Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Comic Con Edition

One of the things on my pop culture bucket list that I’m dying to do is to attend Comic Con in San Diego. If you are unfamiliar with Comic Con, it is basically pop culture mecca; while the convention originally was focused primarily on comic books, it has morphed into a giant celebration of all things pop culture. It is the venue where tons of exciting news about television shows and movies is revealed and where die-hard fans congregate for the chance to see their favorite actors and directors at panels. If you love pop culture, it is something that you have to check out. It’s ridiculously popular and the people often have to camp out to get into the more popular panels, but I feel like it is something that I have to experience at least once if I am going to call myself a pop culture enthusiast. Perhaps next year.

But thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you don’t have to go to Comic Con to get all of the breaking news and scoop about your favorites. This week’s round-up is chocked full of nuggets from convention as well as some other pop culture goodness that happened in the last two weeks. I just saved you all a roundtrip ticket to California.

So kick back and peruse my bi-weekly summary of all things pop.

  • The biggest news of the Con in my opinion – Superman and Batman are going to be in a movie together!
  • Game of Thrones paid tribute to dead characters with an In Memoriam video (contains spoilers- duh):

 

  • NBC has released a trailer for Dracula:

 

  • Watch the entire X-Men: Days of Future Past Panel:

 

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson is rebooting Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

 

  • Also Breaking Bad related – Walter White’s journey:

 

  • A How I Met Your Mother video from Comic Con. Amen, kids. Amen!

 

  • You can watch the entire HIMYM panel here.
  • A trailer for JJ Abrams’ new show Believe:

 

  • Sons season 6 promo – everyone looks really mad:

 

  • A new NSFW red band trailer for Kick-Ass 2 debuted at Comic Con:

 

  • A trailer for the new season of The Walking Dead:

 

  • A sneak peek of the Veronica Mars movie:

 

  • Metallica released a trailer for their upcoming film:

 

  • Watch the entire Marvel panel:

 

  • A Hannibal gag reel:

 

  • Trailer for season 2 of Arrow:

 

  • I’m still shocked by the sudden death of Cory Monteith. I long abandoned Glee, but he was always my favorite. Addiction is no joke, my friends. To remember him, one of my favorite performances from the show:

 

  • CBS has posted episodes of Swingtown, Jericho and Wolf Lake online.
  •  An article in Rolling Stone states that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will end after its 10th season. Glenn Howerton took to Twitter to say that might not be the case:

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  • Watch Jon Hamm’s ESPY’s monologue:

 

  • As a political scientist who used to use “I’m Just a Bill” in her Into to American Government classes, I enjoyed Jimmy Kimmel’s Schoolhouse Rock parody:

 

  • Parks and Recreation has some great guest stars lined up for next season: Henry Winkler (in some inspired casting) and Kristin Bell.
  • Watch Jerry Seinfeld and Stephen Colbert (two of my faves) chat:

 

  • Britney Spears new music video for her song in Smurfs 2 features 2 cute co-stars – her sons:

 

  • Tumblr of the week: 99 Problems (illustrations of possible Jay Z problems)
  • Florence Welch is just like us – gets drunk and sings “Get Lucky”

 

  • A trailer for the 4th season of Boardwalk Empire:

 

  • Vampire Weekend covers “Blurred Lines”

 

  • Jason Momoa (Drago, GoT) has been cast in a new Sundance Channel show.
  • Dave Grohl joined Sha Na Na on stage during a Grease sing-a-long because Dave Grohl is awesome (and to the kids in the video – shut up! A legend is on drums):

 

  • A new trailer was released for Catching Fire:

 

  • Sacha Baron Cohen has quit the Freddie Mercury biopic. That’s too bad – that had promise.
  • Watch Jesse and the Rippers (John Stamos’ band from Full House) reunite on Fallon:

 

  • The Backstreet Boys have released a new acoustic single:

 

  • Beyoncé: gets hair caught in a fan during a concert, keeps singing.
  • R.I.P. Dennis Farina. As a tribute, here is a supercut of the actor saying the F word (NSFW, obviously):

 

Baby News!

