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Pop Culture Happy Hour

Author: NPR

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Pop Culture Happy Hour is a fun and freewheeling chat about the latest movies, television, books, and music.
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Once upon a time, a man named John Wick retired from his successful career as an assassin. But then he returned to it. And across what's now a three-film series, he's been having a heck of a week ever since. In the third film, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Wick, played by Keanu Reeves, is on the run from foes and former friends alike. This episode originally aired on May 17, 2019.
Let's cut to the chase: the Hamilton film has arrived, and it's great. Four years after Lin-Manuel Miranda's show won 11 Tony Awards, you can watch an original Broadway cast performance at home. The film is now available on Disney+. It's a chance to see already legendary performances from Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom Jr., and Phillipa Soo, among others, and to see how this sweeping historical story was staged.
Close watchers of smart television know Michaela Coel from Chewing Gum, the acclaimed comedy series she created and starred in. Her new show on HBO is called I May Destroy You. It's just as strong, but finds her going in an entirely new direction. Coel plays Arabella, a writer whose life changes one night while she's sexually assaulted at a nightclub. She is missing pieces of her memory, and as she tries to figure out what happened, the show fans out to consider other questions about sexual ethics and honesty. Plus, we remember comedy legend Carl Reiner, who died this week at 98.
In Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods, four Black war veterans return to Vietnam. They're there to retrieve the remains of a fellow soldier, who died on the battlefield. They're also after millions of dollars' worth of gold bars they'd hidden during the war. Da 5 Bloods was supposed to roll out in theaters this summer; instead, it dropped on Netflix earlier this month. But it's still a major Oscar contender — a war epic that's grand in scope, with generational scars that run deep.
Giancarlo Esposito has appeared in dozens of TV shows and movies — from several of Spike Lee's early films, to his role as Gus Fring on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. In this interview from Bullseye, Esposito talks about the complexity of his characters, his time on The Electric Company and his work on Do the Right Thing. Plus, we talk to him about a very difficult time in his life and working through the trauma of racial profiling.
In 2017, the #MeToo movement brought to light accusations of sexual abuse and misconduct against powerful people in entertainment. Most of the women whose allegations received detailed media consideration were white, and so were most of the men they accused. But late that year, a number of women, several of them black women, alleged sexual assault and other misconduct by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. Simmons is the enormously powerful man behind Def Jam. The new HBO Max documentary On The Record tells the stories of some of Russell Simmons' accusers. It includes interviews with a lot of black women about specific worries and conflicted feelings that arise when black women raise allegations against black men.
In The King Of Staten Island, comedian Pete Davidson plays a wayward stoner whose life isn't going anywhere. He still lives with his mom, he doesn't have a job, and his plans for his life involve a vague — and foolish — plan to open "a tattoo restaurant." The film is directed by Judd Apatow, who also made Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Trainwreck. Apatow's movies often involve a protagonist who faces some sort of need to grow up, and The King Of Staten Island may feature the biggest reclamation project yet: Davidson's character barely functions as an adult, and through much of the film, we see a manchild with a lot of growing up to do.
The new Apple TV+ series Central Park is an animated musical with a lot of interesting DNA. It shares creative and performing talent with Bob's Burgers, Frozen, and Hamilton, among other projects. The show follows the manager of New York's Central Park, who tries to keep the park safe from trash overflows, a demanding public, and city politics.
Sales are surging for books like Ibram X. Kendi's 'How To Be Anti-Racist,' Robin DiAngelo's 'White Fragility,' and Michelle Alexander's 'The New Jim Crow.' That's in part because these titles often appear on so-called "anti-racist reading lists." But what is an anti-racist reading list for? We talk with Lauren Michele Jackson, an Assistant Professor of English at Northwestern University, and the author of 'White Negroes,' about the limitations of such lists — which she wrote about in an essay called "What Is an Anti-Racist Reading List For?" for Vulture.
Right now, many of us are thinking about the ways we can start to address the shortfalls in our own knowledge that have grown out of structural racism in every part of life, entertainment very much included. And if you're looking for one place to start, we want to point you toward Slate's Black Film Canon. Four years ago, Slate published a list of 50 great films by black directors. It was put together by Dan Kois and Aisha Harris in 2016, and Aisha came on Pop Culture Happy Hour to talk about it with us. (This episode originally aired on June 7, 2016.)
It surprised a lot of people when Ramy Youssef won a Golden Globe in January. But it shouldn't have. His show, the half-hour comedy-drama Ramy on Hulu, is a smart, fresh take on a young man navigating family and his Muslim faith. Ramy recently released its second season, and it's added Mahershala Ali to its cast. The result is a show that's well deserving of that Globe, and more.
You may not have needed another streaming service, but last week, one came along anyway. It's HBO Max, and it's part HBO, part Warner Brothers — and yes, it's where you can now stream all the episodes of Friends. They've put out a modest slate of original programming as well, and it's safe to say some of their new shows are better than others. Is it worth your while? Good question. We run down what's new on HBO Max and what you might find in its deep library.
There have been countless movies about real and fictional musicians. And in the new movie The High Note, Tracee Ellis Ross plays the fictional legendary singer Grace Davis. Dakota Johnson plays Maggie, an aspiring record producer and Grace's personal assistant. The two women have to figure out everything from whether Maggie has a future in the music industry to whether Grace should take a residency in Vegas.
Last year we talked about the movie Booksmart, and we really, really liked it. It's about two young women about to graduate from high school who spend one last night trying to catch up on everything they missed. Starring Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, it's the directing debut of actress Olivia Wilde. The comedy came out last summer — and it's currently streaming on Hulu and available to rent on demand. And because so many students are wrapping up their school year and graduating, we thought, what better time to look back at this terrific movie? (This episode originally aired on May 31, 2019.)
This is not a normal summer movie season. Theaters are closed, big projects are delayed, and we're missing the flood of new films that would usually have already started. But you don't have to go without movies. That's because even if you see a lot, you miss even more. We do too, and that's what we're talking about today: some recent films we missed that are well worth your time. Plus, we remember the lives and work of Fred Willard and Lynn Shelton.
Hulu's new series The Great bills itself as "An Occasionally True Story." And it's a big story: a sweeping epic about Russia in the 1700s, full of palace intrigue, sex and violence, and the rise of Catherine the Great. Elle Fanning plays Catherine, and Nicholas Hoult also stars as the sociopathic emperor Peter. The show shares a lot of thematic DNA with the 2018 film The Favourite -- it was created by one of the film's screenwriters, Tony McNamara. And it's more than willing to scramble history in the service of a good story.
Twenty years ago, before the Harry Potter movies or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the movie landscape looked really different. Take a look back at some of the movies that came out in 2000 and why we think they're still relevant today.
The new comedy Never Have I Ever is a great binge from Netflix. It might remind you of a lot of warm and funny shows about navigating high school. Its hero is an Indian-American girl named Devi. She is juggling her friends, the boys she's interested in, and plenty of drama at home. One of the creators is Mindy Kaling, who gives the show some of the same energy she put into The Mindy Project. Devi is a little confused, a little selfish, and very consumed by her dreams of romance
When a popular book becomes a television series, the stakes are high. Sally Rooney's novel Normal People is no exception, and the very good Hulu adaptation has finally arrived. The new series tells the story of Marianne and Connell, who go to high school together in Ireland. We follow the couple for a few years as they drift toward adulthood, sometimes apart and sometimes together. And while the show features other characters like their mothers and friends, it's mostly a study of Marianne and Connell and how their relationship shifts.
Derry Girls might remind you of a lot of warm and funny shows about high school. It has the group of loyal friends, the adventures and humiliations, and the slow progress toward adulthood. But these kids are taking on these challenges in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. It's a time when an ordinary day can be interrupted by everything from an encounter with soldiers to breaking news of violence. Still, high school rolls on, and high school students do too.
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Comments (51)

Jason L

This episode is outstanding, so-oooo good!

Mar 7th
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Jason Salvo

Did... did you seriously have an ad from Hulu, highlighting their reality tv programming, on an episode discussing a Netflix reality show? WTF is wrong with your marketing department?

Mar 1st
Reply (1)

Akwasi Opoku-Dakwa

if you plan to see the movie, this has spoilers.

Feb 11th
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Studio 2053 Bisbee

I freaking loved it!

Feb 10th
Reply

Fati Ma

a crappy movie

Jan 29th
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Presantha Pillay

I am a mum and I was freaked out by breast milk. Most people don't fall off to sleep in each others arms ...as it is an intimate act regardless of sexual orientation...its a comedy...that's why people loved Friends...its honest. People are not perfect.

Jan 9th
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Gene Kang

it's not horror so she doesn't like it. wtf??? you're a film critic? yeah I stopped listening.

Oct 29th
Reply (1)

Darian Brown

Nope.

Oct 11th
Reply

Joshua Woods

Matt Damon in Talented Mr.Ripley was so creepy and excellent. loved his performance.

Sep 19th
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Oscar Munoz

Great Episode!

Sep 5th
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Karen Harkness

I love this show! Thanks for your review. Based on what was said I gave it a try.

May 19th
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Angela Howard-Gibbs

Octavia Spencer in MA can't wait to see female African-American lead a Horror Flick!

May 4th
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Presantha Pillay

I hated unicorn star... The character was so self absorbed and spoilt.

Apr 9th
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Thomas Albert

With the entire panel serenading the show RUSSIAN DOLL, some even saying they'd re-watched episodes, I approached with enthusiasm. Alas, the best thing about it IS Natasha Lyonne who does nice things but does not really add much further dimension or surprise to a familiar character. The "Groundhog Day" conceit is there to add some spice from a "making a show" perspective, but didn't add much to me. Here is another case of fair to middling television spiced-up with cuss language and adult situations/talk. I lasted halfway thru the 2nd episode.

Mar 5th
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Ilya Zverev

This movie is captivating and I was very happy the hosts shared this feeling.

Feb 25th
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Bill Thiemann

One thing I really appreciated was that they did not have the presenters engage in the usual lame banter and jokes. Also for many of the awards there was a short video clip saying the names and details about the nominees. It seems as if they correctly decided to minimize the duties of the presenters- and that made to show much more watchable.

Feb 12th
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Presantha Pillay

Kasey Musgrave has such a weak voice.

Feb 11th
Reply

musicworm

OMG I almost exited out at the end and missed the song! 😂

Feb 4th
Reply

Presantha Pillay

Can't we just enjoy the movie.... I loved it!

Feb 1st
Reply

Presantha Pillay

Brooklyn nine nine... Is overrated

Jan 23rd
Reply
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