Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Headed Back to the Classroom Edition

Because I don’t already have enough on my plate, I’ve decided to teach a course next semester at a local college. This used to be not only my bread and butter but my chosen career until I burned myself out, dropped out of grad school, and started working a regular 9-5 gig. It was the right choice and while I have no desire to finish up my PhD, the lure of teaching introduction to American government at this time was too interesting an opportunity to turn down. And, of course, the extra stew will come in handy now that I have car payments to make.  Thankfully I’ve taught this class over 20 times so while I haven’t had a class since 2007, the prep work should be fairly minimal as I just have to update my lecture notes.  At least that is what I keep telling myself.

So while I get caught up on all that has changed in American politics in the last decade (it’s been quiet, right?), get yourself caught up on all the pop culture that you may have missed with this week’s roundup.

Television

Movies

Trailers

  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom:

 

  • The international trailer for Black Panther:

 

  • Ready Player One:

 

  • Annihilation:

 

  • 15:17 to Paris:

 

  • The second season of Jessica Jones:

 

  • Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time:

 

  • The Last Five Years:

 

  • Corporate:

 

  • The Terror:

 

  • The Clapper:

 

  • Maze Runner: The Death Cure:

 

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse:

 

  • Insidious: The Last Key:

 

  • Bright:

 

  • A teaser for the WarGames reboot:

 

  • Death Standing:

 

  • Homeland, season 7:

 

  • The Detour, season 3:

 

Music

Theater

Books

Stand-Up

Award Season

Odds and Ends

Mashups and Supercuts

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda performs Hamilton in three minutes:

 

  • A bad lip reading of Stranger Things:

 

  • Christmas Carpool Karaoke:

 

  • The cast of Netflx’s One Day at a Time reboot recreate the opening credits of the original show:

 

  • Call Me By Your Name meets Monsters University:

 

  • Star Wars characters sing “MMMBop”:

 

Chance the Rapper does the weather for WGN:

 

  • Jimmy Kimmel Live! presents “Lannister on the Bannister”:

 

  • Peanuts meets Riverdale on The Tonight Show:

X-Men: Apocalypse – A Review

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Apocalypse – I really had higher hopes for you.

When the next villain was teased at the end of the confusingly titled X-Men: Days of Future Past, I was intrigued despite not knowing much about who Apocalypse was. The idea of a villain that was also a god had real potential, despite the fact that I knew he obviously would be vanquished as that’s kind of how these movies play out and these films take place before the original X-men movies, where no reference to Apocalypse is made. My comic book loving friends were also relatively pumped for the arrival of Apocalypse and his four horsemen (horsepeople?), so while I knew the ultimate outcome would be in the favor of the X-Men, I thought that Apocalypse would provide them with a real challenge.

Unfortunately, X-Men: Apocalypse was ultimately disappointing. There were brief moments of excitement and fun, but this franchise is really beginning to show signs of fatigue. For me, it was too much of what we’ve seen in other X-Men movies without much personality or originality to liven things up a bit. There are only so many times that you can see the same basic character beats and plot lines play out before you get bored and I think Apocalypse was that point for me. Even the actors seemed pretty uninterested in what was unfolding around them; when you have Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy at your disposal, the end product should be a lot more interesting.

X-Men: Apocalypse opens in ancient Egypt, where Apocalypse (Isaac), believed to be the first mutant, rules. He is betrayed by some of his worshipers and entombed until being awakened in the 1980s. He isn’t on board with modern life and decides that he needs to destroy the world in order to save it (questionable logic at best). He then sets out to recruit his four “horsemen” to assist him, including Magneto (Fassbender), who has been a fugitive since the events at the end of Days of Future Past, which have made Mystique (Lawrence) something of a folk hero. Apocalypse also wants to tap in the powers of Professor Xavier (McAvoy) and…well, a bunch of other convoluted stuff happens. Needless to say, the good guy mutants want to put an end to Apocalypse’s plans for world domination. X-Men: Apocalypse also marks the first introduction of young Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and new mutants Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Angel (Ben Hardy) and Jubilee (Lana Condor). Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Lucas Till, Evan Peters and Josh Helman all reprise their characters from previous X-Men films.

At this point, the X-Men franchise really needs to find a new direction to go in, so it’s not lather, rinse, and repeat with these storylines. Magneto is always a bad guy…until he isn’t. We’ve been watching Xavier try to save his friend for nearly 16 years now and it’s getting a little boring – especially since we know that this battle will wage on for the foreseeable future of the franchise as this tension was at the heart of the original X-Men film. The same goes for Mystique, who we know won’t stick with the good side either. The allegiances in these films are so flimsy and the character arcs are simply rehashing the same issues that we’ve already seen play out several times already. The introduction of the new mutants might add some interesting dynamics if they were actually given something to do; Psylocke and Angel have maybe 10 lines between the two of them in the film; we know very little about them or what their motivations are in this whole fight. Munn is definitely a bad-ass, but I couldn’t have told you her character name without looking it up. There are so many characters in play that they have a tough time servicing all of them; I would have much preferred learning more about some of these new characters than dealing with the Magneto/Xavier dynamic for the hundredth time. If you have Jennifer Lawrence locked up under contract, you should probably actually use her. She doesn’t have much to do in Apocalypse, to the detriment of the movie.

