West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/10/23


I’ve mentioned in the past that Regal Cinemas has Mystery Movie Mondays a couple times a month, where you throw down your $5, and you don’t know what you’re going to see until the trailers end. Well, sorta. I mean, if you hate magic and wonder, there are ways to possibly find out what’s going to be playing, ahead of time. Anyway, I’ve missed just as many as I’ve managed to see, but I can’t say I’ve ever been disappointed. I went a couple of weeks ago, where the movie turned out to be holiday horror comedy It’s A Wonderful Knife. Yup, it’s exactly what you think it is: a slasher influenced by the James Stewart classic.

Starring from Jane Widdop, from Showtime’s Yellowjackets, the film centers on a high school senior Winnie, who discovers the identity of a serial killer that has been plaguing her small town. She ends up killing the killer on Christmas Eve, but the film then jumps ahead a year, where you discover her life has just gotten worse since that night. She gets rejected by her dream school, meanwhile everyone but her seems to have moved on from the events of the previous Christmas Eve, and she starts to think maybe everyone would be better off if she simply hadn’t been born. There just happens to be an aurora in the sky when she makes this wish, and she turns around to find a town that is drastically different from the one she remembered. Winnie’s now in a new timeline, where the town has gone to Hell because she was never born, meaning she was also never around to stop the killer’s reign of terror. So, he’s still killing, while the survivors are basically all living on skid row. So, not only does Winnie have to kill him again, but also has to figure out how to set right the timeline.

Let me say that I was definitely entertained, but this movie has a lot of issues. Recently, I’d heard folks complain about current horror always striving for inclusiveness, and to be politically correct, but I never really noticed it until here. This movie was like a United Colors of Benetton ad, where EVERYONE was represented. The kindly old man was played by William B. Davis – better known as The Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files, while his granddaughter (also Winnie’s best friend) was Black. We never see his kids, though, but something happened there. Winnie’s brother, Jimmy, is gay, but they hamfistedly inform the audience of this just so they won’t be shocked when he’s making out with a boy in 10 minutes. There’s a pair of stoners, who are classmates of Winnie’s, but one of them is trans? Possibly non-binary? Winnie’s aunt is a lesbian, and her wife has a VERY large birthmark on her face, to the point where you start to wonder if it’s integral to the plot (I later Googled the actress and discovered that’s just her “thing”). I get they’re trying to normalize it, so it’s not like they needed to address it, but it’s also very distracting, and we live in a time when productions seem to feel everything has to be addressed, so it’s almost strange when it isn’t? It’s hard to explain. Then, there’s the twist at the end. I’m not gonna spoil it, but it doesn’t feel *earned*, even if it didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. Anyway, none of it was necessarily forced, but it also didn’t feel organic.

My biggest problem with this film, however, is that it doesn’t have a basic understanding of temporal mechanics and alternate timelines. Now, I’m not saying that you have to bring in Neil deGrasse Tyson, nor do things have to be too complicated for the layperson. That said, there are just basic things that I feel like even a child would understand, that just don’t come into play in this movie. Sure, there are other basic questions that are never answered, especially concerning the killer himself, but this was where I could no longer suspend disbelief. Try to walk with me here: If Winnie had never been born, then all events of the previous 18 years would have been different – in some ways, drastically. This is simply because she wasn’t around to influence anything. This movie, however, assumes that the past 18 years played out EXACTLY the same as if she had existed, and the timeline only diverged on that Christmas Eve night, when she wasn’t around to kill the killer. So, this is basically a branching off of an alternate timeline, rather than being the alternate timeline itself. The resulting movie would have worked the same way if Winnie had always been alive, but was plucked out of existence on Christmas Eve. There is a difference there!

At the end of the day, though, it’s just not a well-written film. I went with my buddy John, and he didn’t think it was good at all. As I said in the beginning, I was entertained, but I know the quality of everything was lacking. It was a Shudder film, so that sort of places it on a very specific tier of quality, but it also had recognizable stars. Anyway, I left the theater wondering what kind of gambling debt Joel McHale must have for him to have signed on to this thing. It’s A Wonderful Knife opens in theaters today, so go see it and let me know your thoughts!

Trailer Park

Eileen (Theaters, December 1st)

Ooh, this looks nice. Who knew a blonde Anne Hathaway would look so good? I won’t see this in a theater, but I am actually looking forward to being able to see it. Hopefully it comes to streaming pretty quickly.

Leave The World Behind (Theaters, November 28th/Netflix, December 8th)

This looks intriguing, but it also looks like “The Purge for people who are on their second marriage”. I can’t really convey what I mean by that, but you get where I’m coming from. It’s an upper middle class world of stepmoms and Teslas, and suddenly there’s a technological attack! This is one of those movies where we’re supposed to be nervous because it’s “the world outside our door”, and “this could really happen!” Meanwhile, no one really relates to this experience, so that’s where the film loses its bite. At least, that’s what I gathered from the trailer. I’ll still probably watch it, though, because I don’t have to leave home to do so.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (Theaters, I dunno, sometime in 2024)

It’s OK, I guess. My biggest issue with this trailer is it doesn’t feel *epic* enough to justify its existence. It just feels like the middle of an inevitable trilogy, made solely to make money and keep an IP alive. “Ooh, ice ghosts!” I wrote this on Facebook, and got quite a bit of backlash from the uberfans, but nothing from the folks who only remember Ecto Cooler in passing. I always considered myself a “Ghostbusters Fan”, but like most things on the internet, I encountered folks whose fandom dwarfed my own. So, I had to reassess, and realized that I was actually a “The Real Ghostbusters cartoon and toyline fan”. I never cared as much for the movies – especially the first one. Growing up, the second one was in constant rotation on our local Fox affiliate, WTTG 5. Familiarity breeds liking, and I’m just more familiar with that second one, despite it being maligned by the fandom. Once I realized that, I knew that I was always going to be “on the wrong side of history” when compared to the core GB fandom.  Is it a valuable IP? Sure, I know it is. Sony knows it is. But I don’t think they’ve really gone about it the right way. My buddy Chad says this looks like an episode of The Real Ghostbusters, which might be true, but I also don’t think most of those scripts really demanded big screen adaptation. I’m sure J. Michael Straczynski might feel differently, though…

The Fall Guy (March 1st, 2024)

The original Lee Majors-starring vehicle, The Fall Guy, holds a lot of meaning for me, as it – along with Knight Rider and The Dukes of Hazzard – rounds out my Holy Trinity of the Cars Jumping Over Shit genre of television that I grew up on. I never even knew it was a network show, as I was introduced to it in syndication, but it was a staple of my Saturday afternoons growing up. Most folks think of Majors as The Six Million Dollar Man, but not me. He’ll always be Colt Seavers to me. Meanwhile, I love Ryan Gosling, all the way back to MMC and Breaker High. In fact, I love everyone in this cast. That said, this is NOT The Fall Guy. Looks great. I’ll see it. But call it something else? I dunno. I don’t know if “The Fall Guy” holds enough cache that using the name would make the movie any more successful than if it had just been called “Stuntman“. When you’ve got Gosling and Emily Blunt, the title doesn’t really mean much. Anyway, I just read Blake Shelton is covering the theme song, “Unknown Stuntman”, so I’ve gotta go find that. Oh, and I hope they do that trope where Lee Majors cameos as Gosling’s dad.

The Marvels (Theaters, NOW)

Marvel cut it really close, releasing this thing 4 days ago, but they finally made me care about this movie. This should have been the first trailer – ya know, tie things into the last epic event of the MCU (when everyone still loved it), remind us she’s sort of an Avenger (For marketing purposes, she was an Avenger in the MCU, but was she? Like Doctor Strange, she merely assisted the Avengers against Thanos, but it’s not like she had a room at the compound or anything). Anyway, I have no clue who this villain is, but at least I know what she’s trying to do. I don’t really understand why Brie’s portraying Carol like she has PTSD, but I’m hoping the movie explains it all. This trailer was also all about Kamala Erasure, so I don’t know if a lot of her stuff fell victim to one of the recent reshoots, or if she’s still going to have as prominent a role as she had originally.

