Not Just Books: January 2023

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

Serena’s Picks

Movie: “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”

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

Netflix Show: “The Recruit”

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

TV Show: “Veronica Mars”

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

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Trixie Motel”

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

TV Show: “Bluey”

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

Film: “M3gan”

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

Not Just Books: December 2022

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

Serena’s Picks

Movie: “Bullet Train”

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

Movie: “No Time to Die”

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

Movie: “Avatar: The Way of Water”

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

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Wednesday”

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

Film: “Midnight”

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

Film: “Violent Night”

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

Not Just Books: November 2022

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

Serena’s Picks

Amazon Prime Show: “The Rings of Power”

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

Movie: “Don’t Worry Darling”

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

Sports: Fifa World Cup 2022

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

Kate’s Pick

TV Show: “Welcome to Chippendales”

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

TV Show: “Criminal Minds: Evolution”

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

Film: “The Menu”

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

Not Just Books: October 2022

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

Serena’s Picks

Hulu Movie: “Rosaline”

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

TV Show: “Hell’s Kitchen”

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

Video Game: “The Quarry”

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

Kate’s Picks

Film: “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone”

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

Film: “Halloween Ends”

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

TV Show: “The Midnight Club”

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

Not Just Books: September 2022

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

Serena’s Picks

Amazon Prime Show: “The Boys”

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

TV Show: “Alone”/”Alone: Frozen”

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

TV Show: “The Great British Baking Show

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

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Cobra Kai”

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

Film: “The Black Phone”

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

Podcast: “Someplace Under Neith”

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

Not Just Books: August 2022

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

Serena’s Picks

Mini Series: “Under the Banner of Heaven”

While Kate is the true crime expert, I’ve been known to enjoy the genre as well. What I really enjoy, however, are murder mystery limited series and, of course, the very talented Andrew Garfield. So when this popped up on my Hulu recommendations, it was an obvious choice. The story follow the true crime story of a heinous double murder that quickly becomes connected to Mormonism. As I said, Garfield is known as a talented actor, and he has a heavy load to carry in this show. Not only is he the detective charged with solving the murder, but the character must go through a crisis of faith as his own steady commitment to his Mormon faith is challenged again and again as more is revealed about the history of his faith and the beliefs of fundamentalists who are still at large. It’s a very tense, cinematic show and I highly recommend it!

Movie: “Thor: Love and Thunder”

Ever the completionist, I’m still managing to keep up with the seemingly endless stream of Marvel content coming out lately. I mean, between all of the movies that were delayed by Covid and now all the Disny+ shows, there’s quite a lot! Like many fans, I think, I am beginning to become a bit worried that the train might be off the tracks with all of this. But I’m also trying to focus on each thing individually, and I really enjoyed this movie. It didn’t rise to the heights of “Thor: Ragnarok” (there were moments in this film that felt a bit forced), but it was still a fun, funny romp. The acting was all superb and but for a few odd steps in the story, I thought it was a nice continuation of Thor’s story. I don’t think it’s essential in-theater viewing, but I definitely preferred this movie to the Dr. Strange sequel that also came out this spring/summer.

Netflix Show: “Stranger Things: Volume 4”

I’m late to including this show because I stubbornly waited until the second half dropped to watch it. I’m not sure what it says about my psychologically, but I’d rather wait for the entire thing than deal with a cliffhanger in the middle. But man, was it worth the wait! I think this was my favorite season after season one, of course. The villain was by far the best we’ve had since then, and the stakes were higher than ever. I still think the adults have become the weakest aspect of the show (something that is unfortunate given how impressive Winona Rider was in the first season), and their storyline here at times verged on the nonsensical. But I was here for the kids, and their stories all were awesome. Can’t say enough good things! Alas, now I’m stuck with everyone else again waiting for the next season to be released.

