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Disney Celebrates International Women’s Day By Giving Its Favorite Man, Jon Favreau, A Live-Action Star Wars TV Show




It’s no big secret that Disney is going in gung-ho on bringing new people into the Star Wars franchise. In the last year, we have seen over half a dozen people be given new movies and projects set within the series, as Lucasfilm slowly starts to build up what the future of this franchise will be following next year’s Star Wars: Episode IX. But while I say “people”, I probably should be more clear — white men. Disney has given the keys to the franchise solely to a bunch of middle-aged, white men.

Is this in and of itself some type of hiring sin? Eh, no, not really. And I don’t even blame Disney/Lucasfilm entirely for the situation — it’s clear that Kennedy and her cohorts are running scared a bit here, with a string of high profile, low experience collaborators causing headaches behind the scenes (Josh Trank, Gareth Edwards, and Lord & Miller.) For that reason, they have been turning to experienced “sure things” to take the reigns of Star Wars, namely in the form of J.J. Abrams (who already did it in The Force Awakens!) Rian Johnson (who already did it in The Last Jedi!), Stephen Daldry (a prestige journeyman with twenty years of experience!), and Weiss/Benioff (they show-ran the most complicated series ever made, THEY ARE PROS!) And you know what the paradox is here? All the filmmakers with decades of experience and a reputation of being professionals are almost entirely — you guessed it! — white dudes.

Enter Jon Favreau. Disney is clearly a fan of the man ever since he gave them the first Iron Man (which in and of itself was a bit of a risky decision to give to him at the time…but I digress), and has worked with him again on massive hits like The Jungle Book and future GARGANTUAN hit The Lion King. They appear to like him, he appears to like them, and there are billions of dollars that prove the relationship works. So now Favreau is being given a pretty big role in Disney’s current crown jewel franchise — Star Wars.

Not the Star Wars project you might think, though. Rather than diving head first into the crowded realm of future Star Wars movies (occupied by at least one more saga film, two competing trilogies, and a whole bunch of individual “story” films), Favreau will apparently be helming the previously announced live-action TV series on Disney’s forthcoming streaming service. This was announced just earlier today on, alongside the expected statement from Kathleen Kennedy:

“I couldn’t be more excited about Jon coming on board to produce and write for the new direct-to-consumer platform. Jon brings the perfect mix of producing and writing talent, combined with a fluency in the Star Wars universe. This series will allow Jon the chance to work with a diverse group of writers and directors and give Lucasfilm the opportunity to build a robust talent base.”

And the expected outburst of excitement from Favreau:

“If you told me at 11 years old that I would be getting to tell stories in the Star Wars universe, I wouldn’t have believed you. I can’t wait to embark upon this exciting adventure.”

Putting aside the pure exhaustion I have to new Star Wars projects right now (TOO MANY), who the fucks idea was it to announce this news today of all days? It’s no big secret that the critical community at large (or Film Twitter, at the very least) has been giving Lucasfilm crap for their seeming dismissal of having more diverse voices behind the scenes. Warranted or not, the complaints about the lack of anyone but straight men being a creative force of the series is extremely prevalent. And if you’re facing backlash over not hiring women to do things…adding yet another man to your company on the damn day of appreciatiating woman just reads as a back slap at worse, and tone deaf at best. READ THE FUCKING ROOM, LUCASFILM.

Ignoring the exact date of the hiring, though, Favreau being announced for this is…fine, I guess. I am not nearly as enthusiastic on the guy’s filmography as some (or Disney, especially) seem to be, but his films are usually pretty good at least (unless they are Iron Man 2.) So this certainly isn’t the worst pick for a Star Wars project. That being said, choosing a guy with zero experience writing a TV series to write a TV series of this scale is a bit disappointing. There are plenty of fine, experienced showrunners out there — why give Jon Favreau, who has already cultivated success in his career a dozen times, yet another big project? Hiring Jon Favreau to do this Star Wars series is ignoring TV showrunners who are perhaps more suitable for the part, which puts his hiring as a “double whammy” of ignoring potentially better candidates, if you ask me.

