Not Just Books: December 2018

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

MV5BMTU0OTc3ODk4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzM4NzI5NjM@._V1_Movie: “Roma”

I just got done watching this movie yesterday, so it was quick to come to mind when thinking what to highlight this month in this post. I hadn’t even heard of this movie until, when browsing Netflix, my husband spotted it and mentioned that he had heard of it. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, this movie was definitely different than much our typical watching-fare. It’s in black and white and is a foreign language film, detailing the life of Cleo, a young maid working for a wealthy family in Mexico City. The story is quiet, contemplative, and then will hit viewers with a bang at the most unexpected moments. It’s also a story of the strength of women and the complicated roles they can play in each others’ lives. It’s also definitely Oscar bait, but I still very much enjoyed it and strongly recommend it!

The_Sims_3_Refresh_CoverComputer Game: “Sims 3”

To follow that lofty note of true art, I also had a Saturday shift this month and got super bored. So what to do? Download “The Sims 3” and play it all day, of course! As a kid, I played the first two versions of “The Sims” pretty obsessively. We won’t get into the rather ridiculous and maybe even messed up things that my friends and I did with that game (…we MAY have created and proceeded to kill a bunch of Sims so that we could have a hundred tombstones in our cemetery…). And I think I might have played “Sims 3” at one point or another, but definitely not to the same level. So it was high time to get back into a quality time-waster such as this. What exactly is the true appeal of trying to re-create your actual life on a virtual platform, two pet cats and all? I’ll never know, but I sure as heck enjoyed it.

p15885732_b_v8_acTV Show: “Jeopardy!”

We don’t have TV, so we’re not one of those families who sit down and watch this nightly. No, we’re probably even worse: we’re the kind of family who, upon seeing that there are now seasons available on Netflix, spent the next week binging entire “Jeopardy!” championships. Yes, we have an exciting life, don’t get too jealous. But, in all seriousness, I’ve always enjoyed this show, so it was fun to find some of it available to stream. Kate and I are on a trivia team together, so she knows how bad I really am at trivia. But for some reason, the format and kinds of questions featured on “Jeopardy!” play better to my strengths. Though it’s still a fight to get an answer out before my husband, who is a trivia guru. We also had an exorbitant amount of fun choosing favorites and least favorites from among the tournament participants.

Kate’s Picks

iconTV Show: “King of the Hill”

If you were to ask me what my favorite animated TV Show of all time is, I would absolutely say “King of the Hill”. It follows the various anecdotes from the daily lives of people living in a small Texas town called Arlen, with the main focus on Hank Hill and his wife Peggy and son Bobby. It’s understated and sardonic, with the kind of humor that is highly quotable while still staying firmly in reality. I have loved this show since it was on the air for it’s 13 Seasons, and when I saw that it was back to streaming on Hulu I was overjoyed. While I do love all the characters on this show, the biggest stand out for me is the paranoid and eccentric Dale Gribble, whose complete lack of chill is far too relatable (though John Redcorn is a very close second). This show has so much heart and is so timeless, and episodes from almost twenty years ago still resonate today. If there was ever a comfort show for me, this is it.

PuhHRfNGbPs3MCRRIsm6WjrEsnn0DZAgVideo Game: “Let’s Go, Eevee!”

I have the fondest of memories of playing “Pokemon Blue” on my Gameboy back in high school. So when I found out that Nintendo was pretty much remaking it on The Switch, and this time you could start with Eevee if you so chose, I WAS SO EXCITED! “Let’s Go Eevee!” is pretty much a remake of “Pokemon Blue” (with “Let’s Go Pikachu” being “Pokemon Red”, which my husband got for himself), though it has added and tweaked some factors that make it a bit more immersive. You can play with your Eevee, you can have an additional Pokemon follow you around, so I of course picked Meowth, and you can see the unique personalities that each of your pokemon have. I was playing this game a lot during a stressful time this past month, and it really mellowed me out as I did so. If you have a Switch and have nostalgia for the original Pokemon games, “Let’s Go Eevee” and “Pikachu” should definitely end up on your list of games to check out.

theres-more-to-the-marvelous-mrs-maisel-season-2-than-meets-the-eye-750-1544444384-1_cropAmazon Prime Show: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

My favorite show about a Jewish Comedienne in 1950s New York is back!! When we left Midge Maisel in the Season 1 finale, her soon to be ex husband Joel had discovered that she was doing stand up with him as the punch line. When we get back into her life, we see not only the fallout from that, but we also see how high her star has been rising. Rachel Brosnahan continues to shine as the charming Midge, though this time around he has a few more moments of poignancy when it comes to her complicated feelings for Joel. And Alex Borstein shows exactly why she won an Emmy for her portrayal of Susie, Midge’s curmudgeon of a manager and confidant. And let me tell you, the moment Midge and her family went to the Catskills for an extended vacation, my husband and I were basically shouting in glee at the blatant proud Jewishness on display. Pride, man. This show is still marvelous.

