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Popfilter’s Foriegn Flick of the Week

In  which Stephanie Reviews a Film from Notmerica

Japan’s

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My Neighbor Totoro

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“The Anti Disney-Princess Fantasy Movie somehow still brought to you by Disney”

 

Okay, that retitle is a little misleading. My Neighbor Totoro is a film by legendary animator and director Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away) and released in 1988. It was one of many Miyazaki films that Disney acquired the distribution rights to, because that what happens to popular franchises these days. Under strict instructions not to cut a single scene or reedit in any way, Disney hired American actors, most notably the very talented Fanning sisters, to re dub the movie and it was rereleased in the United States in 1996. Thanks to the acclaim of having a genius Japanese director in part with Disney’s enormous distribution complex, the film became an instant cult classic among film lovers and hipster parents who don’t want to raise their daughters with the kind of values prescribed by some of Disney’s more famous franchises: the Disney Princesses. It is exactly what makes this movie different from your typically Disney movie that makes it so compelling.

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Totoro: Too cute and dumb to be menacing.

This movie is of the fantasy genre. It tells the story of two sisters, Satsuko and Mei, who are growing up in a post-war Japan. The film opens with the girls moving to the country with their gentle and supportive father. Some of the most gorgeous animation of the entire film is found in these scenes of the Japanese countryside. Long enough into the first act when you really start to think, “where the hell is the mother?” It is revealed that the girl’s mom is not with them because she is sick in the hospital. Dealing with her illness and subsequent separation from her makes up the main conflict of the story. The fantasy element is introduced when the girls befriend a big, furry, rabbit like forest creature named Totoro.

What truly sets this movie apart from other children’s stories is the way that it incorporates fantasy in the storytelling. Having been a Disney-oholic as a child, I believed that fantasy as it existed in story telling was a portal that provided an escape from the conflicts and drudges of day to day life. I didn’t just believe it, I didn’t see how it could be used any other way. Consider the aforementioned Princess movies. The story of The Little Mermaid where Ariel dreams of living on dry land, a place she knows nothing about, to escape the familiar boring world under the sea.

On land I don't have to deal with my mother's disappearance and a violently angry father the two of which I am sure are not connected in any way.

On land I don’t have to deal with my mother’s disappearance and a violently angry father. The two of which I am sure are not connected in any way.

Now remember Sleeping Beauty, who falls into a coma, which means she was legally brain-dead, and only a kiss from a hot prince can revive her. In The Beauty and the Beast Belle is from a poor, French, hick town where all the filthy ignorant yokels shun her for *gasp* reading books and she is stalked by an obvious rapist.

This man should be in prison.

This man should be in prison.

Belle is kidnapped into a magnificent castle full of books and adorable servants made out of inanimate objects who sing songs and make her an 18 course meal because she was, “a little hungry.” No god-damn wonder she wasn’t in a big hurry to leave. Fantasy has always served as an escape from what is boring, awful, uncomfortable and dangerous. Escapist fantasy is directly linked to what the imagination perceives as a threat. That would make escapist fantasy and the imagination inextricably linked through fear and the imagination’s concept of how to remove the threat causing the fear.

In a move unique to my understanding of the fantastical, My Neighbor Totoro uses the fantasy elements not as an exercise of the imagination or the threats it believes it’s up against, rather these elements exist outside the imagination and serve to pull the main characters out of the fears and threats the imagination conjures up and, ironically, root it in reality. Consider the the most iconic scene of the movie:

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This is where older sister Satsuko meets Totoro (who can only be seen if he wants to be seen) for the first time. One day, the sisters go to their father’s bus stop in a rainstorm to give him an umbrella. It’s getting dark, it’s pouring rain, and it is getting later and later without any sign of their only live-in parent and to boot, they are in the middle of a spooky and unfamiliar forest. Just as Mei falls asleep and the isolation and fear start to set in for Satsuko, this big hulking spirit creature shows up and…just stands there next to her. Had this been an escapist fantasy he might have been some sort of handsome knight come to protect Satsuko and Mei from the evils of the forest, but look into his big dumb eyes; there is no threat, no danger, and dad will be along in a minute. He hands Satsuko a gift, a bamboo leaf full of acorns to plant. Besides the obvious life-cycle metaphor, Totoro gets Satsuko out of her own head and grounds her into what is happening in the present moment. He exists outside of her imagination. He isn’t there to take the girls away to a place without danger, a place where her mother isn’t sick, somewhere where there is no pain and suffering. He exists as a fantastical element here to lure her out of the most frightening place there is (and I think every kid can relate), the place in her imagination where fear lives and grows. He is a fantasy element that enables the characters he presents himself to to live life as it is and not be incapacitated by fear.

As an American moviegoer this movie blew my mind away with possibilities I didn’t know existed in storytelling. Miyazaki is famous for children’s stories that don’t treat children like dumb little bags of money. I honestly can’t wait to go share this movie with my nieces.

-Stephanie Rose

Kerri Battles the AFI’s Top 100 – #92: Goodfellas

I’ve always had a mild obsession with the idea of the Mafia. When I was 13 and we took a family vacation to San Francisco, I couldn’t wait to see Al Cap0ne’s cell at Alcatraz.  In 10th grade English, when my class was assigned a research paper on a topic of our choosing, I wrote about 10 pages on the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. I’ve spent the majority of my life telling my Italian mother that I know she’s keeping our real mob ties a secret from me because she has admitted to an uncle who used to run floating craps games and unofficially changed his name to something that didn’t end in a vowel so my great-grandmother wouldn’t die of shame when she read his name in the police blotter.  So, you know, I’m usually down for a good gangster flick. Goodfellas should be high on my list of all-time favorites. But it’s not. In fact, I’ve thoroughly disliked it every time I’ve seen it before. There’s only one “classic” gangster film that actually loathe more than Goodfellas (I won’t deign to name that one here since it’s not on the list, proving the AFI agrees with me) so I really thought I knew what I was getting into this week. Two and a half hours and one DVD-flip later, I couldn’t have been more surprised. Instead of reaffirming my contempt, the 5th(ish) viewing made me realize that everything I’d hated about Goodfellas before was basically everything that also made it awesome.

I CAN’T BE THE ONLY ONE WHO DOESN’T THINK THIS MOVIE IS FUN TO WATCH. AT. ALL.