A lot of these issues wouldn’t have been so problematic if they had done more with Apocalypse. Oscar Isaac is unrecognizable in the role, both because he’s hidden under all the blue makeup and because there is absolutely no trace of his charisma or charm. Despite his backstory, Apocalypse isn’t the big bad that I was hoping that he would be. Not only is what he is really trying to accomplish a bit unclear, but he seems to take a pretty haphazard attitude in reaching his goals. His recruitment of his “horsemen” is random at best; if I was putting a team together to destroy the world, I might want to do more research beyond “these are the first four mutants that I came across.” I’m not really sure what Angel is bringing to the table and I will never be convinced that Storm is a real threat. Maybe you wouldn’t be able to recruit some of the most powerful mutants out there, but he probably should have put more thought into the whole thing. In all honestly, I could probably have taken Apocalypse out, and my superpower is just being snarky.

None of this is the fault of the actors, who do the best with what they’re given. There are also some nice fight sequences in the film that liven things up a bit, which is what you need in a movie like this. But it’s saying a lot that the most memorable and fun sequence in the film involved Quicksilver (Peters) and is basically a carbon copy of the scene that he had in Days of Future Past. Even the best part of Apocalypse is a retread.

Some other thoughts:

  • All these decade jumps make it very hard to keep track of how old everyone is supposed to be. Vulture investigates and not surprisingly, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
  • I think they missed a real cross-promotional possibility by not using Metallica’s “My Apocalypse” somewhere in this movie.
  • A lot of criticism has been levied at one scene in particular in the movie.
  • Since I’m such a big Game of Thrones fan, I had a tough time seeing Sophie Turner disappear into the role of Jean Grey. Mostly, I was hoping she would get to keep those powers as Sansa Stark, which would be a pretty big game changer for her Game of Thrones character.
  • I wouldn’t want to be an X-Man, not because I wouldn’t want the powers, but because they seem to have no fun at all. There is absolutely no joy in any of these characters; I’m sure being a mutant is hard, but there’s got to be some fun to be had as well.
  • There was a post-credits sequence that made absolutely nothing to me. Screenrant explains what it all meant.

Honestly, X-Men: Apocalypse isn’t a bad movie, just kind of a boring one. It’s too much of the same old that we’ve seen throughout the franchise, which means that it’s predictable and showing signs of fatigue. They need to find a new angle or something new to say in order to breathe some new life into these films; they were able to do that when they did X-Men: First Class but that concept seems to have run its course. They should either clean house and focus more on new mutants or perhaps make a villain that lasts for more than one movie – anything that would shake up the same basic formula that these films are regurgitating with little variation. So many superhero movies are cranked out now every year that you really have to do something different to stand out. X-Men: Apocalypse was a perfectly serviceable superhero movie, but ultimately is just recycled storylines from previous X-Men movies. Hopefully this is a transition movie that will eventually lead to something a little more original or interesting down the road. Otherwise, this may be a franchise that will coast on fumes for a while.

X-Men: Apocalypse is currently showing nationwide.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Goodbye Glenn Frey Edition

We’re only 20 days into 2016 and we’ve already had to say goodbye to more than our fair share of celebrities. Sadly the news that Glenn Frey passed away greeted us on Monday, which makes me wonder if some higher power isn’t putting together one hell of a music festival up in heaven. I’ve been a fan of The Eagles for a long time, so I was very bummed to hear about Frey’s passing. I’m now kicking myself for not taking advantage of the handful of opportunities that I had to see The Eagles live. Frey was responsible for writing a lot of my favorite Eagles’ songs, but since he wrote many of the bands biggest hits, Glenn Frey pretty much wrote everyone’s favorite Eagles songs. He also lent his vocals to a number of great songs, like “Take It Easy,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Already Gone,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “New Kid in Town,” and my personal favorite, “Heartache Tonight.” And of course, Frey (as portrayed by Will Ferrell) plays an integral part in one of the weirder digital shorts on Saturday Night Live, “The H is O.” Who knows why he he was selected as the subject of this sketch; it’s a weirdly specific detail that makes it work, mostly because there is no rhyme or reason to it. That short never fails to make me laugh.

Yesterday in Frey’s honor we listened to Eagles songs all day in my office (my assistant was thankfully OK with this). The world just keeps getting a little less musical with all these departures.

And now….on to your weekly installment of the pop culture roundup.

 

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Time for some trailers…..

  • Suicide Squad:

 

  • Money Monster:

 

  • Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising:

 

  • Pee-wee’s Big Holiday:

 

  • The Secret Life of Pets:

 

  • Better Call Saul season 2:

 

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane:

 

  • Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill:

 

  • Season 3 of Penny Dreadful:

 

  • Barbershop: The Next Cut:

 

  • Fuller House:

 

  • Director’s Cut:

 

  • Green Room:

 

  • The X-Files:

 

  • The Wave:

 

  • Broad City:

 

  • Standoff:

 

  • Orphan Black season 4:

 

  • Sing Street:

 

  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

 

 

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As always, we end with the supercuts and mashups……

  • A cover of “Thriller” on the fiddle:

 

  • A Star Wars a cappella number from BYU:

 

  • A mod lets you play Grand Theft Auto V as Lemmy:

 

  • What is Hans Gruber played Han Solo?

 

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  • Smashmouth meets Larry Sanders Show:

 

  • These nano-impressions are pretty good:

 

  • A Glenn Miller cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”:

 

  • The movies sing Linkin Park’s ”In The End”:

 

  • All of Snape’s scenes from the Harry Potter movies in chronological order:

 

  • And finally, Jimmy Fallon as Bob Dylan cover Drake’s “Hotline Bling”: