Not Just Book: August 2019

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

mv5by2y0n2fhytktzwqyzc00zdjhltk5otqtnti1mmu2otfkn2zjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynji4otg2njg40._v1_Amazon Show: “The Widow”

Every once in a while I remember that I also have Amazon Prime for shows to watch other than just Netflix. And while browsing recently, I decided to check out “The Widow” on a whim. It’s the story of one woman’s search to get answers behind her husband’s seeming death several years earlier. When she thinks she spots him on video footage, her trek through the dangers of central Africa uncover more secrets than she could ever have imagined. I really enjoyed this how. It told a compact and compelling story with enough mystery to keep me wondering right up to the end. One warning, however: watching this as a new mom with a little baby made some aspects of this show incredibly hard to watch. The story definitely delves into some dark places, so all around, be prepared for a gripping, but tough, story.

mv5bmjmwndkxmtgzof5bml5banbnxkftztgwntkwntq3njm40._v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Movie: “Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse”

I’ve watched most if not all of the live action superhero movies that came out in the last 20 years or so. But as much of a fan as I am of comic movies brought to life in this way, I’ve never really delved into the animated versions (other than kiddy cartoons as a kid). But there was a while there where I couldn’t seem to stop hearing people gush over “Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse.” I mean, I was hearing things like it was the best Spiderman ever and other supremely high praise. So I checked it out. And yup, it’s pretty amazing. Fans of Spiderman overall will definitely love it as it brings in so many aspects of the different Spidermen/women who have had their own runs. And at the heart of it you still have the story of what it means to be a superhero, but told in a new and refreshing way, with just enough self-deprecating humor about the “with great strength…” yada yada stuff. If you’re like me and don’t check out animated films too often, definitely make an exception for this one!

mv5bowrjndu0mwmtzwjhms00odnjltgxntgtmdblnzjkyjdjmwu2xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtmxodk2otu40._v1_Stand-Up: Aziz Ansari “Right Now”

Aziz Ansari has had a challenging go of things in the last few years. I’m not going to get into the whole thing, but a quick internet search will catch you up if you missed it somehow. But that being the case, I was really curious what he would come up with for his first real appearance since events went down. And I thought it was really good. He had a really narrow tight rope to walk with this show, addressing his history, his take on things, and how he has come out of it as a person. All while avoiding the plethora of landmines of things that can go wrong with this type of rebuilding procedure. People will have different reactions and will want different things from a person whose gone through something like this, but for me, I thought it was a very honest, compelling look at his experience. And then he tied it into some larger points about “right now” that I found not only humorous but also almost “too true.” It’s definitely a different performance and different Aziz than we’re used to seeing. But I think that’s not only understandable, but almost the only option. Had he come out trying to be just as he was before, it would have felt dishonest and caricaturish. As it was, it feels as we are getting more of an insight into the “real” Aziz, and I think it’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you were a fans of his before all of this.

Kate’s Picks

82-ogLive Show: “Last Podcast On The Left”

I’ve been downright obsessed with the true crime/supernatural/alien podcast “Last Podcast on the Left” for about a year and a half now, so when I had the chance to go see them in person, I obviously leapt at it. My friend Mark and I went together, and while we had no idea what to expect, we knew it was going to be a treat. Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks, and Henry Zebrowski bring their dark humored, irreverent, and sometimes crude style to the stage, and give fun and informative presentations on various topics. Cryptids, aliens, conspiracies, and more are covered at their show, and I was laughing hysterically the entire time. What I like about these guys is that while they are definitely pushing envelopes and sometimes taking it to gross extremes, at the heart of their show (podcast and live both) are three guys who like to share knowledge, make statements about society, and entertain people. I haven’t gone to many podcast live shows, but this was by and large the most impressed I’ve been. Hail Yourselves, everyone!

glow-season-3-poster-405x600Netflix Show: “GLOW” Season 3

Our favorite lady wrestlers are back, and they are now performing in Las Vegas!! I had been waiting so long for “GLOW” to return to Netflix, and while I had to wait a little longer for my husband to get home from out of town, it was worth the wait. “GLOW” continues to showcase complex and interesting female characters, and shows how they function and try to make it in the wrestling world in the 1980s. This season things get a little heavier, dealing with eating disorders, the mental load of trying to have a career and a child, and having to live up to the standards of doing incredibly physical performances every night with little to no breaks or support. Alison Brie, Marc Maron, and Betty Gilpin continue to showcase their wide and deep emotional ranges. But it’s Chris Lowell’s Bash Howard who really stole the show this season, as he tries to live a normal married relationship with Rhonda, in spite of the fact that his attractions are more towards men. I love everyone on this show, and I’m already waiting anxiously for the next season!

terrorinfamyTV Show: “The Terror: Infamy”

