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What's Making Us Happy: A guide to your weekend viewing and reading

Kristen Wiig in <em>Palm Royale </em>on Apple TV+.
Apple TV+
Kristen Wiig in Palm Royale on Apple TV+.

This week, we saw Captain America again, the relationship of the Golden Bachelor went the way of so many others before it, and reboot fever continued to burn so hot that you could not possibly avoid catching it.

Here's what NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

Riddle of Fire

Riddle of Fire premiered at Cannes last year. It's a really scrappy neo-fairy tale set in Wyoming. These three kids just want to play video games, but their mom gives them a quest to bake a pie for her because she's not feeling well — and only then can they play their video games. So this launches an epic little adventure — and it's so charming. It's shot on 16mm — it looks like nothing else out there right now. I'm fully in love with this movie, and I hope other people will get the chance to check it out. Monica Castillo

Palm Royale, streaming on Apple TV+

Palm Royale stars Kristen Wiig, Allison Janney, Carol Burnett and Laura Dern. It is a bunch of women who are not in their 20s and 30s, but are just having a blast. It takes place in the late 1960s — Kristen Wiig plays a woman who wants to fit in with all the rich society mavens at an exclusive Palm Beach club. There is a subplot about a women's consciousness raising group lead by Laura Dern's character. It is frothy, fizzy, good, silly fun — with excellent costumes. Is it great TV? I don't know yet, but it's blast. Danielle Kurtzleben

Alfred Hitchcock Storyboards, by Tony Lee Moral

/ Titan Books
Titan Books

I am obsessed with this coffee table book called Alfred Hitchcock Storyboards compiled by Tony Lee Morel. You open it up and you can see the storyboards forthe attack of the birds on the gas station. You can seethe push zoom effectfrom Vertigo as it's sketched out. It's like this holy grail of storyboards. Hitchcock famously said that once he finished planning out and drawing the storyboards, the movie was finished — shooting was just a formality. I've been using it as a treat for myself; every time I finish something I don't want to do, I get to go look at the next film. Walter Chaw

The People's Joker

You might have heard about The People's Jokerwhen its planned extended premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival was abruptly reduced to one midnight showing. It is the origin story of The Joker — if The Joker was a trans woman with a very funny narco-socialist take on pretty much everything, but especially weirdly, the status of contemporary stand up comedy ... and if Gotham City was a combination of crowd-sourced greenscreen backdrops and animation. It is also a queer coming of age tale and a romcom with a very thorough knowledge and jokes about deep Batman lore, especially the Joel Schumacher films and voice cameos from members of LA's alt comedy scene. Everything about this film makes the mega-corporate owners of IP like The Joker and Gotham City and Batman very nervous. When it was pulled from TIFF most of us figured we would never get to see it, but somehow it has managed to secure an extremely limited theatrical release this month and next.— Glen Weldon

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

After I talked last week about how much I love the Netflix athletic competition Physical: 100, several people told me that I needed to move on to Siren: Survive the Island. Just like Physical: 100, it's a South Korean competition show on Netflix that puts a variety of very fit people through some grueling experiences. But! Instead of an individual series of fitness contests, Siren: Survive the Island is a team competition. It pits teams of women — Team Police, Team Firefighter, Team Athlete, Team Stunt (made up of stuntwomen), Team Guard (bodyguards) and Team Soldier — against each other in what's basically a big game of capture the flag that takes place over about a week. It took me a full round of play to understand how it works, but once I did, I was hooked. Highly recommended. And by the way, maybe the best thing about it is that they hardly ever talk about the fact that they're women. They just are, which is similar to how men exist on television most of the time.

The podcast Who Killed the Video Star? about the history of MTV might seem to be an exploration of a well-worn topic: Why did MTV stop showing videos and stop focusing on music? But fortunately, when you listen, you are in the hands of the wonderful writer, funny person and onetime MTV host Dave Holmes, and Dave knows his stuff. It's a fascinating piece of history, and he's the best possible guide for this angle on it. (Also I recommend his memoir, Party of One, a book so fascinating and entertaining I once got a sunburn because I was mesmerized while reading it and lost track of time.)

I'm still working my way through the episodes I have of HBO's The Sympathizer, based on Viet Thanh Nguyen's novel, which premieres Sunday. And while I have a few misgivings about a few things, including the quadruple use of Robert Downey, Jr. in four different roles, the central performance from Hoa Xuande is transfixing, and I'm very excited to see more and talk about it with people.

Beth Noveyadapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" for the Web. 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.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
Walter Chaw
Glen Weldon
Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.
Linda Holmes
Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.