Will Around The Web

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Ron Howard has grabbed the TV rights to adapt Van Jensen’s novel Godfall, about what happens when an alien corpse crashes in Red State America. I’d imagine they’d try to build a wall around it…
  • Independent theaters were inserting a short intermission into Martin Scorsese’s long-as-Hell Killers of the Flower Moon until the studio found out about it, and put a stop to the practice.
  • TJ Holmes & Amy Robach – the former GMA anchors who were let go due to their affair – have signed a podcast deal with iHeartMedia. Glad to see that podcasts have become “the convention circuit” for non-fandom celebs. Not working? Start a podcast!
  • Currently in the final year of their HBO deal, it was announced that Sesame Street would be “reimagined”, moving to a more narrative format, and less of the familiar “newsmagazine” format.
  • In the grand tradition of Batgirl and Scoob Holiday Haunt!, WB CEO David Zaslav is rumored to be planning not to release the completed John Cena film, Coyote vs. ACME.
  • The Beatles released a new song & video, “Now and Then”, and I think it’s probably the most damning case against A.I. Seriously, somebody should have just told them, “Y’all don’t have to make a video for this. We don’t really do that anymore.”


I know I’ve mentioned him in the past, but a lot of my web presence is due, in fact, to my friend, Marcus K. Dowling. You see, we met way back in 2005, when I worked in commercial real estate, and we were both “researchers” (which really meant we spent the day cold-calling strangers). He was a cool dude who also hated that job, yet got his joy as an indie wrestling manager on the weekends. At the time, he was Marcus “King Kong” Dowling, and his Saturdays were spent driving up and down the East Coast, to get booed at by toothless mobs in high school gymnasiums (he was a heel, of course!). He transitioned out of that world, and commercial real estate, and found himself in the world of music journalism. Lester Bangs had been one of his heroes, so it wasn’t too surprising. He did a lot of local stuff, writing for a bunch of scenester blogs, but he also created his own: True Genius Requires Insanity, for which he invited me to write. It was the first time I’d written for any publication that didn’t have my name on it. Then, at the dawn of podcasts, his site started their own, and that was my first podcast appearance. So, his site kept me blogging at a time when I might have just taken a break, and he also introduced me to rambling for others. So, you have him to either thank or blame for *gestures around* all of this.

After a while, it felt like he had pretty much done all he could do in DC. It’s not exactly a ‘music town”, and he wasn’t writing about politics, so it’s not like this was the place to be. He’s the only other Black country fan in my life, but he knows that world inside and out. So, it also wasn’t a surprise when he told me he was moving to Nashville. And while I wouldn’t call him an “overnight success”, I will say that he took to that city like a fish takes to water. I’d open Instagram to see him interviewing actual stars. Around here, he’d be hanging with the inventors of Moombahton or some other dance fad, but now he was talking to people your grandma had heard of (especially if she was White)! I first knew he’d “made it” when he was a guest on The Bobbycast, which is the podcast of radio personality, and former American Idol mentor, Bobby Bones. I used to listen to Bobby every morning, and here was this guy I knew, shooting the shit with him, for the world to hear. It was surreal. The thing that really got me, though, was a few weeks ago, when I opened IG to see Marcus with Darius Rucker. The two pillars of Black Modern Country (in my life, at least) were together at last! The circle was complete! But neither of those prepared me for what would happen next.

This week, Marcus won the CMA Media Achievement Award, which is voted on by publicist members of the Country Music Association. This award “recognizes the outstanding achievements of print and internet journalists, columnists, authors, editors, television writers, producers, bookers and syndicated radio reporters in the media as they relate to country music.” Having joined the staff of The Tennessean in 2021, it’s come to the point where EVERYONE knows Marcus in Nashville. I mean, it’s not just that he’s the most prominent Black press in this space, but he also makes an impression. This dude peacocks like none other, and he’s one of those journalists who has to try hard not to become the story because the spotlight is naturally drawn to him. I’m proud of all he’s accomplished in that space, and he’s not only inspirational, but also aspirational. So, 2023 CMA Media Achievement Award recipient Marcus K. Dowling had the West Week Ever.