Happy Friday and welcome to Popculturology! The newsletter has picked up a bunch of new subscribers the past few weeks, and I’m thrilled you’re all here.
Lots of movie and TV trailers in this edition, so you hopefully have your headphones in — or you’re ready to bombard your family with a weird mix of Disney musicals, Transformers and Seth Rogen.
Before we jump into the rest of the newsletter, here’s a weird one. Remember a few editions ago when I mentioned that my childhood movie theater closed? Turns out it’s still open despite announcing its closure. Not sure what’s going on over at Regal …
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- Feature Presentation: Wish leads a wave of CinemaCon trailers
- Bonus Feature: A theory about Chris Evans and Ana de Armas’ Ghosted chemistry
- The News: How the Guardians saved James Gunn, James Corden signs off, new look at Dune: Part Two
- Trailer Watch: Black Mirror, Platonic
- Playlist: Ted Lasso, Mulaney: Baby J, Bob’s Burgers
- What to Watch: John Mulaney returns with Baby J
- Odds and Ends: Rocket’s past revealed, Mark Hamill offers Jedi coaching, upcoming MCU book gets a cover
Wish leads a wave of CinemaCon movie trailers
I love pop culture. I love movie trailers. I love writing about these things. Going to a conference or convention that focuses only on these things? No, thanks.
The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO, but not that NATO) held its annual CinemaCon gathering this week. The yearly movie-theater industry trade show gives theater owners and the press a look at what’s on the horizon. News is broken. Movies are announced. Trailers are unveiled. Some reporters go full fanboy and lose any perspective …
Just like with Comic Con or Star Wars Celebration, I really don’t have any interest in being packed in with people just to watch a few trailers and pretend that I’m interested in a new Trolls movie.
Did I mention that they show new movie trailers at CinemaCon?
Oh, good. Of the trailers shown at CinemaCon, a handful of them haven’t been publicly released yet.
In cases like Oppenheimer, Dune: Part Two, Barbie and Wonka, they’ll probably be online over the next weeks in accordance with the promotional plans for those films.
For some films, like Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, those trailers aren’t up to release standards yet. James Gunn has talked about this before, previously explaining that the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 trailer shown at a convention last summer had unfinished special effects.
But there were plenty of trailers that did get released over the past few days after premiering at CinemaCon. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
I wasn’t sure about Wish when it was first announced. A movie that told the story about the wishing star of Disney lore (the one the song is about, I assume) seemed like a stretch.
This trailer changed my mind.
Wish has the potential to be a Frozen-level hit for Disney.
I shouldn’t be surprised. Chris Buck previously co-directed Tarzan, Frozen and Frozen II for Disney, and returns to team with Fawn Veerasunthorn for Wish. Walt Disney Animation Studios COO Jennifer Lee, the writer and co-director of Frozen and Frozen II, co-wrote this film.
Oscar winner Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine and Alan Tudyk lead the voice cast. Watch this trailer, listen to DeBose belt out that song and tell me Wish doesn’t have a shot at Frozen-level success.
This is a random aside, but I always love seeing which movies Disney chooses to list for the “from the studio that brought you” cards in trailers for Disney and Pixar movies. Yeah, that’s Moana listed right after Frozen and The Lion King.
Wish opens on Nov. 22.
It’s tough to reconcile the excitement around The Flash with the rein of terror that Ezra Miller embarked upon over the past few years, especially when everyone is just waiting for the news that Disney has dropped Jonathan Majors from the Marvel Cinematic Universe after his arrest.
Does the trailer look good? Yeah, in a vacuum, The Flash seems to have everything going for it. You just need to ignore the Ezra Miller of it all …
It’s also hilarious that this film thinks that Michael Keaton’s Batman has been using “You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” as a catchphrase and has continued using it for decades.
