Not Just Books: February 2017

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:

mv5bmtg4nda1ota5nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdq2mdm5ode-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Movie: “Hell or High Water”

I’m on a bit of a “Western” kick right now both with what I’ve been reading (upcoming review of “Silver on the Road!”) and watching. This movie is a modern western about two brothers who are pushed to their limit and begin a bank robbery spree in an attempt to save their family home. Their story is balanced by that of the federal ranger who is tasked to stop them. The cast in this one is really what sells it. It’s no surprise that Jeff Bridges plays the gruff and grumpy federal ranger character as it seems like the part must have been written specifically with him in mind. But the surprising performance is that of Chris Pine who gives himself a break on the action hero type and instead shows that he has real drama chops in this much more subdued and complicated character. Also, Ben Foster is criminally under-recognized as a fantastic actor, and this is no exception!

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TV Show: “Top Chef”

There are a few reality tv shows that are my guilty pleasure (I’m sure others will show up on this list eventually). But maybe the most bizarre is my love of realty cooking competitions, as I hate cooking myself and am quite terrible at it. I particularly like “Top Chef” because while it is reality tv, is often lacks the added and unnecessary drama that pops up in other cooking show (I’m looking at you “Master Chef” and “Hell’s Kitchen!”). This season has been set in Charleston and has had a mix of new chefs and returning Top Chef competitors. Some of my favorite contestants did very well, which also increased my enjoyment of this particular season!

oregon-trail-old-featureOnline Game: “The Oregon Trail”

I discovered that you can play the old 1990 version of “The Oregon Trail” online! This has not been good for my productivity levels either at work or at home. Kate and I, and our other halves, got together on New Year’s Eve and among other fun board games, we tried playing a card game version of “The Oregon Trail.” Her husband and I didn’t make it to Oregon due to tragic circumstances, sadly. But the game did spark major nostalgia and when I found the online game…an addiction was re-born!

Kate’s Picks:

heathers300Soundtrack: “Heathers: The Musical”

Some friends and I, on a whim, went to see a local production of this Off Broadway musical, based on one of my favorite movies. I had never heard the music from it before, but I was completely entranced by it as we watched it. It captures the movie perfectly with a rock and roll soundtrack, and it has some amazing power ballads between Veronica Sawyer and J.D., the renegade teens who are killing their most awful classmates (much to her horror). This is one of my most screwed up ships (I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT, GUYS!), but the two songs “Seventeen” and “Our Love Is God” have been on a constant loop in my day to day this past month because they’re so passionate and power ballad-y, and capture that doomed relationship so very well. Sweet, sweet anguish.

drew-barrymore-timothy-olyphant-santa-clarita-dietNetflix Show: “Santa Clarita Diet”

Now I love me some zombie shows, but I love them even more when they think outside the box. “Santa Clarita Diet” is a hilarious satire of suburban life mixed with a zombie show, in which Drew Barrymore, or Sheila, finds herself turned into a sentient zombie. Her husband Joel (played by the foxy Timothy Olyphant) is doing his best to be supportive, because he loves his wife. It’s her ‘eating people’ thing that’s hard to stomach. Barrymore and Olyphant are hilarious, as it their daughter Abby (Liv Hewson) and her best friend Eric. It’s gross and bloody, but has a whole lot of heart to it. And many, MANY laugh out loud moments.

riverdale-header3TV Show: “Riverdale”

YES, OKAY, I’M INTO THE SEXED UP “ARCHIE” SHOW!!! But I have my reasons. First of all, it’s seeping in “Twin Peaks”-esque nostalgia and aesthetic. Second, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the man behind “Afterlife with Archie” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, is the showrunner, so you know he’s going to have some serious, SERIOUS dark and screwed up stuff up his sleeves. Yes, I’m bitter that they started by killing off Jason Blossom (GODDAMN I LOVE THE BLOSSOM TWINS, HOW DARE THEY!?!?!), but I love what they’re doing with a lot of the characters that I like (Betty, Kevin, Josie, and of course, Veronica). Though I will never understand why we’re supposed to believe that the doof Archie attracts so many capable and intelligent women….. But also, Luke Perry. I mean, really.

