Hey, it’s another Friday edition of Popculturology. How is it already August?
I caught Oppenheimer last Friday. I had to delay seeing it by a week since I waited too long to buy a ticket for the IMAX theater at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The theater is advertised as the biggest IMAX screen in the state and is one of the many benefits of visiting the spinoff Air & Space Museum location. (They also have a real space shuttle!)
While this IMAX screen wasn’t playing Oppenheimer in 70 mm (I could swear it used to, but it had been over a decade since I last saw a movie there), it was a fantastic way to watch Christopher Nolan’s film. Massive screen. Great sound. (Except for the parts where the director probably should’ve done some ADR work …) I’m not going to call Oppenheimer Nolan’s best film, but it was definitely my favorite work of his in recent years. (Maybe it’s a controversial opinion, but I’m calling Interstellar his best film.)
Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr. should be locks for Oscar nominations. I loved seeing Downey in a role that not only wasn’t Tony Stark but wasn’t him doing something derivative of that performance.
My only complaints about Oppenheimer were about the theater itself. No assigned seating, which meant that getting there half an hour early still wasn’t early enough to not be a few seats away from the far side of the theater. The PA system also sparked to life about fifteen seconds into the credits to thank us for attending and to tell us which exit to use — which was weird timing considering we were a theater full of people quietly contemplating humanity and doomsday after just seeing Oppenheimer.
We also wrapped up The Righteous Gemstones on Monday. What a great show. I don’t know how everyone isn’t watching it. Hall-of-fame HBO show. One of my favorite parts? The Righteous Gemstones knows it’s a comedy and sticks to its 30-minute runtime. Instead of pulling a Barry or Ted Lasso and stretching its season finale to an hour, The Righteous Gemstones gave us two episodes in one night, with each episode having its own plot arch.
Over the upcoming weekend, I hope to catch up on Justified: City Primeval and the new season of Harley Quinn. (I’m also only two movies into my Mission: Impossible rewatch. Can’t wait to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in Mission: Impossible III.)
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- Feature Presentation: The Fantastic Four rumor mill
- The News: Entertainment Weekly dives into Ahsoka, Dune: Part Two blocks The Marvels from IMAX, The Daily Show host race heats up
- Trailer Watch: Loki
- What to Watch: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Has Fantastic Four found its lead?
If you’ve been following the casting rumors for Marvel Studios’ Fantastic Four reboot, you’ve been ping-ponged around for the past few months. There have been wild reports like Mila Kunis playing Ben Grimm/The Thing. In recent weeks, the rumors seemed to have solidified on four names:
Adam Driver as Reed Richards. Margot Robbie as Sue Storm. Paul Mescal as Johnny Storm. And Daveed Diggs as Ben Grimm.
Great cast. A few A-listers in there. Oscar nominees.
Then the rumor mill churned over, and the news was that all of these actors had turned down Fantastic Four. Or, maybe according to some rumors, Disney realized they couldn’t afford all of them.
Either way, the Fantastic Four rumor mill cranked back to life on Thursday. Reporter Jeff Sneider revealed on his show that his sources were quite sure that Mission: Impossible and The Crown star Vanessa Kirby was locked in as Sue Storm.
Sneider also reported during the show that The Boys’ Jack Quaid was possibly Johnny Storm only to retract that later (with Quaid himself knocking down the rumor) and saying that it was actually Stranger Things’ Joe Quinn who would be playing the Human Torch in director Matt Shakman’s upcoming film. On top of that casting news, Sneider claims that The Bear’s Ebon Moss-Bachrach had also landed a role in the film, possibly as the Silver Surfer.
Whether or not the latest round of Fantastic Four casting rumors are true, they’re a sign of the weird spot the Marvel Cinematic Universe now finds itself in.
When the MCU launched, it populated its films with either actors looking for a comeback (Robert Downey Jr., for example) or actors who still hadn’t had their big break. People like Chris Hemsworth came cheap because they weren’t stars yet.
Over the past few years, though, Marvel Studios has sought out major names for leading roles. When the studio was casting Doctor Strange, Joaquin Phoenix and Ewan McGregor were the backup plans if Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t work out. None of those actors come cheap.
Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios want big stars for these movies. But big stars come with big checks. You can’t populate a film like Fantastic Four with all major stars if you aren’t willing to ring up a massive bill for them.
At the same time, actors of this caliber are now being warned against signing the multi-movie deals that have made creating a cinematic universe possible.
“Just give them one,” Elizabeth Olsen recently advised anyone considering jumping into the MCU, noting that by doing so, it gives an actor “more creative control for the next one.”
I can’t imagine that’s the message Marvel Studios wants out there.
