Slate's Culture Blog

Oct. 23 2014 12:01 PM

Who Is Constantine, and Should You Watch His New Show?


Most people probably know of John Constantine, if they know of him at all, from the perhaps underrated but ultimately forgettable 2005 Keanu Reeves movie. But John Constantine is one of the most celebrated comic book characters of all time, with nearly 30 years of publication history to his name.


With a new television series premiering tomorrow on NBC, here’s a brief primer on the character and why you should give the series a shot.

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Oct. 23 2014 11:34 AM

Louis C.K. Crashes a Brad Pitt Interview on Between Two Ferns

Bradley Pitts—er, Brad Pitt—is interviewed by host Zach Galifianakis for the latest edition of Between Two Ferns, and, in keeping with the deliberate awkwardness of Funny or Die’s long-running faux-talk show, it gets weird. The only thing Galifianakis seems interested in this time around is Pitt’s sexual history and what it’s like living in his wife’s shadow.

Oct. 23 2014 9:00 AM

Exclusive Premiere: Key & Peele Imagines the Dark Side of the Make-A-Wish Program

Key & Peele will air a Halloween-themed episode next week. Such holiday episodes tend to bring about particularly memorable sketches from the comic duo (see, for example, “Sexy Vampires” and “Racist Zombies”), and the first sketch available to watch from the upcoming episode is no different.

Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM

Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel

At long last we have a trailer for what will be the most money-making, fervently discussed blockbuster of summer 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron. Four films have fleshed out Marvel’s cinematic universe since the first Avengers, but the gang looks as superheroic as ever. The newcomers: Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver, Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, and the hulking, metallic, monologue-prone supervillain named Ultron.

Oct. 22 2014 9:19 PM

The Phone Call Is 20 Minutes of Pitch-Perfect, Wrenching Cinema

The Phone Call, an elegantly directed short film by Mat Kirkby, has been quietly dominating the festival circuit all year. The short is now available for viewing, and well worth a watch: It’s a wrenching meditation on the small moments that redeem life, and a strong contender for an Oscar nomination.

Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM

Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler

Like Matthew McConaughey last year and many other Oscar-hungry actors before him, Mark Wahlberg has dramatically slimmed down for his latest movie. But Wahlberg’s Method acting for the crime thriller The Gambler—a remake of the 1974 film starring James Caan as a gambling-addicted literature professor—required more than transforming his body. As Wahlberg told USA Today, "Forget losing the weight. Being believable as a teacher was one of my greatest challenges and most rewarding.” The guy from a working-class Boston background sat in on university lectures and studied “every literary mention” in the script. Could the Oscar-baiting move pay off?

It’s hard to tell from the first trailer, released today, though the Best Actor race is notably crowded in a year that includes raved-about performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, Steve Carell, and Eddie Redmayne (for which the latter two actors underwent even more dramatic physical transformations than Wahlberg). In a genre flick of this kind, Wahlberg, even with two Oscar nods behind him, seems like a long-shot—though his co-star, a bald John Goodman playing a loan shark, seems to be getting a some buzz himself for Best Supporting Actor. In the brief trailer, it’s Goodman who takes center stage for a menacing monologue that feels inspired by the “Fuck you, pay me” speech from Goodfellas.


The film was written by Oscar-winner William Monahan (The Departed), directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and also stars Brie Larson, Jessica Lange, and Michael K. Williams. To see whether Wahlberg can dramatically transform himself into a literature professor, we’ll have to wait until The Gambler opens on Dec. 19.

Oct. 22 2014 3:06 PM

Writer William Giraldi Wishes Everyone Would Please Stop Likening Him to a Literary Genius

The comedy event of the fall season has arrived courtesy of novelist William Giraldi, whose cri de coeurCompliments Are Nice, But Enough With the Cormac McCarthy Comparisons” currently sits on the homepage of the Daily Beast. Yes, Giraldi has penned the ultimate humblebrag: a plea that we stop discussing him by invoking one of the country’s greatest living novelists.

It seems that this bothersome comparison has especially pestered Giraldi with the release of his second novel, Hold the Dark. The completely un-McCarthy like novel, Giraldi explains, is a journey “into the gelid wilds of Alaska, into the village-living of a clan forgotten, forsaken by civilization.” Protagonist Medora Slone (“my Medea,” says Giraldi) “summons the wolf scholar Russell Core to investigate” missing children, “and once he arrives at the furthermost reaches of American soil, in this austere and fatal landscape, he must oppose not only the enigma of evil and the indifferent majesty of nature, but his own spiritual banishment.” From these descriptions, it’s hard to see how “well-meaning readers” persist in likening that darkness to the specific grim pitch of our “regnant mafioso of the American masculine … the unrepentant vicar of violence.”

Oct. 22 2014 2:47 PM

Watch the Eerie, Gorgeous Trailer for Joshua Oppenheimer’s Follow-up to The Act of Killing

If you saw The Act of Killing, you probably weren’t surprised when its director, Joshua Oppenheimer, was awarded a MacArthur “Genius Grant” last month. Oppenheimer’s 2012 documentary about the men who carried out a mass murder sanctioned by the Indonesian government five decades ago was not without controversy, but it undeniably pioneered an imaginative, shocking, and totally gripping approach to documentary filmmaking. (Errol Morris, who produced the film along with Werner Herzog, explained some of Oppenheimer’s methods in Slate in 2013.)

Now, Oppenheimer is taking on Indonesia’s massacres again, but from a different angle.

Oct. 22 2014 2:03 PM

Here’s What the Modern-Day Annie Remake Might Sound Like

If you’ve seen the trailer for the upcoming remake of Annie, you know that it will give the musical a substantial update, transplanting Little Orphan Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) from the original show’s Depression-era setting to the present day. Now we can hear a little more of what that update might sound like: Sia has recorded a drastic reworking of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” for the soundtrack, and it’s been released today along with an accompanying video.

Oct. 22 2014 12:35 PM

IKEA’s Shining Spoof Admits Its Stores Can Feel Like the Overlook Hotel

IKEA’s megastores are known for their unsettling, maze-like design, where couples bicker endlessly over plates and curtain sets while struggling to find the exit. Now, in a new ad from IKEA Singapore, the furniture company seems to be poking fun at its reputation, by doing a spin on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Perhaps they were inspired by last year’s brilliant IKEA parody that imagined the shopping experience as akin to the lost-in-space conundrum of Gravity? Either way, it’s certainly true that anyone who’s ever gone to their local IKEA store knows that it can feel reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel.