Not Just Books: March 2020

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

mv5bogriodezm2qtotuyyi00mwrlltg4mzmtzgi0ymuznwuymjq0xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymda4nzmyoa4040._v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Movie: “Emma”

I had it all planned out. My husband and I were going to delay our Valentine’s celebration until March and then make a whole day of it with dinner and a viewing of this, the latest feature film adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. And then COVID-19 struck, the ruiner of all good things. So instead I ended up watching it in pieces at home while trying to wrangle a very mobile one year old. Not quite the same thing. Overall…I’m not quite sure what I think about this? I’ll have to re-watch it at some point when I can focus more fully. I know that I enjoyed Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance a lot, and I thought the costuming and set design were excellent and offered up something unique and new compared to other Austen adaptations. But as for the story itself and its take on several of the other main characters, I was a bit less satisfied. I think Knightly was too young and his friendship/relationship with Emma was not sufficiently set-up to make the payoff as satisfying in the end. Mr. Churchill, for all that he appears on the poster, felt like almost a non-entity. And overall I think the comedy angle, while very good at moments, also overwhelmed the heart of the story and sometimes even the heart of Emma herself. Kate also watched this one, but we haven’t discussed it yet. I’m excited to hear her take!

cards-promo-300x300-1Online Game: Trickster Cards

My family are all huge card players. I mean, my sister and I were playing since we were in single digits and it’s a shock if any family get-together goes more than 30 minutes before someone suggests we play pinochle or bridge. But, again, raging pandemics have hit hard on things like this. Luckily, one of my aunts discovered this online card site where you can form games with people and set up times to play. It has video chat options which makes it all the better. My mom, sister, said aunt and I now have weekly standing dates to get together and play pinochle. Obviously not a complete replacement, but I’ll take what I can get!

mv5bnjzknzy4m2itowy0ni00y2vilwe1njitotiyyzzjmzg5m2e1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_TV Show: “Locke and Key”

I started watching this show kind of on a spur of the moment basis. And then suddenly I had finished it all within two days! I’m pretty sure Kate has read the original graphic novels it was based on, but from what I do know of them, I’m pretty sure this is quite different. For one thing, it’s definitely not as dark as I think the originals were. Instead, it’s more of a “Stranger Things”-like family adventure with elements of fantasy dashed all over it. The Locke family, after a great tragedy, move back to an ancetstral home that has been abandoned for years. While there, the three kids discover magical keys with fantastic abilities. Of course, there is also a big bad out to get the keys and a bunch of clueless (or not so clueless??) adults running around getting in the way. I really enjoyed all of the younger actors, which can sometimes be a sticking point for shows like this. There was also a great balance between the real-life challenges that many young people face (moving to a new town, dealing with grief and fear, meeting new friends, etc.) and the fantasy elements that slowly play a bigger and bigger role in the story. Again, I’ll have to ask Kate what the original was like, but for fans of “Stranger Things” or “Chronicles of Narnia,” this is definitely worth checking out!

Kate’s Picks

81s8etnyprl._sl1500_Video Game: “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”

This pandemic has been ramping up my already present anxiety like the dickens. But lucky for me I had the foresight to order “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” before everything went to hell! The “Animal Crossing” games are already super chill and laid back, and the new one for The Switch is even more so. Or perhaps it just feels more so. Regardless, I’ve been enjoying building a town, fishing, catching bugs, building things, and visiting friends on their own islands. For the unfamiliar, the basic premise is that you are a new villager on a remote island (with a few other villagers) and you can build up the community with very low stakes attached. Things change from day to day, and the open sandbox format means you can do pretty much whatever you want. It’s been a true saving grace during this quarantine period.

1fgprxwpkfxhmfsnsus8dtgNetflix Show: “Tiger King”

I was familiar with the, um, “eccentric” zookeeper Joe Exotic before Netflix dropped this new true crime documentary series. “Last Podcast on the Left” had referenced him and his murder for hire plot he allegedly tried to carry out towards nemesis Carole Baskin. So when I went in I was thinking that it would be fine, but wouldn’t tell me anything new. I was SO. WRONG. “Tiger King” is one of the craziest Netflix docuseries I’ve ever seen, with a bunch of unstable weirdos who own big cats at the forefront. Now I knew that Joe Exotic was a nut. But honestly, I came away more concerned about just about everyone else in this series than I was about this guy. From cult like leaders who lure in teenage girls to drug trafficking kingpins to a missing husband (WHO MAY HAVE BEEN FED TO A BUNCH OF TIGERS), “Tiger King” has EVERYTHING. Truth is stranger than fiction, guys, and this one will probably make you say “WHAT?!?!” over and over and over again.

91aofmfmzwl._ri_TV Show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

It’s springtime, which means that “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is back! I can’t believe we’re on season twelve, and while I still contend that the show’s quality hasn’t been the same since it moved to VH1, RuPaul and the queens always bring me back for more. This season has been promising, though I do have to mention that it hasn’t come without controversy. One of the contestants, Sherry Pie, was exposed for predatory behavior, as he would pretend to be a talent scout and solicit explicit videos from unsuspecting men under guise of an ‘audition’. The good news is that once this was exposed, the show officially disqualified her, and has put a disclaimer ahead of the episodes noting of this. A tricky situation to be sure, but I think it was handled as best they could in fairness to the other queens. Who are a super talented bunch this time around. I have my favorites already, and I can’t wait to see how far they go!

What non-book related things have you enjoyed this month?

Not Just Books: February 2020

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!

Joint Pick

mv5bmjazymq4ntutmgvjos00owrhltlmyjktzdlkztk2ogq2yje5xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyodkzntgxmdg40._v1_TV Show: “Picard”

We are both “Star Trek” people, and like many it’s safe to say that “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is our favorite series of the franchise. One of the many reasons is because of Captain Jean Luc Picard, Patrick Stewart’s iconic leader of the Enterprise. So when it was announced that Picard was getting his own show (called “Picard”, appropriately), we were both pumped. It takes place a couple decades after the end of “TNG”, and shows a retired Picard trying to live his life after Star Fleet, and his controversial exit from the organization. But when he encounters a mysterious stranger, he finds himself drawn back into the messy politics of Star Fleet, a potential conspiracy, and a dangerous rescue mission. Not only does Stewart come back, we also get to see Data, Riker and Troi, and Seven of Nine. It’s a dark show, but we are both greatly enjoying it.

Serena’s Picks

mv5bmja3odmxmzm5nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdm1nju0ote40._v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_TV Show: “Bones”

Emily and I used to watch this show quite a bit while we were in college. We even rented a bunch of seasons from Blockbuster…so, yeah, we’re old. But at some point or another, amidst all of the vast amounts of shows available, I fell off the wagon for this show. The other side of the coin of all these different shows is the exhausting effort of trying to weed through it all to find a next thing. And finding myself at that point, it felt like the time was right to go back to this show and finish off the last 3 or so seasons I had missed. It’s a fairly standard procedural forensic show that gained much of its popularity on the chemistry between its main characters, Dr. Temperance Brennan and FBI Agent Seely Booth. By the point I fell off, the two characters were married and had a child together. But I was happy to see the show continue well past this point as it proves that it’s not only OK to have you main couple romantically pair up (avoiding the 10 year saga of will they/won’t they ala “Friends” which is also exhausting), but that your show can continue to succeed and be interesting after this point.

mv5bmtk1nzkymtuyn15bml5banbnxkftztgwntm0nzm2ode40._v1_Mini Series: “The Night Manager”

My husband and I watched this mini series over a couple of nights. He had already watched it, but I, for some reason, had never gotten around to it. I haven’t read any John le Carre, a very esteemed spy thriller author who’s book the show is based on. But again, my husband has and had really loved most of them. For me, the stellar cast was the main point of interest. Obviously Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie are excellent, but I also always love Olivia Colman in whatever she does. Between all of that talent, and a tense story of a hotel manager who, through various circumstances, ends up going under cover into the inner workings of a weapons dealer, I was on the edge of my seat throughout most of this show. If you like spy thrillers or have read le Carre’s work, this is definitely a mini series worth checking out.

Kate’s Picks

pokemon-sword-and-shield-legendary-625x352-1Video Game: “Pokemon Sword and Shield”

As someone who has loved Pokemon since she was a tween, I was very excited to try out the new Switch Pokemon games, “Sword” and “Shield”. My husband and I got each other the games for Christmas/Hanukkah, and I was able to dive back in this past month after taking a break post holiday down time. Both “Sword” and “Shield” take place in a whole new region of the Pokemon world, this time seemingly based on the U.K. Not only are there brand new Pokemon (some of which do, admittedly, verge on the ridiculous), there are a lot more side things you can do outside of catching and training Pokemon. Not only can you trade and design Trainer cards, you can change your character’s outfits and hairstyles, and you can also cook recipes for your Pokemon! I’ve enjoyed getting to know my Pokes a little better in this game.

mv5bzwewztcynjctmjazzc00zgu0lwixywqtmdawmmu1nzq1zjq3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyodk4otc3mty40._v1_uy1200_cr9106301200_al_Prime Show: “Hunters”

Hunting down and killing Nazis who have infiltrated American society? Sign me the fuck up. This new show is part historical fiction, part spy show, part action movie. The premise is simple: in the 1970s a number of Nazis have come to America and are hoping to establish the Fourth Reich. It’s up to a rag tag group of hunters to track them down and kill them before their plan can succeed. The story is thrilling, clever, and chilling, and the cast is superb. Al Pacino plays a holocaust survivor in charge of the hunters, Carol Kane is an older member of the group, and both Lena Olin and Dylan Baker are a couple of the Nazis in hiding, and boy oh boy are they terrifying. Throw in Jordan Peele as a producer and you know you’re going to have a subversive and well thought out story with a lot of emotional prowess. Also, given the recent rise in vocal white supremacy, it’s a cathartic, if not sometimes difficult, watch. But content warnings abound: the anti-semitic and racial violence is VERY hard to watch.

Not Just Books: January 2020

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

mv5byjbhmmrjzdgtowuzyi00nweylwi3ndetyjq5ogvknjdhndqyxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjyznde4oda40._v1_TV Show: “The 100”

My sister had actually been recommending this show for a while, and I’m not quite sure what was stopping me. A post-apocalyptic, YA, sci-fi romp is definitely in my wheel house, and I’ve been a big fan of many of the genre shows on CW, including my beloveds “Supernatural” and Smallville.” So finally, for no reason in particular, I started watching it a few weeks ago. And now I’m on season 4 and facing an entirely different conundrum: I now love it so much that I’m worried about how it will end and with the last season coming out later this spring, do I follow my typical rule about quitting while I’m ahead until the end has proven worth while? (“Game of Thrones” recently proved how necessary this rule is to my sanity, as I didn’t actually watch the final season for this reason and was so thankful I didn’t by the time I heard all about it and was still enraged.) Or do I throw caution to the wind and continue my binge and hope for the best? I still haven’t decided, but if all goes well, you might be hearing about this one again when it does finally come to a conclusion this summer.

mv5by2qzytqyyzitmzawyi00yjzllthjntutnzmymddkyzjinwm4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Movie: “Little Women”

