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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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TV Review – Saturday Morning All-Star Hits

Saturday Morning All-Star Hits (Netflix)
Written by Kyle Mooney, Ben Jones, Dave McCary, and Scott Gairdner
Directed by Ben Jones & Dave McCary

Nostalgia is one of the most dangerous sentiments people can have, made even worse when an entire society becomes regressively lost in it to avoid confronting present-day problems. Unfortunately, America is currently a society obsessed with nostalgia, with each generation suckling at memories from their childhood and yearning to return to that state of unknowing. “Make America Great Again” implies a better time, and even those who wear this proudly do so without acknowledging that it would not have been better for adults in their economic class. The pull of nostalgia is most potent during times of societal collapse and is one of the many tendrils of fascism that very slyly closes around the throat of the future. Kyle Mooney and co-creator Ben Jones have managed to create a streaming series that bathes in the aesthetics of nostalgia but doesn’t succumb to the lies that it was better “back then.”

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Patron Pick – Belfast

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

Belfast (2021)
Written & Directed by Kenneth Branagh

The Troubles. For the people of Northern Ireland, that phrase is a reminder of a brutal period of thirty years where communities were at war. While the factions were referenced in the media as Catholic and Protestant, there was much more complexity to what was happening. This irregular war came out of unionists & loyalists (Protestants) wanting to remain as part of the United Kingdom. The nationalists & republicans (Catholics) sought to reunite with Ireland to form a single nation. That’s the basic explanation, but I could write a whole book about the details and go deeper and how the entire thing goes back to the early 17th century. Many people have already written those books. 

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Movie Review – The Scary of Sixty-First

The Scary of Sixty-First (2021)
Written by Dasha Nekrasova and Madeline Quinn
Directed by Dasha Nekrasova

One of the pieces of cultural lore that has rippled through people’s minds has been the revelations surrounding Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein was a native Brooklynite whose first professional job was teaching at the Dalton School while lacking a college degree. Odd, right? Eventually, he was dismissed from the school and entered finance, working at Bear Stearns. As Epstein rose in wealth and prominence, he began cultivating some extremely prominent acquaintances. There are some unknowns about what he did with this wealth & power. However, there are also some things we know for sure. It is an absolute fact that he engaged in the human trafficking of women and children and that they were used for his and his friends’ sexual gratification. Epstein’s life ended when he allegedly “committed suicide” while in prison, a situation whose details are deeply incredulous. 

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Movie Review – The Souvenir Part II

The Souvenir Part II (2021)
Written & Directed by Joanna Hogg

The Souvenir was not the sort of film we expect sequels for anymore. It’s an intimate, funny & poignant story about a young woman coming into her own and dealing with her first tragic love. The second film is about the ripples in that relationship and the death that ended up rippling through a young filmmaker’s life. It became a significant influence on her art. All of this is directly autobiographical, based on Hogg’s own experiences coming into her own as a filmmaker and the effects her ill-fated relationship had on that work. 

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Comic Book Review – Geiger Volume One

Geiger Volume One (2021)
Reprints Geiger #1-6
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson

In the Marvel/DC-dominated superhero space, it can be a bit daunting for someone to do capes & tights seriously outside of that duopoly. Most of the time, these end up being more like Black Hammer, a critique or commentary on superhero comics seen through a contemporary lens. Geoff Johns is a comics creator who has undoubtedly seen better days. His peak was in the early to mid-2000s working for DC, where he managed to revitalize the Justice Society and did some absolutely legendary work on The Flash and Green Lantern. His role at DC grew, which led to a leadership role in their film & television development. Johns would help co-write the screenplays for Wonder Woman and Aquaman and serve as a producer on almost every single DC film. 

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Comic Book Review – Black Hammer 3-in-1 Review

Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy (2021)
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Tonci Zonjic

Colonel Weird: Cosmagog (2021)
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Tyler Crook

Barbalien: Red Planet (2021)
Written by Jeff Lemire and Tate Bromal
Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Jeff Lemire has used his Black Hammer Universe to examine different aspects & tropes of superhero comics. I wouldn’t say it’s been as deep as Alan Moore or Grant Morrison’s work, but it is still very enjoyable. Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy is clearly a critique of the superhero/kid sidekick trope, emphasizing the trauma needed to drive someone into vigilantism and how that trauma harms the people in their radius. Gone is the deus ex machina that keeps Batman and Robin from actual harm. There is no promise that these characters will survive the story, and having the stakes that high makes it compelling. 

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TV Review – Brand New Cherry Flavor

Brand New Cherry Flavor (Netflix)
Written by Lenore Zion & Nick Antosca, Mando Alvarado, Christina Ham, Alana B. Lytle & Haley Z. Boston, and Matt Fennell
Directed by Arkasha Stevenson, Gandja Monteiro, Matt Sobel, Jake Schreier, and Nick Antosca

Serialized horror has become increasingly popular over the last decade thanks to shows like American Horror Story and others it inspired. However, AHS is a program I gave up on because I personally did enjoy its brand of campy horror-comedy (and the steep decline of its writing). Instead, I really came to love the tragically short-lived Channel Zero, the brainchild of writer Nick Antosca. Antosca took internet-published stories called “creepypasta” and adapted them into season-long stories. While Channel Zero was canceled after four seasons, it has remained a cult favorite, and Antosca has turned that into other film & television opportunities. One of these has been to adapt the obscure 1990s horror novel Brand New Cherry Flavor by Todd Grimson.

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Patron Pick – Good On Paper

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. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.

Good on Paper (2021)
Written by Iliza Shlesinger
Directed by Kimmy Gatewood

I want to welcome Bekah as our newest patron even though her first pick was…this movie. I can’t say I’ve ever listened to much of stand-up Iliza Shlesinger’s comedy, so I felt neutral about her going into this viewing. In the last decade, I’ve shifted to listening to podcasts hosted by comedians more than listening to their stand-up, so unless someone appears as a guest on one of those, I don’t really know much about their comedic perspective. Good on Paper opens with Ilza playing a version of herself doing stand-up. I found myself chuckling at the bit, a bit of deception as the film would probably have been better as just a comedy special. Instead, we get a tonal mess in its place.

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Movie Review – Memoria

Memoria (2021)
Written & Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Memoria is difficult to talk about because it really isn’t a movie in how we typically define such things. It’s filmed on a camera, there are actors and a script, but in terms of narrative, it’s glacially slow. Memoria is a filmed meditation, and because of that, it can be frustrating at times. I know I didn’t enjoy my entire time with the picture, yet some moments took my breath away. I have to assume this is the desired outcome from the director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. This is a movie about creeping existential dread that never allows its protagonist to fully define or name what is causing this feeling inside them. 

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