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February 2018

Linkspam: Barnes & Noble's 'Red Wedding,' the latest sexist rats, and BLACK PANTHER!

In what blogger Audrey II (great name) called the Red Wedding of corporate moves, Barnes & Noble appears to have committed slow-moving suicide, and I don’t think she’s exaggerating.

Bloodless business news squibs buried under a mountain of awful in this news cycle reported that B&N launched a round of layoffs that would save $40 million from the company. Exact numbers weren’t available, but its SEC filing reported the cuts as “a new labor model… that has resulted in the elimination of certain store positions.”

Yeah, if that corporate-speak didn’t strike fear in your heart, try reading Audrey II’s take on it, which seems much more comprehensive. (I tried to determine her real identity, but she’s pretty well locked down. Too bad, I wanted to give her credit for her analysis, which beats the hell out of Publisher’s Weekly’s recounting of the SEC filing.)

Basically, Barnes & Noble laid off every full-time employee. Every lead cashier, every receiving manager, every Nook problem-solver, every newsstand lead. That “new labor model” seems to be “cheap part-time minimum-wage labor for the death knell of the company.”

Worse, allegations abound that the full-timers were told their jobs were safe, that the positions would be eliminated through attrition. As leads left, they would not be replaced, but no one would be laid off. That ended Monday when they were fired anyway - lifetime employees. No notice. When, exactly, did companies decide that it’s better not to give workers a chance to start their job hunt while still employed and give them whatever notice they can so they can plan their major life decisions with all the facts?

Read more about how B&N cut staffing during the holidays, which drove annoyed customers online; and how ship from store meant stripping the shelves, which further annoyed the customers who did come in for a real-live bookstore experience. That probably affected sales somewhat.

Audrey II makes a strong argument that this is the behavior of corporate pirates looking to strip the company’s bones bare before the inevitable bankruptcy, not a company trying to rebuild and save the store. It’s hard to argue that she’s overreacting, when B&N paid $14.5 million in bonuses to two CEOs (not two categories; two guys, one of whom had been CEO less than a year) while cutting 1,800 employees for $40 million.

You won’t find astute analysis in the business pages this week. The closest you’ll come is a single line at the end of Fortune, speculating that B&N’s top investor is urging a sale of the company. Everyone else basically reprinted the SEC filing and no-comment from B&N corporate. Instead, I’d say read the anonymous Audrey for a better look at what the slow suicide of Barnes & Noble means for all of us in the book biz. Spoiler: It’s not great.

For the record: I wrote this in a Barnes & Noble, and I’ll buy something besides coffee on my way out. Corporate or indie, no one benefits from closing the doors of a bookstore. In this world of ignorance and foolishness, functional illiteracy and TV-deadened imaginations, we need every book.

• This week on (Alleged) Sexual Predators R Us: It’s Scott Baio, Jay Asher (author of Thirteen Reasons Why), Guess co-founder Paul Marciano, and Olympian Shaun White, who decided to distract everyone from his sexual harassment allegations by avoiding female reporters and accidentally stepping on the U.S. flag. Oops. Do yourself a favor: Don’t read any comments. EVER. In the meantime, SAG-AFTRA has established a code of conduct regarding sexual harassment. Let’s see how that goes…

• Speaking of stupid comments, NBC commentator Bode Miller put his foot in it with what he calls a joke, and I’d call a rotten, sexist comment that he later backtracked to call it a joke in the hopes of not looking like a rotten sexist. Basically, according to Bode, women who get married crash and burn because they have husbands to distract them. He’s very sorry.

• I love it when something really awful comes out that gives all the critics a chance to crack open the thesaurus for colorful metaphors on how bad it really, really is. Like 50 Shades Freed is an ignorant, poisonous anti-feminist hate anthem. Funniest take: Fifty Shades Freed: A Spoilereview. “They have sex on the table. Ana giggles. Look, I’m all for having fun during sex, but if I were Christian I’d be concerned about the fact that Ana giggles every time he drops trou.”

• Female and female-identifying horror screenwriters: check out an open call for a filmmaking residency in Bruges, Belgium! And speaking of #WomeninHorrorMonth, here’s nine short horror films by women you can watch online. And as a bonus: Mary Shelley’s handwritten manuscripts of Frankenstein can now be viewed online.

Bill Paxton’s family is filing a wrongful death suit against his hospital and surgeon, alleging that the surgeon concealed information from them and was unqualified for Paxton’s heart surgery. He died days later of complications from the surgery, at age 61.

