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?

Not Just Books: November 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

Movie: “Dune”

It was a rare day when my husband and I looked at each other and realized we an entire afternoon free from children with nothing planned to do. And so ushered in our grand return to theater going and “Dune” was the perfect film to reinforce the additional experience that is seeing a movie on a huge screen with all of the sound effects and ambiance that comes with that. This movie was gorgeous and the use of the sound effects in the theater were particularly effective. I haven’t read the original book or watched the David Lynch adaptation, so I knew only a few basic facts going in. That said, the movie does an excellent job of setting itself up for new viewers while also not dumbing down any of its story. If you have a safe way of doing so, I definitely recommend checking this one out in a theater if you have the opportunity!

Documentary series: “The Last Dance”

This is a bit of an odd one fore me. While I am a pretty big sports fan, basketball and the NBA have always been way, waaaay down on my list of priorities or interests. That said, as someone who grew up in the 90s, there’s no deny the absolute phenomenon that was Michael Jordan on the culture of my childhood. This is a ten part series, so it’s quite a commitment, but it was well worth the time. I knew most of the bullet points of Jordan’s career and life, but this added so much detail to his life and time in the NBA. It also went well beyond Jordan, diving into the experiences of many of the others involved in the Bulls’ historic run in the 90s. Here, there was a lot I didn’t know which threw a lot of new light on just how remarkable that entire time period was. Fans of sports documentaries, especially, should check this one out, though I think it might also be of interest to many who remember Jordan and the Bulls well.

TV Show: “Australian Survivor”

I’ve been pretty disappointed with the current season of U.S. “Survivor.” While there are interesting characters, the game is too bogged down with random twists and advantages to be much fun to watch. Enter: “Australian Survivor.” There are three seasons available on Paramount+ and man, what a refreshing experience they were! The show is largely the same, but it runs over 50 days instead of 39 (29 this season). This leaves it with a lot more emphasis on camp life and the interactions and strategies of the contestants. There are also a much more reasonable number of twists and turns. On top of that, all three of these seasons had fantastic casts. The last two had winners who I think are probably my favorite two winners of ANY “Survivor” season, so that’s really saying something. I definitely recommend it to fans of the show.

Kate’s Picks

Video Game: “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”

While it is true that I highlighted this game back in March of 2020, when it dropped, I’m coming back to it as a non-book highlight this month. I’ve been playing AC:NH since it came out, though it had been far more casually than it had been in the first few months. And then, Nintendo dropped a significant update at the beginning of November! And boy was there a lot to explore! My character’s island has a bunch of new things to toy with, from a coffee shop, to a new island tour involving a boat captain, to a new shopping and services feature where you can get your fortunes told, to my favorite new thing, FARMING AND COOKING! Yes, you can now grow your own crops, something the game kind of had already with fruit trees and pumpkins, but now it’s added more vegetables as well as recipes you can create with the bounty you grow. And given that November saw the start of explosive COVID growth here in Minnesota, having this escape to help soothe my anxiety has been much appreciated.

TV Show: “CSI: Vegas”

Back in high school my family had the TV shows that we would all sit down as a family and watch, specifically “The X-Files” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. But there were a couple that were uniquely shows that were for me and my Dad to watch together, and one of those was the original “CSI”. He recently told me that they had rebooted the show with new people called “CSI: Vegas”, and when I started it I was immediately a high schooler again, obsessed with this techy (if super unrealistic) procedural involving a crime lab in Las Vegas. As mentioned it’s a new lab team this time around, but we do have extended appearances from Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle, two of the original characters who are now married and helping the lab go through some old cases in order to help exonerate the lab from accusations of malfeasance. I love seeing Gil and Sara, but I also like the new team members. Especially Allie Rajan, a CSI who is determined, sweet, and possibly harboring feelings for a colleague. Sounds a lot like Gil and Sara, to be honest. Hope this show sticks around, because I’m loving it.

Podcast: “National Park After Dark”

I talk a lot on here about how I’m not really an outdoors person, but I do have to make exceptions when it comes to the National Park System. I LOVE OUR NATIONAL PARKS! I’ve been to a handful across the country and hope to visit many more. I also love real life mysteries and true crime stories, so “National Park After Dark” is obviously a podcast that I fell in love with. It’s hosted by National Park enthusiasts Cassie and Danielle, and covers stories of survival, tragedy, and the just plain unexplained in our National Parks. From the Yosemite Killer to haunted trails to a plane crash on Mount Rainier/Tahoma, they cover a lot of interesting stories that I am eating up like popcorn. And I’m adding more and more parks to my list of ‘must sees’. Well, they’re ALL must see, but perhaps bumping a few up in terms of priority.

Not Just Books: October 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

Broadway Show: “Frozen”

I’ve always had a really hard time coming up with suggestions for birthday/Christmas presents I’d like. Finally, a spark of inspiration came a few years ago and I thought to suggest tickets to live events that I’d typically have a hard time fitting in for myself. Then a pandemic hit. So I was gifted tickets to this show quite awhile ago, but finally, this last weekend, I finally got to see it! It was super exciting just to be out doing a seemingly normal thing again (as normal as it can be while wearing masks and having vaccine cards being checked at the door). But it was also a really fun show to watch. The music was great, and while the original-to-the-show songs weren’t quite as good as the originals from the movie, they still held their own. The actor who played Anna was particularly good, and of course, Elsa had a great closing song for the first act. It was also tons of fun just seeing all of the little girls in attendance wearing their princess dresses. The vibe, overall, was really fun.

HBO Show: “Mare of Easttown”

I really enjoyed limited series, dark, crime shows. But I’m also bizarrely picky about the ones that really stick with me. There’s a balance point in “likability” of the main character, I think. They’re often brooding characters with “a past” who “don’t play by the rules,” sure. But they still have to be someone I can like. For good example, David Tennant’s character in “Broadchurch.” For a bad example, Bosch in “Bosch” (man, I couldn’t stand that guy. There’s a reason type casting is a thing. That actor is a great bad/chaotic neutral type character. A hero, he isn’t.) All of that said, “Mare of Easttown” was a perfect find for me. Kate Winslet was brilliant as Mare, a troubled detective working to solve the murder of a young mother in her small town. The story was also very much about mothers and sons, a topic obviously near and dear to my heart. If you like murder mystery mini-series, this is definitely one to check out.

TV Show: “WandaVision”

My husband and I are slowly making our way through the Disney+ Marvel shows that have released over the last year or so. We started in order, so first up was “WandaVision.” I had no idea what to expect from this show (other than a healthy dose of dread and tragedy given the current state of things at the end of the last “Avengers” movie). Some wacky sit-com thing that jumps decades? Yes, yes that it was this is! But it’s also so much more. I can’t really talk much about it without spoiling some pretty big reveals, but I’ll say that I really liked this show. It was so, so weird, but all of that weirdness was grounded and held together by the outstanding performances by Elizabeth Olson and Paul Bettany. Besides these two, a few other familiar and surprising faces show up. Fans of the movies and fans of the comics will be pleased with these arrivals. Definitely check it out if you’re at all on the Marvel bandwagon.

Kate’s Picks

Netflix Show: “Squid Game”

I’m sure that just like a lot of other people, I hadn’t heard of “Squid Game” until it was seemingly everywhere AND on track to be Netflix’s biggest show ever. But it’s no surprise that as a person who loves dystopian hellscape stories, I really enjoyed “Squid Game”. People in crushing debt in South Korea are approached to play a game. If you survive six rounds of childhood playground games, you will earn billions of won. Our protagonist Gi-Hun is impoverished, out of work, and has a young daughter whose step father is going to take her and her mother to America. As he has no money, he has not footing to contest it. So of course he want to play…. Until it’s clear that if you don’t win a game or are eliminated, you die. I’ve seen a lot of people compare this show to “The Hunger Games” or “Battle Royale”, but I get a lot of “The Long Walk” vibes from it, as it looks at how the wealthy will exploit and abuse the poor for their own entertainment, and the lives the victims living before are so desperate they just keep playing. Chilling stuff. Addictive as hell too. My husband and I binged it over two nights.

Netflix Show: “Midnight Mass”

I really loved Mike Flanagan’s previous limited horror series “The Haunting of Hill House” and “The Haunting of Bly Manor”. I also loved his adaptation of “Doctor Sleep”. And his film “Hush”. Okay, I just love Mike Flanagan, so I definitely wanted to watch his newest limited horror series “Midnight Mass”. I didn’t know much going in, outside of it was based on a book he wanted to write but never quite did. But once I started, I realized that 1) it was going to be epic, and 2) I could only watch an episode a day, as the themes of religious zealotry and fanaticism were going to make me SUPER angry. A man named Riley returns to his home community of Crocket Island after serving a sentence for a drunk diving accident that left a woman dead. Just as he’s returning, a new priest named Father Paul arrives, saying that their previous Monsignor fell ill during his visit to the Holy Land. Paul begins to seemingly perform miracles, as a paralyzed girl walks, and a woman with dementia seems to heal and come back to life… But Father Paul is harboring a secret, a secret that he thinks is God’s instrument… But is anything but. This show is so tense, so emotional, and absolutely devastating as well as hopeful. Like other Flanagan works, have a box of tissues at the ready to go with the scares.

Netflix Show: “You”

It was a long wait to get to see Joe Goldberg again on my TV screen. Though not as long as the wait was on the page. Regardless, “You” Season 3 came out this month and you know I was all about it, texting my sister in law the night it dropped so we could dish dish dish! We follow our favorite obsessive serial killer Joe Goldberg to the suburbs, where he and his (psychopathic murderer) wife Love and he are trying to have a normal life for themselves and their son Henry. But fitting in in Madre Linda isn’t easy for Joe and Love given their predilections. And given that Joe just can’t seem to not obsess over another woman, that puts him in a situation of being not just the threat, but also threatened should his wife find out. I still love Penn Badgley as Joe, but it continues to be Victoria Pedretti’s Love who holds the keys to the part of my heart that loves a villain. Especially one as damaged as Love.

Not Just Books: September 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

Movie: “The Courier”

My husband and I happened on this movie purely by opening up Amazon Prime and clicking on the first movie with a recognizable face. Both of the main actors, Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel Brosnahan, were familiar from other things we’ve enjoyed…and that’s about all we knew. The story is based on real-world events where a British salesman ends up sneaking messages in and out of Russia during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a completely unfamiliar story to me, and entirely more stressful than I had planned for the evening. But it was a great film and the acting was superb. I recommend it for any fans of historical dramas.

TV Show: “Survivor” season 41

Covid has definitely thrown out all sense of normal, and one of the things to go has been my usual twice-yearly guilty pleasure show: “Survivor.” Well, at last it’s back! I was super excited to check out the first episode and, not surprisingly, things felt a bit disjointed after being off air for so long. I liked a lot of the twists that were introduced (lack of supplies, more choices that require strategic thinking). But there were also some big misses. The shortened length of time (while probably necessary due to Covid) makes it hard to get to know the cast even as we saw two go right off the bat. There were also a few awkward moments where the show may have been trying to make changes for the right reasons, but did it (twice!) in such the wrong way (performative and throwing some question marks on whose voice holds the most value) that they almost undercut the entire thing. Honestly, if they had just made this change quietly in the background without trying to get pats on the back from viewers, I’d have had a lot more respect for it. As it is…I think it didn’t play well. Ah well, what would the show be without these highs and lows?

TV Show: “Superman and Lois”

Of course I had to watch this show! I was a bit nervous going in, because, while I did watch all of “Smallville” back in the day, I didn’t continue with all of the other “Arrowverse” shows that came out since. And I knew that Superman and Lois both showed up in “Supergirl” on and off so I was concerned that I’d be lost without watching more of those shows (a huge time commitment at this point). But I’m pleased to report that the show stands perfectly well on its own. I was also a bit nervous about how I’d like a show that featured their kids so heavily. I’m usually there for the romance and action, not kid drama. But I did end up liking the choices that were made with the two teenagers. I also really, really liked Tyler Hoechlin as Superman/Clark. He perfectly embodied the character and is probably my favorite version of both characters since Dean Cain’s version way back in the 90s with my beloved “Lois and Clark.” Definitely check this out if you’re a fan of Superman stories!

Kate’s Picks

Video Game: “Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!”

I have never really dabbled in dating sim games, though I did give in and download “Choices!” on my phone at one point. But that’s my only experience. One week my husband said he was playing a really ‘strange’ game, and told me that I should give it a try. Like, said ‘it’s Friday night, I think you should play “Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!”‘. I didn’t really know what this game was, outside of him saying it was ‘strange’ and ‘dark’. So when I opened it up and it looked like a typical Japanese School Girl dating sim, I was confused…. Especially when I was bombarded with trigger warnings from the game itself warning me about ‘disturbing content’. So on the surface, “Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!” has you, the protagonist, join a school literature club with four cute girls, Sayori, Yuri, Monika, and Natsuki. But about halfway through it took a TURN. Which had me saying WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON over and over again. “Doki Doki Literature Club” is anything but a dating sim, and it messed me up in the best way a video game can. And that’s all I will say about it. Because you really gotta go in with little knowledge of what’s coming (but I will say take those trigger warnings at the jump seriously).

TV Show: “Only Murders in the Building”

Though it wasn’t super difficult for me to turn my back on scumlord Woody Allen and his movies, I will admit that the film “Manhattan Murder Mystery” was a movie I knew I would probably miss, as necessary as it was to cut it out of my viewing habits. But lucky for me, the new series “Only Murders in the Building” is VERY MUCH filling that admitted void. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez play neighbors in an upper crust Manhattan apartment building, who are all true crime nuts. When there is an apparent suicide in their building, they are all so intrigued by the potential for murder that they start investigating it themselves… and stumble into something potentially dangerous. On top of that, they, too, have their secrets. With hilarious results! Martin and Short are always golden and they bring their A game to this show, but Gomez keeps up with them with ease. The chemistry is there, the characters are hilarious, and the mystery is solid. And I love seeing all these characters bumble their way through an amateur murder investigation, with witty dialogue and legitimate suspense to boot. I also find myself feeling very clocked at the true crime fandom satire, so that’s fun.

Docuseries: “LuLaRich”

While I myself have not been taken in by Multi Level Marketing scams, I know some people who have. I’ve known people who have sold Jamberry, Pure Romance, Beach Body, and hell, even my grandmother sold some aloe vera based products through such a thing back when I was a little girl (that said, the muscle balm she had lasted for years and it was SO EFFECTIVE). I had heard of LuLaRoe here and there as a particularly predatory one, so when I saw Prime had a new docuseries on that MLM called “LuLaRich” I was definitely interested to check it out. And oh boy, was it an even bigger mess than I ever could have imagined. Essentially, LuLaRoe is a clothing based MLM that sells gaudy leggings, and after it exploded in popularity a few years ago everything imploded. Women were pulled into an unsustainable and predatory scam, and while some flew high, others fell hard after going into serious debt. “LuLaRich” exposes a lot of the behind the scenes drama, and it interviews not only former employees, but the super disingenuous and creepy married couple that is still in charge today. It’s frustrating and maddening and super messy, and we binged it in one night because we couldn’t turn it off it was so engrossing.

Not Just Books: August 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: “Alone” Season 8

Obviously, my husband and I immediately started watching this show when it started up this summer! I think it’s probably both of our current favorite reality series (honestly, probably his only reality series. I’m not classy and enjoy several). This time, participants are set down in a remote section of Canada that also happens to be the home of the most concentrated grizzly populations, so now all we have to do is wait for the first person to realize, oh, yeah, grizzlies really are that big! Also can’t wait to see who the first person is to leave for ridiculous pretenses and to award the prize for “most cool shelter.” Fun times!

Movie: “12th Man”

I watched this movie on a pretty big whim. I didn’t even know it was a foreign language film when I selected it, but that in no way hindered my enjoyment of the story. It’s based on a true story (oh, you know I went down a big rabbit hole about all the details after finishing!) of a Norwegian resistance fighter who survives a harrowing escape after being chased by Nazis for weeks. Very much like “Alone,” much of his story involves survival in terrible conditions with very little food. Unlike “Alone,” it features Nazis rather than grizzlies. But really, they’re both bad, so we’ll allow it. I really enjoyed this film. It’s both uplifting and also incredibly tense. It’s so amazing the things people can survive.

Computer Game: “Sims 4: Cottage Living”

When I get a chance, I do enjoy play a few computer games. “The Sims” has been a long-time favorite but I hadn’t returned to it in a while since the packs I have I’d pretty much wrung the enjoyment from. But then they released a new expansion, and I’m back in it! Longtime fans of “The Sims” have been clamoring for a farming pack for ages, and it’s finally here! There is so much cute stuff in this expansion, from the new building options, to the new clothes, to, of course, all of the great farm animals. I, of course, immediately formed very negative relationships with the chickens, so that was very true to life for me. It’s a super fun expansion, so if you’re a fan of this game, I’d definitely recommend it!

Kate’s Picks:

Film: “The Suicide Squad”

I, of course, love superhero stories, but honestly it’s the villains and the anti-heroes that truly hold the keys to my heart. While I didn’t see the first “Suicide Squad” movie (as I heard it was terrible), I did see “Birds of Prey” and enjoyed it. Because of that, I was very interested in seeing “The Suicide Squad”, James Gunn’s reboot of the supervillain turned kinda hero franchise. This time, the Squad, including Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Rat Catcher 2, and King Shark (one of my faves) have been thrown into the middle of a military coup in a South American nation, as the new government is hostile towards America. Oh, and there is also a potential scientific weapon that the government may be getting its hands on. So send in a bunch of hapless, kinda psychopathic, yet exceedingly charming criminals to take care of it. Margot Robbie is always a treat as Harley, but newcomers Idris Elba (Bloodsport), John Cena (Peacemaker) and Sylvester Stallone (King Shark, I KID YOU NOT) really sold it for me. It’s a really fun, over the top, hilarious and gory as FUCK movie, and I am SO happy that they got James Gunn to do this because he nails the tone.

TV Show: “Wellington Paranormal”

I love the vampire comedy “What We Do In the Shadows”, a faux documentary about a household of vampires living their undead lives in Wellington, New Zealand. One memorable scene involves Wellington police officers ending up at the house on a complaint call, and now those police officers (and a few more) have their own documentary comedy show, “Wellington Paranormal”. Officers Minogue and O’Leary have been selected by their superior Sergeant Maaka to be the members of the Wellington Paranormal unit, a division that investigates supernatural phenomena. They are competent but a little bit perplexed by what they see. Part “The X-Files”, part “Reno-911!”, this show has the dry and quirky humor of the movie it has spun off from, and I loved practically everything about it. Much like “What We Do in the Shadows” there are some great moments of meta horror and trope deconstruction, and it’s charming as all get out. If you love the movie (augh I still haven’t watched the show!), give this a try!

TV Show: “Reservation Dogs”

If Taika Waititi is attached to something I’m almost assuredly going to be interested, but I also saw a lot of hype for “Reservation Dogs” on Twitter by some pop culture and movie people I really like. Like, some people saying that it was the funniest show on TV hype. I decided to give it a try, and yep, it’s pretty damn funny. “Reservation Dogs” follows a group of Indigenous youth in rural Oklahoma. Bear, Elora Danan, Cheese, and Willie Jack are a group of friends that are hoping to escape their poverty ridden area for California, and commit petty crimes to make the money to do so. Hilarious misadventures ensue. “Reservation Dogs” is also a show that can tout the fact that it is a mostly Indigenous cast, and has a mostly Indigenous creative team working on it. Oh, and as if that isn’t awesome enough on its own, Zahn Tokiya-ku McClarnon is on the show as the police officer who is trying to bust the teens to no avail, and he is a hottie. Anyway, I’m really digging “Reservation Dogs”.

Not Just Books: July 2021

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

Serena’s Picks

Documentary: “The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young”

After watching “Eco Challenge” and reveling in my own laziness as I watched teams complete ridiculous feats of strength and endurance, it was only natural to jump into another such story. This time, a documentary on the strange, bewildering world of The Barkley Marathon, a crazy-pants race that embraces all the weirdness. For one thing, you have to be invited to participate. And then there are a bunch of random rules, like the fact that on the day of the race’s start, no one actually knows when it will begin until they hear the sound of a Conch shell being blown. And once the race actually begins, its a cross-over between endurance cross-country racing and one’s ability to navigate a largely unmakred trail. Oh, and it’s five loops of a brutal, uphill and down 20 mile track that must be completed within 60 hours. The thing is so crazy that it went years and years before anyone even completed it, and only 15 people have completed it in the race’s 35 year history. The documentary is not only a great look in the the history of the marathon, but it follows a particularly interesting year for the race itself. Definitely check it out if you want to be amazed at what the human body can do!

