Pop Culture Ephemera
- Lars Kepler – The Rabbit Hunter (2016) (Vintage Crime): “God lost me somewhere along the way … and didn’t come back to look for me” – Kepler. The sixth entry in the Joona Linna series of novels is a challenge for the writers. Joona has been sentenced to a couple years in prison at the end of the last novel. This very graphic story of a serial killer bent on revenge against some powerful men doesn’t have nearly the Joona presence as the previous novels. That allows much more time to build the suspense of the series of murders. That’s good and bad. I have enjoyed these books because of the psychological aspects of the detective work that Joona does at his best. This has some exciting scenes especially as the potential victims all end up trapped at a hunting lodge. I just didn’t get my Joona bang for the buck that I enjoy. I’m hoping he’s out of prison (he did get a reprieve to help solve this case) by the next book.
- WandaVision – “The Series Finale” (S.1 E.9) (2021) (Disney+): “I have been a voice with no body. A body but not human, and now a memory made real. Who knows what I might be next?” – Vision. I finally got around to finishing this Marvel series. It lines up with the other MCU series that I’ve watched. The series typically “end” the episode before the finish. This is definitely the case since we’ve linked Wanda and the Scarlet Witch and revealed Agatha in the previous episode. The remaining fight, plot developments, and cameos put the characters back into the MCU, in particular the crossover with Doctor Strange. This wasn’t a fabulous series. It tried to be clever by half without giving proper perspective. The characters are engaging, but this could have easily been a 5-6 episode season without losing anything important. I’m glad I can check it off just because of how it informs the new Marvel movies.
- George Harrison – “Beware of Darkness” (1970) (from All Things Must Pass): “Beware of the thoughts that linger / Winding up inside your head.” This song shows even more of Harrison’s outside influence by Krishna. It’s a multi-layered song about not getting distracted from the real purpose of your life. It’s about a break-up. It can be read as a romantic issue, which is essentially what the breakup of the Beatles was for George. That loss could have led to darkness. The sound is so rich that I get lost in the guitar work by Harrison, Clapton, and Dave Mason. Don’t lose the organ (Gary Wright) and drums (Ringo) filling out the background voice. One of Harrison’s best songs off of definitely his best album. This is top-shelf stuff.
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) (Directed by Sam Raimi): “Just because someone stumbles and loses their way doesn’t mean they’re lost forever.” – Charles Xavier. The posters for the MCU films should clearly label the prerequisites needed before watching the films. You would be wasting your energy to watch this without some working knowledge of Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), and WandaVision (2021). Despite being a big fan of comic book stories and the science fiction genre in general, the quickest way to lose my attention is time travel and multiverses. This movie almost never had a chance with me but for two things. It’s directed by Sam Raimi who gave us the Evil Dead franchise and helped launch the modern era of superhero films with his work on Spider-Man. The second thing is a very likeable cast. Doctor Strange and Benedict Cumberbatch have already become inseparable. I like Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda and Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez. They are strong women who don’t have to wear skimpy costumes to create a good character. I was happy to see the Necronomicon make an appearance in the film. What? Oh, excuse me, I’m being informed that it wasn’t the trademarked Necronomicon. It was the Book of Evil Spells. Truthfully, I can’t begin to coherently explain the plot, but it’s super fun when Raimi is allowed to tap his horror side. The final 30 minutes are fun. The film tries to tone down the complexity of multiverses, but it just can’t get beyond being fun eye candy (not in a skimpy costume).
- Barbie (2023) (Directed Greta Gerwig): “To be honest, when I found out the patriarchy wasn’t just about horses, I lost interest.” – Ken. I never doubted that Greta Gerwig could pull off such an unique subject for a film. Her breakthrough with Lady Bird (2017) showed a good ear for dialog and ability to tell a story with a message. Watching it in January feels like I lost something. This is a summer film at heart. There’s some gorgeous set design and cinematography. I wish I hadn’t seen all of the 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) parody in the previews because it felt out of place in the film when I think of it as a trailer feature. In fact, too much of the first ten minutes are straight out of the trailers. The film has some wonderful attention to detail that will be rewarding on future viewings. It’s a film that’s trying to get a lot accomplished in under two hours. The film turns into quite a bit of dialog. The most important coming in a long speech by America Ferrera as a Mattel employee who is the link between the two worlds of the film. The themes are summed up nicely. I can see why this was a crowd-pleaser. While not a Top Ten film of 2023, I will likely watch it again in the next few months.