In case you only know it by it’s most iconic scenes, Goodfellas is the story of Henry Hill, a half-Irish-half-Italian kid who quits school at the ripe old age of too fucking young in order to begin his illustrious and lengthy career as a criminal. The two and a half hours or so of run time follow the path you’d expect your average gangster flick to take. We begin at humble beginnings, then quickly move to favored protege. We pass through big heists, big hits, girlfriends, a wife, more girlfriends, good times, jail time, and parole until finally we reach the mistake (fact: all criminals make one) that brings it all crumbling down to ruins. The story has been and will be done again and again. But Scorsese did it right. He did it so right that everyone else has been “trying to find inspiration” in Goodfellas ever since, including Marty himself.

The only Scorsese movie that DOESN’T use “Gimme Shelter” as the soundtrack to a badass scene with a lot of drugs and/or crime.

As I’ve already mentioned, the basic story has been done before — ignored kid with a less-than-stellar home life finds a new family in The Family and makes it big, only to ultimately crash and burn. But Goodfellas is based on a true story and, by all knowledgeable accounts, is pretty fucking accurate. Henry Hill was a real life known associate of the Lucchese crime family, took part in the 1978 Lufthansa robbery at JFK Airport that netted over $6 million dollars, then turned state’s witness to avoid getting whacked. All of the characters portrayed in the film are closely based on real people, complete with their psychopathic tendencies and violent jealous streaks. The events, while nipped here and tucked there in true Hollywood fashion for the sake of runtime, are still pretty accurate to life. Scorsese just took the bits of Hill’s life that he found the most interesting and arranged them in such a way that builds a story that feels equally as true. You know where the story is going, but you keep watching because you want to know how and when these odious characters will finally get their due. You want to know exactly how much coke will cause Lorraine Bracco to completely lose her already tenuous grip on her shit. You want to know how and when that Shinebox fiasco is going to come back to bite Joe Pesci in the face… with a bullet. You want to know who Robert De Niro is going to take revenge on when it does. Above all, you want to know who makes the mistake that ruins them all. Well, that, and you want to know if that guy playing Tuddy Cicero is the same guy who played Vito on The Sopranos because you just can’t quite tell ….

So you check the IMDb and, nope, not Vito … just, you know, MICHAEL JACKSON’S ONE-TIME MANAGER. … Also, he played Frankie Sharp of Sharp Records in Wayne’s World, but internet magic failed to conjure a picture of that.

I could never quite put my finger on what I hated most about Goodfellas until yesterday. It wasn’t until the credits rolled on my 5th(ish) viewing that I realized what it was. Goodfellas is the story of the rise and fall of a single crime family, yes, but it’s also an obituary to the Mafia life itself. This film came out in 1990 and portrayed the downfall of the first of the Five Families. The remaining 4 would follow suit by the mid-90s. A quick Google will tell you that 4 of the 5 bosses are currently serving almost comically long sentences. The Legend of the Mafia would have me believe that those bars don’t mean much but, really, when you’re serving an actual, literal 100 year sentence, how much influence can you really have? Let’s face it — The Mafia hasn’t been cool or relevant since John Gotti got pinched and handed life without parole. By the time Tony Soprano started telling us all he thought he got in at the end of the thing, the thing he was talking about  already seemed about as distant and real as dragons. Watching Goodfellas reminds me that it was once a living, breathing organism as real as unicorns (THEY ARE SO). But if we can’t watch it collect tributes and take bets and break kneecaps in the wild anymore, at least Goodfellas can accurately show us what it used to be like. And for that, Scorsese should be commended.


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If you’re between the ages of  about 25 and 35 and don’t 100% get this joke, I’m truly sorry that your childhood just wasn’t that cool. — KS

 

 

JUNE TV EXTRAVAGANZA

MYSTERY GIRLS

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

 

Jennie Garth is an American treasure. Hmmm…let’s start over.

 

Jennie Garth is underrated. I’m not saying she’s Television Hall of Fame material. I would say, however, that she’s a poor man’s Christina Applegate, while her current public status seems to be homeless man’s Christina Applegate or dead homeless man’s Christina Applegate. She’s been a dependable ditzy-ish blonde for twenty-five years ago. She’s been the best actor on two moderate hits, Beverly Hills, 90210, a show I grew up on, and What I Like About You, a show I’ve never seen before. The latter show did have Amanda Bynes, who turned out to be a little kooky, so let’s assume Garth is the reason for its success. There was never any rumors about what a horrible actress she was to work with, or how much coke she did that one time in a Mexican prison. The only reason I doubt my feelings on Jennie is how old I was when I first saw her in 90210. Many things were going through my head at the time, least of which was acting criticism.

 

Either based on the roles she’s accepted, or just a general lack of gravitas, Garth never seemed like she could be the sole lead on a show, or make the jump to film (to be fair, Christina Applegate was never able to, and she’s like a rich man’s Jennie Garth). But how close was she to a career where she wasn’t accepting roles on horrible sitcoms on ABC Family? The first decade of her career was dominated by 90210. She was the one of the last original cast members when the show ended its run, along with Steve, David, and fellow Mystery Girls cast member Donna. She could have bailed earlier like everyone else, but the highlights of the work done by the actor who bailed include a couple seasons of Charmed and a guest role on Oz, so it’s not like that was guaranteed success. Plus, she never had the makings of a break-out star. Like I said earlier, Kelly Taylor, and in turn, Jennie Garth, just seemed solid.

 

It wasn’t until the 2002 season until she got What I Like About You, so she spent the season in-between that at 90210 as a semi-regular on The $treet, a show about things no one cares about or remembers. WILAY turned out to be an important moment in her career. Another success could prove that she will be a TV star for the rest of her life. But WILAY was an Amanda Bynes vehicle. The show was built around her rising star, and any number of actresses at the time could have been cast as the older sister. If Garth could spend WILAY’s run showing that she could be more than a comedic version of Kelly Taylor, she could compete/build a report with her castmate, and get her own vehicle. Or the show ends its run and she ends up being thrown into the Lifetime casting pool. Guess what happened.

 

WILAY got canceled in 2006, and in the last 8 years, Garth has bounced from Lifetime Original to Lifetime Original, taking a break only to again appear as Kelly Taylor in order to help the 90210 reboot get off the ground. She might have been the only cast member to agree to come back for any significant amount of time, but I like to think that she was the show’s first, last, and only choice. It couldn’t have been that hard to lock down any other cast member, and yet they chose Jennie. Although it was never that apparent during the show’s peak, Kelly Taylor is 90210, and vice versa, which means she’s an entire generation’s Victoria Principal or Eva Longoria.
Oh, Jennie Garth is currently appearing in a horrible ABC Family TV show called Mystery Girls. Tune in if you miss her being around, and want to watch her deal with what it must be like to have known Tori Spelling for this long, or enjoy watching gay actors portray gay characters as if they lit on fire and pushed off a building.

