The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Wonder Woman

We weren’t sure if we were going to do a Wonder Woman podcast because we cover so many comics-related movies so often, but then Wonder Woman came out and became a phenomenon and suddenly it seemed pretty lame to have podcasts on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad and not the first of these DCU movies that everyone loves. Plus, we had a genuine superhero novice in the form of Sara, who never sees this stuff, so she and Marisa and Jesse and Nathaniel sat down to talk about our Wonder Woman experiences: How it’s different from other superhero movies, how it’s similar, and what it means to the larger audience that’s obviously connecting with it.

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Let’s Talk About Pirates of the Caribbean 5

Jesse and Nathaniel saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. We were the only people in our social circle to do so, as far as we knew. So let’s talk about it!

JESSE:
So I think it’s fair to say when a movie series makes it to part five, and it’s not something like Fast & Furious where it inexplicably gets way, way better the fifth time around, a natural question becomes: Why are we still doing this? I’m not saying the movie has to answer this, necessarily, because usually the answer is some combination of “$” and “$$$” and as the person who paid money to see Underworld: Blood Wars earlier this year, I’m not one to talk about pointless fifth installments. But I think that is a sentiment you’ll see a lot even as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales makes a ton of money (some in this country; more in other countries). I’m sure lots of people will ask, semi-rhetorically, are there really any hardcore Pirates movie fans left? Were there ever that many to begin with, or did people just really hope that the sequels would be as good as Black Pearl? Which brings me to you, Nathaniel. You are easily the biggest fan of this series that I know. You were the only person I considered bringing with me to the screening last week. So what are you, a pretty big Pirates of the Caribbean fan, looking for another sequel? And did Dead Men get the job done?

NATHANIEL:
You’re right! I’m the Pirates of the Caribbean fan that you know! I mean sure, everybody likes the ride and the first movie, and I do too. But I love those first three Gore Verbinski-directed (and Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio-written) Pirates movies on a par with all the other stuff I’m always getting excited and going on about. I’ve even seen the fourth movie, On Stranger Tides, more than once! (It was definitely a disappointing comedown after the first three, but I still kinda like it.) So I was excited to see this new one, but your question about what I’m looking for in a sequel still gave me pause. Because I think there’s a conventional wisdom that, after the first movie, Disney has squandered a series that should have been easy to sequelize (with a notion of discrete Indiana Jones-style installments following Jack Sparrow on new adventures), first converting it into a dense fantasy trilogy and then producing a standalone Jack Sparrow caper that few seem to have liked. So I’d contend that (even aside from how hard it is to make a crowd-pleasing movie like this in the first place) it’s not as easy to create a satisfying sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean as one might think.
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The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Alien Series

The Alien series has become, against some odds, one of cinema’s most enduring sagas, even as several of its best and most famous installments very much resist the temptation to tease out plans for sequels. With the eighth Alien-featuring film and second prequel to original Alien, Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, just out in theaters, we gathered together a bunch of Alien fans to talk about every single movie in the franchise in one way or another, even the ones with the Predators. Join Marisa, Jesse, Nathaniel, Sara, and Jon as we discuss:

  • Our franchise faves
  • What’s up with Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien series
  • Other filmmakers who might be up to the task
  • What we thought of Alien: Covenant
  • How many Michael Fassbenders is… still not enough Fassbenders
  • The gross Frenchness of Alien: Resurrection
  • Whether going into hypersleep is always a bad idea
  • Seriously, the ones with the Predators
  • And more!
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    40 Things You Didn’t Know About Alien 3

    40 Things You Didn’t Know About Alien 3

    1. Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of Alien 3. It came out on May 22, 1992.

    2. Alien 3 was directed by David Fincher, who went on to make no fewer than three movies about serial killers: Seven, Zodiac, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The unstoppable killing machine of Alien 3 must have been good practice!

    3. Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of me going to see Alien 3 with my dad when I was eleven and a half.
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    The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Riverdale!

    If you’re anything like us, it seems like everyone you know is watching Riverdale, this spring’s CW-aired reimagining of the classic Archie Comics characters. Marisa, real-life Archie doppelganger Nathaniel (seriously, you should see him in his Riverdale High t-shirt), Jesse, and YA expert Maggie all watched Season 1, including the recent season finale, then got together to discuss the show: as the teen soap du jour, as an adaptation of Archie Comics, and how it compares to the 2001 feature film Josie and the Pussycats. We talk about Archie! Jughead! Betty! Veronica! Plus even Reggie! And all the boring adults! Join us as we examine Riverdale Season 1 from all kinds of angles, from deep Archie fandom (Nathaniel) to YA fiction to thinking this version of Archie Andrews is very, very stupid (Marisa and Jesse).

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    Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Soundtrack: I Still Feel the Same (Anti!)

