Not Just Books: April 2023

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: “Succession”

I’ve resisted watching this show for quite awhile. I don’t love shows where it’s hard to find a character to like. My husband only got me to watch “Breaking Bad” after convincing me that Jesse was a character you could like throughout the show. But, while I have struggled to outright like any of the characters in this show, there’s no denying the quality. The writing, the acting, the ongoing tension. All top notch. I also was happy to wait to start watching until the final season was already showing so that I wouldn’t have to wait long for the inevitably horribly tragic conclusion. I never would have guessed from the beginning, but at this point…I’m kind of rooting for Roman??

Netflix Movie: “The Gray Man”

In an opposite situation, I had to convince my husband to watch this movie with me due to his ridiculous dislike of Ryan Gosling. I know, right? He’s crazy. But I was able to sucker him in with a preview that contained a sufficiently campy villain in Chris Evans. I really liked this movie, though. It was action-packed, funny at times, and surprisingly heart-warming at others. You can tell that both lead actors are just enjoying the heck out of their roles, especially Evans. If you enjoy fairly straight-forward action movies, this is definitely one to check out!

Movie: “Dungeon and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves”

I was fairly skeptical about this movie when I first heard about it. Obviously, the premise is a hard sell after the abysmal attempt at making a D&D movie several years ago. But then a few things began to work in its favor: Chris Pines is always awesome, the trailer looked genuinely hilarious, and a favorite reviewer of mine highly recommended it. And, yep, he was right! This was a blast of a movie! In many ways, it’s everything that the Marvel movies seem to have lost. It doesn’t take itself seriously, it commits to its premise, and it made wise use of its excellent casting. In many ways, I think it’s similar to “Pirates of the Caribbean” where many viewers are initially skeptical due to the weak source material. But like that movie, this one is well worth the watch, especially for fans of fantasy who enjoy a great mix of action and comedy!

Kate’s Picks

Film: “Smile”

This was a much delayed watch, as I wasn’t totally comfortable going to see it in the theater when it came out, and then Terror Tuesday wanted to wait for the entire group to be present to watch it as we heard it was wild. And when we finally sat down to watch “Smile”, we all lost our collective minds in the group chat. Wild is an understatement. Rose is a mental health therapist assigned to an emergency clinic, and one day sees a patient named Laura. Laura witnessed a professor kill himself in a horrible way, and says she is being stalked by an otherworldly being that follows her around and smiles at her, and then she has a complete breakdown and kills herself in the room in front of Rose. While smiling in a grotesque manner. Then Rose starts to see things, including people she knows smiling at her and driving her into emotional turmoil. Rose has to try and solve what happened to her, before she falls victim to the same fate. THIS MOVIE IS BONKERS. COMPLETELY BONKERS. There were so many moments where I was laughing hysterically because it was so fucked up, and we all decided that it was the most fucked up but fun movie we had all watched together (“Barbarian” was close, but I didn’t enjoy “Barbarian” and I REALLY enjoyed this one).

City: Duluth, Minnesota

If someone were to ask me what my favorite places to visit were, Duluth, Minnesota would almost certainly be top five. I love this port city on the shore of Lake Superior, and I love that it’s only about two and a half hours away from where I live, as it makes it very easy to get there with minimal fuss. And this April I was able to visit my happy place not just once, but twice. The first was a girls trip with some college friends, and the second was a solo vacation for emotional recharging after a long winter. I love being on the lake, I love the local breweries and restaurants, I love the unique attractions, and I love that I can drive up the North Shore and see a lot of gorgeous landscapes and nature scenes, whether it’s the lake or forests or rivers and waterfalls. And the waterfalls and rivers were especially breathtaking this month given the insane amount of snow the state got this winter. Very few places can center me like Duluth can, and I really loved my time there this April, whether with friends or on my own.

Web Show: “The Pit Stop”

So perhaps you noticed that “RuPaul’s Drag Race” didn’t make my Not Just Books picks this year. It’s not that I didn’t like it. Well, I liked the winner and the runner up, both quite a bit. But there were some weird production things going on this season that made it a frustrating watch, so even though I was happy with how it shook out in the end with my two faves coming in first and second, I did spend a lot of time frustrated. But never fear, for I do have some drag content, and it is “Drag Race” adjacent! “The Pit Stop” is a web show that recaps episodes of “Drag Race” and “Drag Race All Stars”, with commentary from a consistent host and a guest drag queen (and Nicole Byer on occasion). I’ve been mainly watching seasons that are hosted by Trixie Mattel and Bob the Drag Queen, as they are the funniest hosts, and they have great banter and chemistry with basically all of their guests. It’s also a great way to revisit past seasons that I didn’t really care for (cough season 13) and to breathe new energy into them. It was especially funny watching Violet Chachki and Trixie tear the Bag Ball episode apart. So many bad looks on the runway.

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