Reality Websites: Zillow/

This is only being included because there’s finally a happy ending to what was a grueling spring for me and my family. After our second son was born last fall, our cozy little house was suddenly way too small, so we got into the housing market. At THE WORST TIME EVER! Anyone who’s looked for a house this last year can attest to how crazy the market has been. We looked at around 50 hours and made double digits’ worth of offers on houses before finally getting one. We move in about three weeks, so really what I’m highlighting here is my absolute joy to NEVER look at Zillow or again (at least not for the foreseeable future!)

Movie: “Ford v. Ferrari”

Lastly, a movie that I really enjoyed (though there were more tears than I was expecting from a moving about car racing, something I’m actively uninterested in for the most part). This movie had been on my radar for a bit, mostly because I like Matt Damon in practically anything. However, I’m not a huge Christian Bale fan (though I recognize his talent) and, as I said, car racing…But I enjoyed the heck out of this movie! I didn’t know anything about this story or the car companies behind it and their connection/process with race cars. Most likely, I enjoyed this history side of the story more than anything. But if you’re into car racing, this is definitely a movie to check out. And even if not, the strength of the story and acting are enough to elevate it to appeal to most everyone, especially those who appreciate movies with connections to true stories.

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Cold Case”

Right after I graduated college into a recession and limited employment options, I would spend my days job searching and watching reruns of cop procedurals on cable. One of my favorites was “Cold Case”, a show about homicide detectives who would reopen unsolved cases that could span back decades, and also deal with their own personal issues. For years I figured that it would never be released on DVD or streaming, as every episode used popular songs from the era of the case, and therefore licensing would be a nightmare. Well either it’s different with streaming or HBO ponied up, but regardless “Cold Case” is on HBOMax WITH THE ORIGINAL SONGS! That was my one caveat on a rewatch: it had to have the music, as the music really sells the emotional punches and beats (there are actually a few episodes I know I can’t watch because they are so sad, no small part due to the music selections). I also like that we get to know the victims a bit because of the flashback format, which makes it feel more personal and resonant. I’ve cried MANY times on my rewatch, so you know it still packs a wallop.

Podcast: “I Pray You Put This Journal Away”

I’ve mentioned the podcast “Some Place Under Neith”, and when they did a series on the Institute on Basic Life Principles cult with a focus on the Duggar family, I was both deeply fascinated and also completely horrified (especially when they went into a deep dive on predator Josh Duggar; my God. LOCK HIM UP AND NEVER LET HIM OUT). One of the podcasts that they recommended was “I Pray You Put This Journal Away”, and I knew I had to listen to that next. It is a podcast by a man who not only grew up in the IBLP, but was also friends with Josh Duggar, and left the church when he was older and realized how oppressive and predatory this fundamentalist Christian lifestyle was. This podcast is partially him talking about the Duggars, but is mostly him reading through his journal at the time and reflecting about what it was like to grow up in this kind of culture, especially as someone with undiagnosed autism. It’s personal and very reflective, and I enjoyed his insight into the IBPL’s fucked upness, as well as how he and his wife (also an ex-fundamentalist) went on journeys of self discovery and empowerment.

Film Trilogy: “Fear Street”

Trust and believe, I am going to go into full deep dive reviews on all three movies in this trilogy to complement my “Revisit to Fear Street” series on here, but I just want to give a shout out to it as a whole. Because AHHHHH, this trilogy is SO DAMN FUN! As you all probably know, I grew up reading “Fear Street” books, and couldn’t have been more pleased to find out that Netflix was releasing movies based on the books. Well, sort of. They’re a lot gorier than anything on the page, but that works out just fine for me because I love me a good slasher film! A group of teens in 1994 accidentally awaken the dark powers of long dead witch Sarah Fier, and to save themselves they need to figure out what she wants. This happens to involve a curse that goes back centuries, and therefore they are going to need some help from those who have dealt with it before. With homages to the original series and some new mythos, as well as really enjoyable characters and gnarly death scenes, the “Fear Street” Trilogy is a blast. Look for more comprehensive reviews in a couple weeks!

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