The Flash opens on June 16.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
The original four Hunger Games movies averaged $739.2 million worldwide a piece. It’s no surprise Lionsgate has resurrected the franchise, turning Suzanne Collins’ prequel into a movie. (I forgot the title of this movie earlier and googled “hunger games snakes and birds.”)
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes opens on Nov. 17.
Next Goal Wins
Yup, this looks like a Taika Waititi movie.
Next Goal Wins opens on Nov. 17.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
I dunno, after Bumblebee, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts looks like a return to the Michael Bay films. Lots of CGI robots crashing into each other as the world is supposedly destroyed.
Paramount Pictures also announced Transformers One, an animated movie that sounds more interesting than Rise of the Beasts.
It’ll feature young versions of the classic characters, with Chris Hemsworth as Optimus Prime, Brian Tyree Henry as Megatron, Scarlett Johansson as Elita, Keegan Michael Key as Bumblebee, Jon Hamm as Sentinel Prime and Laurence Fishburne as Alpha Trion.
The movie, which I assume will show how Optimus Prime and Megaton grew up as buddies, is scheduled to release on July 19, 2024.
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts opens on June 9.
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Is this why Chris Evans and Ana de Armas had zero chemistry in Ghosted?
Turns out some people think they’ve found the answer: The duo possibly didn’t film their scenes together.
First, there was the meet-cute of de Armas’ Sadie buying flowers from Evans’ Cole at a farmer’s market, then there was a clip of them arguing about Sadie's identity in a car and finally, over the weekend, a scene of them racing up a set of stairs in some kind flirty challenge. There are a few things these scenes have in common: firstly; de Armas is sporting an inexplicably obvious wig (more on that later) and secondly; the snappy editing that rarely has both actors in the frame makes it look like each actor could easily be talking to a body double.
De Armas’ wig in the farmers’ market scene did stand out to me while watching the movie, but it wasn’t enough to trigger a questioning of whether she was actually in the scene with Evans.
There are scenes in Ghosted, though, where Evans and de Armas are undoubtedly together … unless the movie did some major face swapping in postproduction.
Regardless of whether the duo actually shot their scenes together (and in spite of the poor reviews), Ghosted is Apple TV+’s most watched movie debut. Deadline reported on Wednesday that the film set a record for the streamer.
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Inside the Guardians’ fight to save James Gunn
Gunn being fired and then rehired by Disney as the director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was a pivotal moment that wound up setting up much of the current state of pop culture. While Gunn returned to the Marvel Cinematic Universe fold after being rehired, the time he was gone led to him taking on The Suicide Squad for Warner Bros. — which ultimately was his pathway to becoming the co-chief of DC Studios.
With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 hitting theaters next week, The Hollywood Reporter published an in-depth look at how Gunn’s firing went down, how his Guardians cast fought for him and how his return to the MCU has gone.
We saw some of this play out in public, with elements like the letter the Guardians cast wrote supporting Gunn and Dave Bautista’s tweets about Disney being fully out in the open. Behind the scenes, though, it turns out Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios never made any effort to hire a replacement for Gunn.
“We didn’t even put a preliminary list together just because we couldn’t do it,” Feige told THR. “We couldn’t stomach it.”
Even without a director, Feige promised the cast that Vol. 3 would still use the script that Gunn had already written — a possible power move to force Disney to bring Gunn back as director.
“I was like, ‘Oh, so we can use the script written by James Gunn, but we just can’t have him direct?’” Chris Pratt told THR. “The script is so good that you’re going to be like, ‘Yeah, we had to get rid of him because we couldn’t associate with that man. But we will make his script.’”
THR’s piece is full of super interesting bits of how the Guardians movies came together, including how Pratt choked during his audition for Star-Lord. (“I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re blowing it.”) It’s especially interesting to see how protective the cast is over not just these characters but these characters as Gunn’s stories to tell.
While some of the cast appear to be done with the MCU (Bautista, Zoe Saldaña), it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of them appear in a new Guardians team down the road. Working with a new director might be hard, though, based on stories like Pom Klementieff and Pratt calling Gunn from the set of the Avengers films to make sure their characters were still aligned with his vision for them.
