Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Back to School edition

In this part of country today is the first day of school, which has little direct impact on my except that I had to avoid school buses during my morning commute and that my Facebook feed is filled with pictures of my friends’ offspring heading off to their institutions of learning. It’s still weird to me to not have a first day of school anymore; when you are a student and teacher continuously from the age of 4 to 32, you get used to such things. I do miss back to school shopping. I may have to buy myself some highlighters and folders just for old time’s sake. Best of luck to all the kiddos and teachers out there for a productive and educational school year and congratulations to all the parents in weathering another summer (and a special shout out to those of you who now have all your children in school and no longer have to pay for day care – the nightmare is over!).

In honor of the first day of school, allow me to educate you on all the pop culture stories that you might have missed while you were looking for the school prescribed type of scissors or haggling over first day of school outfits. Kick back and enjoy the beginning of Fall with your biweekly pop culture roundup:

  • Someone at HBO has been listening to me – next season of True Blood will be the series’ last. They are proving to be smarter than the books.
  • The new cast of Dancing with the Stars was revealed. I knew it was only a matter of time until Snookie turned up, though I wouldn’t have predicted Bill Nye the Science Guy,

 

  • Official Comedy looks at what would happen if Mark Wahlberg got his wish and became Iron Man:

 

  • Clint Eastwood and his wife have separated (I called this when she got her own reality show).
  • This dude made a homemade version of KITT from Knight Rider:

 

  • Here’s a photo of Peter Dinklage hula-hooping at a gay bar in Canada. If this doesn’t make you smile, you have no heart:

dinklage-hula

He was joined by his Game of Throne’s sister Lena Headey. Say what you will about the Lannisters – these people know how to have a good time.

  • This parody site offers suggestions for Robin Thicke for “what rhymes with hug me.”
  • This weekend we had a debate about what kind of tattoos we would get (neither of us got tatted up in college with all our friends). I’ve considered a lot of options, but somehow a Minion tattoo never crossed my mind.
  • Michelle Williams (the actress, not the Destiny’s Child singer) will make her Broadway debut in Cabaret. In other news, someone needs to get me tickets to Cabaret.
  • Aaron Paul continues his general tour of awesomeness with this napkin that he left for a server that he found out was a Breaking Bad fan:

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  • Watch a trailer for the 4th season of Downton Abbey:

 

  • Also on Thursday, Fiona Apple stormed off stage. Seriously – was there a full moon?
  • David Schwimmer angered his neighbors by tearing down a townhouse in NYC that was one year away from receiving landmark status. Their passive aggressive response is outstanding:
Did anyone think he was?

Did anyone think he was?

  • Jay Pharoah does a fantastic Kanye impersonation in his parody of West’s “I Am A God” (NSFW):

 

  • This is ONLY A RUMOR, but Benedict Cumberbatch may join the cast of the new Star Wars film.
  • The director of the Academy Award winning animated short Paperman has left Disney. Best of luck to him in his future endeavors – I loved his film.
  • Internet sensations Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub met for the first time at the Internet Cat Festival in Minneapolis. Yeah – you read that last part correctly.
  • The role of Daario Naharis on Game of Thrones has been recast. Because it isn’t hard enough already to keep all those characters straight when they are played continuously by the same actor.
  • Speaking of parent/child switcheroos, this tweet made me literally laugh out loud:

funnytweeter.com

 

  • This guy definitely sounds like a legit doctor – a dentist who bought John Lennon’s molar at an auction wants to use it to clone the Beatle. Yup – that’s not at all creepy.
  • Damn you to hell, Chase Utley. I have been perfectly content to hate you and your stupid hair since 2009 and then you had to go and do something relatively awesome like answer Mac’s fan letter from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

 

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  • Kyle Chandler isn’t particularly interested in a Friday Night Lights movie (based on the TV show, obviously, since there already is a Friday Night Lights movie in existence). I still need to get around to watching season 5.
  • Muhammad Ali and Liberace once performed together. No, seriously:

 

  • I love this video of a guy dressed up as Spiderman, schooling people on the basketball court:

That was twice as entertaining as The Amazing Spiderman.

