PopCult July 2019 Digest

Spider-Man Movies Ranked
What To Watch After Stranger Things
Most Underrated Disney Films
Nintendo Switch Review
Best of the 2010s: My Favorite Films of 2014

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Movie Review – Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Written by Giuseppe Tornatore and Vanna Paoli
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore

Cinema Paradiso did a lot of things. It garnered a lot of attention for Miramax, who distributed the film in the United States. By winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture and helped revive Italy’s faltering cinema industry which had once dominated cinema with the New Wave films. When you watch Cinema Paradiso, it feels like a template for audience-pleasing Oscar movies to come, but you have to remember the movie wasn’t made with those pretensions in mind. One thing it did not do was bring its director, Giuseppe Tornatore a large amount of attention, but it kept him working even today.

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TV Review – Best of All in the Family Part 6

Archie the Hero (Original airdate: September 29th, 1975)
Written by Lou Derman & Bill Davenport
Directed by Paul Bogart

LGBTQ representation on television at the time of All in the Family was a mixed bag of either complete absence or as a villain and predatory. It was even worse when the idea of crossdressing or transvestitism came into the picture. At the time Archie the Hero aired there just wasn’t a language in the common parlance to talk about transgender people and terms got muddled with the two groups mentioned previously. Despite the confusion and lack of education, this is a part of a trilogy of episodes that handled the idea of non-conforming gender with a surprising amount of empathy.

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Movie Review – To Kill a Mockingbird

While the larger world seems to be bathed in darkness these days I decided to do a small marathon at some point this year with films that don’t hide from the bleak parts of life but showcase how hope can emerge from such circumstances. Some of these are films I’ve seen before, some I never have. This will be the first collection of movies under the banner of Hope in the Midst of Darkness. As I learn of and remember more films that fit the moniker, I’ll return in batches of five or six.

To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Written by Horton Foote
Directed by Robert Mulligan

Author Harper Lee died in her sleep on February 19, 2016. The preceding year had seen the publication of her second novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” a text steeped in controversy and dubiously released to the public. HarperCollins had received a copy of the manuscript after Lee’s lawyer had found it while appraising the writer’s assets in 2011. Accusations were made that the lawyer had coerced and abused an elder, Lee’s health and mental state were said to be in poor condition in her latter years. The state of Alabama found these charges unfounded, but doubts still remain as Lee has consistently stated she had no additional novels to publish since Mockingbird. Since Lee’s death, more information has come to light that Watchman was an earlier draft of Mockingbird, but the damage had been done. Despite this abuse in her final act, Lee will still be remembered as the author of one of the seminal books of the 20th century, which became a critically lauded film two years after it’s publication.

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Comic Book Review – The Wild Storm Volume 2

The Wild Storm Volume 2 (2018)
Reprints The Wild Storm #7-12
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Jon Davis-Hunt

One of the many plot threads running through Warren Ellis’ epic and intricate reboot of the Wildstorm universe is the internal politics of world-spanning conspiracies. Instead of presenting these as tense battles of control, Ellis chooses to frame them as the same sort of mundane office politics you might find in any cubicle farm. Jacklyn King is working her own angles at International Operations, putting together teams and performing investigations without her boss Miles Craven being aware, at least not at the beginning. The Halo Corporation has their own man on the inside, John Colt, who the readers meet just as he realizes he’s been compromised and has to shoot his way out before Adrianna can teleport him away. Yet, when Colt arrives at the Halo safe house, it’s played very nonchalantly, not the first time he’s gone through this. There is a mix of humor and horror in how people living these conspiratorial existences can come to find them so unimpressive.

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Short Film Showcase #3

The Wrong Trousers (1993, directed by Nick Park)

The Wrong Trousers isn’t the first outing of the stop motion characters Wallace & Gromit or even the first short to won Nick Park an Academy Award. That honor belongs to A Grand Day Out, also a great short film. However, The Wrong Trousers was incredibly commercially successful for a short in an era where that form of a movie just doesn’t get much attention or distribution any longer. Park never tries to elevate the themes of his story beyond just pure fun and a well-told tale of a dog, his owner, and an evil penguin.

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TV Review – Best of All in the Family Part 5

The Bunkers and Inflation Part 1 (Original airdate: September 14, 1974)
Written by Don Nicholl and Michael Ross & Bernie West
Directed by H. Wesley Kenney

The landscape of American life was changing drastically in the 1970s, a result of the tumultuous 1960s. There were many excellent and long-awaited changes such as desegregation & the Civil Rights Act, the women’s lib movement, and the growing acceptance of LGBT people. Economically things were getting murky, downright awful for working-class union people. This was an opening salvo by the corporate elite to weaken union power to increase their own. The speculation market was coming to power and with the 1980s looming, the salivating day traders and industry liquidators were on their mark, ready to go.

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My Favorite Stephen King Movies

There are a LOT of bad Stephen King movies out there. The Tommyknockers. Dreamcatcher. Maximum Overdrive. Sleepwalkers. Thinner. I’d argue there are more lousy King adaptations than good ones. But his work resonates with audiences so profoundly that I suspect the films will keep coming for far beyond his and our lifetimes. Here are my personal favorites of movies made based on his work with some thoughts about them.

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