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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
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Take 5: Unnecessary sequels and halftime lessons

This week in the world of entertainment, Hollywood’s sequel obsession approached impressive new heights, and prospects for “Saturday Night Live” rose dramatically. Here’s a recap of the week’s five biggest pop culture stories.

This week at the movies: muppets, tweens and explicit sex – in three different movies, of course.
If you’re in the mood for a movie, this weekend’s new releases probably have something you’re looking for. “Muppets Most Wanted” is the much-anticipated sequel to 2011’s “The Muppets,” which resuscitated the long-dormant franchise for a new generation under the guidance of star, writer and producer Jason Segel. The “HIMYM” actor has moved on, but director James Bobin and the entire furry gang has returned for more hijinks, this time with stars like Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell.

Elsewhere, Shailene Woodley and Theo James star in “Divergent,” adapted from the Veronica Roth novel of the same name. Lionsgate is hoping that this movie will launch a franchise akin to “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight.”

Finally, Lars von Trier’s wildly raunchy two-part opus “Nymphomaniac” begins its limited rollout this weekend. The movie contains explicit, unsimulated sex scenes and stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and the recently maligned Shia LaBeouf in key roles. Von Trier is known for pushing the envelope, and he may have outdone himself this time.

“Saturday Night Live” rallies late in the season.
This season of the veteran sketch show has been beset by issues of diversity, the departure of Seth Meyers and the ever-increasing size of the cast. Colin Jost has been an unremarkable Weekend Update host in his first two weeks, though he will undoubtedly improve as he settles into the role. Few of the season’s seven new cast members have made an impression, and other recently departed cast members like Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen have left noticeable gaps. Nonetheless, the show remains popular in the ratings, and recent episodes hosted by the likes of Lena Dunham and Drake have been solid, occasionally spectacular.

NBC’s recent announcements about the show have been promising. Louis C.K. will return for his second hosting stint on March 29 alongside musical guest Sam Smith. Seth Rogen will take his turn as host two weeks later with musical guest Ed Sheeran. Most promising of all, Anna Kendrick will make her hosting debut on April 5, and musical guest Pharrell is sure to make us “Happy.”

“Star Wars” begins filming soon, “Cars 3” is on the way…and, oh yeah, “The Incredibles 2.”
Disney CEO Robert Iger gave a presentation on March 20 that revealed two upcoming Pixar projects and new details about the long-awaited seventh film in the “Star Wars” series. J.J. Abrams will begin filming “Episode VII” this summer. No formal casting has been announced, but Jesse Plemons (“Breaking Bad”) and Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”) are in the running for the leads, and Adam Driver will likely play the central villain.

Pixar fans were more excited about the news that Pixar will finally be making a sequel to “The Incredibles,” and that film’s writer-director Brad Bird is in the process of writing the screenplay now. “Cars 3” is also in the works, proving that even the least beloved of the Pixar films has enough of a following (and product sales) to merit a second sequel. Whether a sequel to “The Incredibles” is necessary remains to be seen.

Speaking of unnecessary sequels…
Sony is moving forward with “Ghostbusters 3.” Why? There’s no good answer except that it’s a brand name and the original movie has an enormous and deserved following. Ivan Reitman announced this week that he no longer plans to direct this sequel as he did the first two films – the death of the original’s co-star and writer Harold Ramis left him realizing that he wanted this project to be helmed someone new. Rumor has it that Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“The Lego Movie”) might be stepping in, and their track record is promising, but the studio has an uphill battle to convince the public that a Bill Murray-less sequel to “Ghostbusters’ is anything more than a cynical cash grab.

Lesson learned: don’t hold up your middle finger during the Super Bowl halftime show if you value your financial well-being.
Though most people in the U.S. have likely forgotten every detail of Madonna’s halftime show at the 2012 Super Bowl, the NFL hasn’t. They announced this week that they are demanding $16 million in restitution and damages stemming from the moment when M.I.A. flipped off the camera during her guest appearance. Given that Michael Jackson and Prince got away with arguably far more risque content on past halftime shows, M.I.A. isn’t happy about this turn of events. That cash-register ding from “Paper Planes” is going to come in handy.

 Hosts Sara Winick and Sydney Hsu introduce themselves and talk about their favorite TV shows. This episode includes fun facts, recommendations and personal connections. 

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