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!
Mini Series: “Under the Banner of Heaven”
While Kate is the true crime expert, I’ve been known to enjoy the genre as well. What I really enjoy, however, are murder mystery limited series and, of course, the very talented Andrew Garfield. So when this popped up on my Hulu recommendations, it was an obvious choice. The story follow the true crime story of a heinous double murder that quickly becomes connected to Mormonism. As I said, Garfield is known as a talented actor, and he has a heavy load to carry in this show. Not only is he the detective charged with solving the murder, but the character must go through a crisis of faith as his own steady commitment to his Mormon faith is challenged again and again as more is revealed about the history of his faith and the beliefs of fundamentalists who are still at large. It’s a very tense, cinematic show and I highly recommend it!
Movie: “Thor: Love and Thunder”
Ever the completionist, I’m still managing to keep up with the seemingly endless stream of Marvel content coming out lately. I mean, between all of the movies that were delayed by Covid and now all the Disny+ shows, there’s quite a lot! Like many fans, I think, I am beginning to become a bit worried that the train might be off the tracks with all of this. But I’m also trying to focus on each thing individually, and I really enjoyed this movie. It didn’t rise to the heights of “Thor: Ragnarok” (there were moments in this film that felt a bit forced), but it was still a fun, funny romp. The acting was all superb and but for a few odd steps in the story, I thought it was a nice continuation of Thor’s story. I don’t think it’s essential in-theater viewing, but I definitely preferred this movie to the Dr. Strange sequel that also came out this spring/summer.
Netflix Show: “Stranger Things: Volume 4”
I’m late to including this show because I stubbornly waited until the second half dropped to watch it. I’m not sure what it says about my psychologically, but I’d rather wait for the entire thing than deal with a cliffhanger in the middle. But man, was it worth the wait! I think this was my favorite season after season one, of course. The villain was by far the best we’ve had since then, and the stakes were higher than ever. I still think the adults have become the weakest aspect of the show (something that is unfortunate given how impressive Winona Rider was in the first season), and their storyline here at times verged on the nonsensical. But I was here for the kids, and their stories all were awesome. Can’t say enough good things! Alas, now I’m stuck with everyone else again waiting for the next season to be released.
TV Show: “Harley Quinn”
You all know that I love me some DC characters, especially if they are maladapted villains, and I have a special love in my heart for the villainous ladies of Gotham City, especially Harley Quinn. Harley as a character has had to deal with some shit, and I feel like she is finally getting her due in the films thanks to “Birds of Prey” and “The Suicide Squad” (James Gunn’s version, of course). But the best Harley is the Harley on the HBOMax show “Harley Quinn”, as she, and everyone else, is so over the top hilarious and silly without taking anything super seriously. It feels a lot like the show “The Venture Bros” in that it is snarky and awkward and shines a light on the ridiculous things of super villainy. Kaley Cuoco is a newly liberated from Joker and determined to make it on her own Harley, who makes her own rag tag team of villains to try and show that she, too, is a super villain to be taken seriously. It is a hoot and a half, filled with quirky characterizations and hilarious running gags (my favorite being Bane wanting to blow up anything that vexes him). And also, hooray for Poison Ivy and Harley having a fulfilling and healthy relationship. BOUT TIME THEY GOT A CANON ROMANCE ON SCREEN! Suffice to say, I love this show.
Concert: Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” Tour
Back in 2019, my husband surprised me with tickets to see Elton John. I had just had my kid, and I was deep into the whole ‘brand new mom’ thing, so this was a treat to look forward to in June 2020… Well, we all know how that turned out. And by the rescheduled date in March 2022, while my husband and I were vaccinated, our kid wasn’t eligible yet, and we didn’t want to bring anything home from an indoor concert venue to her should something go wrong. So we gave our tickets to some good friends, and I cried deeply for a second time. But then I saw that Sir Elton was going to be playing at Soldier Field in Chicago in August. An outdoor venue, in driving distance, after promises of kiddo shots. So it finally happened, and it was MAGICAL. Elton John is a master performer and entertainer, and being able to see him live and listen to him play was such an incredible experience. After all this time he still has the energy and the passion, AND the costume changes. Given that I actually believe him that this is, indeed, his farewell tour, I am so happy we were able to make this work, even if it was two years later than planned.
I am a HUGE fan of basically any 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger film, and a top 3 for me is “Predator”, in which he plays a Black Ops commando dropped into a jungle with a team that is slowly picked off by an alien hunter. I love the “Predator” lore and mythology, though many of the sequels have been fairly lackluster. But “Prey” breaks that streak. For one, it’s a prequel, set in the 1700s Upper Plains within the Comanche Nation, and for another, it has an amazing female, Indigenous protagonist. Naru wants to prove to her tribe that she is a good hunter, though she isn’t taken very seriously. But then she starts seeing hints of some kind of creature that poses a danger to her group, and decides that she needs to take it out. Yep, we got a Predator in a historical setting, and it WORKS. This is also a movie that goes to great length to be respectful and accurate when it comes to the Comanche culture, with an almost completely Indigenous cast and a huge Indigenous crew. There was even a limited Comanche language dub of the film to really honor and experience the way these characters would have been speaking, though I missed out on that option (and was VERY disappointed that I did). It is just as good as the original “Predator”. And I may even say it’s better.