookie …” a bunch of times before the end credits to roll.
We’re going to find out how this experiment works. Variety reported on Thursday that Warner Bros. Discovery is looking to further maximize its content library, with plans to air edited episodes of Silicon Valley on TBS and True Blood on TNT.
“We have an enviable arsenal of networks and assets which gives us flexibility and allows us to put our impressive content library to work on platforms where it can attract new audiences,” Kathleen Finch, chairman and chief content officer of Warner Bros. Discovery’s U.S. Networks Group, told Variety.
‘Why the fuck would I want that job?’: Marc Maron auditioned for ‘Avatar’ sequel
Watching Marc Maron go from a cult comedian who hosts a podcast to an actor who leads Netflix shows and voices characters in kids’ animated movies has been wild. Turns out James Cameron wanted a piece of Maron too for the Avatar franchise.
While chatting with Josh Horowitz for the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Maron revealed that he went out to Cameron’s studio to audition for a role in Avatar: The Way of Water.
“A doctor or scientist who drank,” was how Maron described the role to Horowitz before clarifying that the part wound up going to Jemaine Clement.
Maron went into depth on how bizarre the experience of auditioning for the Avatar franchise was to him. Acrobats! Tightropes! Scripts that couldn’t leave the building!
“Why the fuck would I want that job?” Maron asked.
Another Hellboy remake is on the way
Why couldn’t the powers-that-be just have let Guillermo del Toro complete his Hellboy trilogy? Del Toro’s take on the property got weirder and better with Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and it would’ve been fun to see where del Toro and Ron Perlman took the story.
Instead, Universal killed the sequel. And then we got the ill-advised David Harbour reboot in 2019.
According to DiscussingFilm, another reboot is in the works. Brian Taylor will direct the new film. I dunno. We’ve gone from del Toro to now the guy who directed Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance helming the Hellboy franchise?
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John Wick: Chapter 4
John Wick just wanted to live a quiet life. But no, some idiots had to kill his beagle, and now four movies later, he’s still traveling the world as the secret society of assassins he once belonged to tries to kill him.
John Wick: Chapter 4 opens on March. 24.
I love Tetris. There is a very tiny number of video games that I actually play, and Tetris has long been the one that I’m actually good at. I’ve played on the original Game Boy, a Game Boy Color, a Game Boy Advanced (both of those the awesome translucent purple versions that Nintendo used to produce), my phone and a Nintendo DS. The Tetris effect is real, and after I’ve played for long periods of time, I see the Tetrominos when my eyes are closed.
When I first heard that they were making a Tetris movie, I assumed some studio was trying to turn the game into a movie. Like Adam Sandler was going to have to fight Tetris blocks or something.
Tetris is the story of how the game came out of the Soviet Union and wound up being included with every Game Boy sold at one point, with Taron Egerton doing his best Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street impression.
Tetris premieres on March 31.
Love & Death
I have very little idea what Love & Death is about, but I know that I love the idea of Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons playing two people who decide to have an affair. I assume there’s a death at some point too. Also love the White Lotus-y music in this trailer.
Love & Death premieres on April 27.
Weekend of Feb. 17-19, 2023
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (N)
Weekend gross: $104M / Total domestic gross: $104M / Percent drop: NA
No surprise that Quantumania took the No. 1 spot at the box office this weekend, but I am a bit surprised that the film opened at $104 million. Estimates had the third Ant-Man film pegged for a $95 million domestic opening weekend, and after it got a B from CinemaScore, I expected an opening weekend below that estimate. (CinemaScore is usually a good way of knowing how strong the word of mouth is around a movie.)
A $104 million opening weekend is easily the best for an Ant-Man movie (the original opened with $57.2 million and Ant-Man and the Wasp opened with $75.8 million), and sits at the 17th best opening weekend of the 31 MCU movies.
Quantumania is the fifth straight MCU movie to break the $100 million opening weekend mark. (Spider-Man: No Way Home $260.1 million, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness $187.4 million, Thor: Love and Thunder $144.2 million, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever $181.4 million.) This ties the longest streak of MCU films to open at $100 million or higher. (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 $146.5 million, Spider-Man: Homecoming $117 million, Thor: Ragnarok $122.7 million, Black Panther $202 million, Avengers: Infinity War $257.7 million.) Can Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 keep this streak going in May?