 

- Ryan Haley

TOP TEN – MOVIES THAT DEFINE SUMMER

TOP TEN – MOVIES THAT DEFINE SUMMER

 

STAND BY ME (1986)

The very best summer movies explore what kind of hijinks kids used to get into when they had an entire season of freedom stretched out ahead of them. You think a group of 12-year-olds could go have an amazing adolescent journey of self-discovery and bonding, free from the watchful gaze of parents today? Hell no, in 2014 at least one of those boys would’ve been micro chipped and geotagged. They never would have made it to that dead body without parents or police keeping them safe from the adventure of a lifetime.

Best Line of the Summer:  “I never had any friends later on, like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”

CAMP NOWHERE (1994)

Oh man between the generous mixing of plaids and stripes, the JTT knockoff playing the lead, and Christopher Lloyd just being himself, the 90’s are alive and well in this one. The freedom afforded from summer isn’t enough for these little rebels. They stage a fake camp, use their parent’s “tuition money” to buy a bunch of awesome toys and junk and live like the lost boys for the summer. WITH FIREWORKS!!! It’s the ultimate kid fantasy, like running away with a blank check. Though I’m still juvenile enough today that I’d definitely run away for the summer with Andrew Keegan and that bitching leather jacket.

Best Line of the Summer: “Who would think something like this would happen from harmless flares and roman candles?”

DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993)

 
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The nostalgia here is so poignant and relatable, it will make you relive the best night of your teenage life, even if you never actually kissed the girl or got one over on the bully. The first night of High School summer break is a timelessly magical night filled with endless possibilities, and for some students in small towns that apparently includes homo-erotic paddlings and discovering you just want to dance. Not necessarily in that order.

Best Line of the Summer: “I’d like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor, insignificant preamble to somethin’ else.”

WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (2001)

 
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Unlike most terrible parodies (Date Movie, Twilight), this sun and bug-juice soaked film uses its self-awareness sparingly. Normally just for excellently timed punchlines so usually it just feels the kind of rad, no-rules camp Janeane Garofalo would run. Wet Hot American Summer is from the crew at The State so you know it’s full of hilarious people, but for every Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler there are some major casting surprises, hello Bradley Cooper’s flaming drama teacher and Christopher Meloni’s shell-shocked Vet turned camp cook. It’s the best camp movie ever because it is literally EVERY camp movie ever, chock full of all the tropes you can handle from the kid who won’t shower to the rag tag sports team beating the generically evil really good team. OK they didn’t actually beat them they just talked about it, which is almost the same thing right?

Best Line of the Summer: “You smell like a burger. I don’t like you anymore.”

THE SANDLOT (1993)

This movie has literally everything that was part of your best childhood summer: good friends, secret clubhouse, defying your parents, complicated plan or project to keep you out of trouble, confronting and befriending a terrifying local villain, sneaking illicit substances, intense competitions, carnival rides, first kiss (with or without coercion) and victory over a fierce rival. It’s like an entire summer in a bottle and it’s going to be entertaining FOR-EV-ER.

Best Line of the Summer: “You’re killing me Smalls!”

THE WACKNESS (2009)


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Not all summers are filled with crazy adventures, sometimes they’re just dull and quiet like life is the rest of the year.  Luke is a recent High School grad selling weed around New York for the summer to pay for college. He also trades it to Ben Kingsley for therapy, it’s a pretty sweet deal for both parties. It’s always surreal to see a Disney channel star do drugs and curse and have sex and all the normal things teenagers do in movies that you only notice if they happen to have been a child actor, but Josh Bell is pitch perfect as a disillusioned city kid dealing with his dysfunctional family and generally shitty summer. Of course he does get to lose his virginity in Fire Island, so it’s not all bad. Plus it’s statistically impossible to have an entirely bad time while The Fresh Prince and DJ jazzy Jeff are playing.

Best Line of the Summer: “In June I graduate. And then I go to my safety school. And then I get a little older. And then I die.”

DO THE RIGHT THING (1989)


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When you think summer it’s usually associated with bodies of water and shady woods, but lots of people can’t escape the asphalt jungle. This Spike Lee joint is unflinching in its discussion of the tough topics, namely racial tension and gross sweat production. Crime rates are known to rise with the temperature, well it’s the hottest day of the year in Brooklyn and you can tell by everyone’s constantly damp pits and dappled foreheads alone that the general discomfort is steadily growing.

Best Line of the Summer: “No. I’m just a struggling Black man trying to keep my dick hard in a cruel and harsh world.”

JAWS (1975)

It has to be included simply because Jaws changed summer forever. No longer was the ocean a safe and relaxing setting for a great summer outing, in fact ALL bodies of water became suspect. The beach scenes are eerie in their familiarity, it could be any one of us paddling out in the water, kicking our feet unsuspectingly as a monster lurks beneath ready to kill at any moment. That music starts to drift into your head and it’s not long before you’re screaming bloody murder about something touching your foot….even though it’s always just seaweed.

Best Line of the Summer: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”

THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955)

Most tales of summertime center on childhood adventures or teenagers coming of age, but Marilyn Monroe’s iconic upskirt film is all about what gets the adults sweaty. Seven Year Itch is about the season of the summer bachelor, men whose families go on vacation while they slave away in the hot city and try to get into the extramarital panties of single girls all around them. Tom Ewell plays a man determined to stay loyal to his wife but Marilyn Monroe wants to use him for his A/C…gee wiz what’s a guy to do?  It’s ridiculous and campy and really, really funny mainly due to Ewell’s neurotic ramblings and mastery of slapstick. Monroe does her best cooing and perching here too, she’s perfect as the girl who innocently says suggestive things and gets into all sorts of trouble…even though that’s totally not a type of girl who exists in real life.

Best Line of the Summer: “What happened at the office? Well, I shot Mr. Brady in the head, made violent love to Miss Morris and set fire to three hundred thousand copies of Little Women. That’s what happened at the office.’ What can happen at the office?”

THE ENDLESS SUMMER (1966)


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I mean duh, the poster alone has become the straight up icon of the season. It’s by far the most pleasurable documentary to watch; gorgeous scenes of waves crashing and beautiful people cavorting on the most exotic beaches around the world are set against super groovy jams and it’s all just very chill. This movie is also the reason all of your summer memories come back to you as if they’re appearing through a hazy 60’s filter. Science.

Best Line of the Summer: “The only way to avoid a wipeout is to take this wide, stink-bug stance. Spread your legs and hang on till your trunks rip, right up the back.” 

 **Amelia Steinmetz

 

 

PopFilter Podcast Episode 153

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This week on the PopFilter Podcast, the friends all discuss Braid’s latest album “No Coast”, Nymphomaniac Volume 1 and MASH the film. They also build a Mount Rushmore to recast Ghostbusters with the greatest comedic actors from 1985-1990! If that’s not enough for you, I don’t know what your fucking problem is. Seriously.

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!

TRAILER TRASH

TRAILER TRASH

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

TAMMY


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AKA: Melissa McCarthy and the Great Pigeonhole Caper

REVIEW: This movie isn’t great. McCarthy is charismatic and funny enough to inject some life into it, but at this point she (and the studios) have figured out the audience wants her to be loud and dumb like a lady Chris Farley. And she could be so much more than that, which glimmers through. But the script is so blargh and generic. But on a more important note– this is how you make a fucking trailer sooooooon (that’s a drawn out son, not a drawn out soon). Pick a scene that shows the tone of your movie, get in get out give nothing away. Boom. If there were awards for trailers this would be second to Guardians of the Galaxy, because come on have you seen that shit? It looks awesome. Only one month til Guardians Filterinos!

SPOILER: There’s a lot of jokes about her liking food. Like, I know you expect there to be a lot. But there’s just way more than you’d think. You’re still not imagining enough. More. More than that. You’re close.

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

EARTH TO ECHO


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AKA: ALIEN BEFRIENDS KIDS 9

REVIEW: Like a family friendlier Super 8, or like a modern day ET, Earth to Echo is like a modern day ET. A group of young kids befriend a cute alien robot who controls metal? And the government is after them? Coem for the hugs and tears, stay because movies are so damn expensive these days and it’d be a waste to walk out now.

SPOILER: Post-credits scene shows this is the first in an Avengers style meet up with Echo, Cloverfield and Mac from Mac & Me.

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

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY FROM YOURPOPFILTER.COM

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PopFilter Podcast Best of the Year! (So Far!(pt 2))

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That’s right, Filterinos! Here’s the second half of the thing you heard earlier! And this time, less farting and burping!!

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.

 

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The List!!

Best Songs of the 1990′s

Best Songs of 1997

Hey! Look who’s back! And talking! Too! That’s right, after a brief hiatus, The List is back to present you the very best songs of the year 1997. Why the absence, you ask? Well, 1997 happened to be a fucking spectacular year for music. This might be the most challenging year of the decade to pick through and separate the awesome from the totally awesome. But we did it. So I hope you’re fucking happy.

10. “Mo Money Mo Problems” by Notorious BIG

Let’s get super real for a second. This song has one of the catchiest hooks of any rap song AND it’s a pretty heady thing for a rapper to admit that more money lends itself to creating more strife. Unfortunately, the track sucks a fat dick until Biggie jumps on a shows everyone else in 1997 how to rap. He is the sole reason this track made the cut. RIP.

9. “Brick” by Ben Folds Five

Remember when things like abortion were too shocking a private to talk about? And doesn’t that sound like it’s probably the 50’s? Well, it wasn’t. It was 17 years ago, when the song “Brick” made everyone really sad and pensive. And while the shock value is a thing of the past, what remains is a gorgeously composed song with honesty to spare.

8. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day

Though many a graduating class was sent off into the sunset that is college with this song, it doesn’t deserve all of the shit it gets for being so saccharine. This is Billy Joe we’re talking about. This dude doesn’t write shit like this, and the first time he does, he knocks it out of the fucking park. It’s simple, it’s catchy and will go down in history as Green Day’s equivalent to the Beatles’ “Yesterday”.

7. “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve

Looking back, this may seem a bit like a novelty song with the way it was so furiously overplayed. If you can get past that, however, you will find a song that is bitter, sweet and symphonic. The song deals with the highs and lows of life against a backdrop of music that is so smartly produced you don’t even care that they’re trying to pull at your heartstrings every single second; and that is a feat worthy of praise.

6. “Stereo” by Pavement

If you missed out on Pavement, you can still go back and listen to their music. What you will find is a band that doesn’t give a fuck, has a completely unique style and makes exactly the kind of weird, eclectic music that it wants to. This song is a shining example of how well all of those particular traits can come together and make something amazing.

5. “Everlong” by The Foo Fighters

Aside from having one of the all-time greatest videos, this is an amazingly written, arranged and produced track. Dave Grohl always toes the line between growling and singing, somehow knowing exactly when the push the gas and when to pump the breaks. This song sees him in his prime doing it as well as anyone before or after. If it’s been a little while since you heard it, do yourself a favor and reacquaint yourself with “The Colour and The Shape”, You absolutely will not be sorry that you did.

4. “Dammit” by Blink 182

It’s easy to write this band off as a funny little punk band from San Diego. And while that is totally true, that’s not all they have to offer. With “Dammit”, Mark, Tom and Scott prove to the world that you can pine for the past, brace for the future and still play super duper fast. This song struck a major chord with the shared teenage experience of growing up and will speak to every generation for the same exact reason. Bravo.

3. “Karma Police” by Radiohead

“OK Computer” is not just a great album from 197 or even from the 1990’s. “OK Computer” is in the discussion for greatest album ever. That probably means that some of the songs are good, right? Right. And “Karma Police” is no exception. With a groove so mellow you might mistake it for boring, this track explodes with bitterness and disdain for a planet’s worth of strangers that need to have their lives kept in check. Add to that the best use of the chromatic scale in a piano riff of all time and you have one hell of a fucking track.

2. “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine” by Modest Mouse

I don’t know what else I can say about Modest Mouse and specifically any track off of “The Lonesome Crowded West”. This is transcendent, it’s brilliant and it’s perfectly composed. It’s powerful, coy and insane. It’s everything I want from a song and it also has Isaac Brock’s asinine delivery and rad vocal timbre. This is one for the record books.

1. “No Surprises” by Radiohead

Remember how I said “OK Computer” is one of the greatest albums ever? Well I wasn’t kidding. This song, the best of an incredibly rich field, is perfection. It never reaches the fever pitch that most Radiohead songs find themselves approaching, but the melody, rhythm and production of this track are beyond reproach. All of that would be enough, but to couple it with the most melancholy lyric sheet of all time, make this not just the best of the year, but one of the best songs ever written. Fuck, 1997 was a good year for some tunes.

 

And there you have it, folks. The infallible list has done it again. In fact, maybe I’ll change the name to The Infallibl;e List from here on out. If you have a problem with that, shoot me a line at jasonnoble@yourpopfilter.com. I assume none of you will email because you know how flawless my list is.
With Love,

Jason R. Noble

JUNE TV EXTRAVAGANZA

JENNIFER FALLS

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** (out of ****)

 

As we trudge forward into the brave new world that is present day television, the only thing we can rely on is the fact that we can’t rely on anything. The fact that we can essentially watch anything we want whenever we want is fairly commonplace now. Even the fact that genres don’t give a shit about how long their television episodes are supposed to be. This season of Orange is the New Black, an hour long show, was twice as funny as Louie, a thirty minute show. What the hell? And, despite all of that, both shows made it onto my top ten television shows of the year so far. Fine, television. Throw out every rule and tradition you’ve ever came up with in your storied history. But the one rule I know that I can always count on, no matter how much TV changes, is that three-camera sitcoms are terrible bullshit, as passe as the western or the variety show, and one-camera sitcoms will always be of a higher quality than their triple-headed brethren.

 

Jennifer Falls is a one-camera sitcom on TV Land. And just like that, another rule/tradition flies out of the window. Falls is created by Matthew Carlson, who wrote on shows like The Wonder Years and Malcolm in the Middle, apparently earning him a lifetime pass to create awful shows that fail (Townies, Camp Wilder, Samantha Who, Sons of Tucson, Mr. Sunshine). It stars Jaime Pressley, who wowed everyone for a few months during the first season of My Name is Earl that she too received a lifetime pass to get a starring role in a doomed show every year or so. They both belong to the Jerry O’Connell Hall of Fame. Anyway, Jennifer loses his job as a well paid something or other, and has to move back to her hometown and live with her mom. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the plot of over 50,000 sitcoms.

 

If turning this into a one-camera sitcom is an attempt to get all of the hippest sitcom watchers (including myself and that one kid Donny from up the street) to give it a try, it’s not going to work for more than it takes to get to the first commercial break. Turning something into a one-camera doesn’t automatically fill it with laughs and wit. It just removes a laugh track that would be useful here anyway, otherwise there’s no way to tell if there are jokes or not. Along with the one-camera format comes the confessionals, those always dependable asides that can include a joke or some forward movement on the narrative…or both! By the time shows like Parks and Recreation and Modern Family came out, we no longer needed a reason, like someone is shooting a documentary about these people, to justify the talking heads. Now that TV Land has thrown its hat into the one-camera ring, maybe this is a good time to readdress the situation. There is no way in hell that someone would be filming this chick and her life right now. There is not a single attempt to make the rest of the show look or feel like a documentary. And yet, there are still confessionals. There’s a good chance that these will be removed as the first season rolls along, and all of these things click in the showrunner’s head. But Jennifer Falls does represent a large moment in modern television history, revealing that the one-camera can be just as bad as the three- camera sitcom, and the days of the confessionals should officially be over.
Jennifer Falls continues TV Land’s trend of shows that will never be good, but are hard to hate because of how little they try. Maybe that’s unfair. Maybe they try to be bad, and in that case are very successful. But it’s a bad that still doesn’t necessarily scream lazy, like the Tyler Perry shows or Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management. It’s like eating your mom’s horrible meatloaf for the first time in 20 years. You know it sucks, but you kind of missed the way it sucks, and the feelings of nostalgia you get from it almost outweigh the fact that it also reminds you of wet dog shit. Not quite, but almost.

 

- Ryan Haley

Kerri Battles the AFI’s Top 100 – #93: The French Connection

 

This week’s selection was The French Connection, starring young Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider and ostensibly about some kind of crime involving France. At least, that’s about the extent of what I knew going in to my premier viewing. This is actually another film that I’d like to officially add to the list of Mythical Cryptofilmological Creatures — those movies that everyone name-drops for being amazing and earth-shattering, but no one has actually seen for themselves. Because of this, I didn’t have any kind of preconceived and potentially undeserved expectations I secretly thought it should meet. I was an objective viewer, so when I objectively viewed a guy get shot in the face at point blank range inside of the first 3 minutes, I objectively thought, “Oh. It’s going to be that kind of movie.” About an hour and 40 minutes after that, I objectively thought, “What in the ever-loving fuck did I just watch?” It was, objectively, NOT that kind of movie.

Let me explain the remaining 140 minutes or so just to keep you in the loop. Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider play narcotics officers and partners who have the most collars in the department mainly because it’s the 70s and, if they arrest anyone that’s alive in New York, they’re likely to get something that will stick, even if it’s just a bellboy with 3 joints in his sock. Drunk at a club one night, Gene Hackman’s character, POPEYE DOYLE, decides that a table of high rollers dropping $100 bills as tips is probably actually a table of drug dealers because he’s a literal narc, so of course they are. Popeye and his partner, Buddy Russo, tail one of these guys and, through a really mundane montage of stakeout and surveillance scenes, discover that, while this guy might be a meager shopkeep on paper, he actually has a French Connection to the supposed. This takes about 25 minutes. The next hour or so is spent watching Popeye and Buddy very conspicuously follow the shopkeep and “Frog #1″ as they do incredibly suspicious things like shop in New York and have expensive lunches. There is one very impressive chase scene and an apparent magic bullet that can kill people both in and behind its line of fire. Ultimately, the whole film wraps up with Popeye accidentally shooting an assisting fed and reacting to his mistake by reloading his revolver as the screen fades to black. It is only via text imposed over still photos like the epilogue of a Lifetime movie that we learn that Frog #1 succesfully escaped back to France to live the rest of his days in peace with his mountains of ill-gotten gains.

They lost me the first time someone called Gene Hackman “Popeye.”

The movie poster refers to The French Connection as “an out and out thriller.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but dubbing something a “thriller” usually implies some level of suspense. In fact, I think by definition, a thriller is supposed to leave you anxiously hovering on the edge of your seat. There is, in fact, nothing suspenseful about watching Gene Hackman stomp his feet in the cold and inspect the snot he just wiped from his nose while his mark enjoys a 4 course meal in the restaurant across the street. There is nothing suspenseful about a 15-minute long scene in which Gene Hackman and an aging police mechanic destructively dismantle a suspected “dirty” car piece by tedious piece in search of drugs they just can’t find until, hours in and with the owners trying to retrieve the vehicle from police impound, the aging mechanic mentions that he looked everywhere except what seems to be, in hindsight, the perfect place to smuggle drugs in a car.  In fact, the only suspense I felt during the entirety of this movie was when the car was released from impound to the French drug smugglers. At any moment, they were bound to notice that the driver’s seat was loose or that the carpeting had been torn to tatters when it was ripped up or that the upholstery had been sliced to bits. Spoiler alert! They didn’t notice a god damned thing.