‘How can I make it different from the Superman movies that have been made so far’
Gunn also briefly discussed Superman: Legacy, his upcoming take on the character. The writer/director told THR that his Superman film won’t be a comedy and that Superman won’t be “one of the quirky characters he is famous for.”
“How can I make it different from the Superman movies that have been made so far, but also have it respect all the Superman movies that have been made so far?” Gunn asked THR. “So it just took me some time to try to figure it out.”
James Corden says farewell
By the time you read this on Friday, James Corden will have signed off as host of The Late Late Show. This is also the end of the late-night TV mainstay, with CBS planning to replace The Late Late Show with a revival of Comedy Central’s @midnight.
Corden pulled off quite the feat for his last episode, uniting his fellow late-night hosts for a farewell skit. Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon were joined by David Letterman (although he didn’t seem to be in the same room as them) and Trevor Noah.
“There’s something a friend’s ex-boyfriend said that has stuck with me much longer than their relationship, and that is ‘You can’t force the jam,’” Squires said. “I think it was in the context of making fun of Phish or something, but it definitely applies here. Fallon and Corden are guilty of trying to force the jam, in a way that ‘Day Drinking With Seth’ never does.”
Denis Villeneuve is keeping Austin Butler and Christopher Walken’s Dune characters under wraps
Vanity Fair published a Dune: Part Two exclusive from the great Anthony Breznican on Thursday, diving into the upcoming sequel and its characters. While we got new looks at Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgård, Rebecca Ferguson and Javier Barden along with first reveals of Florence Pugh and Léa Seydoux, the characters being played by Austin Butler and Christopher Walken are being kept closer to the vest.
“The shadow lurking all the while is the villainous figure that Butler plays,” Breznican writes of the Elvis star. “While technically flesh and blood, his corpse-like pale visage suggests a deadness that runs deep. Villeneuve prefers to save Feyd-Rautha’s full reveal for later in the publicity campaign …”
The Vanity Fair piece only briefly mentions Walken playing Emperor Shaddam IV.
I’m thrilled that the first Dune was successful enough to allow Villeneuve to make Part Two. I still need to read the book (it’s on my shelf!), but I thought the first movie was gorgeous and ambitious.
The Bear calls Saul
I was a big fan of The Bear’s inaugural season. The show told a self-contained story and worked as a limited series, so it’ll be interesting to see where things go in a new season. You can never go wrong adding Odenkirk to your show, as shows as varied as How I Met Your Mother and Breaking Bad demonstrated.
- Rihanna will voice Smurfette. Paramount announced The Smurf Movie on Thursday. The Lego Movie’s Christopher Miller will direct.
- Dodge! Duck! Dip Dive! Dodge! Again! Deadline reported on Thursday that Vince Vaughn will star in a sequel to Dodgeball.
- Vacation Friends sequel gets a release date. The sequel reunites John Cena, Lil Rey Howery, Yvonne Orji and Meredith Hagner and will hit Hulu on Aug. 25. (Wasn’t this movie called Honeymoon Friends at one point? It’s just Vacation Friends 2 now?)
- It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia sets June premiere date. The show will return for its sixteenth season on June 7 on FX with episodes available on Hulu the following day.
- Sarah Snook will compete as a lead actress for the Emmys. Variety broke the news on Wednesday that the Succession star will challenge for a lead actress Emmy instead of sticking in the supporting category as the show’s cast has long done. She joins Kieran Culkin, who is also making the jump to lead actor.
- Joel Kinnaman joins Neill Blomkamp’s alien thriller. The For All Mankind star will star in They Found Us, a movie about a father and daughter fighting off an alien abduction.
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Watching the trailer for Black Mirror’s sixth season reinforces even more how much Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot was trying to be Black Mirror. I love me some Twilight Zone, but the reboot never felt right. (A lot of that was due to the episode lengths, the inclusion of profanity and — you’re going to think this is dumb — the show not being in black and white.)