  • Further proof that Charlie Hunnam will do just fine in the Fifty Shades of Grey lead – he already basically played the other lead role on Queer as Folk.
  • According to Entertainment Weekly the greatest boy band of all time is……The Backstreet Boys.
  • Someone figured out how to play “Get Lucky” on Mario Paint:

 

  • Simon Pegg and Nick Frost actually do a decent cover of the song as well:

 

As always, we end with the mashups and shupercuts

  • A supercut of near kisses in movies:

 

  • People on The Newsroom sure like to shout:

 

  • Every time Leonardo DiCaprio says “old sport” in The Great Gatsby:

 

  • The new season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia starts tonight on FXX. Watch clips from the show re-cut as a trailer for a psychological thriller:

 

  • Kill Him – the supercut:

 

  •  I was forced to watch a lot of Thomas the Tank Engine while babysitting a dreadful little boy while I was in grad school, so I took particular joy in this mash-up:

 

  • And finally, a fan already cut together a trailer for Man of Steel 2, adding the rumored Brian Cranston as Lex Luthor for good measure:

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Poor Time Management Edition

My head must have been in the clouds because I almost forgot that was a pop culture roundup week. That isn’t a problem in and of itself, but failing to remember means that I didn’t get a head start on putting this together. I had planned to get a lot of this done Monday night, as I was at a show last night, but then I started looking for breakup songs and I was down the YouTube rabbit hole. Next thing I knew it was 11:30 and I never got to the roundup. So I’m doing a rush job on it this week (mostly on my lunch breaks), so forgive me if I don’t cast as wide a net as usual. I love doing this post, but it is ridiculously time consuming.

Now that I’ve lowered your expectations, on to your biweekly culmination all things pop:

  • I gave you the skinny over the weekend on what shows have been cancelled and what shows are returning (which I have updated). Now several of the networks have released their fall schedules (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX). I’m already working on a grid to see how many conflicts I have.
  • In addition, trailers have been released for many of the new shows:

The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)

Dracula (NBC)

Sean Saves the World (NBC)

The Blacklist (NBC)

Welcome to the Family (NBC)

Ironside (NBC)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (ABC)

Betrayal (ABC)

Killer Woman (ABC)

Lucky 7 (ABC)

Mind Games (ABC)

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (ABC)

Resurrection (ABC)

Back in the Game (ABC)

The Goldbergs (ABC)

Mixology (ABC)

Super Fun Night (ABC)

Trophy Wife (ABC)

The Bridge (FX) – debuting in July

  • No more Stefon – Bill Hader is leaving SNL. His last episode will be this Saturday.
  • I seriously considered taking a day off for this: The Bluth Banana stand from Arrested Development was in NYC earlier this week. Track where it is headed next on Twitter.
  • This website maps every recurring joke on Arrested Development. There goes my afternoon.
  • As a Mad Men fan, I really enjoyed this collection of fun facts, theories, callbacks and Easter Eggs on the show.
  • Christina Aguilera appears to be poised to return to The Voice. It was nice knowing you, Shakira.
  • These “Ryan Gosling won’t eat cereal” vines are absurd, yet hilarious:

 

  • Taco Bell is unveiling a waffle taco. You know I’m trying this.
  • Danity Kane may be reuniting (note to author – calling this group beloved might be overselling it)
  • I wrote previously about the awesomeness that was the Jon Hamm/Adam Scott collaboration The Greatest Event in Television History. This year Scott will be teaming up with his Parks and Recreation co-star Amy Poehler for a special airing June 6th. The identity of the project has been revealed.
  • The boy band The Wanted is getting a reality show. I admit I will probably watch this. I saw them perform last year at the Mixtape Festival and they were a lot of fun.
  • Casino Royale opening done in LEGOs:

 

  • Angela Bassett and Patti LuPone have joined the cast of American Horror Story: Coven. This season is shaping up to be pretty fantastic.
  • Mashable has some eerie photos from the abandoned Star Wars sets in Tunisia.
  • At this point, I’ll only be surprised to see who isn’t in Anchorman 2.
  • This article from Business Insider claims that compared to actual ads in the 1960s, the work of Don Draper’s ad agency is pretty terrible.
  • This makes me sad – Harper Lee is suing her agent for cheating her out of the copyright of To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Here’s an interesting fact – Tupac’s Godmother was the first woman ever added to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorist List.
  • Metallica frontman James Hetfield’s former mansion is for sale.
  • Broadway star James Corden will play the Baker in the film adaption of Into the Woods. Johnny Depp will be the Wolf and Meryl Streep will be the Witch. Chris Pine and Jake Gyllenhaal are also in talks to join the cast.
  • A bad lip reading of The Walking Dead:

 

  • Whoa – Jay-Z and this guy from 1933 are almost identical.

jay-z

The only logical explanation is that Jay-Z is immortal.