Guys … the spent hours demolishing your car … and apparently minutes putting it back together … and you don’t notice ANYTHING a little off?

The movie poster also claims that Doyle is a good cop. I’d like to know how they’re defining “good cop” when making this claim because I think my definition may differ somewhat. Hackman’s character is a racist and brutal cop with little concern for “the book” or “procedure.” At one point, he and Sonny toss a bar for drugs and threaten its patrons in order to gain totally reliable information on their case. During this scene, Popeye takes a mix of all the drugs he’s confiscated, shakes them up in a tumbler with some beer, and, in the most menacing tone he can muster, offers everyone in the joint a milkshake while pouring the contents of the tumbler out on the bar. It is quite possibly one of the least intimidating displays I have ever witness. It’s probably meant to be scary and confusing but, really, all he succeeded in doing was ruining improperly collected evidence that never would have held up in trial anyway. Later, there’s a scene in the subway where it becomes apparent that Popeye has been made by Frog #1 and it’s no fucking wonder. Popeye has spent days standing conspicuously across the street from the man’s hotel, just staring, or conveniently and blatantly staring through the other side of a shop window at his mark. He even hops on and off a subway car in pursuit of The Frog without realizing that The Frog is blatantly mocking his bush-league attempts at subterfuge. All of this, of course, doesn’t even touch the fact that Popeye shot a fed in the chest 6 times and shot a fleeing suspect in the back in broad daylight at a crowded El station.

What the movie poster doesn’t tell you, though, is that the entire film was shot guerilla style with relatively cutting edge documentarian technology for 1971. It doesn’t tell you that there isn’t one paid extra in the film; everyone you see is just a regular New Yorker trying to go about their business.  It doesn’t tell you that the single most impressive scene in the movie — the scene in which Gene Hackman weaves a 70s muscle car in and out of aggressive traffic under a train trestle as he attempts to follow the El on its tracks — was shot by sticking Gene Hackman in a 70s muscle car and telling him to drive it in and out of aggressive traffic under this train trestle.  It doesn’t tell you that what we see in 2014 as amateur unsteady camera work was considered, in 1971, to be gritty and edgy. The movie poster also doesn’t tell you that The French Connection was a part of a film movement that was intentionally antithetical to the big-budget and carefully planned epics of the 50s and 60s. For that alone, it probably deserves the recognition of getting a spot on the AFI’s list. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it for regular viewing.  – KS

KICKSTARTER

That’s right folks, as the headline of this article subtly suggests, we have launched our very own YourPopFilter.com KickStarter!

Why you ask? Well, look around this site. Pretty great articles and podcasts right? But notice how your eyes want to vomit while looking at it all? We at the YPF Headquarters noticed that too. And we want to rectify that situation as fast as we are able, by building you Filterinos as better site. A stronger site. A site you can be proud to tell your friends you waste your work day at. Click on the link below and see the multitude of weird prizes we’re offering.

 

And yes, you better believe a night on the town with the PopFilterPodcast friends is one of the prizes. But don’t worry there’s stuff you’ll actually want too!

 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/popfilter/new-website-for-yourpopfiltercom

PopFilter Podcast Best of the Year! (So Far!)

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That’s right, Filterinos! The year is over halfway over and the friends want you to know the best that pop culture has given us this year. Enjoy part one, where the friends discuss the best in movies, tv and music! They also fart and burp and make fun of each other!!

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CountDown- TV’s Worst Couples

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Sometime’s a bad couple is an excellent source for drama and/or laughs on television. And sometimes couples are mashed together because the writers have no idea what to do. And yet even other times the couples who were planned from the very start to be together are awful for various reasons. This week’s CountDown is to honor all of those horrible TV couples.

 

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

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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.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION


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AKA: “I THINK WE JUST FOUND A TRANSFORMER!”

REVIEW: Not since, “I’ll Never Tell” (starring the late great Brittany Murphy, has a quote completely changed what the public calls a movie. You’d be hard pressed to find an averaged joe on the streets who knows the subtitle of the fourth installment of the Transformers franchise. Everyone just knows two things: 1-Mark Wahlberg declares he found a transformer (over taking “It’s the plants” as the most quotable Wahlberg line). 2-At some point dragon/dinosaur transformers show up, because of course they do. We’ve had enough of giant robots turning into vehicles, it’s so blasé at this point. Let’s get robo-animalistic. Because of those two thing (and Stanley Tucci chewing the shit out of his villainous role), this is the most fun of the transformer franchise. Resident Boy Scout Optimus Prime has to get dirty so his people don’t die, and a pissed-off robot is an awesome robot^. Kickback, choke down a bucket of popcorn and scream to your friends about how you just found a transformer. And if you don’t like this installment, worry not- we have a second Michael Bay movie coming at the end of summer.

SPOILER: At the end its revealed this is an alternative universe where Shia grew up into Marky Mark.

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

^Editor’s Note: All robots are evil robots who will kill us all. 

THEY CAME TOGETHER


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AKA: The Movie You’ll Be Telling Your Friends to Watch for Years But They Won’t Because They’re The Worst: Except the Friends Who Love It Just As Much As You 2

REVIEW: It’s impossible for me to review this movie sans baggage. It’s a group of people I love, who made one of my top 5 favorite movies 13 years ago, together again in a very similar fashion. Parodies are hard to do but Wain and Co know the balance between mocking the form and loving it, all the while shoving joke after joke in every nook and cranny. I recently rewatched Wet Hot American Summer after finally convincing my girlfriend to watch it for the first time (she enjoyed, so we’re still together), and boy howdy does it hold the fuck up. They Came Together is a sequel in spirit, and if you like things that are great, you’ll enjoy it. If not, stop reading this site dicknose.

SPOILER: No talking cans of soup :(

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

JUNE TV EXTRAVAGANZA

DOMINION

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** (out of ****)

 

For all intents and purposes, the pilot for Dominion seemingly hits all of its goals, assuming that its goals are to feel like one of those cheesedick sci-fi shows that would run in syndication on Saturdays when we were kids. At least, it feels like it hits its goals until you realize two things.

1) By definition, when we were kids, we were young, and when we were younger, we liked anything put in front of us.

2) From what I’ve heard, a lot of those shows coasted on a healthy amount of charm and a knowing sense of humor, making up for what they lacked in budget. Dominion did not catch that part.

