Comic Book Review – Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow (2022)
Reprints Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #1-8
Written by Tom King
Art by Bilquis Evely

On November 1, 2022, filmmaker James Gunn and producer David Zaslav were made the co-heads of DC Films. In March, they announced the opening slate of projects, a mix of animated series, live-action series, and movies that would be a heavy reboot of the previous DC Extended Universe pictures. Many comic arcs were cited as the inspiration for these projects; one was Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, which will be made into a feature film. This is part of a ten-year plan, so don’t expect to watch this movie anytime soon; it has a tentative release date of sometime in 2027. Quite ambitious, given the forecast for the climate’s ongoing collapse. If you are a regular reader of PopCult, then you know I am not a fan of Tom King. I find his neoliberal perspective one of the worst I’ve encountered in the funny books, making much of his work unenjoyable for me. However, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt as I sat down to tackle this book.

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Patron Pick – Where the Crawdads Sing

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 thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.

Where the Crawdads Sing (2022)
Written by Lucy Alibar
Directed Olivia Newman

I know this movie is not made for people like me. However, it was a Patron request, and I honor those. If you loved the book and/or adore the film, you probably will not like my review. One of the best things I can say about my experience watching this movie is, “Thank god for the ability to speed up playback.” I successfully turned this two-hour-plus viewing into just over 90 minutes which I think is the sweet spot for this type of movie. I argue that most movies should clock in around 90; if they go over that, they must justify taking up more people’s time. This is nowhere close to being the worst movie I have ever seen, but that would have at least made it fun to watch. Unfortunately, it is a flat, passionless, inauthentic drivel like most American movies. It is not offensive but doesn’t make you feel anything. It manipulates rather than attempts to draw up some truth about the human experience through its story. Also, I see an absence of truth in advertising because not once do we get to see the singing crawdads.

A dead body is found in the marshlands of North Carolina circa 1969. It is local sports hero Chase Andrews (Harris Dickson), and the blame is placed on Kya Clark (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a reclusive swamp lady. Through extensive flashbacks, we learn Kya’s life story, from being raised by a drunken & violent father (Garret Dillahunt) to her romance with Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith). Eventually, Tate leaves for college, which Kya doesn’t have access to due to her economic class. In Tate’s absence, she begins a relationship with Chase. But that is complicated with Tate returning after a long period of absence. Oh, the love triangle. Kya also embarks on a career as a nature illustrator, using her artistic gift to sketch and draw the lovely things she sees in the swamp around her. We also get a courtroom drama as the flashbacks share the spotlight with present-day goings on.

In the vein of The Notebook, this is pure melodrama. It’s not the kind I particularly like. If I watch a film in this genre, I would prefer things like Douglas Sirk’s movies or Todd Haynes’ takes on melodramas. The relationships in the picture don’t feel genuine; they are very much of the contrived Hollywood type that often distorts & presents a twisted version of how real romance & love work. As escapist fare, I think this will satisfy the audience looking for this sort of thing. I think the story is very much in the line of Pygmalion, My Fair Lady, and the other films & stories that follow the “diamond in the rough” trope. There’s a murder mystery added on to help differentiate it. The reveal at the end about the circumstances around Chase’s death was pretty good, but for me, it didn’t make up for the overall tone & quality of the picture.

Having recently revisited some Tennessee Williams stories via my May series titled “The American Theater on Film, Volume One,” I realized how lacking in genuine passion this story was. The romance feels cookie cutter, and neither male character ever felt like someone you could see a real girl falling for beyond just as a side fuck. The “artsy” young women I’ve known acknowledge the surface-level beauty of dudes like Tate & Chase and may even call them up when they are horny. But ultimately, they are looking for some depth to go along with the exterior beauty. 

