Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Thanksgiving Eve Edition

Today is the night before Thanksgiving, which in the old days used to mean going out to catch up with all your friends that were home from college but now means hopefully getting to leave work a little early to go catch a movie. I like Thanksgiving because it is a holiday that anyone of any religion or nationality can celebrate. All it requires is taking a moment to pause and reflect on all that you have to be thankful for. I know that I have a ton to be thankful for this year – health insurance, supportive friends and family, the fact that I got to see Hamilton with the original Broadway cast – and the fact that we get to chow down on some turkey tomorrow is an added bonus. I do love me some turkey.

Of course, the holiday also means spending time with family, which is not the most relaxing thing for a lot of people. Sharing DNA does not automatically translate into sharing a lot of interests and this year there are a lot of conversational landmines to be avoided; politics and Thanksgiving are not a good mix. But pop culture is a universal language so I’ve created an extra long round up this week to give you plenty of conversation starters when you are sitting around the dinner table. If your drunk uncle brings up Syrian refugees, you can counter with “did anyone see the new Captain America trailer?” It might not totally diffuse the situation, but it will at least provide a momentary distraction. So while you get ready for your Thanksgiving preparations, take a moment to get yourself caught up on all the pop culture that you might have missed.

  • Adele just shattered NSYNC’s one week sales record.
  • Adele joined Jimmy Fallon and the Roots in performing “Hello” on classroom instruments:




  • Here’s Adele’s reaction to watching that skit:




So many trailers……

  • Captain America: Civil War:


  • The Big Short:


  • Central Intelligence:


  • How To Be Single:


  • Season 2 of Marvel’s Agent Carter:


  • 11.22.63:


  • Now You See Me 2:


  • The Boss:


  • A new trailer for Sisters:


  • A first look at DC’s Legends of Tomorrow on The CW:


  • A teaser for the new Luther special


  • Barbershop 3: The Next Cut:


  • A red band trailer for Dirty Grandpa:


  • Netflix’s Degrassi: Next Class:


  • A red band trailer for The Bronze:


  • Carol:


  • Full Frontal with Samantha Bee:


  • Exposed:


  • Mariah Carey’s Christmas movie for Hallmark has a trailer:


  • A Monster Calls:


  • Night Owls:


  • IFC’s Todd Margaret:


  • Midnight Special:


  • Fifty Shades of Black:






As always, we end with the supercuts and mashups:

  • A Tom Hardy supercut:


  • There is a lot of dancing in this Ant-Man blooper reel:


  • Iron & Wine cover GWAR:


  • A jazz cover of the Pokemon theme:


  • James Corden and Ellie Goulding perform “Love Me Like You Do” in several different styles:


  • A Katniss and Hermione rap battle:



  • LEGO Captain America battles Nazis:


  • This Game of Thrones map made out of gingerbread is impressive:


  • And finally, The Muppets do a little Eminem:


Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving! As always, I am thankful for all of you for reading my little blog.




Arlo Guthrie “Alice’s Restaurant” 50th Anniversary Special


So, it turns out that Arlo Guthrie isn’t dead.

This might not come as a surprise to you, but it certainly came as a surprise to me when a few months ago a colleague invited me to go to the taping of a special for PBS that commemorates the 50th anniversary of Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant.” The very first words out of my mouth were “I thought that he was dead.”

The next words out of my mouth were “What’s ‘Alice’s Restaurant’?” We were not off to a good start.

Clearly my folk music game needs a little work, since it turns out that the song “Alice’s Restaurant” is a very big deal to a large segment of the population. I was secretly hoping that the tune has something to do with the 70s TV show Alice, but sadly it did not. That would have been amazing.


My co-workers explained it a little bit to me, but mostly all I got out of those conversations was that the song was played every year at Thanksgiving. I started reading the Wikipedia entry for the song, but that started to make it sound too complicated. I wasn’t sure why a song about littering connected with so many people. But despite my ignorance, I decided to go to the taping to expand my horizons and because it would have been kind of rude of me to say no. Everyone else was so excited about this that I had to swallow my ambivalence about the whole thing and just go along for the ride. At least the tickets were free and other people offered to drive, so I wasn’t giving up much more than a free night to go. Perhaps I’d learn something in the process. People who were in the know about such things seemed to think that this was a pretty big deal, as the taping was taking place in the Berkshires where the incident that inspired the song occurred. So if I was going to learn about this piece of pop culture that I somehow missed out on, this seemed like as good an opportunity as any.

