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.

Not Just Books: July 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

Netflix Show: “The Umbrella Academy” Season 3

This is such a weird, weird show. And I love it so much. It’s one of those shows where you literally can’t guess what’s going to happen. And even if you try, you’re probably off by several degrees of insanity. This season, however, also really hit towards all of the feelings. The crew has been through a lot, and when they find themselves in the middle of a third apocalypse in the same number of weeks, they all react in very different ways. On top of that, the new version of the world they are existing in never had an Umbrella Academy. Instead, they have an entirely new group of powered individuals called the Sparrow Academy. And they’re not fans of our time-travelling dysfunctional family. If you like wacky shows about crazy families, this is definitely one to give a shot!

Movie: “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”

We waited until this came out on Disney+ to get to it. And while I think that some of the more crazy action sequences would have benefitted from a big screen, for the most part, I think this was the right choice. Don’t get me wrong, this was a fun movie in and of itself. But there were also some story choices that I was bewildered and disappointed to see (I’m looking at Wanda’s entire arc here). And Dr. Strange seemed often like a side character in his own movie. I’m also starting to feel a bit confused and concerned about exactly where Marvel is heading with all of these stories. I feel like every single movie I’ve seen from them recently has ended with its own, unique cliffhanger that points to a different big bad and different overarching conflict. At least with Thanos, as long-heralded and slow-coming as he was, we knew where we were headed. Now? I mean, pick any one of the five bread crumb trails, and best of luck to you! That said, Marvel fans should probably check this out, just in case this is, in fact, a precursor of things to come!

Movie: “Encanto”

I’m rather behind my Disney/Pixar watching. I haven’t seen the last several, in fact, since “Frozen 2.” But my kids listen to Pandora Disney almost every day, so I pretty much had pieced together this movie’s story purely by the ability to sing all of the songs in entirety. But on the plane ride back from ALA 2022, this came up as one of the options. Plane rides are stressful at the best of times, so I figured that that was the time for a happy Disney movie is ever there was one. And this movie was everything I expected it to be: fun, funny, and full of great music. I do have to say that I’m a bit sad to not see any romantic storylines in the last several movies that Disney has put out, and I’m bit confused by the decision. But this was still an enchanting film about family and self-acceptance and it was a great way to pass the time on the plane.

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Only Murders in the Building”

Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez are back for more Upper West Side hijinks in this darkly funny and utterly charming show about murder and secrets in a snooty apartment building. I only recently picked up the end of Season 1 (for whatever reason I fell off even though I liked it so much), and it was just in time for Season 2! I wasn’t sure how they could believably make a Season 2 happen, but they did. Picking up immediately at the end of Season 1, Bunny, former head of the Arcadia Board, was found dead in Mable’s apartment, and she, Oliver, and Charles are the prime suspects. But once they were released with a warning, they decide that not only do they need to clear their names, they now have fodder for Season 2 of their podcast! Martin, Short, and Gomez continue to have great chemistry, and the show is suspenseful, funny, and still super bittersweet when it wants to be. And the new mystery is just as intriguing as Season 1, which is a bonus!

Film: “Compulsion”

This is an entry that isn’t new to me, but it had been a LONG time since watching it. When my favorite podcast did a series on the notorious murderers Leopold and Loeb, they mentioned this film, which I had once been super into because of a adolescent fascination with the case. For the unfamiliar, they were a pair of hyperintelligent teenage killers who murdered a fourteen year old boy just to prove they could, but were caught because one dropped his glasses at the scene of the crime. A media frenzy ensued. This is an adaptation of that story, and it is pretty well done. Not only are the two killers well portrayed (Dean Stockwell is the Leopold character and he’s intense!), but Orson Welles is their attorney, who is based on progressive lawyer extraordinaire Clarence Darrow, who defended the teenagers in real life. My friend Mark and I watched this on my patio and it held up after all the years I hadn’t watched it. And Welles gives a fantastic monologue about the hypocrisy of the death penalty that is SO damn good, which is very heavily based on Darrow’s actual closing arguments.

Film: “Last Night in SoHo”

So this is kind of funny as I had been looking forward to this one, but then I heard some not so great things about it and decided to hold off. And THEN my Terror Tuesday group wanted to watch it, so I figured why not, and ended up really enjoying it! Part mystery, part horror story, part coming of age, it follows Eloise, a young fashion design student who moves from her small town to London for her studies. When she seeks out independent lodging, she rents a run down flat, and as she dreams she starts having visions of a mysterious woman named Sandie. Sandie wants to be a star, but falls into an abusive relationship and starts being pimped out. And then is perhaps murdered. Eloise wants to solve what happened to Sandie, but the visions become more disturbing and more violent as other specters start to haunt her as well. I thought that the imagery was really striking, and while Eloise was a bit of a drip I really liked Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie. It’s unnerving and posh and creepy and supremely entertaining.