I didn’t watch the first season of “The Terror”, as while I heard it was really good I had tried to read the book and just wasn’t that into it. But when I saw that season two was going to take place during the Japanese-American Internment during World War II, that got my attention. “The Terror: Infamy” focuses on the Nakayama family, Japanese Americans who see their community turn on them after Pearl Harbor, and are then sent to an internment camp, like more that 100,000 Japanese Americans during this time period. But along with the all too realistic (and frankly, timely) horrors of government sanctioned imprisonment based on bigotry and fear, there is also the fact that some kind of spirit is haunting the Nakayama family. The first scene of the series involves a woman dressing in a beautiful kimono, walking down a dock, and then killing herself. And given her strange bodily contortions right beforehand, something is amiss. “The Terror: Infamy” strikes a balance between the real horrors of the world, and the cultural ghost stories that can be reflections of said horrors.

What non book things have you been enjoying this month? Let us know in the comments!

Not Just Books: July 2019

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

mv5bzgexyjqzntqtngnhmi00ymy1ltlhy2mtmtrjodg3mju4ytayxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_Netflix Show: “Stranger Things 3”

I think I speak for us all when I say that this show was a challenge: how long could you draw out those very few 8 episodes so as not to find yourself on the other side and left bereft once again waiting for the (hopefully, but surely, right??) next season. While I’ve loved all the seasons so far, I think this one out does season 2 in my estimation. I like that Eleven is now with the kids throughout the story instead of off on her own so much. The monsters were legitimately freaky and the body horror is ratcheted up quite a bit. There was also a surprise musical number that is sure to speak to the hearts of many in my generation! I give it maybe a month or two before I have to do a re-watch to tide myself over.

mv5bmgzlnty1zwutytmznc00zjuylwe0mjqtmtmxn2e3odyxmwvmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymdm2ndm2mq4040._v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Movie: “Spider-Man: Far From Home” 

I’ve enjoyed the heck out of Tom Holland’s version of Spider-Man. While I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for Toby Maguire’s version, there’s also traumatic memories of emo dance numbers that do tend to taint my memories. Going in, I was a bit nervous about this film. This movie had a ton to do, not only needing to operate as a Spider-Man sequel in its own right, but also to take on the massive task of being the first MCU movie to follow the dramatic events of “Avengers: Endgame.” I think it succeeded perfectly at both! I love the fact that this movie continues to lean in on the “Spider-Man as a real teenager” angle, with all of the awkwardness and poor impulse control that comes with that. But it’s also much more creepy than some of the past movies. There’s one particular scene that I think is darker than almost anything we’ve seen before. And, of course, Holland is just pitch perfect throughout. If you enjoy superhero movies at all, this one is definitely worth checking out.

mv5bm2qynmzkntytzwqyzi00ndhhlwezmditymizy2u4zwvmownhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndg4njy5otq40._v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_Netflix Show: “Jessica Jones” season 3

Going into this season was a little sad as we already knew it would be the last. The systematic cancellation of all of the Netflix Marvel shows has been one of the biggest losses to the streaming platform ever, in my opinion. And, while I enjoyed the second season of this show, it didn’t grab me in the same way as the first. But, never fear, season three is back on top of its game. It even retroactively made season 2 better by taking its story in truly unexpected directions. One of the brilliant things about these shows has been the clever way they have adjusted the comic book versions of characters and made them their own. We see one of the biggest twists on a character in this season. And while it’s a complete 180 from the comic book version, it also fits in perfectly with what this show has built up for Jessica and her friends. I’m really sorry to see this show go.

Kate’s Picks

chernobyl_2019_miniseriesTV Show/Podcast: “Chernobyl”

I have the tendency to binge shows if they are bingeable. I definitely am an impatient person, and because of this I love just charging through content if it is there to charge through. This was a HUGE mistake with the HNO miniseries “Chernobyl”, as the existential crisis, horror, and anxiety it caused within me knocked me on my butt. This fantastic show explores (in a somewhat fictionalized way) the nuclear disaster in the Soviet Ukraine, shows the horrible damage it did to those who lived in the area, and shows how Soviet scientists tried to contain the disaster and get to the truth of it, while the Soviet Government tried to suppress and control the information that was being let out about it. The performances, specifically from the three leads Stellan Skarsgård, Jared Harris, and Emily Watson, are transcendent, and the frank but never exploitative depictions of the awful consequences (mostly in the form of radiation poisoning. GOOD LORD) set my teeth on edge and nearly sent me into panic attacks. As a bonus an official podcast was released alongside it to expand upon the stories that weren’t told, and to say what was real and what was dramatized for television, which admittedly DID happen but not as much as I thought. “Chernobyl” is the best TV of the year thus far. But steady yourself for something as devastating as it is terrifying.

mv5by2q0zgfiowetmwvkms00ngu0ltg2mmetzdkynzjmmzhkytfkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntm3mdmymdq40._v1_TV Show: “Schitt’s Creek”

