Not Just Books: December 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

mv5bnmvmmmm5zmitzdg0oc00ntfilwixnzctzjnmyty5otu3zwu3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi40._v1_TV Show: “Suits”

Kate will mention this below as well, but when you’re stuck home with an infant who at best is not up on their conversation skills and at worst….well, let’s not go there, you definitely need a good, fairly mindless show to get you through the long days. And for the last month or so, “Suits” has been my go-to. I started it several years ago but had burned out after the first couple of seasons. I confess: I really hate the character Mike, who is one of the main leads. But now that the show was done, and I knew Mike would be off the show altogether for the last two seasons, it was a great time to go back. Like “West Wing,” I can pretend all day long that I was there “for the story,” but really I was just there for the Donna/Harvey relationship, similar to the Donna/Josh one (what is with the name “Donna” in these very similar relationships??). The show definitely slid into a rather soapy, drama-fest towards the end with very little legal action to be had, but I still enjoyed the heck out of it. But man, Mike, still hate that guy.

mv5bnjk4mzvlm2utzgm0zc00m2m1lthkmwetzjuyn2u2ztc0nmm5xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyotazmtc2mja40._v1_sy1000_sx800_al_Netflix Movie: “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie”

While I ended up liking “Breaking Bad,” I did struggle through it. There’s no arguing with the quality of that show, but I have a hard time with shows/books where there are very few people to root for. Jesse was the obvious exception, but it was all the more hard to watch terrible things happen to him as the one really good character. Thus, for me, the thing that really stands out about this movie is that it seemed to be almost the exact story that most people probably had in their own head-canon for what happened next for Jesse. He struggles, but due to his own particular skills with people and the relationships he has, he makes it through. I also really liked the greater insight into what his time had been like while a prisoner in “Breaking Bad.” There were some great cameos and it ends on a hopeful note.

mv5bmzu4otc4otgtnwvjmc00njuzlwjhyzetotvkywi2yjq4njqxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Movie Trailer: “Emma”

As you will soon see, this year I have even more of an interest in all things “Austen.” Not that I wouldn’t have been over the moon about any new adaptation at any point. “Emma,” it seems, is the Austen story of choice for re-makes, tending to be re-made far more often than any of the other stories. I think there are two reasons for this: 1.) Other than “Pride and Prejudice,” it’s the best known and has one of the most appealing leading ladies and heroes 2.) “Pride and Prejudice” has almost been doomed by the fact that a perfect version was made in the 90s and no one wants to try to top it (I have strong feelings about the Kiera Knightly version, and I think the fact that it hasn’t been re-made since only supports my point). Watching this trailer, I’m a bit concerned about the seeming lack of age difference between Knightly and Emma. I know this is a hard line to walk with modern audiences, but I think the Johnny Lee Miller version that came out about 10 years ago was a good example to follow. Either way, I’ve already informed my husband that going to this movie is what I want to do for a late Valentine’s Day.

Kate’s Picks

p7896525_b_v8_aaTV Shows: “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”/ “Star Trek: Voyager”

Sometimes when you don’t have much opportunity to leave the house due to an infant, you just have to find something easy to binge. My choices for easy binging were “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager”. While “DS9” deals with the struggles of diplomacy and the mv5bzdg5nzuxztctodliny00mza2lwe1njetmzc0zjc5nda1owfhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynta4nzy1mzy40._v1_uy268_cr60182268_al_cost of war, “Voyager” is a classic lost in space story. I had watched both series on and off with my parents while they were airing, but going back and doing a rewatch of both seemed to be the perfect choice for long days of baby care. I watched “DS9” until it got too dark, then switched over to “Voyager” for some kinder, gentler hijinks. Both series have compelling characters and interesting plot lines, and while “DS9” is dark and serious at times, “Voyager” is a little soapy and light. Both are fun escapes!

 

wonder-woman-1984-character-posters-1Movie Trailer: “Wonder Woman 1984”

Words cannot express how impatiently I have waited for the new “Wonder Woman” movie! DC films have been pretty hit or miss in the past decade, though I will admit that perhaps they’ve found their stride with fun flicks like “Aquaman”, “Shazam”, and the upcoming “Birds of Prey”. But there is no denying that “Wonder Woman” is absolutely the best of the best, and I have high hopes for “Wonder Woman: 1984”. The trailer looks promising. Bright colors! An 80s aesthetic! The return of Steve Trevor! “Blue Monday” by New Order! Gal Gadot is still absolutely perfect as Diana as far as I can see, and I fully believe that Patty Jenkins is going to bring the fun and girl power to this next movie. This trailer raises questions: How did Steve come back to life? What is Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord up to? Why does Diana have her golden eagle armor? I don’t know how I’ll wait until June to find out!

mv5bzgi3zgnkogitnwu3zs00ndiyltljzjetztk5nzkxmjywmjezxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_Film: “The Report”

I was solidly in late high school and college during the Bush/Cheney years in this country, and I was in a rage about that administration basically all the damn time. I’ve found myself falling into the trap of ‘man those were the days’ when comparing our present administration to then, but boy, “The Report” reminded me that I mustn’t look back with longing. “The Report” is a film about the investigation and compilation of the horrific torture practices that the CIA implemented towards detainees during the ‘War on Terror’, and how the final report almost didn’t come to light because of political shenanigans and CIA intimidation. Adam Driver is stellar as Dan Jones, a Senate Staffer selected to lead an investigation into the highly suspicious destruction of a number of CIA tapes that had hours of prisoner interrogations. What he found was the cruel and despicable treatment that United States allowed against these prisoners, and he fought to make sure the truth was exposed. It’s upsetting, and fantastic, and everyone in the cast, from Driver to Annette Bening as Senator Feinstein to Ted Levine as John Brennan to MANY MORE, deliver powerful performances. This movie will make you rage, but it’s also important to acknowledge the terrible things our country has done in the name of national security.

 

 

Not Just Books: November 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

mv5bndg1zjc4yzktmmrmzi00zwjmlwjiyzgtyjg3mme0otm1nzy5xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_uy268_cr00182268_al_Amazon Show: “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” Season 2

I really enjoyed the first outing of this show and pretty much watched the second season immediately after it dropped. And I have…mixed feelings. On one hand, there’s no denying John Krasinski’s talent and screen presence. Indeed, I think this second season depends heavily on that fact for, in many ways, the Jack Ryan we’re seeing in this go around is very unlike the one of the first season. This Jack Ryan seems to have lost many of his boy scout ways and too often fades into just another generic action hero. His smarts and strong morals are often lost in a convoluted plot that doesn’t necessarily earn its twists. The villain is significantly weaker, in my opinion, and I think the idea to focus on a part of the world, Venezuela, that is less often seen in shows/movies like this was rather wasted by painting in too large (and predictable) black and white swathes. It also misrepresents some of the real-life political conflicts going on there. So, that’s a lot of negatives. But, like I said, I still really liked Krasinksi and the idea of the show as a whole, so I’ll still be checking in for season 3 and hoping for a return to its roots.

survivor_island_of_the_idols_logoTV Show: “Survivor”

Look, I wasn’t going to highlight this one, yet again. But after some of the recent episodes, I feel like I’ve spent enough time thinking about it and reading about it that it would be mispresenting my month of non-book-media NOT to put it in here. I was…very uncomfortable and disappointed to see the turn this show took in episode 8. There are so many variables in what went down in these #metoo related episodes, but while “Survivor” has long been known for pushing its players to make challenging moral decisions, what happened here I think crossed some important lines. Everyone involved failed: the producers of the show for allowing the situation to devolve to this point, the women who exploited it, the men who ignored it, and the man who, at the heart of it all, didn’t respect a woman’s wishes when she clearly asked him to respect her personal space. I won’t go into the full run down, but I think Dalton Ross over at EW.com did a good job of summarizing many of the angles, and while my own reaction is probably a bit more condemning of some involved, his might be the more balanced take.

220px-the_outer_worlds_cover_artVideo Game: “The Outer Worlds”

My husband and I rushed through finishing up our play through (and replay for me) of “Skyrim” so that we would have a clear slate when “The Outer Worlds” was released. Touted as being similar to “Fallout: New Vegas” but in space, this was an obvious game for us to dive into. We both like open world games where you feel like you can stumble upon new locations, characters, and quests around any corner. Beyond that, after playing through all of the “Fallout” and “Elder Scrolls” games, it was a nice chance of pace to find ourselves in a brightly colored and wacky space setting. We’ve only just gotten started, so I can’t speak to how the main storyline plays out, but so far it’s been a fun ride. And at this point, that’s all I’m looking for!