Not Just Books: June 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

Disney+ Show: “Moonknight”

I know very little about the original Moonlight character other than he was essentially Marvel’s answer to Batman. So it was fun learning more about this character via this show! Fans of the character will likely notice a lot more than I did (for example, I think the show frames the original set-up in a unique way that even a newbie like me could spot). But it’s still a fun ride even for the completely uninitiated. Oscar Isaac is great, as always, and this show gives him a lot of room to really show his range. But the surprise character was Ethan Hawke’s stand-out villain. I really had fun with this show and am excited to see where it goes from here and how Moonknight fits in with the rest of the Marvel cast.

Movie: “Argo”

Here’s another movie that everyone watched and for some reason I never got to until a decade later. I think I was hung up on Ben Affleck, and I’m not even sure why. It’s not like he’s a bad actor, but I think I still had a long memory on things like “Pearl Harbor” and “Armageddon.” Anyways, shocking take, but I really liked this movie! I honestly didn’t even know that much about it going in, and I was way more stressed out watching it than I had expected. I don’t really know who to recommend this to since I really think I’m probably the last person on the planet to see this movie, so….

Kate’s Picks

Mini Series: “Pistol”

I have a vivid memory of being sixteen years old and walking into Sam Goodie with my Mom, holding some saved up allowance money and looking for a CD to buy. I decided to go with “Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols” specifically because my Mom was vaguely horrified by it. I’ve been a fan ever since. When I heard that Danny Boyle was making a mini series about the band (based on the fantastic memoir “Lonely Boy” by guitarist Steve Jones), I was amped. “Pistol” is a dramatization of the formation and implosion of my favorite punk band, as well as an examination of post-War Britain and how the fed up disenfranchised youth found ways to rebel through fashion, music, and anti-fascist ideology. And yes, the Pistols have a lot to do with that. The cast is great, the music is great, and while the show clearly takes some license with the story, I very much appreciated how the series handled the Sid and Nancy storyline (aka, they weren’t romanticized or demonized; they were portrayed as the messed up kids they were). I especially loved Sydney Chandler as Chrissie Hynde, Jones’s friend and on again off again lover, who is a music icon in her own right.

Film: “Fire Island”

I’m not the Austen fan that Serena is, but when I found out that “Fire Island”, a queer rom-com by Joel Kim Booster starring himself and Bowen Yang, was a gay retelling of “Pride and Prejudice” I was SUPER interested. “Fire Island” follows a group of five friends who are on their annual trip to Fire Island. Noah and his friends are looking forward to a fun vacation, though Noah is determined to find somewhat shy Howie a date. When they meet Charlie Howie is smitten, though Noah does NOT like Charlie’s friend Will… You can probably guess where it goes from here. Not only is this movie so sweet and romantic, it’s also pretty damn funny and a savvy update of a classic literature tale that is well loved. As someone who has heard second hand stories about Fire Island from friends, it also captures the insane vacation crazy vibe that the destination island is, and made it seem way fun, if not a little overwhelming. It’s also great seeing not only gay representation in rom coms, but also stories starring AAPI characters. If you like “Pride and Prejudice” and want a cute rom com, seek this one out!

Joint Pick

Event: American Library Association Annual Conference 2022

It had been so long since we attended ALAAC, and this one in 2022 was a grand return after being swiftly rebuffed by COVID in 2020. And it was everything we hoped it would be…. as well as a hotbed of political turmoil. That said, we were able to meet some authors we were interested in (Angeline Boulley! R.L. Stine!), hear some speakers we were excited for (R.L. Stine again!), and get far too many ARCS of books that we then had to maneuver through our bags to get on the plane home! But it was also fun being in D.C., as we took a little time to see the sights, have some nice food on patios on very lovely evenings, aaaaand go down to the Supreme Court the day Roe was overturned and make our disgust and anger known. All in all, it was a successful conference. Perhaps we’ll be back next year in Chicago.

Not Just Books: May 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

Netflix Show: “Bridgerton” (season 2)

While I enjoyed the first season of “Bridgerton” well enough, I wasn’t head over heels in love with it like some other fans. To be fair, the first book in the “Bridgerton” series wasn’t my favorite to start with, so the show had an upwards battle to begin with. Combine that fact with the fact that the second book was one of my favorites in the series, I was very nervous going into this second season. What if they ruined one of my favorite couples in the series?? What if they messed up Kate, one of the best heroines in the series?? Thankfully, they nailed it! I mean, on one hand, that should have been more of a given seeing as I think this love story was more translatable to modern audiences than the other. But they also seemed to re-focus the story on the sort of romance that most historical romance fans expect to see. Where all the tension builds in the ball scenes, where the briefest flick of a finger towards one another is as hot as any more graphic scene, where the first kiss is delayed until the 6th episode, believe it or not! Honestly, I loved this season and will likely rewatch it again soon.

Disney+ Show: “What If…?”

For all that I enjoy comic book movies (though my preferred DC characters have been sadly done badly by recently), I rarely watch any of the animated shows or movies. I made an exception for “Into the Spiderverse” of course because by all accounts that was…exceptional. But I’m also hoping to go see the new Dr. Strange movie soon and I had heard that a dedicated viewer would be served well by watching this show before that. So, here we are! I will say, I enjoyed it more than I was expecting, especially at first. When they say “what if” they really mean it. There are some truly, truly bizarre versions of these stories and characters. But then the show made an unexpected turn towards the final third which really pulled it all together in a way that I wasn’t anticipating. Fans of the Marvel series, and especially fans of animated comics, should definitely check this one out!

Movie: “Operation Mincemeat”

My husband and I pretty much ended up watching this because the preview was the first thing that popped up on Netflix when we logged in. So, I guess props to their algorithm this time? The story is of a British spy operation that set out to mislead the German army during WWII. To do so, they set up an elaborate ploy using a washed up body to deliver false information. It was a really interesting story, and definitely one of those true stories that is hard to believe was real until it’s fully confirmed with the follow-up facts right before the credits role. There are also a bunch of well-known British actors involved, so the quality was high all around. Definitely check it out if you’re interested in historical movies.

Kate’s Picks

Film: “X”

I made a whole night of sitting down to watch “X”, the slasher homage art house horror movie from A24. My husband was out of town, so I put the kid to bed, ordered in a whole lot of Indian food, and settled in. I had been looking forward to “X”, and it did not disappoint. It’s 1980, and a crew of pornographic filmmakers and actors go on location in rural Texas in hopes of making a great adult film that brings artistic flair to the genre. They are using a shed and guest house that belongs to an elderly couple, who don’t know what the crew’s intentions are. Until the wife observes just what it is they are filming. From there, things get twisted, violent, and really really creepy. “X” has a lot of love and references for the grind house slashers of the day, with a lot of nods to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and the entire feel of it just oozes nostalgia while creating something that feels fairly modern in its sensibility. I especially liked Mia Goth as Maxine, the lead actress who has dreams of stardom, but fears that it’s just out of reach. As well as her turn in another less obvious role. Ti West always has some creative horror perspectives, and “X” was no exception.

TV Show: “The Flight Attendant”

I had thought that Season One of the HBOMax show “The Flight Attendant” was a standalone series, as there was only one book it was based upon and it wrapped up pretty well (outside of Rosie Perez’s character Megan going on the lam after inadvertently giving U.S. secrets to North Korea… oops). So when it was announced there would be a second season, I was a little skeptical, thinking there wasn’t much else that could be explored in Cassie’s life, post nearly being murdered after getting caught up in an international murder. But I was wrong! In Season 2, Cassie has tried to get her act together: she has moved to L.A., has a new boyfriend, and prides herself on being one year sober. She’s also now an asset for the CIA thanks to fellow flight attendant/CIA agent Shane. But when she witnesses a murder, and the murderer seems to be trying to take on her appearance, her precariously placed new life starts to unravel. Kaley Cuoco is still hilarious but heartbreaking as perpetual mess Cassie, and it’s great seeing Zosia Mamet back as her acerbic best friend Annie. The new plot is just as compelling as Season One, and Cuoco is given even more emotional meat to chew on. I’m hooked again.

TV Show: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

After not being as into Season 3 of this charming show, I wasn’t in a rush to start Season 4. But my husband, after waiting a month or so, was insistent we put it in the media rotation. I’m happy to report that “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has once again risen in quality, perhaps not as high as the first season, but certainly to levels I was happy about! Fresh off of being fired from a world tour with singer Shy Baldwin (I still contend she deserved it and the show probably needed to make it clear she deserved it), Midge and Susie are back to square one, and Midge decides she wants to stop being an opener and start headlining. Taking a job at an illegal burlesque show is clearly the jumping off point she’s looking for! I thought Midge got some good growth this season, I liked seeing more emotional sides to Susie, and Tony Shaloub continues to shine as Midge’s constantly exasperated father Abe. This season his leftist past is a bit more explored as he writes for the Village Voice and he may reveal too much about some of the things he participated in. Next season is the last season, and they’ve set up some interesting final storylines. Hopefully it’s not too long of a wait!

Not Just Books: April 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

TV Show: “Chernobyl”

Per the usual, I’m over a year behind the fads of the shows everyone’s watching. For this one, it’s purely because I had to work myself up to being able to watch it. When it came out, I was right in the middle of new babydom and knew my emotional state was not in the right place for the super depressing scenes that were sure to come. And now, a year later, it was still a tough watch! Likely because I now ended up watching right in the middle of the war going on in Ukraine. Really made some of those images of bus loads full of fleeing individuals hit harder than usual. Not to mention some of the crazy stories coming out recently of Russian soldiers dicking around near Chernobyl and being exposed to radiation. I think it really comes down to casting, though, for this one; the performances were all so strong! I highly recommend it if you haven’t watched it yet. Though you’ll definitely need some tissues on hand.

TV Show: “Sick Note”

While I’ve seen a few different things with Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe in them since the “Harry Potter” movies came out, I haven’t seen Rupert Grint in anything else. Which is actually pretty shocking since I think, of the three, he was by far the strongest actor if you look at the entire collection of movies. Watson and Radcliffe came into their own and are both good now, but Grint’s comedic instincts were strong from the start (I’ll avoid my rant about how they ruined Ron by making him only a comic relief character). This show tells the darkly funny story of kind of loser-ish young man who finds himself diagnosed with cancer. Only to later find out that that was actually wrong. But how to walk back a cancer declaration when your life has seemed to improve by being sick? It’s a really funny, fun show. Though, be warned, it does end on a bit of a cliff-hanger in the second season and the show was later dropped (stupid Netflix strikes again!)

Video Game: “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey”

It’s been way too long since I’ve really dove into a video game. Much to my own dismay and probably my husband’s relief. I do become rather obsessive when I find one I like! I played the original “Assassin’s Creed” years ago and then promptly missed every release since then. But I saw this pop up on discount on my console (so, yeah, I’m one of those people for whom the ads work, I guess) and thought it was time to jump back in. I love the open world format and the beautiful landscapes that you explore in this story. I also really like the main story and some of the side objectives. I find it particularly satisfying slowly ticking off a list of evil cultists, for example. Fans of the series may know better than me how this installation stands up to others, but I, for one, am having a blast!

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Our Flag Means Death”

About a decade ago now (oh lord that’s insane to type) when I worked at a local museum we had an exhibit about pirates make a stop, and I was one of the employees who worked inside of it. My coworkers and I made up elaborate stories involving pirates such as Blackbeard and Sam Bellamy in which they were absolutely sleeping with each other, just to pass the time on the museum floor. Well, “Our Flag Means Death” is basically that. But far more witty and hilarious. It follows Stede Bonnet, aka The Gentleman Pirate, as he and his hapless crew sail the seas in search of adventure, and do so with hilarious results and lots of humorous scrapes to be had. But when Bonnet and his men run into Blackbeard and his crew, things get interesting, as Blackbeard and Stede form an instant connection. Meanwhile Stede’s crew is making connections of their own, from the foppish Lucius and snide Black Pete to the mysterious Jim and down to Earth Oluwande. Love stories about, diversity in abundance, and seriously hilarious performances by Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi (as well as SO SO ACHINGLY BEAUTIFUL).

YouTube Channel: “Fundie Fridays”

Back in December, I was completely hooked on the news coming out of the Josh Duggar Trial. As someone who has always found the Duggars, and really any fundamentalist group and or/cult, to be freak show levels of fascinating, I was tuned in to see if he was going to be convicted of possessing some of the most horrendous child sexual abuse materials ever known while being propped up in a group that is incredibly harmful to its women members and throws a lot of bile and venom towards the LGBTQIA+ community (and he was, thank goodness). While following it with one of my friends, she told me to check out Fundie Fridays, a YouTube channel in which a woman named Jen does her make up and talks about various fundamentalist Christian groups and personalities. I held off because I knew once I did, I would be consumed, and this month I dove into it. And, yes, was fully consumed. Jen covers all sorts of topics, from the Duggars/IBLP, to the FLDS, to influencers like Girl Defined and Brittany Dawn, and also branches out to non-Christian zealots like Heaven’s Gate and Aleister Crowley. Jen is VERY funny, and can be snarky, but she is also very respectful of people who are unassuming victims of these groups, and does a lot of research. She definitely gives more grace than I probably would.

Film: “The Batman”

It’s been a lot of outside looking in for me as movies have started exclusive first runs at theaters again, as I’m still limiting my public indoor time since my two year old can’t be vaccinated yet. One of the movies I was anxious to see was “The Batman”, the new interpretation of my beloved caped crusader/weirdo. So the day that it dropped on HBOMax I sat down and dove in. And oh man, it was one hundred percent my jam. “The Batman” is a noir-esque unhinged and yet completely in control version of the Batman universe in dark, gritty glory. There are serious “Se7en” shades here, and yet even though I don’t like “Se7en” it really works in this context. Robert Pattinson is a young Bruce Wayne, two years into his time as Batman, when Gotham’s rich and powerful start being targeted by a sadistic Riddler. He teams up with Selina Kyle to try and figure out who the Ridder is, and how deep the corruption the murderer hopes to expose runs. Pattinson plays Bruce as a good mix of weirdo and noble, Zoe Kravitz is a very enjoyable Selina/Catwoman, and Paul Dano is TERRIFYING as Riddler. It is a nice darker version of Batman without being super pretentious, and it makes me want to re-read “The Long Halloween”.