Why did it take me so long to get on this delightful, Canadian train?!?!?! I mean, SERIOUSLY, it stars two people I absolutely LOVE (Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy), and has a fun send up of the spoiled rich facing a monetary free fall. Levy and O’Hara join Dan Levy and Annie Murphy as the Roses, a wealthy and self centered family whose sudden financial ruin makes them move into the small town of Schitt’s Creek, their final asset. Hilarity ensues as the out of touch Rose family has to deal with real life. Everyone is on point in their performances, and while Catherine O’Hara is the shining star of the cast, everyone, from the Rose family to the townsfolk, does a great job bringing life to their characters. What I like best about this show is that while the Rose family is absolutely out of touch and in a lot of ways incredibly selfish, they are also super, super endearing and relatable, and because of this the show is pretty darn feel good.

the_wicker_man_281973_film29_uk_posterFilm: “The Wicker Man” (1973)

I feel like a lot of people are talking about “Midsommer” right now, and while I will probably see it at some point I was more inclined to revisit the original “Wicker Man”. Both are folk horror, both have strange nature-y cults, but only “The Wicker Man” has Christopher Lee looking like he’s in full Cher cosplay. It’s the story of deeply religious Sergeant Howie, who is called to the isolated island community of Summerisle after he’s been tipped off about a missing girl. When he gets there he finds a strange town inhabited by carefree, albeit odd, pagans, who are getting ready for their annual May Day Celebration. As Howie searches for the missing girl, he starts to question how much the town knows about her disappearance. I’ve loved this movie since I saw it in college, and had the opportunity to see it on the big screen at the local Alamo Drafthouse. It’s still freaking amazing, y’all. No bees to be seen. If you are a horror fan and have yet to see it, you need to go out and do so ASAP, as the plot is still creepy and the ending is still genuinely upsetting.

Not Just Books: June 2019

The weather has still been somewhat mercurial, with days of super hot sun and then returns to the 60s with rain. But we’ll take what we can get. If only the bugs would disappear. (We can find something to whine about during every season, just you watch.) And yes, we both should probably get outside more to appreciate the long days, but…oh well! Here are some things other than books that we’ve enjoyed this last month!

Serena’s Picks

mv5boti5y2m3nmqtndg5zc00otq0lwezogytmjm4zjg0yzy0m2i0xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjkwnzewmzu40._v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Amazon Prime Show: “Good Omens”

Confession: I haven’t read the book this was based on. But I’ve read a good number of other works by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, so I feel like it should count. In all honesty, however, my all-abiding love for David Tennant was the real draw behind my immediate interest in this show. While the subject matter (an angel and a demon team up to try to prevent the end of the world) would always be a pretty big appeal for me, Tennant is just one of those actors whose work I will always check out. There were a few moments where the complete absurdity was a bit too much for me, but overall, I loved heart of this story that is built up in the lovely relationship between said angel and demon. Overall, I really enjoyed it.

mv5bmdeyn2u1ytitndy1zi00yjljlwi5yzitnwu3ywviyjhiztgxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjg4nzayota40._v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “Elementary”

I actually fell a bit behind on this series and ended up binging season six earlier this fall. As usual, I quite enjoyed it. And, with doing no further research, I assumed the show was over. The ending of that season certainly implies as much with Sherlock and Watson both relocated to 221B Baker St, London and waxing poetic about how it feels as if they are where they’re meant to me. But, much to my surprise, while dinking around on the Internet I discover that there is in fact a season seven! And it started up only a few weeks ago! This is only a short, half season but it seems like it is confirmed to be the last, so I’m super excited to see what they’re going to do with it. Fingers crossed for a return of Moriarty! And let’s hope that they don’t ruin what could have been a perfectly satisfying end with the final episode of the previous season.

maxresdefaultYouTube Series: “The 100 Baby Sims Challenge”

This is super weird and I know it. But hey, a girl’s got to do something with all of those hours spent feeding a fussy baby. And what’s better to do when you baby boy is being a little idiot than watch someone play the Sims and have a character deal with raising 100 of these little monsters. There’s something bizarrely cathartic about it, I’ve got to tell you. Maybe it’s of particular interest to frustrated new mothers, but I do think it’s pretty hilarious to watch all on its own, too. Especially if you’re just looking for a good 20-30 minute distraction here and there.

