Not Just Books: May 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

Movie: “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3”

Hot take: Marvel has been struggling lately. You heard it first here. But I’ve still been diligently making my way to the theater in the hopes that things will turn a corner soon. And while this movie was perhaps not that corner, it was still a whole lot better than the several movies that came before it. Mostly because I imagine it would be really hard to make a truly bad movie with a cast that is this good and has this level of chemistry with one another. Though, I will say this movie continues the trend where everything has to be SO GRIM all of the time. Can we just get back to some happy storylines? Maybe some love stories that don’t end in tragedy?

Netflix Show: “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story”

No, no we cannot. Because here we go with “Bridgerton,” another of my go-to feel good franchises, taking on a story that we all know is made up of one tragedy after another. And that’s not even adding in the marital horror that we got in this one that I wasn’t even expecting! But, again, the show was saved by fantastic casting and excellent writing. I really did enjoy this one, but man, I’m so sick of the bummer storylines. I can’t wait for season 3. If they make that one sad somehow, I might just riot.

TV Show: “The Great American Baking Show”

What do you look to when you see sadness all around? Baking reality tv, of course! I knew there was an American version of this show, but I never really looked into it. But here’s a win for Roku’s advertising on my TV! I saw the poster for this one pot up, I saw my two familiar judges, and I clicked right on through. I know Paul has been a judge for a few seasons on this show now, but I am happiest with my favorite two judges together. I also really liked the two new hosts. I also really liked that this was happy. I repeat, happiness was found here.

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Star Trek: Picard”

Back in 2020 Serena and I both picked the first season of “Picard” for a Not Just Books post, as the revisiting of “Star Trek”‘s Captain Jean-Luc Picard in his later years was satisfying and pretty interesting. I did watch Season 2, and while it was fine, it didn’t make the cut when I watched it. But let me tell you, this third and final season was AMAZING, if ONLY because it has finally decided to give in to the fan service that Trekkies have been clamoring for since Season 1. Picard has gone back to his quiet life on the vineyard, but then he gets an SOS message from his former crew member/ former lover Beverly Crusher seeking his help. Picard enlists the help of Will Riker in hopes of helping Bev, and then reunites with more former crew members as they all have to face a new, but familiar, villain that threatens The Federation. I love “Next Generation” and all of its players so seeing so many of them come back (Bev! Geordi! WORF!) was so satisfying, but what is ALSO satisfying is that it harkens back to other “Trek” series like “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” as well. It just feels like a reunion of old friends that I’ve missed for a very long time.

Film: “Evil Dead Rise”

I’ve been an “Evil Dead” fan since high school, and “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” is a top 3 horror movie for me. And while it’s true that Bruce Campbell has hung up the chainsaw, fear not, fans, because “Evil Dead Rise” is a FABULOUS new story for the “Evil Dead” canon, tapping into its scary and gory roots and creating a new iconic Deadite and a new iconic hero. Both of whom are women. Beth, facing a personal crisis, goes to visit her sister Ellie and her nieces and nephew in a shabby L.A. apartment building. When an earthquake hits, nephew Danny finds a strange book and recordings in a newly opened area. When he plays the records, an evil force possesses Ellie, turning her into a Deadite. Now Beth has to try and save herself and her niblings before Ellie takes their souls. This movie is a goddamn blast, with disgusting special effects, a rad successor to Ash Williams in Beth, and an assuredly legendary new horror villain in Deadite Ellie. And yes, there is a chainsaw. And a cheese grater. MAKE OF THAT WHAT YOU WILL. I loved this movie, I was clapping my hands in glee through the last third of it.

TV Show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars”

Well it’s true that Season 15 of “Drag Race” was a little bit of a mixed bag for me (top two notwithstanding, I love them both), but luckily “All Stars” Season 8 has started and it is off to a grand start! Last season was All Winners, and while it was nice seeing all of these queens showcased for the entire season, I missed the old format, and that format is BACK! A few of my previous faves have been selected to compete this All Stars cycle (Heidi N Closet! JESSICA WILD!!), and seeing them back with even bigger and better concepts and wardrobes and performances has been a treat. It’s also really cool seeing a few queens who were either from early seasons (again, JESSICA WILD!!), or were early outs on their season (like Jaymes Mansfield or Kahanna Montrese), being given another chance, and seeing their growth is a joy. I also love seeing who they are picking for the lip sync assassins this season, as they have been FIERCE thus far (Aja was PHENOMENAL!). I love having this show back and back to the levels I expect. In a moment where laws are being passed to oppress trans people and drag performers, it’s all the more important to find the joy and subversion in these artists and the art of drag!

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.

