Not Just Books: April 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

Netflix Movie: “Rebecca”

I watched the 1940 version of “Rebecca” back when I was a kid, and my family was going through a classic film phase. It was one of my early exposures to Gothic stories, especially ones that aren’t set in the “Wuthering Heights”/”Jane Eyre” period of history. So I was excited to see that we were getting a new version of the story in 2020. While the movie is a shorter affair and thus has to greatly reduce the time it spends developing the creepy nature of the house and Rebecca’s history, I did, overall, enjoy this version. Lily James was perfectly cast. Armie Hammer was…also there. I do wish the movie had leaned in a bit more into not only the abject creepy aspects of the story, but also the isolation and “fish out of water” feeling that our heroine languishes beneath for much of the book. Fans of the novel should definitely check it out.

Movie: “News of the World”

I haven’t gotten around to reading “News of the World” yet, though my husband and in-laws loved it. I have read the author’s other book, “Rebel Women” and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to check this movie out. Set shortly after the Civil War, the story follows a man who’s made a profession of travelling the south reading newspapers to the gathered towns people who have little access to what is going on in the further reaches of their own country. Along the way, he meets a young girl who has been raised by a Native American tribe and also doesn’t seem to fit in the current world order. It’s a lovely movie, with the beautiful landscape and cinematography almost stealing the show from the main leads. But Tom Hanks is a joy as always and Helena Zengel was excellent as well. There were definitely tears involved, but I really loved this movie and would definitely recommend it to most everyone.

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “The Nanny”

I had always said that the moment that 90s sitcom “The Nanny” dropped on streaming, that would be one of the greatest streaming moments of my life, and lo and behold, HBOMax went and made my dream come true! I loved this Fran Drescher comedy from the early to mid 1990s, where she stars as fun and sassy Fran Fine, a Queens woman who ends up nannying for a wealthy Upper East Side family. And while it certainly has its dated elements (all the Trump jokes just don’t feel so funny anymore), I am still completely enamored with this show. The cast is hilarious, and all of them having great chemistry with each other (my favorite is sarcastic and dry butler Niles, because of COURSE). The fashions of the era are AMAZING in their gaucheness! And Fran Fine is still a wonderful main character with a great sense of humor and a lot of heart (why yes, I have cried a few times during this rewatch). Even my husband loves to get in on the action, given that part of his family were, indeed, Jewish New Yorkers living in Queens. It’s just wonderful and I’m so happy I can stream it now.

TV Show“Ted Lasso”

I’d heard about “Ted Lasso” in passing many many times in the past year, and while I kind of knew what it was about (“Jason Sudeikis plays a sports coach, right?” was my exact question to my husband), I didn’t know too much. So when my husband decided to watch it, I went in a little blind. But man, I’m glad he threw it on our TV, because it is A DELIGHT! Yes, Jason Sudeikis plays Ted Lasso, an American football coach from Kansas who is recruited to go be the new European football coach for a team in England. While the owner of the team, Rebecca, has her reasons for hiring a man completely oblivious to how the game of soccer works, Lasso is optimistic, incredibly kind, and has the gumption to try and bring his team together! It’s supremely sweet, has a lot of really heartfelt performances (my personal favorite is that of Juno Temple who plays Keeley, a footballer’s girlfriend who is just the cutest), and yes, is VERY funny. And with everything going on, it’s a lovely escape.

Joint Pick

Film: “Promising Young Woman”

We both individual started entries for this movie before realizing it, so instead of repeating ourselves, here’s a joint entry! This thriller film daunted both of us for awhile, but we each finally sat down to watch it and OOF. It is really good, but really, REALLY dark (though apt as hell). Carey Mulligan plays Cassie, a woman who wants to get vengeance for her best friend, who was raped by Cassie’s medical school classmate, and who died by suicide after no action was taken against her rapist. Cassie spends her free time pretending to be drunk at clubs and bars, and when men take her home in hopes of taking advantage, she reveals her sobriety and turns the tables. When she finds out Nina’s rapist is getting married, she decides to punish everyone she feels led to Nina’s death. It’s a searing, dark, and sometimes very funny film that less so takes on men (though it’s true there are few men in this who aren’t terrible), but more takes on a society that allows men to victimize women without consequence. It also takes on the ways that trauma can completely take over someone’s life. Steel yourself for this one, guys.

Not Just Books: March 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

Documentary: “Murder Among the Mormons”

What can I say, sometimes I can definitely get on board Kate’s “true crime” binge fest! And apparently by bent leans towards…bombers? But more than the bombings themselves, this documentary explores the crazy world of the Mormon church and its ongoing reckoning with its own history. As a relatively new religion, the search for primary objects from the early days of the church is a profitable business, indeed. But what happens when the best of these profiteers may not be what he seems? I had never heard anything about this particular story, so it was incredibly interesting seeing how these events unfolded. Like I said, the bombings themselves are almost the least interesting aspect of the entire affair! If you enjoy true crime documentaries and want an inside look at some of the workings of the Mormon church, definitely check this one out!

Movie: “The Disaster Artist”

Apparently this was the month where I decided to just, I don’t know, become Kate?? She watched this movie right around when it came out and highlighted it then. For whatever reason, it took me until now to get on this bandwagon. I’d never actually seen “The Room,” but like everyone else, it seems, I knew a decent amount about it and could quote all of the pop-culturally required scenes. But man, what a whacky story it was watching it play out in this film! The Franco brothers are each incredible in bringing these two characters to life. I almost have to give more credit to Dave Franco for expertly playing the more straightforward of the two while bouncing off all the craziness that James Franco was bringing to his version of Tommy. It would be really easy to be lost in the background behind all of that, but Dave Franco does a great job of portraying why his character would tolerate and go along with some of Tommy’s more crazy plans. I really enjoyed this movie, though by the end, I still felt as confused as ever about how any of this actually happened in real life. But that’s probably the point!