 

When it came time to come up with a new original show, SyFy put the title of every movie released in the last decade into a hat and randomly drew Legion. For the 100 percent of you that don’t remember, Legion was a movie starring Paul Bettany as the angel Michael, who defends the Earth from God and his angels. Dominion takes place 25 years after the events of Legion. Humans have walled themselves in on the Vegas strip. Outside of the walls, angels AKA vampire/zombies/AllTVShowsAreTheSame roam wildly, ready to mindlessly kill whatever humans wander outside of the gate. On the good side, this show has a firmer grasp on  what the premise of The Walking Dead should have been: when monsters attack, humans will prove themselves to be the real monsters. Knowing that that should be their premise isn’t enough, however, when the show that’s built around premise is among the dumbest things ever made.
It’s probably not a matter of the Dominion showrunners wanting to produce a show about the politics of a post-apocalyptic city. In actuality, it’s cheap to film two people quietly talking about how their policies are the best, whereas filming humans and angels warring can be expensive. And, like I alluded to before, it’s not like they aren’t trying to write compelling drama. They just don’t seem very capable. This is where we run into a problem that we see all of the time on television. People who want to write a cheesy action show about the battle between angels and humans don’t want to spend time developing characters. People who can write eloquent, character driven, politically motivated teleplays don’t give a shit about angels. Dragons, maybe, but certainly not angels. And all of this perpetually mires SyFy on this third tier of basic cable, watching channels like Sundance and FX shoot past them. (After Fargo, FX might have just passed AMC as the premiere basic cable destination). But this is also the channel that gave us Sharknado, so maybe this was their plan all along. I know this seems like it shouldn’t matter. I know Dominion has a target audience that doesn’t enjoy people who need quality from this show. But these glaring holes never needed to be there, and filling them doesn’t just mean providing quality to an audience that doesn’t give a shit. It also means attempting to find that crossover audience that shows like Game of Thrones earned, and shows like The Walking Dead inexplicably get anyway.

 

- Ryan Haley

JUNE TV EXTRAVAGANZA

MURDER IN THE FIRST

Murder-in-the-First-TNT-poster-season-1-2014

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

 

It’s time to reveal my darkest secret: I used to be a reality TV watcher. It was never that hardcore (I’ve never seen a single episode of Survivor or The Bachelor), but I didn’t completely avoid it like I do now. I mostly dabbled in VH1 shows. I couldn’t get enough of the horrible people that starred in shows whose titles ended in “of Love.” Eventually I got tired, and realized there might be better ways to spend my TV watching time. The break wasn’t easy – I had developed a need to know what was happening to Hoops and New York – but I finally went cold turkey when I came up with a simple rule: don’t ever watch a first episode. If you start watching a show like that with the eighth episode, it’s hard to find a reason to care. The first episodes were always good at setting up the premise and giving each “character” a couple moments to introduce themselves, but the real selling point – the purest heroin of the reality world – is a moment at the end, just after a voiceover says “This season on People are Garbage”. I would watch, slack-jawed, trying to figure out how each of those moments would happen, and knowing that I couldn’t miss a single episode. No one moment or episode ever lived up to that thirty second montage. So, I just wouldn’t watch it.

 

Watching Murder in the First, TNT’s new drama reminded me of those halcyon days of Rocks and Flavas. What it lacks in hair-pulling and sea-vomiting, it makes up for in a need for you to not just watch the first episode, but for the first episode, and its requisite “This season on Murder in the First”, to do all of the heavy lifting for the rest of its inaugural run. If you are watching a TNT drama (of which they know much, I’ve been told) in June, you are not preparing for the Emmys. You are in fact hoping that the pilot of Murder in the First grabs you in such a way that you have removed an hour of boredom from your week for the rest of the summer. And Murder in the First does have a lot of the necessary ingredients:

 

  • reliable, if not huge, stars
  • easy to follow character development
  • MURDER!!!
  • a knowledge of police work that seems more gleaned from other police shows than it does from actual police.
  • TNT style Drama

All of these ingredients make it hard to hate. The fact that it’s totally unoriginal, and sometimes even boring, and full of exposition that takes way too long, and logic leaps by the detectives that are there to save some of the time the exposition already took up, makes it hard to like. But still, hard to hate. And Murder in the First’s gimmick is actually not bad, as far as gimmicks go. Forgoing the usual novelty of having its lead character have some sort of personality defect or brain thingy that essentially turns them into a superhero, Murder in the First will instead explore one murder for the entire first season. This is great, if the pilot hooks you, but it will kill the show if no one watches it or likes it. Much like I Love Money, my personal favorite VH1 show, no one will tune in if they’ve missed the first seven. I can’t recommend Murder in the First as quality TV, but if you were just going to spend the summer watching Law and Order reruns, you might as well watch a ten hour episode you’ve never seen before.

- Ryan Haley

PopFilter Podcast Episode 151

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It’s draft time, Filterinos! The three friends all discuss the never-before-understood process of developing a perfect spy team to take down a corrupt government or some shit. Anyway, if you listen closely, you might just hear a special guest. And it’s Daniel Tompkins. Spoiler alert.

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!

Kerri Battles the AFI’s Top 100 – #94: Pulp Fiction

1994 was a pretty big year in Hollywood. That was the year that all of your all-time favorite movies were released. It was the year that Andy Dufresne taught us all that hope will set us free. It was the year we all learned that life is like a box of chocolates. Brandon Lee came back from the dead. Brad Pitt was a tortured vampire with a heart of gold. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a secret agent married to Jamie Lee Curtis. Jim Carrey was possessed by a cartoon mask and driving cross-country with  his best friend to find his dream girl. There was that bus that couldn’t slow down, a gate of sorts that took people across the stars, and THERE WERE TWO CAPTAINS OF THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE IN THE SAME GOD DAMNED MOVIE! Throughout the year, each one of these movies had its moment of being the thing no one could seem to shut the fuck up about. Then October came, and with it, the wide release of Pulp Fiction. Almost immediately, it became the thing that no one would ever shut the fuck up about. Everything that came before it was nothing. Nothing! And with good reason, too.

The fact that you didn’t even remember that this was a respectable sci-fi movie before it was multiple shitty TV shows is merely a testament to Tarantino’s power.

Pulp Fiction is highly and impeccably stylized in this way that is both vibrant and filthy. It’s clever and uncomfortable and, really, just a little bit gross. It’s hard to follow but impossible to stop watching and, in the end, leaves behind the best kind of unanswered questions. It’s innovative and challenging and aesthetically significant and a laundry list of other pretentious adjectives of which places like the American Film Institute `are so very fond. But Pulp Fiction gave more than just itself to the world of movies. The AFI is going to tell you it’s a cinematic masterpiece that’s not to be missed. They’re going to focus on what they, as an audience, got out of Pulp Fiction rather than the gift we, the collective viewing public, received as a result of it. I prefer to look at it the other way around.

