West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/9/24

Think about that: The most blog posts. Never won Blogger of the Year. That doesn’t work.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, my buddy Mike and I went to see Night Swim last weekend. I never wanted to see it, honestly, and really tried to steer the ship toward Godzilla Minus One/Minus Color. However, that movie had left theaters, so he lucked out. Mike was my co-pilot on Phases 1-3 of the MCU, even though he had really been through it by the time credits rolled on Spider-Man: Far From Home. He still pops in from time to time, but he seems to feel like I punished him in those latter years, by not letting him out of some sort of unofficial blood oath he’d sworn to me. So, as payback, I find myself at a bunch of mid-budget Blumhouse films every few months. And I’m not even a horror guy, but these aren’t exactly gory, so I can handle it.

Where to begin with this movie? I’m gonna spoil a lot of it, so you can just skip to Trailer Park if you don’t wanna read all this. Wyatt Russell plays a professional baseball player who is trying to figure out his future after he’s diagnosed with MS. Somehow, he thinks he’s gonna beat it and return to baseball, since all he knows is the game. He had no Plan B. So, while he gets treatment, the family searches for a place to live nearby. They were going to rent, because that wouldn’t involve actually putting down stakes, and admitting his career was over. However, they come across a house that seems perfect, and it even has a pool!

The pool is magical. After doing water therapy in it for a few weeks, Russell’s strength returns and even increases. He helps coach his son’s little league team, and ends up almost shattering the ball when he hits it. Water therapy turns to swimming multiples times per day. He goes to the doctor, and the test results show that he pretty much doesn’t have MS anymore. He’s like, “Look, baby. I told ya I’d beat this!” And his wife is all “That makes no sense”. Meanwhile, a bunch of weird stuff happens to their teen kids in the pool. The kids are convinced something’s going on with the water. They hesitate to tell mom, because she wouldn’t believe them. However, after the results at the doctor’s appointment, she believes! She prods her real estate agent, who reveals the previous owners hadn’t used the pool because of a rumored drowning that had taken place in the 90s. This earlier drowning, by the way, was shown in the cold open of the film. Wife does more research, and discovers people have died in the pool for GENERATIONS. So, she seeks out the former owner whose daughter drowned back in the 90s.

The former owner is an elderly woman who depends on an oxygen tank. As Wife prods her with more questions, the lady visibly becomes more agitated. Suddenly, black slime begins to ooze through the tubing of her tank – the same slime they’d discovered in their pool when they were initially cleaning it. In a creepy bit of exposition, Old Possessed Lady begins to explain that the pool was built on an ancient spring that had healing powers. The catch, however, was that it required a sacrifice. Turns out she had sacrificed her daughter to the pool spirits or whatever, in order for them to heal her sickly son. Now an adult, her son was “In Washington, doing important things.” Oh, and all of the local water supply hookups were connected to the spring when the development was built.

Wife runs from the house, back home, to find Russell is possessed and going all The Shining on the kids. I’m actually going to skip this third act, because you might wanna watch it, and I’ve gotta leave something to the imagination. Fast forward to the end: The family decides they can’t sell the house, because then the evil pool would end up some other family’s burden (SO?!), so you see a bulldozer roll up and drop dirt into the pool. They’re just gonna cover up the problem. The End.

So many things about this movie bothered me, but the biggest is that there is a kernel of an interesting film here, but they don’t explore anything worth exploring. Characters are introduced with no real purpose or backstory. The main characters aren’t really fleshed out. Then, there’s my whole “real world analysis” going on: When the pool “takes” someone, it doesn’t leave behind a body. So, what do you tell the police? The insurance company, even?! Russell was a former baseball player, and it seems like they spent what they had buying the house outright. Wife was an administrative assistant at the local middle school. There’s no way to provide evidence of death, for an insurance payout, so they’re gonna have to live on her meager salary? They end the movie in a worse place than they started! They say the legal process exists to ensure that someone is “made whole” by some transgression, and I can definitely say they were not made whole by the end.

Mike, however, brought up the one thing that would have saved this movie. I also happened to be thinking about it, but he captured it perfectly. Remember how Old Possessed Lady said all the homes were once connected to the spring? Mike said the last footage should have been a drone shot of the neighborhood, where the audience discovers that this was just one of many pools. Doesn’t guarantee a sequel, but it at least ends the film on a more disturbing, yet somehow balanced, note.

Trailer Park

Moana 2 (Disney+, November)
I liked the first, but didn’t need a sequel. I felt her story had pretty much been told. I mean, what would this be? Moana 2: Moana Shops For Pants? At least it’s not gonna be theatrical, which doesn’t seem worth it. Based on the past 2 weeks, what kind of monkey paw did Dwayne Johnson come across recently?!

Knuckles (Paramount+, April 26th)

Part of me is like “Why isn’t this just Sonic the Hedgehog 3?”, yet I know that’s already in development, and it seems like Sonic is merely a cameo here. Now, I’ll say I still haven’t seen the Sonic films, but I know they were popular and successful. I can see why Paramount would want to stay in the Sonic Business, but I still feel like these 6 eps probably could have been edited down to movie length, and they could have put this in theaters. Sonic isn’t the MCU, where you can’t take huge swings in shows that would carry over to the movies, since not every moviegoer watches the shows. Still, not every Sonic viewer has Paramount+. With Sonic, I’m told Knuckles shows up at the very end of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, so this show is basically a sidequest. It’s almost like one of those “official movie prequel” comics that IDW used to publish, knowing full well the owner of the IP was never gonna consider that stuff canon. The difference here is that this, apparently, will be reflected in the next movie. So, a Sonic the Hedgehog 2.5, if you will. I’ll get around to this franchise one day, but it’s not at the top of my list. Also, having not grown up a Sega kid, that is NOT how I thought Knuckles would sound. Am I alone here?