Kate’s Picks

2b8401198-77d6-4651-b1951c330d84a8b1TV Show: “Pose”

When “Pose” first aired last year I had every intention of watching it, but never got around to it. I mean, my goodness, it covers themes and settings that I absolutely love: the New York City Ball Culture, the 80s, glamour, self actualization. When I saw that Season One was on Netflix, I decided to finally start it… and then proceeded to binge all of it in the course of two days. “Pose” takes place in 1987, and follows the rising House of Evangelista, led by Blanca, a trans woman who left her previous house and mentor to start a house of her own. Not only does “Pose” have great music, great characters, and a strong grasp of what was going on in the Ball and LGBTQ communities in the 1980s (with a very real and upsetting look at how the AIDS virus was affecting said communities), it also has a cast that is mostly trans actresses of color, reflecting the people whose stories they are telling. And Billy Porter is AMAZING as the snarky emcee Pray Tell. On top of all that, Season 2 has started, and there’s no way I’m missing it in real time this time around.

rocketman_28film29Movie: “Rocketman”

This will undoubtedly surprise no one, but I love Sir Elton John for his flamboyance, passion, and catchy/heartfelt tunes. When I first saw a trailer for “Rocketman” I turned to my husband and said ‘YOU NEED TO TAKE ME TO THIS’. And, good sport that he is, he did so once it came out. This movie is part musical fantasy, part biopic about John and his rise to fame and the hardships he had to overcome, from lonely childhood, to mental health issues, to addiction. Taron Egerton is remarkable as John, not only nailing his look and mannerisms, but performing his songs with zeal and gusto. He did so well that there were moments where I had to blink and squint because I could have SWORN John himself had slipped into the scene. But one of my favorite depictions on the screen was the friendship John has with his longtime writing partner, Bernie Taupin. Taupin is played by Jamie Bell and he and Egerton have such magical chemistry, really bringing their partnership and friendship to the screen. If you do go see this movie, bring tissues. Well all know things worked out for John, but man, the road was rough, and this movie has the emotional punches that come with it.

mv5bmtgwnja4mdkwnl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmje3ntgwodm40._v1_TV Show: “NOS4A2”

Even though I have an unabated love for just about anything that Joe Hill writes, as of now my favorite of his novels is “NOS4A2”. It’s about Charlie Manx, a vampire-like being that kidnaps children. He takes their essences to keep himself forever young, and traps them in an ‘inscape’ (a supernatural alternative plane he can manipulate) he calls Christmasland. But he meets his match when he runs into Vic McQueen, a teenage girl who can create her own inscapes, and may have the power to stop him. I was very interested to see what AMC was going to do with it when I heard that they were going to make it into a TV show. And let me tell you, thus far I am VERY happy with what they are doing with it. I knew that I was going to be one hundred percent satisfied with Zachary Quinto as Manx, but was worried about any portrayal of Vic, as she is one of my favorite literary characters. But Ashleigh Cummings is FABULOUS, bringing the spunk and vulnerability that the character needs. And, most importantly, the show really achieves the creepy and unsettling tone that this story requires. It’s suspenseful and eerie, and I’m eager to watch as it unfolds.

 

Not Just Books: May 2019

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

mv5bmte0ywfmotmtytu2zs00ztixlwe3otetytniyzbkzjvizthixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyodmzmzq4oti40._v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_Movie: “Captain Marvel”

I actually watched this last month before the second “Infinity Stones” movie, but I forgot to list it, so I’m including it here! I was a bit skeptical about how this movie would turn out as I’m not a huge fan of the actress. But surprise, surprise, I really enjoyed it! Per the usual for Marvel movies, it did an excellent job balancing action, humor, and a compelling narrative arc for our hero. The villain, also per the usual, left a bit to be desired, but as far as origin stories go, this one was excellent. I did wonder how they were going to handle her in the “Infinity Stones” movie, however, given that she’s pretty much invincible and could take out Thanos and his entire army herself, essentially. But I was also really pleased with how that was handled and also the built in excuse provided for where she is when the inevitable other conflicts appear in future movies that she could also handle without breaking a sweat.

p11936366_b_v8_aaTV show: “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” 

After a certain epic fantasy show proved to be a massive let down in my (our) personal opinion, I needed a bit of a palate cleanser that would just be some light, good fun. Enter “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries,” a show I had been hearing good things about for a while but had never had the full motivation to start. And now I’ve blown through the first season and a half in about a week. And it already has such a short run! But I did read that they made a movie that is going to be on limited release in the U.S. sometime this year, so I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out for that!

mv5bmdg3nmnjntitywu2mc00owjhltlkzjqtmmiynjlhztvizdljxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjg4nzayota40._v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV show: “The Amazing Race”

It’s been a while since the last season of this show aired, so I was excited when it finally started up again. I was also intrigued by this season’s theme that brought back past teams from this show, as well as from “Survivor” and “Big Brother.” I have no opinion on “Big Brother,” having never watched that show. And I was sadly disappointed by the “Survivor” contestants that showed up, as none of them were really favorites for me on that show (really, of the three teams, two of them were made up of “villains” from that show, as far as I can remember). But I have enjoyed the returning “Amazing Race” teams, as several of them were favorites when they raced originally. I’m excited to see who comes out on top!

