Yes, There’s an Ad After the “Nope” End Credits

Nope Alien!

Cowboys vs. Aliens, but way better.

The following thoughts on Jordan Peele’s new film Nope are entirely about spoilers from start to finish except the two obligatory postscripts at the end of every MCC entry, which cover additional cast and the end credits. While Get Out remains his best film so far, Nope is a rare treat for me: a film which, the more I dwelt on it, the more I loved. This is a welcome opposite of my previous summertime theatrical experience, one more deserving of fun exploration. Courtesy spoiler alert in advance, then.

We do love to watch, and under the right circumstances we love to be watched. Among the most thrilling and obvious ways to chase fame and/or fortune is to be among the most watched. Young or old, regardless of your assorted demographic memberships, anyone can be among society’s celebrated objects of attention with the right combination of talent and luck. When one ingredient is lacking, push the other to its limits. The talent doesn’t have to be great if circumstances usher the would-be idol past the velvet rope anyway. And the luck doesn’t have to be good.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Thor: Love and Thunder” End Credits

Tessa Thompson and Natalie Portman in "Thor Love and Thunder".

“Y’know, if we let Gorr end him, we could have the movie all to ourselves…”

Unlike some actors we know who used to earn eight-figure paychecks from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and now probably have to subsist on seven-figure residuals, Chris Hemsworth isn’t going anywhere. The star and Executive Producer is back for Thor: Love and Thunder, as is Taika Waititi, costar and director of Thor: Ragnarok, the Best Thor Movie Ever and possibly the funniest MCU film to date. Perplexingly, he’s followed up with my least favorite Waititi film to date.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Lightyear” End Credits

Lightyear!

To finity and no farther!

“In 1995 Andy got a new toy for his birthday. It was from his favorite movie. This is that movie.”

That’s paraphrasing (i.e., possibly misquoting from fading memory) the first lines from Lightyear — its high-concept, low-bar mission statement and its disclaimer to deflect any viewers who might’ve refused to relax without some form of canonical context, no matter how tenuous or superfluous. Critics’ memories of the exact verbiage differed from one site to the next. The erstwhile animation trailblazers at Pixar were hoping those same fuzzy memories might forgive/forget the shamelessly unnecessary Toy Story 4 and embrace this, their latest merchandise revival to be contrived from the greatest animated film trilogy ever.

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“Jurassic World: Dominion”: The Locust Job

Jurassic World Dominion cast!

In which the old crews get together for one last heist and take down one last reckless billionaire.

[EDITORS’ NOTE: The following entry knowingly contains minor, non-shocking spoilers.]

Much like the TV show Leverage, the Jurassic series has always been about disrupting high-level corruption in wealthy companies whose prideful execs think they’re too rich and clever to fail. Past Jurassic installments have tackled such hot-button issues as animal rights, eugenics, science ethics, theme park safety protocols, nepotism, big-game hunting for sport, neglectful mishandling of dormant IPs, natural disasters, black-market endangered-species trafficking, and more. Cautionary tales have taught us many important lessons all along, starting with that time Steven Spielberg and co-screenwriter David Koepp brought Michael Crichton’s bestselling screed about corporate accountability to a worldwide audience, some of whom took the Moral of the Story to heart and resolved not to live their lives with the hubris of Dr. John Hammond. Some of the filmmakers who followed in their footsteps paid more attention than others.

This time, much like the Leverage season-4 episode “The Hot Potato Job”, Jurassic World: Dominion turns its journalistic eye toward American agriculture and the manipulative opportunists who dominate the landscape and push out hard-working independent farmers who don’t have the resources to compete with the cutting-edge agritech wielded by richer, amoral hands. It’s to Universal Pictures’ credit that they dared to spend $165 million on a 60 Minutes exposé wrapped in a heist flick, which returning director/co-writer Colin Trevorrow and two co-writers kept intentionally mediocre so that the razzle-dazzle of basic cinematic quality wouldn’t distract from the message.

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The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 2: Mighty Marvel Cinemania

Iron Man Mark I armor!

The Iron Man Mark I armor, the very first costume in the official Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

…so we old folks had fun roaming around a kiddie museum, Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry, immersing ourselves in the all-ages roadshow exhibit “Marvel: Universe of Super-Heroes”. As you’d expect from a mainstream celebration of a massive multimedia corporation with an audience of hundreds of millions, many vitrines were devoted to keepsakes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Costumes and props worn and touched by the actors (and/or stunt doubles) were all around the hall, imbuing onlookers with that keen vibe of authentic Hollywood proximity. We’d previously seen MCU items on our Atlanta trip back in 2019, but I was gratified to notice very little overlap between the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum’s collection and this one.

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“Downton Abbey: A New Era”: Travels, Talkies, and Other Traumas

Downton Abbey A New Era!

One of our local theaters showed this in Dolby Cinema with perfect picture and volume-17 sound. Oh, how the Dowager Countess would judge them.

They’re back! Lord and Lady Grantham! The Dowager Countess! Lady Mary! Edith! Cousin Isobel! Tom Branson! Mr. and Mrs. Carson! Mr. and Mrs. Bates! Thomas! Mrs. Patmore! Daisy! Andy! Mr. Molesley! Miss Baxter! Mrs. Denker! Bertie! Lord Merton! Lucy! Sybbie! George! Marigold! Lady Rosamund! Mr. Mason! Dr. Clarkson! Mr. Murray! Dolores Umbridge! The ol’ gang’s back together again for Downton Abbey: A New Era, the latest chapter in Julian Fellowes’ beloved historical drama about waning British affluence, surviving well past the six-seasons-and-a-movie threshold for true pop culture immortality.