  • A new Toy Story short will air on ABC at Halloween. I hope they bring back my pal T-Bone!
  • Sometimes Twitter is just fantastic – someone has created a parody account for 80’s Don Draper.
  • Andy Samberg and his pals in The Lonely Island introduce Wack Wednesdays:

 

  • Game of Thrones producers wrote an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (for real).
  • A poster has been released for Catching Fire, the next film in The Hunger Games trilogy.

Catching fire

  • Mariah Carey has released a new single, featuring Miguel:

 

  • A murderer in Canada based his crime on Showtime’s Dexter. And they say that
  • Joe Dirt 2 is a real thing. Was there a clamoring for this?
  • More Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee episodes will debut this summer – Jerry will actually talk to a girl!
  • The Iron Man trilogy remix:

 

  • Just in time for my birthday – Justin Timberlake will release The 20/20 Experience, Volume 2 in September.

As always, we wrap up with the mashups and supercuts:

  • Enjoy this Pop Punk Mashup:

 

  • These guys play parts of 17 Taylor Swift songs in 60 seconds.

 

  • A supercut of some of the best “NOOOOOOOOOO!” in cinematic history:

 

  • Someone else thought that The Great Catsby was a good idea – a mashup of The Great Gatsby soundtrack/dialogue and The Aristocats:

 

  • Disney movies are all sugar and spice – a supercut of Disney violence:

 

And finally – an Iron Man/”Suit and Tie” parody mashup:

The Great Gatsby – A Review

I think your mileage on Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby is going to be directly correlated to your relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book and your relationship with Baz Luhrmann. If you hold The Great Gatsby to be one of the greatest stories in American literature, you are probably going to be disappointed with this film and what it chooses to focus on (and what it obscures or leaves out). Luhrmann has a distinct way of directing films – he thinks that more is more, rather than less – and if you weren’t a fan of the style or use of contemporary music in Moulin Rouge then The Great Gatsby is probably not going to be your thing either.

I, however, do not fall into either of these camps. Though it has been a while since I have seen Moulin Rouge, I remember liking it quite a bit despite all its over-the-top-ness and its full frontal assault on your senses. Luhrmann has his particular vision and while I don’t think I’d like to watch his type of movie all the time, it is enjoyable every once in a while. Luhrmann may realize this as he is not a particularly prolific director; his last feature film was 2008’s Australia. I also do not consider The Great Gatsby to be a sacred cow in the world of literature. While I read in in high school, I realized as I went onto the movie that I had little to no recall of the actual story. All I could remember was that there was a guy named Gatsby (obviously), a woman named Daisy that was pretty shallow and unlikable and that there was a billboard with a pair of eyeglasses that had a lot of symbolism (my junior year English teacher was really big on symbolism – all I remember about Ethan Frome is that the broken pickle dish was a metaphor for the emptiness of the Frome marriage (or something)). I had contemplated re-reading the book during the run up to the release of the film, but decided against it. I thought that wasn’t necessarily fair to the movie; reading the book too closely to seeing the movie was bound to foster unfavorable comparisons and might result in fatigue of the story. I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, watched the Swedish film and the American version all within a few weeks of each other and by the time I saw the U.S. adaptation I was a little Lisbeth’ed out. I wanted to avoid that with The Great Gatsby.

Given these circumstances, I actually enjoyed The Great Gatsby more than I expected. The first half of the movie is far more exciting; once the story slows down a bit, its weaknesses become more apparent. Luhrmann’s visual style melds particularly well with the opulence of the party scenes and I thought the hip-hop heavy soundtrack worked well. I wouldn’t say that The Great Gatsby was a great film or had a profound impact on me, but I left the theater entertained. For a summer movie, that is sometimes enough. But those that hold The Great Gatsby near and dear their hearts as a literary classic are bound to find Luhrmann’s more cursory adaptation wanting and unfulfilling.