Not Just Books: March 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

HBO Show: “Station Eleven”

I know Kate has read this book, but somehow I never got around to it. For one thing, I know I have a limited ability to read post-apocalypic fiction; if I read too much of it within too short of a time span, I just get depressed about humanity. I blame “The Road,” the most grim of all grim stories. So I went into this mini series a bit wary. But low and behold, I really enjoyed it! I do thing there were some fairly large plot holes regarding the villain of the story, but I loved the main character’s arch. The story jumps back and forth in time, and I think this style worked really well in tying together a lot of disparate storylines that came together in very cool ways throughout the series. I definitely recommend this one to fans of post-apocalyptic stories, especially those looking for stories with a bit more hope at the center of the story.

Netflix Show: “After Life”

Apparently, I was in a grim mood this month (though, like I said, “Station Eleven” was more hopeful than I had predicted it would be when I started it). This one, however, the story of a man grieving the loss of his wife, was definitely pretty dark at times. There ultimately, again, a message of hope at the end. But the story went into some pretty shockingly dark places before it got to that point. It was an odd mix of laughing out loud one second and being extremely uncomfortable the next. There’s a second season out for this show, but even with the hopeful ending, I still think I need a breather before getting to it. This was a great show, but people should definitely go in knowing that the story tackles dark subjects like suicide, drug use, and some fairly nihilistic thought paths.

Movie: “Chaos Walking”

I was a huge fan of the “Chaos Walking” book series. That being the case, I was skeptical about the success of a movie based on the story. There are several elements that would be particularly hard to bring to the screen. Then the movie released and garnered a pretty large number of negative critical reviews. And that’s when my inner contrarian struck, and I felt the need to actually watch the thing. And, all in all, I really enjoyed it! I think the movie came up with a really clever way of depicting the “Noise” (men’s thoughts that are projected outward for everyone to hear). And the casting all around was excellent. They had to change quite a bit of the story, knowing that it might have to stand alone as a film without the second two parts that the books have. So that being the case, the Mayor, the most complicated and interesting character in the books, had to be reduced down quite a bit and dealt with in a different way. That said, I still liked what they managed to do with him. Plus, Tom Holland’s sheer charm and charisma is enough to carry almost any movie for me at this point!

Kate’s Picks

Film: “Scream (2022)”

1996’s “Scream” was my foray into slasher movies, as I know that I saw that in middle school before I dipped my toes into the “Halloween”s, “Friday the 13th”s, and “Nightmare on Elm Street”s of the world. “Scream” remains one of my favorite horror movies. I even mostly like or at least appreciate all the sequels! When they announced that a fifth movie was coming out, I was hopeful but nervous. After all, it had been awhile, and we’d left the Golden Trio of Sidney Prescott, Dewey Riley, and Gale Weathers alive and well. But my horror movie club finally sat down to virtually watch “Scream 2022” (or “Scream 5” or “5cream”) after a few of us had passed on the theater experience due to Omicron…. And it was so damn fun! Set about twenty five years after the first movie, a new Ghostface has started targeting the teens of Woodsboro, the victims having some connection to the original killers and their friend group. When Samantha’s sister Tara is attacked, Samantha reaches out to Dewey for help in hopes of stopping the killer. And Dewey, in turn, reaches out to Gale and Sidney, who come back to town for one more showdown. With sly nods to the original, more subversions of the genre, and a really likable cast, I thought that “Scream 2022” was a good new installment!

Film: “The Runaways”

My love for punk music started in high school, my Discman having a healthy rotation of Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Clash, Patti Smith, and others at the ready. One of those bands was The Runaways, the teenage girl punk group that launched the careers of the likes of Joan Jett, Lita Ford, and Cherie Currie. But oddly enough I had never seen the biopic “The Runaways”, which centers on Jett and Currie, and how the band rose and crashed. That is, until this month! And while I knew pretty much all the facts that it covered, it was still a really enjoyable, if at times difficult, watch. When teenage Joan Jett forms an all girls band called The Runaways, their manager Kim Fowley recruits Cherie Currie to be the lead singer. As the girls become popular and start touring, drugs, mayhem, and Fowley’s manipulations and exploitation starts to take tolls on all the girls, Currie in particular. Dakota Fanning is good as the unstable Currie, Kristen Stewart was BORN to play Joan Jett, and Michael Shannon brings the right levels of disgusting sleaziness and eccentricity to their piece of shit manager Fowley (I mean, after all, this is the guy who thought it was a GREAT idea to sexualize fifteen year old girls for profit). And the music, of course, rocks.

