Film Reviews

"Concrete Cowboy" Tells the Untold Story of Black Urban Cowboys

In a refreshing coming-of-age story, the unacknowledged Black cowboy subculture finds recognition

You can tell how Concrete Cowboy is going to end within 15 minutes of watching the film. In it, a troubled Black teenager, played by Caleb McLaughlin of Stranger Things, is sent to live with his estranged father for the summer.

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TV News

"Stranger Things" Releases Season 4 Trailer: Hopper Is Alive?

"Stranger Things" season 4 will take viewers to a frigid Russian wasteland.

The third season of Stranger Things ended on a cliffhanger, and fans have spent the past year wondering whether beloved, occasionally brutish, local sheriff Jim Hopper was dead or alive.

Today, the trailer for Season 4 was released, and it seems that the show decided to reveal that Hopper is alive, though not exactly well—he seems to be stuck in some kind of wintry Russian hellscape, slaving away on a chain gang.

"We're excited to officially confirm that production on Stranger Things 4 is now underway—and even more excited to announce the return of Hopper!" announced the Duffer Brothers. "Although it's not all good news for our 'American'; he is imprisoned far from home in the snowy wasteland of Kamchatka, where he will face dangers both human…and other. Meanwhile, back in the states, a new horror is beginning to surface, something long buried, something that connects everything….

"Season 4 is shaping up to be the biggest and most frightening season yet, and we cannot wait for everyone to see more. In the meantime — pray for the American."

It's unclear as to why the show decided to reveal that Hopper is alive after making everybody wait for so long, but on the other hand, at least Eleven didn't actually lose her primary father figure.

www.youtube.com


Stranger Things Season 4 is slated to premiere on Netflix at some point in December 2020 or January 2021. Its first episode will be called "The Hellfire Club," according to a post on the show's writers' Instagram.


Reddit user RubyDux

There are moments in life when all the balance and normalcy we take for granted are turned on their head by the introduction of one uncanny detail.

Perhaps you're putting together a package to ship to your mother for the holidays, but when you reach for a marker, to write her address on the box, what you find in your hand isn't a Sharpie at all, it's a Skerple.

And now it's like the wind has been knocked out of you. Nothing seems to be quite what you thought. Is this a dream? A nightmare? An alternate reality. You reach for your phone so you can apologize to your mother—she won't be receiving that package on time—but you freeze in the moment before you click call, overwhelmed with a dread that whoever answers that call won't be the woman who raised you.

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CULTURE

5 Celebrities You Didn't Know Were Cancelled

It's Almost Like They're Still Getting Away With Stuff...

Cancel culture has gone absolutely crazy.

You can't say anything these days without "triggering" a bunch of SJWs to get together and collectively cancel you. I mean, that's the contention of half the comedy specials on Netflix, so it must be true. They will dig through past comments and behavior to find any excuse. Even after you're dead, you can still get canceled! The whole situation is getting so out of control that it's getting hard to keep track of who is and isn't canceled, so here's a helpful guide to remind you of some of the celebrities whose cancellations may have escaped your notice.

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg with the man he nearly blinded

All 4 Women

Everyone knows Mark Wahlberg as the star of the Ted films, and Mel Gibson's son in Daddy's Home 2, but did you know that in his teen years, he was also the perpetrator of a string of brutal, racially motivated assaults, and that he has never acknowledged the racial component of his violent past? But who hasn't permanently disfigured and partially blinded a man while shouting racial slurs? Still, as a result of this normal, not-at-all upsetting history, Mark Wahlberg was officially cancelled in February. Since then, Wahlberg's once flourishing film career has collapsed to the point that he is only starring in five major motion pictures currently in production.

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld with Shoshanna Lonstein

What a normal-looking couple

People

Jerry Seinfeld made himself a target of cancel culture when he called out college kids for not laughing enough at his brilliant "gay French king" joke, but what really sealed the deal was the fact that, at the age of 39, when Seinfeld was the star of America's favorite sitcom, he was also dating a seventeen-year-old high school student named Shoshanna Lonstein. And yes, he absolutely looked like her awkward father in every picture they took together, but what man in his late thirties hasn't spent some time outside a high school looking to pick up chicks? Unfortunately for Jerry, the cancel cops got a hold of this info, and officially blacklisted him in August, resulting in Netflix only paying an estimated $500 million for the streaming rights to Seinfeld.