This version of The Great Gatsby is focused solely on Gatsby’s infatuation with Daisy; it is far more interested in that tragic love story than in commenting on class structure or some of the socioeconomic issues on which the book spent more time. Luhrmann strips away most of the other stories and focuses on the more soapy aspects of the novel. Even with this primary focus, there isn’t a lot of contemplation or deep analysis. Luhrmann is using Fitzgerald’s text, but it is a more literal adaption that some may find lacking the spirit of the book. Luhrmann is not one for subtlety or symbolism.

Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent as Gatsby and the film is far more interesting whenever he is on screen. He captures both Gatsby’s smooth charm and vulnerability and he has what may be the best entrances of a character in cinematic history (it’s completely over the top, but it is still perfect). DiCaprio is definitely the best thing in the movie and anchors the film from Luhrmann’s more extravagant tendencies. It is not a surprise that even those reviewers that don’t like the film have singled out DiCaprio’s performance as a bright spot. Joel Edgerton also does a nice job as the brutish Tom Buchanan and though she has limited screen time, Elizabeth Debicki is mostly effective as Jordan Baker.

Tobey McGuire didn’t quite work for me as Nick Carraway; there was something just a little too earnest in his portrayal that rubbed me the wrong way. He was too Peter Parker for my liking and while Carraway is supposed to be a bit naïve, this version of Carraway just read as a little dopey. This film has also created a different future from Nick that seems a bit unearned based on what we see in the film.

I like Carey Mulligan as an actress, but I thought the biggest flaw of the film was her Daisy Buchanan. Even with my limited memories of the book, that character stood as a thoughtless and careless and just kind of terrible. This version of Daisy just seems more indecisive than selfish; she is somewhat likeable through most of the film, which fails to adequately sell the plot developments of the last act. Mulligan also struck me as too young for the role, though that may be my own personal preconceptions. This Daisy comes across as more of a victim rather than a shallow woman who only thinks of herself. No one asked me, but I think Michelle Williams would have been absolutely spectacular in this role.

Visually, The Great Gatsby is a beautiful movie. The extravagant parties hosted by Gatsby are a dizzying display in the best possible way. Halfway through the first party scene I was lamenting that I didn’t have a cocktail in my hand; the scenes were huge, luscious and overwhelming. Luhrmann doesn’t do anything small and so these scenes were a perfect marriage of story and director; he could throw everything that he has at the screen and it would work. Even the smaller and more intimate scenes are beautifully shot, though there are moments when some additional restraint by Luhrmann may have been beneficial. Luhrmann slowing things down is still quicker than most. I am a fan of the art deco aesthetic, so I appreciated all the detail to wardrobe and architecture. I didn’t spring for this film in 3-D, so I cannot comment on its usage or need. I’m guessing that it was superfluous.

Though this was a limited and superficial retelling of Fitzgerald’s classic and had some weaknesses in casting, I still found the film entertaining. Perhaps it was my lowered expectations and my general indifference to the source material, but I was mostly engaged throughout the film’s 2 hour and 20 minute run time. Because I didn’t remember much of the story, it was fresh enough to me that I was interested in what was going to happen next. The ending came back to me, but how we got there was still a journey that I was interested in taking. Most of the credit for that belongs to DiCaprio and his excellent work as Gatsby. His presence helps the viewer forget some of the weaknesses of the film. The breakneck pace of the first half also doesn’t give you much time to swell on some of the shortcomings; everything is happening so quickly and things are so shiny that you can’t really process what you are viewing. It is the second half when the flaws become more apparent and where the shallowness of the story and characterization prove to be most problematic. Nick’s jaded attitude and disgust with everyone doesn’t have the believability or emotional punch that it should have as a result and Daisy’s indifference should have seemed more cruel and self-absorbed than it did.

The Great Gatsby is a lot like the worldview of the characters in the book – it is entertaining, but ultimately disposable. There isn’t a lot of substance to Baz Luhrmann’s adaption, but it has style in spades. It was better than I expected given this unlikely pairing of source material and director; if you are willing to think of it as just a trifling summer movie rather an attempt to film an American classic, you’ll be far better off.

The Great Gatsby opened nationwide on Friday.