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Pop Culture Happy Hour: "Glass" and What's Making Us Happy

Chris Klimek

Not Acting Enough, Acting Too Much, and Acting Just Right (Universal)

Not Acting Enough, Acting Too Much, and Acting Just Right (Universal)

I am chuffed to be back on the iHeartRadio Podcast Award-nominated Pop Culture Happy Hour this week to discuss Glass, fallen auteur M. Night Shyamalan's joint sequel to 2000's Unbreakable and 2017's Split. It isn't very good, but the movie has an anachronistic quality that's sort of... sweet. While it's made explicitly clear—every damn thing in this movie is explained and re-re-re-explained—that Glass is set 19 years after Unbreakable, Shyamalan acts as though superhero comics haven't become Hollywood's No. 1 source of grist during the back half of that period. (In the years since Unbreakable, we've seen three different A-list actors play The Incredible Hulk, for chrissakes.)

A goodly portion of those films have featured Samuel L. Jackson, who, to be fair, looks like he's having at least as much fun sitting in a wheelchair staring into the middle distance in Glass as he does when he's cashing another check as Nick Fury. After his brief return to acting in both Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom and Rian Johnson's Looper back in 2012, I'd hoped maybe Bruce Willis would deign to open his eyes again, but no such luck. And the movie's top-billed star continues to perform his solo show Scares Ahoy with James McAvoy.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Logan Lucky, discussed.

Chris Klimek

Workaholic artist Steven Soderbergh on the set of  Logan Lucky.  (Bleecker St.)

Workaholic artist Steven Soderbergh on the set of Logan Lucky. (Bleecker St.)

I dropped by NPR HQ to talk about Steven Soderbergh's return to features, Logan Lucky, with screenwriter and author Danielle Henderson and regular Pop Culture Happy Hour panelists Linda Holmes and Glen Weldon.  When we recorded this discussion, I'd taken the opportunity to see the movie a second time after filing my review, and my opinion on it had evolved a little. Anyway, you can find the episode here.

I wish I could put my finger on why it read to me as condescending in a Coenesque way the first time but not the second. I love the films of Joel and Ethan Coen. But the ones Logan Lucky most recalled for me, Raising Arizona and Fargo, are not among my favorites.

Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 288: Batman v Superman and Objects We Desire

Chris Klimek

Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne remembers his fallen partner Robin in  Batman v Superman  (Warners).

Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne remembers his fallen partner Robin in Batman v Superman (Warners).

I was happy as always to join Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, and my Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon on this week's Pop Culture Happy Hour, wherein we perform an autopsy on the rotten corpse of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which I was expected to defend but could not. The precedent for this was my defense of Man of Steel on this show three years ago.

Since none of us liked this film — in fact we all disliked it so much that the controversial issue of Henry Cavill's height never even came up — we decided to broaden the topic to try to pin down the elements that make a would-be action blockbuster work or not work. I forgot to say so on the show, but I wrote about this for Linda two summers ago after helping the staff of The Dissolve, may it rest in peace, to determine the 50 Greatest Summer Blockbusters.

Blockbuster Patient Zero:

I Like Pink Very Much, Lois: Top Five Superman/Batman Movie Moments, on this week's Filmspotting

Chris Klimek

Michelle Pfieffer and Michael Keaton in Tim Burton's  Batman Returns,  a film I like more now than I did in 1992.

Michelle Pfieffer and Michael Keaton in Tim Burton's Batman Returns, a film I like more now than I did in 1992.

It was a true pleasure to be on Filmspotting again, this time in a World's Finest-style team-up with my Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon. Glen is "unauthor" (his joke, people) of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography and author the just-published, even-better The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture. Host Adam Kempenaar invited the two of us to join him for this episode's Top Five segment, Superman/Batman Movie Moments. Adam and Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips reviewed Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice in the show's first segment. They didn't like it any more than I did.

There's always at least one thing in my notes that I forget to say when I'm on a podcast/radio show, and this time it was a big one: In my No. 1 Superman/Batman scene, the Lois/Superman patio interview from Superman '78, the big guy actually volunteers to the Daily Planet reporter that he can't see through lead. Hey world! I know I seem invulnerable, but I do have a few exploitable weaknesses which I shall now reveal!

I love this, because it shows us that Supes' belief in humanity's goodness is so absolute (and unchallenged, somehow, even though we know from this very film that he attended high school) that it doesn't even occur to him that he should keep his vulnerabilities to himself. But when Lois asks his age, he will say only that he is "over 21," a line that perfectly encapsulates the discreet but palpable sexual tension of the scene. It's a huge improvement on Superman’s reply to this question in an earlier draft of the scene that was used to audition actors for the role of Lois once Christopher Reeve had been cast: “Thirty.”

