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PopFilter Versus: Best Female Performances of 2014

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The Taste Buds continue to reminisce about the year that was by counting down their top 5 favorite female performances of 2014, spraying to all mediums. That’s right! It’s movie actresses versus TV actresses versus musicians versus artists! Anything goes (as long as  it was last year, and they’re ladies)!

 

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Kerri Battles the AFI’S Top 100 — #67: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I had very little idea of what I was getting myself into this week with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I’d heard of it, of course, and knew that Liz Taylor starred, but that honestly may only be because I eagerly watched that Lifetime biopic starring the trainwreck that was Lindsay Lohan’s performance. Beyond that, I had the review my mother gave me from her initial viewing almost 50 years ago (verbatim: “AUGH GOD! All I remember is Liz Taylor shrieking for two hours.”) and the vague assumption that, based on the title, there were probably going to be some feminist themes. Suffice it to say I was woefully unprepared.

I sure as shit wasn’t expecting this.

Our tale begins with George (Richard Burton) scolding his wife, Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), for laughing too loud as they stumble home at 2am from a faculty party at the university where George is a professor. As they arrive home, Martha instructs George to not get too comfortable as they have guests arriving any minute. It would seem Martha’s daddy, also known as President of the University, has asked her to be kind and welcoming to the new math professor and his wife. The two argue and fight, then giggle and make up, though George refuses Martha her requested kiss. He tells her it’s because, if he kisses her now, he’ll simply have to take her by force and that just won’t do with guests on the way. George’s tone then turns serious for a moment as he asks Martha not to go off on her bit about The Kid. Martha immediately becomes irate as the doorbell rings. George opens the door just as he’s goaded Martha into screaming, “I’ll talk about any goddamned thing I want!” The young couple, whose names are never mentioned on screen but are apparently Nick and Honey, are understandably uncomfortable and ask if maybe they shouldn’t come in after all. Their hosts, however, dismiss their discomfort and begin pouring drinks. Awkward conversation ensues, which leads to more drinks, which turns the banter from awkward to passive aggressive, which leads to more drinks. Head games are played, insults are hurled, confessions are made, and The Kid is mentioned. Honey gets drunk-sick in the bathroom and George decides to drunkenly drive his guests home, but they all end up stopping at a roadhouse to dance instead. Things turn even uglier when George reveals the confessions he’s heard and Martha declares all out war. She takes the guests and the car back to the house, leaving George to walk. This affords Martha enough time for a little tryst with Nick while Honey sleeps it off in the car. Martha tells Nick he’s a substandard lover and that George is the only man who has ever made her happy. George returns and tells Martha the hard truth about The Kid. Martha immediately falls apart. Nick, realizing that the truth about The Kid is not the reality of The Kid, collects his sloppy wife and quietly leaves. Martha collapses into George’s arms, crying. George tries to console her by reviving a joke from the party, singing, “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Martha quietly sobs, “I am.”

Martha was a hip, hip lady, man. 

 

I know what you’re thinking — that summary paragraph above isn’t really up to my usual spoilerific standards. You’d be right. Most weeks, I want to give as much of the story away as possible to save you the trouble of sitting through a potential turd just to understand why I’m going to tear it apart. This week’s Battle is different, though. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is the film adaptation of a stage play of the same name and the story itself is very small. So small, in fact, that to summarize it accurately and effectively would require retelling every detail. I can’t fit that into a single paragraph short enough to hold the attention of 2015 Internet Readers. I also don’t even want to try because this is one of the few so far that truly deserves the respect of a viewing. I’ll say it early and probably often this week — this one worked hard to earn and deserve a spot on the list. While I won’t tell you what it’s all about, I will tell you why. As I said, the story is small, but it’s hardly unrelatable. From the drunken interactions of these two couples, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? examines the games we play and the lies we tell in order to cope with our dreams that die before realization and to justify clinging to the rotting corpse. Most importantly, it exposes how these things that begin as comforts can so easily turn into the barbs we use to poke old wounds and prevent them from ever truly healing. They turn from the things that keep us sane to the things that drive us over the edge and no one is exempt from that possibility.

Not spoilers, though. Really. You’ve just got to watch it for yourself.

If that little teaser isn’t enough to wet your whistle, then trying chewing on this little tidbit: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is only one of two films in the history of the Academy to be nominated for a statue in every category for which it was eligible. There are only 4 credited actors in the film and all 4 were nominated for Oscars for their performances. Liz Taylor gained thirty pounds of body weight and god knows how much more in make-up in order to portray a 40-something at the still-quite-young-thank-you-very-much-age of 33.  Her portrayal of a drunken, cheating housewife on the edge is matched perfectly by Burton’s paunchy and pedantic cuckold professor as he alternates between shoving her over and tugging her back. Together, they are insufferable assholes who provide the entertainment of a trainwreck as, through clever and creative camera work, we watch them toy with and torture their guests. Nick and Honey, played by George Segal and Sandy Dennis, are just as enthralling as they slowly reveal the myriad sins hiding just below their polished Johnny Football Hero and Innocent Ingenue exteriors.  In the end, none of them is without sin but, for George and Martha, the thing that holds pushes them apart is also the thing that binds them together.

You deserve a smoke, you glorious, gorgeous hot mess, you.

If I still haven’t piqued your interest, I’m not really sure what else to say. Watching Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is like sitting through the most vicious and awkward family Thanksgiving you can imagine — except it’s someone else’s family and there’s no possibility that you’ll become a target for Drunk Uncle’s wandering hands. In short, it’s the greatest shitshow 1966 had to offer. You’ll have no idea where the story is going until it gets there and you won’t be able to stop watching until you find out. At least, that was my experience. Of course, if you decide to not take my advice and opt instead to skip this one altogether, you’ll never find out where George and Martha’s euphemism is kept. Or the deal with The Kid. And c’mon. Don’t you wanna know? — KSmith

Mike TV

Hi, I’m Mike TV

backstrom

BACKSTROM- **1/2

Asshole savant. That’s almost exactly what the Backstrom advertisements say. Look above. They want you to know the character Back Backstrom is exactly the stereotype you’re looking for. And boy howdy do they deliver on that promise. In the pilot episode we get to see Backstrom be rude and even cruel to his doctor, his partner, his forensics guy, his underlings, his higherlings, along with witnesses, victims, and criminals. Backstrom is a total dick, but damn it you have to respect him. Why? Because he makes Sherlock-type discoveries left and fucking right. But instead of using logic and a honed-mined to solve cases, Backstrom uses disregard for evidence, protocol, and human decency to solve cases. And it works even when it doesn’t. Because that’s Backstrom, baby.