Black Mirror Season 6 premieres on Netflix in June.
We just rewatched Neighbors over the weekend, which has me primed for Platonic. Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen reunite for this series about two, well, platonic friends. Neighbors director Nicholas Stoller co-created Platonic with Francesca Delbanco (pssst, they’re married) Stoller will also direct the series.
Platonic premieres on Apple TV+ on May 24.
💬 💬 💬 Comments, questions or recommendations? Let me know!
Episode: “The Strings That Bind Us”
So much of this season of Ted Lasso has been downright boring. Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall summed this up well, writing that he was “utterly baffled by the mood swings of the Nate stuff. And Keeley being off in her own show is a bummer.”
This episode, though, pulled together three promising storylines: Ted finally finding his way as a coach, Jamie’s transformation into a selfless team player, and Sam’s restaurant and how it was affected by his stand against bigotry.
Those red strings, though? I could do without that horror.
“Don’t fight back. Fight forward.” — Ola Obisanya
Mulaney: Baby J
John Mulaney looks tired. For a long time, his boyish looks have been part of his bit, but after the past few years, the comedian finds himself in a new place. Baby J touches on parts of that transformation, mainly his struggle with drug abuse, his time in rehab and a brief mention of his son. (His divorce and relationship with Olivia Munn are not featured in this special.)
After laughing along as Mulaney breaks down the GQ interview he did right before going to rehab, check out the author of that piece offering his side of the story.
“What? Are you going to cancel John Mulaney? I’ll kill him.” — John Mulaney
Episode: “Crab-solutely Fabulous”
I mean this as the biggest compliment: Bob’s Burgers has evolved into one of my favorite background shows.
“If anyone says, hey, you’re not supposed to be here, just run.” — Teddy
- Roy Wood Jr. Doesn’t Know Either (Kathryn VanArendonk, Vulture)
- Aubrey Plaza Is the Unfortunate New Face of the Milk Wars (Ali Francis, Bon Appétit)
- John Mulaney, Baby J, and the Respectability Politics of Addiction (Izzy Ampil, The Daily Beast)
- How to Prepare and Eat The Little Mermaid Cast (Rebecca Alter, Nate Jones, Nicholas Quah, Kathryn VanArendonk and Alison Willmore, Vulture)
- Why Starship's Explosion Spells Much Bigger Troubles for SpaceX (Tony Ho Tran, The Daily Beast)
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John Mulaney: Baby J
We watched this one when it hit Netflix on Tuesday, but it’s still worthy of being the What to Watch pick for this weekend. Look, I’m going to assume you haven’t watched it yet.
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New Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 clips dives into Rocket and friends’ dark past
I normally don’t share clips from movies in the newsletter. Trailers are fair game, but clips? Why not just wait to see the movie? Marvel, though, unveiled a clip from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 that I need to share with all of you.
“Meet Rocket’s friends from his childhood on Counter-Earth,” Gunn tweeted on Tuesday. “Linda Cardellini is Lylla, Mikaela Hoover is Floor, and Asim Chaudhry is Teefs. In all the early screenings their friendship is one of audiences' favorite aspects of the movie. … They are one of the reasons — if not the primary reason — I needed to make this movie. I love them all.”
Gunn is going to break our hearts with this movie, isn’t he?
Mark Hamill offers Jedi coaching
Just Mark Hamill and Cameron Monaghan hanging out, looking totally natural in live action together …
Upcoming MCU book unveils cover
This was an instant preorder for me. Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales and Gavin Edwards are some of the best pop culture writers working right now, and the trio teamed up to write MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios. Entertainment Weekly revealed the book’s cover this week.
The book, which “takes a look at the rise and uncertain reign of the MCU, analyzing Marvel Studios' place as a major player in Hollywood and global pop culture,” releases on Nov. 7.
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