Netflix Series: “Maniac”

Lastly, my husband and I just finished this series on Netflix. I’m…not even sure how to explain it? I think the best way to put it was as my husband said: it’s essentially “Inception” but on acid. Jonah Hill and Emma Stone really show their acting chops in this twisty, alternative reality that explores mental illness and grief. They each play a variety of different characters throughout, and Stone’s accent work is particularly impressive. I was confused about 90% of the time and still feel like I was missing some of the metaphors and parallels throughout. But it was still a great show to watch over a week (can’t have too many breaks between episodes or the confusion just escalates!). Fans of strange, sci-fi-y stories who like darker themes to their entertainment should definitely check it out.

Kate’s Picks

Film: “Freaky”

Given how much I love the “Happy Death Day” movies, when I heard that Blumhouse was releasing another horror comedy from the same director, I was automatically interested. This month I finally watched “Freaky”, a horror movie that’s part slasher gore fest, part “Freaky Friday” shenanigans. When an awkward teenage girl named Millie is attacked and stabbed by a notorious serial killer called the Blissfield Butcher, her escape is nothing short of a miracle. But the next morning, when she wakes up, she is in her attacker’s body! And on the flip side, the Butcher wakes up in her body. Now Millie, in the body of a hulking, wanted killer, has to figure out how to switch their bodies back before it’s permanent. And the Butcher is having fun in an innocent looking body to wreak havoc in (but also dealing with the misogyny that teenage girls have to face). It’s hilarious and gory, and not only is Vince Vaughn on point, Kathryn Newton is both relatable AND terrifying in her performances.

Podcast: “Some Place Under Neith”

I’ve been trying to expand my podcast listening beyond the general two that I religiously listen to. So when there was an advertisement for “Some Place Under Neith”, a new missing women podcast, before one of the old reliables, I was very interested to check it out. This brand new show (like only a couple eps have dropped thus far) that has a focus on women who have straight up gone missing and/or haven’t been seen in years. The circumstances can range from potential kidnappings, to off the grid activity, to cults or extremist sects (the first couple of episodes have focused on Scientology and Shelly Miscavige. Hosts Natalie Jean and Amber Nelson strike a good balance of wry comedy and genuine respect and concern for the potential victims, and make the content very easy to connect to. I’m very excited to see where this series goes and what stories it tells.

TV Show: “It’s a Sin”

If you want to be completely devastated by a mini series that is incredibly relevant, look no further than “It’s A Sin”, a show that kicked me in the emotions repeatedly. And repeatedly. And repeatedly. It’s the newest work by Russell T. Davies, the creator of “Queer as Folk”, and it is by far one of the best mini series I’ve seen in awhile. Taking place in London over a span of the early 1980s to the early 1990s, it follows a group of friends, many of them gay men, who are just starting to live their dreams as the AIDS pandemic starts to take hold. As those around them get sick, the denial, government negligence, misinformation, and bigotry makes facing reality hard for many of them. Until it’s too late. It’s stark, it’s emotional, and it is absolutely devastating. It is must watch TV that has amazing performances, nuanced characters, and ever relevant messages. And I spent the majority of it sobbing uncontrollably. So not exactly light viewing. But necessary viewing nonetheless.

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.

Not Just Books: January 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

Netflix Movie: “The Midnight Sky”

Yes, another space-related movie/show for me! But who can resist when you open up Netflix and there is George Clooney staring at you soulfully from the preview panel! Perhaps a bit hard to watch right now, the story focuses on Clooney, one of the last men alive on a world struck by some catastrophe. Alone (or is he?) in the Artic, Clooney’s character desperately tries to get a hold of a crew of a space expedition that is returning home after years away, unaware of what has happened on Earth. The movie alternates swiftly between quiet, reflective moments to heart-stopping action that has you on the edge of your seat. There are several twists and turns that the savvy viewer will pick up on. And the ending definitely sparks conversation if you watch it with another person!

Netflix Show: “Bridgerton”

So those who read my three mini reviews for the first book in this series will know that I had some feelings about the first book in the Bridgerton’s story. And knowing that this first season was focused on this same book, I went in with some definite questions about how certain aspects of the story. And…well, it wasn’t perfect in that area, but definitely much improved. And the sheer joy that is the rest of the show ultimately made up for it with me! This was probably always going to be a win for me, though, as I love historical romances of this sort. The witty, elegant way of talking. The beautiful dresses and balls. And here, the diverse casting and the way the show itself engaged with these topics rather than just throwing a diverse cast together and thinking that was enough. If you’re a fan of the book series, you’re sure to like this. And if you’re a general fan of historical romance shows like “Outlander,” “Poldark,” or any of the Jane Austen adaptations out there, this is probably also for you!

Movie: “Moneyball”

While I don’t get around to watching much baseball myself anymore, I’ve always loved the sport (though the Mariners have always been the team that just loves to hurt you!). But I never got around to watching this movie until now. It was all the better to watch now, though, as I was able to watch it with my husband who has an encyclopedic memory for all things sports related and could rattle off all kinds of extra details about the players and coaches depicted as we watched. And, of course, Brad Pitt is excellent in almost everything he does. The movie was also surprisingly funny, something I wasn’t expecting going in.