There’s such an inauthenticity in how these characters are presented. We are constantly reminded that Kya is a “dirty swamp rat” in the same way She’s All That was desperate for us to believe Rachel Leigh Cook was a dog. It is a suspension of disbelief that is such a big ask it becomes comical. In many ways, this is up there with the dreck Marvel puts out in that almost every person that appears on screen is insanely gorgeous when I know, having grown up in the South, most people do not look like this. How refreshing would it have been to cast people that look real? It would have added so much more to the narrative. But that is not why this was made into a movie. It was made for audiences to swoon over the “beautiful” people on screen. This movie didn’t invent this but man, is it boring to keep seeing it churned out year after year. 

If you are an adult who has ever, let’s say, read a book, watched a television show, or seen another movie, then nothing about this plot will surprise you. It’s like a copy/paste of every melodrama made with little effort to spice it up. The male leads look interchangeable. The characters are all hetero. There are two mandatory kindly Black people whose entire purpose is to help Kya feel better about herself. 

I think there is a real heart-wrenching story deep in the fluff that could have made a compelling movie. However, this focuses on nothing but the fluff. It’s part of a massive genre of disposable films being made in America. If you ever look at the weekly dump of streaming cinema, you’ll find an avalanche of pictures. They are a form of money laundering for a whole host of criminal organizations, both domestic and international. This is nowhere near the worst; it had a theatrical release. But you will forget it almost as soon as the end credits roll. The romance is undercooked and thus dull to watch. The camera does occasionally give us a beautiful shot of nature. If young people find some enjoyment in the movie, that’s fine. It’s not offensive. It’s just a big disappointing yawn. 

TV Review – Somebody Somewhere Season One

Somebody Somewhere (HBO)
Written by Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen, and Patricia Breen, 
Directed by Jay Duplass and Robert Cohen

“Real America,” they call it. The immense middle vastness of the United States, I suppose. Though it isn’t actually real. What they mean by that idea is exclusionary, shorthand for people “like you” who aren’t welcome here. It’s not entirely that simple, though. It’s a clash of the way of thinking in urban environments versus rural environments, which makes it more complicated because “Real America” is peppered with cities. Rural resentments towards cities are not totally unfounded; they are certainly misguided. These perceptions all come from a place that says there’s a limited amount of life in the world, and things unfamiliar to them threaten that sustained existence. If you step back, you can see that any sense of scarcity on the most basic human level of reality is a joke at this point, with excess wasted every day from sea to shining sea. There is room enough for everyone and plenty to keep them alive. Yet, we keep coming up with ways to ignore that.

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Comic Book Review – Monkey Meat

Monkey Meat (2022)
Reprints Monkey Meat #1-5
Written & Illustrated by Junji Ba

To quote Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!, “All the food is poison.” One thing I’ve learned while living in The Netherlands is that society doesn’t have to have a constant flood of food recalls as they are in the United States. You ensure that by being very strict about what is and isn’t allowed for consumption and then enforcing those regulations. The United States essentially decided to hand regulatory power for meat packing plants to the companies themselves. Between the nightmarish working conditions that have a severe psychological impact on the workers, the cruel treatment of animals, to the chemicals & toxins allowed into America’s meat, it’s no wonder public health is dismal. Sinclair Lewis’s The Jungle had an impact in its time, but it’s clear that effect has faded. Now, there seems to be a story every few days about children (often migrants) being found working in meat packing plants doing work that has driven adults to suicide and death. 

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Movie Review – Babylon

Babylon (2022)
Written & Directed by Damien Chazelle

Never before in the history of cinema have movies been so technically proficient. Cinematography is always reasonably strong when you come across a studio-produced film. The lighting is pitch-perfect. You cannot beat today’s sound design. All production design elements are spot on, from set dressing to costuming to make-up. The behind-the-scenes people deserve far more credit than they get. They are the laborers who make it feel effortless while putting their total energy into the job. I wish I could say the same about the directors & screenwriters of these big Hollywood pictures, though, but that would be a lie. From Black Adam to Don’t Worry Darling to the seemingly endless Marvel movies to the litany of reboots/sequels/reimaginings, there is a dearth of actual talent steering these movies. I have never been the biggest Damien Chazelle fan, but I enjoyed Whiplash, La La Land, and First Man. They were well-made movies with some strong performances. And then we have Babylon. This is where I get off the Chazelle train.