Everything that's weird about this conversation — "Krypton with a 'C-R-I?'" "No, Krypton with a K-R-Y." — feels like a deliberate, and inspired, decision by screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz  (whose formal credit on the picture was "Creative Consultant") and director Richard Donner. There's plenty in their Superman that I don't love, starting with all those wacky komedy scenes of sacrificial fat guy Ned Beatty falling off of ladders while tuba music plays. But the stuff Superman gets right is as right as any superhero flick has ever gotten anything. The patio interview is one of those.

Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 283: Hail, Caesar! and Backstage Stories

Chris Klimek

George Clooney plays a pampered Capitol Pictures movie star in  Hail, Caesar!  (Universal)

George Clooney plays a pampered Capitol Pictures movie star in Hail, Caesar! (Universal)

I'm very happy to be on the panel for this week's Hail, Caesar!-focused Pop Culture Happy Hour, my first with my Washington City Paper pal Bob Mondello. In it, Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon tells Bob he "beat [him] to the Hamlet punch," which is a funny phrase, if you think about it. Earlier in this episode, G-Weld beat me to the Sullivan's Travels punch, but here's the clip I was going to play.

This episode also has some thematic crossover with the Top Five Movies About Movies segment in which I participated on an episode of WBEZ's Filmspotting from late 2011. My NPR review of Hail, Caesar! — wherein I may have underserved the film's philosophical payload, unless I didn't — is here. This was an especially enjoyable episode for me; I hope you all dig it.

Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 264: The Martian and How-To Stories

Chris Klimek

...wherein I join PCHH host Linda Holmes and regular panelists Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon to talk about where the beloved hit movie fits into director Ridley Scott's oeuvre and its fidelity to Andy Weir's novel.

I suggested How-To Stories as a companion topic, since The Martian — in both its incarnations, albeit moreso in prose than onscreen — goes into unusual detail about the stuff its stranded-astronaut hero Mark Watney must do to survive on a planet that (so far we know) does not sustain life. We all struggled to come up with suitable examples of favorite stories in this genre, and to thread the needle between a How-To and a Procedural. I could've talked about several different Michael Mann films, but particularly Thief, Manhunter, Heat, or even The Insider. As is often the case, I didn't think of that until later.

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Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 259: Mr. Robot and Title Sequences

Chris Klimek

I am always grateful for an invitation to rub elbows with the Pop Culture Happy Hour crew. All your favorites are there around the table this week: Intrepid host Linda Holmes! Indefatigable regular panelist Stephen Thompson! Inexhaustible other regular panelist and Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon!  And then there's me. The four of us merrily dissect the paranoid charms of Mr. Robot, showrunner Sam Esmail's much-discussed USA Network series about a brilliant but also probably off-his-rocker sometime-vigilante computer hacker involved in an anarchistic conspiracy. I think I got to say more or less everything I meant to about the show, though none of had seen the season finale when we recorded the episode, as it had not yet aired. Wait, no: I didn't mention how clever I think it is that we, the audience, are cast as the hacker's paranoid delusion. In voiceover, he addresses us as "you" while acknowledging that we're imaginary. Smart.

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Pop Culture Happy Hour: The Comedians and Cameos

Chris Klimek

The new F/X series The Comedians, and the cameo appearance, are the topics of today's Pop Culture Happy Hour, which I was delighted as always to be a part of even though it means I don't get to do the Daredevil episode. 

On the cameo side, I came in prepared to sing the praises of Anchorman 2's crazypants climactic melee, a 12-way brawl wherein stars Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, and Larry Miller throw down with Sasha Baron Cohen, Kanye West, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jim Carrey, Marion Cotillard (!), Will Smith, Kirsten Dunst, Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford, and John C. Reilly as the Ghost of "Stonewall" Jackson.

If our discussion of cameos makes me a little nostalgic, maybe it's because the very first thing I had published on NPR's website was a dissection, which I co-wrote with my Pal-for-Life and full-time Pop Culture Happy Hour panelist Glen Weldon, of the cameo-rich 1978 comic book Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali.

Also, I wish I'd taken a moment during my encomium to Bengies Drive-In Theatre to explain what sorts of movies are best-served in its wonderfully anachronistic outdoors environs: Not the must-see pictures you're seeing for the first time, but the movies you kinda-sorta want to see but probably would not pay $14 for. At Bengies, you can see two or three movies for $10 a head, remember. It's 53 miles from my apartment in DC, so factoring in $10 for gas, and another Hamilton-spot for an Outside Food & Beverage Permit – $10 per car, on the honor system, but c'mon, we want this family-owned-and-operated independent cinema to stay afloat – you still get away for about the same amount you'd spend on a double-feature at a Regal Cinemas. And you see the movies in a more unique, welcoming, lightning bug-enhanced environment.

Last summer, I saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and 22 Jump Street on a double-bill there. The summer before that, I caught a triple-feature of Brave, Moonrise Kingdom (essential, but it was my second viewing), and Ted. Those are the kinds of movies that flourish in a setting where you may not catch every line or even every scene. Furious 7 is ideal for the drive-in.

FURTHER READING: My March 2014 Dissolve review of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Super-Sized, R-Rated Edition).