Kate’s Picks

WatchmenTV Show: “Watchmen”

The graphic novel “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons is one of my Top 3 favorite books of all time. I have stood by Moore’s distaste at DC using his characters in their new comic storylines, but I had to set aside my devotion to his grumpiness for the HBO show “Watchmen”. Because it’s fantastic. It brings the “Watchmen” universe to modern day Tulsa, expanding upon the alternate reality that Moore and Gibbons created and showing how that world has continued post Manhattan Squid attack. The focus is on Angela, a Tulsa detective who, like all other law enforcement officers in this world, has taken on a mask and persona to hide her identity. But soon she finds herself trying to crack down on a white supremacist movement, as well as a potential, insidious conspiracy that has been going on before her very eyes. This show brings in fabulous new characters, and brings some of the originals into the fold in creative and engaging ways. It also has a lot to say about our political world at the moment, even if it takes place in a different timeline. Frankly, it’s some of the best TV in the past few years.

castlerock10-590x332TV Show: “Castle Rock”

One of the most iconic Stephen King villain performances is hands down Kathy Bates as the obsessive and murderous Annie Wilkes from “Misery”. When I heard that for Season 2 “Castle Rock” was going to give a new backstory to Annie, I was skeptical as hell. But, like Season 1, “Castle Rock” has taken me in and has me hooked. Lizzy Caplan plays a young Annie, who has found herself, along with her daughter Joy, stranded in the mysterious Maine town. And like last season, strange things start happening. But for Annie, these strange things could easily be hallucinations brought on by her psychosis. Throw in a plot line in ‘Salem’s Lot, and some commentary about xenophobia and racism towards a Somali immigrant population, and you have a bonkers and powerful second season. And don’t worry; Caplan is PERFECT as a young Annie, both making it her own but also paying homage to Bates in her portrayal through posture, gait, and cadence. It’s a joy to see.

mv5bymy3ngjlytitymq4os00ztewlwizoditmjmznwu2mde0njzhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzqzmda3mti40._v1_Film: “Doctor Sleep”

Given that “Doctor Sleep” is my favorite of Stephen King’s recent books, I was both anticipating and somewhat worrying about the adaptation that was going to hit the big screen. Given the weight that Kubrick’s version of “The Shining” has in the cinematic world, I was afraid that too much focus would be on an interpretation that King himself never cared for. I shouldn’t have been so worried. And given that Mike Flanagan, the director of the stellar “The Haunting of Hill House” on Netflix was at the helm, I should have been more excited. “Doctor Sleep” is a wonderful adaptation of the novel, with a fantastic cast, a moody tone, and the perfect melding of King’s original vision in both “Doctor Sleep” and “The Shining”, and the Kubrick interpretation that has been beloved for so long. Ewan McGregor is a wonderful Danny, bringing pathos and determination to the character, and Kyleigh Curran is the perfect Abra, the precocious psychic teen he befriends. But it’s Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose the Hat that really stole the show for me. Rose the Hat is a Top 3 King villain in my book, up there with Flagg and Annie Wilkes, and Ferguson brings her to sinister and charismatic life. If you were hesitant about this movie, don’t be. It’s wonderful, it’s emotional, and it’s scary.

What non-book media were highlights for you this month? Share in the comments below!

Not Just Books: October 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

mv5bmtjhm2vhzditmtk4os00mtrjltlmmdqtnzeyymm0nda0yjhjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_sy1000_sx670_al_TV Show: “Supernatural”

This is a bittersweet one. As always, it’s exciting to have the return of a favorite show for a new season. But, after so, soooo many years, it has been confirmed that this will be the last season for “Supernatural.” It’s been on since 2005! I was in college!! There hasn’t been another show that I have followed for as long or as faithfully as this one. There have been some highs and lows throughout the years. But what makes it stand out is that even during those lows, I never considered jumping off this bandwagon. Once a “Supernatural” fan, always a “Supernatural” fan, through thick and thin it seems. I am pleased that if it was going to end, at least the showrunners knew it an entire season in advance, leaving them plenty of time to craft a thoughtful conclusion to the story. It will probably be tragic, cuz that’s what this show does best. But I have hope that it will be the kind of tragedy that also comes with heroic, satisfying justice for our two monster-hunting brothers.

mv5bmziwm2fkmmetnjqyzc00ythmltg3zjqtzgiymwe3njqwytu4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_Amazon Prime Show: “Carnival Row”

It was kind of a given that I would immediately watch this new Amazon Prime show. Loving mysteries, fantasy, and period pieces, there was everything I could have asked for here. The simple version of the story is a classic monster mystery, with a side plot dealing with our two main characters’ romance. But it’s also pretty clear that, like “Zootopia,” “Carnival Row” is using its fantasy trappings and original world to comment on larger topics like immigration, refugees, and racism. Some of these moments are done quite well, others are land with a bit of a thud in their obviousness and lack of real heart.  One area where the show really shines is its general aesthetic. It’s simply beautiful to look at. The costuming, the detailed sets, the magical effects. It’s all seamless and gorgeous. It’s also fun to see Orlando Bloom again, so there’s that! Fans of fantasy and monster horror will likely enjoy this, though it can be a bit ham-fisted with its message at times.

mv5bmtk0mdqzntq5mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzy3njq3njm40._v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “The Great British Baking Show”

This new season of this show was a battle of the wills. And the show won. Netflix changed the way it released this popular baking competition, moving it from a single, lovely, bingeable segment into weekly installments. I lasted about a month before I caved and watched all 5 episodes that were currently available in one day. And now I’m floundering around in the mostly forgotten realm of weekly TV watching. Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I watched a TV show in regular installments once a week. It’s unfamiliar and I don’t like it! Mostly, again, because of my aforementioned lack of self-control and patience. So now that I’ve taken up the entire segment venting about that…heck, we all know what this show is about and why it’s lovely.

