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: Leaving Las Vegas: I’m a huge fan of Nic Cage, so I can’t even begin to express how ashamed of myself I am for taking this long to see the role that got the often over-the-top thespian his Oscar. Cage’s devastating portrayal of Ben, a suicidal alcoholic, is superb. The guy is at an emotional, psychological low point that I wholeheartedly wish nobody would/could ever possibly hit, and it’s outright painful to watch him sink further and further into his depression and drink himself into oblivion; but it’s also impossible to look away from him. The actor’s efforts create an engrossing, taxing, and unforgettable experience. Elizabeth Shue is almost as outstanding as her co-star, and the bizarre bond her character, Sera, builds with Ben feels completely genuine. There are plenty of movies about lost souls finding some kind of solace within each other, but very, very few are this impressive. The film as a whole is just as bleakly memorable as its leads, with excellent lighting, terrific pacing, and a stellar soundtrack.
Lauren’s Movie Pick: Onward – With Soul’s release and my need to watch things in order, I could no longer keep putting off Onward thanks to the fear of crying anymore than I already have in the year that is 2020. Thank goodness, too, because though I did get a little bleary eyed, the thing I felt most while watching this movie was my heart being warmed by this story of these two very different brothers setting out on a quest within this modernized fantasy, D&D inspired world to finish a spell that will bring the rest of their deceased father back when all that is achieved upon first casting was the return of his lower half. If you thought the personification of animals was quite the animation feat, then wait til you see this personification of a pair of pants. Once I got past the trauma of grappling with the constant thought spirals about what existence is like for a man that is only a pair of legs – Is he just in a constant state of terror existing without most senses or any awareness of what is around him? How much can he actually interpret without a brain? Is it just instinct and muscle memory? Is he just in constant pain since he’s only half a body? Does he still need to go to the bathroom? Who knows! – and once we meet the biker fairies that truly kicked off the film for me, Onward is such a fun ride that blindsides with the rememberer to appreciate what you do have instead of fixating on what you don’t.
Ben’s Movie Pick: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Rogue One is easily the best piece of Star Wars media since The Empire Strikes Back. It encapsulates the best parts of Star Wars – the expansive universe, undying hope in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, and of course, outstanding battles over multiple sci-fi settings – while focusing on a new group of characters. Every cast member brought their A-game to their roles, making the likes of the extra rebellious rebel Jyn Erso, morally loose, tormented soldier Cassian Andor, and radical leader Saw Gerrera some of the most memorable characters in the franchise’s entire lore, both canon and non-canon. I mean, how the Hell did K-2SO grow on me more in one movie than C-3PO and R2-D2 did in nine?! Add in a bit of fan service, thoughtful throwbacks and connections to the original films, some outstanding cinematography, the absolute greatest Star Wars moment of all time (DON’T CLICK THE LINK IF YOU WANT TO AVOID END OF FILM SPOILERS), and you get not just one of the best Star Wars movies, but one the best movies out there in general.
Lauren’s Video Game Pick: Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla – If the Viking setting doesn’t do it for you (wait, are we the bad guys!?), Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla doesn’t change things up enough to convince anyone claiming the prolific nature of the series has led to the same old same old money grab games, nor is the barebones story anything to write home about. Don’t get me wrong, I loved running around the map of England uncovering minor encounters as I made my way from region to region gaining allies with the purpose of extending the reach of the Raven Clan on this new (to them) land, but other than the bigger story spanning space and time, the main plot is a bit forgettable, far from anything to write home about. That said, any fan of this series will find more than enough to latch onto with Valhalla and it’s protagonist, Eivor, with combat that grows and evolves way past the initial button smash slashing of the typical aggressive brute storming the shores and pillaging villages, as more and more of the skill web is uncovered. I don’t know about you, but I could catch and send back arrows, pick up dropped weapons to throw at enemies, and sick my wolf on baddies all day every day until the end of time and never get tired of it. I know I’ve seen many people dealing with game breaking issues when it comes to Valhalla, but other than having to restart a checkpoint a few times after getting caught on ledges or objects, the biggest complaints I have about the game is how long it took me to get used to dodging with the X (or square) button, my longboat never facing the right direction upon arrival when I call for it, and crates and barred doors being the most challenging opponents in the game. Long story short, Valhalla is a must have for any fans of the series, even if it won’t blow you away.
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:
- Lauren’s written review for the recently released Broadway musical adaptation The Prom.
- Year end write-ups from Ben about his favorite TV shows and favorite films of 2020, from Jon about his favorite albums of 2020, and a surprise appearance from Grant about his favorite podcasts of 2020.
- Middle of the Row: The Podcast episodes flashing back to Bridesmaids, Superbad, The Nice Guys, and Boogie Nights for our first rounds of Genrerama episodes, as well as an episode on the recently released holiday film Happiest Season.