Kate’s Picks

Netflix Show: “Cobra Kai”

It’s BACK!! After my husband and I binged Seasons 1 and 2 of the “Karate Kid” continuation, we were on pins and needles waiting for Season 3. Season 2 finished with huge cliffhangers: the kids from Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do had a showdown at school that led to Miguel being thrown over a balcony by Robby and sent into a coma! Johnny was forced out of Cobra Kai by Kreese, who was making moves behind his back like the evil bastard he is! ALI HAD CONTACTED JOHNNY RIGHT AFTER HE THREW HIS PHONE INTO THE OCEAN! Season 3 picks up a couple weeks later, with Johnny in a pit of depression, Daniel dealing with his business being affected because of the fight making media headlines, Samantha suffering from PTSD, and Miguel in physical and emotional recovery. And it only gets better from there. I love how this show continues to explore baggage, trauma, and the relationships between parents and their kids. Plus, Johnny is still so crabby and bitchy yet filled with all the pathos, which you can just hook up to my veins because I LIVE for that kinda thing. And once again there’s an epic cliffhanger, so we CANNOT WAIT for Season 4!!

TV Show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

Back when COVID first sent us all into a new normal that has continued far longer than any of us anticipated, I figured that there would be a hold on new TV content indefinitely. Well, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” instead brought their contestants out early, quarantined them, tested them over and over, and then shot a season of the show. Given that no one got sick, I guess they were careful? Regardless, we now have Season 13 of “Drag Race” and it’s…. different. We’re only a few episodes in as of now, but the format has changed, with the queens separated into two groups (COVID safety protocols? They didn’t say.) right off the bat with a marathon of six lip syncs. Combine change with a really good previous season and I’m still trying to discern what I think overall, BUT ALL THAT SAID there have been some great runway looks and some stand out queens already (Gottmik, Tamisha Iman). And this may just be another example of a new normal…. Or maybe just a stunt. Regardless, I’m happy we do have new “Drag Race”!

Netflix Show: “Lucifer”

Like Serena before me, I have started watching “Lucifer”, the Fox turned Netflix show that tells a very loose adaptation of DC’s interpretation of Lucifer Morningstar. Given that I’m doing a “Sandman” re-read right now, I thought I ought to check out this show and boy am I mad that I didn’t check it out earlier. Because I LOVE “Lucifer” and all of the characters in it. I also love the idea of Lucifer Morningstar hanging out on Los Angeles and lending his sarcastic and bitchy hand to a no nonsense detective (and also getting some much needed therapy), which is basically the premise of the show. So we get a police procedural with angels, demons, and fun dialogue, as well as a cast that has great chemistry with each other. Like it’s hard to pick a favorite character because they are all so good. It has really filled the void for me since I was so disappointed with the last season of my other Hell centric show, “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”.

Not Just Books: November 2020

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:

Movie: “The Aeronauts”

My husband and I celebrated our anniversary recently, and so we were looking for a good movie to watch on our “date night” at home (damn you Covid). This was one that I’d on my list for a while, and it seemed like a good fit. Inspired by a true story, it’s the tale of a scientist and an aeronaut who set out to study the patterns of the weather and attempt to rise to the highest elevation achieved in a balloon at the time. Of course, things don’t go to plan, and I can testify to this being a bit more stressful than I had anticipated. But it was also beautiful to look at an Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne are excellent in everything they’re in. It’s a lovely little movie, and one I highly recommend.

Netflix Show: “Away”

I really like movies and shows about space. They can be pretty hit and miss, but the ones that are good are often very good. This made it a no-brainer for me to check out “Away” when it dropped on Netflix. Telling the story of a group of astronauts setting off on the first mission to Mars, the show is a gripping tale of family, exploration, and the struggles we all bring with us, even out into space. The acting was all solid, and I really enjoyed Hillary Swank’s performance. Some of the space stuff…was, eh. I feel like there were times where the show definitely veered into the unnecessarily dramatic. Real astronauts are incredibly professional and put that above almost everything. Some of the early events of this show definitely had me raising my eyebrows. But, hey, it’s still a space show, so I enjoyed it overall.

TV Show: “Documentary Now!”

My husband and I are becoming more and more pathetic on our general bedtime. We can blame the kids, age, whatever, but it’s still a fact. It’s gotten to the point that if it’s even close to 9, we feel hesitant about starting up another 40-60 minute episode of whatever show we’re watching. But we also don’t want to be in bed before 9! What to do? Start watching a 20 minute parody show of course! I hadn’t heard of this show before, but Aaron had. It’s basically mocking our current obsession with documentaries and the different ways they’re filmed. We’ve only watched a handful at this point, but they’re pretty good. If you’ve seen the original documentary or documentary series that a particular episode is mocking, it’s all the better. I’ve particularly enjoyed the one about professional bowling and the one about a famous chef who is know for his beans and rice. If you’re looking for a way for fill 20 minutes or so, this is definitely worth checking out!