I will give you. One. Motherfucking. Hint

Samuel L. Jackson the person was a fairly successful actor before Pulp Fiction‘s immediate cult status. He probably would have continued along that trajectory without it, too. Thanks to it, though, we have all been blessed Samuel L. Jackson the badass motherfucking persona. If Sam Jackson had never played Jules Winnfield — or hadn’t played the ever-loving fuck out of the role the way that he did — the universe would have been altered and fandom as we know it would never exist. Mr. Jackson would probably never have gone on to be cast in a slew of roles that can best be described  as “men not to be fucking trifled with.” During these years, he also obviously discovered a latent connection with The Force, because he was able to use his Jedi Mind Trick on the feeble minded human-turtle hybrid, George Lucas. You see, Mr. Jackson was cast as the smoothest, coolest Jedi at the Academy simply because he mentioned off-hand in an interview that he would love to work with Lucas on a project.

And when have you ever seen a purple light saber before this??

With that nerd-cred level-up, Sam Jackson could have easily taken his power and become the tyranny of evil men. Instead, he chose to shepherd the weak through the valley and truly become his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. He was set to star in the unfettered turd with zero redeeming qualities, Snakes on a Plane. The internet as a whole cried out for justice and Samuel L. Jackson heard their pleas. He used his righteous might to force the studio to pay for reshoots on the already-wrapped flick, all for the sole purpose of capturing his voice uttering those fateful words: “GET THESE MOTHERFUCKING SNAKES OFF MY MOTHERFUCKING PLANE!” And thus, an accidental box office smash was born. And the people rejoiced.

Samuel L. Jackson was now, finally, powerful enough to do the unfathomable: to be cast as the notoriously badass and historically white Nick Fury without the internet burning down. Every couple of years, when the studios are ready to move on to a new comic book character,there are inevitably corresponding whispers that a character will be played by an actor with a different skin tone than the drawings. And every couple of years, fanboys from around the world clutch their  subtly racist pearls and gasp, “Won’t someone think of the children?!” Or, more accurately, “Spiderman can’t be black! Peter Parker has always been white! How dare you try to reboot comic book characters!” But not for Samuel L. When the fanboy community heard about this casting choice, it was more like, “Nick Fury can’t be bl– oh, Samuel L. Jackson? Ohhhh… Yeah, he could totally pull it off.” And, thanks to the unifying power of Mr. Jackson, the world of Hollywood has finally successfully portrayed a comic book badass well.

Cash Back Rewards on your bank card have never been fucking cooler.

I think we can all agree that Samuel L. Jackson makes anything look cool. Generally speaking, that’s an ability that some motherfuckers are just born with. But, in this case, it’s a gift that may have remained hidden from the world if it weren’t for the vision of an incredibly irritating and creepy video store clerk who turned out to be a cinematic genius. It’s almost as though there were some kind of divine intervention for the greater good of all humankind’s future entertainment. For that impact on society alone, Pulp Fiction should earn a spot on the AFI’s Top 100. Everything else — the cinematography, the soundtrack, the editing, the unexpected revitalization of John Travolta’s career — is just icing on the cake. — KS

MAY TV EXTRAVAGANZA – THE LOST EPISODES

CROSSBONES

crossbones

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

John Malkovich plays Blackbeard.

 

That’s the first sentence you have to consider when deciding whether or not to watch Crossbones. In the other corner, facing off against that sentence, is this one: It’s about other pirates played by other actors, it’s on NBC, and its premiere is in June, which isn’t really where networks dump their most prized of possessions. Suddenly you start thinking that you’re not exactly a Malkovich completist, and some other weird role will come along in the future to give you your fix. It’s a good call, and a safe bet, but let’s see if Crossbones has anything else to offer besides Malkatraz.

 

“There’s PIRATES!” probably isn’t enough of a premise for a TV show in this day and age, even for an NBC summer show. Crossbones (which has a title generic enough to not expect much more than that premise) takes place on an island ruled by Blackbeard in his later days, as there is no longer a beard and none of his body hair is black. England is trying to come up with some sort of device that will make it easier to dominate the seas, and everyone else is trying to steal it, deflating their dictatorship. When our story begins, Tom, aka Jeff from Coupling (I shit you not) winds up on Blackbeard Island, running around and trying to keep his oath to the king and keep this device out of Blackbeard’s hands. Tom is one of those annoying farts, like Beast from the X-Men, who refuses to say in three words what he could say in thirty (to be fair, Blackbeard is like this too, but Blackbeard is played by Malkovich, and Tom is not). So, our two leads frolic across the island, becoming the best of frenemies in an attempt to make their need to kill each other as fun as possible.

 

The question here isn’t whether Malkovich is good or bad. He’s not bad, but I wouldn’t say “good” is the right word, either. Awesome is a word you could use. Malkovichian is another. This is not a performance that wins Emmys, but nobody cares. It’s the kind of performance that treats throwaway lines like Patton delivers motivational speeches. It’s the kind of performance that features an accent that changes depending on the need of the scene or the dialogue, which is something that Malkovich and few others can pull off. It’s fun, and when Malkovich and Jeff from Coupling are having their wordy word wars, the show is one hundred percent watchable. But this is modern TV, where everything has to attempt to be great, even if the showrunners really don’t have the skills or desire necessary. This show obviously could have benefit from a heavy dose of unreality from Sleepy Hollow, trading in credibility for whackadoo. And honestly, what person who would watch a summer NBC pirate show would rather have awards bait than stupid popcorny fun? No one, that’s who.
I haven’t brought myself to Chanalyze NBC yet, because I have a low torture tolerance, but maybe the Crossbones we wanted – nay, NEEDED – should be NBC’s new M.O. Fuck awards. They’re too hard to get and worth too damn little when you finally do get them. You don’t have to become the The Asylum, you just have to focus on fun a little more. Crossbones would have been a lot more fun if was just a little more fun. Put that quote on a fucking poster, shitheads.

- Ryan Haley

CountDown: Saga

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This week’s CountDown is in fact, not a count down of anything at all. It’s part of a very special new occasional series we here at PopFilter uncomfortably refer to as PopRape. This of course, for new listeners to the show, is where we make one or two of the hosts consume some sort of media they’ve never had before. In today’s episode, Mike and Ryan forced Jason to read as much Saga as he could take. The results follow.     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!