Anyways, whatever — I’m just hoping that the next announcement of someone getting a Star Wars project is a little more unique, a little more interesting, and a little more diverse. Or, second option…don’t announce another Star Wars project for a while. I think we have plenty to mull around already, Lucasfilm.

Also published on Medium.

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor and Owner of Freshly Popped Culture. A big ol' ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew has been writing about pop culture for nearly a decade. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important (or something.)



Why Marvel Moved Up The Avengers: Infinity War Release Date

It was a win-win-win-win decision for the company, really.



The first weekend of May is considered the “start” of the summer movie season…but, in recent years, that has pretty much evolved to become the “Marvel movie” slot. Barring one exception in 2009 (the only year Marvel didn’t release a movie in the past decade), every year since 2007 has given us the release of a new film featuring a Marvel superhero in the first weekend of May. It’s become something of a tradition, one that wasn’t entirely surprising to see Marvel keep intact as it approached its tenth anniversary as a film studio. And with Avengers: Infinity War by far representing their largest and grandest project, the Marvel May slot seemed perfect for the film to have its grand debut. And for years, we’ve all been working off that assumption. Disney set a May 4, 2018 release date for the film some time ago, and there was no way they were going to change that.

Well, they just changed that.

But unlike most sudden release date changes, this one is A) minor and B) mostly a good thing. Instead of launching on May 4, Avengers: Infinity War will now hit theaters everywhere on April 27, abandoning the May month completely. Two months before the film’s release, it’s a bit of a shocking development, although Marvel had fun with it on Twitter, by way of (who else?) Robert Downey Jr.

Now obviously this was planned (Robert Downey Jr. didn’t just push Marvel to massively move the release date of its biggest film out of the blue — come on now), but what was the reasoning for Disney’s decision here? Well, a few things.

Number one? The film was already going to release on April 27 overseas, which is typical for a Marvel release (they almost always open internationally before coming to the States). So moving the release date for America only puts the film in line with the rest of the world, which is ultimately pretty smart: now Marvel and Disney can brag on April 30 about how the film made approximately $67 billion worldwide in its first weekend of release. It will look great, vanity wise.

And this also moves Infinity War away from Disney’s own Solo: A Star Wars Story, opening at the end of May. That’s not even to mention the recently moved Deadpool 2 on May 18, which was a surprisingly big threat to Infinity War’s legs. With a three week gap between the two, however, Infinity War is now in the clear in terms of maximum, immediate revenue (all that really matters in Hollywood in this day and age.)

And as for first-weekend competetion, neither weekend poised much of a threat: nothing was playing on May 4, sure, but the only thing on April 27 was a Paula Patton thriller entitled Traffik, a horror movie called Bad Samaritan starring David Tennant, and comedy I Feel Pretty from Amy Schumer. The latter film already moved back a week to April 20, and neither of the others will make much of a dent on pop culture, so Marvel had nothing to fear with placing Infinity War against them.

Finally, the move will also cut off the threat of spoilers reaching America before the majority of the country gets to see the film. That hasn’t been too much of a threat for other Marvel releases like Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok (both opened overseas a week earlier)…but Infinity War is different. It’s rumored to make some massive changes to the state of the MCU and the characters in it, and I’m sure Kevin Feige would prefer people witnessed such developments in the theater, rather than on Twitter.

Ultimately, there’s nothing all that fishy here about the move. It’s only a week, but it could end up helping the film quite a bit in the long run. And if it means we get to see this movie seven days earlier than expected, I’m sure I’m not the only one who will take this offering with little reservations.

Also published on Medium.

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Disney Is Rebooting The Muppets (Yes, Again) And A Whole Bunch of Other Dormant Properties For Their New Streaming Service

Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Father of the Bride, The Parent Trap, the concept of time itself. You know, the usual.



Disney has conquered mainstream Hollywood. That is an undeniable fact, if you ask me — between their Marvel and Star Wars output (not to mention their live action remakes, animated films, and projects from Pixar), Disney seems to be the only big studio thriving in the modern age. But as much as that seems like a compliment to Disney, it’s also something of a dour note for the industry overall — things are rough for theatrical film, for a variety of reasons. But perhaps the most substantial one is competition from the world of cable, Broadcast, and (especially) streaming outlets. When you are routinely getting things of the same (if not better) quality out of TV and streaming, why even go to the theater? The question is baffling to me (because it’s a movie theater, that’s why!), but not for the majority of Americans — ticket sales are the worst they have been in decades, as people would rather get their entertainment fix by staying at home and watching Netflix.

And Disney knows this. They are content with having conquered the ashes of traditional Hollywood, but they aren’t idiots — the media landscape is changing, and they want to be just as viable in the new one as a Netflix or HBO. So they are creating their own streaming service, and taking the battle for entertainment supremacy to Netflix in a big way.

But in building their new streaming outlet, I was rather curious how Disney planned to convince people to subscribe to their service when there were dozens more out there competing for the same eyeballs (and monthly set of dollar bills.) Well, today we got a pretty big hint in how Disney plans to build out their streaming portfolio and, no surprise, it’s taking advantage of their biggest asset: all the well-liked shit they have made and/or acquired over the last century. Brands are king for Disney, and they very much seem to be putting those at the forefront as they dive into this new frontier. Call it a safety blanket if you want (I will: it’s a safety blanket), but it has served Disney well in the last decade, so
…reboot time it is!

Of course, many of Disney’s bigger properties have already been rebooted or remade on the big screen, leading the selections for their streaming stuff to be a bit lower tier. The biggest property announced today for the potential reboot treatment is The Muppets, who Disney acquired from The Jim Henson Company back in 2004, and have since been left scratching their heads at what exactly to do with it. Things seemed great at first when the Jason Segal-led reboot film managed to enliven the love for the franchise, and perform pretty great at the box office to boot. But then Muppets Most Wanted came out and, despite being a whole lotta fun, underwhelmed at the box office. It seemed The Muppets would not be the blockbuster franchise Disney was hoping for.

Rebooting The Muppets

So they transferred the property back to TV, relaunching a new series simply entitled The Muppets. This series had a promising hook (basically The Muppets meets 30 Rock, through the mockumentary lens of The Office) but it failed to get an audience on ABC and, quite frankly, wasn’t even all that good to begin with. Then a whole controversy broke out when longtime puppeteer/Kermit the Frog voice actor Steve Whitmire was fired from working on the property. He argued that Disney’s plans for the character was against what Henson would have stood for. They argued he was a shitty worker who didn’t play well with others, and everyone else was glad to be rid of him. The truth probably rests somewhere in between the two stances, but that didn’t make the controversy anymore crippling for The Muppet brand. They laid low for a year or so, only popping up to make wacky promotional videos and the like for the franchises’ various social media pages.

But apparently, Disney still thinks they can make this thing work in a big way, as The Hollywood Reporter confirms the Mouse House intends to bring the property to their new streaming service. Which, by the way, could use a name pronto. I’m tiring of just calling it “their new streaming service.” Judging by what they seem to want to put on it, maybe simply “Reboot” will do?

Kidding aside, The Muppets isn’t the only reboot Disney plans to anchor the service with. Also in the mix according to THR is film properties like Honey I Shrunk the Kids (you, know the Rick Moranis movie about shrinking kids), Father of the Bride (you know, the Steve Martin movie about being the father of the bride), and The Parent Trap (you know, the Lindsay Lohan movie about trapping parents.) This is in addition to previously announced reboot fodder like High School Musical and The Mighty Ducks which, yeah, were all certainly things at one point in time. They have name value, and that’s all that matters to the house that Micky Mouse built!  At least there will be some top shelve franchise extinctions from brands like Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar’s Monster’s Inc. And, who knows, maybe an original property might sneak its way in there!

…But no promises.

Also published on Medium.

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Let’s Speculate Wildly: Is Marvel Laying The Groundwork For A Thor Crossover In Black Panther 2?

The endings of Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther could open up quite the intriguing storyline for Black Panther 2…if the studio chooses to explore it.