Kate’s Picks:

Video Game: “Blair Witch”

As someone who is a huge, HUGE fan of “The Blair Witch Project”, when I heard that they were coming out with a video game called “Blair Witch” I was super interested. Unfortunately it was right around the time I had my kid, and I didn’t have much time for video games. But this past Halloween season I was reminded that I still hadn’t tried this game, so I got it for my Switch. You play as Ellis, a man suffering from PTSD who is in a not so good place, and who joins a search party for a missing boy in the woods outside Burkitsville. Using your dog Bullet and various items, you find clues about the missing boy… but as the game goes on, you find yourself lost in the woods hunted by something. I wasn’t able to REALLY pick it up and concentrate until recently, and boy oh boy is it freaky.

Disney+ Show: “The Mandalorian”

If you asked me if I was a “Star Wars” fan, I’d probably say ‘kinda’. I like the original trilogy, as well as a few of the (previously canon and now non-canon) Expanded Universe books. I also don’t really like Westerns. So because of those, I held off on “The Mandalorian” for awhile, and now I’m regretting not diving in sooner. A nameless Mandalorian (bounty hunter group that Boba Fett belonged to as well) has adventures in bounty hunting across the galaxy, and after rescuing a baby from Yoda’s species (or Baby Yoda as he is called) he has found a new purpose. It’s a sci-fi meets wandering gunslinger tale, and it works really, really well. I’ve always liked the Mandalorian mythology, and this show is very ‘Mad Max’ in the sense that it’s also very much about the people he helps in each episode (and soooo many guest stars!). I’m hooked. And Season 2’s premiere ended with a HUGE moment that made me gasp.

Film/TV Franchise: “The Purge”

So my anxiety was off the charts going into Election Night at the beginning of the month, and for whatever reason I decided to alleviate those anxieties by watching a bunch of “The Purge” content. I watched “The Purge” TV show Season 2, I watched “The Purge: Election Year” (on Election Night itself!), and then as we waited for counts I watched “The First Purge” and “The Purge: Anarchy”. While it may look like this franchise is another foray into torture porn horror or other splatter punk genres, it is also a deeply interesting satire of American society and the violence that runs deeply within it (and those who benefit from that violence, and are the main victims of it on a systemic level). And hey. It’s not too audacious to say that I see a LOT of similarities between the New Founding Fathers of America, the evil far right party in the “Purge” universe, and the current GOP. Sorry not sorry.

Not Just Books: October 2020

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: “The Great British Baking Show”

It’s back!!! I was very concerned that like many of my favorite shows, this was going to be delayed and/or cancelled this year because of The-Pandemic-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named. I swear, it’s trying to ruin everything! But not the happy, British baking fun times! Instead, the show created their own little baking bubble where everyone remained together throughout filming and were thus able to film a pretty standard season. We’re only a few episodes in, but it’s great as always. My husband and I always pick two favorites to win and see who comes out on top. I’m 2 for 1 so far (there were seasons where neither of us got it right), so I’m hopeful my picks come through again so I can maintain my lead!

Netflix Movie: “Enola Holmes”

Of course I watched this movie. It’s like it was practically made for me. Sherlock Holmes re-telling? Check. Millie Bobby Brown? Check. Superman? I mean, Henry Cavil? Extra extra check! This was such a charming little movie. The acting was all superb. It leaned into the quirkiness of its concept, and of course, historical mysteries are always my jam. It’s the kind of thing where my biggest criticism of it is why it couldn’t have been longer? Like a mini series or something! But alas, all good things and such. Perhaps they’ll do a sequel? They definitely leave it opened ended enough to support that. But knowing Netflix….*sigh*

Movie: “A Knight’s Tale”

I loved this movie when it came out. It was a go-to for me and my sister when we were younger and wanted a feel-good romantic comedy to watch. Sadly, she owned the DVD and cruelly took it with her to college. So it had been quite a while since I had seen it and I was thrilled when I saw it pop up on Netflix. Of course, watching it now is a bit bitter sweet, all things considered. But it’s still such a fun ride, if you get past the sadness. And also so weird! I want to be in the meeting where someone pitched this movie to producers. A medieval story about a knight, but with a bunch of modern music and anachronisms every where. Very weird, but it worked!

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Evil”

Oddly enough, it was my mother, a woman who doesn’t care for horror as a rule, who told me I should watch this show. Perhaps it’s not that shocking, given that she was a HUGE fan of shows like “The X-Files” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and “Evil” definitely harkens a bit towards shows like that in a lot of ways. It follows Kristen, a forensic psychologist, and Acosta, a man studying to be a Catholic priest as they go out, by orders of the Catholic Church, to investigate potential demonic and supernatural events to see if the Church should perform exorcisms and other rights. In lighter hands it could have been a feel good CBS show, but it’s dark and hell and can give a serious case of the creeps to its viewers. Even this self professed nonbeliever. I love Kristen, I love Acosta, and I love their companion Ben, a tech whiz who is there to find hard scientific evidence (played by the HILARIOUS Aasif Mandvi). Also, the always unsettling Michael Emerson is there to play a potential demon who wants to throw wrenches into the teams work.

Netflix Show: “The Haunting of Bly Manor”

Honestly, they had me at a creepy version of Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” in the trailer. Well, also at the fact that this is the next Mike Flanagan famous haunted house story adaptation. Based on “The Turn of the Screw”, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” has updated the classic mind twisty story of a governess and her charges in the isolated countryside. Much like “Hill House” before it, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” takes themes from the source material to tell a new story, in which a Governess takes a position at the Country House Bly Manor watching a man’s niece and nephew, and starts to experience strange things. Flanagan and the others expand upon this, with new characters, an updated timeline, and some twists that make it all the more intriguing. Plus, creepy creepy moments and unsettling ghosts galore! It’s the perfect Halloween watch! But be sure to have tissues handy. I spent the last half of the series bawling on and off.