    I know this is going to make me sound like a crotchety old lady who can’t lighten up and have fun, but we need to talk about the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 soundtrack. After the first movie blew up and its playlist hit the top of the Billboard charts, I ranted against the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 soundtrack. As time passed, I worried that, by calling the songs overdone and overplayed, I might have been missing the point. Maybe they were supposed to be like that? In college, when it would get nice out and everyone would sit outside on blankets on the lawn with tiny radios to play music, my friends and I started piecing together what we called The Generic Mix Tape, with those decade-agnostic tracks that transcend musical taste, like “Sweet Home Alabama” or “The Hurricane.” Maybe I’d overlooked some subtle nuance, and director James Gunn had been commenting on those kinds of songs with his Guardians needle drops.

    Enter Vol. 2. Nope, I was right the first time. (Warning: The rest contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.)

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    The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The Fate of the Furious, and of Movie Stars

    The Fate of the Furious, the eighth movie in the unkillable Fast and Furious franchise, is in theaters now, while reports about conflict between two of the franchise’s biggest stars, Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, are appearing in gossip rags everywhere. The prominence of Johnson and Diesel in this particular mega-franchise got us thinking about the supposed death of the movie star, and whether audiences really have gotten over that star-driven model of moviegoing. So Marisa, Jesse, and Nathaniel got together to talk over both the new Fast and Furious movie and the state of the American movie star in general. It’s your best bet for quality Vin Diesel analysis, and we touch upon other stars, too, including the controversy (?) over Anne Hathaway, the comeback (?!) of Nicole Kidman, and the enduring strength of Denzel Washington. Also, Jesse makes everyone talk about Adam Sandler for a bit, obviously. Something for everyone!

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    The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: The End of Girls

    Lena Dunham’s divisive thinkpiece magnet Girls ended its six-season HBO run on Sunday, to a renewed frenzy of media attention. Several of SportsAlcohol.com’s regular podcasters have watched the entire series as it aired, so Marisa, Sara, Nathaniel, and Jesse got together to watch the finale and discuss the show. Our conversation touches upon issues such as:

    • Friendship
    • Every major character, and why it might be reductive to call any of them “the worst”
    • But seriously, why does Jesse like Marnie so much?
    • The series as a whole and how it ended
    • Storylines we didn’t fall in love with
    • What was realistic… and what wasn’t, especially if you know anything about writing workshops
    • What this TV show did that other shows haven’t really done before
    • Something something problematic

    Basically, this episode is a must for any Girls fans still mourning the loss of their favorite show — or, for that matter, for any hatewatchers wishing someone could tell you what the fuss was about.

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    The Top Ten Best Girls Episodes

    The editorial core of SportsAlcohol.com is full of love for Girls, Lena Dunham’s half-hour dramedy series that just last night ended its final season on HBO. We’ll have a podcast up this week discussing the full scope of the show, from its characters to its style to the cultural conversations it inspired, but first I wanted to put together a very personal list of my ten favorite episodes of this show – my favorite show on the air, until last night (because it ceased to be on the air, not because the finale let me down). Let us know what I overlooked in the comments. Actually, I’ll let you know right now that I was sad not to include “Dead Inside” (Season 3), “Goodbye Tour” (Season 6), “Home Birth” (Season 4), “Video Games” (Season 2), and “Vagina Panic” (Season 1), among others.
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    T2 Trainspotting, Legion, and the Line Between Style and Something Else

    Since the release of T2 Trainspotting, we’ve been exploring the work of Danny Boyle. In our conversations here, as well as elsewhere in other corners of the internet that pay as much attention to the director as we do, the question has come up of just how much of a journeyman director Boyle is. We go more in depth in our Danny Boyle podcast, but it seems like he has a lot of the hallmarks of your typical director-for-hire. He works fast, and often, and in a lot of different genres. But then there’s the question of his style—with lots of flashy, music-video touches—and whether that counts for or against him in the general artistic scheme of things.

    To me, Boyle has always been something more than a journeyman. That’s because, for all of his directorial flourishes, he always makes me feel something. T2 is essentially a get-rich-quick-scheme movie, but it really got the feeling of getting older, and the (sometimes misguided) nostalgia of what it’s like to think back on your younger years and the doors you’ve shut behind you as you age—along with the ways that younger people (mostly Veronika) feel so untouched by that kind of regret.

    Even the showier parts of the first Trainspotting hit me on some sort of emotional level, even if it’s for a quick laugh (“the worst toilet in Scotland”). I’ve never done heroin, but I got it when I saw Renton sink into the floor to the calm, dulcet tones of Lou Reed.

