Discover more from Pop Culture Brain Daily
And this isn't the end of Holland's Spidey
What to know
Stephen Sondheim has died at 91… About an hour after the Friday newsletter went out, we go the Earth-shattering news that Sondheim had passed away. A lot has already been said and written about this legend of American popular culture, but I will just add a sentiment I saw from a friend on social media, “how lucky are we to have been alive at the same time as as Stephen Sondheim.” Some Sondheim follow up stories and links I found interesting: The Broadway community gathered to sing “Sunday” in Times Square in tribute; Sondheim rewrote his own dialogue for the answering machine message in tick, tick… BOOM!; and did you know Sondheim co-wrote a neo-noir film with Tony Perkins based on a murder mystery parlor game he invented? 🎶
Amy Pascal says another Spider-Man trilogy with Tom Holland is coming… Recent quotes have made it seem like No Way Home is the end for Holland’s Peter Parker (at least in the MCU), but now Sony brass Amy Pascal is promising more. “This is not the last movie that we are going to make with Marvel – [this is not] the last Spider-Man movie,” Pascal told Fandango. “We are getting ready to make the next Spider-Man movie with Tom Holland and Marvel, it just isn’t part of… we’re thinking of this as three films, and now we’re going to go onto the next three. This is not the last of our MCU movies.” I wonder what she meant by “it just isn’t part of…” She seems to be censoring herself in some way there, right? 🕸
Adam McKay says Will Ferrell is no longer speaking to him… In a recent interview, Ferrell had said that he and McKay split up because of diverting business interests, but now McKay has revealed things are more personal and that he blames himself. McKay apparently recast Ferrell with John C. Reilly in the upcoming ‘80s Lakers HBO series and didn’t go about telling Ferrell in the most professional way. McKay admits he “f*cked up” but that his emails to Ferrell has since gone unanswered. Considering how close of collaborators these two were for decades, this news is a huge bummer. 💔
Lin-Manuel Miranda says putting Hamilton on Disney+ amplified demand for the show… Interesting insight here that echoes how Warner Media was seeing movies perform highly in theaters AND on HBO Max. But I wonder if this has to do with Hamilton already being a hot ticket — and would like to see if the same is true for Come From Away or Diana for example. 🎭
Channing Tatum and Steven Soderbergh returning for Magic Mike’s Last Dance at HBO Max… Get ready to ride the pony, one last time 🐴
Study says movie theaters can get people back with lower prices and vaccine mandates… I doubt the latter will happen, but the first would be nice 💸
Miley Cyrus and Pete Davidson to host NBC New Year’s Eve special… sounds chaotic 🎉
For more pop culture news, discussion, and what-to-watch recommendations subscribe to my pals over on the Kickball Friends podcast. 🎙
What’s new this week:
The Power of the Dog — Dec. 1 Netflix drama film | 🍅 95%
Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas — Dec. 1 Roku Channel musical film | 🍅
Annie: Live! — Dec. 2 NBC live musical | 🍅
A Clüsterfünke Christmas — Dec 4 Comedy Central comedy film
What to watch:
King Richard, now in theaters and on HBO Max, is a touching and fulfilling family sports movie. The word family is pulling double duty in this sense in that it’s a perfect movie to watch with your family but it’s also quite specifically about a family. Some have criticized King Richard for centering the story of two groundbreaking women athletes (Venus and Serena Williams) around a man (their father Richard Williams). While the movie is called King Richard and includes an award-worthy and understated turn from megastar Will Smith in the titular role, the picture is undoubtedly about the entire Williams family and how they were each integral to the success of Venus and Serena.
In fact the movie hinges around three scenes in which not a single tennis ball is flying — each one about family, trust, hope, and power. The first is between Richard and family matriarch Oracene (Aunjanue Ellis) in their Florida kitchen. Ellis brings a secret fastball, going toe-to-toe with Smith to illuminate Oracene’s secret power and expose Richard’s flaws. It pops off the screen with as much force as an ace serve. The second is a hotel room negotiation just before Venus’s big debut in which Richard finally cedes real control to his daughter. (Shout out Rich Sommer) And the final noteworthy scene is a heartbreaking conversation about sacrifice at the net between Richard and Venus (Saniyya Sidney) in which Smith earns the awards nominations coming his way.
Don’t get me wrong, Venus and Serena deserve all the credit for becoming the historic athletes that they are—they, of course, did the physical work—but what King Richard shows so deftly is how it really does take a village and people who believe in you to make dreams come true. I struggled at times with how the film built dramatic tension up against the fact that the audience knows what happens in the end (Venus and Serna are mega successful), but the last 45 minutes deliver major pay off in reminding the audience how hard and improbable the journey was. King Richard is a feel-good sports story and well worth a watch on HBO Max.