• Tyquan Vonricco Washington, nephew of singer Fantasia Barrino, was shot and killed Tuesday in North Carolina. A suspect is in custody, charged with first-degree murder. Barrino is the Season 3 winner of American Idol.

• If you were wondering why they canceled Sex and the City 3, here you go.

 

RIP

• Science fiction author - and my friend - Victor Milan, dammit. Vic died Tuesday of pneumonia as a complication of myeloma, and fuck cancer. Sorry, folks, ye olde blogger cannot be objective as we continue to lose our mentors. Here is my personal obituary of Vic, with all his many accomplishments, and may he walk with the dinosaurs.

John Gavin, actor in Psycho and Spartacus, age 86. He was this close to playing Bond until Sean Connery decided to come back, and served as SAG president. You know him best as Julius Caesar in Spartacus and Sam Loomis, boyfriend of Janet Leigh’s doomed Marion, in Psycho. Later in life, he served as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

 

Trailer Park

Sneak peek footage of Incredibles 2 aired during the Olympics!

Yet another preview of Ready Player Onewith even more Easter eggs and the theme from Willy Wonka. 

 

Coming This Weekend

Panther

BLACK PANTHER. What, you think I can talk about this one in anything but all caps? Warning: review contains spoilers. CNN gets it: “More than a movie, ‘Black Panther’ is a movement.” Meanwhile, Octavia Spencer will buy out a theater in Mississippi to help low-income people see the movie. Needless to say, your friendly neighborhood CultureGeek will be in attendance.

Then I Knew, a news-vid documentary produced by the News-Democrat’s Cara Anthony on the moment people of color realized the impact their race would have on their lives. Soft release a couple of weeks ago; go check it out.

Early Man. The Chicken Run crew aims for prehistoric shenanigans. Currently running 84 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which frankly surprised me.

Samson, starring the werewolf from Twilight as a variation on Conan. Any resemblance to the actual Biblical story is entirely coincidental. (At least from the trailers; no critics have reviewed it yet, which generally is not a good sign.)

Continuing: Winchester (which I’ve reviewed here), The Greatest Showman, Fifty Shades Freed, Peter Rabbit, The 15:17 to Paris, Jumanji, Maze Runner #47, Hostiles, The Post and The Shape of Water.

 

Happy Wakanda-Weekend! 


MovieGeek: Winchester

Winchester is better than its reviews, but only half of what it could have been.

I made a bet going in that we’d be hit with 20 jump scares, and there were only 15. The fact that I could keep count might tell you something. I picked up on the Big Plot Twist about half an hour early, and I hate when I can see it coming.

While Jason Clarke is a decent actor, there wasn’t as much of it on display as I’d like as the bereaved doctor with a laudanum problem. Helen Mirren as the famous Sarah Winchester is grounded and engaging as always, but you get the feeling this movie was something different when she signed on. Her character is fascinating and focused for the first half, then degenerates in getting wire-yanked around the set and gasping out protestations at the ghosts.

It’s hard to say whether Winchester failed as a sociopolitical metaphor or as a simple haunted house. It’s just not scary enough to stand on its own as the latter, even in a setting as nifty as the Winchester House, and it fails to obey its own rules or stick to a spectral framework with its own logic, which basically required for a ghost story. Whether you’re talking Ghostbusters or Amityville Horror, Poltergeist or American Horror Story, there are rules set by the ghosts that both entrap them and the living, and you can’t just switch them around to be convenient to the plot. 

As to the former, it’s possible Winchester could have been saying some serious things about America’s love affair with guns, as both the real and fictional Sarah Winchester believes she is literally haunted (and her family cursed) by the spirits of all those killed by the Winchester repeating rifle. As she snittily points out to visiting Dr. Price who is there to evaluate her sanity, one can hardly say an item is misused when it is being used in the manner it was intended: to kill.

Winchester

 

 

SPOILERS - Winchester could also be talking about the driving hatreds of the Civil War coming back to literally haunt the present day, as the main ghost is a Confederate soldier whose fury against the better-equipped North drove him to murder and horror in life and in death. Both allegories would have made for a serious and interesting horror film, fulfilling the primary purpose of genre fiction: to hold up the mirror before our eyes.

It’s hard to say whether the creators intended any of this, or whether it just came about as a side note to yet another jump scare of a creepy death mask around a corner. It says something that the scariest moment of the movie comes from a hallway of silently open doors.