That's Backstrom with a baby.

That’s Backstrom with a baby.

 

If it seemed like I used the titular character’s name a lot in the previous paragraph, that’s only because I used it a tenth amount as the show. They love throwing Backstrom’s name around, almost willing him into the kind of mythological asshole detective as Sherlock. And yes, that’s the second Sherlock ref in as many paragraphs, because I told myself I didn’t want to repeatedly say how this is Law and Order meets House. But guess the fuck what?! It’s Law and Order meets House. I’ve long wondered what our collective fascination with the asshole savant character is, and while watching this show I think I finally cracked it. The audience doesn’t want to watch a normal doctor, a normal cop, a normal nurse, a normal detective, a normal barista go through their normal day. That’s too step-by-step, and doesn’t always birth great drama. Well, it can create compelling drama if you write well-rounded characters who, when handled correctly, can talk about pasta sauce and make it riveting (see: the Wire). But creating drama from nothing is hard, so it’s easy to make the lead a total asshole. But then you have the problem that all audience members will ask themselves: if this guy is such a prick, why isn’t he fired? Because you can’t fire Superman.

Try it.

Try it.

 

And that’s what the asshole savant is, Superman up and down. The asshole savant flies high above the peons figuring out the greater mysteries they never could. House solves medical problems because he’s a cripple and that gave him encyclopedic knowledge. Monk solves crimes because OCD gives him the power to notice when anything is out of sorts. Sherlock puzzles out the truth to mysteries the people around him didn’t even know they didn’t know because he reads a lot and is somewhere on the Autism scale. Backstrom sees things no one else cannot because of years of training, but because of some otherworldly way of seeing the world no one can wrap their heads around (read: he thinks everyone is the worst). If any of that came off convoluted, it’s because it fucking is convoluted. The asshole savant can’t exist in real life, because no matter how good you are, people won’t help you if you’re a big enough dick. Which brings me back to how I finally figured out why we love the stereotype (other than loving superheroes). We want to watch geniuses at work, but cannot stand, cannot believe for a second, that anyone could be that talented without having some horrible personality or physical flaw. Or in the case of Dr. House, both. Normal, terrible TV viewers don’t want to think about great people doing great things, that would make us acknowledge how dumb and lazy we are! But when I’m watching Backstrom douche his way through a case, I can be in awe of his skills, and be happy I’m not such a drunk piece of garbage. Well… I can be happy that I’m not such a piece of garbage.

 

Rainn Wilson excels as the asshole savant. He’s the kind of actor who can disappear into a character and make you think the actor himself is that big of an asshole. Wilson is not an asshole at all, if you checkout any interviews or read SoulPancake, you’ll find he’s an intelligent, compassionate, soulful human being. Which makes it a lot of fun that he almost exclusively plays weirdos and dickbags. A lot of people are writing Backstrom off as Dwight Schrute, Detective. That’s doing Wilson a huge disservice. Both Schrute and Backstrom are unlikable pricks that are inexplicably great at their respective jobs, but they are polar opposites in how and why they’re pricks. It’s an important distinction. Dwight Schrute and Backy Backstrom would absolutely hate each other if there were ever an Office/Backstrom crossover episode (which I’m writing right now). Dwight is a stickler, anal-retentive, and a lover of rules, so much so that he pushes people away. Backstrom falsifies evidence, drinks on the job, and doesn’t care if he catches the right crook as long as it means the case is finished. They’d make each other’s lives hell. But they make everyone’s life around them hell…just in vastly different ways. It might seem like I’m nitpicking, but I think Wilson is a great actor who give his roles more depth than they have on the page, and hopefully he becomes more widely acknowledged for that someday.

 

At the end of the episode, I’d have to say this show is a procedural plus. The cast is rounded out by characters who have quirks instead of personalities, the case of the week is convoluted enough to keep you guessing but not worried about making too much sense, and even though it’s the pilot, the characters get some forward momentum. Backstrom grows his relationship with his partner, with his doctor, with his roommate (and possible son) and with the civilian who does something for the cops for some reason. For a total dick, he gets people to like him. Don’t they all. In a few episodes I imagine the chemistry will grow, and the rough edges will become comfortably smooth, and then Backstrom might be the best straight-up procedural on TV. Not appointment TV, but not heinously awful. Imagine if Law and Order or CSI were watchable.- MG

PopFilter Podcast Episode 181

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On the 181st episode of the PopFilter Podcast, the friends finish their end of the year catch up game with “Lost in a Dream” by The War on Drugs, The Honourable Woman and Inherent Vice. They also build a mountain of a monument to the best Paul Thomas Anderson characters of all time. Will your favorite PTA character make the mountain or will they be nothing more than a sad, pathetic footnote on the plaque of never-made-its? Find out with your ears!

Email us to get your opinion on the show: contact@yourpopfilter.com

Or call and leave a voicemail: 1-562 DRDJ POP

Review us on iTunes!

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TRAILER TRASH

TRAILER TRASH

In which we review the films opening this weekend, just based on the trailer, to 100 percent accuracy.

THE BOY NEXT DOOR


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REJECTED TAGLINE: She’s baaaaaack

REVIEW: If you’re a fan of shoved-in, obvious sexual innuendos then this movie is for you my friend. Even though it wants to be a titillating thriller, it doesn’t mind stopping the danger on a dime to get in a good (read:lazy) punch with a wink and smirk. It’s a tale as old as time: kid repeats senior year 8 times after his parents die, then moves in next door to seduce a lonely housewife. Then he uses magical omniscience to mess with her head, her family, and her job. The subtext is not so sub here, this film is really about the dangerous millenials surrounding the innocent, older generation and threatening them with their lack of morals and scary technological knowledge. The only way to fight back is clear. Fuck them, and then shoot them with a gun. Which is how this ends. She pretends all of his super-stalking has won her over, and then shoots him in the back of the head. It’s the sexiest thing to happen in this whole movie that wants so damn hard to be sexy. And everyone knows trying isn’t sexy.