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Harley Quinn”

You all know that I love me some DC characters, especially if they are maladapted villains, and I have a special love in my heart for the villainous ladies of Gotham City, especially Harley Quinn. Harley as a character has had to deal with some shit, and I feel like she is finally getting her due in the films thanks to “Birds of Prey” and “The Suicide Squad” (James Gunn’s version, of course). But the best Harley is the Harley on the HBOMax show “Harley Quinn”, as she, and everyone else, is so over the top hilarious and silly without taking anything super seriously. It feels a lot like the show “The Venture Bros” in that it is snarky and awkward and shines a light on the ridiculous things of super villainy. Kaley Cuoco is a newly liberated from Joker and determined to make it on her own Harley, who makes her own rag tag team of villains to try and show that she, too, is a super villain to be taken seriously. It is a hoot and a half, filled with quirky characterizations and hilarious running gags (my favorite being Bane wanting to blow up anything that vexes him). And also, hooray for Poison Ivy and Harley having a fulfilling and healthy relationship. BOUT TIME THEY GOT A CANON ROMANCE ON SCREEN! Suffice to say, I love this show.

Concert: Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” Tour

Back in 2019, my husband surprised me with tickets to see Elton John. I had just had my kid, and I was deep into the whole ‘brand new mom’ thing, so this was a treat to look forward to in June 2020… Well, we all know how that turned out. And by the rescheduled date in March 2022, while my husband and I were vaccinated, our kid wasn’t eligible yet, and we didn’t want to bring anything home from an indoor concert venue to her should something go wrong. So we gave our tickets to some good friends, and I cried deeply for a second time. But then I saw that Sir Elton was going to be playing at Soldier Field in Chicago in August. An outdoor venue, in driving distance, after promises of kiddo shots. So it finally happened, and it was MAGICAL. Elton John is a master performer and entertainer, and being able to see him live and listen to him play was such an incredible experience. After all this time he still has the energy and the passion, AND the costume changes. Given that I actually believe him that this is, indeed, his farewell tour, I am so happy we were able to make this work, even if it was two years later than planned.

Film: “Prey”

I am a HUGE fan of basically any 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger film, and a top 3 for me is “Predator”, in which he plays a Black Ops commando dropped into a jungle with a team that is slowly picked off by an alien hunter. I love the “Predator” lore and mythology, though many of the sequels have been fairly lackluster. But “Prey” breaks that streak. For one, it’s a prequel, set in the 1700s Upper Plains within the Comanche Nation, and for another, it has an amazing female, Indigenous protagonist. Naru wants to prove to her tribe that she is a good hunter, though she isn’t taken very seriously. But then she starts seeing hints of some kind of creature that poses a danger to her group, and decides that she needs to take it out. Yep, we got a Predator in a historical setting, and it WORKS. This is also a movie that goes to great length to be respectful and accurate when it comes to the Comanche culture, with an almost completely Indigenous cast and a huge Indigenous crew. There was even a limited Comanche language dub of the film to really honor and experience the way these characters would have been speaking, though I missed out on that option (and was VERY disappointed that I did). It is just as good as the original “Predator”. And I may even say it’s better.

Not Just Books: July 2022

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

Serena’s Picks

Netflix Show: “The Umbrella Academy” Season 3

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

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

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

Movie: “Encanto”

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

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Only Murders in the Building”

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

Film: “Compulsion”

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

Film: “Last Night in SoHo”

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

Not Just Books: June 2022

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

Serena’s Picks

Disney+ Show: “Moonknight”

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

Movie: “Argo”

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

Kate’s Picks

Mini Series: “Pistol”

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

Film: “Fire Island”

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

Joint Pick

Event: American Library Association Annual Conference 2022

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

Not Just Books: May 2022

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

Serena’s Picks

Netflix Show: “Bridgerton” (season 2)

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

Disney+ Show: “What If…?”

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

Movie: “Operation Mincemeat”

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

Kate’s Picks

Film: “X”

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

TV Show: “The Flight Attendant”

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

TV Show: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

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

Not Just Books: April 2022

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

Serena’s Picks

TV Show: “Chernobyl”

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

TV Show: “Sick Note”

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

Video Game: “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey”

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

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Our Flag Means Death”

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

YouTube Channel: “Fundie Fridays”

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

Film: “The Batman”

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

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