That’s 29 characters whose original actors returned for this shindig. And yes, I double-checked: three of their tiny offspring have indeed been played by the same moppets since season 5. Triple bonus points if you recognize all 29 without cheating — as I did to peg Lady Violet’s lawyer — but then you’re docked half those points if we catch you complaining that the MCU has gotten just too darn huge to keep track of.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” End Credits

Dr, Strange 2 IMAX Poster!

We don’t always pay extra for Marvel movie upgrades, but this time…eh, why not.

A coworker of mine was invited to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on opening weekend despite the fact that she’d never watched a single Marvel product in her life. While I chuckled for a few minutes and mentally judged the invitee for his selfish chutzpah, another coworker generally on the same pop-culture page as me graciously tried to recap both the first Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: No Way Home in hopes that it might give her the slightest help before being dragged into the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s kind to show someone how to dog-paddle at least a little before they’re shoved into the deep end of the pool by some dude eagerly looking forward to giving her swimming lessons while she’s drowning. Oh, the gleeful countdown he probably kept in his head for days until that heroic moment when he could point at Benedict Cumberbatch onscreen and proudly, loudly whisper to her, “That’s Doctor Strange!”

Meanwhile, I’m unhelpfully daydreaming how this exchange might’ve been twice as entertaining, but only half as helpful, if at all helpful, if coworker #2 had delivered the recap in the style of Ant-Man’s pal Luis. I am arguably an enabler of the problem here.

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“The Northman” Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Monster

Alexander Skarsgard IS The Northman!

“My name is Amleth War-Raven. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

It’s just the Dolby Cinema sensory overload talking (ten days later, even), but my favorite thing about The Northman is it may be the closest I ever get to Skyrim: The Motion Picture. Granted, in his painstaking simulation of a savage tenth-century Scandinavia, co-writer/director Robert Eggers has omitted dragons, magic, nonhuman races, skill leveling, heavy armor, and evil demon gods. Such is the movie biz, where compromise is inevitable and was definitely not a Viking invention.

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The Bearable Lightness of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”

Unbearable Weight!

…and yet, not a single shout-out to 8MM.

Not counting animated gigs (ranked by quality and in reverse release order: Spider-Verse, The Croods, Astro Boy) the last time I paid to see Nicolas Cage’s distorted face live on a theater screen was 2009’s Knowing, which I’d forgotten existed till just now. I suspect I’m not alone in having given up on Cage’s career after he descended from the ranks of Oscar-winning A-listers to join the Redbox human-running-gag lineup as the easiest possible means to solve his gargantuan tax and debt issues. Once upon a time it would’ve been the second-easiest means, right after “do an A-list film for an A-list paycheck”.

Now that he’s officially announced himself debt-free, the next obvious step is a comeback tour. For me that journey began last year with Pig, such a lovely little heartbreaker of a film that I wish I’d seen it sooner so I could’ve ranked it highly in one of my year-in-review lists. That apparently wasn’t enough to win back the hearts of millions of forsakers, though. Perhaps its sincerity and low violence quotient frightened and confused younger Cage fans who simply assumed he too was battling elder abuse and aphasia. Hence the comeback tour’s Plan B: whimsical self-deprecation.

Thus the face of the dude who might be the new Hardest-Working Man in Showbiz returns to theaters in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent courtesy of writer/director Tom Gormican (a creator of the short-lived Adam Scott/Craig Robinson misfire Ghosted) and co-writer Kevin Etten (Comedy Central’s Workaholics). Rather than stand aloof while the internet mocks him with every new release, why not lean into the mockery and subvert it from within? Then perhaps we can all laugh together, do some healing, forgive at least twenty of his last three dozen films, and start a useless change.org petition to get National Treasure 3 greenlit.

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“Everything Everywhere All at Once”: Into the Yeoh-Verse

Everything Everywhere All at Once!

Trust me, it makes way more sense in context.

It’s 2022 and the multiverse is in!

Comics and science fiction fans are well acquainted with the essentially fictional theory that infinite Earths exist in infinite universes, one for each possibility at every crossroads in every human life ever. All across the space-time continuum(s) there’s hypothetically one version of you for every major decision that you personally have ever had to make. Sometimes you chose well; sometimes you chose poorly and ruined everything. Either way, whatever choices you didn’t make, there’s a you for those. Of course that isn’t counting the timelines where you didn’t even exist because your parents or your ancestors chose poorly, or someone killed them too soon, or Earth was prematurely destroyed, or our planet survived but the dominant lifeform was amoebae, dinosaurs, or orcs.

Alt-timeline hi-jinks are plentiful in pop culture, in which characters bounce back and forth between their Earth and one (1) radically different Earth, compare and contrast What Might Have Been with What Is, and learn what George Bailey should’ve taught them when they were kids. But now, thanks to the success and awesomeness of Into the Spider-Verse, two measly Earths in a single story is no longer enough. Next month’s Doctor Strange sequel threatens to capitalize on its ingenuity, expand on the foundation laid in Avengers: Endgame and TV’s Loki, and overwhelm viewers with potentially more universes than Spider-Verse had, each with its own Benedict Cumberbatch, all of whom have to split a single paycheck. DC Comics, the very first publisher to give us Earth-vs.-Earth conflict in funnybook history, remains hard at work on riding Marvel’s multiversal coattails with their long-gestating Flash movie, which, given its current production pace and behind-the-scenes embarrassments, may give Marvel some stiff competition when it’s ready for release in the year 2525.

But why should superheroes have all the fun? If we take the multiverse as a given, then it stands to reason that there are in fact realities where multiversal mayhem occurs but isn’t centered on costumed do-gooders because they don’t exist. Enter writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Swiss Army Man), who took a small cast, a modest budget (about the same as a single Loki episode) and who knows how many substances, and together concocted the madcap psycho-farcical Everything Everywhere All at Once.

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