 

Not Just Books: November 2018

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

mv5bodcwotg2mde3nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwntuynty1njm-_v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_Netflix Show: “Daredevil” Season 3

I’ve been pretty diligent with my Marvel Netflix show watching. That said, there have been some definite misses of late and I had started getting lazy. Truth time: I didn’t even finish the second season of Luke Cage. And honestly, given that it was cancelled shortly after, I count this as a lucky miss. But I’ve always loved “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones.” Both had stellar first seasons and second seasons that dragged a bit but were still good quality. So this is the first (and maybe last with all of the cancellations?!) of the Marvel Netflix shows to get a third season. And man, if this one is evidence of anything, it’s that some series can get even stronger as they go! This was not only the best season for this show in particular but vies for a tie with my ultimate favorite in “Jessica Jones” season 1. It’s also one of the few shows that fully takes advantage of its 13 episode format and doesn’t ever succumb to filler plot lines. I love the intense look into Matt’s Catholic faith that comes to the forefront in this season, as well as the payoff in such a well-defined villain as Kingpin has become. It ties things up quite nicely, but I can’t help but wish for a fourth season if this is the quality we can expect!

250px-survivor_david_vs_goliathTV Show: “Survivor” Season 38

It’s time once again for me to remind readers that yes, I still watch this long-running reality TV show and yes, I love it enough to post it publicly on this blog. Look, it’s not that I love reality TV in general, but I have weaknesses towards certain things and other than cooking contest shows (my other main reality TV fare), “Survivor” hits on them all. Drama, but not stupid, relationship drama. Outdoorsy survival situations. And physical competitions. There’s no denying that it’s pretty impressive that a show that started in what, 2000, is still on today. And it speaks to the lasting appeal of the concept. I mean, who doesn’t have fun watching others willing place themselves into situations where it’s pretty much ongoing suffering and betrayal? Beyond that, it’s always thrilling to see the players who truly excel, and this season has a great cast of characters, many of whom I’d be happy to see win. Of course, this means they will all lose, since it’s been a while since my ultimate favorite has won. But I can hope anew each season!

mv5bzwflnjnmntetytfkmi00njdklwe0mdgtzgyzowm4nzu0m2njxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndg3ota0nzq-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_Documentary: “The Tigers of Scotland”

Yes, that looks like a regular, old tabby cat in the picture. But guess what?! It’s not! It’s a Scottish Wildcat, the only wild “big cat” in the UK. I had never heard of these cats before, but when I saw this documentary floating around Netflix, of course I jumped on it. I mean, cats…need I say more? The hour-long documentary discusses the fragile state of the Scottish Wildcat, noting that there are perhaps only less than 100 living wild in Scotland today. Conservation efforts, challenges, and the unique makeup that marks the Scottish Wildcat as a distinct species are all covered. Plus, it’s just gorgeous and there are a lot of shots of adorable cats. I can attest to the fact that the show is only improved when watched with one’s own feline companion sleeping on one’s lap.

Kate’s Picks

80688Podcast: “Casefile”

As a true crime aficionado and true crime obsessive, I’m always on the look out for true crime podcasts that can keep me sated until the next episode of “Last Podcast on the Left” or “My Favorite Murder” is released. One that I have recently started listening to is “Casefile”, a podcast from Australia. Like “Last Pod” and “MFM”, “Casefile covers a litany of true crimes from all over the world, but unlike the previous two it is far more ‘just the facts’ without the humorous commentary. The host is an anonymous Australian man who tells the stories with a serious tone, and the cases range from murder to The Dark Web Silk Road to theft to fraud. For those of you who want accuracy, the research is impeccable. If you like true crime but aren’t comfortable with the shows that combine as such with black humor, “Casefile” might be a good fit for you! I’ve found it very informative and fascinating.

mv5bztc2zdq1odmtndzlys00zmeylthlotqtnjg0mgflzjkzyjhlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyoduxotu0otg-_v1_TV Series: “The Good Place”

I’m not horribly late to this show, as I did watch Season 1 on and off earlier this year, but it wasn’t until I got my husband into it that I really dove headfirst into “The Good Place”. This incredibly hilarious and also supremely heart felt show not only explores day to day ethics and philosophy, but it showcases a stellar cast whose chemistry is off the charts. Everyone is cast perfectly, and the plot lines are whimsical as well as dark. And even though there is something of a surprise ending to Season 1, Season 2 is able to roll with some interesting changes and upheavals. We’ve been enjoying unwinding with this show this month, as it really does know how to make the viewer feel pretty good as well as think deeply about philosophical hypotheticals.