Kate’s Picks

220px-ahs1984_posterTV Show: “American Horror Story: 1984”

October means that the ridiculous and (kind of) scary horror series “American Horror Story” is back on television screens. I’ve had a real love/hate relationship with this show, but I contend that it is at its best when it doesn’t take itself at all seriously. This is why “Coven” is the best season, and no one will change my mind. I took a break last year because “Apocalypse” just looked too ridiculous, but when I found out that their new season, “1984”, was going to be a tribute to 80s slasher movies, oh boy. I was yanked right back in. A bunch of counselors at a summer camp think that they are in for a summer of goofing off and hooking up, but little do they know that a serial killer, who had killed at the camp in the past, is back to wreak some havoc. At least, that’s what it seems like. You never know what kind of curve balls this show will throw your way. With Billie Lourde and Angelica Ross included in the cast this time around (queens the both of them), it’s been quite the trip. Also, Richard Ramirez shows up. Like I said, it’s insane.

the-legend-of-zelda-links-awakeningVideo Game: “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch)”

I’ve been a huge huge HUGE fan of the “Zelda” games since I was a kid. Hell, I’m such a big fan my husband and I used music from the games in our wedding ceremony. One of the first ones that I played in earnest was “Link’s Awakening” on my Gameboy, and my sister got it and we shared it. I never got too far in it, but along with “Ocarina of Time” I have the fondest memories playing that game. When I found out that it had been re-released on The Switch with all new graphics, I was beyond excited to get my hands on it! Like the original game, Link has washed up on Koholint Island after getting shipwrecked, and the only way for him to leave is to awaken the Windfish. This means you have to solve puzzles, defeat bad guys, collect items, and interact with lots of fun characters! The Switch version has updated the graphics and added some new features, but otherwise it’s a totally replicated adaptation of the game that I loved as a kid. It’s fun and cute and challenging enough to keep anyone entertained, and it’s been a treat to revisit it.

mv5bmjkxmdiyntatyjgwzc00ymiwlwfmztetztizowzhzjnizdqwxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyodk4otc3mty40._v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Film: “Little Monsters”

I, of course, have to round out the horror season with a horror movie! And when I decided to watch “Little Monsters” I didn’t know that much about it. I knew that it starred Lupita Nyong’o, and that it had to do with zombies. What I found was an adorable and really fun zombie comedy with a great cast and SUPER SWEET children (clearly my new foray into motherhood has made me very susceptible to cute children as of late). When slacker David’s relationship falls apart, he ends up on his sister’s couch and spending time with his five year old nephew Felix. It’s through Felix that he meets Miss Caroline, the sweet and caring Kindergarten teacher who catches his eye. Unfortunately, the timing isn’t great, as a zombie invasion breaks out during a class field trip. So David, Miss Caroline, and a group of children have to fend for themselves and work together to survive. It’s no surprise that Lupita Nyong’o is a treasure, but there are also great performances from Alexander England as David, and Josh Gad as the annoying children’s television personality Teddy McGiggle. If you’re looking for a zombie film with a little something more, definitely check out “Little Monsters”!

 

 

Not Just Books: September 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

mv5bmdyzzme5otetnzkxni00nja2ltlmyjctyme4mtdknmy1zmvkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzq2mdi5nju40._v1_uy268_cr160182268_al_ TV Show: “The Amazing Race: Canada”

I’m back with yet another reality TV show! Sadly, the American “Amazing Race” seems to have gone down to one season per year, which is just too few bizarre challenges, freak-outs over heights, and fights over airline tickets for me! So, I’ve turned to other versions of the same show. “The Amazing Race: Canada” is pretty much everything you’d expect it to be. Same general format, but a lot more time spent racing in Canada and extolling its wonders, all with a bunch of teams exuding niceness. There’s also a bizarre change in the willingness of teams to take penalties, which seems to be a trait common across all of the seasons I’ve seen so far and very different from the American version where it hardly ever happens. I think there’s an anthropological study to be found here…

mv5bmjqxnje3njyxn15bml5banbnxkftztgwmtk2ndq3njm40._v1_sy1000_sx700_al_Movie: “Mary Poppins Returns”

When this was announced, it was pretty easy to roll one’s eyes and wait for the inevitable dumpster fire to arrive over which we’d all watch and then never speak of again. However, when it came out, it was met with generally good reviews. I was still skeptical, but nope! It’s actually quite good! I do really like Emily Blunt (and may in the past have gone down one too many YouTube rabbit holes watching adorable interviews with her and her husband John Krasinski) and she’s perfect as Mary Poppins here. Her version is just different enough that one is never caught directly comparing her to the magical Julie Andrews, and the story has the perfect balance of whimsy, heart, and, of course, amazing song and dance numbers. The story does feel a bit more dark than the original and Blunt’s Mary Poppins, too, has a bit more edge, but I think both of these changes served the sequel well in keeping it as its own thing.

mv5bzta2ntbkywutmzm4zi00yzhlltk4nwity2u1odczndmyndazxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndg4njy5otq40._v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_TV Show: “Lucifer”

Every once in a while I’m in the mood for a good, old, crime odd pair crime procedural. If there’s a long-brewing romance at the heart of things, all the better! I very much enjoyed “Bones” and “Castle” (though each petered out towards the end), and hadn’t really found a replacement in the last several years. I had been eyeing “Lucifer” for a while on Netflix but didn’t know what it was about. For once, those little mini trailers Netflix put up almost put me off of it, as I wasn’t connecting it with crime procedural but more something along the lines of “Tudors” but with the devil instead of Henry VIII. It’s what you would expect in many ways, but Tom Ellis is really the draw here with his charming take on the character and quite pleasing suave accent. It doesn’t hurt that he even sings in a few episodes!

Kate’s Picks

5c61fd82011d1.image_TV Show: “Derry Girls”

After getting recommendations of this show from both a friend and my own mother, I decided to give “Derry Girls” a try. It’s a comedy that takes place in Derry, Northern Ireland in the mid 90s, when The Troubles were still raging. It follows a group of teenage girls (and one boy, who has to go to the Catholic Girl’s school because he’s English and it’s feared that he’d get beaten up at the Boy’s school) as they go through the usual trials and tribulations, usually with hilarious and awkward results. While the entire cast is amazing, for me the stand outs are the neurotic and anxious Clare, and the jaded and sarcastic Sister Michael, who is in charge of the school. There is also a nostalgia factor for me when watching it, as while I was in elementary school during the time it takes place as opposed to the age as the kids in the show, the soundtrack is definitely filled with songs I LOVED during that era and still love. It also has some well done moments of pathos regarding the violence that was ever present.

what-time-will-mindhunter-season-2-be-on-netflixNetflix Show: “Mindhunter”

I quite enjoyed Season 1 of “Mindhunter”, the David Fincher show about the origins of criminal profiling at the FBI, and while we had to wait a bit for Season 2, it was well worth the wait. Something I’ve noticed about the newest season is that our protagonists, Agents Holder and Tench, are starting to have to deal with the potential problems of profiling as a method of predicting criminal behavior or identification. This becomes more clear as they try to give their insight into the profile of the Atlanta Child Killer, who is murdering black children in Atlanta. The tension is still off the scales during this season, and we also get to see the return of Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper, the Co-Ed Killer who has served as a Hannibal Lecter-esque figure to Holden. On top of all that, Michael Cerveris (aka one of my favorite Broadway actors!) joins the cast! “Mindhunter” is still a stellar true crime procedural and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

some_like_it_hot_posterMovie: “Some Like It Hot”

This isn’t a new movie to me. This is a movie that I have loved ever since I was a little kid, as we watched it as a family on many an occasion. But September was something of a stressful and anxiety ridden month for me, and I knew that the best way to alleviate those feelings was to go back and find all the comfort movies I could. “Some Like It Hot” is one of those movies for me, and it still makes me laugh with its wit and charm. Two jazz musicians named Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) witness a mob hit in 1920s Chicago, and in hopes of disappearing they pretend to be women and flee to Florida with an All Women’s Jazz Band. Things get complicated when Joe, or Josephine, falls for fellow bandmate Sugar (played by the iconic Marilyn Monroe), and Jerry, or Daphne (as he never cared for the name Geraldine!) becomes the object of affection for an eccentric millionaire. “Some Like It Hot” is not only very funny and witty, it plays with the ideas of gender and sexuality in ways that were revolutionary (and scandalous) for 1959. And I still dream of having a bestie/confidant like Jerry/Daphne.

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.