TV Show: “Canada’s Drag Race”

I was VERY happy with season 12 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, and knew that I was going to be craving more drag show content as the year went on and my need for levity remained in midst of everything else going on. Well never fear, because The Great White North has its own offshoot drag competition! Enter “Canada’s Drag Race”! While it’s officially part of the RuPaul brand, instead of Ru and the usual set of judges, we have a three judge panel (consisting of Stacey McKenzie, Jeffry Boyer-Chapman, and “Drag Race” alum Brooke Lynn Hytes), a rotating host, and a group of awesome Canadian Queens ready to fight for the crown. I love seeing the drag cultures of different countries from around the world, and I also liked the stripped down and organic feel of this first season (a stark contrast to a now VERY regimented and commercialized U.S. “Drag Race”). Plus, all the Canadian references are just wonderful (including an “Anne of Green Gables” inspired look in episode 1). I hope that we get more of this in the future!

Not Just Books: September 2020

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: “Lucifer” Season 5

After many Covid-related delays, the first half of “Lucifer” season 5 dropped in late August. I think it probably took me like two days to binge it? In most ways, it’s everything one would expect, which is both good and bad. The cast is, of course, still excellent and the show doesn’t hesitate to lean into the silliness of its own concept. However, the longer it has been on Netflix and the more it has dived into its own supernatural storylines, the aggressively episodic approach to much of its storytelling seems to feel more and more out of touch with where the show itself wants to go. Maybe part of that feeling has to do with the fact that season 5 has been split into two parts which further weakens the serialized elements that are present. I think the second half is set to come out sometime in early 2021, so we’ll see how that plays out. I’m still enjoying the heck out of this, either way.

Video Game: “The Witcher III: Wild Hunt”

Perhaps foolishly, I decided recently that I needed a new video game to immerse myself in. I’d already played through “Skyrim” a few times and with the sequel seemingly stuck in development for….forever, I turned to another super popular fantasy franchise. I still haven’t gotten around to watching the Netflix show for this game/book series, though my love of Henry Cavil is never-ending. So it will be interesting to play this game through and then compare it to that show whenever I do get around to it. I’m still barely into the main plot line, but I’m enjoying the familiar-feeling open world concept and so far the plot and dialogue have been interesting and engaging. I’m now mostly feeling guilty for starting this without my husband…

Movie: “The American President”

So, politics…yeah, they’ve been a thing. And whenever I feel like I’m beginning to become overwhelmed with pessimism regarding politics, my go-to is usually a re-watch of “The West Wing.” But at 7 seasons long, that’s quite the commitment, so this time around I turned instead to its predecessor and inspiration: “The American President.” Re-watching this movie, it’s so clear the connections between these two. Mostly, it’s the clever dialogue and the supremely idealistic imaging of what politics, and the White House in general, could be. The lovely romance at its heart is pretty swell, too.

Kate’s Picks

Movie: “Bill and Ted Face The Music”

I have been a huge, huge, HUGE “Bill and Ted” fan ever since I was about six years old and saw “Excellent Adventure” randomly. When I found out that they were going to make a third one with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter coming back to play their roles of Ted and Bill, I was ecstatic that I would finally be able to see a “Bill and Ted” movie in the theater!!…. And then COVID found another way to ruin something. But I went for the VOD option at my house, and my gosh, it was everything I needed. In this long awaited third film, Bill and Ted are now middle aged, and still haven’t written the song that is supposed to bring synchronicity to the universe. When Rufus’s daughter Kelly comes to tell them that they need to do it now, they start a new time traveling adventure… But along with that, their daughters Billie and Thea go on their OWN adventure through times in hopes of helping their dads. It’s sweet, it’s wholesome, it’s everything 2020 needs to make it a little gentler. And yes…. The Grim Reaper is back.

Netflix Show: “Cobra Kai”

So I watched the first few episodes of “Cobra Kai” when it premiered on YouTube a few years ago, but couldn’t justify getting YouTube Red to finish out the series. Which pained me, because I loved the continuing stories of “Karate Kid” characters Johnny and Daniel. So when I found out that Netflix got the rights to it, I was ECSTATIC. “Cobra Kai”, as I’ve mentioned on here before, follows Johnny, the bully from “Karate Kid” whose life hasn’t really gone very far, and his journey to reopen the Cobra Kai karate studio, this time attracting misfits and weirdos. Daniel, the hero from the movies, is living a GREAT life now… but is stuck in the past. When they meet up again, old rivalries start up once more. What I love most about this show is William Zabka’s new take on Johnny, and showing how a lot of his worst characteristics are and were the result of serious childhood traumas and baggage. Plus, this show is wildly funny, and the new karate students, especially the sweetheart Miguel, are charming as hell.

TV Show: “The Vow”

Will I ever get enough NXIVM content? It seems that I won’t, because even though I’ve listened to podcasts and read books about the cult, I am now obsessed with the HBO docuseries about it. “The Vow” has actual footage from the likes of Keith Raniere and his creepy minions in action, and follows former members who had deep ties to the group until they started to realize that something was very, very wrong. The most interesting aspect of this is that the footage is something you wouldn’t expect from an expose like this, but the people who made it had been documenting the group and its members before everything hit the fan and Raniere, Alison Mack, Nancy Salzman, and others were arrested for sex trafficking. It’s super interesting being able to see these primary source interviews of some very manipulative and dangerous people.