220px-red_dead_redemption_iiVideo Game: “Red Dead Redemption 2”

I never played “Red Dead Redemption” back when it came out, but like many popular games it had been in my husband’s library. I had heard a lot of buzz about “Red Dead Redemption 2”, and was already interested in it because of what I’d heard. Then I decided to give it a whirl, and boy am I glad that I did. I’m not big into Westerns, but this game definitely has a lot of themes within it that I do enjoy: loyalty, morality, justice, and just plain out being an outlaw. I’m not very good at it (shooting games are really tough for me mechanics wise), but there are enough side missions and open world sandbox aspects that I can just pet my horse, fish, and wander around to my heart’s content, helping people along the way. And yeah, screwing others over is pretty fun too.

 

Not Just Books: October 2018

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

dragon_age_iii-2514302

Video Game: Dragon Age: Inquisition

I love Skyrim. It’s probably my favorite video game up to this point. But, sadly, I’m starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel as far as how much is left of that game (I’ve been drawing it out foreeevver at this point). So, I started looking around to find something similar, and this game popped up. I haven’t played either of the two to come before it, but I thought, why the heck not, and jumped in on this, the third. For one the word “dragon” was in the title. And for two, the graphics and general fantasy setting seemed very similar to Skyrim. But, of course, they are very different games. This is the first game of this sort that I’ve played where part of the game is learning the tactical and strategic management of a party of characters other than your main story character. It’s taken some getting used to and patience, but I think I’m finally getting there. There’s also an overwhelming amount of quests and things to do, but that’s probably for the best. I need something to tide me over for the likely YEARS remaining before the next Elder Scrolls releases anyways.

mv5bmjaynzkxotu5mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtk1otyznjm-_v1_sy1000_sx800_al_TV Show: “Supernatural”

What would fall be without a return to the world of “Supernatural?” Honestly, with the start of season 14, I really don’t know! I’ve been watching this show since college and that’s way longer ago than I would like to think about. But, of course, we’re back and with Dean now possessed by the archangel Michael, the question remains: will this last for 2 episodes or will they stretch it out to a full 3?? After 14 seasons, fans of the show know one solid truth: the heart of this series is Dean and Sam together. Any fiddling with that recipe has lead to disaster, so it’s not a matter of if Dean will be rescued; it’s not even a question of when. Instead, it’s just how quickly will the show manage to resolve this current hiccup before returning us to our usual, brotherly love programming?

mv5bmje2mdiwmdu5ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtkxntgznjm-_v1_Movie: “Free Solo”

A few years ago, my husband and I struck on a bizarre movie fixation that we shared: fascinating/horrifying documentaries about mountaineering/climbing. There’s some hard-to-pin down thrill about the combination of wonder at the gorgeous cinematography, terror of heights, and shared judgement over the sanity of the individuals involved that makes for a great movie-going experience. So for our anniversary this year (yes, this is how much we enjoy these types of films), we decided to check out “Free Solo,” the documentary following the build-up to and experience of Alex Honnold becoming the first man to climb the El Capitan Wall without ropes. It’s terrifying, people! During several portions of the movie you could look around the theater and literally see the entire crowd squirming in their seats (and this was a sold out theater, so that should also speak to the quality of the film.) Knowing the end result does practically nothing to diminish this discomfort. Honnold was also a surprisingly charming and witty individual. Though, yes, we still left the theater questioning his sanity.

Kate’s Picks

mv5bmtu4nza4mdewnf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtqxodyznjm-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Netflix Show: “The Haunting of Hill House”

As a big fan of Shirley Jackson’s original novel, and the fabulous 1963 film adaptation (we are NOT going to talk about the 1999 abomination), I was a little skeptical when I saw the trailer for “The Haunting of Hill House”. Who were all these people, and what did ANY of them have to do with a paranormal investigation into an old haunted mansion? And while “The Haunting of Hill House” on Netflix is a very loose adaptation of the book it comes from, I really, REALLY enjoyed what was done with it. Instead of trying to recreate the entire story from the book, the show creates a new set of characters who take traits from the original ones. This time it’s a family that has been haunted by a traumatic living experience in this house, and how they have all fallen apart because of it. It’s not only pretty dang scary, it’s also one of the most emotional shows that I’ve seen in a long time.