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TV Review – Better Call Saul Season Six

Better Call Saul Season Six (AMC)
Written by Peter Gould, Thomas Schnauz, Ariel Levine, Gordon Smith, Ann Cherkis, and Alison Tatlock
Directed by Michael Morris, Vince Gilligan, Gordon Smith, Rhea Seehorn, Melissa Bernstein, Giancarlo Esposito, Thomas Schnauz, and Michelle MacLaren

Growing up in America, you often hear the refrain of “Be Yourself” on children’s television and at school. Their idea is to encourage kids to embrace who they are and be proud of these things. It’s a beautiful sentiment. However, with most notions fed to children in the States, it has a common contradictory concept fed to kids at around the same time. You need to change, you need to figure out how to “fit in,” and you need to adapt. It’s no wonder the United States has reached a zenith of mental health collapse after every generation since at least post-WWII has been churned through this tug of war. What even is the Self is not an accumulation of experiences processed through your unique psychological processes, with even them being influenced by a barrage of input from the external world. Who is good and evil in a world where those terms exist with the utmost flexibility in definition? Is it better to change or to embrace who you are and try to do something good with it?

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Patron Pick – The Menu

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 thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Bekah Lindstrom.

The Menu (2022)
Written by Seth Reiss & Will Tracy
Directed by Mark Mylod

Horror is certainly a hot genre at the moment. Not since the 1970s has there been a more fruitful period for the genre. We have so many different styles & flavors of horror to choose from so that no matter what type of person you are, there’s something to pick from. The Menu represents a growing social satire horror that’s become more prevalent in recent years. It makes sense that this would be a burgeoning subgenre in the face of growing massive inequality in the West. Outside of horror, these themes of bringing the wealthy to heel & pointing out the many cases of abuse of the working class have picked up steam. Yet, I have to question when such an important topic becomes so embedded in popular culture. The main question I ask about these films is, “Is this a genuine expression of frustration on this issue from an authentic voice, or is this just a filmmaker/studio chasing a trend?”

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November/December 2022 Digest

Most Anticipated Movies of 2022 Review
Seth’s Favorite Books Read in 2022
Ariana’s Favorite Books Read in 2022
Ariana’s Favorite Comics Read in 2022
Seth’s Favorite Comics Read in 2022
Seth’s Favorite Television of 2022
Ariana’s Favorite Television of 2022
Seth’s Favorite Film Discoveries of 2022
Seth’s Favorite Films of 2022
Ariana’s Favorite Films of 2022
Patron Pick – Sweet Smell of Success [Matt]
Patron Pick – One True Thing [Bekah]
Patron Pick – Before Sunrise [Matt]
Patron Pick – Slumberland [Bekah]

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Movie Review – White Noise

White Noise (2022)
Written & Directed by Noah Baumbach

Yeah, so American cinema is a corpse. To end my year on this movie is a sign that I need to slowly withdraw my time & energy from the majority of mainstream films coming out of the United States. Noah Baumbach was never one of my favorite directors, but I have enjoyed some of his recent work, especially his films on Netflix (The Meyerowitz Stories, Marriage Story). And I didn’t balk at the idea of him writing & directing an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s White Noise, a book I’ve read twice and enjoy quite a bit. Baumbach seemed an excellent fit to bring a very unfilmable novel to the big screen. Then the first trailer dropped, and I started to question the tone. And then I watched the movie.

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PopCult Podcast – Top 5 Favorite Films of 2022/Favorite Video Games Comics, Books, and TV of 2022

2022 is over, so let us look back at the things we loved from it.

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