Not Just Books: August 2020

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

mv5byjk0mtgzmmqtzmy2my00nme5lwexngutyjzknta3zdkymtjixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_uy268_cr00182268_al_Movie: “Palm Springs”

I’m a sucker for “Groundhogs Day” type stories, so this was movie was sure to appeal with its premise of two people caught up in a time loop at a wedding. The fact that it’s at a wedding makes it all the better, for, other than a few exceptions, weddings are often really crazy things. Some people are at their best, sure, but many others are often at their worst. So add in two messed up individuals who have literally nothing to lose and some pretty funny stuff is on hand. The movie also introduced a few different concepts that I hadn’t seen before in time loop stories, so that made it fun. There were moments where it erred a bit too far into the “stupid comedy” that I don’t usually like, but for the most part, it was a really funny, enjoyable time.

mv5bnza5mjkwyzmtngy2ms00ywrjlthkntktotnmmzdlzje3y2ixxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjkwmzmxodg40._v1_uy268_cr00182268_al_Netflix Show: “The Umbrella Academy” Season 2

This is one of those rare beasts where I think I ended up liking the second season even better than the first! I mean, the first was so wackadoo that it took a bit to really settle into what it was trying to be. This time, you’re prepared for all the ridiculousness and great soundtrack. Add in a new time period of the 1960s, a new set of Swedish assassins, and all of the usual family drama in a family made up of superheroes with serious daddy issues, and you’re in for a romp! I still think Ellen Page is probably the weakest link in this show, which is too bad because she also gets top billing. But overall, the cast is really great and all have excellent chemistry. Like the first season, though, it does end on a cliffhanger and as of now, there’s no word on whether Netflix has renewed it for a third season. Don’t you dare, Netflix…

mv5bntc1ytexn2ytzwq2ms00mwqzltkwmwqtmdy3odexndm2mgqwxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzu3mtc5ote40._v1_uy268_cr40182268_al_TV Show: “Alone”

During a daze of post-long-day-with-a-toddler TV browsing, my husband and I found the 6th season of this survival reality show on TV. I think we both went into it fully expecting to mock the crap out of it for an episode or two and then turn it off never to be thought of again. Several days later…we’ve pretty much gone through the entire season and are on the lookout for ways to get our hands on the earlier seasons (side note: it’s so weird how Netflix randomly gets late seasons of shows like this instead of the first one, ugh). Both my husband and I love camping and consider ourselves fairly knowledgeable about the outdoors, but what makes this show fun is how clearly well-versed the contestants are in survival tactics. Unlike “Survivor,” this show really is only about people alone in the wilderness having to get by. You absolutely HAVE to know how to hunt/snare/fish and build a really good shelter. Plus, film yourself while doing it, since there are no camera people out there. If you like survival shows, this is definitely a fun one. Warning: there’s lots of hunting, so be prepared for that.

Kate’s Picks

mv5bmdllmwrjnwmtm2u3ny00yjawltlhntgtothjztc2ymi2zmrmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyodkzntgxmdg40._v1_TV Show: “Perry Mason”

Am I familiar with the original “Perry Mason” stories of yesteryear with Raymond Burr as the relentless and successful lawyer? Nope! Am I familiar with the fact that Matthew Rhys is a hottie and I also like courtroom dramas? Hell yes! My parents were the ones who told me to give the new “Perry Mason” on HBO a look, and boy am I glad I did. While some people think that the idea of giving Mason a gritty reboot was a bit silly, given that I have no reference point for the mythos it worked out just fine for me. Mason is working as a Private Detective in 1930s Los Angeles, and his friend, lawyer E.B. Jonathan (played by John Lithgow) hires him to help on the case of a kidnapped baby who ended up dead. As Mason investigates, he also has to deal with his own personal demons that have been brought on because of his time in WWI. As Mason digs, he finds connections to the local police, the wealthy grandfather, and an Evangelical Church, headed by a woman preacher named Alice who swears she can work miracles. To sweeten the deal of this show, Tatiana Maslany plays Alice, and boy oh boy is she excellent. This is a dark take on the classic character, but I, for one, was hooked.

220px-eurovision_song_contest-_the_story_of_fire_saga_posterNetflix Film: “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”

Sometimes you just need a fun, goofy, lighthearted movie to lift your spirits. And when my husband and I decided to give “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” a shot, we were very happy to realize that it was just what we needed. This earnest and cute comedy follows Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), two Icelandic musicians who have dreams of performing in Eurovision. When a twist of fate gets them a spot in the competition, their dreams are just within reach… but Lars’s desperate need to win makes him blind to Sigrit’s feelings for him. Ferrell is back to his classic comedic act, but it’s McAdams who really shines by bringing goofy charm, and some genuine pathos, to Sigrit. Plus, the music is awesome, AND look for Dan Stevens as a flamboyant Russian contestant who may be getting between Lars and Sigrit. If you want fluff with great music, check this one out!mv5bm2jiyzq0otatzjzhmy00mjixltgzmmitmdaxn2jhnzbmmjzmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymdm2ndm2mq4040._v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_

TV Show: “Why Women Kill”

Some of my fondest memories from college were when my friends Tom and Prerna would come over on Sundays to watch “Desperate Housewives” so we could get our trashy TV on. While the show eventually fell out of my favor (the time jump is where I can pinpoint it all going wrong), I did miss guilty pleasure TV. Well lucky for me, Marc Cherry has a new trashy show on CBS All Access called “Why Women Kill”! It follows three couples, all who live in the same house in different decades, and the secrets they keep, the lies they tell, and the eventual murders that one of the members of each couple may commit. While all of them have interesting storylines, it is Lucy Liu’s Simone whose story I love the most. In the 1980s she is the spoiled and sarcastic wife of a wealthy man…. and it turns out that he’s gay. Seeing her maneuver the secret along with trying to feel desirable again is quite fun… especially since she and Jack Davenport, who plays husband Karl, have delightfully bitchy banter. Soapy sudsy dialogue and an addictive mystery, it’s at the level “Desperate Housewives” was when it was at its best.

