What's making us happy: A guide to your weekend reading, listening and viewing
This week, Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo won titles in Nathan's hot dog eating contest. Gentleminions took over movie theaters.
And we said a sad goodbye to James Caan.
Here's what the NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.
Getting Over Max Cooper
I love a good beach read during summertime, so I want to recommend a book by Marcelle Karp called Getting Over Max Cooper, which came out recently. (Full disclosure, Marcelle is someone that I know. She was a co-founder of Bust Magazine.) This is her first novel and it's set on Fire Island, and the details of the island are so fun and rich. She's someone who has actually spent a lot of time there.
It has been a wonderful transport from my inland home to the shores of the water and being a teenager again. Young adult lit can feel like the greatest escape, and I think we all kind of need a pick-me-up right now. — Daisy Rosario
Rutherford Falls season 2
That's right, folks, it is back. Rutherford Falls is a show set in a small New York town that sits right on the edge of a reservation. It's about Reagan Wells, played by the fantastic Jana Schmieding, who is Native. She runs the cultural center in her town, and her best friend is Nathan Rutherford, played by Ed Helms. His character's namesake is related to the small town, which has a bit of a controversial past.
They grapple with this town's history and legacy of dealing with Native American treaties and the two communities coming together. That may sound a bit dry, but trust me, it is a Mike Schur production. It's hilarious. Michael Greyeyes is also fantastic as the local casino owner, and the writers room includes a number of Native writers.
Season one was more self-contained since they might not have known they would get picked up for another season, but fortunately season two is now on Peacock. In this season, I think they finally got to spread their wings and treat it more like other Schur productions, like Brooklyn Nine-Nine. — Sam Yellowhorse Kesler
The Princess is a fantasy martial arts film on Hulu. It's The Raid in a wedding dress. There's this princess, played by Joey King, who is imprisoned at the top of a tower, and she has to fight her way down to the bottom through hundreds of goons to save her family. That's it. That's the tweet.
I don't want to overpromise here because this is not going to join the pantheon of great martial arts films, but that's not what it's trying to do. What The Princess really does is go down easy. Maybe like me, you find yourself in a mood to see a woman going full ham on a bunch of dudes who are trying to take away her agency.
It's cheesy as hell, but it knows that, and that turns out to be hugely important. It also knows what it has to do because the premise is so simple and so linear that the violence has to keep iterating, escalating, and innovating. That's the only assignment, and it carries it out. — Glen Weldon
Magic Mike XXL
Every July 4th weekend, we have a little family tradition where my partner, Katie, and I sit down and watch a dumb movie about America. We watched both National Treasure movies this way, we often return to the Independence Day franchise, and we did Team America: World Police one year. But this year we struggled, so we just decided to dip into a piece of comfort food that we love to watch together so much: Magic Mike XXL.
It's a weirdly charming and loving road trip movie in which a bunch of male entertainers travel down the Eastern Seaboard, make people smile, have adventures, and just put on a show. And spoiler — I just described what happens the entire movie. Is it major? No. Is it plot-forward? No. Is it fun to watch again and again while asking very little of you? That's the ticket.
Something that the movie gets so right is that it is a movie that likes women, featuring a bunch of characters who like women. And it's interesting re- (re-, re-) watching this movie as it's a sweet portrait of loving male friendship. Not just these guys that are bros and pat each other on the back really hard. They're vulnerable, and they're sweet, they love each other dearly, and that's the movie. — Stephen Thompson
More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter
by Linda Holmes
If you follow me on Twitter (or have seen me in real life in the last few weeks), you know that I recently really loved the book An Immense World by the science writer Ed Yong. It's about the science of animal senses, so it's all about whales and bats and dogs and birds and bugs and sensory receptors and how color works and how humans at scale have tended to arrange the world around the senses we use – and what that means for any human or animal who uses their senses differently. But it's also sort of about empathy, to me, in that it's about understanding that how you see the world is specific to you, literally. (Note: Random House, the publisher of this book, is a part of Penguin Random House, as is Ballantine, the publisher of my books. Hope that makes all the sense in the world.)
I also greatly enjoyed the comedy special People Pleaser from friend-of-Pop Culture Happy Hour Josh Gondelman. You can rent it at various on-demand locations, and it's sharp and funny and weird and very sweet in some ways, especially if you like weddings and marriages.
The podcast Household Faces, hosted by John Ross Bowie, has done some great interviews with character actors, but I especially enjoyed the most recent one, which featured the marvelous Stephen Root.
Speaking of good podcasts from good people, my old pal Joe Reid and his co-host and friend Chris Feil have a film podcast called This Had Oscar Buzz, which is an expansion of an ongoing project that looks at movies that ... well, once had Oscar buzz, but it didn't pan out. I hadn't gotten to spend too much time with their show, but I've been listening to lots of it recently, and it's a fascinating angle on the history of both movies and the movie industry, as well as awards campaigning and movie marketing.
NPR's Maison Tran adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
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