Kate’s Picks

22-the-last-days-of-august.w330.h330Podcast: “The Last Days of August”

I heard about “The Last Days of August” on another podcast, and after waffling about taking on another podcast I decide to give it a listen. And boy, am I glad that I did. In December 2017, adult film star August Ames, after tweeting out a message that was perceived as anti-LGBTQIA and getting piled on for it, committed suicide. Her husband, porn director Kevin Moore, accused a number of big names in the industry of being responsible for her death for piling on. Jon Ronson had just finished a podcast on the adult film industry when Ames killed herself, and decided to do a follow up, thinking that it would be a story about online shaming and the consequences (as he also wrote the book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”). But what he found was something much more complicated, and perhaps more nefarious. This podcast is very evenhanded and well researched, and Ronson does a GREAT job of telling August’s story, as well as addressing very difficult issues like emotional abuse, mental illness, and the horrible outcomes of misogyny when left unchecked. And a warning: there are disturbing accounts of sexual assault.

dead20to20me20poster20Netflix Show: “Dead to Me”

I don’t even know how or why I stumbled upon “Dead To Me”, a new Netflix show starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. But one night I kinda saw it sitting there on Netflix and I said to myself ‘well why not give this a try?’ Before I knew it, I had binged the entire show. Jen Harding (Applegate) is a grieving and angry widow whose husband was killed in a hit and run, and decides to give grief counseling a try. There she meets Judy (Cardelinni), a free spirit who is attending because of a loss of her own. Jen and Judy become quick and close friends, and Jen invites Judy to come stay with her. But Jen doesn’t know that Judy may be hiding some things from Jen. Both Applegate and Cardellini are superb in their roles, and show the ups and downs of complicated, adult friendships, especially when grief is so prevalent in one’s life. There are lots of laugh out loud moments, which definitely dabble in gallows humor, but it also explores themes of sadness and loss in realistic, sometimes ugly, ways.

santa-clarita-diet-season-3-netflix-scheduleNetflix Show: “Santa Clarita Diet”

First of all, I want to say that it’s a freakin’ travesty that this show was randomly cancelled by Netflix at the end of the third season. IT IS SO GOOD AND SO FUNNY AND EVERY CAST MEMBER IS A TREASURE! And the biggest shame is that it has changed and grown and still sustained its charm when the premise (that of a zombie housewife trying to live her not really life and her family dealing with it as well) could have easily been wrung out at this point. In Season 3, Sheila and Joel are trying to figure out what group is trying to hunt her down, and if they can potentially circumvent its detection, while their daughter Abby has to cope with the consequences of a crime she committed, as well as figuring out her feelings for her best friend Eric. EVERYONE on this show is perfection, the comedy is on point, and the mythology expands in the most satisfying ways. So the fact it’s done is a real shame. Go watch it. It’s a delight.

 

 

 

Not Just Books: April 2019

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

p14660823_b_v8_aaTV Show: “Marvel’s Agents of Shield”

This show has been airing for quite a while, and while I always had a vague idea of its existence, I never particularly felt very interested in watching it. Part of was my lingering annoyance with the fact that they undid Coulson’s death (I think the character is awesome, but c’mon, someone has to die every once in a while in this dang universe and his death was pretty moving in the movie). The other part had to do with some idea I had that this was a very episodic, NCIS-but-with-superheroes! type show. But when I was laid up after having my baby, my husband and I decided we needed some show with a nice build up of episodes and a low commitment level to get us through the sleepless days and nights. And turns out we both really enjoyed this! So much so that we blew through about 3 seasons-worth in about two weeks. The show was way more serialized than I had thought and there were some legitimate surprises in store as well as some fun Easter eggs for those really in the know. I particularly have liked the ongoing villain of the series, as well as, of course, Coulson (though I’m bitter now that the fact that he’s by far the best character in the show undermines my continued annoyance at said death scene previously).

mv5bmjiwmdiwnjayof5bml5banbnxkftztgwnde1mdc2ntm40._v1_sy1000_cr006311000_al_Movie: “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”

Though I’ve always really enjoyed the “How to Train Your Dragon” series, I had no idea that this movie was coming out soon or was even in the works until I saw the adorable promo piece featuring GOT’s Kit Harrington and Toothless (honestly, I had no idea that Kit Harrington even voiced a part in these movies and was pretty confused by the whole combination until I looked into it further.) So count that as a win for the marketing department! I really loved this movie. This entire trilogy is one of those rare beasts that has held up through its entire run. While I don’t think anything can really top the first movie, the second two did nothing to detract and this one wrapped up the entire story in a pretty excellent way. As usual, the visuals, particularly the flying sequences, were gorgeous and the heart of the story of a boy and his dragon is enchanting. I did spend a good portion of the movie trying to hide the fact that I was crying a ton from my husband though. There was also a little boy sitting a few seats away from us who was getting pretty teary eyed, and props to his dad who didn’t try to hush him!

mv5bmtc5mde2odcwnv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzi2nzq2nzm40._v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Movie: “Avengers: Endgame”

Obviously. While I prefer DC comics, there’s no denying the amazing feat that Marvel has pulled off with their movie universe. I mean, look at the failures of both DC’s attempts as well as the horrid “Dark Universe” that Universal studios tried to launch with “The Mummy.”  It’s clearly not as easy as it looks. I think we were all pretty skeptical about how “Infinity War” was going to work juggling that many characters. And I know I was super impressed by that movie. So that made the build up to this movie even more fun. Not only was there a massive cliffhanger at the end of the first movie, but by this point, I felt fairly confident that they would actually pull it off, so gone was much of the worry, leaving only anticipation. And I thought this was not only a thoroughly enjoyable movie, managing to have a solid selection of comedy beats in the midst of a pretty bleak situation, but also wrap up a ton of storylines while setting up stories for our continuing characters. I could predict a few parts of it, but there were also a good number of surprises in store. Between this and GOT, the internet is a spoiler-ridden minefield, so really, there’s no excuse not to just go out and see it as soon as possible!

Kate’s Picks

sabrinaseason2-blogroll-01-1554745013954_400wNetflix Show: “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

My favorite witches are back, and this time they’re really sticking it to the patriarchy! When we left off in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, Sabrina had just signed her name in the Book of the Beast, pledging her devotion to Satan and seemingly choosing her witch side over her mortal one. But Sabrina has been having some struggles since she made that choice. Her mortal friends are growing distant from her, her new boyfriend may not be as trustworthy as she wants him to be, and her Aunt Zelda is getting close to Father Blackwood, the misogynistic head of the Coven who has a vendetta towards Sabrina. When Sabrina starts to make serious waves that go against the male dominated Coven, she may find herself in danger. This show is still witchy fun with a dark twist on a beloved character, and it has sucked me in AND piqued my interest in feminism in relation to the Dark Arts. And plus, Lucy Davis is still a charming delight as the bubbly and loving Aunt Hilda!

us-movie-poster-384x600Film: “Us”

There was no questioning that “Get Out” displayed Jordan Peele’s talents as a horror director, but it’s his newest film, “Us”, that solidifies his prowess as a horror maestro. When Adelaide and her family go on vacation to Santa Cruz, she tries to suppress memories of a trauma from her childhood. But on their first night, the family is confronted by strangers outside their vacation home. When the strangers come into view, they turn out to be doppelgangers of Adelaide and her entire family. And they are armed with scissors and a bloodthirst. As Adelaide tries to keep her family safe, the mysterious doppelgangers do their best to take them all out. This movie is complex, disturbing, and filled with hidden meanings and Easter eggs that will keep you talking long after its final scenes unfold.

mv5bmtcyodgymzq5n15bml5banbnxkftztgwodmymzg1nzm40._v1_Hulu Series: “The Act”

As the true crime nut on this blog, it’s probably not terribly surprising that I was totally sucked in by the Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard saga. The short version is that Dee Dee abused, poisoned, incapacitated, and manipulated her daughter Gypsy and made it seem like she had a number of debilitating conditions in hopes of getting attention and money. Eventually Gypsy and her online boyfriend conspired to murder her mother. It’s far more complicated than that very brief Cliffs Notes. And now Hulu has a limited dramatization of the case called “The Act”. It stars the incandescent Patricia Arquette as Dee Dee, and she is intense, scary, and very saccharine in the role. But it’s Joey King as Gypsy who steals the show, as her performance as a manipulated and abused woman who goes to terrible lengths to get her freedom is heartbreaking and eerie.

Not Just Books: March 2019

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

aa6041accee0a0148d85fd41d0e742ef59f09e879d52779c4c80fcc98ec99387a2def3b457a1a4293b7b8a8c5e047533431742d41bdf69d4fbdc97c7d226b5ef_28129Podcast: “Binge Mode”

In a perfectly timed moment of pure luck, I happened to read an article about an apparently super popular podcast called “Binge Mode” that releases its episodes in a Netflix-like style where you can then “binge” an entire “season” of podcasts. An intriguing idea, sure. But even MORE intriguing when I realized that they started this podcast/format to review each season of “Game of Thrones.” And, as we all know unless we’ve been living under a rock, the final season of “Game of Thrones is almost upon us! So what better time to go back and re-experience all 7 previous seasons in podcast format? And really, this podcast is excellent. It really deep dives into all the intricacies of the show and the books in ways that I haven’t seen other reviewers attempt. And as I only got through the first book in the series, there’s been a lot of really interesting background information that I’ve picked up while listening to this. So, if you have, oh, 60-ish hours of free time before the final season drops, I definitely recommend checking this out!

mv5bzwyxodvimgytmge2zc00zgq3lthhmwutytvknge3owu4nwrkl2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjywnda2mde40._v1_TV Series: “Planet Earth II”

