Wondering what to do with your upcoming free time? Good thing we have some suggestions for what you should be watching, playing, reading, listening to, etc.
Ben’s Movie Pick: Host – The first of two Shudder originals I’m recommending is this short, sweet and scary streaming treat. Host is one of the most inventive films I’ve seen this year so far (being made during the Covid quarantine and shot entirely through Zoom in the actors’ own homes), and is without question the scariest. The movie centers on a group of friends who get a whole lot more than they bargained for with an online seance, and the tension and terror it builds up to in such a brisk runtime is, quite frankly, staggering. Seriously, I’m talking Paranormal Activity levels of shock and horror. The kind where you sink lower and lower into your seat and hold your breath in anticipation of whatever is coming to freak you out next. This is easily my favorite Shudder Original since Tigers Are Not Afraid.
Ben’s Movie Pick: Imperigore – This Indonesian Shudder original is just plain nuts in all the right ways. The movie follows a young woman named Maya (Tara Baso) who heads into a remote village in order to check out a house that may have been her early childhood home. However, things take a spooky turn as she begins to learn more about her family, the town, its denizens, and their history. Maya herself is a pretty bland character, unfortunately, but everything else in Impetigore more than makes up for her. It keeps you guessing with its central mystery, and on your toes with its bizarre, uneasy atmosphere, well-crafted jump scares, and a copious amount of grotesque imagery. Eventually, it builds up to a shocking ending that will probably stick with me for a while.
Ben’s Movie Pick: Pacific Rim & Pacific Rim: Uprising – Both of these movies might have cliche characters and relatively weak stories, but they also have what are undoubtedly the best live-action giant robot/kaiju battles you can find anywhere. Each mech and monster sports a unique look and weapons/abilities too, and the dust ups between them are ridiculous. And while the films’ characters aren’t anything truly special, the cast behind them – including the likes or Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, John Boyega, and Charlie Day – embrace the silly, campy world and dialogue, making them far more fun than they have any right to be. Also, both Pacific Rims have soundtracks that are appropriately epic, and hype you up even more. I could keep trying to convince you, but let’s face it: you either like to watch humongous robots and gargantuan monsters beat the snot out of each other or you don’t. It isn’t likely, but I’m still holding out hope for a third entry in this robo-brawling series.
Lauren’s Music Pick: Taylor Swift’s Folklore – As a staunch Taylor Swift defender who has raged at Jon time and time again over his unfair treatment of her over the past few years, no one was more surprised than myself when Folklore came out and he praised it. Highly. Like, shockingly so (enough for him to actually do a writeup on the site even). Admittedly, the past couple albums of hers haven’t hooked me in the way that everything pre Reputation did as my taste in music has gotten sadder and sadder in recent years, with the last couple albums of hers blending together in my memory. But Folklore? Now this is for me. I was a little worried as the first few songs seemed a little too more-of-the-same for my untrained musical ears, but each of those songs did still manage to grab me before the music faded out. And then “my tears ricochet” hit. A good chunk of the album after that has Taylor bringing so much new to the table with an evolving sound, and I love it. “epiphany”? Chef’s kiss. Screw new Taylor (I use the figure of speech courteously and with no malice, of course), new new Taylor is where it’s at.
If you want to read the opinion of someone actually capable of adequately writing about music, be sure to read Jon’s review by clicking here.
Jon’s TV Pick: Atlanta – The sudden realization that I have Hulu (Thanks Spotify! Now go watch Palm Springs.) has finally led to my much anticipated viewing of Donald Glover’s Atlanta. The dramedy described as “Curb Your Enthusiasm . . . with rappers” ends up being more than that simple assessment, and even more than the sum of its parts. For sure awkward and absurdist humour abound, but even more present are deeply humanistic depictions of the lives of its characters. Buoyed by tremendous performances by Glover himself, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield, and Zazie Beetz, Glover explores the material, mental, and interpersonal struggles of these individuals trying to make lives for themselves in Atlanta. The show also allows Glover to explore all corners of his creativity in ways we both would and would not expect. This leads to hilarious satirical episodes like “Nobody Beats the Biebs”, where Justin Bieber is portrayed as a young Black entertainer, and “B.A.N”, which is done in the style of a primetime news program complete with fake advertisements, allowing Glover to use full rein of his sketch comedy writing proclivity. While these are hilarious, the more serious episodes featuring poignant reflections on identity and self-determination, like “Woods”, which was dedicated to Henry’s recently passed mother, and “FUBU”, a meditation on adolescent experiences, are where the show shines, as it humanizes its characters and fills them with emotional depth. I’d be remiss to not mention the horror themed episode “Teddy Perkins” that hits every right beat due to director Hiro Murai’s skillful touch and Glover’s own unrecognizable and terrifying performance as the titular character. All in all, Atlanta offers a refreshingly unique look into life in the ATL and the mind of its acclaimed creator.
Jon’s TV Pick: Avatar: The Last Airbender – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a group of adventurers from different cultures and parts of their world team up to travel the world searching for the means to defeat a tyrannical ruler and their equally fascist children, while one of the travelers hides a tremendous secret and power that could turn the tide in the conflict. While this description could have just as easily been applied to any adult fantasy dramas like Game of Thrones, it appropriately serves as a summary for the children’s animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. In fact, the show elevates itself above the usual anime show by blending common anime tropes, slapstick humour and exaggerated mannerisms, with explorations of complex and mature themes, like war, refugees, capital punishment, familial abuse, and others. Additionally, focusing on multiple perspectives throughout (including the antagonists) works to add depth and realism to the overall narrative. All of this is done seamlessly so that the show never feels like it is overreaching beyond its genre. The epic scope of the story comes so naturally and immerses the viewer more and more as you visit more interesting locations and meet more vibrant inhabitants of the four nations. And all the while it injects amazing humorous bits like the following: “‘My first girlfriend turned into the moon.’ ‘That’s rough buddy.’” Classic.
Ben’s Video Game Pick: Ghost of Tsushima – Let me start this by saying I am incredibly picky with open world games. Some would argue too much so: I easily get bored with worlds that I deem too empty, or feel overwhelmed if there are too many icons cluttering my map. Ghost of Tsushima is the first game in the genre to hit that sweet spot in the middle since 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn. I loved exploring the brilliantly crafted – and often beautiful – 13th century Japanese setting. Ghost of Tsushima’s combat also strikes a delicate balance as it’s the first game that I found being stealthy and going in guns (or katana) blazing were equally viable and fun. Utilizing all of the sword stances to counter multiple enemies with different weapons all at once was incredibly gratifying, and so was methodically planning when and where to silently assassinate guards one by one without being seen. Many games have advertised those choices before, but in my opinion, developer Sucker Punch is the first to perfect it. Ghost of Tsushima will almost definitely end up among my favorite games of 2020.
So what do you think about these picks? What content did we miss over the past two weeks while we were spending time with these? Be sure to leave a comment below letting us know about everything (both current and simply new to you) you’ve been consuming lately!
And while you’re here, be sure to check some of the site’s other recent content:
- Middle of the Row: The Podcast episodes on Wasp Network, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, Hamilton, and Palm Springs.
- Ben’s film review of The Rental, Lauren’s film review of Radioactive, and their co-review of Deep Blue Sea 3.
- Zac’s controversial breakdowns of Sam Raimi’s Spider-man, Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3.
- Jon’s music review of Taylor Swift’s Folklore.