Not Just Books: July 2020

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

mv5bzta5n2i4njatmgrhzc00ywvllthjmtctyzjiy2uwmzezmtdixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Netflix Show: “Next in Fashion”

Yet another fashion competition show! I have an obsession, and the continuous quarantining/social distancing isn’t doing anything to help me break out of these habits. I’m not sure how I missed this show when it came out on Netflix earlier in the year, but I sure was pleased when I discovered its existences. And as much as I love Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, I’m pretty sure this managed to make a much more enjoyable viewing experience on a tiny percentage of the budget. It’s much more humorous, down-to-earth and approachable to regular viewers. The hosts are hilarious and don’t take themselves too seriously, and it’s easy to become attached to the contestants. I was also really pleased with the winner of this first season, so that’s always a bonus!

mv5bmguwzjlimtatnzaxzi00mwnilwe2nzgtzguxmgqxzjhhndrixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynju1nzu3mze40._v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Movie: “Knives Out”

I’ve finally gotten my husband to watch (re-watch for me) all of “Supernatural.” All 15 seasons of it. But with that much of one show to binge, we also have evenings where we definitely need a break. So, when browsing Amazon Prime, one night we discovered this movie. I had remembered a lot of people raving about it last fall, but never got around to watching it myself. We went in thinking it was a comedy, which in some ways it was, but more just of wacky/quirky storytelling sort. Instead what we mostly found was a very suspenseful murder mystery. I was so tense throughout this entire thing! But I still enjoyed the heck out of it, and with its star-studded cast and story full of twists and surprises, it’s definitely one to check out if you haven’t already!

mv5bodcyntm4mjuwof5bml5banbnxkftztcwnte5mjc2nw4040._v1_uy268_cr90182268_al_TV Show: “Legend of the Seeker”

This show came out several years ago and only ran for two seasons. I think it was a bit ahead of its time for trying to adapt a classic fantasy  book series (Terry Goodkind’s “Sword of Truth” series) into a TV series and was definitely still adhering to the Sci Fi Channel standard where fantasies can’t be taken too seriously and must always contain an element of cheese. But I still really enjoyed it and it’s a nice show to return to during stressful times. It has a good mixture of drama, comedy and high fantasy. Plus, it has a lovely romance at its heart that comes to a satisfying conclusion after its two seasons conclude. Not to mention, the leading man isn’t bad to look at though I wish they had just let him use his native Australian accent since the American one can be a bit strained at times.

Kate’s Picks

unsolved-mysteries-reboot-netflix-theme-songNetflix Show: “Unsolved Mysteries”

So even though I’m sure it would have been right up my childhood and teenage years alley, I never really watched the original “Unsolved Mysteries” when it was on the air. I’m sure my parents knew that my anxious nature couldn’t handle it. But I ended up seeing episodes through re-runs and streaming as an adult, and when I found out that Netflix was rebooting it I was THRILLED! The basic premise of the show is still there, covering strange cases of unexplained deaths, missing people, and the otherworldly, but now it has taken out some of the cheesier elements and has one main focus per episode. There are only six episodes thus far, and who knows when they’ll add more given COVID-19, but the new “Unsolved Mysteries” hits exactly where I want it to. Even if there is no Robert Stack this time around.

8ldhjc3hx29nkk0bfgayzkiwqwnHBO Max Show: “Search Party”

Oh how long I waited for “Search Party” to come back! I was worried that it wasn’t going to happen, as it had been a couple of years since Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger, where our protagonist Dory (Alia Shawkat) was arrested for the murder of her former lover Keith… right after she had killed April, a woman who was blackmailing her about Keith’s murder. So when HBO Max picked up the show and dropped all of Season 3 at once, I binged binged BINGED. “Search Party” is still awkward, funny, and dark as hell, and the best thing about it is that we’ve been able to watch Dory transform over the seasons, from meek and aimless millennial…. to full on villain. John Early’s Elliot is still my favorite as he remains his shallow, overdramatic self, but it’s Dory’s attorney Cassidy, played by Shalita Grant, who brings a fun new dynamic to the series as another shallow hipster… but with ethics and a moral center nevertheless. Can’t wait to see what happens in Season 4, as it ended on another cliffhanger.

hamilton-poster-disney-plusMovie Musical: “Hamilton”

We were those people who finally stopped waffling about getting Disney+ specifically because of “Hamilton” dropping on it. While I saw the stage show when it came to Minnesota a couple years ago, both my husband and I were very excited to see the original Broadway cast in all their glory performing for streamers everywhere. While it’s true that “Hamilton” isn’t completely historically accurate, and that creator Lin Manuel Miranda took some liberties here and there, it cannot be denied that this show is a once in a generation powerhouse of creative genius. And frankly, during this time where so much seems hopeless and despairing, having a fluffy pick me up can be really helpful. Suffice to say, we greatly enjoyed watching it on July 4th weekend.