When we rolled up to the theater, it became clear pretty quickly that I was going to be one of the youngest people there by at least a few decades. That’s not necessarily a new phenomenon for me; I’m routinely either the youngest or the oldest person at a show. Our seats weren’t together, so I was not sitting with my co-workers. I was seated next to a lovely older woman who took one look at me and said “Honey, do you even know who Arlo Guthrie is?” So clearly I was not blending in. As the taping began, they kicked off the show with a trippy video for a song that had something to do with a pickle and a motorcycle:


I didn’t know that dropping some acid was a prerequisite to this event. After watching that, I was a little concerned that I wasn’t going to get very much out of this concert.

Thankfully, it was a lot less weird after Arlo took the stage. While I don’t know a ton about folk music in general, I really enjoyed the tunes that he played. I may not be familiar with “Alice’s Restaurant,” but I did recognize “The City of New Orleans” and some of his covers of his father Woody Gutherie’s songs. I pretty sure everyone was forced at some point in elementary school to sing “This Land is Your Land.” Arlo is a natural storyteller and he gave the background on a lot of the songs that he sang or spun some yarn related to what he was about to play. Since I was such a novice, I found this all very interesting and informative. Folk music in general is relaxing to me, and paired with his stories it was a pretty soothing evening.

The moment of truth was finally upon us and I was going to hear “Alice Restaurant” for the first time. Arlo spent a lot of time giving the background of this song and the movie that was made about the song, though for the life of me I still don’t understand why this story resonated with so many people. Like, you dumped a bunch of litter where you weren’t supposed to; of course you got in trouble. I’m not sure why this was such an act of civil disobedience or why this freaking thing necessitated an 16 minute (!) song about it.


Clips from the Alice’s Restaurant movie played behind Arlo as he sang the song and if I didn’t understand how this was a song, I certainly didn’t understand how they made a whole movie about this foolishness. The song was OK, I guess, but I guess its fandom was just kind of lost on me. It didn’t necessarily help that Arlo lost his place halfway through the song and had to take it again from the top so it would be right for the special. 27 minutes of “Alice’s Restaurant” was more than enough. Plus, the song isn’t even about a restaurant; I kept waiting for the part where we heard about this titular restaurant and it never came. If they threw in some lyrics about waffles or something, I might have been won over.

The irony of the evening was that though this was a special focused on “Alice’s Restaurant,” that was easily my least favorite part of the evening. The song was fine I guess – too long – but the hoopla around it escapes me. It made so little of an impression on me that I subconsciously mash it up with Billy Joel’s “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.” Still, even if I didn’t dig the song all that much, I at least know what it is now. It’s a pop culture blind spot that I didn’t even know that I had. I may even eventually be curious enough to watch the Alice’s Restaurant movie (available on YouTube) just to see how they managed to turn a 16 minute song into a nearly two hour movie. That’s either some real creative license or a lot of padding. But the fact that so many of the actual real life participants are part of the film has at least minimally piqued my interest. Something to keep in my back pocket until I have some time to kill. I did download more of Arlo Guthrie’s music after the show, so something else good came out of it. My knowledge of folk music has slightly increased.

The “Alice’s Restaurant” 50th anniversary concert with Arlo Guthrie will air on Thanksgiving Day and throughout December on PBS. Check your local listings for times.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – A Review


In the words of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, one of the greatest philosophers of our time…..


Heather has returned to the movies!

Because of all my goddamn injuries, I haven’t been to the theater to see a movie since July, which is all sorts of ridiculous. That may not be that long for mere mortals, but for a pop culture blogger whose bread and butter are movie reviews that is a long freaking time to be MIA. I had thoughts of attempting a movie a few times when I had my cast, but then parking and then getting into the theater just seemed like too much of a hassle; it didn’t help that there weren’t that many movies that I was dying to see during that time period. But I missed writing my reviews and hopefully people missed reading them, so I’m glad to be back in the saddle. I apologize if you made some terrible movie going choices in my absence.