Still, Winchester deserves much more than its 10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Look for the allegories if you wish to keep your brain moving, or shut it off and enjoy creepiness without gore. It moves fast, it’s not boring, and Helen Mirren is in it. That’s generally enough to make it worth your ticket price.


Thursday-ish Linkspam

In the category of Hollywood is Still Run By Idiots, we have the brilliant plan by Paramount to release Annihilation domestically and sell the international release rights to… Netflix. The Atlantic notes that Arrival, a similar science fiction thriller, grossed $203 million and got eight Oscar nominations including best picture.

And yet, Annihilation, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, is being treated to zero fanfare at all, with no theatrical rollout outside of the U.S., Canada and China. Why? “Too intellectual.” 

Or, as Vellum and Vinyl quotes, “That sure is a lot of words that don’t mention how it’s a scifi epic-horror movie headed by female characters. Ya know, the ones assumed to be doomed before they release.”

Seriously, how many times do we have to go through this before Hollywood remembers that a) women are half the population, b) women have money and go to the movies, and c) men can watch women just like women watch men. This is not difficult math.

• So… who’s profiting from the success of The Handmaid’s Tale? Not author Margaret Atwood. It seems that in 1990, she sold the rights to MGM to make a movie. When the TV rights were sold to Hulu, the money went to MGM. Anyone else wanna backhand her agent? Atwood was an executive consultant on the show, but that was it.

She seems fairly sanguine about it in her interview with Entertainment Weekly, and says while the uptick in book sales is nice, she wishes her book were not so… relevant. “I would prefer this not to be happening. It’s like that sign that someone was holding up during the Women’s March. ‘I can’t believe I’m still holding up this f—ing sign.”

• Want to know what was really wrong with Michael Jackson, who complained the most about “We Are the World,” the unexpected guitarist who plays just like Hendrix and who killed JFK? Apparently Quincy Jones has the answers. “Be a Pisces. Jam.” (Everyone seems shocked that Richard Pryor and Marlon Brando were lovers. Come on, people. It was the '70s.)

• In local news, fans of Batman will get to fly backwards. No, not the DC hero; Batman: the Ride! Six Flags will let you ride backwards during the spring (or ride forwards as you choose), but is discontinuing the trial run when the summer season begins.

Now here was my question: there’s still going to be one line. Which means if you are among 10 percent who want to ride it forward, you still have to wait in line behind the gazillions planning to go backwards. It’s no skin off mine, of course; I am a woman of curves, so I haven’t been able to ride Batman for a few years. But you can bet CultureGeek Jr. will be on board!

• Did you know that one of the first black writers to work on Black Panther comics was from right here in East St. Louis? But Reginald Hudlin did a whole lot more than Black Panther, which believe it or not was written solely by white writers for his first 32 years. Hudlin also was nominated for an Oscor for producing Django Unchained and was a producer or director on many other movies, including Marshall, House Party, Serving Sara and The Great White Hype. He’s currently working on the film Shadowman and a TV series, Showtime at the Apollo.

• Greenlit: J.J. Abrams and HBO are working on Demimonde, a sci-fi fantasy drama described as “epic and intimate” by the network. Uh huh. And it’s about….? We’ll see.

• Yikes: Robert Wagner is now considered a person of interest in Natalie Wood’s drowning death nearly 40 years ago. (That’s cop-speak for “suspect.”) I could have seen that coming, since Wagner has refused to talk with police since they reopened the case six years ago. It was 1981, Wagner and Wood were in a troubled marriage, and the only people on the boat were the two of them, Christopher Walken, and the captain. Now it seems there were bruises indicating an assault, not an accident. Stay tuned...

Waiting for the Oscars? Yeah, me neither. But relive the glories of years past with Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar Bracket Battle. Except it makes you choose between Godfather and Godfather Part II, and On the Waterfront vs. Rebecca.

 

RIP

• Author and historian Kathryn Fernquist Hinds, a writer and poet who died this past week of complications following heart surgery. Hinds’ works include The Healer’s Choice, a feminist fantasy novel published by Dark Oak Press; the six-book Creatures of Fantasy series and a prolific series of middle- and high-school history books. She was also a professor at the University of North Georgia Explore her work via her website.