Whoopi Goldberg

Speaking of men and teenage girls, did you know you can be cancelled just for defending someone? That's what happened to Whoopi Goldberg in response to her 2009 comments on Roman Polanski, in which she said of Polanski's 1977 crimes "I don't think it was rape-rape," despite the victim's testimony that she continuously resisted his advances as Polanski gave the thirteen year old alcohol and drugs, and proceeded to rape her.

As a result, Donald Trump Jr. headed the team that cancelled Whoopi last October, which is why she has since appeared on The View only 5 days a week. Goldberg joins the ranks of Quentin Tarantino and a host of other prominent Hollywood figures whose careers have been absolutely tanked by impassioned Polanski defenses that are not at all indicative of a horrible culture that values talented men too much to punish horrifying crimes. Besides, it was only 8 years after Sharon Tate's murder! You can't be held accountable for anything you do in the decade after a loved one dies, even raping children!

John Lennon

Remember when people used to really idolize John Lennon and The Beatles? Their music used to be really popular, and people would even say mean things about Yoko Ono, blaming her for breaking up the band, not anymore. That all went out the window in July of last year, when a Twitter user reminded the world that John Lennon was a serial abuser, and then cancelled The Beatles. Sure, Lennon abused multiple partners, and at least one of his sons, but ever since Lennon was struck with the same post-mortem cancellation that Michael Jackson received, his solo music and The Beatles' entire catalogue have dropped completely out of cultural relevance, and is now valued at only around a billion dollars. "Imagine" that.

Drake

Drake with Bella Harris

Footage recently resurfaced of Drake from a 2010 concert in Denver, in which he brings a girl onstage to dance with her, then takes the opportunity to drape his arms across her chest and kiss her neck before asking her age. When she answers that she's 17, Drake reacts as any 23 year old would when coming to terms with the fact that his behavior with an underage girl was suggestive and inappropriate. He says, "Why do you look like that? You thick. Look at all this," and follows that up with, "I like the way your breasts feel against my chest." Cool.

At any rate, that was nearly a decade ago, and Drake was pretty young himself, there's probably no reason to look further into the now 33 year old's tendency to befriend teenage girls who he ends up dating once they're of age. That's what the people who cancelled him in January—resulting in him being only the fifth richest rapper on earth—want you to focus on. They want you to be concerned about his friendship with Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown but let's just talk about his grooming habits instead.

On second thought, maybe the hysteria over "cancel culture" attacking any and every tiny misstep is a little overblown. Sure, Kevin Hart didn't get to host the Oscars, but he definitely still has a career, and James Gunn's brief cancellation was revoked. Maybe it's justified to call people out when they screw up, to push for apologies for minor offenses, and to stop giving money and awards to people who've done truly monstrous things. Maybe cancel culture should actually be going a lot further...

Millie Bobby Brown SAG Awards red carpet

The world has watched Millie Bobby Brown, star of the hit Netflix show Stranger Things, transition from a prepubescent child with a shaved head to a young woman with 30.1 million followers on Instagram.

There's no denying Brown's talent as an actress or her ability to remain composed and seemingly content despite being so squarely in the public eye. She's become a fashion icon and late night TV mainstay, delighting fans with her evervescence and relatable, wholesome youthfulness, all while managing to avoid the kinds of scandals that so often invade the lives of adolescent stars. She has always come across as just a normal young teenager, posting pouty selfies and silly dancing videos to her social media, crushing on boys, and delighting over cute new clothes. In an age of hyper sexuality and teenagers getting plastic surgery, Millie Bobby Brown feels like a reminder of America's lost innocence.

Perhaps this is why so many found Brown's recent red carpet look at the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards problematic. Brown wore a trouser and coat-dress outfit by Louis Vuitton, and many felt it was too revealing for a 15-year-old.

People took to social media to criticize the star and her team.