SPOILER: JLo’s son gets back at the neighbor by doing the same thing to his mom. It’s less sexy, since the trailer points out she died awhile back.

RATING: *(out of ****)

MORTDECAI


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AKA: This isn’t Tim Burton?!

REVIEW:Johnny Depp is Mortdecai. Has a certain panache, don’t it? By simply stating the actor and his character’s name, you want to run to theater just to see how Mortdecai Depp truly can be. And it’s uncanny how much he falls into the character, it might just be the most he’s ever become a character. You think Steve Carrell disappeared in Foxcather, than boy howdy you have got to see Mortdecai. Have you heard how Johnny Depp is Mortdecai? Shit, that’s not enough?! Well then, look at these Mortdecai Mustaches (TM) on all of the other actors! It’s wacky! Girls and Ewen McGregor can’t have mustaches! Look at the antics Mortdecai is up to! Shit…with all of the Mortdecai talk it seems someone forgot to right a script. Fuck it, tell the people what they need to know. Johnny Depp is Mortdecai.

SPOILER: Mortdecai Mortdecai Mortdecai Mortdecai Mortdecai Mortdecai Mortdecai. There will be more. At least a straight to DVD sequel with Dean Dehaan in the titular role.

RATING: *(out of ****)

 

The Super Hero Hour Hour 1/23

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The Flash is back, and Ryan and Mike could not be more excited that they have something to talk about other than Gotham and Constantine. And then they talk about Gotham and Constantine.

Kerri Battles the AFI’s Top 100 – #68: Unforgiven

Intending to post about it last Thursday, I watched this movie almost two weeks ago. Unfortunately, I was so ill last week that I could no longer brain. My illness had given me the dumb and I was incapable of stringing together coherent thoughts, let alone sentences. When this weekend rolled around and I found myself feeling once again like a functional human being, I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. The standard operation procedure thus far has been as follows: 1. Watch next movie on list. 2. Write about said movie. 3. Repeat weekly. But what had appeared to be a perfect system was suddenly displaying some flaws. The only thing I could think to do was watch it again. And so, for the sake of you, dear reader, I sat through Unforgiven twice in 8 days. Oddly enough, my opinions changed very little between viewings.

Relax! I didn’t even say if my opinions were positive or negative yet!

Our film begins with a wide shot of a man in silhouette standing outside a small homestead at sunset as some text scrolls up the screen. From this text, we learn that there was once a very pretty girl who married a no-good, murderin’ thief named William Munny. No one understood her choice, least of all her mother, and everyone was surprised when smallpox took her life instead of Munny’s vicious hand. In Big Whiskey, Wyoming, a cowboy cuts up a prostitute’s face for laughing at his tiny, tiny penis. When Sheriff Little Bill Daggett says they only owe some ponies for the crime of destroying the saloon owner’s property, the other whores are less than satisfied. Pooling their savings, the place a $1000 bounty on the heads of the cowboy and his partner. This bounty attracts the attention of the Schofield Kid, who seeks out cold-blooded William Munny as his partner. Unfortunately, Munny is now a failing pig farmer, cured of “whisky and wickedness” by his dear departed wife. However, after a moment to reflect on how seriously he is failing at pigs, Munny changes his mind. He leaves his two small children to fend for themselves and collects his old partner, Ned, to catch up to the Schofield Kid. During the few days’ ride to Big Whiskey, we discover that the Schofield Kid is practically blind and that Munny really isn’t that mean murder anymore — he just really needs the money for a new start for his kids. When they finally arrive in Big Whiskey, Munny, cold, wet, and delirious with fever, runs afoul of Little Bill for refusing to relinquish his sidearm, as weapons are prohibited in the town. Daggett beats Munny senseless and it takes him three days to recover. By that time, Schofield and Ned are scouting the cowboys, preparing for an ambush. The trio succeeds — sort of. Ned discovers at the absolute wrong moment that he no longer has the stomach to murder a man, so Munny shoots one of the cowboys in the gut. As the trio heads off to hunt down the other cowboy, Ned decides he’s got to head home. Munny promises to deliver his share of the reward upon his return. Schofield and Munny happen upon the other cowboy and Schofield shoots him mid-shit in an outhouse. Meanwhile, Daggett captures Ned before he can get too far and tortures him for information. Daggett gets his info, killing Ned in the process. All set to head home to gather his children for a fresh start in San Francisco, Munny discovers from one of the prostitutes that Ned’s body is displayed as a warning outside Big Whiskey’s saloon. This is too much for Munny to take, so he returns to town and brutally guns down anyone who stands in his way. He shoots Daggett dead and tells the town that if they don’t give Ned a proper burial, he’ll come back and kill them all. As another sunset shot of the now abandoned homestead fills the screen, more scrolling text tells us that the pretty girl’s mother visited her grave just once and never discovered what happened to her grandchildren.

Yeah, drink up Schofield, because shit just got heavy.

So let’s get down to it. Unforgiven is an incredibly engaging and twisting tale with carefully drawn characters and gorgeous cinematography. I get why the AFI included it on The List. Hell, I even agree with its inclusion. Having said that, I have a very serious confession to make. I know what I’m about to say is blasphemy and it feels wrong even thinking it, but I have to be honest here. I am completely incapable of taking Clint Eastwood seriously as an actor. This feeling didn’t go away upon my second viewing of Unforgiven, either. In fact, it actually got stronger. I’ve spent two weeks pondering this sacrilege and its potential origins. The only excuse I can offer is that I was born too late.

Unforgiven Animaniacs

Everything I know about Clint Eastwood I learned from Animaniacs.

