PopCult Podcast – Close/Saint Omer

Europe is producing some fantastic films these days and today we spotlight two of them. In one film, a young boy finds his friendship with another boy questioned by their peers leading to a fatal outcome. In the other, a writer attends the court trial of a woman accused of infanticide and in turn discovers truths about her own relationship with her mother.

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TV Review – Lucky Hank Season One

Lucky Hank Season One (AMC)
Written by Paul Lieberstein, Aaron Zelman, Adam Barr, Emma Barrie, Jean Kyoung Frazier, Jasmine Pierce, and Taylor Brogan
Directed by Peter Farrelly, Dan Attias, Jude Weng, and Nicole Holofcener

I went into Lucky Hank with moderately high expectations. I have been a big fan of Bob Odenkirk for decades and loved his time as Jimmy McGill in Better Call Saul. I picked up the novel that the show is based on, Straight Man by Richard Russo, and it has been one of my favorite reads of the year so far. However, when I reached the season finale of Lucky Hank, I had one feeling prominent at the front of my mind: relief that it was over and I was never watching any more of this show. That doesn’t mean the show is horrible, but it does not fit my sensibilities. Instead, we got a single-camera dramedy sitcom hybrid with Lucky Hank, complete with spots where we are intended to laugh with the laugh track absent. 

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Solo Tabletop RPG Review – Ironsworn: Starforged Part Two

Ironsworn: Starforged (Mophidius)
Written & Designed by Sean Tomkin
Art by Joshua Meehan, Jeff Zugale, and Sarah Dahlinger

You can purchase the game here

Read part one of this series here

In our last part, I did a brief overview of some of the differences between Ironsworn and Starforged that stood out to me and engaged in the worldbuilding process of getting our game set up. My particular take on Starforged is much more populated and inspired by the core science fiction tropes in film & television (Star Trek, Star Wars, Dune, Alien, Blade Runner, etc.). That’s a lot to take in, but as we create our character and hone in on their particular goal, there will be a lot of elements in this universe that don’t immediately touch on the type of story I’m attempting to tell. 

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Comic Book Review – Superman: Space Age

Superman: Space Age (2023)
Reprints Superman: Space Age #1-3
Written by Mark Russell
Art by Mike Allred

In 2019, there was a lot of buzz around DC Comics’ next planned reboot. It would have been the fourth (Infinite Crisis, Flashpoint/New 52, Rebirth, and this one) during editor-in-chief Dan Didio’s tenure at the company and proved to be an idea that didn’t come to fruition. The comics website Bleeding Cool has a series on the plans we are aware of and how dramatically they would have shaken up the DC Universe. The concept was to make Wonder Woman the first official superhero in the timeline, inspiring the mystery men & women of the Golden Age. Superman would have come along during the Kennedy administration, as would Batman. Eventually, Warner Bros. was bought out, and leadership at DC was drastically altered, leaving DiDio without a job. 5G was scrapped though pieces of it have been used in small projects like Future State, Superman & the Authority, and this Black Label mini-series.

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My Favorite TV Season Finales

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3
“The Best of Both Worlds” Part I (June 18, 1990)
Written by Michael Piller
Directed by Cliff Bole

Once upon a time, television shows in America operated on a seasonal basis. Most new shows would premiere in September and wrap up their seasons in May, paving the way for a summer of reruns. Along the way, there would be mid-season replacements debuting around January, and networks followed this structure year after year. As cable began producing prestige dramas and streaming dominated everything, this cycle ceased. Now season finales can happen anytime in the year based on when you are watching something. I also want to point out that this is a season finale list, not a series finale list. The end of a show’s run is a whole different animal than wrapping up a season. You can bet there will be a list for that sometime.

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Movie Review – Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962)
Written by Eugene O’Neill
Directed by Sidney Lumet

There are some pieces of art that, when you finally experience them, you know you’ve seen or read, or heard something that will resonate through centuries. I had never read a word of Eugene O’Neill, but I knew a bit about him and that he’d written this play and The Iceman Cometh, among others. I could have told you this was about a family of four people. That was where my knowledge stopped. I knew this would have to be a part of this series on film adaptations of American theater, and now I understand why it had to be. Long Day’s Journey Into Night is among the best I’ve ever seen. I’m talking about the entire scale of art in general. This movie connected with me in a way a lot of contemporary cinema fails to over & over again. I credit that to the bravery of O’Neill in writing genuinely human characters. Everyone is a villain here, everyone is a hero, and everyone’s a victim, and in this way, it mirrors all our lives. 

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PopCult Podcast – Scream 6/How To Blow Up a Pipeline

Young people these days get up to all sorts of crazy things. Some kids in NYC are going to school & trying to avoid attacks from a serial killer. Then you have these kids in Texas blowing up a damn oil pipeline. Zoomers, amirite?

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Movie Review – A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
Written by Lorraine Hansberry
Directed by Daniel Petrie

The history of Black people in America is a roller coaster of emotions. That’s being said by someone who can only speak about it from an outside perspective. I’m white, so I know I’ll never fully comprehend what it means to be Black in that nation. I can say that the popular perception of the struggle for Civil Rights is entirely out of whack, at least in the white circles I lived & worked inside of in Tennessee. There’s this penchant to view these things as the “ancient past” when the brutality to hold onto segregation happened during my parents & grandparents’ lifetimes. There’s an anxiety in the white mind that leads to statements like “stop living in the past,” never mind the Southern obsession with the Confederacy, and wanting to cherish its insipid ideology. The telling of the past that doesn’t seek to soothe & fantasize about history is what people bristle at. It’s simply the truth; horrible things happened in the past, and a thread running through reality connects to the present day.

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Movie Review – Picnic

Picnic (1955)
Written by William Inge and Daniel Taradash
Directed by Joshua Logan

We come to the first movie in the American Theater on Film series that doesn’t work. I wondered why I didn’t hear as much about Picnic as other entries in this series I’m doing, and now it makes sense. Picnic is attempting something ambitious, it is one of the better movies in the series for cinematic visuals, but its core ideas are muddled and clunkily handled. There are cinematographic moments here that are absolutely stunning, and that’s what makes it sting so badly that the story itself is not well done. It should not surprise me that Picnic looks so good as it was the fantastic James Wong Howe behind the camera, one of the all-time great cinematographers. Does that man know how to light and frame a scene!

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Solo Tabletop RPG Review – Ironsworn: Starforged Part One

Ironsworn: Starforged (Mophidius)
Written & Designed by Sean Tomkin
Art by Joshua Meehan, Jeff Zugale, and Sarah Dahlinger

You can purchase the game here

It’s no surprise that Starforged is a science fiction “version” of Sean Tomkin’s fantastic solo rpg system Ironsworn. But it’s much more than that. Mechanically, this is Tomkin taking his system further, tweaking things from Ironsworn but also improving it. As with Ironsworn, this can be played solo, co-op, or as a traditional GM-guided tabletop experience. If you thought Ironsworn was impressive with its many themed oracles, Starforged will blow you out of the water. Everything about this game evokes the tone of the science fiction genre and helps to immerse the player in a world of space exploration and encounters with alien entities. So far, this has been my favorite solo tabletop experience doing this series.

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