This is one of those series where I both love it and hate it. When it popped up on Netflix, my husband immediately turned it on and I was like “Yaaayy…??” Because, let’s be real, I cry at the drop of a hat where animals are involved and yes, yes, I know “circle of life” and all of that. But that literally has zero impact on my crazy-immediate and intense attachment to any animal that pops on the screen, and then watching the predator/prey reality play out…it hurts me! But I also love animals! And there’s no denying the sheer wonder that is the cinematography and crazy moments that they somehow managed to capture on film. So yes, while I spend a stupid amount of time covering my cat’s eyes so he “doesn’t witness the violence” (an obvious ploy to simply distract myself from said crying), I also can’t deny how incredible this series is.

his-dark-materials-e1536684005776-700x348Teaser Trailer: “His Dark Materials”

Omg, I’m WAY too excited about this. Which is also simply terrifying given the absolute dumpster fire that was the first attempt at bringing this story to the screen. At least this time, they’ve started out on the right foot by admitting that the sheer scope of this trilogy necessitates a TV series rather than a simple movie format. And while I will always think that Nicole Kidman was perfectly cast as Mrs. Coulter, and it’s a shame she was in such a wreck of a movie, I’m also pretty excited about this cast, especially the excellent Dafne Keen as Lyra, who I loved in “Logan.” This is just a teaser trailer, so there’s not a whole lot to go on. But like I said, I’m way too excited to NOT feature it on this list. Be prepared for various other iterations of this to show up here in the future as things progress!

Kate’s Picks

medium26aTV Show: “Medium”

Back in college I remember a friend referring to the show “Monk” as ‘a show I love in spite of me not being part of the target demographic’. And my equivalent, I said, was the show “Medium”. I love the crime procedural/fantasty/family drama about Allison Dubois, an Arizona wife, mother, and psychic who helps the District Attorney with her visions of crimes and victims. The center of the show is Patricia Arquette, who played Allison with so much heart, empathy, and realism that she won an Emmy for her portrayal. While the mysteries and cases are always well done and unsettling, the true strength of this show is the Dubois Family. Allison’s wonderful and devoted husband Joe (played by Jake Weber) is a great foil for her, and when you add three psychic daughters into the mix (who are all wonderful actresses as well) you get one of the best and most realistic portrayals of family life I’ve seen on TV. And it’s streaming on Amazon Prime right now, so you KNOW that I rewatched it and took joy in doing so (though I refuse to watch the finale. Fans know why.).

STAR TREK: DISCOVERYTV Show: “Star Trek: Discovery”

I was raised by two “Star Trek” geeks, so it’s no surprise that I have inherited a huge love for the franchise and the universe that Gene Roddenberry created. Like other “Star Trek” fans, I was very happy to hear that we were getting a new TV show, but sad that it was going to be on a streaming service that I couldn’t justify to purchase with my other streaming services (that said, I’m wavering on that). But now “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 1 is on DVD, and you KNOW that the hubby and I tore through it! Set before “The Original Series”, “Discovery” shows the origins on the war between the Federation and the Klingons, with a focus on the science vessel The Discovery. I like the overarching mystery of the first season regarding what Captain Lorca of The Discovery is actually motivated by, and while I am getting a little sick of all the Klingon re-designs that happen I do love seeing things from their POV, as they are my favorite alien species in the mythology. It’s a bit darker than past series, and I LOVE our main character Michael Burnham, the intelligent and complex former Star Fleet officer AND first African American woman main character “Star Trek” has seen.

p16594939_b_v8_aaTV Show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

It’s not “All Stars” this time, it’s the regular show! Which means a whole new set of drag queens and a whole new set of challenges, runways, fashion choices, and drama! I’ve been watching the show as it airs since season 4, and now we’re at season 11 and I don’t know where the time went. I always prefer the regular show to the “All Stars” format, as the new talent and new dynamics are always fun to see unfold. My favorite so far is Yvie Oddly, an avant garde queen who pushes the limits on glamour and creepy, but there are so many talented contestants this year it’s hard to predict who is going to make it to the top 3. And while it’s true that the move to VH1 has potentially led to some, uh, QUESTIONABLE format changes, overall I still quite enjoy watching all of the queens doing what they love to do.

 

 

Not Just Books: February 2019

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

mv5bntfhotk1ntgtywm1zs00nwi1ltgzyzatyme5mjzimde0nzlhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_Netflix Show: “The Umbrella Academy”

I think we can all relate to the ordeal that is picking a new show to watch. Especially when it is a joint watch between you and someone else. My husband and I mostly have the same tastes, but that doesn’t seem to make it much easier. After we mourned the last episode of “The Great British Bake Off,” we were in it again. Until, out of nowhere, by husband was like “hey, what about this show? I think it’s about super heroes?” And, like a dummy, had never even heard of it! And thus began a new happy reign of Netflix watching. I also haven’t read the comic that this was originally based upon, but one of my favorite things about this adaptation is that there are multiple points in every episode where I can clearly see a scene that had to have been pulled directly from the pages. It’s artsy without getting lost in its concept. Funny, heart-breaking, and still has us guessing as to where everything is leading! I can’t speak for how faithful it is to the original material, but whatever it is we’re getting here, I’m thoroughly enjoying it!