TV Show: “The Righteous Gemstones”

I’m always up for some good satire that takes on and takes down the hypocritical machinations of zealous religious organizations and the people who run them, so I don’t know why it took me so long to watch “The Righteous Gemstones”. Especially since I have a deep deep affection for John Goodman (it’s a damned crime that man has never even been NOMINATED for an Oscar!). But I finally started it this month, and hoo boy, it’s hilarious. It follows the Gemstones, a family of televangelists who have created an empire based on fire and brimstone theatrics. Goodman is Eli, the aging patriarch, whose adult kids are all aching for the fame and fortune that he has created as he mourns the death of his wife. But when oldest son Jesse (played perfectly obnoxiously by Danny McBride, who also wrote the show) finds himself the subject of blackmail, he enlists sister Judy and brother Kelvin to help keep the Gemstones family getting the money and attention they have become accustomed to. Every character is awful (outside of Keefe, a former Satanist who was ‘saved’ by Kelvin and is now his bestie), but all the actors play their roles VERY well. And the dark humor and take down of religious grifters is great! Oh and I have a not so tiny thing for Walton Goggins and he’s in it too, so bonus!

Not Just Books: February 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

Sports: The Winter Olympics 2022

This year was a tough one for the Olympics, mostly because it’s hard to watch it and enjoy it without thinking of some of the humanitarian crisis that China is embroiled within. The ongoing doping issues with Russia was also a big splash of cold water one one of my favorite Olympics sports, ice skating. But there were also incredible moments for sports lovers in general. Touching stories of redemption. Fantastic feats of skill and sportsmanship. These are the stories I watch for, and while this year was definitely more challenging than other years, I still enjoyed tuning in nightly to see athletes from around the world perform such amazing things on the world stage.

Amazon Show: “The Wheel of Time”

I’m so intimidated by this fantasy series. So long, so many books, such a commitment. I had a half-hearted thought to just read along with the series of the show, like reading only the first book before watching the first season. But honestly, even that seemed like a lot and, well, I caved and just watched the show anyways. Hopefully some day I will tackle this series, but for now, I did enjoy seeing it brought to life on the screen. And while the story didn’t grab me as much as I had hoped (the acting was all aggressively just fine, other than Rosamund Pike who is always awesome), the gorgeous cinematography and costume design definitely had me intrigued. I’m hopeful that as the series continues I’ll become more invested in the actual characters, but for now, I did enjoy it well enough.

Movie: “A Quiet Place 2”

I really loved “A Quiet Place” when my husband and I saw it in theaters right when it came out. I also really, really hated the idea of a sequel when it was announced. The ending of the first movie was so poignant and hopeful that I couldn’t imagine where the story could go from there that wouldn’t damage the excellence of that first movie. Well, I’ve been proved wrong! While I still think the first movie is the superior, this second entry still stood up well on its own and took the story in new and interesting directions. It also was so tense that I could barely make it through the last half. My poor husband can attest to the fact that I was practically jumping out of my seat because I couldn’t handle the building drama. Fans of the first movie who may still be on the fence should definitely give this one try!

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Pam and Tommy”

I was in grade school when the infamous Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee sex tape made waves across pop culture. I remember the scandal vaguely thanks to entertainment TV shows, but I also have a vague recollection about all the jokes that were made about it. Looking back at it now I like to think that society has realized what a disgusting invasion of privacy it was and really no joking matter. So I’ve been enjoying “Pam and Tommy”, the Hulu series that dramatizes it and shows just how goddamn horrible it was. The show follows not only the leaking of the tape itself, but also the whirlwind romance of Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson, and how this tape did significant damage to their relationship, and also to Pam’s reputation. Sebastian Stan is pretty fun as Lee, but it’s Lily James who shines brightest, as she completely becomes Pamela Anderson, and brings out all of the vulnerability and helplessness that this poor woman must have felt during this horrifically traumatizing moment.

Film: “Nightmare Alley”

As someone who has absolutely adored Guillermo del Toro since I saw “Pan’s Labyrinth” in the theater, imagine how crestfallen I was when his newest film “Nightmare Alley” came out exclusively in theaters during the holiday season when I wasn’t feeling comfortable going to the movies. But hey, I can be patient, and eventually “Nightmare Alley” dropped on HBO. So on Valentine’s Day, my husband and I decided that it was the perfect night to sit down and watch! A bleak choice for a romantic date, but whatever. It follows Stan, a potential psychopath who joins up with a sideshow carnival out of convenience as he runs from a mysterious crime. While there he starts to take up the grift of fortune telling and mentalism, and when he and sweet sideshow act Molly take his show on the road, his hubris gets them both into some dangerous situations with shady characters. This remake of a 1940s noir is dark as hell, but Bradley Cooper as Stan is fantastic, as is Cate Blanchett as a femme fatale psychiatrist. This is, for me, del Toro’s darkest film yet. but it’s also beautiful to look at.

