Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Here Comes the Sun Edition

I don’t know what the weather has been like in the rest of the country, but it has been a rainy mess here in upstate New York. It’s just been grey, thunderstorms are a daily occurrence and, to add insult to injury, it has been on the chilly side.So this morning I was slightly confused by this bright orange globe in the sky. I’d almost forgotten what a sunny day looked like in Albany. I’m taking this as a sign of good things to come; the yucky weather certainly hasn’t done much to life people’s spirits lately (mine included).

Another good omen – the pop culture roundup! While I’m enjoying some sunshine, get yourself caught up on the pop culture that you might have missed in the last week.

Television

Movies

Trailers

  • Murder on the Orient Express:

 

  • Room 104:

 

  • The Mountain Between Us:

 

  • The Deuce:

 

  • American Made:

 

  • It Comes At Night:

 

  • Ballers, season 3:

 

  • Three new spots for The Dark Tower:

 

 

 

  • Preacher, season 2:

 

  • Broad City, season 4:

 

  • The Mist:

 

  • The Last Tycoon:

 

  • Seven Sisters:

 

  • Numb, at the Edge of the End:

 

  • Swedish Dicks:

 

  • Manhunt Unibomber:

 

Music

Books

Stand-up

Theater

Odds and Ends

Mashups and Supercuts

  • The Red Keep from Game of Thrones recreated in LEGOs:

 

  • A supercut of characters saying the name of the movie that they are in:

 

  • 40 Years of Hip Hop:

 

  • The Gang says God Dammit:

 

  • He-Man meets DMX:

 

  • Sesame Street parodies Orange Is the New Black:

 

 

Some Thoughts on Season 4 of Orange Is The New Black

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Well that was a pleasant surprise.

This weekend I was able to binge watch the entire new season of Orange Is The New Black, a show that I’ve always enjoyed but that I worried might be running out of steam. The previous season wasn’t bad, but I thought it kind of meandered and was a bit unfocused. These are characters that I always enjoy spending time with, but I was beginning to think that perhaps their stories had mostly been told. However, the new season that dropped on Friday showed that the show can still bounce back and telling compelling an interesting stories. Season 4 starts off a little rocky, but then it really pulls itself together and delivers perhaps the darkest season to date. The show has quietly been laying the groundwork for a lot of things that finally paid off this season and while there is still humor, the show has steered more into the drama side of things, to the overall betterment of the series. I watched every episode in 48 hours not because I just felt obligated to get it done, but because I was invested in what was going to happen next. I felt more uncomfortable and upset watching this season than any other season in the past, but that’s exactly what made it perhaps the best season of the series.

Season 4 picks up immediately after the events of the season 3 finale: Litchfield Prison has been privatized, leading to massive turnover with the guards and a sudden influx of new prisoners which leads to overcrowding. Both the administration and the prisoners struggle to adjust to this new world order – Caputo (Nick Sandow) is now the warden and though he means well he is little match for the corporate infrastructure of the new prison administrators or the harsh new guards led by Piscatella (Brad William Henke). With the prisoners, the arrival of so many new faces has shifted power to the Latinas, who are now the largest ethnic block. This greatly empowers Maria (Jessica Pimentel) and leaves others like Red (Kate Mulgrew) and Piper (Taylor Schilling) to scramble to keep the power that they have been able to amass in the past. The divisions between the prisoners become even more pronounced and a general unrest sweeps over Litchfield. The arrival of celebrity prisoner Judy King (Blair Brown) also is a chaotic presence, as she is granted special privileges in order to keep her happy and minimize lawsuits. With power up for grabs, the world of Litchfield becomes bleaker and darker – especially when exploring the new relationship between the prisoners and the guards. When those two entities come into conflict, the results are violent and deadly.

Because the series has devoted so much time to these characters over the past three seasons, the reliance on flashbacks are minimized. They are still employed occasionally and provide helpful backstory for some of the characters – we finally find out what landed Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) in prison – but they are no longer the driving force of the storytelling. Piper’s role has also been minimized, to the betterment of the series. She was a useful entry point to this world in season one, but she’s among the most boring of the characters on the series and time is wisely spent with other characters. She still has a role to play, but I’m glad that it’s transitioned to be more supporting. A little Piper goes a long way.

The fourth season of Orange Is The New Black also focuses more on mental health than any of the previous seasons. “Crazy Eyes” has served as comic relief for much of the series, but the addition of Lolly (Lori Petty) last season has forced the show to take a more in-depth look at what it is like for the mentally ill in prison and the limitations of what can be adequately dealt with. The show also explores inmates dealing with the aftermath of rape, Morello (Yael Stone) repeating the behavior that landed her in prison as well as Mr. Healy’s (Michael Harney) dealing with his own psychological baggage, which helps explain some of his past behavior. It’s all heartbreaking and very sad, but it also a reality of prison that I’m glad that the series spent more time addressing.

