Things I Loved This Year: Leslie Jones Never Backs Down

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: Leslie Jones triumphs over the haters by being who she is.

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The first monologue of this current season of Saturday Night Live began in fairly typical fashion. Host Margot Robbie looked ecstatic as she smoothly navigated her first few jokes and an appearance by Kenan Thompson, who joked that he’s been on the show for so long that he “slept like a baby” the night before the premiere. (Actually, I doubt that was a joke. Side note: I hope Kenan never leaves SNL. He’s a treasure.)

Then Leslie Jones arrived onstage, and the crowd exploded.

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“Star Trek Beyond”: Is This the Future?

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The most thought-provoking aspect of my trip to see Star Trek Beyond this morning wasn’t the movie itself, which indulges in many of the most tired tropes of the 21st century sci-fi blockbuster but nonetheless offers a charming summer diversion. I’ll have more to say about it in a moment, but first, I have to acknowledge the (unintended?) portentousness of a short interstitial that played just before the lights went down at my screening. The clip features Simon Pegg, who’s played Scotty in all three recent Star Trek movies and also co-wrote the script for this one with Doug Jung, earnestly thanking the audience for seeing the movie in theaters, and imploring us to continue doing so in order to preserve the medium’s cultural vitality for future generations.

First things first: many who showed up to the first two installments in this rebooted franchise haven’t returned for this threequel, which will barely crack $150 million at the domestic box office, let alone come within striking distance of the original’s $257 million or the sequel’s $228 million. That meager figure is in line with a dismal summer at the box office — only a few big-ticket blockbusters have ignited, and critics are raising an increasingly furrowed eyebrow at the sorry state of Hollywood’s summer offerings. (Now You See Me 2: I didn’t.) It’s safe to say that, even as the statement appears reductive, movies are struggling — and there’s no way Pegg doesn’t realize it. Why else would he record a video of himself thanking people for seeing his aggressively marketed tentpole movie? It’s not as if Star Trek Beyond lacks brand recognition or built-in interest. If Star Trek Beyond were an inarguable masterpiece or a surefire smash, such a video would be the equivalent of Taylor Swift gasping with fake awe as she collects her 97th music award. Instead, it feels like an acknowledgment: This movie doesn’t work quite well enough to right the ship of a downbeat summer at the movies.

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The M&M Report: “Ghostbusters”

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Ghostbusters is a movie directed by Paul Feig starring four of the funniest women alive. It’s a remake of a beloved 1984 comedy that’s attracted one of the most intensely sexist online controversies in recent memory. And…it’s pretty good! In this episode of The M&M Report, Devin and I talk about what worked and what didn’t.

Also: Devin is moving back to California. That means this podcast is the last one recorded in the same room with me for the foreseeable future. I’ll miss him, but I won’t miss the podcast, because it’s not going anywhere! We’ll still be recording regularly in the weeks and months to come. Stay tuned for more.

Don’t forget, you can now subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and download the feed directly into the podcast app of your choice. If you have the time, rate and review us on iTunes as well. We’d greatly appreciate your support.

Who You Gonna Call? Thor Will Transfer You

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News broke (okay, a tweet was sent) last night about Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot: the receptionist role originated by Annie Potts will be played by Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth.

Given that Feig is clearly a big fan of SNL, I’d like to think that this sketch drove to him to give Hemsworth a call.

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Reaction: The “Ghostbusters” Cast Couldn’t Be Better

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As with most people, the word “reboot” sets my teeth on edge. I’m always a proponent of discarding tired concepts and flagging franchises in favor of original material. But reboots aren’t inherently bad. Tuesday’s “Ghostbusters” announcement offers hope that at least one upcoming remake won’t be cringeworthy. Read the rest at The Eagle.