    I know that being able to hit the emotion button might not actually be the line between journeyman and auteur, but I was thinking about Boyle when I was watching another style-rich bit of media: FX’s Legion.  I quite enjoyed Legion.  Like everyone else, I liked the vibe, the sort of future-as-imagined-in-the-mango-and-avocado-colored-1970s look to everything. There were groovy astral planes and out-of-nowhere dance sequences and one beyond-amazing performance by Aubrey Plaza that really went for it.

    But, as much as I appreciated it, at the same time it didn’t make me feel anything. The kitchen explodes around David’s head, and, yeah, it looked cool. (They must’ve thought so, too, because they show that moment a million times in a million different ways.) They break out into Bollywood or Bond-ian song or dance, and, yeah, it was neat. But nothing really made me stop dead in my tracks and say, “Oh, damn!” In a show that, in the parlance of Buster, really gets off on being withholding, when the season was over there was no revelation as startling as the big reveal in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. After the credits roll, I thought, “Oh, this is what people feel when they accuse my favorite directors of being all style with nothing going on underneath.”
    Did I feel any differently about David’s character at the end of the season than I did at the beginning? Not really. I understood more what his deal was—after all, every character explained what his deal was to every other character, over and over—but I wish it was more deeply felt. There was one intriguing moment when he looks over at Lenny and says, “Who am I without you?” It could’ve been really powerful, but it was tossed off in favor of more mutant/D3 conflict I didn’t really care about. Even the central romance happened so quickly, I didn’t really believe at first that Syd’s intentions were genuine. I could go for a big, swoony mutant romance, but I just didn’t feel it, and all the pristine, mid-century-modern white rooms in the world couldn’t get me to buy into it 100%.

    Legion by FX 1×01 Scene : David Dream / Dance (Serge Gainsbourg) from Chromatic BloodBloodBlood on Vimeo.

    And let’s go back to those dance sequences as an example. Legion showrunner Noah Hawley told Vulture that the musical number in the first episode of Legion (above) was supposed to signal how David and Syd are kicking off their big romance. (“What signals falling in love?” he told the website. “Well, it makes you want to sing and dance!”) And yet watching it, I don’t feel swept away. I feel analyzing the depths of David’s mental illness. I feel nothing from Syd. Boyle has a departing-reality-and-falling-in-love musical number, too. It’s in A Life Less Ordinary, one of his worst movies. In our podcast, we talked about how the musical number itself is hampered by the fact that Cameron Diaz can’t sing. And yet, despite all of its flaws, I can feel the love. I’m charmed in some way. It’s a fantasy, but it’s not a fever dream. (Sadly, it is not online, but if I were Diaz, I’d make sure it stayed off Vevo, too. If you’re really curious, fast-forward to the one-hour mark here, but you have to play it at 1.25 speed to get it right. Or just ask Jesse to watch it with you.)

    Then again, I’ve always had my problems with Noah Hawley. There’s just something that’s so not fun about him. I was really into the first season of Fargo, but the second season really fell off this cliff into slow-moving ponderousness that sucked all the air out of the series. (But, ugh, I’m back on board for S3, because he’s borrowing Boyle’s ace-in-the-hole Marisa-bait, Ewan McGregor.) If Boyle could squeeze in a silly anti-Catholic karaoke-heist scene into his meditation on middle age, couldn’t Hawley have breathed a little bit more life into his no-touching romance? Get a bit of the old Pushing Daisies spirit in there?

    I know that Legion comes with its own backlash insurance, where you can’t really watch an individual episode and think, “Well, that was a lot of nothing,” because it’s all a big slow-burn puzzle, right, and you have to see it through to the end to find out if you liked the previous episodes. Now that I’ve watched it through to the end (and enjoyed quite a bit of it despite my griping), I can say that it did not all build to one amazing ending that made every head-scratching moment worthwhile. (It’s weird that the show can make an ice-cube-man in an astral plane make sense, but it’s not clear why Melanie won’t let David go rescue his sister. I also remember one episode where Jesse was all, “Wait, why are they all camping in a forest?”) So I know not everyone shares my impatience with Hawley, but these types of cul-de-sacs and re-reveals hit my personal pet peeve button of having episodes that always run long, even when there’s not really enough meat in them to justify it. For that matter, when it ended, Jesse was like, “I think I would’ve gotten just as much out of this if it was a two-hour X-Men movie,” and I don’t really disagree.

    In that way, Legion has a lot in common with a show I like very much, but don’t love: Mr. Robot. It also indulges in long episodes,  when I think cutting them would make them stronger. It also has a heightened style that distinguishes it from anything else on TV. Both shows have a certain emotional remove. And, most importantly, both shows are both smart, but seem to think that they’re genius.

    It’s personally frustrating to me, because if these shows focused less on the smart and more on the heart, I could see them joining my very favorite things ever. Until then, I’m glad I have Danny Boyle movies to remind me that heightened style isn’t always so empty and cold.