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Video Game: “Red Dead Redemption II”

Again, after the loss of our beloved “Fallout 4,” my husband and I have struggled to really find a good replacement video game that can eat up months of our time. Neither of us really grew up with a lot of gaming, so it takes us both a bit to really get a feel for a new game and how to best play it. That being the case, we like to find the largest games we can that will help off-set our slow-learning. Bethesda games have been perfect for that reason. But we heard through the grapevine that “Red Dead Redemption II” was not only an excellent open world game (our favorite type) but also had an even larger map than “Fallout 4.” So, on a spur of the moment whim, we went out and nabbed this game last weekend. And…yeah, that’s been our life ever since. I think we could agree that while some of the complicated menuing systems leave something to be desired, and that it definitely took us even longer than usual to feel up to speed, now that we’re in it…this game is worth the time and effort. There’s just tons to do! And while my husband can be overly trigger happy (we waste half our money paying off bounties on our head, I feel), I spend most of my time bonding with our horse and figuring out how many horses we can have at one time. So we’re both happy!

a1vfjqg6pfl._sx466_Board Game: “Ticket to Ride”

Lest it be thought that I do nothing but read, and then watch TV or play video games, here is something new! I’ve owned this game for…forever. As evidenced by the state of the box itself. It’s literally taped together in places and the cards are…”worn” is a kind word for the state of them, I think. But for some reason, we just hadn’t played it for quite a while. Until we had house guests a few months ago and played like 8 games over the entire weekend. And then ever since, my husband and I have worked out a variation to make it 2-player and have played it several times again each week for the past month. I think we have all of the routes memorized at this point. Probably time to look for the European option!

Kate’s Picks

aaaabfhyy-qyfnzchi54kwp5j7c-j0mcgrq0epjn5rtq39gfldzsunofdfd9yod9krblb1f9jejzm1bz9updyqjanf97wezzzfjstvqunmb0kcyu96t5kx1tzk1dip8bwehigmcptc0gfqNetflix Show: “Russian Doll”

Part “Groundhog Day”, part time and space theory, “Russian Doll” is a dark comedy/thriller/science fiction puzzle that completely blew me away. I’ve loved Natasha Lyonne since I was in high school, and seeing her in a starring role with so much material to work with is a real joy. Lyonne plays Nadia, a woman who is a bit of an emotional train wreck, who dies when she’s hit by a car after her 36th birthday party. Then she wakes up at the party again…. Only to die again, only to wake up again. And again. And again. This show is a brain teaser with slick and interesting writing, fun characters, and a lot of mysteries, but it isn’t until episode three that a plot twist brings the show from good writing to GREAT writing. “Russian Doll” is addictive and fabulous.

c4db7c43ce9a74a206a336c13f124897ac676b296be98fc2a376bcc800dc4868a8f52b725b73ca55a50a19fccd1e7a5a6737488f02c09a207b59aa7032c2e07aPodcast: “Over My Dead Body”

While I’m usually content to re-listen to episodes of “My Favorite Murder” and “Last Podcast on the Left”, I’m always on the lookout for new podcasts of the true crime variety. Wondery Network has consistently put out deep dive and fascinating series, such as “Dirty John” and “Dr. Death”, and their newest series, “Over My Dead Body”, as captivated me as well. It’s the story of the marriage of Dan Merkel and Wendi Adelson, which ended with divorce, acrimony, and murder. I went in with very little knowledge of the case at it’s center, and I think that it’s good to go in blind because the reveals are meticulous and, quite frankly, nuts. Wondery has always been a great network for gripping and responsible podcasting, and now that I’m hooked on “Over My Dead Body” whenever a new episode drops I make it a priority to listen as soon as possible.

mv5bmtgyntqynjuwn15bml5banbnxkftztgwnjmwnjuznzm40._v1_Netflix Show: “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

While I appreciate that “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” opted to end the show on a high note before it ran out of ideas/became too wacky to remain tenable, I was very sad to see it end. As it is, the outlandish characters and storylines hadn’t yet overstayed their welcome, so when my husband and I sat down to watch the final episodes we were pretty bummed out. But, in pure Kimmy fashion, the entire cast is able to give us a fine farewell, and to bring some bittersweet, and still hilarious, closure to a series that properly balanced darkness with light. While this show wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, the character growth and the biting satire were top notch. The final episodes feel a bit quick, but over all I was happy to see where all of my beloved characters, Kimmy and Titus especially, ended up.