Like the many Jane Austen adaptations my mom, sister, and I watched when I was younger, “Little Women” was another beloved classic that was in our rotation of re-watches. Other than my general, and lasting, dislike of Christian Bale, I always really enjoyed that movie and its take on the novel. And now they’ve re-made it. My husband and I had just recently gotten into a bit of a debate about the pros and cons of endlessly remaking things, and, while I can understand his frustration about “nothing new under the sun” and often agree, this movie proved my overall point: sometimes even something that was very good the first time can, years later, be done even better. Yes, I liked this movie even more than the 90s version! And, even more amazing, I think Amy was my favorite character in this one! Laury, on the other hand…Amy is too good for him! Anyways, this movie lived up to all the buzz surrounding it, so it’s definitely worth checking out!

mv5bn2rjnwqzntqtmmy4yi00yzk5lwfiodity2eyzjbmnjzmymi2xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_sy1000_sx600_al_TV Show: “His Dark Materials”

The other side of the same argument about adaptations is that sometimes the first attempt is just abysmal. The first adaptation of the “His Dark Materials” series was a godawful movie that was so terrible that its own creators changed the ending, knowing it wouldn’t get the sequel necessary to the original story. It’s also served as my go-to example of how movies can royally screw up beloved books and as my standard answer for “most disappointing” adaptation ever. So, while I was optimistic that with the change of format (from movie to much longer mini-series with, hopefully, three seasons) and a stellar cast (though, to be fair, I had no qualms with the movie cast and really liked Nicole Kidman, in particuarl, as Mrs. Coulter), I was still quite nervous. I’m not even all the way through it (see the above about my strategy about waiting until seasons are finished to start them), but so far I’m really loving it. All the changes that have been made are for the better, and the cast is blowing it out of the water. I’m super excited to see how the rest of the season plays out and what will be in store for the next season!

Kate’s Picks

220px-you_season_2Netflix Show: “You”

Joe Goldberg is back, and not a moment too soon. While I continue to wait for the third book in the “You” series (but apparently it’s in process, so YAY!), Netflix has kindly continued the TV adaptations, this time tackling “Hidden Bodies.” Season 2 is just as fun and dark as Season 1, and while it continues to deviate from the source material, in some cases drastically, Penn Badgley continues to shine as my favorite psychopath. Joe has run to L.A. in hopes of getting away from his hellbent on revenge ex-girlfriend Candace, and hopes to better himself and stop with his, uh, murderous and obsessive tendencies. But when he meets Love, a chef with baggage of her own, he finds himself once again fixated. Season 2 has a lot of twists and turns, and while it’s very different from “Hidden Bodies”, I quite enjoyed it.

c_spinning_courtesyNetflix Show: “Spinning Out”

This was a show that I just kind of stumbled upon one Saturday. I was looking for something to watch while I did stuff around the house, and when I saw that not only was is soapy and dramatic, but also had to do with figure skating, I was one hundred percent in! “Spinning Out” concerns Kat, a figure skater who is suffering from PTSD after an accident on the ice. Along with that she has to contend with a mentally ill mother and a determined but drama filled sister. When she’s approached by Justin, a golden boy skater in need of a pairs partner after an accident, she has to decide if she’s ready to try and achieve her dreams again. Not only does “Spinning Out” address real issues about mental illness and the cost of trying to achieve greatness in skating, it also is truly sudsy and fun and filled with all the juicy drama of a water cooler show. I loved it.

quotchilling-adventures-of-sabrinaquot-season-3-trailer-brings-hell-to-the-forefrontNetflix Show: “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

My favorite Netflix show has finally returned!! We didn’t get a Halloween timed fix, nor did we get another Christmas Special (super bummed about that), but now “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is back and our favorite teen witch is going to Hell. Literally. At the end of last season Sabrina’s boyfriend Nick had to use his body as a vessel for Lucifer, and was taken to Hell by Lilith, who has decided she’s going to rule as queen. Now Sabrina wants Nick back. The usual gang is back, though we also get a few new faces too. I haven’t finished it as of this writing, but so far, so good, and I’ve really warmed up to Nick and have high hopes that Sabrina will be able to rescue him from his role as a cage for Satan!

What movies or shows stood out to you this month?

 

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.