May/June 2022 Digest

My Favorite Films of 1974
Patron Pick – Belfast (Matt)
Patron Pick – Motivational Growth (Bekah)
Patron Pick – Blow Out (Matt)
Patron Pick – Eagle vs. Shark (Bekah)
Book Update – May/June

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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 – Dragnet

Dragnet (1987)
Written by Dan Aykroyd, Alan Zweibel, and Tom Mankiewicz
Directed by Tom Mankiewicz

In the 1960s, just a couple decades into television’s public rollout in the United States, studios began producing movies based on shows. One of the most common methods of making these films was to edit and repackage episodes of the show as a movie. There were original stories, though. The Batman movie in 1966 was created in response to the first season’s explosive success. In the United Kingdom, Doctor Who was spun off into two films that completely reimagined the program’s concept and centered it around the Daleks. As soon as The Munsters wrapped filming of the series, Munsters Go Home went into production for theatrical release. The 1980s was when Baby Boomers had gotten into positions of power within Hollywood and were ready to greenlight some of their favorite shows as feature films. Sometimes this was done with great reverence to the source material, while others were extremely tongue in cheek. I’ll be looking at just a few of these movies, a mix of ones I’ve seen and some new ones. I’ll be reviewing them not just as movies but also in how well they stayed true to the conceit of the original series and if that was the right choice.

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Movie Review – Men

Men (2022)
Written & Directed by Alex Garland

Alex Garland has been a complicated director for me. I can’t say I’ve ever loved his work, but I find it fascinating. Every time he releases a film or, in one instance, made a television series, I am there for it. I don’t think you can argue that Garland is an uninteresting filmmaker though you could say he has a lot of missteps or doesn’t necessarily communicate his ideas clearly. When the first trailer for Men dropped, I knew I would be watching it as soon as possible and that it would be a unique viewing experience as all his work has been. Men has gotten a lot of negative press and seems to be both a critical and box office failure. I knew all these things going into it but ended up loving it more than I have most of Garland’s other work. It is undoubtedly his most esoteric movie, and I understand the adverse reactions entirely.

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Comic Book Review – Daredevil: Truth/Dare and Doing Time

Daredevil: Truth/Dare (2021)
Reprints Daredevil #21-25, Annual #1
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Marco Checchetto, Manuel Garcia, Francisco Mobili, Mike Hawthorne

Daredevil: Doing Time (2021)
Reprints Daredevil #26-30
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Marco Checchetto and Mike Hawthorne

Chip Zdarsky has completely sold me on Daredevil, a character I previously was lukewarm towards. The Marvel street-level characters outside of Spider-Man never really caught my attention. For years, I’ve tried picking up a Daredevil issue here and there to see if a new creative team could garner my interest, but they’ve continuously sputtered out. Zdarsky’s take on Daredevil works so well for me because the title is basically a two-hander. The story being told is just as much about Matt Murdock as it is about Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Years prior, Fisk was elected mayor of NYC, a concept I don’t think any writer has done much interesting with until now. By spending so much time with Fisk, we have really understood and even empathized with the character. He’s undoubtedly a villain, but he’s also a person. 

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Movie Review – Donkey Skin

Donkey Skin (1970)
Written & Directed by Jacques Demy

Among the masses, Charles Perrault’s name has never quite had the recognition of the Brothers Grimm. Perrault was a French author during the 17th century who is most well known for founding the literary genre of the fairy tale. His fairy tales, of course, were derived from regional folktales, including Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. Jacques Demy grew up hearing and reading the stories Perrault had collected centuries earlier. Since the early 1960s, Demy had been trying to work out a script to adapt one of the fairy tales. There isn’t a director I can think of that would be more suited for this type of film, Demy’s commitment to style while staying true to honest storytelling is something that makes a fairy tale pop off the page.

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Movie Review – Model Shop

Model Shop (1969)
Written by Jacques Demy & Carole Eastman
Directed by Jacques Demy

Something changed on his vacation to Los Angeles. Demy hadn’t intended to make a film there but felt the spirit he’d seen die in Paris was now happening in the States. He’d entered into a depression, feeling that the people he’d admired in France were stumbling, unsure of how to present something fresh or even articulate the moment they were all living in. Where Demy’s previous work embraced the artifice of film production, he violently shakes that away here, preferring a more naturalistic style of filmmaking. Non-actors are cast wherever Demy can put them, and there’s an absence of narrative, just wandering, making Model Shop feel like an ancestor of Sean Baker’s Tangerine. Yet, it was another film flop that failed to connect with critics or audiences of the time.

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Movie Review – The Young Girls of Rochefort

The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)
Written & Directed by Jacques Demy

Undeniably, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a perfect masterpiece of filmmaking. But…I sort of loved The Young Girls of Rochefort more. Rochefort is a comedy in the classical sense, as opposed to the definition of a tragedy. Cherbourg is a serious story with a down ending, while Rochefort is very upbeat and does allow its characters to have a happy ending. Now one of those endings is more ambiguous than most films would deliver, but that makes it feel like a Demy movie. We don’t see our characters living happily ever after; we see them happy right now. Sometimes that’s the most you can ask for. Stories have to end, meaning we’ll never know if these characters stay happy. If it’s anything like real life, there will be a series of ups and downs, and you eventually learn how to appreciate the good moments.

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Movie Review – Nope

Nope (2022)
Written & Directed by Jordan Peele

It’s rare to have these moments, but this is the most excited I have been to write about a new release film for a long time. Especially a summer blockbuster movie, which has become one of my least favorite kinds of films in recent years. Before we get into the meat of the interview, I will also say that this is my favorite Jordan Peele movie, and I would argue it is the picture that will take him to the next level of his career. Get Out & Us are great movies, but I think Nope has that extra bit that was always missing for me. This is a movie that people should discuss in how they talk about Jaws or The Exorcist or any other “phenomenon” movie. If Nope had come out in the 1980s, it would have been a massive hit on the level of those movies. Unfortunately, I think it won’t have that level of buzz because we live in such a media-saturated world.

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Comic Book Review – Icon and Rocket: Season One

Icon and Rocket: Season One (2022)
Reprints Icon and Rocket: Season One #1-6
Written by Reginald Hudlin
Art by Doug Braithwaite

When I was thirteen, I got two comic book fan magazine subscriptions. Of course, one was Wizard Magazine. If you were a comic book fan in America in the 1990s, you likely owned at least a few issues of this publication. The other magazine, well, I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it. I have looked up lists of American comics mags from the period and cannot find it. I remember the cover was in color, but the magazine’s inside was black & white, not quite newsprint but not fantastic paper either. It was sold in our local Kroger grocery store. If you know what it might be, let me know. I say all of that to state that my first knowledge of DC’s Milestone Comics imprint happened with that second magazine.

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