And this isn't the first time Brown has come under fire for looking mature. In recent months, a change has begun to make itself known on the actress' Instagram account. Her posts have taken on a more sultry, even adult, nature. For example, the post Brown shared on October 29th shows the actress in a satin, leopard-print mini dress, looking defiantly at the camera with her mouth slightly open. The second photo in the post is a mirror selfie, in which Brown pouts at the camera as the light falls flatteringly on her torso.

To be clear, Brown looks lovely in both photos, and there is nothing wrong with 15-year-olds posting photos of themselves that boost their self-confidence. But controversy soon arose when Paris Hilton commented with her iconic catch-phrase, "That's hot." Evan Rachel Woods, one of the stars of HBO's Westworld, replied to Hilton's comment with, "She's 15."


More debate arose in the comments, with some Instagram users agreeing with Wood and praising her for defending children against premature sexualization, while others defended Hilton, saying her comment was harmless. But others take a turn to shame Brown for the revealing nature of her outfit and praise Wood for "saying something." One commenter said: "My daughter is 15 and doesn't dress like this. Nor does she have friends who do. She tells me all the time that she doesn't want to grow up too fast and I think that is few and far between sometimes in today's kids. Let them be kids first :)" Others expressed that if Brown didn't want to sexualized, she should dress differently.

Ultimately, it's a tricky conversation full of pitfalls. To shame Millie Bobby Brown for dressing how she wants to dress (how many teenagers dress) is definitely the wrong route. Women, even 15-year-olds, should be allowed to wear whatever they want without fear of backlash, sl*t-shaming, or unwanted sexualization. That said, was Paris Hilton's comment really unwanted sexualization? She didn't comment on Brown's body or say anything sexual in nature, and she used a common word that's often used interchangeably with words like "pretty" and "beautiful," a word made all the more innocuous by Hilton's famous frequent use of the phrase. Additionally, Hilton's identity as a heterosexual woman further invalidates the reading of the comment as predatory (not that heterosexual women can't be predators, but women complimenting each other's appearances has always been a much less fraught practice than the often leering, double-edged compliments of men).

Additionally—and hear me out here—isn't Millie Bobby Brown allowed to be, well, hot? Think about yourself at 15. Like most teenagers, you probably wanted to be considered attractive. Millie Bobby Brown is well into puberty and already likely in the process of understanding her own sexual nature, and that process comes with experimenting with her expression of sexuality, which, in 2020, can take the shape of social media posts or a little bit of cleavage on the red carpet. That, of course, does not give permission for adults or anyone to treat Brown as a sexual being, and adults should not sexually look at adolescents under any circumstances, as a teen's sexual awakening by way of an adult's behavior or sexualizing gaze can have traumatic effects. Young people should be protected from premature sexualization until they're old enough and mature enough to have autonomy and control over their own sexuality.

But it's interesting to consider whether, if Kylie Jenner had posted an identical picture at the age of 15 and Paris Hilton had commented "Thats hot," anyone would have raised an eyebrow. Was Evan Rachel Wood so defensive of Brown because of legitimate altruism, or because, like the rest of us, she wants our precious Eleven to stay a sexless, innocent child in order to keep with our uncomplicated cultural view of her? Did people criticize her SAG Awards look for her sake, or because it made them uncomfortable? In the same way that it is absolutely inappropriate to sexualize Brown, is it not also inappropriate and unfair to forcefully ignore her sexuality completely?

It's also important to consider that in a world where Justin Bieber was drooled over when he was merely 14, would anyone have such a problem with Brown's post or SAG Awards outfit if Brown were male? Perhaps a part of all of this is that, as a culture (even in 2020), we still see female sexuality as a dirty and taboo thing that we want to keep our children from embodying for as long as possible. As much as premature sexual awakening can have damaging effects, isn't telling a teenager that it's "inappropriate" for them to be considered an attractive being until the day they turn 18 almost as damaging? Should we further reinforce the idea that breasts are inherently sexual? Are we not furthering a culture of shame surrounding sexuality by not allowing teenagers to grow up at their own pace?

The truth of the matter is that Brown is famous, and she is on social media, and she is 15, which means she's going to post pictures of herself when she thinks she looks hot. She's going to wear amazing designer clothes and not all of them are going to be completely modest. And frankly, it's none of our business to judge that, one way or another.