Avatar: The Way of Water (2)
Weekend gross: $6.1M / Total domestic gross: $657.1M / Percent drop: -15
Avatar: The Way of Water is now the ninth highest grossing movie in domestic box office history, moving past Jurassic World’s $652.3 million. A lot of work left for the second Avatar movie if it’s going to move any higher on the worldwide chart, though. Its $2,243,275,991 worldwide haul is more than half a billion away from Avengers: Endgame’s $2,794,731755 and even farther away from Avatar’s $2,923,706,026.
- Magic Mike’s Last Dance (1)
Weekend gross: $5.5M / Total domestic gross: $18.1M / Percent drop: -33
- Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (5)
Weekend gross: $5.3M / Total domestic gross: $166.1M / Percent drop: -6
- Knock at the Cabin (6)
Weekend gross: $3.9M / Total domestic gross: $30.4M / Percent drop: -28
Box office numbers via The Numbers
Moana is a masterpiece.
Good luck ever convincing me that it’s not the crown jewel of the Second Disney Renaissance. Yes, better than Frozen. Better than Zootopia, which somehow beat Moana for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2017 Oscars. (Between Moana and Arrival, November 2016 gave the world two of my favorite movies, both of which would be snubbed for Oscar glory.)
This obviously wasn’t my first time watching Moana. I’ve probably seen it more than any MCU movie and most Star Wars films. So why am I highlighting it in the newsletter? (Besides maybe as a reminder that you all should watch it.)
Well, this past week I realized our daughter knows who Moana is. We were playing in her room, and I pulled the Moana Squishmallow out of her basic of toys. Hazel recognized the character and pointed at the Baby Moana Funko Pop on one of the shelves in her bedroom. (It’s the only Funko she owns. She has many Squishmallows, though.)
She knew that they were both Moana.
I started showing her some YouTube clips of the songs from Moana. “Where You Are” was an immediate hit — if you consider an almost-14-month-old paying attention to something for a full minute an immediate hit.
On Saturday night, Caitlin suggested we just put Moana on for Hazel to see how she’d react. Would she be interested?
She didn’t watch the entire movie. (I mean, she’s a baby. And she has a 7 p.m. bedtime.) But Hazel was dancing along with the music and may have even made her own attempt at hula hands.
We obviously had to finish watching the movie after she went to bed.
Excuse me while I buy every Moana toy Amazon sells for 1-year-olds …
“The Future of the Sport”
I’m not sure how long Poker Face will be able to sustain it, but I’ve enjoyed how each episode has found a way to put some kind of twist on the show’s setup. In “The Future of the Sport,” we see Natasha Lyonne’s Charlie’s superpowers initially fooled thanks to an attempted murder being built on a separate bit of sabotage.
I’m hoping “cancer-dog him” sticks as the terminology for Charlie’s powers.
“I’ve longed for protocol,” Tyler James Williams’ Gregory says at one point during this episode. “This is the best day of my life.”
All it took was Ava fleeing the school as the fire alarm went off and a well-placed blazer for Gregory to assume control of Abbott Elementary as interim principal.
“It’s Getting Hot in Hair”
I’ve never submitted a note to Corrections. I always assume that some other jackal has already alerted Seth Meyers and the Late Night team to any error I’ve caught.
Corrections didn’t let me down when it came to making sure Meyers knew that Buffalo wings pair with blue cheese. Not ranch. Never ranch.
“Austin Butler Searches for Comfort While Eating Spicy Wings”
Seems like Austin Butler is still doing the Elvis voice. I thought there was a chance that the Hot Ones wings might’ve snapped him out of it, but Butler was still sticking with it as he made a pair of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hugging Sean Evans.
Speaking of Evans, I cringed as he pronounced “biopic” the pretentious way.
- How an alleged con man tore apart one of the Nineties’ biggest bands (Andy Greene, Rolling Stone)
- The monster maker: Meet the prosthetics guru behind The Last of Us, Game of Thrones and more (Nick Romano, Entertainment Weekly)
- 15 hours With Hogwarts Legacy: Magical surface, rotten core (Carolyn Petit, Kotaku)
- A conversation with Bing’s chatbot left me deeply unsettled (Kevin Roose, The New York Times)
- Why Pizza Hut’s red roofs and McDonald’s play places have disappeared (Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN)
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White Chocolate Marshmallow Crispy Treat M&Ms
I pretty sure these are new. Before finding them at Target on Saturday, I don’t think I’ve seen them around. At first, I assumed they would basically be the white chocolate version of Crispy M&Ms, but there is a touch of marshmallow flavor in them.
They’re pretty good. Would eat again. (I bought two bags. Just in case.)
Pepsi x Peeps
OK, I haven’t found the new release of Pepsi x Peeps yet, but I’m on the look out …
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