Not Just Books: March 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

Movie: “Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania”

I have mixed feelings about this movie. On one hand, I went to it the third weekend it was out, so I was well aware that it wasn’t being reviewed well and was generally underperforming. And, yeah, I can see why. But it’s also not as bad as I was expecting. There’s just no denying the strength Paul Rudd as an actor who you just like to watch. But even more impressive was Jonathan Majors’ villain, Kang the Conqueror. I had already seen Majors portray a variation on this character in the show “Loki” but we really got to see his strengths here. However, I was a bit disappointed with how his character was dealt with in the final bit of the movie. I also have to say that I’m getting a bit tired of the “brilliant teenage girl” character who, what do you know, also becomes a super hero. Look, I know that the typical hero characters are also very often similar men with similar histories. But the very fact that we want to add more diversity (of all sorts of the word) to the hero line up doesn’t mean we should just add another single note character, even if it’s different than the usual 20-something cocky man. Young women can come in all sorts, too, with different strengths! They don’t all have to be quippy science girls. It’s verging on the Marvel universe answering trope to the “manic pixie dream girl.” But anyway, that’s a super subjective recent pet peeve of mine, and not really a testament to the movie as a whole.

Netflix Movie: “Your Place or Mine”

I had just been noting (whining) to my husband the other day that I felt there was a distinct lack in the romantic comedy business. I grew up in the 80s/90s/ early 2000s when there was a real boom in this genre and I think I got kind of spoiled that that’s how it just always was. But honestly, before watching this movie, I can’t tell you the last new romcom movie I’ve seen! And this one really hit the spot. It hit a lot of the same notes I get when I read Emily Henry, particularly in this movie’s case, her book “People You Meet on Vacation.” I also have to say that I haven’t seen Aston Kutcher in anything for quite some time and I think he’s definitely one of those cases where he’s gotten better looking with age. Damn those men and their aging into even better looks!

Movie: “Titanic”

Technically, I saw this back in February but I wasn’t able to slot it into our post for that month. I love this movie and I will fight you over it. Especially all of the people my age who seem to have forgotten (willfully so) that they probably saw it in the theater three times when it originally came out. So for me it was a no brainer that I was going to take advantage of the one week that it was being re-released to the big screen for its 25th anniversary (one year late, technically, due to, what else, Covid). I also dragged my husband with me who had never seen the movie before and who was one of those individuals who was making it a point of pride never to see it at all. Well, I remember warning him early when we were dating that he probably wasn’t going to make it on that goal if we stayed together. And low and behold, I pulled the “Valentine’s Day” card and he ended up with his butt in a seat, not only watching the movie but paying for the privilege. Really not much else to say about this movie that hasn’t already been said a million times!

Kate’s Picks

Netflix Show: “You”

While the TV show version of my beloved “You” books has REALLY diverted from the literary threads and storylines, I’m not that mad about it. For one reason, it means that I get to be in suspense and on pins and needles regarding the mysteries and thrills that the show unravels. For another, Penn Badgley is such a good Joe, as he gets the darkness, intensity, and the black humor that comes with the character. We are at Season 4, split into two parts, and I’m still hooked. After killing his psychopath wife Love and trying to follow Marienne, who fled to Paris, Joe has found himself in London, with a new identity and a new job working as an English professor at a prestigious University. He finds himself drawn to Kate, a cold art gallery owner who runs with a posh, upper class circle of friends. After attending a party at a social club with Kate’s lover, Joe gets trashed, and when he wakes up in his apartment he finds Kate’s lover, dead, with no memory of what happened. Now he has to figure out if he killed the man. And if not, who did. Oh Joe. Still getting up to nonsense.

Film: “We Have A Ghost”

I really love Christopher Landon’s comedic and heartfelt horror movies. Whether it’s the “Happy Death Day” films or “Freaky”, I like the humor and heart that he brings to very well done slasher films. Enter “We Have A Ghost”, Landon’s newest film that is his usual quirky and emotional takes to a haunted house story. And David Harbour is in it as the ghost! When a family moves into a dilapidated old house, angsty teenager Kevin goes up to the attic to investigate a strange sound, and finds “Ernest”, a ghost in a bowling shirt who can’t speak and can’t remember who he is. Kevin wants to help Ernest, while his father sees dollar signs after a video of Ernest goes viral. But when more and more attention comes upon Ernest, a top secret government group takes notice, and wants to take Ernest back to a lab. David Harbour always delights, but I’ve loved Jahi Winston ever since he was on the criminally underrated (and cruelly cancelled) “Everything Sucks”, and their chemistry is fantastic. And yes, like with the “Happy Death Day” films, I totally cried.

Film: “Scream VI”

We slasher fans are so blessed in that the “Scream” franchise has basically been consistently pretty okay to great (yes, I would put “Scream 3” as pretty okay, sue me), and my Terror Tuesday friends and I were hoping that “Scream VI” would continue that trend. I’m very happy to report that it did, and our field trip excursion to the Alamo Drafthouse to see it on the big screen was the best way to experience it. A year after the events in “Scream 5”, Sam and Tara Carpenter have moved to New York City with the Meeks Martin twins, Tara wanting to move on to college and Sam wanting to protect her sister. But then a new Ghostface has started killing people, and is planting masks with the DNA of former Ghostface killers at the scene. Sam is the number one suspect thanks to Internet rumor, and the sisters and the twins team up with Gale Weathers and Kirby “Scream 4” Reed to figure out who is behind it this time. And while I’m sad that Neve Campbell wasn’t going to be compensated at the amount she should have been and declined to come back because of it, I’m also happy that poor Sidney Prescott just got to take a goddamn breather this time around. LEAVE SIDNEY ALONE! SHE’S BEEN THROUGH ENOUGH!!

Not Just Books: February 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

Film: “Leave No Trace”

Honestly, I wouldn’t have watched this if my husband hadn’t made me. I took one look at the preview on Netflix and knew that tears would be involved. On the other hand, Ben Foster is a massively talented actor and I don’t know if I’ve ever disliked a movie he was in. Well, indeed, this was a fairly sad movie, but not without hope. It follows the story of a war veteran with PTSD who is homeless and living in a park with his daughter. When they are discovered and brought in by social services, the two struggle to adapt to life in the real world. This movie tackles a lot of very complicated issues and why there are no easy answers to homelessness, support for veterans with PTSD, and what constitutes good care for a child. For all of the more grim aspects, the bound between father and daughter is so clearly at the center of the movie, that it’s impossible not to feel drawn in to their challenging situation.

Podcast: “The Office Ladies”

Needing something lighthearted here in the doldrums of winter, I turned to one of my favorite shows, “The Office,” for probably the millionth re-watch of my life. But this time I’ve went even further! About two seasons in to my re-watch, I suddenly remembered someone mentioning at Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer (Angela and Pam) had started up a re-watch podcast a bit ago. So now not only am I re-watching the show, but I’m listing to lengthy podcasts episodes about each episode of said show. It may be an unhealthy obsession, but it’s all so homely and nice.

Netflix Show: “Murderville”

I don’t know why we turned this one on when we did. Perhaps just lingering nostalgia for the heyday of “Arrested Developments” early seasons. But either way, we did and we had no idea what we were getting into. Essentially, Will Arnett plays a detective who must solve a mystery with some guest star. The catch is that the guest star is given no scrip. So what follows is a ridiculous series of events where Arnett is making the guest star (football players, comedians, actors, etc.) do increasingly embarrassing and ridiculous things and then at the end, the guest has to announce who committed the murder. There were definitely stronger episodes than others (it lived or died on the abilities of the guests), but there were several times where I was laughing so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. Definitely been quite a while since I’ve had that happen! If you like kind wacky improv comedy, this is probably worth checking out!

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “The White Lotus Season 2”

I technically watched this back in January, just binged it over the course of a day. But I made my husband watch it with me this month, as we are going to the destination wedding of a childhood friend at an all inclusive resort in Mexico in March, and I know I will be making all the references and he needs to know what I’m talking about. I didn’t really like Season 1, but for whatever reason Season 2 really worked for me. It follows a week at the Sicily location of The White Lotus Resort, as sex, manipulations, scheming, and death befall a number of guests on their vacations. The cast is stuffed with a lot of people that I like, like F. Murray Abraham, Aubrey Plaza, and of COURSE Jennifer freaking Coolidge, and the dark humor and slow building suspense of something being wrong is a great combination. Watching it a second time knowing what is going on was VERY fun. And again, Jennifer FREAKING Coolidge. She’s just so funny. And godDAMN, that theme song is SO CATCHY.

Film: “Willow”

Somehow I got through my childhood and early adult life without ever seeing “Willow”, the 1980s fantasy film about a burgeoning sorcerer who is trying to protect a baby girl who is prophesied to be the downfall of an evil queen. When I told two of my good friends that I hadn’t seen it, it became top of the list for the next movie night. And I really, really loved it. As mentioned, Willow is a young man living with his family in a quiet community, hoping to become a sorcerer some day. One day a baby girl floats in a basket to their town, and it soon becomes clear that this baby is being pursued by evil forces who want to take her. Willow goes on a journey to get the baby, Elora Danan, to safety, and meets up with others who end up joining the quest. Warwick Davis is so sweet and noble as Willow, and I LOVED seeing a very young Val Kilmer as caddish mercenary Madmartigan. Next on the list for me is watching the follow up series on Disney+!

Podcast: “Dateline”

So this has a bit of a connection to “The White Lotus”, as one of the characters (oh I wish I had the same unbotheredness of Daphne!) made mention that she watched ‘a lot of “Dateline”.’ To which I said to myself ‘I should check out the “Dateline” podcast! And I’ve been enjoying it, as it is pretty much audio versions of various “Dateline” shows, which means that they are generally stand alone and have some audio clips outside of the narrator. The true crime podcasts I gravitate to mostly have a bit of a dark humor bent to them, but this one is definitely serious in nature. Though that said, that isn’t to say that it’s devoid of over the top and somewhat dramatic moments. Specifically when Keith Morrison is behind the voice. That said, it’s Dateline, so you know that the research is going to be pretty good. It’s just a nice change from the other podcasts I listen to, and it covers many cases that I’ve never even heard of, or in the moment cases. It’s just a nice one to add to my listening rotation when doing chores, school pick up and drop off, and errands.

Not Just Books: January 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

Movie: “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”

Count my husband and I in the group of people whose money Netflix lost by only releasing this movie in theaters for one weekend! I’m not sure what went on behind this poorly thought out decision, but I hope all the dollars they left on the table remind them that yes, some people still do want to actually go out to the theater! I mean, at this point, any excuse to escape my children sounds good. But the opportunity to watch a smart, hilarious, murder mystery as well? Definitely! Ah well. We still watched on Netflix the Friday it was released and enjoyed the heck out of it. Fans of the first movie are sure to love this one, as will those who are first timers to “Knives Out.”

Netflix Show: “The Recruit”

From a sure bet to a very questionable new release. Questionable because I really couldn’t tell what I was getting into after watching the trailer. Is this an action show? A comedy? Are we supposed to like this kind of ridiculous dude bro who seems to be a walking, talking 20-something stereotype? Well, yes to all of the above. And you have to give all the credit to Noah Centineo for this one. As I said, this is a character who you really should dislike. But Centineo’s charm and douchey charisma (is that a thing??) carry the entire thing. You find yourself rooting for this bumbling guy who seems to stumble from one disaster to another. I did struggle towards the end when one of the main female characters made some decisions that truly catapulted her into “too stupid to live” territory, but, again, my investment in Centineo’s character ultimately won me over.

TV Show: “Veronica Mars”

Yes, yes, I’m admitting to be very late to this show. Not only did I not watch it when it was originally on, but I really wasn’t even aware it was a thing until fairly recently when I went down a Kristen Bell rabbit hole and discovered it in her back catalog. I’ll also admit that I watched the first half of the first season over several months, still not understanding what all the fuss was about. And then Logan and Veronica kissed, and my little shipping heart was all in. Yes, I’m also unfortunately spoiled for the end, but that just means I can very tidily turn of my viewing experience before any…unpleasantness ruins my “happily ever after.”

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Trixie Motel”

One of my dearest friends, David, has been living outside Minnesota, spending his time on archaeological digs or out west working on his dissertation. But whenever he is in town we try to get together to relive our glory days of ordering in Chinese food and watching queer content (as this was how our friendship was solidified during our time working together at the Science Museum of Minnesota). For his winter visit we sat down and started “Trixie Motel”, a renovation show that is the project of hilarious drag queen/musician/comedian Trixie Mattel. I’ve been a Trixie fan since she was on “Drag Race” on Season 7, but seeing how she has expanded her brand over the years has been really fun. Now she and her partner have bought a motel in Palm Springs, and they are renovating it to make it campy and kitschy as well as fully functional and enjoyable. This show shows how the renovations went, and is humorous as well as really neat to see in terms of transformation. I’m not a big home renovation show person, but this one was VERY entertaining.

TV Show: “Bluey”

So this is a little bit the influence of my daughter at work, as right now she is VERY into “Bluey”, an Australian cartoon about a blue heeler puppy and her family. But if I am being totally honest, I, too, really really love “Bluey”! The show is little eight minute shorts following Bluey, her sister Bingo, and her parents Bandit and Chilli as they go through general family and childhood things. A lot of it is centered around imaginative play and family time, and it’s incredibly cute. But my husband and I also feel that it does a GREAT job of capturing some of the more silly but also very endearing aspects of childhood, and parenthood, and how sometimes we are all just doing our best out there. It’s been described as ‘a show for parents that kids just happen to like’ in a joking manner, but it hits the nail on the head in a lot of ways. And as someone with a very spirited toddler, it’s fun to cuddle up with her and be like ‘oh that is absolutely something she would do’ whenever Bluey or Bingo are being their sweet, sometimes frustrating, but hilarious and wonderful selves.

Film: “M3gan”

It was once again field trip time for the Terror Tuesday crew, and we had been much anticipating “M3gan”, the new killer doll horror film with an AI twist. The trailer alone was so unhinged that I sent it to the group chat the day it dropped with an ‘OMG????!!!!’ message. And “M3gan” lived up to the WTF-ness of the trailer and more. When Cady is orphaned in a terrible car accident, she is sent to live with her Aunt Gemma, who is a robotics and AI developer for a toy company. Gemma, hoping to help Cady but to also work on her newest creation, introduces her niece to M3gan, a robot doll that uses AI to learn, connect to, and provide care, teaching, and comfort to its owner. But as M3gan learns more, and Cady becomes more and more attached, things start to take a sinister turn. It’s part AI run amok, part creepy doll, and M3gan is a SUPER FUN AND VICIOUS villain. Our group had a serious hoot at the theater, as it has moments of genuine suspense, but also a lot of dark humor to round it all out.

Not Just Books: December 2022

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: “Bullet Train”

My husband and I seem to go in strange phases where we watch a whole bunch of movies all at once that feature the same actor. Currently, we’re on a bit of a Brad Pitt binge. So it was a natural next step to check out “Bullet Train” on Netflix. And it didn’t disappoint! This is a bloody, violent, hilarious, action-packed spectacle from start to finish. Pitt is up to his usual standards, but the rest of the cast has no problem keeping up with their main star. There were also some excellent cameo appearances! Overall, this was a really fun, wacky movie. It takes a bit to figure out exactly what kind of movie you’re watching, but once you do it’s quite the ride. I’d liken it most closely to another Brad Pitt movie, “Snatch.”

Movie: “No Time to Die”

While I’m not a James Bond completist, like most of the rest of the general public, I’ve enjoyed Daniel Craig’s turn as the character. So of course eventually I had to get around to his last movie. And I really liked this one! I haven’t hated any of his Bond movies, but there have definitely been highs and lows to the series. But I think this one is pretty great all around. Good action, good character stuff, just the right amount of humor. Did I remember the love interest when she appeared on the screen? No I did not. Did I confused my Bond villains and my Mission Impossible villains for a hot minute? Yes, I did. But who cares! I got there in the end, and this was a satisfying conclusion all around. Now to wait and see who will be Bond next! I hear Henry Cavill suddenly has some time on his hands…

Movie: “Avatar: The Way of Water”

I am proud to say that my opinion of the first “Avatar” movie never changed. I thought it was a visual spectacle with a very average but inoffensive storyline (honestly, most blockbusters fall into a similar category for me). I also never jumped on the hatred bandwagon after the fact and quietly laughed at the number of people who held this opinion after viewing the original three times in the theater. All that to say, I had no problem feeling confident that this long-awaited sequel would be well worth a theater ticket, even if I didn’t have a lot of expectations on the story front. And it checked out for that! It was absolutely incredible to see this on a big screen, and I was honestly in awe of what movie magic was being used to make some of these scenes look the way they do. Yes, the story is still pretty straight-forward, but it also didn’t throw me out of the movie. If you like big, awe-inspiring movies, this is definitely one to check out in 3D at a theater.

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Wednesday”

I’m sure this was a given. While I don’t have a huge amount of nostalgia for the two “Addams Family” movies from my youth (I can’t even tell you why I didn’t obsess over these movies as a child! I like them a fair amount and they tick ALL MY BOXES!), I do love The Addams Family as pop culture figures (I kind of want to be Morticia). So of course I wanted to watch “Wednesday” when Tim Burton announced that he was making it for Netflix. In the series Wednesday has been sent to the Gothic private school for supernatural kids that her parents went to (as she was expelled from public school), and while there she finds herself caught up in a mystery surrounding a monster that is killing people in her orbit. Oh, and there may be some secrets regarding her father Gomez from his time at Nevermore Academy as well. I do like Tim Burton, and I also really like Jenna Ortega in her own right, as she has put in solid performances in “X”, “Scream 5”, and in the second season of “You”. And she was really the perfect casting for Wednesday, as she holds her own against the iconic performance by Christina Ricci while making Wednesday a new interpretation that works VERY well.

Film: “Midnight”

This one came out of nowhere, as it was a Terror Tuesday pick by a friend and I had never heard of it. But once it started, HOO BOY DID IT HAVE MY ATTENTION. Kim Kyung-mi is a Deaf woman who happens to stumble into the path of an escalating and sadistic serial killer (played by “Squid Game”‘s Wi Ha-joon), and after witnessing one of his victims she becomes a target. She and her mother spend a terror filled night playing cat and mouse as they try to escape him and his ire, as he manipulates people around him to seem harmless while these two women try to stay alive. The tension in this one is PALPABLE, and I was practically screaming by the end when it all comes to a head. It feels like “Hush”, “Wait Until Dark”, and “The Silence of the Lambs” all rolled into one, and if you are familiar with any of those you know how intense this movie is.

Film: “Violent Night”

You honestly had me at the concept of Santa Claus beating the absolute shit out of bad guys. But you throw in David Harbour, and maaaaan, I am even more game because WOOF. The plot seems pretty clear: after a girl and her family are taken hostage on Christmas Eve, she uses a toy walkie talkie her father gave her to ask Santa to save her and her loved ones. And then Santa starts kicking ass with lots of explosions and other violent nonsense, with tongue planted firmly in cheek. This was a fun theater excursion for the Terror Tuesday crew, and it certainly got me in the holiday spirit when the rest of the month has been stressful due to toddler illness and the holidays whipping everything into overdrive. Bonus points for John Leguizamo.

Not Just Books: November 2022

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

Amazon Prime Show: “The Rings of Power”

It took me a bit to get around to this show (I won’t lie, I was a bit concerned about the ambition of this project and also the fact that nothing can live up to Peter Jackson’s original three movies), but I’m really glad I finally did! Sure, I can nitpick on changes (one, in particular, kind of made me chuckle), but overall, I think it was a very enjoyable show. I thought it did very well capturing the same general tone as the original trilogy, especially with the emphasis on beautiful locations and an excellent score. The acting was all solid as well. There were a few storylines that I definitely cared less about than others, but nothing I actively disliked, and a lot that I really enjoyed!

Movie: “Don’t Worry Darling”

My husband almost talked me out of this one on movie night, listing all of the drama that went on on set and with the changes to casting. But I’ve also really loved Florence Pugh in everything I’ve seen her in, so I persevered. And I’m glad I did! I did think a few aspects of the plot were pretty familiar, but, like I said, Florence Pugh really carried it with her excellent portrayal of a young woman who begins to question her world and fear she is losing her mind. The music in this one was also very strange, which added to the building sense of unease and creepiness of the entire situation. While it’s covering a lot of familiar ground, there were a few notable deviations from previous stories of this kind. Overall, I really liked it!

Sports: Fifa World Cup 2022

Both Kate’s and my husband are very, very into soccer. We’re talking season tickets, front row seats for our local club sorts of “into” soccer. So, needless to say, soccer has been on my TV practically nonstop for the last week. Luckily, I enjoy most sports well enough, so I’ve not minded. Yes, I do find it harder to get invested in the outcome of, say, Japan vs. Costa Rica. But I also watched the abysmal performance of the US men’s team when they failed to qualify four years ago, so it’s been great watching them finally play on the world stage! And the big one is tomorrow! I have to admit, I am a bit stressed about it!

Kate’s Pick

TV Show: “Welcome to Chippendales”

This was one of my most anticipated shows of the Fall, which is probably not surprising to anyone who knows me. I mean, come on: true crime! Salacious scandal! 80s tackiness! SEEDINESS GALORE! I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the dark history of male dancer organization Chippendales, and this show is making it intriguing and trashy and you KNOW I was watching it while making food for Thanksgiving. Kumail Nanjiani plays Somen “Steve” Banerjee, an immigrant to America with dreams of making it big. He opens up the Chippendales club, a strip joint with male dancers, and thanks to his drive and the dance numbers choreographed by the flamboyant Nick de Noia it is a HUGE success. But with success comes greed and vice, and as Banerjee and de Noia butt heads, violence follows. I think Nanjiani is fantastic as Banerjee, Murray Bartlett is a stupendous de Noia, and I LOVE Juliette Lewis as brassy costume designer Denise. Also, look out for Dan Stevens, whose name in the credits made me go ‘oh!’ with anticipation… and then ‘oh no’ when I saw he was playing Paul Snider. If you know, you know.

TV Show: “Criminal Minds: Evolution”

A couple years ago I very belatedly got into “Criminal Minds” when it was available for streaming on Netflix. I didn’t do the whole run as the cast turnover started to get aggravating, but I liked it for what it was. When I saw that they had a reboot in the works, I was VERY interested, as a lot of the original cast was game to come back, and during some downtime during the holiday weekend I sat down and started it. It did not disappoint. The BAU is back, and continues to look into violent crimes and cases by serial killers or those who are budding to become serial killers. But when they find a strange connection between seemingly unrelated cases across the country, they start to realize that, due to isolation during the pandemic’s early days, a network of killers found each other online to swap tips. And now they have to try and bring down the ringleader. I’m very happy to see the likes of Prentiss and Garcia on my screen again, and I am very interested to see how this all unfolds.

Film: “The Menu”

Flashback: March 2020. I went to see “Emma” starring Anya Taylor-Joy at the local Alamo Drafthouse. Little did I know it would be the last movie I’d see in theaters for almost three years. But Thanksgiving weekend my husband said ‘I know you’re still nervous, but there’s this weird movie I’ve been hearing about that I think we should go see if you are comfortable’. And I decided that, mask and full vaccination record in tow, it was time. So I returned to the movie theater, seeing “The Menu” starring Anya Taylor-Joy at the local Alamo Drafthouse. It follows a young couple who are partaking in an exclusive foodie experience on a remote island with one of the world’s most touted chefs running the dinner. And as the courses keep coming, it becomes more and more clear that this isn’t any old dinner service, but the premise for something far darker. I REALLY enjoyed this horror-black comedy, as it’s a great send up of snooty foodie elitism combined with a slow burn dread. Taylor-Joy is great, of course, but Ralph Fiennes really stands out as the prodigious, albeit unhinged, chef.

Not Just Books: October 2022

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

Hulu Movie: “Rosaline”

This is not a particularly vibrant period of time for the romantic comedy. Sure, there have been a few hits here and there, but I grew up in the 90s where you could count out at least 3-5 brand new, very fun romantic comedies every summer, many of which I still re-watch. So my expectations weren’t high when I clicked on this movie (particularly after watching that absolute atrocity that was Netflix’s “Persuasion”…) But I thought this movie worked, especially in ways that “Persuasion” didn’t. There was a really nice mixture of modern language and sensibilities with the classic lines and story of the “Romeo and Juliet.” Much of it probably comes down to the fact that Kaitlyn Dever’s “Rosaline” is incredibly funny and likable. The story was also told in what felt like a very fresh way, from the perspective of a character who doesn’t even appear on the page of the original story. It’s funny, the love story is sweet, and it’s a perfect example of the type of romantic comedy that you just don’t see much of anymore.

TV Show: “Hell’s Kitchen”

My boys are at a rough age (3 and 2) and I spend waaaay too much of my time corralling little crazy-pants tyrants and, more often than I would like, losing my patience with them. So, I find it strangely gratifying to watch a show largely centered around Gordon Ramsey losing his mind over raw chicken and yelling at a bunch of chefs. There’s really not much more to my enjoyment of this show, honestly. I do like reality cooking shows, but this one rates fairly low, it seems, on actual creativity and skills with cooking and focuses more on the dynamics of a restaurant kitchen. Yeaaaah, no, it’s all about the yelling.

Video Game: “The Quarry”

This could technically be a shared one for both Kate and myself since we’re playing it together, but it was my idea so I’ll take the claim! We both like video games (though we also both get to them less often than we used to cuz…you know…toddlers) so it was about time that we joined our powers together! Plus, this one looked like it could be creepy, and I needed external support from my horror-loving friend to get me through it. We may (may!) be on our second play through due to a VERY poorly timed glitch in my controller, but we still haven’t got to the end even once to see how (or if) these poor teens get out of this death camp.

Kate’s Picks

Film: “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone”

I really liked the short story “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” in the Stephen King collection “If It Bleeds”, as I found it to be a story that felt like vintage King in its creepiness and its heart. And when I saw that there was a movie adaptation with Donald Sutherland as Mr. Harrigan, well, that was just fantastic news to me. I watched it during a virtual Terror Tuesday movie night with the usual suspects, and oh man. Was it an enjoyable viewing. Craig is a somewhat lonely teenage boy who is hired by local reclusive billionaire Mr. Harrigan to act as a reader to the elderly man during the afternoons after school. They strike up a friendship, which leads to Craig showing Mr. Harrigan how to use a smartphone. After Mr. Harrigan dies, Craig is devastated, and when he has a run in with a bully, he calls Mr. Harrigan’s phone to vent on his voicemail, missing his friend and his advice. When the bully ends up dead, Craig starts to wonder if maybe Mr. Harrigan isn’t really gone. True, it has its scary moments, but it’s really the emotional performances by Sutherland and Jaeden Martell that drive this movie. All of us Terror Tuesday people were crying by the end.

Film: “Halloween Ends”

Back in 2018 I saw the reboot/requel movie “Halloween”, where they erased basically all other “Halloween” canon after the first Carpenter film and started a new trilogy with Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role of Laurie Strode. I really liked “Halloween 2018”. I didn’t really like “Halloween Kills”, the sequel. I was on the fence about “Halloween Ends”, but when I saw people talking about how polarizing it was, I knew that I should give it a go. And I ended up really enjoying it. Laurie is trying to move on from Michael Myers. After he rampaged through Haddonfield and murdered her daughter Karen, his disappeared. Now Laurie and grand daughter Ally are trying to keep moving forward. But when Ally starts to get close to a local misfit named Corey, and Corey starts acting strange, Laurie thinks something is up. And someone is waiting in the sewers of Haddonfield, biding his time… This movie takes a huge shift that is, admittedly, jarring, so I can see why some people are frustrated. But I thought that it was a bold choice, and that it looks more about the traumas of not only one person, but that of a community, and how that trauma can cause a rot. I really enjoyed it.

TV Show: “The Midnight Club”

Okay, so I wasn’t a Christopher Pike reader back when I was a child consuming horror. I was an R.L. Stine girl, man, I had my loyalties! But I am, right now, a Mike Flanagan person, and I knew that I was going to devour his newest mini-series, “The Midnight Club”. Based on Christopher Pike’s YA horror novels from the 1990s, this is the story of Ilonka, a teenager girl who is about to go to Stanford… but is then diagnosed with thyroid cancer. As she researches her condition, she finds out about Brightcliffe Home, a hospice home for teens with cancer, in which a teenage girl in the 1960s attended, and mysteriously went into remission after being lost in the woods. When Ilonka gets there she joins The Midnight Club, where the teens get together late at night to tell ghost stories. And then strange things begin happening. Flanagan once again masters the scares and the emotional aspects of this story, and the cast is great. And while the teen characters are all wonderful (my favorite is Ruth Codd’s angry Anya), the slasher fan in me was more amped about Heather “Nightmare on Elm Street” Langenkamp as the doctor in charge. Also it takes place in the 90s, so NOSTALGIA ALERT!

Not Just Books: September 2022

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

Amazon Prime Show: “The Boys”

This show has been out for a while (season 3 came out this year, I believe), and it’s the kind of think that you’d think I’d immediately jump on, being right in my favorite genres wheelhouse. However, I heard a lot about how dark it was when it was first released. And in the midst of all the turmoil of raising small babies, I just had a hard time wanting to work myself up to watching something supposedly so dark. But I’m so glad I finally got to this! And, yes, it is dark. But I also think the show does an excellent job of balancing these darker moments with healthy doses of heart and humor. I never turn off an episode feeling depressed or pessimistic, which is the kind of dark that I was anticipating and the kind I’ve struggled with watching more recently. This, on the other hand, is decidedly goring, graphic, and unafraid of killing its darlings. But it’s also just fantastically written with incredibly solid character at its heart.

TV Show: “Alone”/”Alone: Frozen”

We got a double dose of “Alone” this summer/fall! Not only was there the most recent, regular season, but immediately following that started up a new show focusing on returning contestants getting set out only a few short weeks before winter sets in, with the goal of lasting 50 days. I really enjoyed the regular season (I particularly liked this year’s winner and their unique strategy for outlasting competitors). And this new show is also quite good with some of favorite past contestants returning for another go. I definitely have a favorite and have my fingers crossed they’ll do well! It’s also all the more gratifying watching this show from the couch as I can begin to see the signs of fall and winter coming for me and appreciating my cozy blanket and wood fire place.

TV Show: “The Great British Baking Show

It’s that time of year again!!! And the first episode is always the most fun for my husband and me. For several years now, we’ve had this game going where we have to pick two bakers each and see who can get farther with a baker still standing. Not to brag or anything, but we’ve been shockingly good, often coming up with the top 4 bakers picked from the very go of it all. We’ve also never failed to pick the winner between us (though I’ll brag more and say I’ve won more often and most recently, having picked last year’s winner.) We’ll see if our streak can continue! And even if not, who cares? There’s no way to not have a great time with all of this wholesome British baking goodness.

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Cobra Kai”

IT’S BACK!!!! I don’t know what we did that earned it coming back before the end of the year, but “Cobra Kai” dropped Season 5 in September and I was, of course, immediately obsessed. I love having Johnny Lawrence on my TV screen so that I can bask in all his himbo glory. When we left off in Season 4, The All Valley Tournament had ended with Cobra Kai beating Eagle Fang/Miyagi Do, and Terry Silver getting Kreese out of the way while Johnny and Daniel closed their dojos doors. Oh, and Miguel ran away to Mexico to look for his father, as he felt rejected by his surrogate dad, Johnny. So jumping in had high tensions and high emotions from the get go, and I was ENTHRALLED AS I ALWAYS AM! The drama! The goofiness! The heart! JOHNNY LAWRENCE!! I still love this show and it’s self awareness of how goofy it can be, but also how it can hit so many emotional beats and address trauma in fairly thoughtful ways…. And did I mention Johnny Lawrence? I’m still in love with Johnny Lawrence.

Film: “The Black Phone”

This one has been on my list for a long time, and when it dropped for rental on streaming I decided to make an evening of it. So on my solo trip up North this past month I sat down one night with my dinner in my hotel room and loaded it up. And it did not disappoint! Based on the Joe Hill short story (published in “20th Century Ghosts”, which is now called “The Black Phone” thanks to the movie), it follows a teenage boy named Finn who is kidnapped by a predator called the Grabber. While sitting in his basement cell, an old black phone rings, and when Finn answers, it’s the voices of the Grabber’s previous victims, giving him information on how to escape. I love the short story, and I thought that the movie was a good adaptation. Ethan Hawke is unsettling as hell as the Grabber, but all of the child actors, especially Madeleine McGraw as Finn’s clairvoyant sister Gwen, were on point and effective.

Podcast: “Someplace Under Neith”

I’ve already highlighted this podcast, way back when it was first dropped, but I’m highlighting it again for a few reasons. The first is that they are now in the midst of their second season, as unlike other podcasts I tend to listen to they do have chunks of episodes and then extended breaks. The second is that now that my kid is in preschool for a couple hours a few days a week (good lord where has the time gone), I can actually LISTEN to my podcasts again in a reasonable manner, and this one was the first I caught up on. I still love how Natalie Jean and Amber Nelson take on cases and stories of missing and exploited women and girls, and how they shine a spotlight on stories that may not have as much notice or attention because of various unjust factors. Their righteous anger and advocacy also has some good balances of heart and humor as the two friends talk and banter, but it never loses focus and it never feels like its at the expense of the subject matter at hand. I’m glad I can finally keep up with more than just one podcast again.

Not Just Books: August 2022

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

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.

Kate’s Picks

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.

Film: “Prey”

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.

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