I was born on October 1st, 1981. I was not quite 11 when Unforgiven came out in the summer of ’92. So, no, I wasn’t exactly the prime demographic for Eastwood’s triumphant return to westerns. Rather, I was the target audience for the impeccable and would-be-classic after school cartoon offerings of The WB and Fox. I knew about Dirty Harry from the one impression everyone on the planet tried to do, including Jim Carrey. I knew Clint Eastwood was in westerns because Marty McFly adopted his look in order to blend in Back to the Future III. I knew about that movie he did with the orangutan because, well, I live in the world. But, until the past 2 Sundays in a row, I had never actually seen Clint Eastwood act in anything before. And, for 2 Sundays in a row, for 131 minutes at a time, all I could think was that Clint Eastwood really needed to work on his Clint Eastwood impression because it was coming across either wooden or overly exaggerated at any given time.

And Tiny Toons.

And Tiny Toons.

I know I can’t say Clint Eastwood did not deliver a quality performance in Unforgiven. If nothing else, I’m confident that I’ve just proved I’m not fit to judge Eastwood’s performances in anything. What I can comment on, though, is his ability to direct a film. In that position, I do believe the man has found his niche. If you don’t suffer from my societally-generated malady regarding his acting abilities, I highly recommend giving Unforgiven a watch or two. I found it engrossing and entertaining even with an overactor in the lead, so, if you weren’t raised on 90s cartoons*, you’ve got a fighting chance. — KSmith

 

*Bonus Content: If you actually weren’t raised on 90s cartoons, I’m sorry for you because you were totally missing out: 


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PopFilter Podcast Episode 180

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Gather around for the second annual Century of the Year, also known as the podcast where Jason, Mike and Ryan all get blackout drunk and talk about the pop culture year that was 2014! It is, without questions, one of the two times they have done this.

Email us to get your opinion on the show: contact@yourpopfilter.com

Or call and leave a voicemail: 1-562 DRDJ POP

Review us on iTunes!

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Want to record your own podcast? Check out Phantom48 for all of your electronic and recording needs!

PopFilter Editorial

Come On,

Internet!

We’ve all seen them; those headlines for painfully idiotic internet articles. Things like (and all of these are real) “Secret discovered on page 859 of the Bible”, “Twelve prehistoric animals I’m glad are dead” or, and this one is my favorite of all, “Nineteen stupid people who obviously don’t know the meaning of things”. Read over those “article” titles again and tell me which sounds like the best read. Is it none of them? I agree. And it has to stop.

Screenshot_2015-01-06-14-02-39

See! I told you!!

 

 

The internet is a magical place where people from all over the world can gather and share ideas, solutions to problems and porn…so much porn. But, in a world where consumption has to be immediate, it is becoming more and more commonplace to see articles with titles like the three I have mentioned above. You click on them, you look at the pictures, you skim the captions (if there even are any) and you move on. For a fleeting second, you might possibly feel like you’ve learned something though you are fully aware of the fact that you have not.

Sadly, the same feeling I get after watching certain game shows…

 

One of the gravest offenders of this is Facebook. Not only are your stupid friends sharing things like “This dog jumps over a fence and what it finds, I’m already in tears” but the internet giant itself is also promoting it. “Suggestions” on Facebook are now including a slew of these incessantly irritating pieces of shit. I don’t know how many times a marine coming home to her dog can make people cry, but if you believe Facebook, it is every 16 seconds.

See, I’m only barely crying at this picture.

 

And while some of you might consider this a bit of a departure from the rest of the excellent discussion on pop culture that this website is known for, I would argue the opposite. Pop culture is more than TV, movies and music. Pop culture encompasses all that is popular and, if the world were a gigantic high school, the internet would be the king of the cool kids. The internet offers you everything you could imagine and asks for so precious little in return. What do we do with that technology? Upload cat videos and links to articles that are nothing more than click bait. It’s not a perfect world that we live in, but this could be so much better.

The internet in 7th grade.

 

Every time you go to click on “Six weird ways to slow down a speeding bullet, especially #4, wow!” stop. Ask yourself if you even want to know what some asshole thinks is a weird way to stop a bullet, are there 6 ways to do it, and why is number 4 so goddamned important. Odds are, your answers will lead you to a better decision to read an actual article about a new album that you haven’t heard yet or reviews of that difficult film that will help you understand it better. Of course, you could always just read the bullet article because it’s easy.

Oh, come on! That’s number 4?! Really?!

I suppose that’s the bottom line that is so bothersome with these faux articles; they make easy seem harder than it is. Every article is 15 clicks. Every click is money. All that money gives us more articles. And you gain nothing. But if you feel like you have to work for your non-information, it somehow has worth. It has become information. And when you’re at a party, you can tell people all of those tremendously uninteresting “facts” that you’ve “learned” and those people will recite the same “interesting” “facts” to some other poor soul at some other party. And, sad though it is, everything will be exactly as it should be.

 

Whoa, that got dark. All that I’m saying is that these garbage internet click bait pieces of shit will only lead to the downfall of Western civilization.

K?thnxbye

 

 

With Love,

Jason R. Noble

The Tuesday Blues

THE

TUESDAY BLUES

01/20/15

 

THE DROP

THE DROP

It’s hard to sit through an intro like the one in The Drop and not roll your eyes a little bit. Here we go again. Once again, someone wants to prove they’ve seen the most Martin Scorsese movies, or read the most Dennis Lahane novels. The movie opens with narration from a low level hood (Bob, played by Tom Hardy), who tells us exactly what the drop is, where it takes place, and his involvement in it. We find out that his neighborhood is tough, and his life is tough, and get the impression that he might be a little tough too. It’s all incredibly familiar, and I immediately started wondering what special bells and whistles this movie would have to offer in order to separate it from the hundreds of other times I’ve watched differently titled Drops. Well…that’s not fair. The movie stars Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini, so I wasn’t wondering what the movie had to offer, but if it was going to be enough.