Once the studios finally give the WGA and SAG-AFTRA the fair deals the unions are seeking and the work stoppage ends, maybe we’ll get some real casting news from Marvel Studios about Fantastic Four. Until then, we get to enjoy watching the rumor mill consume itself.
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Entertainment Weekly dives into Ahsoka
Remember when Entertainment Weekly was a real magazine? One that came out, well, weekly? I miss those days. The magazine still gets big promo pieces, though, and they debuted one for Ahsoka on Thursday.
One of the more interesting parts of the story is the mention of the World Between Worlds, the time-travel device introduced to the Star Wars world by Dave Filoni in Star Wars Rebels. “The animated series ended with a shot of Ahsoka in all white, returning to the physical world after navigating the ethereal Force dimension known as the World Between Worlds,” EW writes.
“In the animation, you saw her go to the white, but what I loved is the idea that there was even another level to her,” Ahsoka star Rosario Dawson told EW. “Dave and I talked a lot about Gandalf the Gray and Gandalf the White — talking about that transition and how she's someone very capable and excellent and looked up to as a leader, but she still has levels of development to go. “
I’m excited about Ahsoka. As a huge fan of the character herself, I’ve enjoyed seeing her make the jump to live action. But something has been missing. Dawson’s take on the character still has a slight disconnect from what Ashley Eckstein did with Ahsoka in animation. There’s a playfulness missing. (Not to mention bigger disconnects like Ahsoka now being referred to as a Jedi again in The Mandalorian even though she made it very clear that she was “no Jedi” in Star Wars Rebels.)
Hopefully we can see Dawson’s Ahsoka make the jump to what’s fans of the character have seen from Ahsoka in this series.
Dune: Part Two blocks The Marvels from IMAX
Securing IMAX screens can make or break a film’s box office performance. We saw it recently with Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, which after a solid opening weekend lost premium large format screens to Oppenheimer. Without the PLF screens, Dead Reckoning has struggled at the box office.
Of course, this isn’t always the case. Barbie has grossed roughly $400 million domestically and did it without IMAX.
Will The Marvels be able to pull off the same feat as Barbie? Or will a lack of IMAX screens doom the upcoming MCU film to a lesser box office haul.
Providing Disney and Warner Bros. don’t shuffle their 2023 slates, we’ll see how The Marvels does without IMAX screens. IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond recently said that the Dune: Part Two will have a “very long run time in IMAX” (via ComicBook).
“There’s another great movie coming out around that time, which is The Marvels from Marvel, and we can’t play it because we are committed to Dune,” Gelfond said. The CEO did note that if Warner Bros. moves the Dune sequel, the company’s IMAX screens “will just go over to The Marvels, and having a Marvel movie as a backup is not the worst position to be in.”
- Hasan Minhaj the Daily Show favorite? Or is it Kal Penn? Variety reported earlier this week that Minhaj “has been eyed as a leading candidate” to replace Trevor Noah as host. On Thursday, TheWrap reported that Penn was one of four finalists for the job. Who are the other two finalists? My money has been on Roy Wood Jr. or Desi Lydic …
- The next Scream movie gets Freaky … director. Christopher Landon (the son of Little House on the Prairie’s Michael Landon!) will helm Scream VII. I’d prefer he direct another Happy Death Day sequel, but good for him.
- Emmys delayed. With the studios still unwilling to meet the terms of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, the awards ceremony has been pulled from its September date.
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Is Loki the high point for the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Disney+? I loved WandaVision, but I don’t think any show has been as ambitious and as successful as the first season of Loki. I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here. Can it handle the weight of the MCU’s multiversal storyline? How will the Jonathan Majors of it all play out? And will Ke Huy Quan’s role be big enough?
Loki Season 2 premieres on Disney+ on Oct. 6.
💬 💬 💬 Comments, questions or recommendations? Let me know!
- Hollywood’s Slo-Mo Self-Sabotage (Inkoo Kang, The New Yorker)
- Harley Quinn season 4 would like to remind you who the fourth pillar of DC’s universe is (Charles Pulliam-Moore, The Verge)
- Secret Invasion’Was a Mess, but Marvel Had Already Lost Its Way (Adam B. Vary, Variety)
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
OK, I’m telling all of you to go see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem this weekend — but I likely won’t be myself. After catching Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One and Oppenheimer in theaters the past few weeks, it’s Caitlin’s turn to get out and see a movie this weekend. (She’s seeing Barbie, which means I’ll have to go see Barbie by myself at some point …)
The reviews for the Ninja Turtles reboot have been fantastic, and I loved writer and director Jeff Rowe’s previous film, The Mitchells vs. the Machines.
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