The Rundown: It’s A Great Time To Watch Stuff About The Moon

07.19.19 1 month ago

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The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items will vary, as will the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest, or from this week. The important thing is that it’s Friday and we are here to have some fun.


It’s wild that we went to the moon. It’s even wilder that we went to the moon in 1969, 50 years ago tomorrow, in fact. Think about that for a second. We didn’t even have reasonably priced microwave ovens until the 1970s. We put a man on the moon before we figured out how to make frozen dinners a commercially viable possibility. Cell phones didn’t hit the market until the 1990s. If you weren’t at home in 1969 and someone wanted to get in touch with you, you might as well have been in space with the astronauts. That’s… that’s a little crazy. It’s worth reflecting on a bit this weekend when we celebrate the anniversary.

The anniversary also makes this weekend a great time to consume moon content, and there’s some good moon content out there to consume. HBO has re-released its 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon — produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Tom Hanks, with intros from Hanks before the episodes — and made it available on its streaming service, HBO Go. I’ve been watching it for the past few days and I have been in heaven. It’s really good. Each episode tackles a different part of the space race, from the planning to the bureaucratic battles to the astronaut squabbles to the actual flying of some damn spaceships. It’s a tribute to accomplishing something many thought was impossible, and to smart people doing hard things against long odds.

It is also absolutely littered with names and faces you will recognize from other television shows. It’s got a pre-Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston and a pre-Mad Men John Slattery and a pre-Justified Nick Search, a mid-Newsradio Stephen Root and Dave Foley, a pre-NCIS Mark Harmon and a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn and a post-Wonder Years Dan Lauria, plus Cary Elwes and Rita Wilson and Kevin Pollack and Tim Daly and Ted Levine. That’s not even everyone. You’ll spend half the series pointing at the screen like “Hey! It’s the guy from the thing!” And you’ll always be right.

You could also, if you’re so inclined, head out to your local library and pick up a copy of The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, which tells the story of the earliest days of the space program and the test pilots who got this whole ball rolling. It’s probably my favorite book, so I’m biased, but man, is it ever informative and an absolute blast to read. The chapter on Chuck Yeager is legendary, as it should be, and will make you feel awed and totally insignificant in your own stupid little life, but in a good way. If you’re consuming moon content, you could find a much worse place to start.

So that’s the plan this weekend. The whole country will be baking anyway. Sit in the air conditioning, have some iced tea, and dig into some moon stuff.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — This week in kitties and fighter jets

Comic-Con kicked off this week and we all know what that means: it is trailer time, baby. Trailers galore. All kinds of trailers, too, including some that have absolutely nothing to do with actual comics. Like, for example, this teaser for the upcoming Top Gun sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, which will come out a smooth 30+ years after the original. That has to be close to the record for most time between the original movie and its non-reboot follow-up. I would say how silly this all is if I hadn’t been immediately sucked in within the first 20 seconds of this trailer. I’m such a sucker. No apologies.

Two notes about the trailer:

  • If this movie doesn’t feature a “because you’re the best, that’s why” scene in which Maverick is recruited back into live-action, I will eat my entire laptop with no condiments
  • Nothing in this trailer explicitly rules out the possibility that Goose returns as an evil zombie who is hellbent on destroying Maverick

Something to keep an eye on. And something we might all have had more time to focus on if another trailer hadn’t dropped like an hour later and set the internet on fire in a way we haven’t seen since Sonic and his human teeth terrified children and adults around the globe. Yes, it is time to discuss Cats.

A few questions:

What and why?
Who did this?
Why are the cats doing that?
Why do the cats look like that?
Why didn’t they just put the actors in costumes or animate the whole thing?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is a thing. It’s all very strange and the world seems to have split into musical theater types who are very excited and the rest of us who are flabbergasted in ways we may never recover from. I’m sorry. I’m really trying. I just… I do not think I ever expected to see Idris Elba as a humanoid CGI cat. Maybe I’ll wrap my head around it by the premiere. I doubt it, but maybe.

Also: Many people, myself included, just learned the actual plot of Cats this week in the aftermath of the trailer’s release. Here’s the shortest and most straightforward version I saw, from the Simple English Wikipedia:

Every year, a tribe of cats known as the Jellicle Cats meets for the Jellicle Ball. At the Jellicle Ball, Old Deuteronomy, the leader of the tribe, chooses one cat to ascend to the Heaviside layer to be reborn and return to a new life. Grizabella, an elderly (younger in some productions) glamour cat who left the Jellicle tribe’s junkyard home, comes back to her tribe, but they shun her. While the other cats dance at the Jellicle Ball, Grizabella watches in the background. She performs a simple dance when the other cats leave and sings about how she wants to be accepted. Old Deuteronomy sees this and sympathizes with her. In act two, Old Deuteronomy gets kidnapped by Macavity, a “mystery cat” who is the only true antagonist in the musical. As soon as he is successfully returned, it is time to choose who goes to the Heaviside Layer. Grizabella is chosen, and she is taken on a tire to fly into the Heaviside layer.

Well… sure. That’s really quite a lot of business going on, possibly too much, and I might take a second or two to poke fun at any of it if I weren’t also a person who has chosen to blindly accept the story trajectory of the Fast & Furious films. I can’t really goof on “some singing cats choose which one of them goes to heaven” when I’m fully prepared to whoop and holler for Jason Statham’s character in Hobbs & Shaw in a couple of weeks even though his character murdered Han a few films ago. We all have our things. Some involve neon Hondas, others involve Taylor Swift as a technicolor singing kitty cat. It’s fine. Kind of. I guess!

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