Glen Weldon

Glen Weldon is a regular panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics, and more for the NPR Arts Desk.

Over the course of his career, he has spent time as a theater critic, a science writer, an oral historian, a writing teacher, a bookstore clerk, a PR flack, a completely inept marine biologist, and a slightly better-ept competitive swimmer.

Weldon is the author of two cultural histories: Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, and The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, McSweeney's, and more; his fiction has appeared in several anthologies and other publications. He is the recipient of an NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship, an Amtrak Writers' Residency, a Ragdale Writing Fellowship, and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts for Fiction.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Superman is secretly reporter Clark Kent. Everyone in the real world knows that because as "Superman" superfan Jerry Seinfeld pointed out back in 1979...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Just six years after the Disney film Frozen unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace the soaring power ballad "Let It Go" — a song that proved no mere harmless earworm, but instead a devastatingly memetic musico-epidemiological event, a tuneful tapeworm that proceeded to infect the world's theater auditions, cabaret acts, drag repertoires and (especially) car rides to and from your kids' swim lessons — its sequel Frozen II now lies in wait, gestating in its bowels another song of similar belty pandemic virulence that, this coming weekend, will secure itself a billion or so

The third season of The Crown drops on Netflix on Sunday, November 17th.

"One just has to get on with it."

That's Elizabeth II (played by Olivia Colman, taking over from Claire Foy), in the first scene of The Crown's third season. She's addressing her assistants, there, who have just unveiled to her the more-current portrait of the Queen set to replace her younger self on a postage stamp.

Has abject misery ever been such fun to watch?

Has soul-sick dread ever looked so gorgeous?

As depicted in Robert Eggers' hauntingly hilarious new film, the life of two keepers who maintain a remote lighthouse — time and place unspecified, but most likely the late 1800s, off the New England coast — is one of ceaseless, back-breaking toil.

When a joke would bomb — or rather, when an audience would fail to join him in laughing uproariously at a joke he'd just finished — Rip Taylor would switch off.

For just a second, he'd drop the merry mirthful maniac bit: He'd stop laughing and frown, his handlebar mustache would droop, his woolly-caterpillar eyebrows would knit. He'd look out at the audience, mock-annoyed.

"Folks, I don't dance," he'd say. "This is it. This is the act."

Or

"You'll get these when you get home and laaaaaugh."

Or

In the comics and cartoons — and on film, as played by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and (checks notes) Jared Leto — the Joker, Batman's archenemy, is an agent of chaos.

The premise was simple. Clean. Direct. If one were feeling uncharitable, one might even say thin.

In a series of 21 videos posted to Will Ferrell's Funny or Die website, comedian Zach Galifianakis played a version of himself, interviewing celebrities. That was it. Now: It was a pinched version of himself. A bored, distracted, irritable Zach Galifianakis, lobbing questions that were condescending and dismissive at best, and jaw-droppingly insulting at worst.

There is nostalgia, and there is Downton Abbey.

Nostalgia bathes the past in a golden light that falls patchily, shining clear and steady on what was tidy and genteel, while leaving an era's ugliest, most brutal recesses sunk in shadow.

Good morning from Toronto, where the NPR Movies team has decamped for the next seven days or so, as we attend the Toronto International Film Festival, the largest film festival in North America.

It's an old tradition that endures, even amid the year-round deluge of programming brought to us by the age of streaming. It is the fall TV preview.

Turns out fall is the perfect time to refocus on television after a summer filled with vacations and outdoor distractions. So our pop culture team collected the coolest TV shows coming your way over the next few months as a guide through the madness. We haven't seen all of these programs yet, but we've learned enough to know they're worth checking out.

Call it The Film About Rich People Hunting Poor People ... That Lived.

But that's a mouthful. Maybe The Hunt Strikes Back; it's pithier.

Just two weeks ago, Ready or Not seemed poised to represent a second data point in 2019's "Murderous, Mansion-Dwelling One-Percenters In Film" trend graph, preceded by Craig Zobel's "blue bloods vs. red staters" thriller The Hunt and followed in November by Rian Johnson's latter-day Clue riff, Knives Out.

Warning: This piece discusses events in the series finale of Legion.

When it began, three seasons ago, Legion was a show about a man who possessed the power of telepathy.

By the time it ended last night, Legion had become a show about the power of empathy.

"What if superheroes — but evil?"

It's a bold premise that seems fresh, even astonishing ... if the year is 1982.