Best of the Rest
- In 1986, Concrete Blonde was still working towards their first breakout singles. The sound on this cover sounds five years ahead of their time. Adding the fuzz guitar and female voice leads to much more of a failed-relationship feel to the lyrics. There’s more of a warning than contemplative mood. It’s a really clever take by a great band.
- The Super Bowl ads have started rolling out and I’m a little behind. Tell me that there’s one with Stone Cold Steve Austin and what I think is a Beastie Boys sample in the background and I’m in . . .
- Guillermo Del Toro’s Dr. Frankenstein adaptation/love letter is moving forward for Netflix and this week we saw some pictures as “proof of life.” I’ve been excited about this project because of Guillermo’s passion for the book and films. Add to that casting choices of Jacob Elordi and Mia Goth among others and this promises to be a “can’t miss.”
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 7/30/2008, it was the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con edition. I enjoyed Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog on the way to California. Gordon informs us about an exploded meat truck and fatalities on the highway so we take a trek through the mountains and beat Gordon there by an hour. This was the infamous “Smits costing us a room” year (that’s a story that brings a shaking head to about four of you). I enjoyed Robert Rodriguez talking about directing Red Sonja. I was impressed with a new HBO show upcoming called True Blood from Alan Ball. James Warren, who created magazines like Creepy and Eerie, was old and told some fantastic stories. I still treasure seeing all of the original Peanuts specials voice (except Linus) with Jeannie Schulz and Lee Mendelson (Exec. Producer). I enjoyed panels for Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles and the writers of The Office. What amuses me is that I attended a panel on the spur of the moment for a show I ended up loving. I wonder if it holds up.
- Batman: Brave and the Bold – “The Rise of the Blue Beetle” (S.1 E.1) (2008) (TOON): “What is this, now? The fifth or sixth deathtrap. I’ve been tied up to because of you over the years?” – Batman to Green Arrow. The main story is Batman taking Blue Beetle to the planet Kanjar Ro where the small inhabitants worship Blue Beetle over Batman. Diedrich Bader has the perfect tone for the Batman of this series. Will Friedle is a good Blue Beetle (previously the voice of Batman in Batman Beyond). This episode shows that the series will be less brooding and serious as some of the animated films, but it isn’t campy despite some truly funny one-liners. There’s still a decent superhero story involved. So few shows can find this balance today. My instinct was correct: this is still a great show.
1974 in Review
- January – Thor #219 (Marvel): Written by Gerry Conway and art by John Buscema. Thor and his group continue their adventures in Space in the middle of an incredible run.
- January 19 – The UCLA Bruins fall to Notre Dame, 71-70 at Notre Dame, ending a 88-game winning streak for the Bruins.
- January 31 – Rolling Stone (January 31, 1974) features an extended interview with Paul and Linda McCartney that covers the past ten years since their U.S. debut and through the recording of Band on the Run.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Cheetos: Seasoned Turkey
(Courtesy of Mallory Bourdo) These Cheetos from China are seasoned and do have a slight turkey-meat aftertaste. What they lack is any remnant of Cheeto flavor. It’s interesting because as is, they are pretty good. If the Cheetos flavor was added to them, I don’t think they’d be edible. I am guessing that this is American Turkey, or what China thinks people in China think American Turkey tastes like. They aren’t far off.
Goldfish Crisps: Cheddar
As the name suggests, they are crispier than regular Goldfish. They are bigger and the lightness could be from the preparation method which I’m guessing is more air frying than baking. I definitely go much more of the cheddar flavor from them than the regular version. Is that a good thing? Maybe for some people. I found these to be overly cheesy for a cracker. I love eating handfuls of the regular Goldfish but these are less likely to be eaten in bulk. I’ll stick with the classics, at least in the Cheddar flavor.
Golden Grahams: S’Mores
General Mills has brought back one of their most requested cereals with the Golden Grahams: S’Mores. It’s Golden Grahams with some chocolate squares and some mini-marshmallows. It’s a good mix, but I’m also a Golden Grahams fan. For fans of this cereal, it’s essentially been available as Post’s Honey Maid S’Mores. While I’m happy when they bring back the “classic” Golden Grahams, this doesn’t feel like anything special that I couldn’t get off the shelves, just the General Mills version.
“Beware of sadness
It can hit you
It can hurt you
Make you sore and what is more
That is not what you are here for” – George Harrison