***This post contains spoilers for the end of both Thor: Ragnarok AND Black Panther. Don’t read this if you haven’t watched either film. You have been warned.***

I had a lot of thoughts floating through my head as I watched Black Panther this weekend. First and foremost was awe — Marvel pulled off another great movie, which is increasingly becoming the norm for that company. Secondly was tremendous respect for Ryan Coogler, who managed to not only deliver an incredibly fun superhero movie, but a blockbuster with something important and fascinating to say. Third was a simple wish to have Letitia Wright as my new best friend which, c’mon, shouldn’t be that hard, right?!

But one thought that was in the back of my mind throughout most of Black Panther was, admittedly, a rather geeky one. And the kind of geeky thought that stems from nothing more than the rather childish instincts of having all my favorite toys playing together. Sure, that is a major part of the fun that the Marvel Cinematic Universe represents, but it doesn’t make the instinct of “oh, what if these two met and became BEST FRIENDS?!” any less of a reductive thought. All that being said…wouldn’t it be super awesome if Thor: Ragnarok’s Valkyrie met the Wakandians?! I mean, she would LOVE it there, right? A warrior culture of advanced lifeforms who are primarily protected by a troop of badass, all-female fighters? She would have SO MUCH fun! And since she was the undeniable MVP of Thor: Ragnarok (next to Korg, at least), it would be a lot of great to see her hang out with the great ensemble that was built up in Black Panther. 

…Which got me thinking.

The way Thor: Ragnarok ended left a huge question mark in that particular area of the MCU. Choosing to literally destroy all of Asgard, leaving its occupants in flight and in search of a new home, was kind of a ballsy choice for the sequel. And then when Thor suggested immigrating to Earth in the final line of the film, I couldn’t help but stifle a chuckle. The world can barely handle the people it has — Thor is in for a rude awakening if he thinks that they will just invite a whole crop of alien refugees to share their resources. In a post Brexit, Syrian refugee crisis world, the idea of the Asgardians just coming to Earth and being welcomed with open arms is (sadly) laughable.

But, regardless, the question still remained: what would become of the Asgardians as they made their way to Earth? Clearly, Marvel has a plan here, as it would be very unlike them to set up this plot point without ever addressing it again in the future. If they had no plan for the ship full of Asgardians, why even save them? Well, I have a theory: they were saved because they will serve an important purpose in a future MCU installment. Namely? Black Panther 2. Or whatever it will end up being called. Marvel doesn’t like numbers anymore.

But that’s beside the point. Let’s now shift focus to the aforementioned Black Panther, which concluded with King T’Challa finally realizing (through the inactions of his ancestors) that Wakanda could no longer be a nation of isolationist. That, in the modern world, Wakanda could just not turn its back on people who need aid. He spoke to the UN about creating “bridges” rather than barriers to outside countries, which made for a rather rousing and uplifting message for the film to conclude on.

But what made Black Panther a great movie is how it didn’t rely on moral absolutism, even for things that seemed obvious (i.e you should help those that need it.) Killmonger was one of Marvel’s best villains because he had a point, and was correct in many of his stances towards how Wakanda was doing a disservice to the world. But opening the doors to the outside world has its fair share of potential issues and problems too, which the film briefly addresses as light rebuttals to Killmonger’s main points. If Wakanda shared its advance knowledge with the world, how much of it would be used for ill? What responsibility does Wakanda even have towards the world at large? Should it take precedence over their well being as a singular culture? The film wisely doesn’t provide clear-cut answers for these issues and, though what T’Challa does is ultimately the “right” thing, the right thing can often lead to consequences of their very own.

Which is what I imagine the potential sequel will tackle. Just like how Iron Man 2 delt with the fallout of Tony revealing his identity to the world, and how Captain America: Winter Soldier dealt with the fallout of Steve Rogers being a man out of time, Black Panther 2 will absolutely have to tackle how the massive change in status quo for Wakanda impacts its people and their king. And what better way to do that then by actually showing Wakanda literally opening its doors to another people? Say another people with an equally strong sense of culture and traditions, who are currently floating through space without a home of their own? If my theory is even slightly correct, than Wakanda would be the perfect place for the Asgardians refuges to settle…and Black Panther 2 would be a perfect place to give such a move its due.

After all, such a migration would lend a Black Panther sequel a ton of interesting, relevant themes to dwell upon, themes that can build upon those of the first Black Panther, and can be just as politically relevant and insightful. What kind of conflicts arises when two ancient, powerful cultures are forced to share the same living space? What becomes of the nation of Wakanda when it actually puts its money where its mouth is and adopts a more multi-cultural approach to its civilization? Would doing so risk diluting the culture of Wakanda as it stands, erasing the identity of the people with it? And how would the Asgardians, previously a nation of conquerors and “protectors” over all others, move into a more submissive position in which they have to rely on another people for support? And how would the two kings caught in the middle (Thor and T’Challa) deal with such a cultural clash? Now normally I wouldn’t predict a superhero blockbuster to so strongly address a real-world issue (in this case, the Syrian refugee crisis), but I sure as hell didn’t expect Black Panther to address the themes it did either. So if any modern blockbuster series would, it would be this one. The themes are already baked into its DNA, after all, and the way the way the overall story is moving in the MCU itself would seem to lead to such a plot turn.

And while I can see certainly see a bit of cynicism to the concept of Black Panther 2 so heavily absorbing another branch of the MCU (“What, does Marvel not think Black Panther is a strong enough series to support itself without a big crossover?), I think the potential of the story outweighs the fear of this becoming a paint-by-numbers superhero team-up film. And recent Marvel history not only shows how open and willing they are to play with their characters in this way, but also gives them the benefit of the doubt to do it. Even if this hypothetical Black Panther includes Thor and his brood of supporting characters (who at this point are only Valkyrie and Heimdall, really — technically Loki is with him too but, let’s be honest, that dude is TOAST come Infinity War), I trust the people at Marvel can find a way to add these characters into the world while still allowing the movie to be a Black Panther sequel. Throwing in Hulk for Thor: Ragnarok never made that one feel like less of a Thor movie. And, despite what could have happened, Spider-Man: Homecoming remained a Spider-Man film, and didn’t ever become “Iron Man and His Amazing Web-Swinging Friend” as initially feared. Hell, Captain America: Civil War included nearly all the Avengers in substantial roles, and I still feel like the center of the story was on Steve Rogers and his overall arc. I see no reason why bringing in Thor, Valkyrie, Heimdall (and, of course, Korg) would take away from the focus of the story being on T’Challa, Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, W’Kabi, M’Baku, et al. And the dramatic potential this story could have on the Black Panther AND Thor characters far outweighs the potential negatives, in my mind.

Of course, I have to end all this blatant fan theorizing by stating the obvious: I have no idea whatsoever what will happen in future Black Panther installments, or the rest of the MCU for that matter. Everything I am writing here is pure conjecture, based on nothing, and I very well could be wrong about where this entire thing is heading. After all, Avengers: Infinity War is going to come and blow all my MCU theories out of the water anyways. What the shape of this universe will be post-Infinity War/Avengers 4 is anyone’s guess. For all I know, Infinity War might go full Alien 3, and begin with Thanos killing off every Asgardian aside from Thor. But, like I said, I have more faith in Marvel’s storytelling abilities than that.

And even if Black Panther 2 doesn’t have anything to do with the universe of Thor and its characters…I have to imagine there will be a grander purpose for the Asguardian refugees. And with the movie directly after Thor: Ragnarok concluding with a separate, powerful group deciding to open their borders and help those in need (including by taking in refugees, as directly stated by Nakia earlier in the film)…well? All I can do as a viewer is try to connect the dots.

…AND fanboy out about my favorite characters meeting some of my other favorite characters. Valkyrie and Okoye need to swap war stories about protecting kings. And share fighting tips. And just be awesome, in general. And since the MCU is built specifically to facilitate such team-ups, I argue: why the hell not? We might end up getting something pretty damn interesting out of it along the way.

Also published on Medium.

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