Music: The “Peacemaker” Soundtrack

Okay, obviously “Peacemaker” is still very much at the front of my pop culture consciousness this month. Seriously, I LOVED THIS SHOW. But as we were watching it together my husband and I were like ‘damn… this soundtrack is awesome’. And I’ve pretty much been listening to it on a loop all month. It’s mostly the kind of music that Peacemaker himself would listen to, which is, specifically, glam metal. I think that before this soundtrack became my obsession I would have probably ranked glam metal fairly high up there on my preferred music genres, but now I’ve come to realize that it’s absolutely top three behind New Wave and 70s/80s punk. From the likes of Pretty Boy Floyd to Faster Pussycat to Hanoi Rocks to Mötley Crüe (see above: this month also finally prompted me to buy a vintage Crüe tee shirt), the soundtrack also has some Lita Ford, and, of course, the earworm that is “Do Ya Wanna Taste It”, the opening song to the show which is also possibly the best opening credits of all time. As Peacemaker says, “There’s never a wrong time to rock!”

Not Just Book: January 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: “Wind River”

I just stumbled across this movie on Netflix while mindlessly scrolling the other night. I’ve always liked Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson has really been moving up my list as well recently, especially after her excellent performance in “WandaVision.” After a girl has found dead in the woods in rural Wyoming, a wildlife game tracker and an FBI agent team up to track down the culpable parties. It’s a dark, grim look into the ongoing tragedy of the number of Native women who go missing each year, never recorded and never given justice. I thought the movie did a really good job diving into the struggles that are found on reservations and the ease at which these young women can fall through the cracks.

Movie: “The Electric Life of Louis Wain”

Another stumbled upon movie! But this one drew me in for a few specific reasons: historical biographical movies are a favorite of mine; Benedict Cumberbatch is always excellent; and the story heavily featured cats. Yes, cats. The movie follows the life of Louis Wain, a British man who is responsible for the hundreds of cat pictures that you’re likely familiar with from the Victorian era (the original “Three Little Kittens” images, for example). It was a lot darker and more depressing than I expected, but it was also an excellent exploration of mental illness and hope in the face of darkness. Cat-lovers, especially, should check it out!

Disney+ Show: “Hawkeye”

Two Jeremey Renner shows/movies in one post! But my husband and I have been diligentlyh working our way through the Disney+ Marvel mini series, and we finally finished them all up with “Hawkeye” this month. I have to say, I might have enjoyed this one the most! I think “WandaVision” was probably the best, really, but I had a lot of fun watching this one and definitely laughed the most during this one. Renner and Hailee Steinfield had great chemistry, and I was really surprised by Streinfield’s comedic chops. This series also had a lot of fun surprises of the sort that were perfectly primed for me towards characters that I’ve enjoyed from other Marvel properties. If you’ve liked the other Marvel mini series, this is definitely one to check out!

Kate’s Picks

Netflix Show: “Cobra Kai”

It’s back, it’s back, it’s finally back! My favorite Netflix show (and probably favorite show on TV right now) finally dropped Season 4 on New Year’s Eve, and let me tell you, our Omicron avoiding isolated New Year was filled with “Cobra Kai” and it was GLORIOUS. When we left off last season, Johnny and Daniel decided to team their dojos up to go up against Kreese and his Cobra Kai students in hopes of running him out of the Valley forever. As one could imagine, it doesn’t go smoothly, and the students of both Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang are left to try and learn new styles and team up while their senseis spar. I am still madly in love with Johnny Lawrence in all his sullen himbo glory, and once again teenage MVP Miguel shines bright and fills me with all the joy. But it was the return of “Karate Kid 3” villain Terry Silver that created the most interesting waves this season, as this secondary antagonist gets to chew some scenery while still acknowledging that his very existence and characterization in his origin movie is ridiculous. So when do we get Season 5?

TV Show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

Admittedly, I wasn’t super into Season 13 of “Drag Race”. I don’t know if it was the fact I didn’t really connect with many of the queens, or if it was the strange set up of splitting them up from the get go into winners and losers of initial lip syncs, or what, but I was not super invested and only watched here and there. So I was thinking that Season 14 may be another challenge. But I can say that as of right now, my worries have been assuaged, and I am enjoying this newest regular season! No more bullshit Winner’s Circle and Porkchop groups! So far the girls seem less manufactured and more genuine! I already have a few queens I really like (Kerri Colby, Kornbread, Willow Pill)! I’m hoping that it will sustain itself, because if we could get a stellar season after a stellar “All Stars” cycle that will make my “Drag Race” fix a bit more sated than I was last year!