I’ve gone to early screenings for all the previous Hunger Game movies, so I was determined to make it out to see the final installment. My sister-in-law hooked me up with a ticket to an early screening of Mockingjay Part 2 on Wednesday night, which was an added bonus because I’d get to go with friends and that meant I had some moral support as I navigated the theater for the first time in three months (I’m still using one crutch and wearing an ankle brace). Plus as much as I love going to the movies by myself, it’s also nice to share the experience with others to discuss what you all just witnessed. As we chatted before the movie, I discovered that I’d forgotten quite a bit about Mockingjay since I read it several years ago. It wasn’t my favorite book of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy and while I could recall some of the big stuff, there were plenty of other details that I didn’t have much memory of. I’m willing to bet that I was the only person in the theater who was surprised by some of the characters that meet their demise in this final film. In some ways, that probably added a little more suspense.

Mockingjay Part 2 is the darkest and bleakest film of the franchise, which is saying something when you consider that the first film had kids killing kids for other people’s entertainment. While the earlier films could focus more on the lopsided love triangle – seriously, did anyone ever think that Gale stood a chance – and quips from Effie and Haymitch, there is very little of that in Mockingjay Part 2. The franchise has definitely earned this moment, but the final film is definitely punishing. Of course, the timing of the release of Mockingjay Part 2 less than a week after terrorist attacks in Beirut and France lends even more resonance to the rebellion depicted; when President Snow mentions refugees, it’s hard not to think of the current debate in America over those fleeing Syria. There are some very exciting actions sequences – the attack in the sewer systems stands out in particular – but there is a very deliberate pacing of Mockingjay. In a lot of ways, it has more in common with a horror movie than an action film; the constant unknown threat and the knowledge that just around the next corner could be mortal danger lends itself to the constant rising tension in the film. You know something bad is going to happen and the anticipation only ramps up those feelings of anxiety.

There is also a weariness that hangs over Mockingjay Part 2; at this point, these characters have been through so much and that has most certainly taken a toll on them. This is nowhere clearer than the performance of Jennifer Lawrence, who wears the burden of being the Mockingjay like a second skin. There is an exhaustion that shrouds Lawrence throughout this film, the culmination of becoming an accidental rallying cry for a rebellion and of being unsure of who she can in fact trust. Lawrence can convey more with a look on her face than lesser actresses could do with an entire soliloquy; so much of the performance of Katniss rests on her physicality and Lawrence does a great job. Josh Hutcherson also does an outstanding job of showing the inner conflict in Peeta, as he tries to rectify what is real and what is not after his reprogramming after being held hostage in the Capitol.

That all being said, I think that Mockingjay Part 2 is the weakest entrant in the franchise. Part of that is the result of the blatant money grab of splitting the final book into two movies. There is a lot of filler in here to make two full length movies and the seams show where they tried to stretch things out. Splitting Mockingjay in half also has the unfortunate side effect of putting all the interesting character development and plot in the first movie and not leaving much other than some action sequences for the second. Mockingjay Part 2 was the first Hunger Games movie where it felt long and I was consciously aware of the time. In more than one scene, the camera dwells on someone’s face for a beat (or five) too long. Mockingjay would have been a much better film overall if it was one cohesive story; as it was done, the whole is lesser than the sum of its parts. A lesser Hunger Games movie is still pretty good, but the franchise is definitely running on some fumes as it crosses the finish line.

Some other thoughts:

  • Seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman again on the big screen was both welcome and depressing. It doesn’t seem like he’s been gone nearly two years.
  • I never made the connection before, but seeing the ending of Mockingjay Part 2 made me realize that E.L. James probably ripped off that book off as well in her Fifty Shades of Grey books (nor am I proud that I read all three of those terrible books).
  • I’d watch a movie that gives some context for the final scene between Effie and Haymitch. They’re holding out on us!
  • I always thought that the Mutts that were released in the Hunger Games were supposed to look like dogs, but unless I missed something, in Mockingjay they look like the creatures from The Descent (props to my friend Stacy for making that comparison). They are terrifying, but not at all what I had pictured.
  • Actually, a lot of what I had pictured reading Mockingjay didn’t exactly match up with the how they depicted it on screen, but the visual representation actually made some of what happened in the book a little clearer.
  • Poor Jennifer Lawrence – I hope she finds work now that The Hunger Games movies are over (or are they?). ;-)

The Hunger Games series could have ended a little stronger, but Mockingjay Part 2 is still a very enjoyable film. Strong performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson as well as some really cool action sequences help make Mockingjay Part 2 good, but the fact that there just wasn’t enough compelling material to tell this story in two movies ultimately drags the film down. All good things must come to an end and while Mockingjay Part 2 doesn’t reach the same heights of the previous films, it is a fine way to send Katniss and company off into the sunset.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 opens nationwide today.