220px-halloween_28201829_posterFilm: “Halloween” (2018)

I first saw the original John Carpenter “Halloween” during my freshman year in high school. While the people I was watching with weren’t as affected as I was, I was completely taken in by the tension and dread surrounding the story. Michael Myers was sufficiently terrifying and Jamie Lee Curtis was the perfect heroine as Laurie Strode. The rest of the series (outside of “Halloween H20”) didn’t really do much for me. So when I found out that the new film “Halloween” was going to retcon everything after the first one, I was excited. Instead of being the long stalked sister, in “Halloween” (2018) she is a tough, traumatized mother and grandmother who is waiting for Michael to come for her. Because she’s ready for him this time. This movie not only got back to the nitty gritty of the terror and suspense of the original, it showcases Curtis as the powerhouse she always as been, as well as introducing other lady characters who are here to take care of business. It is the sequel that “Halloween” has always deserved.

chilling-adventures-sabrina-netflixNetflix Show: “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

I had been waiting for this to come out for a long time, and now it’s here. Given how much I loved the comics, I was pretty excited to see what Netflix did with “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”. And while it didn’t go AS dark as the comics did, I think that there are a lot of things to like about this show. The cast is pretty great, with Kiernan Shipka playing the titular teen witch, but I thought that the real MVPs were Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis, who play Aunts Zelda and Hilda. While both of them could be two dimensional caricatures (Zelda as the stern true believer and Hilda as the bubbly optimist), they each give the aunts depth and nuance. While there are some moments that come off a little cringey (some of the optics weren’t totally well thought out), overall I think that “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is an entertaining and fun tale about witches and the mortals they care about.

 

Not Just Books: September 2018

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

mv5bmtk3ndy5mtu0nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwndi3mde1ntm-_v1_sy1000_cr006791000_al_Movie: “Mission – Impossible: Fallout”

I actually watched this in August but somehow forgot to include it in that list, so it’s going on here! The “Mission – Impossible” series is one of those strange beasts that somehow has gotten better with age. Not only do we all want to check in to see what crazy stunt Tom Cruise will be pulling off this time, but the cinematography with how said stunt is shot has gotten better and better. Chock full of action, this lasted movie leans in on all that was great with the ones before it. The cast is phenomenal (though I will always hold the weird blurred section on Superman’s face in “Justice League” against this movie as it was the mustache Cavill had to grow here that they were trying to cover up). The action was non-stop. And it was even fun to see a few familiar faces from movies past. If you’re a fan of the franchise, this is a worthy next entry.

mv5bmjizmdcymdcxov5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtg1ndk2ntm-_v1_Amazon Prime Show: “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan”

So apparently it was an action movie/show type of month for me, as my second pick features yet another franchise heavy weight. This time it’s John Krasinski who takes on the titular role, and does an excellent job of it (to no one’s surprise). I’ve seen several of the past movies, but haven’t read any of the books, and the character was always only mildly interesting to me. But Krasinki’s effortless charm brings a new level of soulfulness to the standard action hero, and the show wisely learns lessons from other successful mini series, especially that shows like this often live and die on the strength of the villain. And here they devote a good amount of time to developing the villain and even, at times, making him a sympathetic character. The show was also incredibly tense at times, and I’m sure more than one kitten was squeezed more than he would have liked as I watched.

mv5bntrjnta4ymetnmu5zc00yjfjltk0yzmtnmfhzdi0zgyxnmi5xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtk3ndawmzi-_v1_Netflix Show: “Safe”

Telling the story of a father who lives with his family in a gated community when he teenage daughter goes missing, “Safe” is both comfortingly familiar as well as interestingly new. “Broadchurch-like” could almost be a genre of its own at this point,  and this would fall well within that as the story plays the same mind games by introducing a wide cast of suspects all hiding their own secrets. However, it is an interesting twist plotting the story around a missing girl rather than than a known murder. The question of whether she’s alive or not is its own mystery for much of the story. While I, like many, was horribly burned by the ending of “Dexter,” I always liked Michael C. Hall, so it’s a blast to see him in action again. Yes, the accent is weird at first (the story is set in England), but after a while, even that faded as I focused in on the secrets that were slowly be revealed.

Kate’s Picks

220px-hamilton-posterMusical: “Hamilton”

Yep. I saw “Hamilton”. It is currently running in the Twin Cities, and my mother was one of the lucky people to win the lottery to get a time slot to potentially be able to buy tickets. And yes, it was that complicated. But she scored four, and my husband and I went with my parents (it was a birthday gift to him from my folks). I had high hopes that it was going to be good, because after all, I enjoy the soundtrack. But even with that knowledge I couldn’t anticipate just how excellent it was going to be. The music is, of course, phenomenal, but actually seeing the players on stage was a whole other experience, and everyone was great. Not only is it entertaining and in a lot of ways informative, it’s also an incredibly emotional show. By the end of the show I had been moved to tears multiple times, and all of us really loved the performance.

mv5bmjm0mda2ndeznf5bml5banbnxkftztgwodyznjg4ntm-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_TV Show: “You”

It’s finally here!!! Near the inception of this blog I read “You” by Caroline Kepnes, and really enjoyed it. Since that first read, I’ve re-read it multiple times, as I am downright obsessed with Joe Goldberg, the psychopathic stalker extraordinaire. You can imagine how excited I was when I found out that Lifetime was turning the Joe Goldberg books into a TV series, and now that it’s started airing it’s been so great to see on screen. Penn Badgeley is a VERY good Joe, and while the show has tweaked and made some changes to the book (some of which I’m not COMPLETELY on board with yet) it has really captured the essence of the narrative at its very heart. It’s been so fun seeing the various moments from the book play out, from mentions of a red ladle to ‘engine engine number 9’ (if you’ve read it you know what these mean), and two episodes in I’m completely hooked.

mv5byzg2zdq3mjctytqxyy00nzljlwe5mtgtyzjimmm5ztmyyjnkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjywnda2mde-_v1_uy268_cr00182268_al_TV Show: “The Purge”

I first saw the original “Purge” movie a few years ago, and found beneath the horror movie surface a story that had a lot to say about American society, specifically how the ‘haves’ victimize the ‘have nots’. For the unaware, the basic premise is that an extremist political party known as the New Founding Fathers of America is now the dominant party, and once a year they hold a Purge, in which all crime is legal for twelve hours.  The TV series takes place on the 10th Purge, and follows a number of people during the twelve hours, from a man looking for his sister, to a liberal minded couple who is wooing NFFA big wigs in hopes of getting funding for a charity project, to a woman who has a grudge against her colleagues, to a mysterious masked ‘purger’. It continues to ask a lot of good questions about who would support The Purge, and who would be victimized by it.

Not Just Books: August 2018

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

mv5bndvkyju0mzctmwrmzi00ntkxltgwzwetowvhyjzlyjllymu4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynta4nzy1mzy-_v1_TV Show: “Friends”

This is a definite guilty pleasure for me! I was late to this bandwagon (and probably just too young to be interested), so I watched this originally sometime during college and blazed through it. I don’t even typically watch sitcoms, but the amazing chemistry between every single member of the cast is truly what made this show stand out to me. And so, this month which has been filled with more exhaustion and illnesses than should be allowed in summer, this was a natural choice when I just need some comfort TV watching. Sure, some of the jokes don’t age well, but I don’t care, I’ll give it a pass all day long and have no regrets! And it took several episodes for me to re-gain my deafness to the laugh track. What a weird thing that existed?! And watching comedies now without it and going back to it? Very bizarre! But I’ve still been enjoy the heck out of it. #ChandlerAndMonicaAreTheBestCouple!

mv5bytdhnwmwytmtnzq3oc00odzjlwi0yzqtyjvlodziowvlytjlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynta4nzy1mzy-_v1_sy1000_cr007071000_al_TV Show: “Luther”

This one comes with a massive caveat: DO NOT WATCH PAST THE SECOND SEASON! But those first two, quite good! Of course, the main reason for me to tune in was Idris Elba, cuz, duh. But I’m also a fan of detective mysteries and the fact that it’s a BBC production just made it all the more appealing. Plus, when the police don’t have guns, the action is much more fun to watch than you see in the typical America-based crime stories. Luther is an interesting character himself, living just on the line between good cop and slightly crooked (as far as doing what is morally right, but maybe not legally right), which added a lot of interesting depth to the story telling. And then season three happened…my husband and I were watching it and honestly started wondering whether the writers were drunk when they were scripting it? It’s hot trash, especially if you’re at all familiar with crime investigations. The disbelief is impossible to suspend. But those first two seasons, go for those!

