Not Just Books: October 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

Broadway Show: “Frozen”

I’ve always had a really hard time coming up with suggestions for birthday/Christmas presents I’d like. Finally, a spark of inspiration came a few years ago and I thought to suggest tickets to live events that I’d typically have a hard time fitting in for myself. Then a pandemic hit. So I was gifted tickets to this show quite awhile ago, but finally, this last weekend, I finally got to see it! It was super exciting just to be out doing a seemingly normal thing again (as normal as it can be while wearing masks and having vaccine cards being checked at the door). But it was also a really fun show to watch. The music was great, and while the original-to-the-show songs weren’t quite as good as the originals from the movie, they still held their own. The actor who played Anna was particularly good, and of course, Elsa had a great closing song for the first act. It was also tons of fun just seeing all of the little girls in attendance wearing their princess dresses. The vibe, overall, was really fun.

HBO Show: “Mare of Easttown”

I really enjoyed limited series, dark, crime shows. But I’m also bizarrely picky about the ones that really stick with me. There’s a balance point in “likability” of the main character, I think. They’re often brooding characters with “a past” who “don’t play by the rules,” sure. But they still have to be someone I can like. For good example, David Tennant’s character in “Broadchurch.” For a bad example, Bosch in “Bosch” (man, I couldn’t stand that guy. There’s a reason type casting is a thing. That actor is a great bad/chaotic neutral type character. A hero, he isn’t.) All of that said, “Mare of Easttown” was a perfect find for me. Kate Winslet was brilliant as Mare, a troubled detective working to solve the murder of a young mother in her small town. The story was also very much about mothers and sons, a topic obviously near and dear to my heart. If you like murder mystery mini-series, this is definitely one to check out.

TV Show: “WandaVision”

My husband and I are slowly making our way through the Disney+ Marvel shows that have released over the last year or so. We started in order, so first up was “WandaVision.” I had no idea what to expect from this show (other than a healthy dose of dread and tragedy given the current state of things at the end of the last “Avengers” movie). Some wacky sit-com thing that jumps decades? Yes, yes that it was this is! But it’s also so much more. I can’t really talk much about it without spoiling some pretty big reveals, but I’ll say that I really liked this show. It was so, so weird, but all of that weirdness was grounded and held together by the outstanding performances by Elizabeth Olson and Paul Bettany. Besides these two, a few other familiar and surprising faces show up. Fans of the movies and fans of the comics will be pleased with these arrivals. Definitely check it out if you’re at all on the Marvel bandwagon.

Kate’s Picks

Netflix Show: “Squid Game”

I’m sure that just like a lot of other people, I hadn’t heard of “Squid Game” until it was seemingly everywhere AND on track to be Netflix’s biggest show ever. But it’s no surprise that as a person who loves dystopian hellscape stories, I really enjoyed “Squid Game”. People in crushing debt in South Korea are approached to play a game. If you survive six rounds of childhood playground games, you will earn billions of won. Our protagonist Gi-Hun is impoverished, out of work, and has a young daughter whose step father is going to take her and her mother to America. As he has no money, he has not footing to contest it. So of course he want to play…. Until it’s clear that if you don’t win a game or are eliminated, you die. I’ve seen a lot of people compare this show to “The Hunger Games” or “Battle Royale”, but I get a lot of “The Long Walk” vibes from it, as it looks at how the wealthy will exploit and abuse the poor for their own entertainment, and the lives the victims living before are so desperate they just keep playing. Chilling stuff. Addictive as hell too. My husband and I binged it over two nights.

Netflix Show: “Midnight Mass”

I really loved Mike Flanagan’s previous limited horror series “The Haunting of Hill House” and “The Haunting of Bly Manor”. I also loved his adaptation of “Doctor Sleep”. And his film “Hush”. Okay, I just love Mike Flanagan, so I definitely wanted to watch his newest limited horror series “Midnight Mass”. I didn’t know much going in, outside of it was based on a book he wanted to write but never quite did. But once I started, I realized that 1) it was going to be epic, and 2) I could only watch an episode a day, as the themes of religious zealotry and fanaticism were going to make me SUPER angry. A man named Riley returns to his home community of Crocket Island after serving a sentence for a drunk diving accident that left a woman dead. Just as he’s returning, a new priest named Father Paul arrives, saying that their previous Monsignor fell ill during his visit to the Holy Land. Paul begins to seemingly perform miracles, as a paralyzed girl walks, and a woman with dementia seems to heal and come back to life… But Father Paul is harboring a secret, a secret that he thinks is God’s instrument… But is anything but. This show is so tense, so emotional, and absolutely devastating as well as hopeful. Like other Flanagan works, have a box of tissues at the ready to go with the scares.

Netflix Show: “You”

It was a long wait to get to see Joe Goldberg again on my TV screen. Though not as long as the wait was on the page. Regardless, “You” Season 3 came out this month and you know I was all about it, texting my sister in law the night it dropped so we could dish dish dish! We follow our favorite obsessive serial killer Joe Goldberg to the suburbs, where he and his (psychopathic murderer) wife Love and he are trying to have a normal life for themselves and their son Henry. But fitting in in Madre Linda isn’t easy for Joe and Love given their predilections. And given that Joe just can’t seem to not obsess over another woman, that puts him in a situation of being not just the threat, but also threatened should his wife find out. I still love Penn Badgley as Joe, but it continues to be Victoria Pedretti’s Love who holds the keys to the part of my heart that loves a villain. Especially one as damaged as Love.

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