Glee star Mark Salling completed an apparent suicide at age 35 just before his sentencing on charges of more than 25,000 images and 600 videos containing child pornography. He pleaded guilty and would have served 4-7 years in prison, registered as a sex offender and remain under extensive restrictions after release.*

Broadway documentarian Rick McKay died at age 62. Beginning as a cabaret singer, McKay moved into documenting the world of the theater, interviewing hundreds of theatrical legends for Broadway: The Golden Age including Carol Channing, Robert Goulet, Shirley MacLaine, Gena Rowlands, Fay Wray, Jerry Orbach, Dick Van Dyke, Liza Minelli, Robert Redford, Stephen Sondheim, Carol Burnett and many others.

Chicago folk singer Jo Mapes, 86, influential bohemian of Greenwich Village to the Playboy Club to Carnegie Hall.

Mickey Jones, 76, of MASH, Tin Cup, Bones, Total Recall, Sling Blade and many more. As a drummer, he played with Bob Dylan and Kenny Rogers.

Reg Cathey, baritone-voiced guest star of The Wire and House of Cards, too young at 59. He won an Emmy for his work on House of Cards and had been nominated twice before. You’ve also seen him in The Mask, Seven and the Fantastic Four reboot.

 

Trailer Park (except the Superb Bowl spots)

“Keep telling me who I am. I dare you.” Oh my, I am so there for Jessica Jones season 2. Then again, I’ve been there for Jessica since Alias Vol.1, because I’m an early adopter and even suffered through The Pulse.

Disobedience follows a shunned Orthodox Jewish woman (Rachel Weisz) returning home for her father’s funeral for shiva and falls in love with a woman hiding her sexuality. Based on the novel by Naomi Alderman.

 

Coming This Weekend (and last)

Winchester, which is not about the fine boys of Supernatural but stars Helen Mirren as the firearm heiress who believed she was haunted by the souls of all those killed by the Winchester repeating rifle. Based on a true story, but from the looks of the trailer, very loosely based. (Actually last weekend, but we missed an issue.)

Fifty Shades Freed, because the best way to overcome your abuser is to marry him.

The 15:17 to Paris, which gives every impression of being a rah-rah depiction of the three U.S. servicemen who foiled a terrorist attack on a Paris train, which the dubious choice of casting the actual men as themselves. No one denigrates their heroism, but being a hero and acting are two different things.

Peter Rabbit, the travesty. Okay, SFGate says the trailers were “an atrocious affront” but that the actual movie is unexpectedly charming, while not at all Beatrix Potter’s work. Okay, still not going to a movie where Peter considers sticking a carrot up Mr. McGregor’s butt.

Continuing in wide release: Jumanji, 12 Strong, Den of Thieves, The Post, The Greatest Showman, Paddington 2, The Commuter and the last trailing ends of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Insidious: The Last Key, and Forever My Girl. I recommend The Post wholeheartedly and will try to see it again this weekend.

 

* If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

 


Superb Owl 2018

At first I thought this was going to be the easiest Superb Owl column I’d ever write, because the consensus in the room this year was nearly unanimous: NFL players dancing to ‘80s pop is totally awesome.

For those new to the show: I pay only the barest attention to sports, and the Superb Owl is basically an excuse to eat a lot of food with friends, laugh at the commercials and dance around with boxes on our heads during the halftime show. (Okay, that only happened once.) The sportsball is when we go get snacks. And for this blog, it's always about the commercials.

Nearly everyone voted for this hilarious spot in which NFL players reenact the classic choreography of the final dance sequence in Dirty Dancing, and who knew these guys could act? Seriously, I want the outtakes where they simply burst out laughing as they learn the dance steps (with the help of Hamilton choreographer Stephanie Klemons). Hilariously, Abigail Breslin - who survived the ill-advised remake - tweeted in favor of it: “When a football player does the angel lift in a super bowl ad better than you did in the remake.”

 

Super-bowl-nfl-dirty-dancing

Also: Wire work for the win. That guy probably weighed a touch more than Jennifer Grey.

But it’s hard, because the NFL can’t overcome its serious problems with a cute TV spot. This is not the place to debate them - this blog is about popular culture and entertainment with an eye to the geeky, and the ethics of professional athletics are pretty far afield. And if you think I’m touching the issue of the president’s Tweet, you are sadly mistaken. Y’all run through it in the comments if you must.

Still, the hallmark of a good ad is whether people remember it, whether it effectively communicates its message, with a plus or minus for entertainment value. The worst thing an ad can be is boring, which sadly applied for quite a few - Keanu Reeves standing on a motorcycle for SquareSpace was simply dull, and I can’t say much for “dancing badly with Diet Coke” or the Bud Knight.