 

After taking 2013 off, following a comedown 2012 that involved This is War and Bane, Tom Hardy sneakily ran away with 2014, and received no accolades in the process. If Locke reconfirmed that he is one of the best actors of his generation, The Drop fits very nicely next to it. It’s not the one man show that Locke is, neither the performance nor the movie, but there’s still so much here to admire, and a lot of it is because of Hardy. He makes so many questionable choices in The Drop, from his twitchy face to his forced accent, and I spent the first thirty minutes of the movie thinking he alone could sink the entire project. By the end, though, you’re as enraptured as you always are, wondering why more actors can’t make throwaway scenes feel as important as scenes involving impassioned battlefield speeches. Bob, Hardy’s character in The Drop, doesn’t appear to be incredibly smart, or ambitious. One might assume that the character will reveal more about his personality as the movie goes on, but one also might assume that we’re stuck with a boring protagonist in a boring movie. One might assume that, if one didn’t get to watch Tom Hardy. I’m not going to reveal what, if anything, lies within the character, but you don’t need it. About midway through the movie, Bob has a beer with Nadia (Noomi Rapace), a girl he likes. Watch his reactions to her questions. Watch him try to figure out the person he needs to be in this situation, or to not reveal too much to this girl he likes. It’s a scene with no twists, or even any of the pulpy one-liners that fill out the rest of the movie, but that doesn’t stop Hardy from delivering as much information about Bob than we get in any other scene.

 

And then, of course, there’s James Gandolfini. I still believe that The Sopranos is the greatest television drama of all time, and even if you don’t think it has aged as well as I do, it’s impossible not to see its place in TV history. Tony Soprano is one of the most nuanced characters ever, and it cemented James Gandolfini’s place in the TV Hall of Fame, giving television one of its ten best performances. But there’s a part of me that would flush all of that down the toilet if we got to see Gandolfini in a wider variety of roles. His voice is always the same, his body is always the same, and his inability to breathe normally is always the same in each of his characters. But you can safely add The Drop to the criminally short list of movies like Killing Them Softly, Enough Said, In the Loop, and The Mexican that show off all of the little things he was capable of. Maybe this was because of Tony Soprano. Maybe he knew he had to work a little bit harder than chameleons like Tom Hardy, knowing that he would forever be seen in so many people’s eyes as Tony Soprano. Despite still being a criminal, Gandolfini’s Cousin Marv is the exact opposite of Tony Soprano, or maybe what Soprano would be today if things went horribly, horribly wrong. After losing his bar to Chechen (not Chechnyan) gangsters over gambling debts, Cousin Marv sulks ungracefully through the movie, clinging on to whatever reputation he has left. Every decision Cousin Marv makes is conflicted, no longer sure if he’s officially the old wash-up everyone knows he him to be, or the hardened gangster who wouldn’t take shit from anyone. Gandolfini doesn’t let a second go to waste, placing his true feelings in an instantaneous look before giving whatever watered down, neutered response he has deemed more appropriate.

 

Hardy is a lot of fun in The Drop, but this is Gandolfini’s movie, if for no other reason than he sops up your attention. He doesn’t know this will be the last time we see him, but we do, and we can’t help but take in as much as we can. The Drop works its ass off to not be another Scorsese rip-off (and if it feels like a Dennis Lehane rip-off, it should. He wrote the script based on a short story that he also wrote), and there are some decent twists and turns throughout. But I’m recommending it for knowing to cast two heavyweights, one regaining his belt, and the other giving us one last haymaker.

 

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BREAKING AWAY

BREAKING AWAY

Breaking Away is the kind of movie that, if you haven’t seen it before, can single-handedly ruin all of the movies you grew up liking. On the surface, it’s identical to all of the movies you grew up watching: high-school friends, turf wars, parents that just don’t understand, a big, third act competition. It’s all here. The problem with this movie its that it’s all so fucking charming, that it makes every other movie look like hackneyed garbage. This is 1979, and most of the movies that I’m thinking of came out in the 80’s and early 90’s, so it’s possible that the subsequent movies just copied Breaking Away‘s recipe with none of the skill. Either way, don’t let this be a reason to not see it. If you’re like too many people, and didn’t have this movie in your childhood rotation, move it up to the top of your queue as soon as possible.

THE PALM BEACH STORY

THE PALM BEACH STORY

Although not my favorite Sturges film (I’m a Sullivan’s Travels kind of guy), The Palm Beach Story proves once and for all that watching horrible people do horrible things can be a wonderful experience, as long as Preston Sturges is writing the dialogue. Claudette Colbert (Mrs. Clark Gable) decides to leave her husband, for no other reason than he isn’t rich, and flee to Palm Beach for a quick divorce. There she meets J.D. Hackensacker III (yup), a rich tycoon who falls for her immediately. When her husband hunts her down, she convinces him to pretend to be her brother, so as to not fuck up her chances with Hackensacker. And that’s just where the crazy bullshit starts. If you’ve never seen a Preston Sturges movie before, this is a good one to start with. Travels might have more brains, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek might have more heart, and The Lady Eve might have more laughs (and Bible imagery), but Palm Beach has the most crazy.

– Ryan Haley

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PopFilter Podcast Episode 179

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On this, the third of a series, the friends continue their game of catch up by watching The Missing and Selma and listening to “Benji” by Sun Kil Moon. They also build a mountain of a monument to honor the greatest solo pop stars since 2000. Specific? You bet. And you’re gonna love it.

Email us to get your opinion on the show: contact@yourpopfilter.com

Or call and leave a voicemail: 1-562 DRDJ POP

Review us on iTunes!

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Want to record your own podcast? Check out Phantom48 for all of your electronic and recording needs!

The Super Hero Hour Hour 1/16

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With another light week, and only Agent Carter on the docket, Mike and Ryan once again look back to the comic book TV of yesteryear with the 1976 classic Wonder Woman, starring Lynda Carter. That’s right, the boys are going From Carter to Carter in this comprehensive look at the world of Superhero Television Ladies. As long as the word “comprehensive” means “just looking at these two shows.” Also, new info about iZombie and Daredevil!!!

TRAILER TRASH

TRAILER TRASH

In which we review the films opening this weekend, just based on the trailer, to 100 percent accuracy.

PADDINGTON


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AKA: From the Producer of Harry Potter

REVIEW: The first thing anyone says about Paddington is that the bear’s eyes are horrifyingly, soul-crushingly dead. Because they are. One look deep into the eponymous Paddington’s black seeing-voids and your sanity is at risk. You can put a hat and coat on the devil, but that doesn’t make him your friend. But if you give him a British accent, then he’s adorable– a modern day Mary Poppins come to change a family’s life with whimsy instead of stuffiness and songs. What bothers me most about all of it is that bears don’t belong in England.