HBO Max Show: “Peacemaker”

As I mentioned back in August, I really enjoyed James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” for the campy, snide, ultraviolent rollercoaster it was. When it ended with the news that John Cena’s Peacemaker was actually still alive, and that he was getting his own TV show, I was sort of intrigued, but also a little skeptical. Not that I didn’t like Cena’s performance, as I did, but I wasn’t sure if the character could carry a show. Well I’m happy to say that I was wrong, because “Peacemaker” is a hoot. Picking up where “The Suicide Squad” left off, Peacemaker is out of the hospital and thinks he’s off scot free… until he’s recruited again and badgered into service for a black ops group, this time targeting beings called ‘butterflies’. It goes as well as to be expected. Not only is Cena charming and funny, but the supporting characters are all fantastic. My favorite is Danielle Brooks’s Leota, the daughter of Amanda Waller who is new to the group and pretty much the opposite of her mother. And it has AMAZING opening credits. Oh, and FAR more pathos than I was expecting. Like, sobbing into my hands pathos at one point. I am REALLY enjoying this show.

Not Just Books: December 2021

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

TV Show: “Miss Scarlet and the Duke”

I’ve had my eyes on this one for a while, but I was waiting for an open chunk of time when I could binge watch the entire six episode season. And that time finally came last week when the boys went to their Grandparents’ and I had a free day at home! So binge away I did! And I can’t really say I was surprised by it, I knew I was going to love it going in! Historical mystery featuring a woman investigator and her gruff and grumpy companion with whom she shares a bantering, quasi-flirty relationship? All of those are my things! So yes, I really liked this and now am eagerly awaiting season 2.

Movie: “Spider-Man: No Way Home”

Again, on said free day from the boys, my husband and I took advantage of our time and went to see this movie on opening night. It was a great theatrical experience all around! There are a lot of spoilers for this movie, so I was glad we got in early so we were able to experience it with fresh eyes. It was also fun being part of an audience who was doing the same: gasping at the same moments, applauding on and off throughout, and generally just having a great time! I really, really liked this movie. Probably my favorite of the three new Spider-Mans and definitely in my top picks of all of the Marvel movies. If you’re a superhero fan, this is definitely one to see!

Podcast: “Binge Mode: Marvel”

Given how much I enjoyed Binge Mode’s podcasts for “Game of Thrones” and most especially “Harry Potter,” it was only a matter of time before I got to this! But having watched a few other Marvel movies recently and knowing that the new “Spider-Man” was coming out this month, I thought now was the time to dive in! As usually, this podcast is great. They dive into all of the origins and easter eggs fo the movies that only the most avid comic readers would have recognized. They also do great work tying together the themes and larger moving story that connects all of these movies. A really fun cast!

Kate’s Picks

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

So I actually didn’t sit down and watch “All Stars” Season 5, for a couple of reasons. The first was that I was still bitter about how my girl Manila Luzon was screwed out of her rightful crown in Season 4. The second was that I LOVE the winning queen with all my heart, but it was pretty clear the moment she walked into the workroom that she was going to win Season 5. After not watching 5, I was less motivated to start 6. But on my birthday I decided to finally start Season 6, and my gosh! I was completely blown away by the sheer talent that almost every returning contestant brought to the competition! There were so many worthy queens who were bringing it every week that I genuinely had no clue who was going to be added to the Hall of Fame by the end of the season! I also finally got to see the new elimination format, and I really liked it this time around (especially since it cuts down on the possibility that a weaker queen could eliminate a stronger one after one off week). This season was really enjoyable, and I was happy with the winner (and would have been happy with ANY of the Top 3 winning)!

TV Show: “Succession”

For awhile I’ve been seeing the social media hype for HBO’s dark comedy “Succession”, about a morally bankrupt billionaire family that has a hold on media but is constantly at odds with each other, and decided to give it a whirl this past month while baking Christmas cookies. And man oh man, did the hype live up to itself for me, as I am officially addicted to this show! As mentioned, it follows the powerful Roy family, a media dynasty that is very clearly a take on the Murdoch family, as their patriarch Logan starts to shift his focus on how the power would suss out after he passes away, much to his children’s chagrin. Especially the chagrin of heir apparent Kendall. When that succession line comes into question, Logan’s other children start to think about their OWN positions. It’s dark and bleak but super funny, and while there isn’t really anyone to root for, I’m supremely entertained by a lot of the characters (in particular Greg, the hapless and clueless great nephew of Logan who just kind of ends up caught in the web by happenstance).

Film: “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”

This is absolutely not a new film to me, but it had been a LONG time since I had last watched it. Like, potentially almost fifteen years or more, which is really shocking to me given how much “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” meant to me when I was in middle school! It’s a movie about Romy (Mira Sorvina) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow), who are best friends living together in kind of monotonous existences in L.A. When they run into old classmate Heather (Janeane Garofolo), they hear about their upcoming ten year high school reunion, and decide that they want to go… But have to make up lies to be more impressive to their classmates. Sorvino and Kudrow have great chemistry, it’s a SUPER 90s flashback of a movie, and while middle school Kate was a Romy type I can safely say that as a thirtysomething I FULLY relate to sardonic and bitter Heather. Also, my husband had never seen it, which was what prompted the viewing in the first place.

What have you enjoyed this month?

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