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PopCult Reviews is place to take deep dive into media & culture from a Left perspective. This isn’t content coming from a lofty, complicated, academic point of view but accessible reviews and analysis. We’re here to celebrate the good stuff and put a critical lens to the media that has saturated culture. Patreon is the best way to show your support for the work we do here. More details are below.

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Movie Review – Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser (1987)
Written & Directed by Clive Barker

The 1980s were a significant transformation in horror movies. In the 1970s, the horror genre often followed the trend of bleak social commentary and used genre tropes to communicate more prominent themes. Like the rest of the movies in the following decade, more emphasis was put on the spectacle. You can see this in the gratuitous kills of series like Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street. The Evil Dead movies of Sam Raimi also fall into this category. While cleverly written and filmed, they are more like a cinematic experience than a storytelling one. Hellraiser lies in the middle, both attempting to tell a story about some dark subject matter while delivering envelope-pushing visuals. The result is something I’m not in love with, but I can appreciate it. I also definitely understand why a film like this can be so beloved by particular groups of people.

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Comic Book Review – Copra Round One

Copra Round One (2014)
Reprints Copra #1-6
Written by Michael Fiffe
Art by Michael Fiffe

I had to close my book a few pages into Copra Round One because I needed to check something. A quick search online confirmed I was seeing what I saw correctly. This is a fan continuation of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad series with all the serial numbers filed off. Character designs and personalities make it evident that this is a love letter to that 1980s DC Comics classic from top to bottom. Also, they throw in analogs for Marvel’s Doctor Strange & Clea just because they can. The name “Suicide Squad” is never used; there’s no mistaking this is written by someone who loves those characters but couldn’t get a job at DC writing a revival. But, in true indie comics fashion, Michael Fiffe did it anyway, resulting in a wild trip.

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Patron Pick – The Spy Who Came In From the Cold

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965)
Written by Paul Dehn & Guy Trosper
Directed by Martin Ritt

One of the most destructive forces on the planet since World War II has been Western intelligence agencies. The CIA. MI6. These orgs have devoted themselves to an increasingly insane ideology that sees the upholding of a system that crushes the most vulnerable as “noble” and “good.” Regular people exist as pieces on a board, to be manipulated and moved about, with little regard for their lives. This espionage lifestyle has been glamorized in films, mostly the James Bond series, with fanboys thinking they too could be a dashing spy in a tuxedo bedding buxom women at every turn. The reality is much like what we find in a John LeCarre novel. The lives of spies are ones riddled with paranoia & alienation. When you master being a manipulator, how can you trust that other people aren’t doing the same to you?

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Movie Review – Tucker: The Man and His Dream

Tucker: A Man and His Dream (1988)
Written by Arnold Schulman & David Seidler
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

The Tucker automobile had captured Coppola’s mind since childhood. While at UCLA’s film school, the burgeoning director further developed his idea for this biopic. Marlon Brando was approached to star as the lead, then Jack Nicholson, and then Burt Reynolds. Coppola decided he wanted to make it experimental, a modern musical where he would reference Bertolt Brecht and Kabuki performances. His colleague Paul Schrader’s Mishima film inspired him, and Coppola wanted Tucker to be like that. In 1986, George Lucas encouraged Coppola to make his Tucker movie; he thought Tucker was one of the best things the filmmaker had developed in a while. Lucas would produce it, but he convinced the director to back away from the project’s experimental nature. Instead, Coppola would take inspiration from the work of Frank Capra, an exploration of the American Dream and the hope that industrialization brought in the wake of World War II. This would be Coppola’s final production of the 1980s.

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Movie Review – Gardens of Stone

Gardens of Stone (1987)
Written by Ronald Bass
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

There’s a good reason you probably have never heard of this Coppola film. It is bad. Like truly, the bottom of the barrel, not even the fun kind of bad. Yet, it doesn’t make me dislike the director or think he’d completely lost his creative touch. To understand why Gardens of Stone is so bad, you need to know what happened to Coppola during the production. It is no big reveal that Coppola centered his family in his life. You can see this in how he included them in every level of his film’s production. The man kept the people he loved the closest to him.

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Movie Review – Peggy Sue Got Married

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
Written by Jerry Leichtling & Arlene Sarner
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

To paraphrase Rick James, nostalgia is a hell of a drug. The fawning over past decades has reached a high-pitched furor in American culture at the moment. The 1980s seem to be evergreen. The fashions of the 1990s are rearing their heads again. Sadly, the austerity of the 1970s appears to be coming back too. Political movements like the crypto-fascist MAGA ideologies are rooted in delusions of the past. Look at how QAnoners are convinced that their favorite celebrities of their youth aren’t really dead and will come back. Boomer MAGA, like my mother, are lost in the insanity that believes JFK is still alive. Gen Xers and Millennials in the movement talk about Michael Jackson still living out there somewhere. It’s a rather widespread hysterical version of the Elvis sightings I remember hearing about as a kid. 

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Comic Book Review – Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns & Agent Orange

Green Lantern: Rage of the Red Lanterns (2009)
Reprints Green Lantern #26-28, 36-38 & Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Mike McKone, Shane Davis, and Ivan Reis

Green Lantern: Agent Orange (2009)
Reprints Green Lantern #39-42 & Blackest Night #0
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Phillip Tan, Eddy Barrows, Ivan Reis, Rafael Albuquerque, and Doug Mahnke

In the wake of The Sinestro Corps War, Geoff Johns was fleshing out the rest of the color spectrum in a build-up to the even more significant Blackest Night event. If you notice the gap in the issues Rage of the Red Lanterns covers, it’s because those issues appeared in Green Lantern: Secret Origin. Going back to that story, you see the importance of Atrocitus and the seeds being planted for Blackest Night. Secret Origin has also done a great job establishing the more complex relationship between Hal Jordan and Sinestro. We get a great scene in Rage, where Hal talks with Sinestro. The villain was captured at the end of The Sinestro Corps War but seems completely confident he’s in no harm. It’s an ideological war between these two, with Sinestro holding a far more complex and nuanced view of the universe and justice than the rather blunt Jordan.

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Movie Review – Captain EO

Captain EO (1986)
Written by George Lucas, Rusty Lemorande, and Francis Coppola
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

It would be effortless to write up a mocking review of Captain EO. It is a piece of 1980s cheese, battered in cheese and fried in it. It’s a short 3-D movie made for a ride at Disney World starring Michael Jackson and a bunch of Lucasfilm design puppet aliens. Oh yes, and Anjelica Huston is in there too. However, I don’t feel interested in mocking it because that’s lazy. Instead, I would rather talk about Francis Ford Coppola’s creative drive and how, when you are a genuine artist, you make compromises to enable future work that means something to you. That’s the actual story of Captain EO, the story of how to be creative in this rotten capitalist system; you have to sell parts of yourself and learn how to keep moving on in the wake of that.

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