• High points included Jeff Goldblum playing off his Jurassic Park personality in an obvious tie-in to Jurassic World, Danny DeVito as a human M&M, and Alexa losing her voice. Wendy’s Twitter account got its own Super Bowl ad, which is the best win for a social media manager ever, and of course they took the opportunity to jab at McDonald’s.

• Reactions are mixed to the Tide running gags. Obviously Tide spent a gazillion dollars on a series of ads that would have been hilarious if they hadn’t been obviously intended to try to distract us from the Tide Pod Challenge nonsense. News flash, Tide: It didn’t work. You’d have done better to address the stupidity head on, rather than camouflaging it with an ad campaign that might have done well in another year. You do get bonus points for making us all watch other ads more closely in case they were fake Tide ads. Remember the Energizer bunny? That worked for a reason.

• Laaaaaaame: Tall Diet Coke cans make you dance goofy; Jeep reminds us that roads make it easy to get from Point A to Point B (direct quote for Captain Obvious); and an unsettling Hyundai ad where people are taken aside without just cause after (not) setting off a metal detector, just so they can watch a video about how awesome Hyundai is. Tone deaf as hell.

• Best quote of the night:

ME: Tom Brady, Han Solo and Jurassic World are trending.

MARY: Now that sounds like a good movie.

Extra credit goes to:

• The legal text in the Dodge Ram commercial: “Never ride in the bed of a truck unless you are an authentic Viking.”

• Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman for Doritos and Mountain Dew. I don’t care that they were lip-synching to sell nutritionally questionable snacks; I could watch either of them do anything and enjoy it.

Dundee isn’t a real reboot, but a travel ad for Australia. Which is nifty and fun and pretty (not just Chris Hemsworth), and thank God they’re not actually making the movie. Error: airing teasers in advance got us started, and then we all knew it was a gag before the Super Bowl. Airing the teaser at the beginning of the Super Bowl and the explanation later on would have been better. However, it was completely redeemed with the brief cameo of a dubious Paul Hogan. Ha!

• The Rocket Mortgage guy explains the subtext of Tinder, the lameness of haute cuisine and “It’s just a gray dot.” Actual laughter is rare enough during these spots, and that was fun.

• Compare that truck ad using a Martin Luther King Jr. speech with the overlay of “we care about social justice,” to the T-Mobile ad of the babies that really seemed to BE about social justice. The difference? The MLK ad scattered close-ups of the truck in between a series of images that might have been terrific except for the ad intrusion. (Also, MLK sometimes referred to overly-expensive car purchases as a moral failing, so maybe read all the way to the end next time.) T-Mobile left the damn cell phones out of the ad, leaving only a logo placement at the end. That made a better impression on me.

I don’t mind companies using their Super Bowl ad time to altruistically advocate for something better and more affirming than selling stuff. In fact, I consider it good corporate citizenship to use their gazillions for the betterment of society. The ads are expensive and they need to pay off. But do it right: make the product ancillary to the ad itself. The message should be the cause, not the product. Do it well enough and it will be effective. For example? I don’t remember what truck the MLK ad was selling, but I remember T-Mobile and the babies.

Other altruism includes Budweiser bottling water for disasters and Stella Artois selling … goblets, I think? … to bring clean water to third world countries. Bravo, even if you’re looking for a pat on the back with the ad itself. Hey, could this signal a new trend? Corporations doing good works as the new fashion? The commercials might be insufferable, but I doubt that matters to the people getting the fresh water. 

• Several votes for best commercial online went to the 15 seconds of dead air. Somewhere there is a production tech cleaning out his cubicle. Rough estimates are that was $3 million worth of dead air (and it produced some of the funniest Twitter snark I’ve seen in years.)

• The Blacture ad was compelling and effective, silencing the room for a moment. “Be celebrated. Not tolerated.” I tweeted about it. And immediately got a response from a nasty racist using an ethnic slur. Reported. At first I gave Twitter credit because shortly thereafter it disappeared from my feed, so I thought it had been removed. Then further examination showed it was still up on his feed. I guess we’ll see if they take action, or if, like Facebook, screaming racists don’t qualify as violating community standards.

Halftime Hijinks

I’m not a huge Justin Timberlake fan, and this bit didn’t do much to make me one. I give him credit for working his tail off out there, with no dancing sharks or people with boxes on their heads that have made me wonder what wacky tobacky might have been smoked in the design meetings in years past. I spent more time puzzling at the fact that he was inexplicably wearing an elk than I spent enjoying the music - though bonus points for actually using a marching band for once.