Not Just Books: June 2020

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

mv5byzayodllngutmzy1ms00yzrllwe4mzctmzjknzazngu5nzllxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi40._v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_TV Show: “Top Chef”

I’ve probably watched all of the seasons of “Top Chef” by now. It’s probably my favorite cooking competition show (not counting “The Great British Baking Show”) due to its low emphasis on drama between the contestants and typically high quality competitors. This season was even more fun as it was an “All Stars” season, so several of my favorites were in the mix. I had one particular favorite that ended up making it all the way to the end, though sadly not winning. But I was satisfied with who did end up winning and enjoyed the run overall. Restaurant Wars is always a fun set of episodes, and it was interesting watching a show that partly filmed in Italy that had to put up disclosures that it was filmed before Covid hit the country.


Movie: “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” 

Naturally, during this stressful time, I think we’re all looking for some light-hearted distractions. I’d been wanting to check out this comedy for a while, and now seemed like the perfect time. I’m pretty picky as far as my comedy movies go, but the preview for this one definitely sparked my interest. Not to mention my love for the 90s Robin Williams version. And I was super excited to see the way that that movie was drawn in and referenced here. I hadn’t been expecting it to really tie back to that movie as much as it did. I think the updates on how the game has adapted for modern kids was very intriguing, and it’s definitely one of those things that appeals even more to those who play video games themselves, like I do. The cast was fun, though Dwayne Johnson definitely stole the show. I’ll have to recommend it to my Mom since she pretty much loves anything “The Rock” does.

mv5bmtiymte3mta2n15bml5banbnxkftztcwmju3ntg1mq4040._v1_uy268_cr90182268_al_TV Series: “Medium”

And on a darker note….I also really enjoy crime procedurals. As long as the cast is good and the mysteries intriguing enough, I’m on board to binge my way through season after season. And given how much I hate trying to find something new, the longer a show’s run, the better! So I’d been mentally saving this 7 season show for desperate times, and here they are! I’m about finished with season 2 and really enjoying it. Some of the episodes have been way darker than I had been prepared for, and those have been a bit tough to deal with. But the lovely representation of Allison’s children and loving husband are always just the right balance to the darker nature of some of the mysteries. I’ve also really liked how creative the show has been with its premise, a medium working for the police. It could have become a very tired concept pretty quickly, but so far the show has been able to keep adding fresh angles to it.

Kate’s Picks

mv5bodqxmmi3zgqtogrlny00mzi3lwe3zmitowrjm2i2yjqyyzgzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzi2mzyynzi40._v1_uy1200_cr17106301200_al_TV Show: “Kim’s Convenience”

If you thought that there was only one delightful CBC comedy to watch on Netflix, do I have news for you! It was just recently that I had heard of “Kim’s Convenience”, a sitcom about a Korean-Canadian family running a convenience store in Toronto. But in need of light and cheerful content, I threw it on one day and then was immediately hooked. The Kim family are all very charming and multi layered, with Kim Sang-il and Kim Yong-mi running the store and their children, Janet and Jung, living their lives as children of immigrants who are trying to have independence from their parents. I find all of the characters sweet and endearing, even when they are sometimes making poor, or at least misguided, decisions. Overall, despite some of the mild dysfunction like many families have, the Kim family is easy to root for, and the show is both notable for taking on an immigrant story as well as the witty comedy that comes with it.

the_lovebirds_posterFilm: “The Lovebirds”

I saw the trailer for “The Lovebirds” during one of my last endeavors to the movie theater before COVID-19 sent us all inside, and I had wanted to see it. So while I was bummed that the movie theater experience wasn’t going to happen with this film, I was stoked when Netflix picked it up! Leilani and Jibran are a couple that is starting to fizzle out, and right as they break up they almost immediately hit a bicyclist… And then another man hijacks their car, and runs the bicyclist over. Now Leilani and Jibran, worried that they will be blamed for the murder, go on their own journey to find out who the bicyclist was, who the murderer was, as to try to clear their names. And what they find is a madcap set of events that had me laughing basically the whole time. Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae have great chemistry, both romantic and comedic, and the romantic comedy aspects and tropes are twisted about with some noire-ish tropes as well. If you want a romantic comedy with a little bit of quirkiness, this is the one to check out!

web_largecoverart_series_snowfall_540x796TV Show: “Snowfall”

And now we ditch the light hearted content on my list for something completely different and super dark. We take a deep dive into the first big crack epidemic in the 1980s Los Angeles, and how it damaged communities, ravaged lives, and showed hypocrisy of the United States Government and its supposed War on Drugs. “Snowfall” is a crime drama created by John Singleton, director of “Boyz n the Hood”, and it follows dealers, cartels, and CIA agents and how they all play a role in the drug trade. “Snowfall” is violent and unrelenting, and also a little over the top, as some critics have pointed out, but I definitely enjoy the indictment that it is making against corrupt systems and how they fail to protect vulnerable communities, even throwing them under the bus when it suits them. “Snowfall” feels very personal when it comes to the story of Franklin, a Black teen living in South Central who deals drugs to get by, and stumbles into an opportunity to deal coke for an Israeli drug lord. Franklin is very clearly just trying to make ends meet and to keep him and his mother above water… and then he discovers a new drug that guarantees repeat business. Contrast that with the CIA dealing drugs to fund the Contras and you have a stark juxtaposition. “Snowfall” is a tough watch, but I’m hooked.

What non-book media have you enjoyed this month?