TV

The 5 Best TV Tributes to D&D

Including those incredible "Stranger Things" scenes.

With Halloween coming up, I thought it was time to revisit the phenomenon that was the first season of Stranger Things.

Three years ago it took over our entire culture for two weeks, and reintroduced the world to the wonders of Dungeons and Dragons. The first season is perfectly framed by the four young friend's passionate investment in an epic tabletop quest—informing their battle with the Demagorgon, their understanding of the Upside Down, and foreshadowing the events of season two in the finale. It was charming and fun, and many of us were sucked into a love affair with the endless possibilities of D&D. But then, in season three, Stranger Things betrayed us.

Suddenly, D&D wasn't a priority anymore! Just because everyone has girlfriends now, we're not supposed to immerse ourselves in an imaginary world of magic and wonder? Bullshit! Will is the only one who gets it, and he's dressed like a moron.

Will Byers, Dressed Like a Moron in Stranger Things Season 3 What are you wearing, Will?!


Luckily, there are other TV shows that have professed their love for D&D without turning their backs. So let's take a look at the best D&D tribute episodes in TV history.

Community: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

Troy Barnes, extolling the virtues of D&D

Community creator Dan Harmon loves Dungeons & Dragons so much that he has a show dedicated to animating D&D sessions. So when the study group gets together in the second season (the best one…) to help "Fat Neil" by playing the most epic D&D campaign in history, you can expect it to be legit. Everything from the LOTR voice-over opening, to Danny Pudi's earnest devotion to his DM duties, and Donald Glover's basic misunderstanding of the game—"Shouldn't there be a board, or pieces, or something to Jenga?"—is handled perfectly. And when Pierce's narcissism leads to the party splitting, and Neil losing his most prized magical items, the stakes suddenly become real, and the rest of the study group must use all their cunning and skill to save the day.

The episode is so good, Community actually did a follow up in season five—"Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons"—with David Cross reconnecting with Mike from Breaking Bad. Also worth a watch, and notable for not including Ken Jeong in drow-blackface.

Justin Trudeau

Freaks and Geeks: Discos and Dragons

James Franco, Before it Was Too Late

It's fitting that the series finale of the highly underrated Freaks and Geeks ends with one of TVs best tributes to D&D. The titular geeks are strong advocates and the game is helmed by possibly the greatest dungeon master in history, whose low affect air of authority lends necessary gravitas to the scene.

Best. DM. Ever.

The thrust of their session is the transformation of Daniel, played by James Franco, changing his alignment from Freak (effortlessly cool idiot) to geek (enthusiastic nerd). And isn't it fun to imagine a world in which someone interceded in time to prevent James Franco from becoming pure evil?

iZombie: Twenty Sided, Die

Clive Babineaux, Getting Into It

Another entry in the category of underrated shows showing love for D&D, iZombie is the story of Liv Moore (... get it?) a medical examiner who mixes drugs with energy drinks and gains the ability to absorb dead people's personalities and memories by eating their brains. Standard stuff. In Twenty Sided, Die, the corpse in question is a devoted dungeon master, and must play through a campaign with her friends in order to unlock the dead man's memories. Liv's fellow ME, Ravi Chakrabarti, is a reliable nerd, and dives right into the role playing with some solid accent work, but the real fun comes from the stoic Detective Babineaux, who begins the session with an eyeroll, and finishes on the edge of his seat, more invested than anyone. You love to see it, and the resulting fan art is choice.

Earl

Twitter

Honorable Mention: Mazes and Monsters

Tom Hanks Beginning His Illustrious Career

While technically not a TV show, 1982's Mazes and Monsters deserves to be on this list both for giving Tom Hanks his first starring role, and for being the only TV movie to ever acknowledge the frightening power of tabletop role playing. Produced at the height of a panic over what D&D was doing to our children, M&M follows Robbie Wheeling, a stressed out student whose first exposure to role playing leads to a total psychotic break from reality. His friends must track his alter ego, Pardue the Holy Man through the bowels of New York City to save his life. The entire film is a masterpiece, available for free on YouTube, but you only need to see one scene, near the end, to know that Tom Hanks deserves at least four more Oscars.