Get obsessed with us. Five days a week, Pop Culture Happy Hour serves you recommendations and commentary on the buzziest movies, TV, music, books, videogames and more. Join arts journalists Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon, Stephen Thompson, and Aisha Harris - plus a rotating cast of guest pop culture aficionados. The Happy Hour team leaves room at the table for exploring a range of reactions and opinions on every bit of the pop universe. From lowbrow to highbrow to the stuff in between, they take it a...more
Stephen Sondheim, the most influential composer in modern Broadway history, died on Friday at the age of 91. He wrote music and lyrics for Sweeney Todd, Into The Woods, Sunday In The Park With George, Company, and more. Sondheim won eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And along the way, he made work so beloved that it's been produced again and again around the world, and influenced other Broadway composers like Lin Manuel-Mir...more
In this episode of NPR's Book of the Day podcast, we're spotlighting two thrillers. First, astronaut Chris Hadfield talked with former NPR host Lulu Garcia-Navarro about his novel The Apollo Murders, which is set in the 70's around, you guessed it, the Apollo missions. Then, a 2015 interview with NPR's Robert Siegel and author Anthony Horowitz about his James Bond novel Trigger Mortis, and what it's like giving a classic a 21st century twist.
Ridley Scott's House of Gucci is a whole lot of movie. Adam Driver plays the wealthy Mauritzio Gucci, and Lady Gaga plays his wife Patrizia. Al Pacino and Jared Leto play Mauritzio's uncle and cousin, who eventually battle Mauritzio for control of the Gucci empire. It's got fashion, it's got tragedy, and it's got terrible accents.
King Richard is a sports movie about the early days of superstar tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams. But, as its title suggests, the film focuses on their demanding and ambitious father, Richard Williams. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, the movie stars Will Smith as a man who'll do anything to get his daughters from Compton to Wimbledon.
The new Netflix series Cowboy Bebop is a live-action remake of the wildly popular Japanese anime about bounty hunters in a neo-noir future. Stylish and satirical, violent and cynical, the show is a bold mashup of genres – western, crime, science-fiction, buddy comedy, melodrama, thriller, and martial arts. It stars John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, and Daniella Pineda as bounty hunters with dark pasts. But does the series hold up to the original?
Ghostbusters: Afterlife reconnects with the original timeline of the Ghostbusters films from the 80s while introducing a bunch of new characters. Carrie Coon, Mckenna Grace, and Finn Wolfhard play a family who teams up with Paul Rudd to fight a new supernatural threat. The movie is directed by Jason Reitman — son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the first two Ghostbuster films.
There's no good way to share terrible news. Pop Culture Happy Hour panelist and NPR Books editor Petra Mayer died suddenly on Saturday of what is believed to be a pulmonary embolism. We take some time to remember our friend and colleague, and revisit some of our favorite episodes featuring Petra.
Silk Sonic is a new musical showcase for two familiar faces: Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak. Their soulful collaborations started trickling out this past March, when the duo released the single "Leave The Door Open." Now they've dropped the album An Evening With Silk Sonic, which features classic funk and soul updated for the present day.
If you've always wondered what it would be like to see the world while making espresso martinis for the super-rich, you might already be watching the Below Deck franchise. For the past eight years, the Bravo reality series and its many spinoffs have been showing viewers the world of deckhands and chefs, housekeeping and party planning, as young hot people work on luxury yachts chartered by people who have too much money.
Earlier this month, ABBA released a new album called Voyage. It's the Swedish pop sensation's first set of new material in 40 years. Voyage gives us a perfect excuse to talk about all things ABBA: the massive sales, the jukebox musical Mamma Mia!, the endless hiatus, and — of course — those classic songs.
What has a wisecracking Ryan Reynolds, a glamorous Gal Gadot, a muscled Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and a very convoluted story about priceless eggs? It's the new Netflix action comedy Red Notice, which combines cars, boats and secret safes with ballroom dancing and a jailbreak — all in the same frame as three big-budget action leads.
When Project Runway launched in 2004, competitive reality shows were in their infancy. Now, they're in their mature pantsuit years, as Project Runway airs its 19th season. Longtime mentor Tim Gunn has been replaced by former winner Christian Siriano, but the sewing machines continue to buzz, and it's still hard to make a dress in a day. In this encore episode we're revisiting our conversation about Project Runway.
In the Netflix melodrama Passing, Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga play childhood friends who are reunited years later in 1920s Harlem. Both women are Black and fair-skinned, but only one of them has chosen to "pass" — to completely abandon their ties to the Black community and identify as white. The movie premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and marks the directorial debut of actress Rebecca Hall. And it's already gaining some awards season heat.
Netflix's The Harder They Fall is the latest modern take on the movie western, with nods to real-life Black cowboys and cowgirls. In it, an outlaw and his gang seek revenge for a horrific crime committed many years ago. Gunfights and showdowns ensue, of course. The film boasts an impressive cast, including Jonathan Majors, Regina King, Idris Elba, and LaKeith Stanfield. Does this revisionist tale live up to the incredible talent involved?
What if the story of Princess Diana wasn't a fairy tale, but instead a psychological horror movie? That's the premise of Pablo Larraín's intriguing new film Spencer, in which Kristen Stewart plays Diana. Here, Diana is trapped, frightened and sometimes uncertain of reality. It's a different perspective on the figure, but unlike other art about the royals, it has a clear point of view and a reason to revisit this tale.
Eternals, the latest film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is a sweeping saga about ten immortal aliens with super-powers. The cast includes Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Brian Tyree Henry, and Richard Madden. The film is directed by Chloé Zhao, the indie director behind small, intimate films like the Oscar-winning Nomadland. Eternals is unlike anything she's done before, but it's also unlike anything Marvel's done before.
So do you have a slow Saturday afternoon, and need something to watch while folding laundry? Perhaps check out Netflix's heist movie Army of Thieves. It's also a prequel to Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead, and it stars that film's squirrelly German safecracker, Ludwig Dieter, played by Matthias Schweighöfer, who also directed the film. Dieter joins a rag-tag crew of bank robbers that includes Game of Thrones' Nathalie Emmanuel.
Former NFL player Colin Kaepernick has been a prominent activist and a Rorschach test in the culture wars — and he's been widely reconsidered in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests. But he hasn't really gotten to tell his own story until now. He stars in the Netflix series Colin In Black & White, which he co-created with director Ava DuVernay. It's a dramatization of his life as the biracial son of white adoptive parents.
Judy Sheindlin has been one of the highest-paid people in TV for years, churning out episode after episode of Judge Judy. But after years of syndication, Sheindlin has shut down the CBS show and moved over to streaming service IMDB TV to make the almost identical new show, Judy Justice. Despite the new platform, the cases still revolve around dog bites, landlord-tenant conflicts, and people who fail to learn the most important lesson: never put anybody else on your cell phone plan.
Your calendar might say it's November, but among movie buffs, this month is also known as Noirvember. It's a time to settle in and enjoy an old movie that features a washed up detective, a sultry femme fatale, or hardened criminals. And whether you're familiar with the genre or looking for great places to start, we're here to help by recommending a few great noirs.
Last Night in Soho is a psychological horror film about a young, naïve fashion student in London named Eloise, played by Thomasin McKenzie. Eloise is so obsessed with the Swinging London of the 1960s that she begins dream of and (sort of) inhabit the body of a glamorous aspiring singer played by Anya Taylor-Joy. The more this happens, the more the wall separating her dreams and her waking life begins to crumble. The film is directed and co-written by Edgar Wright and features the late Diana Rigg...more
If you like secret relationships, morning television melodrama, men singing Neil Diamond unexpectedly and a rom-com set against the backdrop of COVID, you're going to love the kooky, uneven and profoundly strange second season of the Apple TV+ series The Morning Show. Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell and Billy Crudup still lead the show, whose first season examined the aftermath of a sexual harassment scandal. Now, it's another wild ride, where hair color, allegiances and the ye...more
Foundation is set in the far future, when humanity has expanded into a vast galactic empire. A mathematician comes forward to announce that he's crunched the numbers — and found that the empire is on the verge of collapse, and humanity is about to enter a 30,000 year dark age. The Apple TV+ series is based on a series of books by Isaac Asimov that was once awarded a Hugo Award for best science-fiction series of all time.
Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch is a love letter to classic French cinema and The New Yorker magazine. Like all of his films, it's highly stylized — this one adopts the format of a magazine. It's an anthology of sorts, featuring three different main stories. The film's actors Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Benicio del Toro, Timothée Chalamet, and Jeffrey Wright.
A lot of us are about to have the experience of opening our front doors to find witches, goblins, ghosts, and those guards from Squid Game standing on our porches. Why? Because it's almost Halloween. We decided this would be a good time to talk about what kinds of entertainment scared us when we were kids, and maybe even whether they still scare us now.
Dune is a sweeping epic set way into the future, where various groups are vying for control of a planet's highly coveted substance. Timothée Chalamet plays a duke's son who comes of age and exhibits messianic tendencies. The cast also includes Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, and Jason Momoa. Sci-fi fans have been waiting years for director Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel to arrive, and it's finally arrived in theaters and on HBO Max. But was it worth the wait?
NPR Music has song recommendations for every occasion, from major life events to tidying up the house. As we enter the fall season, it doesn't hurt to spruce up and start afresh with a new playlist. Today, we're recommending three songs to play while dance-cleaning the bathroom.
This fall, a number of auteurs are directing major blockbusters: Cary Joji Fukunaga took on the James Bond movie No Time To Die; Chloe Zhao joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Eternals; and Denis Villeneuve hopes to launch a film franchise with Dune. So we thought it would be a good time to revisit our conversation about how auteur directors shape genre films. In this encore episode recorded on stage in Los Angeles, we're talking about auteurs and film franchises — and dream up some great a...more
FX's Impeachment: American Crime Story is less about President Bill Clinton's 1998 impeachment and more about three women who played central roles in the saga, including Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky was a consultant on the series, which examines how a young intern not only began a sexual relationship with the president, but also became the subject of ridicule and even the threat of prosecution. The series stars Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky, Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, and C...more
When the Netflix thriller series You premiered three years ago, it started a lot of conversations. The show was told largely from the point of view of a charismatic serial killer named Joe, played by Penn Badgley, and it followed his obsession with and stalking of a young woman. Now in its third season, Joe hasn't changed much as a person, even though his circumstances have. He has a wife now, and a baby, although he's hardly living the typical suburban dad life.
It's been more than 20 years since Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote their Oscar-winning screenplay Good Will Hunting, but that changes with Ridley Scott's bloody epic The Last Duel. Co-written by Oscar nominee Nicole Holofcener, the film features performances by Damon, Affleck, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer. Together, they play out a tale of anger, vengeance and the fine points of 14th century property ownership.
The Korean drama Squid Game is a worldwide sensation. According to Netflix, it's topped their rankings in more than 90 countries. Written and directed by the filmmaker Hwang Dong-Hyuk, it's a violent and artful horror miniseries, a survival drama, and a commentary on debt and capitalism. With a plot that's both simple and ambitious, the series is fast-paced but character-driven, and unbelievably addictive to watch.
Based on Stephanie Land's memoir, the Netflix series Maid stars Margaret Qualley as a single mom who must learn to survive on public assistance. While the series takes a hard look at the logistics of poverty, it's also a riveting personal story that will keep you guessing until the very end of its tenth episode.
The FX on Hulu drama Y: The Last Man is the latest in a long line of post-apocalyptic narratives of TV, but this one comes with a novel twist: A mysterious event wipes out every mammal on Earth with a Y chromosome, except for two: an aimless would-be escape artist named Yorick, and his companion monkey, Ampersand. In a world overrun by militias and fueled by paranoid conspiracy theories, a beleaguered government attempts to rebuild — and keep certain secrets from getting out.
When Soul Train was first nationally syndicated in October of 1971, there was nothing else like it on TV. It became an iconic Black music and dance show — a party every weekend that anyone could join from their living room. In this episode of It's Been A Minute With Sam Sanders, we break down the lasting influence of Soul Train on our culture, with Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Little Devil in America.
No Time To Die is Daniel Craig's final outing as James Bond. This time, he's dealing with the skeletons of his past while trying to build himself a future. That future may or may not include Léa Seydoux, who returns as Madeleine Swann — she's nursing a secret involving Rami Malek's Safin, who's a kind of classic Bond villain, factory-installed with a master plan, a secret headquarters and access to a terrible bioweapon. The film is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, and add newcomers Lashana Lynch...more
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is not your standard superhero action flick. With more human-on-goo romance and symbiote-on-symbiote violence, the sequel to 2018's Venom already posted the biggest box-office opening weekend of the pandemic. Tom Hardy returns as reporter Eddie Brock and voices Venom, and he's joined by Michelle Williams, Woody Harrelson, Naomie Harris and Reid Scott in a film that makes up for lack of plot with plenty of action, passion and utter chaos.
Director Antoine Fuqua is no stranger to compromised cops — he famously put Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke through their paces in Training Day. Now, he's back with The Guilty, a Netflix thriller that stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a suspended police officer temporarily assigned to 911 dispatch. A call comes in from a woman in terrible trouble, and for the rest of the film, we follow his efforts to rescue her without leaving his desk.
Two years ago, Beyoncé unleashed two major projects called Homecoming. On Netflix, a documentary captured the process of putting on headlining appearances at the Coachella Music Festival. She also surprise-released a double-length live album containing just some of the highlights from Beyoncé's Coachella performances. In this encore episode we're revisiting our conversation about Beyoncé's Homecoming.
Star Wars: Visions is a new animated anthology series on Disney+ that brings together seven anime studios to tell nine stand-alone Star Wars stories. There's some recurring elements — Padawans and Masters, Lightsaber duels — but the choice to view the Star Wars universe through an anime lens isn't merely cosmetic. There's a wholly different sensibility at work in the animation, the imagery, and especially, the storytelling.
If you've been waiting for more of Tony Sopranos's universe, you're in luck. The Many Saints Of Newark isn't a sequel but a prequel to the influential HBO series The Sopranos. Co-written by Sopranos creator David Chase, the film examines how the man we knew on television as mafia boss Tony Soprano was made from the kid and then the teenager we see here, portrayed by the late James Gandolfini's son, Michael.
The Sopranos changed television. The HBO series was centered on mobster Tony Soprano — a deeply flawed male antihero played by James Gandolfini. But the thing that really set The Sopranos apart was the fact that Tony was in therapy, a genius touch that granted viewers special access to his inner conflicts. Today, we're taking your questions about the influential series — and delving into how it ended.
The original Scenes From A Marriage was an influential 1973 Swedish miniseries written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. Updated for a modern audience, HBO's remake is written and directed by Hagai Levi, who takes many elements from the original, while making some important shifts. In this version, the five-part limited series stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in an intimate story about a dissolving relationship with a constantly shifting dynamic.
The Tony Awards came back last night, after being gone for over two years. It was an unusual ceremony — a mix of performances and award presentations that aired on two different platforms. It was all a coordinated, tuneful effort to lure audiences back to Broadway. And, it was a big night for Moulin Rouge! and The Inheritance.
Isabel Allende and Sandra Cisneros loom large over the literary landscape. In fact, their respective careers have a lot of parallels. They both published their first novels around the same time: Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits was published in 1982, and Sandra Cisneros published The House on Mango Street in 1983. Today, we're teaming up with our pals at the fantastic Alt.Latino podcast to bring you interviews with both writers.
The stage musical Dear Evan Hansen debuted on Broadway five years ago. It won six Tony Awards, including one for its star, Ben Platt. It's now a movie, and Platt, who's now 27, is back to play Evan, a deeply troubled high school student who tangles himself in a lie. There's still singing, there's still dancing, and there are still a lot of questions to struggle with in this story. Plus, we remember the work of filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles.
In just two short years, Lil Nas X has proven he's much more than "Old Town Road." He's taken a successful novelty song and parlayed it into a budding and influential music career. He's come out as gay and arguably become pop's biggest out star. He's a master of performance art and marketing, and his eponymous debut studio album Montero easily became one of the year's most anticipated projects.
Everybody's Talking About Jamie is a coming-out story with some familiar contours, but it doesn't have your typical splashy musical pedigree. Adapted from a successful West End production, the Amazon Prime film follows Jamie, a teenage boy in England, who's determined to become a drag queen. Max Harwood stars as Jamie, and he's met with barriers and supporters along the way, including Sharon Horgan to the great Richard E. Grant.
Curling up with a good book is a pleasure with which we're all familiar. But when you find just the right narrator to bring characters to life, a novel can be even better. The right voice, or the right cast of voices, has pleasures all its own, beyond the printed page. Today, we're bringing you three favorite fiction audiobook recommendations worth a listen.
It was a really good night for three very popular TV shows, and a groundbreaking night for Netflix. Yes, it was time again for the Emmys, which saw Ted Lasso, Mare of Easttown, and The Crown win big. There were also a few real surprises, genuinely touching moments, and memorable speeches — some memorable for perhaps all the wrong reasons.
The Toronto International Film Festival traditionally helps launch awards season. This year has been a little different, with pandemic restrictions leading to a hybrid remote and in-person festival. After watching a batch of entries from home, we've seen some things you'll want to know about — some of which you might be hearing about for the first time.
The comedy series What We Do In The Shadows imagines what a slacker reality show might look like if all the roommates were vampires. The show is based on a 2014 film of the same name, which was co-directed and co-written Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. A new cast of vampires inhabits the FX series, which is now in its third season. On this encore episode we revisit our conversation about the series' first season.
Kacey Musgraves's 2018 album Golden Hour was a huge breakthrough. It's a soft but spangly celebration full of love songs that helped cement Musgraves as both a country star and a pop star. Now, she's released her follow-up. Star-Crossed is a breakup record, written in the aftermath of the singer's divorce. Plus we remember the work of comedian Norm Macdonald, who died at 61.
A strong first season and a huge haul of Emmy nominations gave Ted Lasso all kinds of momentum going into its second run this summer. It's the story of American football coach, Ted Lasso, who gets a job coaching AFC Richmond, an English soccer team. Or, you know, football team. And today we're going all the way to London to catch up with some fresh perspectives on the series.
This week, the police comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine will end its eight-season run. Starring Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, among many other gifted comic actors, the show has enjoyed a devoted following and strong reviews. It's also survived shaky ratings and a change in networks, and its last season is airing against a backdrop of more intense conversations around real-life police violence that can't be laughed off or swept aside.
We're here to bring you some of the things we're most interested to check out and talk about this fall. Whether you read it, watch it, or listen to it, we want to make sure you know about it.
In the Netflix animated action-comedy series Q-Force, a rag-tag team of queer spies who've been relegated to working out of a West Hollywood garage finally get their shot at the big leagues. Starring Sean Hayes, Wanda Sykes, Patti Harrison, Laurie Metcalf and many more, Q-Force tackles international terrorism, smuggling, brainwashing and homophobia. There's action, intrigue, suspense, sex, plenty of queer inside jokes and pop-culture references and, yes, stereotypes.
Hulu's fun mystery-comedy series Only Murders in the Building stars Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez as a trio of true-crime podcast fans who live in the same ritzy building on New York's Upper West Side. When a mysterious death occurs in their building, they band together to make a true-crime podcast about it. And as their amateur murder investigation goes on, long-buried secrets come to light, the plot gets twistier and and the stakes get higher. Plus, we remember the many iconic ro...more
On Friday, Drake dropped his long-awaited sixth album: Certified Lover Boy. The album contains 21 songs in 86 minutes, and it's generated conversation around everything from its many guest stars (including Jay-Z, Travis Scott, Future, and Lil Wayne) to its cover art, which features a diverse array of... emoji pregnancies.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe opens a new chapter with the release of Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, the movie is ambitiously packed with dizzyingly choreographed battle scenes and complex family dynamics. It's also a compelling origin story for a hero, who is played by Simu Liu. He must battle his superpowered father, played by Tony Leung, to prevent the release of an apocalyptic evil force.
Heading back to school is always a stressful but exciting time of year, whether you're doing it at home or in a classroom full of people. And we are always up to talk about books. Summer reading lists, class syllabi, there's no shortage of pages turned in the average school career. We're here to talk about them in this encore episode all about high school required reading.
In the film Pig, Nicolas Cage plays a once-famous Portland chef who's now a recluse, living in a cabin in the woods with his beloved truffle-hunting pig. When some nefarious types kidnap said pig, Cage comes out of seclusion to hunt down those who did it. It's at once a critique of bougie food culture, a melancholy character study, and a showcase for what Nicolas Cage can do when he's not dialed up to 11.
The Disney+ animated series What If...? mixes and matches major and minor characters and events from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to explore what might have happened if things shook out differently than they did in the films. Many of those films' actors return to voice their animated, alternate universe selves, and there's cameos, Easter eggs and sly references galore. But who's this series for?
The early-2010s sitcom Happy Endings was a show about six best friends in Chicago. Created by David Caspe, the series was sharp, hijinks-filled and altogether fun. The show aired on ABC for three seasons before its cancellation, but it's now available to stream on Hulu, Netflix and HBO Max. Today, we're taking your questions and talking about the glory days of Happy Endings.
Legend has it that if you say "Candyman" in front of a mirror five times, you'll summon the spirit of a terrifying killer with a hook for a hand, who's constantly surrounded by a swarm of bees. That's the premise of the 1992 horror movie Candyman, about a white Chicago grad student who becomes obsessed with an urban myth haunting Black residents of the notorious Cabrini-Green housing projects. Now there's a sequel, directed by Nia DaCosta and co-written with Jordan Peele, that brings back the vi...more
The worlds of science fiction and fantasy can be almost anything — a distant planet, an alternate timeline, a land of magic and mystery, or our own familiar world, just tweaked a bit. Whether you're a longtime science fiction/fantasy reader, just getting your feet wet — or maybe you've stepped away, only to realize how much these genres are changing, in recent years — we've got you covered with some basic background, some things to look for, and some solid recommendations from experts.
It's been 20 years since the untimely passing of Aaliyah in a plane crash when she was just 22. In that time, her influence has been felt everywhere in music and pop culture, even though the bulk of her catalog has been notably inaccessible to fans — until now. Aaliyah's second studio album One In A Million finally became available on Spotify for the first time, and more of her discography will be released in the coming weeks. And today, we're looking back at some of Aaliyah's essential tracks.
In the Netflix show The Chair, Ji-Yoon Kim (played by Sandra Oh) has just become the first woman to chair the English department at the fictional Pembroke University. Ji-Yoon is determined to usher in a new era, but is immediately saddled with unexpected challenges, most notably the tensions between an older, whiter faculty and a younger, multicultural student body.
The new series Reservation Dogs follows four Indigenous teenagers who live in Oklahoma, but are scheming and saving to get to California. It's a loose and dry-witted comedy that has notes of countless teenager hangout stories. And it's made by an entirely Indigenous group of writers, directors, and actors, who bring a level of detail and specificity to these kids and their experience that American television has practically never had.
Lorde became a pop superstar at 16 with her hit single "Royals" — winning two Grammy Awards and following up with her second album, Melodrama. The New Zealand singer's third album Solar Power finds the artist reflecting on stardom, boredom and the aftermath of a youth filled with debauchery. Reunited with Melodrama producer Jack Antonoff, Lorde brings a more subdued sound, positioning her as a worldly 24-year-old who's found peace with herself, while wondering what's next.
The new Netflix series Brand New Cherry Flavor is weird. It starts off pretty straightforward: A student filmmaker played by Rosa Salazar heads to Hollywood, hoping to direct her first feature, and gets screwed over by a sleazy producer. But when she enlists a witch played by the fabulous Catherine Keener to place a curse on that producer, things get creepy. And slimy. And bloody. And trippy. And kinda funny. It's not for everyone — but is it for you?
In the Netflix film Beckett, John David Washington plays an American tourist who gets in way over his head in an action thriller that skips over the mountains and through the streets of Greece.
Great songs often come around more than once. They're re-interpreted, reimagined, reconsidered. In fact, sometimes cover versions bring out new qualities even in songs we think we know well. Today we bring you an encore episode all about cover songs.
The family film CODA tells the story of Ruby, a high school senior who wants to leave home to study music, but doesn't know how to separate herself from her family. Her parents and her brother are deaf, and she's spent years as their interpreter and a key employee on the family fishing boat. CODA cleaned up at the Sundance Film Festival in January, winning the Grand Jury Prize as well as the Audience Award, and it was bought by Apple in a record-breaking deal.
There has never been anybody like Aretha Franklin. A legendary singer, an activist, a pianist, Franklin is the subject of the new film Respect. She's played by Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson. Directed by Liesl Tommy, Respect is focused on Franklin's childhood and the first 10 years or so of her career. It spends much of its energy on her relationships with men, especially her father, played by Forest Whitaker, and her first husband, played by Marlon Wayans.
The Apple TV+ musical comedy series Schmigadoon! stars Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong as a couple that stumbles on a small village. But it's not just any village — it's a village out of 1940s musicals. The people sing and dance, and the original music sounds very reminiscent of everything from Oklahoma to The Music Man to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. And how can this couple escape? By finding true love, of course.
Sometimes you want someone to tell you a story. Sometimes, you want it to be a true story. Today, we're bringing you three nonfiction audiobook recommendations, from memoirs to deep histories of special places.
When the ambitious musical Annette opened the Cannes Film Festival earlier this summer, all anyone seemed to be talking about was a certain scene involving its stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, singing a ballad during an intimate moment. But there's a whole lot more than that going on in Annette, which is directed by Leos Carax. It's a contemporary rock opera! About a famous comedian and his famous opera singer wife! And their daughter is played by a puppet!
A resort should be relaxing. But the HBO series The White Lotus, which takes place at a resort of the same name, is instead uncomfortable, even painful. Boasting a cast that includes Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, and Natasha Rothwell, the show is about the way self-involved rich guests interact with a staff that has no choice but to tolerate them.
The Suicide Squad is about a team of super-villains do black-ops missions for the government in exchange for lighter sentences. It brings back several characters, including Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn and Viola Davis' Amanda Waller, and adds a slew more, played by people like John Cena and Idris Elba. The tone is a lot jokier, the violence more visceral — literally — and the stakes are higher, thanks to a giant alien starfish bent on world domination.
The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are taking place in a swirl of controversies, some chronic and some acute. COVID, mental health, support for athletes with disabilities, racism, doping, and sexual violence have all become intertwined with this year's games. At the same time, the competition has, as always, provided moments to be excited for athletes, impressed by the skills they've spent so much time building, and thrilled for their successes.
Billie Eilish's first album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, was a sensation in 2019 — it swept the major categories at the Grammys and established the singer as a huge pop star. Eilish is back with a follow-up called Happier Than Ever. It's a quieter, subtler collection that examines the singer's relationships, reputation, and place in the world.
Back in 1971, Richard Nixon was president, the Beatles were newly broken up. But also, a new network called National Public Radio broadcast for the first time. In honor of the anniversary of NPR's first broadcast, this special edition of What's Making Us Happy This Week offers recommendations from 50 years ago.
The Green Knight is a lushly epic fantasy film full of striking visuals and strangely moody adventures. Directed and written by David Lowery, the film stars Dev Patel as King Arthur's nephew Gawain, who sets off on a quest to earn a knighthood. Along the way, he attempts to resist giving into various temptations, including the temptation to turn back and live out a comfortable life.
What do you get when you take one part The African Queen, one part Raiders of the Lost Ark, two parts Pirates of the Caribbean, a pinch of the Fast and Furious series, and every Disney movie trope ever? You've got Jungle Cruise. Emily Blunt and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson team up to play a researcher and a riverboat skipper on a quest to track down a highly coveted object in the Amazon. But of course, they must face some adversaries along the way, including a scenery-chewing villain played by Jess...more
Shrek is many things: a pop culture canvas, an Academy Award winner and a recent entry into the National Film Registry. And it all started with the story of a crabby green ogre who just wants a bunch of fairy tale characters to stay out of his swamp. Today, Shrek has spawned a multibillion-dollar franchise, become a cultural milestone and above all, remained relevant — even 20 years later.
The young adult genre features protagonists who are often still figuring things out about the world and themselves. Today, we're teaming up with Life Kit to bring you recommendations and criteria to look for as you wade into the inviting, but turbulent waters of young adult fiction.
The very funny mockumentary series Wellington Paranormal follows a pair of New Zealand police officers as they investigate strange occurrences in and around that nation's capital city. It's technically a spinoff of the 2014 film What We Do In The Shadows from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. It shares the film's bone-dry, deadpan mix of horror and humor. But what sets Wellington Paranormal apart is how seamlessly it channels that sensibility into the very familiar format of the TV show COPS.
We're having a summer of carefully and safely going out into the world again. And what happens when you go out into the world is that more things tend to happen to you. The good and the bad, the amazing and the mortifying. In this encore episode, we share some of our favorite — and most embarrassing — summer stories.
The psychological horror thriller Old comes with the kind of twist we've come to expect from writer-director M. Night Shyamalan. That twist is right there in the title: A bunch of tourists find themselves trapped on a secluded beach where they all age at an alarming rate.
On Netflix's new dating competition show Sexy Beasts, contestants go on blind dates where everyone involved is wearing Oscar-worthy prosthetic makeup. It begs the question: are people so desperate to find a mate that they would do so on TV, and without knowing whether their date is hot or not? According to Sexy Beasts, the answer is a resounding yes.
What would life as a sitcom wife really be like? That's the premise of the AMC series Kevin Can F**k Himself. Annie Murphy plays a woman who exists in a sitcom when she's with her husband, but lives in a moody drama whenever he's not around.
Naomi Osaka is one of the best tennis players in the world. She's a four-time Grand Slam singles champion, and she's about to represent Japan in the Olympics. And in a new Netflix documentary series, directed by Garrett Bradley, it's clear that these pressures and others have taken a toll on the 23-year-old. What you see in these three episodes also sheds light on her recent decision to withdraw from Wimbledon to prioritize her mental health.
Boy bands have been a staple of pop music for generations. They've won over millions of fans and provided gateways to fandom and pop-cultural obsession. From New Edition and New Kids On The Block in the '80s to BTS today — with a whole lot of acts like *NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys in the middle — there've been countless boy bands to choose from. Today we're offering up a brief modern history of boy bands.
Twenty-five years ago, the movie Space Jam paired Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. Now, Space Jam: A New Legacy brings together Bugs Bunny and LeBron James. It's now in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.
In 2018, Blindspotting was one of the buzziest movies to come out of the Sundance Film Festival. Now, it's has been spun off into a series on Starz, offering a fresh and more expansive take on the movie's themes around incarceration and race. Jasmine Cephas Jones plays Ashely. She had a supporting role in the film, but now she is story's central focus. And there's a colorful cast of new characters and musical set-pieces to boot.
For more than 13 years, Britney Spears has been under a conservatorship. Her assets and career have been kept under the control of her father, Jamie Spears, as well as an attorney. A movement called #FreeBritney has pushed for that conservatorship to be lifted — and Spears herself recently gave a speech in court asking for autonomy over her own life. Today, another court hearing will help determine where she stands. So we're breaking down everything you need to know about Britney Spears' conserv...more
This year's Emmy Award nominations brought some expected triumphs (Ted Lasso, The Queen's Gambit) and welcomed surprises (WandaVision, Pose). The Crown and The Mandalorian tied for the most nominations for a drama, and Saturday Night Live earned the most nominations for a comedy. HBO and HBO Max came away with the most nominations for a network. We recap this year's nominations: the highlights, the shockers, the snubs and the headscratchers.
Two years ago, the first season of the Netflix sketch comedy series I Think You Should Leave introduced viewers to Tim Robinson's distinctive comic voice: It's male, it's often loud, and it varies in tone from belligerent to outraged to defensive to performatively wounded. But because Robinson and his fellow comedians are so good at exposing the deep wells of insecurity and vulnerability beneath that bluff, masculine, angry-doofus surface, the show is also hilarious. Now it's back for a second s...more
When Scarlett Johansson started playing Natasha Romanoff, she was the only female Avenger. And despite multiple appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow never got her own movie. That changes with the release of Black Widow, which looks back on a previously unexplored part of the character's history.
Every summer gets its own unique soundtrack — a fresh batch of hit songs, all vying for an unofficial title: Song Of The Summer. Often these songs are on the wind, everywhere, dominating not just the airwaves, but also the cultural conversation. And sometimes, a song of the summer is just a great new music discovery. So we gathered together a bunch of NPR Music contributors and asked them to name their Song Of The Summer.
It might sound like fun to date a glamorous movie star, but in reality, it would probably get very messy. That's the premise of HBO Max's Starstruck, created by and starring New Zealand comedian Rose Matafeo. Over six episodes, the romantic comedy series is complicated, funny and charming — treating fame as the isolating pain in the neck it often can be.
The immersive HBO series Betty follows an eclectic bunch of young women skateboarders navigating adulthood while fostering community within a bro-dominated environment. Based on Crystal Moselle's 2018 film Skate Kitchen, the show returned for a second season, and we think it's worth a look if you haven't checked it out.
The Pop Culture Happy Hour team is off today, so we thought you might like to check out the latest episode of New Music Friday from the All Songs Considered podcast. It highlights the biggest album releases of the week, across many genres, and it's full of music by big stars and new discoveries. Hosted by Robin Hilton, it's a great way to get caught up on the week in music — and maybe even find your new favorite band.
In the summer of 1969, hundreds of thousands of fans flooded Harlem's Mount Morris Park to attend the Harlem Cultural Festival, which hosted the likes of Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, and Sly And The Family Stone. Now, some of that footage is unearthed in a new documentary, directed by Questlove from The Roots, titled Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).
It's summer time after a long stretch indoors, and many of us are returning to the world outside, including amusement parks. We thought it was a good time to bring you an encore episode about our favorite amusement park experiences: the rides, the attractions, the deep-fried snacks and the rigged games of chance.
Over the years, Hollywood has built movie narratives out of unusual source material, but the dark comedy Zola is one of the first to originate via Twitter. The Sundance hit was inspired by A'Ziah 'Zola' King's series of viral tweets in 2015, detailing her first-person account of a truly bizarre road trip involving exotic dancers, a pimp and a hapless boyfriend. Director Janicza Bravo and her co-writer Jeremy O. Harris have inventively translated much of that thread onto the screen, and it featur...more
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tom Hiddleston's Loki has faced off against Thor and the other Avengers. And now in the new series Loki on Disney+, he gets roped into working with the MCU's time cops, the Time Variance Authority. Alongside TVA agent Mobius, played by Owen Wilson, Loki hunts down another Loki variant (played by Sophia di Martino) seeking to overthrow the TVA. Along the way, it's developing into something the superhero genre usually doesn't have time for — an honest-to-the-gods ...more
In 2001, The Fast and the Furious debuted as a scruffy car-culture movie, and it was a hit. it was followed by two sequels that didn't quite satisfy, so they regrouped. Since then, it's become the blockbuster machine some love, some hate, some love to hate, and some hate to love. When you do this much business for this many years, it's hard not to have an impact.
What better way to kick off a summer of movies than with F9, the ninth installment of the main Fast & Furious franchise. Directed by Justin Lin, and starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and the rest of the beloved Fast family, the movie's got cars, it's got bad guys, and it's even got John Cena. And in case you're wondering whether there's anywhere to boldly go where no one has gone before, there sure is. Join our very own Glen Weldon for a virtual launch party to discuss the new book NPR's ...more
In the new Apple TV+ series Physical, Rose Byrne plays a woman whose early '80s journey from miserable wife to powerhouse businesswoman goes directly through the fitness industry. Created by Annie Weisman, who used to write for Desperate Housewives, the show centers around Sheila Rubin, who despite being very beautiful, has a profoundly miserable relationship with her body, from bulimic behavior to an unrelentingly abusive interior monologue.
You have to love a love story: the meeting, the flirting, the falling, the struggling, and ultimately, the happily ever after. Maybe you're an experienced romance reader, or maybe you're just getting your feet wet. Either way, it's always good to get some recommendations, some basic background, and a few things to look for when you choose love stories for yourself.
The Peacock series We Are Lady Parts is a bold, bracing and very funny comedy series about an up-and-coming London punk band called Lady Parts, and the young, awkward and extremely anxious microbiology PhD student who reluctantly becomes their lead guitarist. The members of Lady Parts, and its manager, are all young Muslim women, from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The animated series Tuca & Bertie stars two best friends in the classic odd couple tradition: Tiffany Haddish voices free-spirited Tuca and Ali Wong plays anxious Bertie. That setup may sound familiar, but the setting isn't: Tuca and Bertie are birds, and they live in a surreal world pulsing with color, drugs and plant-people. When it debuted back in 2019, Tuca & Bertie developed a rabid fanbase, but Netflix canceled it after one season. Now, it's found a new home on Adult Swim.
Luca, the latest movie from Disney and Pixar, whisks us across the globe and into a fictional coastal Italian town in the 1950s. There, the titular young hero and his new friend Alberto get into adventures and dream of buying their very own Vespa. But, there's a catch: In a quite literal take on the fish-out-of-water story, Luca and Alberto are humans on land and — unbeknownst to the rest of the townspeople — sea monsters when wet. Hijinks ensue as they attempt to keep their identities a secret ...more
It's good to be a star. In the world of the comedy Friends, that meant being Rachel or Ross, Monica or Chandler, Phoebe or Joey. But it takes more than just stars to make a hit.
The recent Friends reunion on HBO Max set off a new wave of nostalgia. So we put the most important question to you: Who's the best friend? Who's the worst friend? Thousands of you voted, and the results are in.
If you're thinking about taking a road trip, you're gonna need road-trip music. You might need a pick-me-up, or a distraction, or something for when you need a break from podcasts. So if you're headed out on the road soon, we're here to help.
The Netflix series Sweet Tooth is a strange mix. It's a dystopian tale of societal collapse in the wake of a deadly virus and the rise of human-animal hybrids. It's also a warm, humane, lushly shot fable of hope and humanity. Which is to say, it is itself a kind of strange hybrid — think The Road meets Paddington 2; The Walking Dead meets Pushing Daisies.
Before Hamilton made him a household name, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music and lyrics for the musical In The Heights. The Broadway production won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The film adaptation, directed by Jon M. Chu, stars Anthony Ramos as Usnavi. He hopes to return to the Dominican Republic, where he can live out the dream of his late parents. In fact, just about everyone in this story has big dreams and mountains to climb.
The 2013 horror film The Conjuring made more than $300 million and spawned a blockbuster cinematic universe. The main Conjuring movies center on the heavily fictionalized accounts of two real-life demon-hunters, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, who solve paranormal mysteries. In the new, third film in the series, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, our heroes try to figure out what compelled a young man to brutally kill his landlord.
After 20 seasons, multiple marriages, babies and scandals, Keeping Up With the Kardashians is finally coming to a close. The E! reality series is leaving behind quite a legacy (or wreckage) in its wake. It's the end of a reality-TV era, but whatever your tolerance for the brand, the Kardashians won't be disappearing from American culture any time soon.
The new Hulu movie Plan B is about best friends Sunny and Lupe (played by Kuhoo Verma and Victoria Moroles), who go on an emergency road trip. They're not on the run from criminals or some terrible misunderstanding. They're trying to get to a Planned Parenthood office to get a morning-after pill for Sunny. The girls have a long night of crazy adventures and heartfelt conversations. Directed by Natalie Morales, the film is a really good mix of silly and honest and unexpected.
Bo Burnham's new Netflix special Inside is not stand-up comedy. It's one-man isolation theater, shot in one enclosed space and bursting with musical performances and video sendups of genres from sad-dude acoustic guitar songs to '80s synth pop. Filmed over more than a year of pandemic disruption, it's whimsical, biting, empathetic and full of earworms.
Movie theaters are opening, and new TV shows and music are on the horizon. We've got you covered on what's coming this summer to entertain you.
On the HBO Max series Hacks, the great Jean Smart plays a legendary stand-up comic whose longtime Las Vegas residency is threatened by a casino owner looking for some fresh blood. Hannah Einbinder plays a promising young comedy writer who's fallen on hard times. Grudgingly, the two women start working together, arguing incessantly. But somewhere in among the barbs they're always trading, something like mutual respect begins to emerge.
When Pose burst onto the scene in 2018, there had never been anything quite like it before: Here was a scripted TV series on a major network centering trans and queer black and brown people, and the New York City ballroom culture they cultivated in the 1980s and '90s. Now, after three seasons, it's time to say goodbye to the beloved Pose family.
A Quiet Place told the story of a world overrun by monsters who kill anything that makes a sound. Starring Emily Blunt and the film's director John Krasinski, it was a blockbuster in 2018. Now, after a long delay, A Quiet Place Part II is finally hitting theaters, and picking up where the last movie left off.
Patti Harrison is known for bringing her absurd, caustic, yet charming comedy to supporting roles on shows like Search Party, Broad City and Shrill. But now she's in a starring role in the romantic comedy Together Together. In it, Harrison plays a young single woman who agrees to be a gestational surrogate for a single man in his 40s, played by Ed Helms. It's Been A Minute host Sam Sanders talks to Patti about what it was like to play a role different from everything she's done before, why Toget...more
One of the biggest, baddest and certainly most stylish of Disney villains is getting an origin story. In the new film Cruella, Emma Stone plays young Estella, an orphan on the streets of London in the 1970s. She's a thief with an eye for fashion, whose life fatefully intertwines with imperious fashion designer the Baroness, played with icy hauteur by Emma Thompson.
Last year, the South Korean pop group BTS topped the U.S. charts with the blockbuster earworm "Dynamite." Now, they've got a new hit, called "Butter." But the story of K-pop extends well beyond BTS. And it goes back decades with a huge array of styles and sounds.
For the last four years over at NPR Music, Stephen Thompson has compiled a ranking of the best and worst musical guests from the latest season of Saturday Night Live. Season 46 just wrapped up with Lil Nas X, who joins the ranks of this season's best performances, which includes Megan Thee Stallion, Justin Bieber, Bruce Springsteen, Miley Cyrus and many others.
The Netflix show Master Of None has finally returned following a four-year hiatus. This time around the focus is on Lena Waithe's character Denise and her partner (played by Naomi Ackie) as they wrestle with their relationship and trying to conceive. Noticeably absent on screen for most of the season is Aziz Ansari's Dev, the central character of the first two seasons. The result is an installment that feels less like a narrative continuation of the series and more like a spin-off. But is this s...more
When this year began, Olivia Rodrigo hadn't even released a single as a recording artist. But by mid-January, she was setting streaming records and sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100. "Drivers License" was an instant sensation and one of this year's biggest songs. And now, Olivia Rodrigo has her first full-length album, called Sour.
Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead is a zombie heist film that follows a team of mercenaries led by Dave Bautista. This rag-tag bunch faces wave after wave of zombies in an abandoned, cordoned-off Las Vegas as they attempt to steal millions of dollars from a casino swarming with the undead.
In the HBO series Mare of Easttown, Kate Winslet plays a detective in a small town just outside of Philadelphia. Her character Mare is conducting a murder investigation, and there's a missing girl who may or may not be connected to that case. Meanwhile, Mare's family is falling apart on the heels of a recent tragedy. Plus, there's the accents — we'll talk about the accents.
Eighteen seasons of Top Chef, and we still get a thrill every time we hear "hands up, utensils down." The show has traveled to classic food cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, but this season, Top Chef filmed within a COVID-19 bubble in Portland, Oregon. Controversial winners, heartbreaking losses, food that looks good enough to eat and the foolishness of even attempting risotto — they've all been backbones of the Top Chef franchise over its many, many years.
In Netflix's adaptation of The Woman In The Window, Amy Adams plays a psychologist named Anna, who is agoraphobic and entirely confined to her house. A family moves in across the street and she meets a couple of them, but then she sees something potentially dreadful. The police are skeptical, and even Anna isn't confident of her grasp on reality. Originally scheduled to be released in 2019, the long-awaited, claustrophobic film has remnants of past female-led thrillers such as Gone Girl and The ...more
The new Amazon series The Underground Railroad is the latest project from Barry Jenkins, who directed Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. It's the story of Cora, a runaway slave in the antebellum South, who escapes a vicious Georgia plantation and sets off on a journey toward freedom aboard the mysterious and entirely literal underground railroad. It's many contradictory things at once: lyrical yet brutal, luminous yet horrifying.
The new movie Those Who Wish Me Dead is a lot of things at once. It's the story of a smokejumper, played by Angelina Jolie, who battles terrifying forest fires. It's the story of a young kid chased by killers. And it's the story of a pregnant woman forced to defend herself. The film is directed by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote 2016's Hell Or High Water, and is now streaming on HBO Max.
In the grand tradition of movies like This is Spinal Tap and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, the new Peacock series Girls5eva is a silly parody of the music industry. In it, four down-on-their-luck members of a fictional late-90s girl group reunite to stage a comeback 20 years later, and find that the music industry has changed a lot since then. The show features a stacked cast of musical and comedic talent, including Sara Bareilles, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Busy Philipps, and Paula Pell. And...more
Sometimes, we dive deep into a new piece of pop culture to grapple with its themes, its relevance and its meaning. But sometimes, you just want us to recommend stuff to watch, read or play. Today, we're recommending three great video games you can pick up and play on the Nintendo Switch and other consoles.
Fran Fine was working at a bridal shop in Flushing, Queens, and now she's on HBO Max. The Nanny, starring Fran Drescher as Fran Fine, nanny to the wealthy Sheffield family, originally ran from 1993 to 1999. More than 20 years after it ended, the show has made it to a major streaming service: HBO Max. And what that means is that a comedy that spent years a little under the radar has roared back into the public conversation.
Selena Quintanilla was known as the "Queen Of Tejano Music," a major Latin star who was crossing over into the mainstream U.S. pop world when she was shot and killed in 1995. She was 23 years old. Her story spawned a 1997 movie starring Jennifer Lopez, as well as an 18-episode series streaming now on Netflix called Selena: The Series. Maria Garcia, the host and creator of the Anything For Selena podcast, joins us to talk about the legacy of Selena, who would have turned 50 years old this year.
In the new animated film The Mitchells Vs. The Machines, a family road trip turns into a wild adventure and a battle against an actual robot uprising. And while some of the themes are familiar, the inventive execution and the high energy make it one of the summer's first real crowd-pleasers.
The Peacock sitcom Rutherford Falls, which follows a conflict over a historical statue in a small town, is notable for a few reasons, besides its timely topic. It's the latest project from Mike Schur and it marks Ed Helms' return to TV. But it also centers several Native American characters (played by Jana Schmieding and Michael Greyeyes), boasts what NBCUniversal claims is "one of the largest Indigenous writer's rooms on television," and is led by co-creator Sierra Teller Ornelas, who is the fi...more
The 2021 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival is taking place in your local living room. Beginning this Thursday, a special lineup of curated programming will be airing on TCM and streaming on HBO Max. Today, we highlight some of the films and extras you should be sure to check out.
Today is May the 4th, also known as Star Wars Day. The first Star Wars film spawned many sequels, TV series, videogames and a multi-billion dollar merchandise industry. So we thought it would be a good time to revisit our conversation about movie merchandise. In this encore episode, we talk about everything from Jar Jar Binks lollipops and E.T. dolls to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cereal, and more.
Shadow and Bone is the latest Netflix fantasy series based on a successful set of novels. There's a lot to take in — at least six main characters, people who can wield wind and shadow and light, a Chosen One who is prophesied to defeat a great wall of darkness, and charming rogues who are out for themselves. That may sound familiar, but there's enough here that's novel to make this series worth your consideration.
Michael B. Jordan has played a range of characters, from sympathetic figures like Wallace on The Wire, to an underdog in Creed and a swaggering antagonist in Black Panther. But Without Remorse marks a new era for Jordan as an action star. Based on Tom Clancy's best-selling 1993 novel of the same name, Without Remorse serves as the origin story for John Clark, an ex-Navy SEAL turned CIA operative.
If you want an example of the TV cop whose supposed integrity is maintained in spite of procedural, ethical, and moral lapses, consider Elliot Stabler. For 12 seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Elliot raged and threatened and caught bad guys, and he still got to be drawn as the good guy. In Law & Order: Organized Crime, Stabler is battling a wealthy shadowy criminal, and also recovering from a personal tragedy that's left him more angry than ever.
Netflix's Stowaway stars Toni Collette, Daniel Dae Kim and Anna Kendrick as a three-person crew on a mission to Mars. When they discover a fourth person aboard, played by Shamier Anderson, his unexpected presence places them all in jeopardy. Absent of sinister aliens, there's plenty of calculus (both mathematical and moral) as the crew tries to puzzle their way out of their rapidly worsening situation.
The Mortal Kombat franchise began in 1992 with an arcade fighting game featuring grisly pixelated deaths. It spawned many sequels and spinoffs, comics, television shows and films. The latest entry, a film called Mortal Kombat, introduces Cole Young, played by Lewis Tan, who is tapped to save the Earthrealm with classic character like Liu Kang, Sonya Blade and Jax.
We are wrapping up this year's Oscars. It was a big night for Nomadland, which took best picture, best actress for Frances McDormand, and a historic best director win for Chloé Zhao. But there were also huge upsets, most notably in best actor, where Anthony Hopkins won over Chadwick Boseman. And the telecast took some big risks that didn't always pay off.
There are always two big questions as we approach the Oscars: Who will win, and who should win. We're diving into both, so you can win your Oscar pool and see some fine movies at the same time.
What do Will Ferrell and Leslie Odom, Jr. have in common? They both play a part in the Academy Awards' Best Original Song category. This year's five nominated songs are stacked with star power and grand themes of fighting for justice, as well as a sweeping power ballad about mountains singing "through the screams of seagulls."
Wolves, aliens and the afterlife all show up in this year's Oscar-nominated animated features. From stop-motion to hand-drawn art, these five films exhibit and celebrate different styles of animation and storytelling. Disney and Pixar appear, but the category also showcases films a little farther off the beaten path, proving that animated features are a lot more than cute cartoons.
Corruption, loneliness, family, activism, and the adventures that take place in the ocean. The Oscar-nominated documentary features are about all these things, but not just these things. These films are shot in black and white and vivid underwater colors. Some trace long histories and some closely examine particular inflection points in time. And you can stream all the films on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon.
This year's Oscar nominees for best international feature film tackle a variety of issues, from school bullying to mass slaughter, from government corruption to alcohol abuse — one nominee even grapples with the nature and purpose of art itself. But even though these films reveal some darker truths about the human condition, they each manage to do so with a vivid sense of style and a deep sense of empathy that's as enlivening as it is enlightening.
Twenty years ago, Legally Blonde opened in theaters, and now it's available on Netflix. Reese Witherspoon plays a first-year law student named Elle Woods. She heads to Harvard Law School to win back Warner, who broke up with her for not being serious enough. But she learned that she was cut out for the courtroom, and she changed what it means to be a "serious" woman.
The HBO Max series Made For Love follows Hazel (played by Cristin Milioti), whose husband wants to get inside her head — literally. He's a tech genius who's already made both of them recluses, but he's now working on a chip that, once implanted in her brain, will allow him to know and see everything she does.
NPR Music has song recommendations for every occasion, from major life events to moments when all you want to do is stare blankly into the middle distance. Right now, so many of us feel stuck in a holding pattern, as we wait for our lives to resume. Maybe we're passing time until our vaccinations kick in, or maybe we're daydreaming about the possibility of safe summer travel. Today, we're recommending three songs to help cope with pent-up, restless boredom.
Queen Sugar is a sprawling melodrama following the Bordelons, a tight-knit, multi-generational black family in rural Louisiana. Created by Ava DuVernay, the series has been politically topical from the beginning, and its fifth season is timelier than ever, dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and the death of George Floyd.
Viola Davis' name is rarely far from awards season chatter, and this year is no different — the highly decorated performer received her fourth Oscar nomination for her role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and could become the first Black woman to nab two acting Oscars. As awards season kicks off, Pop Culture Happy Hour revisits great performers and a few of their essential performances. Today, we're spotlighting Viola Davis, from her first Oscar-nominated role in Doubt to her standing as a powerful...more
The Great Pottery Throw Down is one of the gentlest, kindest and warmest competitive reality shows you will ever see (even when things literally explode). The UK series is now streaming on HBO Max. The dishes, the bowls, the handles, the crying — it's all right there to help you relax at the end of even the longest day. Plus, we take a moment to remember rapper DMX, who died today at 50.
In the Netflix movie Bad Trip, Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery play best friends who take a road trip from Florida to New York City. The twist in Bad Trip is that each scene is also an elaborate prank, blending fiction and reality - with the mayhem taking place as real unsuspecting strangers look on.
Over the course of her long, varied and distinguished career, actor Frances McDormand has won two Oscars - and her performance in Nomadland this year could win her a third. Pop Culture Happy Hour explores some of the great work she's done.
Chadwick Boseman is nominated for an Oscar this year for his performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. It's his final onscreen role — he died of colon cancer in August. Before that, Boseman played historical figures including Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson and James Brown. And of course, he joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Black Panther. And today we're talking about some of those essential performances.
In The Father, Anthony Hopkins plays a character whose fierce independence is complicated by his worsening dementia. Olivia Colman plays his daughter Anne, who keeps trying to hire carers to help look after him. But the structure of the film is more complicated than that, as director Florian Zeller finds ways to keep viewers guessing. The Father is nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Picture.
When we asked our listeners to tell us which Muppets were their favorites, we knew you'd all come through. More than 6,000 people cast over 18,000 votes, and those votes have been tallied. This is the PCHH audience's definitive ranking of the best Muppets.
When The Muppet Show arrived on Disney Plus in February, it got us talking: who are our favorite Muppets? And which Muppet do we most identify with? Today, we're discussing all things Muppets and finding out where we fit in Jim Henson's felt universe.
Godzilla Vs. Kong is a collision of two classic film franchises. As the sequel to 2017's Kong: Skull Island and 2019's Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, the film's excessive plot largely serves as window dressing for a heightened epic battle. However, its action-packed story also neglects to properly acknowledge the complicated layers of these two cinematic monsters.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues its march across Disney Plus, it needs a buddy show, specifically The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. Both old allies of Captain America, the two find themselves up against villains, a therapist and sometimes each other.
There's no wrong time to talk about an influential Hollywood classic. So that's why we are talking about Die Hard. We will never get tired of Hans Gruber versus John McClane — Alan Rickman versus Bruce Willis — the real clash of the titans. So that's why we are bringing you this encore episode.
Legendary children's author Beverly Cleary died last week at the age of 104. Cleary wrote more than 40 books over about 50 years. Her characters, like Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins, entertained kids for decades. So we decided to talk about some of Cleary's essential books.
Sound Of Metal tells the story of a heavy-metal drummer, played by Riz Ahmed, who experiences sudden hearing loss that changes every facet of his life. The film is nominated for six Academy Awards - including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.
If you're looking for the next show to binge, we've got a great suggestion for you. The animated sitcom King Of The Hill ran on FOX from 1997 to 2010, and all 13 seasons are now streaming on Hulu. The show, created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels pokes gentle fun at its characters without mocking them.
For a year, many of us have found ourselves planted at home, with a lot more time on our hands for movies and television. Maybe you've already finished the umpteenth binge-watch of your favorite show, or you're just in a very different headspace than you were a few months ago. Today, we're teaming up with the hosts of the Movie Therapy podcast to help a few listeners out with some personal recommendations.
Every year, NPR brings together some of the best books of the year in a searchable, explorable guide called the Book Concierge. Today, All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro gives us his recommendations for your next book club.
It's been more than a year since live concerts were a safe way to experience music. We miss the roar of a blissed-out crowd and experiencing art at the moment of its creation. Therefore, it feels like a good time to talk about some of our favorite concert films from Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, and Aretha Franklin.
The 2017 film Justice League had a famously rocky road to the big screen and premiered to polarized reactions. Following an extended online campaign by Zack Snyder's hardcore fanbase, the director has gone back and recreated his original vision for the film, now called Zack Snyder's Justice League.
Raya And The Last Dragon is an animated Disney movie without musical numbers, without romantic intrigue and with a largely Asian cast. It's about the pursuit of peace, the need for trust and a young warrior who assembles a ragtag team of misfit heroes to save the world.
Steven Yeun's filmography reveals a remarkably varied career. From his breakout role as Glenn Rhee in The Walking Dead to his work with directors like Bong Joon-ho and Boots Riley, Yeun can easily jump between playing enigmatic cosmopolitan characters and endearing supportive boyfriend characters. As awards season kicks off, Pop Culture Happy Hour revisits great performers and a few of their essential performances. Today, we're spotlighting Yeun, whose role in Minari makes him the first Asian-Am...more
The Oscar nominations are out, and in the lead is Mank. The David Fincher-directed film about the writing of Citizen Kane picked up the most nominations with 10, while other films including Nomadland, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Minari, and Judas and the Black Messiah performed well, too. We'll get into what surprised us and what disappointed us. And this year, more than ever, you can check out the eligible movies from the comfort of your own home.
After a six week delay due to COVID-19, we did finally have a Grammys ceremony, hosted by Trevor Noah, with loads of socially distanced performances and big wins for Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Megan Thee Stallion, and Billie Eilish.
RuPaul's Drag Race began in 2009 as a raggedy spoof of reality competition shows, with hilariously low-rent production values on Logo. After 13 seasons and a move to VH1, it has transformed and distilled the once-underground and defiantly transgressive culture of drag into a formula perfectly suited to mainstream viewing.
For over twenty years, PBS has ensured that one of the hottest places in American television is your attic. And if you want to know what all that old stuff is worth, you can take yourself right to the people at Antiques Roadshow. Sometimes, you'll find that you're sitting on buried treasure--and sometimes, you won't. In this encore episode, we revisit our discussion of Antiques Roadshow.
Netflix's Ginny & Georgia follows a young single mom, her teenage daughter, and their efforts to create a life for themselves in the suburbs of Massachusetts. It's got high school standbys like new friendships and first sexual experiences, but it's also got adult soap standbys like secret pasts and shady figures. To say it has a lot going on is a wild understatement.
Delroy Lindo is one of those performers you probably recognize as "that dude." Even if he's only on screen for a few scenes, he tends to stand out. He gave one of last year's most critically acclaimed onscreen performances as a troubled Vietnam war vet in Spike Lee's Da Five Bloods. As awards season ramps up, we revisit some of Delroy Lindo's essential performances.
After nine episodes, several battles, big reveals and a lot of different hairstyles, WandaVision has come to an end on Disney Plus. What happened to Wanda, what happened to Vision, and is it really safe to say it was Agatha all along? We've got a lot to talk about. (Warning: this episode contains spoilers.)
Coming To America was a huge hit when it was released in 1988, eventually grossing well over $100 million at the box office. It captured Eddie Murphy at the peak of his career, helped catapult Arsenio Hall into a new level of stardom, and has since inspired countless homages. Now, 33 years later, the sequel Coming 2 America has arrived on Amazon Prime, reuniting most of the original cast and adding some new faces. Can Prince Akeem and friends recapture the magic of the original?
Very few actors will ever put together a run like Regina King. Among other things, she's won four Emmys in the last 10 years - all for different roles. She won an Oscar for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk, and this year, she might win an Oscar nomination for her directorial debut, One Night In Miami. As awards season kicks off, Pop Culture Happy Hour revisits great performers and a few of their essential performances, and there isn't a better place to start than with Regina King.
If you dig into the archives of any streaming service, you're gonna find loads of documentaries — tales of true crime, plucky dreamers, obsessive eccentrics, or just about any other subject you could name. We figured this would be a good time to recommend a few of our favorites from the last few years that we think you'll love.
The United States v. Billie Holiday is the latest dramatization of the singer's tumultuous personal life. Directed by Lee Daniels and starring Andra Day, it focuses on the government surveillance Billie Holiday endured for her drug addiction and her song "Strange Fruit."
This year's Golden Globes ceremony took place under a cloud, following fresh reporting on accusations that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is too small, too secretive, and not remotely diverse enough. Still, even during the pandemic, a hybrid part-live, part-remote telecast went on. It honored actors like Chadwick Boseman, Jason Sudeikis and Catherine O'Hara, films including Nomadland and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, and television projects like The Crown and The Queen's Gambit. And it ev...more
Written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, Minari follows a Korean-American family who moves to Arkansas in the 1980s to follow their father's dream of becoming a farmer. The grind of trying to make the farm a success strains the parents' marriage and often confounds the kids, but it's a story about the choices families make and the ways they stay together.
There are many versions of Cinderella, but few are as beloved as Disney's production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, starring Brandy as the titular character and Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother.
In the new Netflix comedy-thriller I Care A Lot, Rosamund Pike plays a slick grifter named Marla who tricks her way into becoming the legal guardian of elderly people, then drains their bank accounts. It's a well-oiled scheme, until she chooses a woman with a dangerous background as her new target.
Every year, NPR brings together some of the best books of the year in a searchable, explorable guide called the Book Concierge. Today, we're talking about some of the best nonfiction picks that show up in this year's guide.
It's A Sin chronicles the AIDS epidemic as experienced by a group of friends in London in the early 1980s. They come from different backgrounds, and deal with the dawning realization that a virus is ravaging their community in different ways. None of them will get through it unchanged, and some of them won't get through it at all.
The new film Nomadland is about a woman named Fern who's lost her husband, her home and her entire community: a company town that collapsed when the company did. She's played by Frances McDormand, and in Chloé Zhao's film, she falls into a new community of people who live on the road, out of vans and RVs.
In 2018, To All The Boys I've Loved Before was a breakout hit for Netflix. Based on Jenny Han's novel, it followed Lara Jean Covey through the adventure of falling in love with one Peter Kavinsky. A sequel followed in 2020 and now, it's time for the finale, which finds Lara Jean and Peter dealing with the complication of graduating and heading off to college.
On Shark Tank, a group of wealthy investors like Mark Cuban and "Queen of QVC" Lori Greiner listen to pitches from people who have invented something. Might be an app, might be a toy, might be a belt that can hold a beer can. Then the investors decide whether to invest in the business, and they negotiate with the entrepreneur — sometimes competing with each other to get the deal. In this encore episode, we revisit our conversation about the hit ABC show.
In Supernova, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci play a gay couple coming to terms with the fact that Tucci's character is experiencing early onset dementia. They take one last trip together around the British Lake District and try to enjoy these moments together, even though their shared knowledge of what's to come exposes their fears and secrets.
A special bonus episode from NPR's It's Been A Minute With Sam Sanders. Desus Nice and The Kid Mero went from calling up "anyone in their phone book" in the early days of their podcast Bodega Boys, to booking big names in politics like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and President Barack Obama on Desus & Mero, their late-night show airing on Showtime.
Fred Hampton, the charismatic chairman of the Black Panther Party's Illinois chapter, was just 21 years old when he was killed during a police raid in 1969. In Judas And The Black Messiah, he's given the cinematic treatment via a stirring performance by Daniel Kaluuya. The new film directed by Shaka King focuses on Hampton's activism and how it made him the target of the federal government. The Judas in this story is the FBI informant who played a crucial role in Hampton's death: William O'Neal,...more
Every year, NPR brings together some of the best books in a searchable, explorable guide called the Book Concierge. It can help you find exactly the read you're looking for. Today we're talking about some of the best books for music lovers that show up in this year's guide.
For six seasons, the NBC comedy Superstore has told the story of a fictional big-box store in St. Louis. Until the last handful of episodes, the show starred America Ferrera, and found humor in serious topics like income inequality, health insurance, unionization, and corporate greed. Its final season is airing now, with storylines about COVID-19 and racial justice. Superstore is also a big, broad, goodhearted workplace comedy in the spirit of The Office, full of wacky oddballs and slow-burning ...more
Television production changed practically overnight when COVID-19 began to spread in the United States in March 2020. One corner of TV that's carried on is the late-night talk show. There have been no live audiences — and in some cases, no studios in use — but projects like Showtime's Desus & Mero have carried on nonetheless. Comedian and writer/producer Josh Gondelman sits down to talk about creating a talk show remotely during a pandemic.
It has been a truly bizarre NFL season, as the pandemic threatened players' health and compelled teams to play in empty or near-empty stadiums all season long. But it all ended in familiar fashion: with Tom Brady winning a Super Bowl championship, this time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeating the Kansas City Chiefs. We couldn't have a Super Bowl party this year, but we did gather around our TVs to watch the game, the halftime show with The Weeknd, and lots of commercials. Plus, we take a mom...more
After production of HBO's Euphoria was shut down in March 2020, creator Sam Levinson turned to the show's star Zendaya and filmed Malcolm & Marie. The sleek Netflix feature follows a couple who spends a turbulent evening dissecting every contour of their fraught relationship. John David Washington and Zendaya play the troubled pair who spiral into madness as this intense, dialogue-heavy film goes on.
One of the most anticipated moments of any year in movies is the Sundance Film Festival. This is not a year for gathering in crowds, so the Sundance Film Festival in 2021 went virtual. More than 70 feature films, including both narrative films and documentaries, were at Sundance this year. Today we round up some highlights, including two big winners, CODA and Summer Of Soul.
Reality television has long had a fascination with some factions of the extremely rich. Bling Empire shifts the focus a little bit, to a group of Asian-Americans in and around Los Angeles. Executive produced by Jeff Jenkins, who also worked on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Bling Empire definitely shares a lot of that DNA while asking where the show falls on the scale of Asian-American representation.
The actress Cicely Tyson died last week at the age of 96. Over a career that spanned seven decades, she brought grace, grit and gravitas to any role she played. She'd just released a memoir, Just As I Am, and had been making the rounds, doing a slew of interviews in which her intelligence, wisdom and dignity shone through. Today we're looking back at a few favorite performances by Cicely Tyson and what set them apart.
The off-Broadway show In & Of Itself, performed by Derek DelGaudio, was a one-man show, a magic act and a piece of interactive theater. The show is now available on Hulu and it showcases a series of storytelling vignettes that are punctuated by different illusions. One has card magic, a couple have interactions with the audience, but the focus is really on identity.
Lupin is a smart and twisty French series that's new to Netflix. It's about a young Parisian man named Assane, played by Omar Sy, who molds his life on classic French tales about a fictional gentleman thief and master of disguise named Arsène Lupin.
The writer and veterinarian James Herriot wrote a series of beloved books about his adventures as a vet in Yorkshire beginning in the 1930s. They were adapted with great success into a series called All Creatures Great And Small, which ran on the BBC and PBS. Now, there's a new take airing on PBS with a whole new cast.
The film Almost Famous recently turned 20. Writer and director Cameron Crowe looks at the ecosystem surrounding a rising rock band in the early '70s. Starring Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, and so many more, it's a coming-of-age story that touches on journalism, sex, rock and roll, parenthood, and the perils of trying to be cool.
In the dark comedy Search Party, four narcissistic millennials become amateur sleuths following the disappearance of a former classmate. Alia Shawkat plays Dory, the ringleader whose growing obsession with solving the mystery eventually entwines them all in a murder investigation. The fourth season has found new ways to dial up the absurdity while bringing in new guest stars like Busy Phillips and Susan Sarandon.
Every year, NPR brings together some of the best books of the year in a searchable, explorable guide called the Book Concierge. Today, we're highlighting three great 2020 books about families from year's guide.
Disney Plus has big plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first show to arrive from its slate of Phase Four projects is WandaVision. Wanda's got magic powers, Vision's a synthetic android and together, they're trapped in a series of simulations of comedies from decades past. However, slowly but surely, the superhero world you know and love begins to creep back in.
In Locked Down — a movie to be filmed and released during the pandemic — Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anne Hathaway play a couple sheltering in London together. The film takes them on an adventure that might not have been possible in normal circumstances, answering the question: What do bored and frustrated people do during a pandemic?
When The Karate Kid ended with a crane kick in 1984, it seemed like it was all over. But then came sequels. Then came a remake. And now we have Cobra Kai, a surprisingly good series that catches up with the film's hero Daniel and villain Johnny many years later. In this encore episode, we revisit our conversation about Cobra Kai from back in 2018 when it premiered on YouTube Red. The show just dropped its third season earlier this month Netflix.
Promising Young Woman is a revenge thriller, and a dark comedy, and a few other things, too. It stars Carey Mulligan as a woman who spends her evenings in bars being picked up by men who misunderstand who they're dealing with. Directed by Emerald Fennell, the film has been billed as a #MeToo tale, but its perspective feels timeless, and there are surprises each step of the way.
Regina King has won an Oscar and a collection of Emmys as an actor. Now, she's making her debut as a feature film director with One Night In Miami. The film imagines what might have happened in a real night in 1964 when Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown hung out with Cassius Clay. The men talk about success, celebrity, responsibility and history.
Every year, NPR brings together some of the best books of the year in a searchable, explorable guide called the Book Concierge. Today, we're highlighting books about the United States from this year's guide.
Despite its preponderance of bustles and bonnets, the Apple TV+ series Dickinson is not some fusty old biopic. It casts Hailee Steinfeld as a young Emily Dickinson: a feminist free-thinker and iconoclast, chafing against the rigid social and sexual mores of her time.
The cheerleading film Bring It On recently turned 20. It spawned direct-to-video sequels and a Broadway musical. And with an all-star cast of Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, and Gabrielle Union, the movie remains a quotable classic. But a lot has happened in the past 20 years that might make it feel very timely, or very dated.
Sylvie's Love follows a relationship that blossoms in the late 1950s between a spirited young woman who loves television and a gifted saxophone player. Written and directed by Eugene Ashe, Sylvie's Love has all the swoon and the style of old Hollywood but this time, it places a Black couple at its center.
We spent a lot of time watching movies in 2020. Plenty of our favorites ended up on this show, but with release schedules scrambled and publicity scattered, there are still things that manage to slip through the cracks. Today we are recommending a few of the films we really think you should see.
In 1995, critics howled and self-appointed guardians of good taste were horrified at the release of Showgirls. Directed by Paul Verhoeven with a screenplay by Joe Eszterhas, the NC-17 film was a notorious flop at the time but is now considered a camp classic and a window into a moment of moral panic.
What if you took Gossip Girl and set it in Regency-era London, where members of the aristocracy plot to find love, sex and spouses? You'd have Bridgerton. Created by Chris Van Dusen, Bridgerton is the first project to emerge from Shonda Rhimes' production company under a lucrative Netflix deal.
The game show Card Sharks has lived many lives: It's been on NBC, on CBS, in syndication, and now it's on ABC, in prime time, hosted by Joel McHale. The game seems simple — you're guessing whether a card will be higher or lower than the one before it. But it's also complicated. And now, in its latest iteration, there's big money involved.
Every year, NPR brings together some of the best books of the year in a searchable, explorable guide called the Book Concierge. Today we're talking about some of the love stories that show up in this year's guide.
It's the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, as much as it seemed like we might never get here. That means we're looking back, and we're looking ahead. What did we resolve to do in 2020, did we accomplish them and what do we want to do in the year ahead? We've still got goals, plans and the willingness to look back at our ambitious plans and wonder what in the world happened to all of them.
To say we could not have predicted the course of 2020 is a ridiculous understatement. But nevertheless, we press on. We'll check in on last year's predictions, while turning our eyes to the future to try and figure out what the next year will bring, even when that seems nearly impossible.
The 2017 movie Coco is about a Mexican boy named Miguel who has an adventure on Día de los Muertos, a holiday dedicated to remembering the dead. He finds himself in the Land of the Dead, where he learns about the importance of memory and how we tell the stories of our families. In this encore episode, we revisit our conversation about the excellent Disney-Pixar film.
In Disney and Pixar's Soul, a jazz musician voiced by Jamie Foxx falls down a manhole and finds himself teetering between life and the afterlife. He winds up on a New York adventure with a wandering soul, voiced by Tina Fey, who needs help getting ready to be reborn on Earth.
Wonder Woman 1984 arrives as one of the biggest films yet to stream at home at the same time it hits theaters. Like its successful predecessor, 2017's Wonder Woman, it's directed by Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot as our heroine. Chris Pine is back as Steve Trevor, and new cast members include Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal.
The new George Clooney movie The Midnight Sky takes place in two very lonely, post-apocalyptic settings: the Arctic, and outer space. Clooney plays a scientist at an Arctic research station who tries to tell the crew of a NASA mission that Earth is no longer any kind of a place to return to.
Director Christopher Nolan's latest film, Tenet, is a riff on spy movies — featuring globe-trotting CIA agents, Russian arms dealers and big set pieces — but with a decidedly Nolan-esque time-travel twist. Is it brilliant blockbuster filmmaking or an emotionally empty miss?
At the end of the year, we like to look back on some of our favorite things from the last 12 months of pop culture. We revisit some of the TV, film and music that helped us make it through.
The excellent new film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is a story about art. It's a story about anger, and it's a story about respect. Directed by George C. Wolfe and adapted from August Wilson's play, the film is inspired by the life of real blues singer Ma Rainey, and includes performances from Viola Davis, Glynn Turman, and the late Chadwick Boseman.
A tense courtroom, an intimate house party, a stifling police academy. These are just a few of the environments depicted in Small Axe, the ambitious anthology film series from director Steve McQueen. The result is a collection of poignant stories buoyed by excellent performances from stars like John Boyega and Letitia Wright; as well as searing imagery, and a scene that could arguably be called the best movie moment of the year.
A woman wakes up after a night of partying and realizes something is very, very wrong. That's the premise of the HBO Max series The Flight Attendant. It's a taut, darkly funny thriller starring Kaley Cuoco as a woman in search of some answers about the present that also might shed light on the past.
On Friday, Dec. 11, just four and a half months after she released the heavily Grammy-nominated Folklore, Taylor Swift released her ninth album, Evermore. Swift describes Evermore as a "sister" album to Folklore, and once again, she's crafting moody and autumnal folk songs with Aaron Dessner of The National, Jack Antonoff and Bon Iver.
Every year, NPR brings together some of the best books in a searchable, explorable guide called the Book Concierge. It can help you find exactly the read you're looking for. Today we're talking about some of the best realistic fiction picks that show up in this year's guide.
Based on a sudsy, splashy 2018 Broadway musical, The Prom has been adapted for Netflix with big stars like Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Keegan Michael-Key and James Corden. But will the theater-people in-jokes land in your living room the way they did on Broadway?
Singer and rapper Bad Bunny started releasing songs on SoundCloud in 2016. He has released three albums in 2020 and his latest, El Último Tour Del Mundo, is the first entirely Spanish-language record ever to hit No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart. On Spotify, Bad Bunny is the most-streamed artist of 2020.
Peacock has made a reboot of Saved By The Bell, which aired Saturday mornings from 1989 to 1993. With a mix of the old cast — including Mario Lopez as Slater and Elizabeth Berkley as Jessie — and new students at Bayside High, the show walks a fine line between earnestness and self-parody. You can support NPR by donating to your local member station at donate.npr.org/happy
In 1990, a young woman with a big voice and equally big hair stepped onto the pop scene with her self-titled debut album, Mariah Carey. Thirty years later, she's as omnipresent as ever, thanks to a perennial holiday hit, a devoted fanbase, and recent memoir The Meaning Of Mariah Carey. What is it about Mimi that's made her one of our most enduring pop stars?
The 2010 film Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World starred Michael Cera as a directionless and not terribly bright 22-year-old in Toronto. Despite an amazing cast and director Edgar Wright's kinetic visual style, the film underperformed. In the ten years since, it's attained cult status. But does it hold up?
Starring Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, Mank captures the artistic process behind the conception and writing of Orson Welles' first movie, Citizen Kane. Director David Fincher's black-and-white ode to classic film is a story about tycoons, studio heads, addiction, creative credit, and the politics of Old Hollywood during the Great Depression.
Everybody from basic cable to streaming services have started to roll out their holiday fare. We're going to survey the tinsel-strewn landscape to bring you the brutal truth about some of this year's holiday offerings, including Happiest Season, Hallmark's A Christmas House, Dash & Lily, and Dolly Parton's Christmas On The Square.
BE is the latest album from Korean boy band BTS, making it their fifth record to top the U.S. album charts in two and a half years. Along with their earworm Dynamite, BE feels like a milestone in BTS' career, which has yielded billions of dollars and one of the world's most intensely devoted fan bases. You can support NPR by donating to your local member station at donate.npr.org/happy
Every year, NPR brings together some of the best books in a searchable, explorable guide called the Book Concierge. It can help you find exactly the read you're looking for. Today we're talking about some of the science fiction and fantasy books that show up in this year's guide.
It was a little over a year ago that the first episode of The Mandalorian debuted on Disney Plus. Can you remember a world before Baby Yoda was a thing? Now that season two is underway, we're bringing you an encore episode of our discussion of a show that has since gone on to become a digital phenomenon, while launching a thousand memes.
A special bonus feed drop from the new NPR podcast Louder Than A Riot. Hosts Rodney Carmichael and Sidney Madden have been working on a deep-diving exploration of the relationship between hip-hop and mass incarceration. Episodes cover the likes of Nipsey Hussle, Bobby Shmurda, Killer Mike and many more. We're dropping the first episode here.
The Emperor's New Groove came out 20 years ago, during a time when Disney's animation department was going through an identity crisis. The plot is simple: David Spade is a bratty emperor. Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton turn him into a llama. And John Goodman is the peasant who helps make things right. It was originally gonna be an epic musical, but then it became a comedy, a box-office disappointment, and now, we would argue, a beloved classic.
The book Hillbilly Elegy was a phenomenon in 2016. Writer J.D. Vance wrote about growing up in Ohio and Kentucky, and about his family's struggles with addiction, abuse and poverty. He tried to both explain and critique the white Appalachian experience, to profoundly mixed reviews. Now, a film adaptation on Netflix sticks mostly to the dramatic elements of Vance's story, from his mother's battles with addiction to his path to law school. It's directed by Ron Howard and stars Glenn Close and Amy ...more
Rapper Megan Thee Stallion has had a massive year. Her song with Cardi B, "WAP," topped the Billboard Hot 100 — as did, of course, her remix of "Savage" with Beyoncé. On Friday, Megan Thee Stallion dropped her first official full-length album, called Good News. It's stuffed with explicit sex and raunchy confidence, with features from fellow stars like SZA, Young Thug, 2 Chainz and Da Baby. But it also opens with "Shots Fired," in which Meg bluntly addresses the July shooting that led to bullet w...more
Because everything in Hollywood must be revived these days, the Animaniacs are back after being locked in that Warner studio water tower for more than 20 years. Led by the fictional siblings Yakko, Wakko and Dot, the super-meta cartoon featured slapstick humor and cultural references that appealed to both kids and adults alike. Hulu has released a new batch of Animaniacs episodes and much of the original voice cast returns — though this time around you should expect fewer Goodfellas jokes and mo...more
The West Wing chronicles the inner workings of a fictional presidential administration. The president is Democrat Jed Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, and his staff includes heavy hitters played by folks like Allison Janney, Rob Lowe, Bradley Whitford, John Spencer, and Richard Schiff. For the first four seasons, most episodes were written by Aaron Sorkin, who created the show and gave it many of its signature flourishes — the snappy banter, the walking and talking, and, of course, the big speec...more
The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special brings back computer animated, extruded-plastic versions of Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose, Lando and the droids. The only actors voicing their original characters are Billy Dee Williams, Kelly Marie Tran, and Anthony Daniels. It's Life Day (a Wookiee holiday of peace and harmony). While the rest of the characters set up for a party on the Millennium Falcon, Rey and BB-8 go off on a journey that brings them in contact with pretty much every major character in the...more
The game show Supermarket Sweep has run in the '60s, the '90s and the aughts. This fall, it's been revived for a fourth iteration — this time in primetime on ABC. While the previous two versions of the show were hosted by the affable David Ruprecht, the new Supermarket Sweep is hosted by the delightfully amped-up Leslie Jones. She helps a new generation of shoppers as they run around a fake grocery store and attempt to fill their shopping carts with high-priced hams, fancy olives and anything el...more
The fourth season of Fargo stars Chris Rock as Loy Cannon, a ruthless Kansas City crime boss battling an Italian-American gang for power in the 1950s. In order to keep the peace while doing business, Loy and his rival swap their youngest sons as hostages. The series is both an immigrant tale and a migrant tale viewed through the familiar lens of a gritty mobster saga. Though true to the Coen Brother's sensibilities, creator Noah Hawley injects it with darkly oddball humor and characters.
Ted Lasso knows football, but not, you know, football. He is an American football coach who finds himself in the U.K. coaching soccer in the Premier League. Jason Sudeikis originated the character in a promotional campaign for NBC's soccer coverage back in 2013. Now, Apple has given Ted his own ten-episode underdog sports series, called Ted Lasso. The show follows Ted's first season of play, which begins as a doomed campaign masterminded by an embittered team owner who's trying to tank her own t...more
When the country went on lockdown earlier this year, Saturday Night Live was forced to end their 45th season earlier than expected. After producing three shows remotely, SNL returned to Studio 8H in October with COVID-related precautions. So far, SNL has brought on a deep bench of A-list hosts like Issa Rae and Dave Chappelle, and they've had plenty of election commentary with a fair share of social distancing jokes.
Whether you live in a big house or a tiny apartment, on a beach or in a bustling city, television is full of opportunities for you to ruminate on your living space. And nowhere is that impulse more prevalent than on HGTV. One of basic cable's most basic networks, HGTV has been handing out advice and house-envy for a long time. We're revisiting our discussion of HGTV and home makeover shows.
On the vaguely unsettling, but satisfyingly pulpy FOX techno-thriller series Next, John Slattery plays a genius billionaire who blows the whistle on an artificial intelligence he created called "neXt." When people who know too much about the AI start dying in mysterious, tech-adjacent ways, the FBI Cybercrime Unit takes notice, and teams up with Slattery to stop it.
The game show host Alex Trebek died Sunday following a battle with pancreatic cancer. Trebek hosted Jeopardy! for 36 years — his last episode airs on Christmas Day. Trebek hosted a number of game shows dating back to the early '70s. But he'll be forever known for his work on Jeopardy! — both for his steady demeanor and for moments when he couldn't bring himself to suffer fools gladly.
Comedy specials come in many forms. Stand-up, sketch, improv — and there are times when they really come in handy. But there are also so many of them circulating right now that it can be tough to find the ones that are worth your time. We're here to help. We want to share a few specials that have managed to make us laugh in 2020, despite 2020, so that when you have a moment when you can really use one, you'll have one on hand.
NXIVM gained mainstream attention when several high-ranking members were charged with crimes, including racketeering, forced labor conspiracy and sex trafficking. The group called itself a self-help organization while a lot of other people called it a cult. HBO and Starz both have documentary series about the organization, and they're a little different, but pretty shocking nonetheless.
The new Netflix series The Queen's Gambit finds its story in the equally intense if less obviously bruising world of competitive chess. Based on a 1983 novel, it stars Anya Taylor-Joy as a young woman whose brilliance at chess is threatened by trauma and addiction as she goes from child prodigy to international star. We're joined by this year's Tiny Desk Contest winner Linda Diaz, who also happens to be a chess expert.
Election Day is stressful. It's full of news that might or might not mean anything. The stakes are high, and the consequences are serious. And whatever you do from that point forward, first, you have to get through today. So we want to offer you some ideas for things you can use purely to manage Election Day itself. To stay away from the incremental updates and the high anxiety until you actually know what's happened. Which might take a while.
Sir Sean Connery has died. He was 90 years old. Though he became a star by creating the role of James Bond onscreen, over the course of his career he played many characters — all with his distinctive, much-imitated, Scottish brogue. We're remembering the life and work of Sean Connery by spotlighting three of his iconic performances.
Ariana Grande is one of the world's biggest pop stars, and on Friday, she released her sixth album, Positions. The singer's follow-up to Thank U, Next finds her celebrating hard-won happiness in a string of poppy, sexually frank R&B songs.
Whether you like an éclair or a bagel, a biscuit or a Bakewell tart, The Great British Baking Show will bring all your feelings about baked goods to the surface. The hosts have changed, and the challenges have evolved, but it's still about getting that perfect bake. The current season is airing on Netflix, and was filmed in a so-called bubble to protect everyone from the pandemic. It also comes at a time when a lot of viewers at home have been taking out their sourdough starters and their cake p...more
In 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen's movie Borat was an unlikely blockbuster. It starred Cohen as a fictional reporter from Kazakhstan who journeys across the U.S. and interacts with Americans who don't know they're part of a comedy. Borat made hundreds of millions of dollars. It spawned catchphrases, and became a pop-culture phenomenon. Now, 14 years later, that unlikely blockbuster has an equally unlikely sequel. The new movie Borat Subsequent Moviefilm grabbed headlines last week because of a controv...more
The Witches, starring Octavia Spencer and Anne Hathaway, is streaming on HBO Max. It's an adaptation of the 1983 Roald Dahl book about a kid and his grandmother who get caught up in the dastardly plans of a group of child-hating witches at a seaside hotel. The book's action takes place in Britain, but director and co-writer Robert Zemekis has changed the setting to 1960s Alabama, and made the kid and his grandmother Black.
We are deep into the Halloween season, and many of us are cooped up at home with our streaming services, scrolling through movie after movie full of monsters, murderers, jump scares, and rivers of blood. But what about those of us who are scaredy cats? Maybe we're into the idea of horror movies, but aren't looking to be grossed out by gore or freaked out by jump scares? Well, this is the discussion for you.
In the horror satire Bad Hair, a meek young woman named Anna becomes emboldened after getting her very first weave. At first, the new 'do brings her professional and personal success, but soon enough, it begins to take on a mysterious life of its own. Written and directed by Dear White People creator Justin Simien, Bad Hair is heavy on social commentary and cheeky pastiche, served with a star-studded cast that includes Vanessa Williams, Lena Waithe and more.
You may know Rebecca as a 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier. You might know it as a 1940 adaptation directed by Alfred Hitchcock that won Best Picture. But if you've always wanted a version with Armie Hammer playing the role once occupied by Laurence Olivier, Netflix is on it. The new Rebecca stars Lily James as a woman who becomes the second wife of Maxim de Winter, played by Hammer. When she gets to his massive estate, she finds it occupied by his housekeeper, played here by Kristin Scott Thomas...more
David Byrne and Spike Lee. Two artists with very defined, very distinct, and yet very different, sensibilities — but when you put them together, it works. The theatrical concert film David Byrne's American Utopia, now streaming on HBO Max, is a career-spanning celebration of Byrne's music, both with Talking Heads and his solo work. Director Spike Lee shoots the stage of Broadway's Hudson Theater from a host of angles to capture the exuberant, rollicking — yet rigorously choreographed energy — of...more
Like many of you, the Pop Culture Happy Hour team is socially distancing at home. And we are watching more TV shows and movies than ever before. So that's one of the reasons we are going to start coming to you five days a week. We'll talk about great movies, television, books, music and videogames. So make sure to join us starting Monday, October 26th when Pop Culture Happy Hour goes daily.
Writer-director Aaron Sorkin knows his way around a courtroom drama: He wrote the screenplay for A Few Good Men nearly 30 years ago. Now, he's written and directed The Trial of the Chicago 7. The new movie dramatizes the trial of a far-flung group of anti-Vietnam War activists, including Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden and Bobby Seale, who were each charged with inciting violence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Ethan Hawke plays the abolitionist John Brown in the new series The Good Lord Bird, which traces the events leading up to the 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. Told from the point of view of a fictional Black teenager nicknamed "Onion," the series has plenty of drama. But it's also a dark comedy about following a leader who's extremely passionate and wildly unpredictable.
In the wonderful new film The Forty-Year-Old Version, playwright Radha Blank plays a variation on herself. In it, the fictional Radha, frustrated by a stall in her theater career, finds a new passion: she becomes a rapper. The Forty-Year-Old Version won the dramatic directing award at Sundance, and now it's on Netflix. It's about getting older, getting honest, and, yes, finding yourself.
Latinx music has experienced a huge boom in the last 10 years. We've seen the rise of global superstars like Bad Bunny and J Balvin. We've seen Shakira and Jennifer Lopez take over this year's Super Bowl halftime show. And, of course, we've seen the chart domination of "Despacito" by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. The decade has also produced countless musical discoveries across the Latin world. And the whole time, our pals at NPR Music's Alt.Latino have been there to guide us through it all.
Fifty two years ago, Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band debuted off-Broadway. The structure was simple, and not unfamiliar to anyone who'd seen a play before: Over the course of an evening, characters gather, get drunk and turn on one another. The groundbreaking difference was that it was a group of gay men doing all that gathering and drinking and lashing out. Now, a new Netflix film adapts the recent Tony-winning revival of the play.
The Legend of Korra is a sequel to the hugely popular animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. It takes place 70 years later, in a darker, more industrialized world where bending the elements is commonplace. Korra is now the Avatar, and she's everything her predecessor Aang wasn't. She's a confident, headstrong teenage girl much more comfortable with combat than with the spiritual aspect of her role.
The new, bright and breezy Netflix movie Enola Holmes stars Millie Bobby Brown as the 16-year-old sister of Sherlock Holmes. She sets out on an adventure when her eccentric mother (Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing. It also features Sam Claflin as her stuffy brother Mycroft, Louis Partridge as a romantic interest, and Henry Cavill as Sherlock.
It was not your usual Emmy Awards ceremony. Because of the pandemic, there was no crowd, and host Jimmy Kimmel worked mostly alone. People accepted their awards from home. But surprisingly enough, it turned out pretty well. Schitt's Creek, Watchmen, and Succession all had big nights. And it was kind of fun to watch people dressed up in their own living rooms.
In the new horror film Antebellum, Janelle Monáe plays an enslaved woman on a plantation run by Confederate soldiers. She's desperate to escape. But Monáe also plays a successful contemporary author and speaker with a beautiful family, living a life of success and wealth. But does the film successfully tie the story together? Note: This conversation discusses specific spoiler-y plot points to explore how those roles fit together, break down what's really going on, and whether or not the movie is...more
It's hard to predict how the current pandemic will affect the work of artists in television and film and theater, but that doesn't mean we can't try. What will change? What won't change? How might creators react? Today, we're stepping back to make some guesses about the future of pop culture and think about what's to come.
A special bonus feed drop from the NPR podcast It's Been A Minute With Sam Sanders. Billy Porter is a force to be reckoned with. A Tony Award-winning Broadway performer. A fashion icon with unforgettable red carpet looks. An Emmy Award-winning actor (with another nomination under his belt this year). Currently, Porter stars in the acclaimed FX show Pose, all about New York's underground ball culture in the 80s and 90s. It's also takes place during the height of the HIV-AIDS crisis. Sam talks to ...more
In the Netflix film, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, the plot is easy to follow. A young couple played by Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons drives through a snowstorm to the farmhouse where Plemons' character grew up. They have dinner with his parents, played by Toni Collette and David Thewlis, then they drive home. That's it. That's the movie. Simple, right? Wrong! This is a Charlie Kaufman movie, and that means things are trippy and dreamlike and just plain weird from the jump. Note: This conver...more
The fantasy adventure Avatar: The Last Airbender aired on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008. But this year, as the pandemic struck, the animated series became one of the biggest streaming hits on Netflix. In the world of Avatar, some people are essentially equipped with superpowers: They can bend fire, water, earth, or air. Only the Avatar — in this case a 12-year-old boy named Aang — can develop the power to bend all four elements and keep the world in balance.
The biggest movie so far to be bumped from theaters to home viewing during the pandemic is Disney's Mulan. The live-action reimagining of the 1998 animated musical doesn't have songs or a cartoon dragon. But the story still finds young Mulan disguising herself as a man so she can fight in her father's place.
The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards took place Sunday night. The telecast was in the shadow of a pandemic, in the midst of major civil unrest, and in the aftermath of actor Chadwick Boseman's death. The VMAs couldn't have live audiences, so we got a lot of pre-taped performances in front of green screens from artists like BTS. Plus, it was a big night for masked Lady Gaga.