 

 

Not Just Books: January 2017

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

new-arrival-movie-poster-615813Movie: “Arrival”

This is probably a bit late to the game, but I went to see “Arrival” at a late showing theater and it blew me away. The trailers for this movie were all over the place. The first one I saw, I literally had no idea what this was about. The second one I saw made it seem like an alien invasion action movie? Having seen the movie now, I can understand the challenge of creating a preview of this movie. This cerebral sci-fi movie knocked the breath out of me at every turn with its gorgeous visuals, moving score, discomforting realizations, and deep insights. It also left me thinking for many days after seeing it, which, I think, was its primary goal. I can’t recommend this one enough. While it’s likely out of many theaters, if you can possible catch it at a late-run theater, I definitely recommend it for the big screen.

mv5bmtuxmjizodi0nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdk3oti2mdi-_v1_uy268_cr30182268_al_Netflix Series: “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

Yes, yes I featured the trailer for this on a list a few months ago, but now it’s here, and I’m loving it! Now, that being said, I’m not sure this one is for everyone. The series fully embraces the wackiness and corniness of the books, so at first even I was a bit put off by the strangeness of this world. The acting of the kids is also a bit stiff in the first episode, but improves as they are given more to work with. But, in no surprise to anyone, what carries the series is Neal Patrick Harris’s performance. The moment he shows up (and it sadly takes a good bit in the first episode), you can almost feel the story take a breath of fresh air and settle into itself more fully. He’s so committed to the camp and wackiness of this character, at times even managing to make a completely evil character rather pathetically sympathetic. If you liked the book series, this is well worth your time. If you didn’t…maybe not so much.

how-did-this-get-made-podcast-cover-thumb-q33uloPodcast: “How Did This Get Made?”

I know this is a favorite podcast of Kate’s as well, but I got to this list first with it, so I get to talk about it! Sometimes it feels good to watch trashy movies. And sometimes it feels even better to listen to other people describe their experiences having to watch trashy movies and telling you all about how truly trashy the movie really is. This podcast is so fun. I haven’t watched half the movies they talk about (cuz…obviously…most of them are awful!), but my enjoyment is not affected in the least by this fact! Listening to them ponder the whys, hows, and wtfs of these films is so much fun. And sometimes, just sometimes, you catch yourself wanting to go out and find yourself a copy of “Sharknado 2” just because how did that get made?!

Kate’s Picks

15099342_1818297575122609_3345333340906455040_nWeb Series: “The Boulet Brothers’ DRAGULA”

Yep, the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” dry spell is still in full effect. But luckily, I was able to find a show that would quench my thirst this past month. “DRAGULA” is a web series produced and starring The Boulet Brothers, a shock and horror drag act that emphasizes the edgy and filthy aspects of drag. They decided to put together a “Drag Race”-esque show that would showcase ‘freaky’ drag, putting a number of drag queens together to compete in looks, performance, and challenges (like being buried alive, eating brains, and other squeamish things). Fashion, horror, and lots of dark humor pepper this show, and it gives me (after?)life!!! But just a warning: it’s not the the squeamish or easily offended. These ladies are hardcore in the ‘filth’ aspect of drag…

mv5bmtc3mjewmtc5n15bml5banbnxkftztcwnzq2njq4na-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “Stargate: SG-1”

While I’m definitely a geek, when it comes to Sci-Fi I am far less knowledgeable than my husband is. So when I confided in him that I’d never actually seen any of the “Stargate” TV shows, he demanded that we watch “SG-1” immediately. Though it took me a bit to warm up to the show (I mean, really, parasites have to be the main antagonist?), I’m now all in. Richard Dean Anderson is a joy to watch, playing Jack O’Neill with the proper amount of disdain, snark, and, yes, pathos (the episode “Cold Lazarus” had me sobbing from start to finish), and while Michael Shanks will NEVER be Daniel Jackson to me (James Spader or get out), the two of them play well off each other and bring the characters to the TV format pretty well. And the new characters, specifically Tilk, an alien who has joined the team, are well written and fit in with the mythology!

vh1_antm_keyartTV Show: “America’s Next Top Model”

So I have pleasant, pleasant memories of watching “America’s Next Top Model” in college. I am not at all fashionable or ‘with it’ when it comes to the ins and outs of the fashion industry, but there is something about “Top Model” that I love. The photo shoots, the beauty, the clothing, the models, I like all of it. But I have to admit, I also like the drama of Tyra and the house infighting. Regardless, there is a brand new iteration of “ANTM” that has rebooted the show and the concept. Long gone are the days of the social media scores and Kelly Cutrone (THANK GOD ON BOTH COUNTS). We’re back to the basics of fashion and the potential of the aspiring models. Yes, I miss Tyra. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of drama.

Not Just Books: December 2016

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

ka-miracle-on-34th-street Movie: “Miracle on 34th Street”

Obviously this falls under the category of old movies we’ve “discovered,” but even that’s not true! Let’s be real, I watch this movie EVERY Christmas. It’s a classic for a reason and there is something to love for just about everyone. You have the romance, the friendship, the family, the humor, the villains, the court room action, and the feel goods. Not to mention, the adult in me loves this movie even more now than I did as a kid, with its main message being that even adults should believe in Santa Claus! And the larger message, that whether or not he was actually Santa Claus was beyond the point: Christmas is about loving and caring for everyone, and in that, Mr. Claus was the epitome of Christmas.

mv5bndawmdy0nja2ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwmta1nti3nze-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_TV Show Episode: “President-Elect Trump: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”

Wild emotional swing in the other direction, my second pick is this episode on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” I’ve been watching this show since it started and have really enjoyed the mixture of comedy and in-depth reporting on often bizarre subjects that don’t get nearly enough attention.(Of course, comedy comes first, this isn’t real news, etc.etc.) Obviously, the “not enough attention” bit isn’t the case with this episode’s subject, and while I don’t want to get into the politics of it all, this episode, and particularly the ending, were a bit cathartic for me this last month!

mv5bmweyowvhmgitzjbjyy00nwq2lwizmdutzmfkzwqwyje1mmuwxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndyzmju1odu-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_YouTube Series: “Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party”

My friend Emily (who will hopefully be a guest poster this coming year!) put me on to this YouTube series. For fans of similar YouTube sensations such as the “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma” remakes, this will is a perfect next step, featuring some familiar faces! It’s been fun over the years seeing the evolution of YouTube, and it’s shows like this that really highlight the unique storytelling methods that cane be used on a platform like YouTube vs. traditional TV/movie plotting. It’s also hilarious, so there’s that. Will specifically appeal to English majors and book nerds!

Kate’s Picks

frasierTV Series: “Frasier”

Like Serena, this isn’t really a discovery for me. I have been a fan of the show “Frasier” since I was in grade school, but it has always been one of my comfort shows to say the very least. My husband is also a fan, and we have started a re-watch of it from the beginning (thank you, Netflix!). What I like best about this show is that even though it’s incredibly 90s in a lot of ways, it also stands the test of time with its themes and humor. Plus, everyone on this show is amazing, from curmudgeon-y Frasier, to kind and eccentric Daphne, to fussy Niles and grumpy Martin (and his adorably weird dog Eddie). Even Roz, who is a bit of a 90s relic in her trope of being ‘easy’, is still amazing with her snark and heart. I love this show and boy do I love having access to it when I need it most. Tossed salads and scrambled eggs….

scrooged_film_posterMovie: “Scrooged”

So speaking of all time favorite Christmas movies in the history of EVER, I am going to give a bit shout out to “Scrooged!” Now it’s true that “A Christmas Carol” has been redone and retold many, many times, and while the Muppets did a bang up job, for me Bill Murray did it best. “Scrooged” puts the traditional tale in the TV business in the 1980s, when greed was good and materialism was even better. Bill Murray as Frank Cross is a hoot, and the analogs for the other characters are also spectacular. My personal favorite is Carol Kane as a manic and violent Ghost of Christmas Present. Not only is it funny, it’s also very sweet (the romance between Murray and Karen Allen is just the best), scary (the TV headed Ghost of Christmas Future anyone?), and not at all twee (Calvin is the very best Tiny Tim because he isn’t saccharine at all!). This is the Christmas movie I’m sure to watch twice during the holiday season, and if you haven’t seen it, give it a watch next year.

unnamed-6Web Series: “UNHhhh with Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova

So for anyone who has been paying attention to my gif selection, it should come as no surprise that I LOVE “RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE”!!!!!!!! So, so much. But it’s the offseason at the moment, as “RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 2” ended in October and the next season won’t start until next year. But I’m not worried, because I have the web series “UNHhhh”, which stars Trixie Mattel and Katya. They were two shining stars on a pretty lackluster season (Season 7, sorry Violet Chachki), and now they have their own web series where they just riff and wax poetic about random things, playing off each other and just being silly. Many delights include talking about bad hookups, Katya’s obsession with the movie “Contact”, and really funny editing that mimics the stories they tell. It’s crazy and irreverent and crude and adorable.

What non-book pop culture things have you been obsessed with this month? Tell us in the comments!