I don’t want to scare you off by emphasizing that the show goes to some much darker places this season; there are still moments of happiness and humor in the show, which are needed to help break the tension. I laughed out loud on numerous occasions, perhaps because I was primed to need a comedic release. There is still some silliness, especially when you get Taystee (Danielle Brooks) and Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) just talking about life and pop culture. Bus as someone who likes when series and movies are “dark and twisty,” I definitely appreciated Orange Is The New Black’s turn toward the dark side.

The fourth season of Orange Is The New Black might be the most difficult to watch (and don’t Google anything about it as I’ve avoided a pretty huge spoiler), but it is also the most satisfying of the series. When the finale was over, I didn’t feel exhausted from my marathon viewing but was rather disappointed that there wasn’t more to watch. I’m already looking forward to the fifth season, as there are some pretty big issues that still need to be resolved. Litchfield is still a powder keg and I want to see if it will finally explode. Now that the viewer understands the dynamics of Litchfield and knows the characters so well, Orange Is The New Black was able to take the series to the next level. If the 4th season is any indication of what’s to come, I’m very optimistic for future seasons.

Orange Is The New Black is currently streaming on Netflix.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Sunshine Day Edition

After two very rainy days in Albany it looks like we’ve finally turned a corner and will have some nice sunny days. This is a relief, since while we needed some rain we probably didn’t need the small tornado that touched down nearby. I’d always rather have rain during the week than on the weekend, but the dreary skies were making it harder to get out of bed in the morning and it’s already pretty difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning. If this weather could hang around until after Saturday that would be great, since I’m going to an outside concert that doesn’t allow umbrellas. I really don’t want to be standing in a field with thousands of other people in a rain poncho. Plus sunshine just puts everyone in a better mood, so I’m glad it’s back. And if the name of this post gets this song stuck in your head, so much the better.

What else puts people in a good mood? Well the pop culture roundup, of course! As usual, I’ve searched the Internet high and low to bring you the latest and greatest pop culture news that you may have missed in the last week. So kick back and relax and enjoy the smorgasbord of pop culture goodness.

  • In honor of Kanye West’s 38th birthday, the website First We Feast has created an ice cream menu inspired by Yeezus and available at Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream. I would absolutely order the I Am a God Ice Cream Croissantwich.
  • Channing Tatum went undercover to dance at a Magic Mike XXL screening:

 

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  • Amy Schumer gave a hilarious acceptance speech at the Glamour awards:

 

Time for some trailers…..

  • The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part Two:

 

  • Meryl Streep in Ricki and The Flash:

 

  • The Martian or “why do people keep leaving Matt Damon in space?”

 

  • Mission: Impossible Rouge Nation:

 

  • I Am Cait, Caitlyn Jenner’s new docu-series:

 

  • Season three of Rectify (probably the best show that you aren’t watching):

 

  • The star-studded Suffragette:

 

  • The first promos for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

 

 

  • Star Wars Rebels season 2:

 

  • Not one, but two new True Detective promos:

 

 

  • Andrew Garfield in 99 Homes:

 

  • Masters of Sex, season three:

 

  • Greta Gerwig in Mistress America:

 

  • Michael Fassbender in Macbeth:

 

  • Jake Gyllenhaal in Everest:

 

  • LEGO Marvel’s Avengers:

 

  • Emily Blunt went exploring with Elmo on Sesame Street:

 

  • Connie Britton is an excellent hula hooper (and all-around person):

 

  • The Broadway casts of The Lion King and Aladdin had a sing-off during a flight delay:

 

  • Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter looks just like her:

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Brother proof. Sort of.

A post shared by Gwyneth Paltrow (@gwynethpaltrow) on

 

  • Mary Ellen Trainer, best known for her roles in The Goonies and the Lethal Weapon franchise, has passed away.
  • Victoria Siegel, one of the children featured in the fantastic documentary The Queen of Versailles, was found dead at 18.

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

  • Taylor Swift meets Taylor Swift? I think the universe just exploded:

 

  • The worlds of Orange Is The New Black and Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt collide:

 

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  • Kelly Clarkson covers Rihanna:

 

  • An all bass version of Metallica’s And Justice For All

 

 

  • Sesame Street does a Jurassic Park parody:

 

  • A blues version of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme:

 

  • The Muppets are back with “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” by ODB:

 

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  • A medley of hip-hop sings preformed in the style of Broadway:

 

  • And finally…SpongeBob Squarepants mashed up with Breaking Bad: