Now Showing

Black Widow

Long before the Black Widow movie was even in the works, I thought that it was great subject matter for a stand-alone movie, outside of The Avengers franchise. Through previous MCU adventures, we’ve gotten hints that Natasha Romanoff’s life had been spent as a covert agent and assassin. In my head at least, I imagined what a great opportunity it would be to explore her early adventures, a sort of spin on the Bond and Bourne movies. Awesomely, the Black Widow movie is all of that and more.

For my family, this was our first outing to the theater post-covid. While we felt comfortable knowing that the theater we were going to was still taking multiple precautions for safety, we opted to attend the first show on a Monday, when we knew attendance would be fairly low. For further peace of mind, we purchased a buffer seat on either side of us. Since it was a matinee, it was more than affordable to do.

It was so great to be back, sitting in comfy recliners, chomping on buttered popcorn again. Our family loves going to the movies, and the pandemic really put a damper on that. Needless to say, we were very excited as the house lights dimmed.

If there was any handwringing at Marvel or Disney, over whether or not Scarlett Johannson could carry her own movie, the opening weekend box-office take of $215 million squelched that. Serving as both the star of the film and producer, she was able to flesh out a hero that was in need of fleshing out, beyond occasionally remarking, “Just like in Budapest.” 

As the following was revealed in the trailer, Romanoff meets up with her sister, who appears to have had a similar upbringing as an operative. While the two initially go for each other’s throats, they are equally inquisitive about the sister that they barely know. Their mission turns into tracing their own family tree, and trying to separate fact from fiction.

I really don’t want to say anything more about the plot, because it twists and turns in a few unexpected ways. Coupled with unbelievably first-rate action sequences, Black Widow more than holds its own against any of the Cap, Ironman or Thor outings. In fact, I can’t wait to see it again.

By Dan Pavelich

The Wayback Machine

A Star Wars Christmas

The Christmas of 1977 was pretty much devoid of Star Wars toys, as the possible demand for them was grossly underestimated. In truth, who could’ve imaging that the Star Wars universe and everything associated with it would be such an incredible phenomenon?

Christmas of 1978 looked a little more promising, with manufacturers having an entire year to make up for their error the previous Christmas…

Underneath my Christmas tree that fateful morning in ’78 were several coveted Star Wars items. I’ve written about the remote-controlled R2D2 I received in a previous article, but I also got action figures of C3PO and R2D2 and Luke’s land speeder. For a grade school kid like me, this was like getting a bag of gold bullion. I remember with fondness, the hours of fun I had, dreaming up my own Star Wars adventures. Next to my G.I. Joe, these were my favorite toys by far.

Unlike me, my brother hung on to all of his Star Wars stuff over the years, and a few old pieces of mine now reside at his house, with his. It’s nice to know that they still exist and are being looked after.


May The Fourth be With You!

Greetings to our new friends and readers from around the galaxy today, as we celebrate all things Star Wars!


Hayley Mills

Born on this day in 1946, in Marylebone, London, actress, Hayley Mills. As a child, Mills was a Disney kid, starring in The Parent Trap and Pollyanna. She continued to appear in films through 2011, and also starred in Good Morning, Miss Bliss, an early incarnation of Saved By The Bell.

Double Take

Emily Osment / Carrie Underwood

Here at Pop-A-Looza HQ think that actress and former Disney kid, Emily Osment, looks an awful lot like country singer, Carrie Underwood. We think the two could pass for sisters!

Now Showing

Mary Poppins Returns

I have to admit that I wasn’t all that thrilled to hear of a sequel to Disney’s “Mary Poppins,” starring Emily Blunt in the title role. My apprehension, however, was allayed as soon as I heard Julie Andrews talk about how much she loved Blunt, and thought that she was practically perfect in every way to fill her own button-down shoes.

It would be impossible to overstate just how much care Disney took over this production, getting absolutely every detail beyond just-right. Cherry Tree Lane and The Banks Family are alive and well, albeit in need of Mary Poppins’s saving graces once again.

Michael Banks is grown up and living as a widower in the house he grew up in, along with his three children and Ellen, the maid. Banks has had a string of bad luck, beginning with the passing of his dear wife, which has left him in the position of having the family home foreclosed on. This is a job for Mary Poppins, if ever there was one.

Just as in the original movie, Mary Poppins arrives on the wind via umbrella, with a discerning eye focused on setting right multiple family problems, including saving the Banks home. I won’t spoil the story for those who’ve not seen it yet, but it’s relayed through really wonderful musical numbers and dance sequences that really do live up to their legacy.

Blunt, Van Dyke & Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda is well-placed as Mary’s lamplighter pal, and with a bright smile and pleasant demeanor with the children, is instantly likable. His Cockney accent fares far better than Dick Van Dyke’s did in the original, so that what many have felt was a distraction (me, too) in the first film, is no longer. When Van Dyke puts in a cameo as the senior bank president near the end of the film, we happily find that his accent & dancing feet are both right where they need to be.