28354-default-lLocation: Boundary Waters

Before said exhaustion/illness set in, my husband and I got in one more great summer vacation. This time we stayed in Minnesota but headed north to the Boundary Waters, a gorgeous natural wilderness that is part of the Superior National Forest. It’s made up of tons of lakes that you can canoe through, then pack up your canoe and portage (hike) over to the next lake, and thus and so criss-cross your way to some of the remote camping locations. We went for a three night trip and it was an absolute blast. I’ve grown up loving to hike and camp, but I had never been on a lake canoe trip like this, so it was definitely a unique experience. I’m sure we’ll be going again in summers to come!

Kate’s Picks

mr-mercedes-poster-mr-mercedes-tv-series-40549124-182-268TV Show: “Mr. Mercedes”

When I heard that they had turned the “Bill Hodges” Trilogy (all reviewed here) into a TV series, I was excited. When I heard that Brendan Gleeson was playing Bill, the retired cop trying to solve that one last case, I was ecstatic! But when I found out that it was on Direct TV, my heart sank, because I knew I’d have to wait. But I waited, and when it came out on DVD I got it from the library, and plowed through it. The first thing to love is the casting. Brendan Gleeson aside, you have Mary Louise Parker as his love interest Janey, Justine Lupe as my girl Holly Gibney, and a sinister and creepy Harry Treadaway as the villainous Brady Hartsfield. But this show also does a great job of showing the ins, outs, and quirks of small town life, making it feel grounded and focused in spite of all the upsetting and scary moments.

shawntaker“Sport”: Professional Wrestling

Back when my husband was a little kid, he LOVED pro-wrestling. Recently he started up watching the ‘big’ matches like the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania, and what started as me keeping him company has turned into a full on enjoyment, especially of old school matches. I like the soapiness, I like the characterizations that are so over the top and entertaining, and I like the actual acrobatics that some of these guys and gals do. Add in a local bar that serves excellent Mexican food AND shows vintage wrestling on the TVs, and you have a new mindless and fun past time for me and him. Sometimes we are on opposing sides (I’m team Undertaker and he’s team Shawn Michaels, so that match was contentious), but it’s really fun just taking in the dramatics and enjoying the show together.

mv5bmjmzmdyxnza3mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwndazndq4ntm-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Hulu Show: “Castle Rock”

We got our second Stephen King show on here, and let me tell you, “Castle Rock” is phenomenal. I had been on pins and needles waiting for this show to come out, and once it did it immediately hooked me. Henry Deaver returns to his hometown of Castle Rock, Maine (one seen many times in King lore), after the warden at Shawshank Prison committed suicide and a mysterious man was found caged in an abandoned cellblock. The man specifically asked for Henry. And this man may or may not be a demon, whose captivity kept possibly Castle Rock safe. The cast is phenomenal, with some King favorites, like Bill Skarsgård, Melanie Lynskey, and the amazing Sissy Spacek, and the King Easter Eggs are plentiful and fun to spot. Plus, the mystery itself is compelling. Who is The Kid, what is his deal, and what does Henry Deaver’s past have to do with it? It’s addictive, it’s chilling, and it’s SO very Stephen King (what with a prolonged act of violence playing out to the tunes of Roy Orbison). King fans should watch it, but so should fans of thrilling, mysterious plots.

Not Just Books: July 2018

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

mv5bmjqxnziznzi1mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtuzndk2ntm-_v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_Netflix Show: “Anne with an E” Season 2

While the first season of “Anne with an E” was met with varied responses, I was one of those who really enjoyed this new version of Anne’s story. I, of course, love the older version as well and the books themselves, but I don’t have the same nostalgic attachment to it as others do that would tinge my appreciation of another series going in a completely new direction. In fact, I very much liked not knowing exactly the way the story was going to go. Here, in season two, the creators and writers have doubled down on this “new version” of Anne and we see a good number of new story lines introduced. Not only did I love the increased action they brought to the story, but through these new avenues, the show was able to explore a variety of topics like racism and homophobia that weren’t addressed in the books. So yes, this isn’t the “Anne” you grew up with, but I, for one, enjoy now having both options at hand! Plus, Gilbert is as cute as ever.

mv5bnzixmjywndewn15bml5banbnxkftztgwmzk5mdi3ntm-_v1_Movie: “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