That's when writer Alan Moore and various artists took the '50s bog-standard British superhero Marvelman (later, Miracleman) and reimagined him as a superpowered despot who enslaves humanity.

"Well, what if superheroes — but corrupt?"

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

I have seen the new The Lion King. Pop Culture Happy Hour is devoting a whole show to it this week, so I won't get into a full review here, but just know that, when it comes to one specific aspect of the new film — the one aspect about which I cared most keenly, most deeply, most intensely — the news is not senSAAYtional. It's anything but, in fact.

"HEAR ME, X-MEN! NO LONGER am I the woman you KNEW! I AM FIRE! I AM LIFE INCARNATE! Now and FOREVER ... I AM PHOENIX!"

That's how the character of Jean Grey, powerful telekinetic telepath and charter member of the X-Men, reintroduced herself to her teammates in 1976's Uncanny X-Men #101, shortly after she was seemingly killed by a solar flare while on a space mission.

Is it weird to keep asserting that Summer Movie Season starts Memorial Day weekend, when Avengers: Endgame, the ultimate summer movie, and also the year's (the decade's! the century's!) biggest blockbuster, opened last month?

Maybe. Sure. Who cares?

"Summer movie" is a term, after all, that has taken on a negative connotation, as it tends to be deployed by those looking to sniffily dismiss the whole crop of films that come out in the months without an R. See also: "popcorn movies," "comic-book movies."

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We've recapped the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones. Spoilers, of course, abound.

I mean ... sure?

I am prepared to die on the ashy hill of They Didn't Lay The Necessary Track To Justify Daenerys' Heel-Turn, but that whole contretemps seems soooo last week. I've made my peace with it and am prepared to dissect the show that they made, not the one we expected/wanted them to.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

We're recapping the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones; look for these recaps first thing on Monday mornings. Spoilers, of course, abound.

Dany got a raw deal.

Narratively speaking, Game of Thrones did the Mother of Dragons dirty, there's no two ways around it.

We're recapping the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones; look for these recaps first thing on Monday mornings. Spoilers, of course, abound.

After great pain, a formal feeling comes.

That's a quote from Lady Emily of House Dickinson, who might as well have been describing this episode, which probably couldn't help but feel anticlimactic and setty-uppy, coming as it does in the narrative gully that naturally stretches between last week's exultantly fire-and-bloody spectacle and next week's likely disastrous siege of King's Landing.

We're recapping the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones; look for these recaps first thing on Monday mornings. Spoilers, of course, abound.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're recapping the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones; look for these recaps first thing on Monday mornings. Spoilers, of course, abound.

Welcome back, everyone. It's been two years since last we gathered around the flickering electronic hearth to feast our eyes on this world, and these characters, many of whom – I'm thinking here of the dragons and the ice-zombies mostly – would happily feast on our eyes. Because Winter is Here, and it's shaping up to be a long, cruel one, and Sansa didn't pack away enough provisions for everyone.

It's over.

After four seasons and 157(!) original songs, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend came to an end Friday night, with a supremely satisfying finale that felt both surprising and inevitable, which is precisely the needle that finales need to thread. (And how about that concert special? With the surprise reveal of Michael Hyatt — the show's MVP recurring cast member — at the end? I may have whooped.)

Batman Turns 80

Mar 29, 2019

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

No matter what happens in this unsettling world, at least Batman is on the case.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BATMAN")

WILLIAM DOZIER: (As narrator) Fear not, America. They are still on duty, that legendary duo.

The 2011 art-house actioner Hanna was one odd duck of a flick: part thriller, part coming-of-age tale, studded with propulsive, well-staged fight scenes, standout performances from a coolly evil Cate Blanchett and a then-sixteen-year-old Saoirse Ronan, a driving Chemical Brothers score (remember 2011 you guys?), a febrile color scheme and a fondness for fairy-tale imagery. Ronan played a young woman who'd been raised as the perfect assassin by her ex-intelligence officer father (Eric Bana) deep in some Nordic forest.

In 2014, New Zealand co-directors/co-writers Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement released What We Do In The Shadows, a hilarious, shambling-yet-unerringly-precise mockumentary about a group of vampires sharing a house in modern-day Wellington, New Zealand.

"He doesn't tell me anything."

That's something the burly, perpetually befuddled, improbably named bodyguard Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) says to ... someone ... in the second episode of American Gods' second season. (Not important to whom, for now — that'd be a spoiler.)

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