  • Robin Thicke covers Icona Pop’s “I Love It”

 

  • Aaron Paul appeared on Beverly Hills, 90210:

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  • Pearl Jam debuted some new songs at their concert at Wrigley Field:

 

  • Hear your first taste of the Elvis Costello and The Roots collaboration:

 

  • Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic” rewritten so it is actually ironic:

 

  • A thief stole a van full of band equipment for the band A Flock of Seagulls. The interesting part of this story is that A Flock of Seagulls is still a thing – I haven’t heard a peep out of them since the 1980s.

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts

  • Blurring Pains

 

  • Bill Clinton sings “Blurred Lines” (a song that I am completely obsessed with):

 

  • “Ice Ice Baby” sung by the movies:

 

  • History gets a Game of Thrones makeover in this video of the building of the Capitol:

 

  • Some new mashups courtesy of Girl Talk. First up, A Michael Jackson/Daft Punk combination:

 

  • Kanye and Marilyn Manson (I really dig this one):

 

  • This is impressive – a reinterpretation of the Wizard of Oz done a cappella with pop songs:

 

  • A Game of Hodor:

 

  • A supercut of people watching movies in the movies:

 

  • It’s Always Sunny in Pacific Rim:

 

  • And finally……A Cher/Golden Girls mashup? Spectacular!

Paranormal Activity 4 – A Review

In keeping with the theme I started yesterday with American Horror Story, last night I went to a screening for the latest installment in the Paranormal Activity franchise. While there were a few moments that made me jump, the fourth movie is the weakest of the series. I still enjoyed it, but it is a case of diminishing returns.

I generally do not get scared during scary movies. While some of my friends watch horror movies from behind their fingers, I am not fazed in the slightest. When an old roommate and I watched the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, she was so freaked out that she had to go spend the night at her boyfriend’s house. Left alone in the house, I slept like a baby without any indication that I had just watched Leatherface in action. The serial killer/boogeyman/ torture porn genre of films have the least amount of impact on me; while people are freaked out by movies like Saw and Hostel, I’m usually impressed with the creativity the writers have in coming up with new and innovative ways to kill people. I remember being particularly awestruck with the French movie Haute Tension (High Tension), where a man is decapitated with a bookshelf. Now that’s inventive. I’m far too rational for these films to mess with my head; I know they are not real, so I never feel like I’m in peril. They are just too over the top to be taken seriously (though I am not above pretending to be scared if the situation warrants it).

It’s the smaller, more nuanced horror movies that have the best chance of impacting me. I’m still not scared, but they do occasionally garner some mild uneasiness during the course of the film. I may even jump once or twice. The films don’t stay with me – once the credits role, I’m no longer nervous – but they are also the ones that I enjoy the most. The Paranormal Activity films fall into this category. While some people dismiss them as being too slow and not having much happen, I think that they are far creepier than movies where a masked madman leaves a trail of dead teenagers in his wake.

Told using found footage, the Paranormal Activity franchise follows the creepy occurrences that follow two sisters. In the first film, which I think is the most effective, a young couple begins to notice strange things going on in their house. While the woman believes that something mysterious is going on, the man does not take her concerns all that seriously and sets up surveillance cameras to disprove her assertions that something has been haunting her since childhood. The cameras capture the unusual things that have been going on – strange noises, closed doors opening, shadowy movements. The tension slowly builds in the film and the events escalate until the dramatic ending. The latter chapters of the series use the same basic formula – found footage, weird occurrences – and also build a bit of a mythology around the two sisters and their backstory.