Of course I went to see this movie!! Was that ever even a question? And I, for one, don’t think it deserves the critical panning that is is receiving! Is it as good as the original? Absolutely not! Is it better than some of the other sequels? Definitely! Is it as good as its own direct prequel? Yep, I think it’s even better! Honestly, I think that “Jurassic World” got a big ole pass from the movie critics simply for being a Jurassic Park sequel that came after a long drought, and it threw in quite a few references and familiar musical themes to pluck the nostalgia threads. But other than that? It was kind of just ok. But where it struggled, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” improved upon. It got rid of the annoying nephews that no one cared about. The woman lead was given a bunch more to do and was generally made less intolerable. They allowed Chris Pratt to make more jokes. Plus, there was a lot more action in this one to keep you distracted when you brain started to wake up and question the somewhat suspect script. Plus, there was a scene towards the middle that legit made me cry. Not that that’s saying much…

mv5bn2eyyjrhzjqtyznhni00mdbjlwfhodqtztrlotkyytfkmjq1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjexmjk0odk-_v1_sy1000_cr007071000_al_Netflix Show: “The Frankenstein Chronicles”

This probably more likely falls under Kate’s usual genres, but I’m a sucker for Sean Bean and period pieces, so I thought I’d give this horror/thriller show a go. And I’m glad I did! Yes, it’s scaring the crap out of me, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the heck out of it. The story walks a thin line between science fiction/horror and mystery. What’s more, it often feels similar to many other detective stories, with the narrative following the investigation of Sean Bean’s character into a mysterious death of a child who washed up in the river and was made up of several children’s bodies sewn together. So, yeah…it’s fairly gruesome. But I do like playing the game “spot the British actor” and the beautiful cinematography and talented cast make up for some of its more icky bits. And no, I won’t reveal whether Sean Bean dies in this show.

Kate’s Picks

dg51ingu0aeyrqfNetflix Show: “GLOW Season 2”

My favorite Netflix show is back, and with it comes amazing ladies, some badass wrestling, and all the 80s nostalgia I could ask for! This season the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling have to contend with newfound fame, changing power dynamics, and the ugly and inevitable challenges of sexism and misogyny in the pro-wrestling world. While it’s hard for me to pick my favorite performance this season, Betty Gilpin’s turn as Debbie is particularly strong as she is dealing with the fallout from her divorce and her lingering resentment towards her ex friend turned wrestling partner Ruth. But then there’s Chris Lowell as Bash, the enthusiastic but spoiled fanboy turned producer who goes through some serious character growth. And I am of COURSE rooting for Ruth (Alison Brie) and Sam (Marc Maron) to JUST GET TOGETHER ALREADY. It’s such a good show. I need Season 3 yesterday.

mv5bzgvmmmixngetmtk1yy00ngiwlwe4mgmtytq5m2q1zte0ytqyxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjqzotm1ntc-_v1_uy268_cr40182268_al_Netflix Show: “Aggretsuko”

Back at the beginning of July my pal Laura and I were waiting to head out to a Sci-Fi Fantasy convention and were looking for a way to spend the time. She suggested that we watch an anime on Netflix about a red panda who combats the ills of work life with death metal. Does that sound surreal? It is. But it’s also SUPER CUTE AND FUNNY AND EXCELLENT. “Aggretsuko” takes Sanrio characters (you know, the Hello Kitty people) and makes a comedy about the drudgery of office life. Retsuko is a frustrated office drone who feels trapped in her job, her only solace being death metal karaoke. But when she starts to be mentored by two other women at the company who are higher up on the food chain, she starts to realize her own worth and find her self esteem. This show is adorable and all kinds of relatable when it comes to frustrating jobs, sexism in the work place, and the ups and downs of adult social lives. Did I mention a Sanrio red panda who does death metal karaoke?

the-sinner-poster-183bbTV Show: “The Sinner”

When I was visiting my old library to pick up some books, I saw the DVDs of “The Sinner” on the new wall. I had heard of it in passing, mostly that it was a mystery involving a murder, and so I grabbed it thinking that I’d maybe give it a whirl. Boy, once I picked it up I couldn’t stop watching. Jessica Biel plays Cora, a young wife and mother who, for no apparent reason, gruesomely murders a stranger in broad daylight on a very crowded beach. Bill Pullman plays Harry Ambrose, a detective who is assigned to the case. But what he thinks is an open and shut matter turns out to be far more complicated than he could have imagined, as Cora has a dark past with a lot of secrets, some of which she herself doesn’t even remember. I binged this entire series in about 24 hours time, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you like thriller novels (this is, indeed, based on a novel), “The Sinner” is going to be right up your alley.

 

Not Just Books: June 2018

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

mv5bzgjinju3ztutn2mxnc00ythjltgwn2etnmvmzjkxytuxnjfhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkzoduwnzk-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: Masterchef

I probably highlighted this last year too, but I’m too lazy to check. Either way, I always look forward to summers and the return of yet another cooking competion show. While “Top Chef” and “The Great British Bake Off” are still my favorites, this one has been running strong for several years and I’ve watched faithfully the entire time. The judges have been rotating quite a lot, so I was surprised to tune in for the beginning of this season and see the return of Joe and the lost of Christina. It was a mix of feelings as I always liked Joe’s utter lack of f’s to give about doling out harsh criticism. It wasn’t a true season until he threw someone’s plate of food into the trash can. But Christina had also warmed to me quite a bit over the last few seasons, and I appreciated the show’s attempt to try to bring baking into it a bit more through her expertise. Ah well, change happens. I’m intrigued by the new format of the three judges each having teams, so we’ll see where this ends up going!

mv5bmdeyn2u1ytitndy1zi00yjljlwi5yzitnwu3ywviyjhiztgxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjg4nzayota-_v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “Elementary”

OMG, it’s been FOREVER since this show was on! And by “forever,” I mean an entire year. For a show that had regularly started each fall, this was a big disappointment when I started scouring TV schedules last September and couldn’t find it anywhere only to realize that it had been pushed back until May. I mean, I guess if the choice was cancellation or turning it into a summer show, I’ll take this, but man, the wait was long. I need me some Johnny Lee Miller! It also feels like the show has been revitalized during this delay. I was never a fan of the whole Shinwell arc last year and was more than happy to hate on the character even more now that we can blame him for Holmes challenging mental health condition. I’m also excited to see the show introduce what hopefully will be a season-long through line about this mysterious villain lurking around in the background. I like the procedural elements of this show, but I’d also be happy if it added a few more “Dexter-esque” serialized villains, too.

rs-130097-snood-1800-1394566664Arcade Game: “Snood”

Let’s go back in time! As you will see later, Kate is following the more cutting edge games while I seem to be traveling back to the good ole 90s where gaming was much more simple. This wasn’t my own choice but instead that of my husband, while on several long plane rides this last month he insisted on downloading this old game and having us play it obsessively for hours at a time. And I have to say, it was quite addicting for being such a simple concept. I was also terrible at it. While he quickly pulled off complicated bank shots off the walls, I was lucky if I even hit the target I was aiming for that was straight ahead of me. Ah well. We can’t be good at everything. But I still had way more fun than one would expect. I mean, who needs inflight entertainment when you have this gem?

Kate’s Picks

unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-s4-poster-932x1140Netflix Show: “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” Season 4 Part 1

You know that this show was going to be on my list again, because every year I look forward to Kimmy, Titus, Jacqueline, and Lillian getting into dark and goofy hijinks all over New York. This season the show tackles a number of relevant issues in its own absurd, yet shrewd, way, from white privilege to sexual harassment to certain streaming services that make a WHOLE lot of money off of true crime documentaries, and I was laughing the entire way. Sadly, it is a short season with the first half out now and the second half coming out in the future, as it’s also the last season of this amazing show. I’m sad, but also ready to see where all of my favorite characters end up (please oh PLEASE let Titus and Mikey end up together!!!).

pokemon-go-news-942620Video Game: “Pokemon Go”

YEP THAT’S RIGHT, I FELL BACK INTO THIS GAME!!!! When it was announced that there was going to be a new Pokemon game on the Switch, I was pretty stoked. But then when they said that there was going to be a tie in to Pokemon Go, I felt a need to dive back into that addictive game. What I like about Pokemon Go is that it lets me fulfill my collecting desires, and that it makes it so (in good weather) my husband and I can go for walks and collaborate together on tasks, be it tracking Pokemon or teaming up to take on a gym. It’s just a fun little game. And while I may not know really any of the new generation Pokemon, going out and taking the steps to evolve the friggin’ flying dragonbeast Gyarados made the game TOTALLY WORTH getting back into.

70153390-1TV Show: “Criminal Minds”

Oddly enough, I only watched “Criminal Minds” on and off in college and didn’t really watch any more of it beyond then. You’d think that I would have been all over that show given that it’s about serial killers and the quirky and damaged people who hunt them. So I decided to jump in and watch the show on Netflix, and I must say it’s been a pretty breezy experience. While I have to imagine that it’s kind of lost it’s luster (it’s STILL ON), the older seasons are still chilling and highly watchable. I like trying to figure out the real life inspirations for some of the storylines, and I like watching the members of the Behavioral Analysis Unit track the killers. My favorites are ALWAYS going to be bubbly computer hacker Garcia, earnest wunderkid Reid, and no nonsense and sarcastic Prentiss. We’ll see how long I can keep going on this show (thirteen seasons, y’all), but for now I’m all in.