Quiet On Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV (Investigation Discovery, March 17th)

OK, this one hits hard, as Dan Schneider kinda ranks up there with Lou Pearlman for me, in that he shaped teen entertainment for an entire generation (Yeah, I look up to the worst people sometimes…). Whereas Lou’s bread and butter was boybands, Schneider was the backbone of 90s/00s Nickelodeon. The difference with Schneider, though, was I always kinda felt like a “knew” him from childhood. After all, I remembered him as Dennis, the fat computer nerd on Head of the Class. Now, that might sound crass, but it was the 80s, so TV characters oftentimes weren’t exactly three-dimensional. He was fat and he was good with computers. His best friend was Arvid, who was skinny and good with computers. They were the prototypical Bulk & Skull. So, once he put acting behind him, it was sort of weird how he’d teamed up with his Head costar Brian Robbins, who played greaser Eric, to produce TV shows. At some point, their paths diverged. Robbins went the executive route, and he’s currently the President and CEO of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon. Schneider, meanwhile, seemed comfortable as the king of tween media. And I guess we now know why. There have been rumors for almost a decade, and we learned a lot more from iCarly star Jennette McCurdy’s autobiography, I’m Glad My Mom Died. Still, we haven’t really heard from others from that scene until now. Plus, I’ve often wondered how Robbins has shielded himself  – and potentially protected Schneider – through all of this. It’s like if Kenan found out Kel has been a criminal since childhood: surely Kenan KNEW, right?  Anyway, this one is gonna hurt, but I’m gonna be glued to my TV for this 2-night event!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • All of the televised Grammy Awards were won by everyone’s favorite female artists, so I guess awards shows suddenly “matter” again? Funny how that works…
  • Disney, Warner Bros Discovery, and Fox Sports have announced they are creating a sports-centered streaming super giant or, as I like to think of it, Hulu 2: Athlete Boogaloo.
  • Another week, another WWE announcement: The company has signed an exclusive deal with X (the artist formerly known as Twitter) for WWE Speed, which has been described as timed matches that are meant to be completed in five minutes or less. I only see 2 ways to make this work: use it as a “development” program with NXT and jobbers OR use it to bring back the 24/7 Championship.
  • Comic industry bad boy Rob Liefeld announced that he is retiring from working on his most famous creation, Deadpool. Knowing Rob, this is his way of saying he’s not currently under contract for any further Deadpool work, but also sets the stage for his triumphant “coming out of retirement” announcement once Deadpool 3 is released. I’m on to your game, Rob!
  • Hasbro fans were excited when they learned McFarlane Toys would be adding popular Hasbro lines to its Page Punchers line. When the preorders were posted on Hasbro Pulse earlier this week, the listings sold out immediately – despite the fact that these are dollar store figurines and comic reprints sold for $16. Our society is doomed…
  • Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tried to beat her doping charge by saying that she failed her drug test because she ate a strawberry dessert that had been contaminated by her grandfather’s heart medication.  The world hasn’t heard such a terrible justification since “I cheated by accident” was first uttered in 1763. Anyway, she got suspended from competition for 4 years.
  • Everyone’s favorite awkward podcaster/”industry plant” Bobbi Althoff announced she and her husband were divorcing after 4 years of marriage. Considering everything she does feels like it was scripted by Vince Russo, I can’t tell if this is all just a progression of her “gimmick”, or if maybe she really did cheat with Drake.
  • It’s Cara Dune vs Mickey, as Gina Carano is suing Disney – in a suit funded by Elon Musk – over her Mandalorian firing. Seeing as how I’ve only worked in states with At-Will Employment, it’ll be fun to watch how this plays out.
  • Disney+ renewed Percy Jackson & The Olympians, but there’s no word on whether the lead role will be recast with a Black actor. I mean, “Percy Jackson” is clearly the name of a 13 year old Black boy who grew up in 1970s Detroit!
  • I know we just talked about Alyssa Milano last week, but she has been spittin’ bars! Here’s her Instagram response to Holly Marie Combs & Shannen Doherty claiming that she was the problem on the set of Charmed:

It’s Taylor. We can do the dance, but we all know it’s Taylor. No, I’m not gonna run down her resumé. We all know who she is and what she’s done. This week, however, she won the Grammy for Album of the Year – for the FOURTH TIME – which has never been done by any other artist. Yeah, Jay-Z didn’t like that too much, but he didn’t seem to be concerned with repping for Bey when he was hangin’ with “Becky with the good hair”. But I digress… Later this week, Disney announced that had secured the streaming rights for Taylor’s Eras tour. Not only would the full film stream on Disney+ (beginning March 15th!), but it would also include 5 new songs. Five new songs, on top of what’s already a 3+ hour concert! How does she do it?! Anyway, folks are tired of hearing about her, and she’ll probably still be in the news after Sunday’s Super Bowl, but Taylor Swift had the West Week Ever.