The homage to Prince was both touching and annoying. He was the hometown hero, and his music was a welcome break for my ears. Turning the neighborhood purple was awesome. I was not so fond of Timberlake singing a duet with a dead man who likely would have eschewed his holographic resurrection, especially since Timberlake famously dissed Prince years before his death.

More annoying: Timberlake actually sang the song that ended with the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction, which just underscored the infuriating dichotomy that Timberlake has no repercussions from that incident while Jackson’s career has never quite recovered. Bad enough that he’s back at the Super Bowl careening about the stage while she’s a pariah, leading to the hashtag #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay. Way to underscore the tone-deafness to 2018 race relations, Super Bowl. As of this writing, Timberlake’s new album is featured on iTunes’ front page and is the iTunes top seller, while three of the top ten songs are Timberlake’s. It’s not just about the Super Bowl gig, folks.

Trailer Park

Among the trailers: Hands-down, Avengers was the winner among just about everyone I surveyed (a scientific sample to be sure). Maybe because it’s the movie people are most eager to see, but frankly, Solo fascinated me more. I’m curious to see how it emerges from its development hell.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is problematic, even as it becomes clear we will be deluged with marketing for the summer blockbuster-wannabe. I couldn’t stand Jurassic World, and keep in mind this comes from someone who really liked all the previous ones, even III. I was not the only person angry throughout Jurassic World at how a decidedly non-sexist film like Jurassic Park devolved into this mess.

This article skillfully examines all the ways in which Jurassic World hates, mocks and tortures its female characters, while Jurassic Park celebrates both Dr. Sattler and Lex as brave, smart and ultimately heroic. “Aside from the obvious advances in CGI, it’s honestly difficult to believe Jurassic World came out 22 years after Jurassic Park,” it says. I could go into all the ways that we've devolved in gender parity since the 1990s, but that's another column.

The Super Bowl trailer is a good one, in that it actually tempts me to see the sequel. Perhaps it’s my stubborn optimism, my hope that a crappy, sexist script was simply written and filmed by a bunch of clueless men and the repeated criticism of its nasty misogyny could be corrected by a second movie with smarter people behind the keyboards. Sadly, I suspect I’ll be disappointed.

Also interesting:

The Cloverfield Paradox is a surprise Netflix drop - I heard there was going to be another one, but I thought it was going to be a feature film. People are already watching and commenting, so I’d stay away from the internet if you don’t want spoilers. Here’s my spoiler-free question: Do I have to watch the second one to watch this?

More seriously, someone asked me if Netflix is the new “direct to video.” Yes and no. Yes in that obviously it has replaced the DVD-only release as a way to circumvent the extensive cost of a feature film release. No in that Netflix’s original content is turning out to be a much higher quality than a lot of the dreck we’re seeing in theaters and networks. Whereas “direct to video” was pretty much a screaming red flag that “this sucks too much to release,” a film released direct to Netflix (or other streaming service) might just be the best thing ever.

Westworld creeps us out with its season 2 ad, leading to cries of “Finally!” It’s not looking good for the humans in the Fake Wild West.

BLACK PANTHER.

Castle Rock! Still the trailer tells us nothing. That won’t stop me from endlessly examining it frame by frame (the monkey!) for clues. Scott Glenn is the latest variation of Alan Pangborn, a much older Alan than the ones we’ve seen previously. I doubt the dog scaring Sissy Spacek (of Carrie!) could possibly be Cujo, because everyone knows Cujo is a St. Bernard. Andre Holland plays “Henry,” who could be one of several characters or a new one. Clues include sewers, Shawshank Prison, creepy-looking “students,” blood swirling into a sink, snow, and more. We still have to wait for summer.

• Boo hiss to Skyscraper, the lamely-named Die Hard knockoff with Dwayne Johnson, who seems to be signing any contract they shove in front of him these days. Nothing in the trailer told me I’d enjoy it more than my Die Hard DVD. Johnson is cute and charismatic; he should be picking better scripts. (Yeah, I’ve heard Jumanji is actually good, despite its trailers. We’ll see.)

• Too boring for links: yet another Mission Impossible movie, and do I even need to address Jesus Christ Superstar Live with Alice Cooper as King Herod? Parody is dead in the 21st century.

And now it’s time to ignore sportsball again until the Cardinals home opener. Play ball!