The closing scene of the movie is happy-tear-inducing, wrapping up an emotional sequel that hits all of the right marks. I haven’t ever seen a contemporary movie even come close to creating a sentiment and charm that so many golden-era movies do, until “Mary Poppins Returns.” Returning to Cherry Tree Lane is a dream come true.


In The Stacks

Bloodline/Claudia Gray

Since 2015, when The Force Awakens came out, Disney has supplement-ed its on-screen world of Star Wars with books. Referred to as the Star Wars Disney Canon on Goodreads, these books flesh out the wonderful world that George Lucas created over forty years ago. They follow characters that we love, and new characters that we have yet to meet on screen. As a fan of Star Wars, I am always happy to be in that world, so a few years back I started to read some of the books set in the world of Star Wars. The first one I picked up was Claudia Gray’s Bloodline.

Bloodline is the story of Princess Leia, now Senator Organa, and how she navigates the universe post Return of the Jedi. She has the struggles of a politician, but also that of the daughter of Darth Vader. Gray digs into feelings and themes not explored in the Star Wars movies. What would it be like to know your father is Darth Vader? What would it be like if people found out? Gray tackles the psychological side of Leia, and it’s very moving. Leia is obviously a great favorite among Star Wars fans, as she is a strong, powerful, and inspiring leader. It was really nice to get to see even more sides of her, and to get to know her better as a character. 

The other main thing that has stuck with me after reading this book, is its focus on politics. I’m one of the (what seems like) few people who actually enjoy the prequel movies. Like I said above, any chance to be in the universe of Star Wars is a win for me. Queen Amidala was always one of my favorite characters, along with The Phantom Menace being one of my favorite movies. I always found the focus on politics and galactic relations to be fascinating. Bloodline delivers on that front as well, but with the beloved Leia at its heart. I also really enjoyed getting a closer look at the politics behind the new government that formed after the Empire was destroyed. 

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves Star Wars, wants to get to know Leia better, or just wants a good political thriller to read. May the force be with you.

P.S. I also highly recommend getting the Barnes and Noble Exclusive Edition of this book (which can be found at this link: because it comes with a really awesome poster!

Quick Spins

Selena Gomez/Rare

Selena Gomez

Rare (Interscope)

“Lose You To Love Me,” the first single from “Rare,” became Selena Gomez’s first number one, last October. January 10, 2020, would find the album sitting comfortably in the top spot on release day. Internationally-impressive chart positions would also help propel this release to be her biggest yet.

Gomez is coming into her own as a songwriter and a person, which is often reflected in these up-to-the-minute contempo tracks, but even more so in the less commercial selections. While a lot of the style preferences feel inspired by Taylor Swift’s “Lover,”  the rapid-fire vocals and sparse production, there are some pleasantly inspired moments.

Acoustic bass and simple percussion make “Ring” sound like a jazz song straight out of a film noir, and the electric piano of “Crowded Room” recalls the soft soul songs that permeated radio in the 1970’s. “Cut You Off,” featuring guest Kid Cudi, flips the bird at a relationship drowning in nonsense. More moments like these, please.

By Dan Pavelich

Now Showing

The Rise of Skywalker

I’ve seen this film dissected to death online and in print, so rather than getting into the nuts and bolts of critiquing it for the millionth time, I thought I’d take a look at the emotional side of getting to see a new Star Wars movie.

Those close to me know that one of my favorite pleasures is going to the movies. When I arrive, I still get a charge out of looking at the backlit movie posters as I make my way to the concession stand. Waiting in line, I’ve always got a little twinge of nervous energy before I get my snacks and make my way into the theater. Snacks, you say? For me, it’s always buttered popcorn and a cherry Coke. If I’m in the mood for chocolate, it’s got to be either Snowcaps or Milkduds.

Just entering the actual theater still makes me feel like I did when my grandparents took me to see Peter Pan or The Apple Dumpling Gang, when I was a kid in the 1970’s. It’s one of my favorite places to be in the whole world. Before the previews start, I’m always in such a good mood that I even enjoy the trivia quiz and latest Coke commercial.

There’s almost always three of us; me, my wife and my daughter. We almost always see new Star Wars, Star Trek or Marvel movies together. My daughter was pretty young when the Star Wars prequels came out, so those are her favorites.

For us, these outings are as pleasant and happy as when we get to go to Wrigley to see our beloved Chicago Cubs play daytime baseball. We’re on vacation from politics, bills, work…most anything that occurs in everyday life. Our eyes and ears are focused on that beautiful silver screen, which has a way of bringing us together, as we share popcorn and Snowcaps.

While my daughter will always love the prequels the most, and my wife and I the original trilogy, we all agree that these new movies, including Rogue One and Solo, are really enjoyable. They could easily be picked apart, as they often are, but we’d just rather enjoy them. As imperfect as they are, they never stop being a vacation for us.