Linda Holmes

We're in the time of year where not only do potentially popular movies hit theaters, but so do potentially Oscar-winning movies. We brought Daoud Tyler-Ameen of NPR Music to our fourth chair this week for a chat about two of the biggest releases in a while.

We spend a lot of time on Pop Culture Happy Hour talking about interesting cable television, because interesting cable television gives us a lot to talk about. But this week, we look at two strong fall shows that showed up on broadcast networks. NBC's This Is Us is a breakout hit, and falls into the long-established tradition of family dramas that follow many threads at once and bring the crying relatively frequently. (Just ask Ari Shapiro of All Things Considered, our guest for this segment.)

While Pop Culture Happy Hour was out in San Francisco recently, we dropped by KQED and caught up with Emmanuel Hapsis, the editor of KQED Pop, the station's pop culture blog, and the host of its podcast, The Cooler. Along with our affinity for writing and podcasting about many of the same things, Emmanuel and I share an affection for Younger, which recently closed its third season (not all of which we'd seen when we taped in late October, of course).

We're lucky enough to be joined this week by Daisy Rosario and Margaret Willison for looks at two new girl-themed stories.

First, non-Gilmore Girls person Stephen Thompson sits out of our usual rotation as we cover the return of the people of Stars Hollow in four new movies available on Netflix. Did we get what we were hoping for from this reunion? Did we get too much of Logan's goofy friends, or not enough? And what of Jess and his duffel bag?

At an exceptionally strong Toronto International Film Festival this year, Moonlight was the film I kept hearing that people couldn't get into. One critic told me he'd tried at three different screenings; all were full. That's not a terribly common Toronto tale, particularly with a film where the director/screenwriter and the lead actors are not especially famous. What was driving people to the film was word of mouth. What was driving them to it was that people kept telling them how good it was. That's how it ought to work; that's not how it always works.

Most television shows arrive accompanied by the question, "Is it good?" Revivals of old shows, however, often arrive with the question, "Is it necessary?"

Almost a year ago, via a seemingly innocuous tweet, the very funny comedian and very funny actor Kumail Nanjiani and I discovered a shared enthusiasm for, and very deep feelings about, the romantic comedies of the 1990s. At our recent tour stop in Los Angeles at the Regent Theater, Kumail was in our fourth chair, and the topic was ... romantic comedies.

After a few weeks of vacation and touring, I'm very glad to be back on the show this week, particularly because we're talking about Arrival, a movie so intriguing and layered I managed to write an entire essay about it, expanding on some of the ideas in this episode. On hand is our friend Chris Klimek in the fourth chair, which is just right given his deep body of knowledge about perplexing space movies.

The setup of the film Arrival is familiar to anyone who's watched first-contact science fiction about aliens before: ships hover. Little is known. The military assumes the worst, and scientists thrum with curiosity. Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist, and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, are summoned to try to figure out the answer to a question that seems to be about aliens but hides in plain sight as a nod to philosophy: What is your purpose on Earth?

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