Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

What to watch, listen to, play, and read this weekend

Photo: George Kraychyk

The show to watch

The Handmaid’s Tale

“Hulu’s adaptation absorbs more than entertains, plunging viewers into its alternate reality first and filling them in on the details later. As much as Offred is the camera’s subject, she’s also the camera herself, observing the goings-on in this place that looks like the modern-day United States, but for a few key details. Hers is a color-coordinated world of Handmaids in red, Wives in green, Commanders and their male subordinates in black—these uniforms starkly contrasting their washed-out surroundings. The tyranny of Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his lot is a feckless and banal sort, its underlying danger only revealed when a jet-black surveillance van screeches into frame or a construction crane is used to hang a dissident. Wisely shifting its target from the Moral Majority that was on the march when the novel was released, this Handmaid’s Tale takes aim at 21st-century He-Man Woman-Haters Clubs whose shitposted brand of toxic masculinity just might have boosted an avowed sexual assaulter to the highest office in the land. It’s totalitarianism by way of so-called ‘nice guys.’”
Read the rest of our review here.


The podcast to listen to

Girl Friday, “Rachel Bloom

“Bloom is an exceptionally gifted talker with a lot of illustrative anecdotes from the trenches of her many creative endeavors. The three regulars have an enviable rapport all on their own, but when a guest like Bloom comes in and really vibes with their frequency, it makes for a particularly fun show. If it’s not already, Girl Friday should be listed alongside Pod Save America as essential listening for #TheResistance. With its irreverence and mockery of the patriarchy, it’s a soothing balm after a week of painful news.”
Read our full review and about the rest of the week’s best podcasts here.


The video game to play


“The latest from Tribute Games, purveyors of such fine pixel-drawn fare as Wizorb and Mercenary Kings, is another entry into the canon of great randomly assembled adventures. Sharing plenty of DNA with Cellar Door Games’ excellent Rogue Legacy, Flinthook stars the galaxy’s most adorable space pirate as he plunders cosmic corsairs in the pursuit of three big-time captains. Before you can challenge the boss you’re currently gunning for, you’ll have to survive pillaging several ships, the bowels of which have been randomly stitched together from a ton of the developer’s prefabricated rooms. And if you die before claiming your bounty, it’s back to the beginning of the gauntlet. That cycle of death and rebirth is all a part of Captain Flinthook’s growth, as you can unlock new bonuses between attempts—like extra health or experience-point multipliers—that’ll help you inch ever closer to victory.”
Read more of our thoughts on Flinthook and about the other games we’re playing this weekend here.


The comic to read


Noora Heikkilä, Letters For Lucardo

“Though there’s certainly a lot of vampire comics out there, for the most part they lean heavily on violence and mayhem, leveraging the visual elements to create horror and gore. Letters For Lucardo focuses more on the ramifications of immortality—closer to Interview With The Vampire than 30 Days Of Night or Twilight. Writer and artist Noora Heikkilä created a story that’s full of unexpectedly emotional and sympathetic characters, building a world and a cast that’s evocative and fascinating… Letters For Lucardo is erotica, explicit enough that it won’t fit in with the average work from large publishers. But Iron Circus Comics has built a reputation for excellent, creative, queer- and female-friendly erotica that’s driven by plot and character just as much as sex, and this is a prime example of why. Ed and Lucardo are fully fleshed out characters and the intimate moments they share range from filthy to funny. The book is printed in grayscale and Heikkilä’s art is painterly and soft. Some of the facial expressions look almost like Miyazaki movies, and her skill with portraying emotions without any dialogue is remarkable.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The album to listen to

Sylvan Esso, What Now

“If Sylvan Esso’s self-titled debut was the sound of new love or blooming musical chemistry, the perfectly titled What Now grows into something deeper, smarter, more comfortable, more intimate, and more cohesive. Where Sylvan Esso collected some great songs, What Now feels like a statement of purpose, a duo stretching into the shape it was meant to be and bringing it all purposefully together. More than that, the record is actually—at least partially—about finding that chemistry and celebrating the joy of hearing and creating beautiful sounds. It starts, in fact, with ‘Sound,’ in which Amelia Randall Meath’s voice slowly emerges from a haze of glitches, coming into focus to declare, ‘I was gonna write a song for you.’ It’s more of a mood-setting meditation than a song, and in that way an indication that What Now will be more holistic and constructed an endeavor. (It turns out to be that, and more.)”
Read the rest of our review here.


The film to watch

Casting JonBenet

Photo: Netflix

“There’s something a little have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too about Casting JonBenet, which gets to address every salacious theory (Pedophilia rings! Pervert mall Santas!) without necessarily entertaining any of them. […] But Kitty Green is after something a little more. Her interest seems equally devoted to the actors themselves, an interesting cross-section of Boulder residents whose own personal issues (a death in the family, a cancer diagnosis, a traumatic experience from childhood, etc.) begin to bleed into the conversation. Casting JonBenet is deliberately edited to imply a kind of deepening perspective, as the talk turns from raw gossip—the kind that was impossible to escape back when JonBenet’s makeup-slathered face was sensationally filling television screens everywhere—to something resembling empathy, provoked perhaps by the act of playing the very people they’re coldly psychoanalyzing.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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