Some people dismiss the Paranormal Activity films as boring, but I appreciate the way that they take their time and create a mood. There may not be a crazy man with an ax chasing people around, but just because the films are methodical does not mean that nothing is happening. I find the Paranormal Activity films to be much more relatable – who among us hasn’t felt slightly uneasy at some point or another for some unexplained reason, or thought the worst when there is an odd noise in an otherwise quiet house? The Paranormal Activity films are much for psychological than visceral. They operate under the same premise as a haunted house- you know that someone is going to jump out at you at some point, but you don’t know when and where. It’s the anticipation that is terrifying. The Paranormal Activity movies play fear small ball; they may not be as flashy as some other horror movies, but they quietly get things done. I imagine that they are even scarier if you believe in ghosts and spirits (I don’t).

The problems that I had with Paranormal Activity 4 is not in concept – as I said, I find this films much creepier than most horror movies – but more from the repetition. One of the reasons that I think that the first film is the best is because at the time the premise was innovative and unexpected. But after 4 movies, they have run the premise into the ground. The element of surprise is gone and while the other films benefited from moving the mythology forward (or backward, since they were prequels), this latest installment doesn’t add much to that component of the films.  I did appreciate the introduction of some new characters, but it wasn’t enough to prevent me from feeling like I had seen this movie already. Again – there were still moments when I jumped or otherwise reacted, but I felt that there was no forward motion with this movie.

Some other thoughts:

  • This is the first time seeing any of the Paranormal Activity films in the theater; I usually watch them at home on DVD. It was a very different experience than I was used to. I personally think the films are creepier when watched in private as it amplifies their quietness and subtly. It puts you closer to the experiences of the characters in the film and if you hear an odd noise in your house while watching, all the better. Watching with a crowd, I found it was much easier to be taken out of the movie by the reaction of others. It was fun, however, to see how freaked out people got. Wimps.
  • We sat in front of a young couple that refused to shut up throughout the entire movie. It was like watching the film with director’s commentary on, if the director was a not very insightful skater guy whose vocabulary was primarily comprised of the F word. It was extremely annoying.
  • However, I did have to laugh from one comment that I overheard. In the midst of all their inane chattering, the couple had the following exchange:

Girl (scene shot in the foyer of the house): That is some really nice flooring.

Guy: It is. My parents have the same thing in their office.

So out of place and random, I couldn’t help by giggle. And it was nice flooring.

  • There is a cat in the film that looks like my cat Pumpkin, so I was irrationally concerned about his/her safety. I was probably more worried about his/her livelihood than I was for the humans.
  • I’ve mentioned this before, but Paranormal Activity 4 falls right in with the other horror movies this fall with the focus on creepy kids. That seems to be the trend right now (Sinister, The Possession) and it is pretty effective. You want really creepy? Use Albino/pale children with British accents; that’s like the horror movie trifecta in my book.
  • These films definitely reward people with good observation skills; in addition to subtly of the paranormal activity, there is some attention to detail in what is going on in the background as well.
  • I think this was the funniest entry in the franchise; there were some legitimate laughs amidst all the creepiness.
  • If you are putting the films in chronological order of the events that take place, it would be 3,2,1,4. I don’t think you need to have seen any of the other films to get something out of it, but #1 is probably the most relevant as this film picks up several years afterward.
  • The film is pretty short – it clocks in at around 88 minutes.
  • The one nice thing about this franchise – there isn’t a whole lot of blood. I know excessive blood and guts is a big turn off for some people, so this allows those people the chance to be scared without being grossed out.
  • For those that are so inclined, there is a scene after the credits. However, it will be helpful if someone in your party speaks Spanish to understand it. Even then, it’s pretty vague.
  • Never fear – Paranormal Activity 5 is already in production. Even though I didn’t love this latest film, I’m glad because it left me with some questions. I’d like some closure to the mythology.

So while I think that this franchise is running out of steam with the latest installment, Paranormal Activity 4 definitely does have its moments that will inspire some apprehension. If you like these movies, you will probably enjoy the 4th film to some degree. It’s not the best of the bunch, but a fun movie for this time of year.