SPOILER: The family learns about love, the bear learns he can do whatever he wants because he’s a goddamn talking bear.

RATING: **(out of ****)

 

THE WEDDING RINGER


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REJECTED TAGLINE: You gotta love yourself before you can love the friend who hired you to pretend to be his best friend.

REVIEW: It’s a movie from a seemingly more innocent time. As much as I’m a fan of the realistic tendencies of Apatow and mumblecore comedies, there’s something to be said for a loud, big farcical comedy. And I can’t think of a better pair to bring that comedy than Kevin Hart and Josh Gad. Is the plot like a sequel to Hitch? Sure. Are there gags you’ve seen before? Most definitely. But there’s so much charm and charisma in this silliness, that it’s okay to enjoy it all. If you’re getting overwhelmed with all of the seriousness, all of the “make you believe again” messages  of the Oscar nominated movies, take a break and welcome January.

SPOILER: Everyone gets hitched in a unprecedented 10-way marrriage

RATING: **1/2(out of ****)

PopFilter Editorial: The Best Songwriter You’ve Never Heard Of

 

Pop music gets little to no respect as a genre. It’s passe, for squealing pubescent girls who show up to concerts with their reluctant fathers and glitter smeared across the apples of their be-acned cheeks.

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They can sense fear. Fear and teen heart-throb sweat.

 

 

The lyrics in pop is about as deep as a side-walk puddle, especially in comparison to rap and hip hop, genres known to have lyrics that combine authentic social messages with the mastery of language. Pop music is safe, structured. Pop music has no real relevance, it only really exists to sell an act.

15 years ago was the golden era of pop music. Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and N’SYNC were selling out 40,000 seat stadiums. The whole world was caught up in their saccharine brand of bubble-gum pop. Music critics decried the end of rock-n-roll and, for all intents and purposes, good music as we knew it. I was 13 when the clock struck midnight on the dawn of the new millennium. I grew up among a throng of young girls that proved themselves a surprisingly powerful demographic: teenagers who bopped along to cheesy music and wanted nothing more than to marry Justin Timberlake.

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Somehow still famous

 

Anyone paying any attention to the music knew that they were being sold a sparkly package without real substance. Who could even argue against its superficiality? It was something so obvious it didn’t warrant discussion. The music was just catchy.

This genre of music was packaged in a way to sell records: the smiling, singing and choreographed dancing and the the fresh-faced, white teenagers who performed them all. Because of this, the single most influential song-writer/ producer of the genre is a mystery; a man who’s completely unknown to the fans of his music. His name is Max Martin.

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Awards for writing only come on paper

 

The very fact that pop music seems easy to write is a testament to the people who have done it so well. They make it look easy. The fact is it’s not. When people want to compliment but still dismiss a song they will say that it’s “catchy.” It may not deserve much analysis, but that doesn’t mean it was easy to create. A catchy song can be played over and over again, (pretty much ad nauseum on every radio station) and get more likeable every time you hear it. It has a quality that isn’t diminished by repetition. The more times you hear a catchy song the more familiar it becomes, the more familiar it becomes the fonder you are of it. Writing a catchy song takes an understanding of how music works for people. Just ask Koji Kondo, head music-writer for Nintendo. If you played Mario or Legends of Zelda, you have probably listened to his music for hundreds of hours.


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Kondo’s work isn’t so different from pop music. He arranges simple compositions that don’t interrupt the flow of the game but still entertain. And they can be listened to over and over again. And like good pop, his music inspires nostalgia for a more simple, innocent time. Kondo is widely regarded as a musical genius.*

Max Martin is the Barry Gordy of millennial pop music. Here is a video of songs he has been the writer and/or producer of:


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Max Martin has been involved with so many of the biggest-all-time billboard chart topping hits from the last 20 years: Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, N SYNC, Ace of Base, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, even it-girl Taylor Swift.

Max Martin was born in Sweden in 1971. According to a Cracked.com article, 4 Bizarrely Specific Things Being Taken Over by One Country, Sweden is the kind of place that believes that education should foster and develop artistic and musical abilities. The article argues, pretty convincingly, that Swedish musicians are taking over the music industry. Martin’s influence on popular music of the last two decades is undeniable. His reputation as a hit generator has seen him in demand with long established acts like Bon Jovi and Celine Dion. And he is earning some serious cheddar. As of this date, his fortune towers at 250 million dollars.

Max Martin is the most influential songwriter you’ve never heard of. His music is culturally pervasive. He is a musician with an incredible ability to create songs that are absolute ear worms. This is the man who engineered the songs that would endear Britney Spears to millions.

The good, old Britney

The good, old Britney

 

His songs are still enjoying substantial success to this day. Songs that get just a little bit more fun every time you hear them.

 

-Stephanie Rose

 

 

* among the weirdos who consider themselves connoisseurs of video-game scores.

 

 

The Tuesday Blues

THE

TUESDAY BLUES

01/13/15

 

LOVE IS STRANGE

LOVE IS STRANGE

In an attempt to explain why I’m not a sexist or a racist, I will often rehash the same theory when reviewing terrible movies starring black people or women. It basically has to do with the fact that black people and women are so desperate for movies that star people they can relate to, or stories that show similar experiences to theirs, that they will go see horrible movies regardless of how bad they are.[1] It would be great if more filmmakers would realize what these groups of people are being put through, and make more quality movies with more black and/or female faces on the posters, but that’s not the way the world works. The world actually responds by saying “they like drivel! Let’s make more drivel!” So the cycle continues, and Redboxes will be filled with Madea movies and movies based on cheesy self-help books forever and ever until the end of time.