Not Just Books: November 2016

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

mv5bmjm2oda4mtm0m15bml5banbnxkftztgwnze5otyxmdi-_v1_sy317_cr10214317_al_

Movie: “Doctor Strange”

As has been maybe, once or twice, a few times mentioned on this blog, both Kate and I are much more familiar with DC than Marvel, as far as comics goes. And Doctor Strange is by no means the best known character for Marvel either. All I really know going in was magic, “looks like ‘Inception,'” and Benedict Cumberbatch. And…that’s pretty much what it was, though much better on all three counts. I loved the introduction of magic into a current Marvel line up that is feeling a bit tired at this point what with its millions of super-powered beings. The special effects were amazing. Seriously, go to this in 3D if you can, it’s one of the few movies where the extra money would be worth it. And Benedict Cumberbatch was very good. For many people, that’s probably a given. But, while I like him generally, I’ve never bought into the “Cumberbatch worship” fully. In this movie, however, I feel like he proved that he wasn’t a one trick pony (though yes, that trick is very good) showcasing a surprising talent for humor combined with action. Definitely check this out if you have a chance!

mv5bmjeymzexmdcznv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzyzmjczote-_v1_sx214_al_Trailer: “Beauty and the Beast”

Kate and I may have spent a whole Facebook chat essentially “squee-ing” over this one. We have both been obsessively following the complete production of this movie, getting way more excited than 30 year olds really should over things like casting announcements, first look images, and teaser trailers. But here, with the first full length trailer, our excitement seems justified. This looks amazing, especially Emma Watson’s Belle. She feels so perfect for this part. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still terrified that they will somehow mess this one up. But…so far…I’m cautiously optimistic? I would say that my only concern still has to do with the CGI, but it’s also hard to get a sense of that from a trailer. All I have to say is that they better be including all of the songs!!

Here is the trailer.

mv5bmtuxmjizodi0nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdk3oti2mdi-_v1_uy268_cr30182268_al_

Netflix series trailer: “A Series of Unfortunate Events”

I promise that in the future I won’t just pick trailers, but I couldn’t not include this one as well. I confess to having not read the entire series, somewhere at about the 7th or 8th book I became a bit burnt out watching these poor kids just get the wrong end of the stick every time! That said, I loved the first few and the premises’ wacky tone and crazy characters are perfect for a televised series, especially on Netflix which has proven it has the chops to handle just these types of projects (“Stranger Things”/all of the Marvel series). I also wasn’t in love with the movie with Jim Carey. I don’t know, I think I just don’t prefer Carey’s comedic style in general, though I know that he was widely loved for his portrayal of Count Ofal. But Neal Patrick Harris? Love him! I’m really excited to see how this turns out!

Here is the trailer.

Kate’s Picks

mv5bndi4mja2mzuxov5bml5banbnxkftztcwnje0mje2mq-_v1-_cr5369306401_Mini Series Rewatch: “Anne of Green Gables” and “Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel”

In anticipation of the new adaptation that aired on PBS this past Thanksgiving, I watched both “Anne of Green Gables” and “Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel” (and no, I don’t count the odd third movie in the series as being canon). These movies are so perfectly cast, with Megan Follows playing the very best Anne, but also Colleen Dewhurst as a sufficiently exasperated Marilla and Johnathan Crombie as a DREAMY and earnest Gilbert Blythe. Each and every single character has depth and heart, and it stands the test of time. When I need a serious pick me up, these movies do the trick! And as much as I love Martin Sheen (aka the New Matthew), no one will play Matthew as well as Richard Farnsworth. Ugh. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

beware-the-slenderman-691x1024Trailer: “Beware The Slenderman”

I can get in on this trailer stuff too! Mainly because I’m really looking forward to an HBO Documentary that is coming out early next year, and have watched this trailer a few times. “Beware the Slenderman” is the documentary about two girls who stabbed another girl multiple times, and blamed in on the Internet made urban legend Slenderman. As a fan of the Slenderman lore and a fan of true crime documentaries as well (this should surprise no one), I am very much looking forward to this. Plus, it should be an interesting examination of childhood and Internet culture as well.

Here Is The Trailer.

mv5bnju2nza5mzgym15bml5banbnxkftztgwndawotuxmdi-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Netflix Series: “The Crown”

As someone who considers herself a quasi-Anglophile, I really do love reading about and following the Windsors in England, and really do like Queen Elizabeth II for her pluckiness and toughness. “The Crown” is a new series on Netflix that is about her rise to power, and the scandals that accompanied the Windsors around that time (oooh, Princess Margaret!). Claire Foy plays Elizabeth in this series, and shows her vulnerability along with her dignity and grace. You see the misogyny and sexism that she had to confront when she was heir apparent and then queen as well (even from her own HUSBAND), and it astounds me that Queen Elizabeth has weathered so much in her life because I would have probably cracked pretty early. Plus, you have John Lithgow as WINSTON FREAKING CHURCHILL, which my GOD, isn’t that amazing?  I really do enjoy the series thus far and it makes me want to go back to London….