Not Just Books: February 2021

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

TV Show: “How I Met Your Mother”

Apparently when I add a new small child to my life, my reaction is to re-watch sitcoms? Probably because of the short 20-minute format that allows for the brief moments of freedom I’m allowed in any given day. Add that to a show I’ve already seen and you have a media option that is perfect for someone who really doesn’t have the time to be watching anything in the first place and instead is just delusionally tricking themselves into thinking they do have such time. I have…feelings about the end of the show. So I’m sure once I get there I’ll probably just skip it. But it’s definitely a fun re-watch in the mean time. The cast has great chemistry and the early seasons especially take full advantage of the unique format of the show with its time-jumping and memory format.

Podcast: “Binge Mode: Harry Potter”

Like HIMYM, I remember when I had my first baby, I, appropriately, binged the entire “Binge Mode: Game of Thrones” series. So is it any wonder that this second go around found me listening to this? The two hosts are hilarious and I find that I’m enjoying this second outing even more than the first as I know (and like) “Harry Potter” better than “Game of Thrones.” The series is definitely filled with spoilers for the entire book series so if you’ve somehow lived under a rock for the last twenty years, this may not be for you. But any avid Potter fans are sure to enjoy it! I’m still only a few episodes in, but I can’t wait to hear their take on some of the key moments in the book that always stood out for me. It’s this type of shared experience that makes re-reading and talking about mutually beloved books so enjoyable to book nerds.

Movie: “Tenet”

This was one of the few movies of the last year that was released in theaters after COVID hit and upended life as we know it. I don’t think it performed particularly well, but it didn’t seem that that was a reflection on the film itself which seemed to be generally well-reviewed. Plus, Christopher Nolan is usually a fairly solid bet. My biggest take away? I think he was trying to out-do himself and make this movie even more confusing than “Inception.” Ultimately, I think that movie was the better and more smart of the two, but “Tenet” was definitely a fun, twisty movie that left you really thinking at the end. At one point early in the movie, a character says “Don’t think about it, just feel it.” And I really think that has to be the viewer’s mantra as well when going through this the first time. You just have to trust that answers will come. I was able to guess a few of the twists and turns, but exactly how everything played out, right up to the end, was a constant source of wonder and thrill. Definitely check this out if you enjoyed “Inception” and movies like that!

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Search Party”

I am still obsessed with the HBO Max show “Search Party”, which started as a satirical series about aimless Millennials who go on a search for an old classmate who has gone missing, and last season left off with one of those Millennials getting away with murder…. only to be kidnapped herself. Season 4 is where we are now, and Dory has, indeed, been kidnapped by her stalker Chip, who has masterfully crafted her disappearance as an indulgent self exploration journey so her friends won’t wonder where she is. And it keeps going from there, to the darkest places yet, so I LOVE IT, of course. Dory has gone through so many metamorphoses during the series, and Alia Shawkat plays her so well that I’ve run the gamut on how I feel about her as the show has gone on. I still love John Early’s narcissistic Elliot, of course, but it’s Susan Sarandon who really shines, as she plays Chip’s eccentric Aunt Lylah and is probably the funniest member of the cast this time around. It’s still biting, and it’s darker than ever, but I love it so.

Film: “Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar”

It’s been a long and hard winter, guys, but I’ve been keeping up with friends as best I can. So when my friend Tom suggested to our friend group that we virtual watch “Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar”, while I wasn’t totally familiar with what it WAS, I was on board. And guys…. I LOVED IT. The absurdist comedy is about two middle aged women besties named Barb and Star who decide to take a trip to Florida’s Vista Del Mar… and then find themselves unwittingly in a crazy supervillain plot that will surely put them in peril. Not that they realize this, even when they start cavorting with a lovelorn henchman named Edgar. The comedy is hilarious and totally out there, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo are absolutely delightful as the title characters, and Jamie Dornan manages to steal the show as Edgar, whom said friend Tom aptly describes as ‘the best himbo’. I was laughing the whole time, and am absolutely going to watch it again and again until me and my friends can go on crazy vacations once more.

Netflix Series: “Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer”

In college my psychology degree had a focus on abnormal psych, specifically on psychopathy. I took a seminar on psychopathy and serial killers, and my final paper was on Richard Ramirez, aka The Night Stalker. This guy is a literal nightmare. So I waited until my husband got home from a business trip before I sat down to watch “Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer”, lest I freak myself out too much to sleep. This series follows the investigation into Ramirez’s killing spree, and while it centers the narrative on the investigation itself, it also gives a lot of time and voice to the victims, be they survivors or family members of those he murdered. What felt unique about this series is that very little time is actually devoted to Ramirez’s background, which I thought was effective in that it makes it so we don’t waste energy on trying to understand why he did what he did, and instead focus on the horrible damage he did to others. It sometimes feels like it borders into sensationalism, but I thought that it never quite stepped over the line (your mileage may vary in this opinion, of course). Overall, it’s well researched, well presented, and another interesting true crime docuseries.

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