 

Did I miss something, or did gay people get to just skip over all of this? Over the last year or so, we’ve all got to experience gay slice of life stories in theaters, with movies like Strangers on the Lake, and on television, with shows like HBO’s Looking, and they’ve all been of incredible quality. As much as they give me an insight to a few gay lifestyles, none of these projects seem like they would make people who were gay roll their eyes because straight people are getting their hands held as they’rewalked into the proverbial “bar on the other side of the street.” I’m sure there’s a lot of stuff outside of my periphery that is stupid, like the legendary G.B.F. [2], but it seems like, for the most part, we’re done with the weird interpretation of gay characters we used to have in the 90’s.[3]

 

So, maybe studios think that gay people are smarter than black people and women, so they know they won’t put up with garbage. Watching Love is Strange made we realize that the reality might actually be even scarier than that. After decades fighting against them, I think the studios finally accepted the fact that girl people and black people were people too, and all people deserve terrible movies thrown at them on a regular basis. If the rest of society also realizes that women and black people are also people, maybe they’ll even buy some tickets too. Until recently, gay characters in movies and TV weren’t real characters, they were little half-man/half-hummingbird creatures who flitted around and said silly things. Now that Hollywood has realized that they are real people, and that society might also agree, they are going to think it’s time to start making movies for them too. Gay culture didn’t somehow avoid their onslaught of horrible movies. It just hasn’t happened yet.

 

Love is Strange made me realize this because the movie makes it abundantly clear that independent cinema no longer cares whether or not you’re gay. If that’s the case, then Hollywood should be getting the memo over the next five to ten years. There have been dozens of recent independent movies featuring gay characters, some even as protagonists. But more often than not, the moves seem to be about the character being gay, as if that’s the plot, as opposed to it being just one aspect of the character’s life. Progress, for sure, but still not as fleshed out as your average WCSM[4] role. Some of the story beats in Love is Strange wouldn’t have happened if the characters were an old married man and woman, as opposed to an old married man and man, but this is not a story about being gay. It’s a story about how great and awful life is, kind of like all great movies are, that just happens to focus on a gay couple. When you take the “OH MY GOD THEY ARE GAY” out of stories with gay characters, you make gay people seem like they are just like everyone else. And when that happens, terrible Hollywood movies with gay people as the main characters can’t be far behind.

 

But, until then, we have John Lithgow and Alfred Molina[5] in one of the year’s most compelling cinematic relationships, despite spending most of the movie apart. The movie starts with Lithgow and Molina’s marriage. This leads to George (Molina), who is a music teacher at a Catholic school, losing his job, which means the newlyweds have to sell their apartment and move in with family. No family member has enough room to take in both of them[6], which means they have to separate until they can get their situation figured out.

 

Forcing your main couple to spend all of Act II apart sounds like a daunting task, but director Ira Sach (Keep the Lights On) pulls it off in two distinct ways. First, he doesn’t force the first act to be full of charisma and whimsy and romance so that the audience knows how much in love these two people are, only to punch viewers in the face with their separation. Instead, he simply, quietly shows the two of them getting ready in the morning, getting married, and then spending time with family. He doesn’t show us the unbreakable fake spark that can only unite lovers in movies. He shows us comfort, and ease, and other aspects of long term relationships that give people immediate hints that Molina and Lithgow are together, instead of immediate neon signs that scream it. It feels small at first, and then it feels anything but.

 

The second thing Sach does by separating them is he gives himself the opportunity to show how happy Ben (Lithgow) and George must have been before the story started by showing how miserable they are now. George lives with younger friends who party all of the time, and Ben lives with his nephew, whose wife and son aren’t the biggest Ben fans. Either situation, taken individually, isn’t exactly hell, and would be perfectly acceptable as short-term living solutions. But it’s not the details of their living situations that make their lives suck. The longing faces, the crying, the frustration, the confusion that each guy displays, together or separate, proves that their living situations could be ten times worse for all they care, as long as they were together. It’s co-dependent, sure, but what other couple who has been together for 40 years isn’t co-dependent? They also like each other, and love each other, and I was able to see that, and relate, despite the fact that I’m not old as shit, and am not gay.[7] If you need evidence of this, well…watch the movie. If you’ve already seen the movie, and still need evidence, look no further than a late scene featuring the couple getting some drinks after seeing a concert. The conversation is easy, and funny – although mostly to them – and they casually get dark with each other, and they both surprise each other. In a three minute scene that offers nothing in the way of plot, both men surprise each other. It’s great.[8]

Are your conservative parents ready to watch  a movie like Love is Strange? That’s something that they will have to decide. Maybe they are fine with gay movies, but hate warm, touching stories about romance. It’s possible. Luckily, no conservative over the age of 40 has ever read an article on a pop culture website, so let’s instead focus on you. You go watch it.

 

 

[1] I have never done any research to back this up, as no women or black people will speak to me, despite the amount of times I stand outside of their house holding a boom box. But come on. It checks out.

[2] Or Glee. There’s always Glee.

[3] See: Rupert Everett in The Next Best Thing, or Rupert Everett in anything else.

[4] White Christian Straight Male, the king of the protagonists. When the alien robots from the end of A.I. uncover a Blockbuster Video and watch every movie inside it, they are going to think we loved the SHIT out of WCSMs.

[5] Who are receiving next to no end-of-the-year accolades, by the by

[6] Well…one does, but she lives outside of the city and is a fucking bitch.

[7] …unless you ask any other PopFilter writer.

[8] With the exception of one little nitpick. George orders a scotch on the rocks, and Ben orders a vodka tonic with three limes and no ice in a tall glass. Now you know who their characters are!


 

ALSO RELEASED

 

GONE GIRL

GONE GIRL

Gone Girl is already the most written about movie of 2014, so I don’t really need to spend any more time here extolling its virtues or burning it at the stake. What I will say, however, is that there still seems to be a large percentage of the population that still thinks this is an artfully done Lifetime movie. If you’ve heard that, or only seen it once and still somehow believe it, give it another chance. Now that the hype has died down, and you know about the twists, we’re left with a movie that really does have a lot on its mind. Do your best to watch it again with whatever agenda you have checked at the door.

PopFilter Podcast Episode 178

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The catching up continues on this, the 178th episode of the PopFilter Podcast! This week, the friends all discuss Swans’ “To Be Kind”, The Good Wife’s 6th season and Birdman. They also build a mountain of a monument to superheroes that are not based on comic books because comic books are so over.

Email us to get your opinion on the show: contact@yourpopfilter.com

Or call and leave a voicemail: 1-562 DRDJ POP

Review us on iTunes!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Want to record your own podcast? Check out Phantom48 for all of your electronic and recording needs!

#1 Fan!

#1 Fan!

In which Mike reviews the first issue of a new comic. 

This Week: 

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the unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Just looking at the cover of the unbeatable Squirrel Girl you know you’re not going to be diving into a “normal” Marvel comic. It looks like the early 90s Disney TV shows (i.e. Tailspin/DarkWing Duck) by way of Lisa Frank. This vibe might throw you off initially; maybe you expect something overly saccharine, overly positive, or overly childish (which we all know comics have no room for childish things). But wait. Look closer. The way the titutlar hero and her ribbon-wearign squirrel gaze lovingly at the fantasy of her being held up by the Avengers tips you off—this book will be a look at unending failure, Squirrel Girl’s failure to comprehend her failure, and how charming and quirky this once once-note joke of a character can be.

Brief background for those Filterinos not into Z-list Marvel characters: Doreen Green, America’s favorite bucktoothed heroine, first showed up in 1992. She was created by Steve Ditko and Will Murray as a member of the Great Lakes Avengers (like if Pawnee had a Justice League*) and designed by Murray as a way to relax and get away from the serious X-Men drama. He wanted to recapture the levity in comics, and remind people that the books are allowed to be fun. Various writers have used Squirrel Girl in small ways since her creation, popping up in everything from Deadpool to New Avengers, almost always as a joke. Because, how the fuck else are you going to use Squirrel Girl?

2012-02-22_202513_Squirrel+vs+Doom+5

Like this.

Her newest incarnation (in her very own book) is from writer Ryan North (Adventure Time) and artist Erica Henderson (Atomic Robo), and they keep the jokes running throughout the book. But while they’re poking fun at comics and the silliness of a superhero based on a rodent, they also inject Doreen with some humanity. Which is a good thing because keeping her a one-note joke for an entire issue, let alone an actual ongoing series, would be a chore to slog through. I honestly expected it to be rough going; I’m one of those nerds who like to use Squirrel Girl as a punch line (to the delight of no one), and I love that a character this goofy exists next to Captain America and the Hulk. But I never thought her own book would be handled so well.

One of the smartest things North and Henderson have done is to not make this an origin story. Do you really want to fucking know how she got the powers of a squirrel? The creative team realized everyone is inundated with origins, and that no character who’s book made it big started with their origin. Hit the ground running, and trust the audience to get on board. What this issue does in lieu of an origin story is to open with SG hanging in a tree with her best squirrel pal Tippy-Toe singing her self-written theme song before beating the living snot out of three punk-ass park criminals. This scene does several things: it creates a world in comics where things are allowed to be silly instantly, shows that Squirrel Girl can handle her shit in a situation, and gives the uninitiated some much-needed details (though who is picking this up without knowing anything about her?). Most of that is done through one of the best theme songs I’ve ever heard. Here are some choice lyrics, “ Is she tough? Listen bud: She’s got partially squirrel blood”, “powers of both squirrel and girl” “find some nuts, eats some nuts! Kick some bad guuuuuys evil butts”, and reminding you over and over again that she is both a human and a squirrel. My goal is to find some musician out there to fully realize the potential of the song.

Feeling musically inspired?

Feeling musically inspired?

The rest of the issue is a simple story. Doreen needs to get used to having a secret identity, since she’s starting college (because squatting in the Avengers Mansion attic is just sad). There are elements of early Spiderman within the character. She’s young, and has to fit into a school setting while balance fighting crime. She’s not a “normal” person; where Peter Parker was an uber-nerd, Doreen Green is obsessed with squirrels and a little hippy-dippy goober. Neither fit the standards of what it means to be super, but rose up. A large difference is Doreen has confidence. And this is where some genius is hidden within these silly funny-pages. Squirrel Girl is a pretty kick-ass feminist role model for young girls, and proves that you don’t have to act, look, or do what the people around you expect (and she blasts through the stereotype of the angry feminist). Squirrel Girl likes who she is. She doesn’t give a shit if people like her or not, she’s got her squirrel buddies. She’s proud of the fact the in her secret identity she has a “conspicuously large and conspicuously awesome butt.” If that’s not a role model for the new millennium, I don’t know what is.

Butt all the black guys want

A butt all the black guys want

Within all of the table setting required in a first issue, there are great character moments and little jokes. Where nothing made me laugh out loud, they hit more than I expected and I found myself actually interested in Doreen’s journey through college. Her beating Kraven (with her brain and trusty Deadpool trading cards!) was almost inconsequential, though it did give us her catchphrase, “You’re a jerk who sucks!”. I want to know what her day-to-day life is gonna be like. Which means this issue won. I went in having zero expectations of wanting to know what would happen in the ongoing adventures of the unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but goddamnit she won. If they stick to the ingredients laid out here, this could be a delightful book to break up your overly dramatic, overly woven together crossover events that come out every month. And you’ll get to see a chick with a rodent headband beat the worst of Marvel’s baddies, which will never not be fun. Check it out!

 

 

*Really like if Pawnee had a Legion of Superheroes, who’s ranks are filled with characters like Matter-Eater Lad, and Bouncing Boy. So that’s two fat kid superheroes on that team.

 

Get behind the scenes stuff at: Unbeatablesquirrelgirl.tumblr.com

 

Leave a comment! Or email me at mike@yourpopfilter.com. Or Tweet me @microphoneyo

The Super Hero Hour Hour 1/9

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A new episode of Gotham came out this week, so Mike and Ryan talk about Agent Carter as much as possible to distract themselves from it. Man…Gotham is a real bad show.

PopFilter Versus: 2014 Discoveries

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Every year brings to light new actors, singers, comedians, movies, TV shows, comic books, and video games that take us completely off guard. In this week’s Versus, Mike and Ryan rattle off their top 5 Discoveries of 2014 spraying to all fields of pop culture. See if anything you’ve discovered makes the cut!

 

Email us to get your opinion on the show: mike@yourpopfilter.com, ryanhaley@yourpopfilter.com, jasonnoble@yourpopfilter.com

Or call and leave a voicemail: 1-562 DRDJ POP

Review us on iTunes!

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Want to record your own podcast? Check out Phantom48 for all of your electronic and recording needs!