Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

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

Nocturama (Photo: Grasshopper Films)

The movie to watch


“Any good film nerd can rattle off Nocturama’s likely inspirations: Alan Clarke’s experimental TV film Elephant; Jean-Luc Godard’s movies about hip young Maoists; cramped American genre classics like Dawn Of The Dead and Assault On Precinct 13, which echo through the consumer dream-space and hopeless barricade mentality of the department store and in the synthy burbling of [Bertrand] Bonello’s electronic score. Perhaps there is some of J.G. Ballard’s postmodern fiction in there, too. But the film is a masterstroke of synthesis; whatever it borrows, it makes its own. It’s a dramatic principle: Bonello’s characters lose and discover themselves in art and hedonism and his angsty every-terrorists are no different. It’s the fireworks finale to the writer-director’s informal trilogy about the modern world, preceded by the opiated period piece House Of Pleasures and the anti-biopic Saint Laurent. All three films are very nocturnal, interiorized, abstracted, and sensual, and they all deal with inner spaces, dreams, and characters who are cut off from reality. Space is psychic in Bonello’s movies, and there’s a lot of it in Nocturama.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The album to listen to

Frankie Rose, Cage Tropical

“Like Rose’s other efforts, Cage Tropical has a decidedly retro vibe. At various times, it calls to mind the ethereal cascades favored by Cocteau Twins (‘Art Bell,’ ‘Red Museum’); majestic dream-pop throwbacks (standout ‘Game To Play’; the piano-iced, tranquil instrumental ‘Epic Slack’); and gauzy ’90s shoegazers (the Krautrock-influenced ‘Trouble’). But though it’s culled from vintage post-punk and synth-pop, the arrangements have a modern, deliberate complexity—‘Dyson Sphere’ ends in a shower of braided vocal harmonies in lockstep with neon-glow keyboards and roiling bass—while the record as a whole has a vital, biting edge.”
Read the rest of our review here.

The video game to play

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

“It’s clear the developers at Ninja Theory really wanted to get this representation right, not just to save their own hide from critical backlash, but to do well by the people who’ve lived with psychosis and whose experiences aren’t usually treated with care when depicted in pop culture. Freed from the demands of risk-averse publishers, the studio has let these lofty artistic aspirations inform every aspect of Hellblade, rather than string them around a flashy Viking-themed hack-and-slash adventure like a piece of highfalutin tinsel. In doing so, Ninja Theory crafted an empathetic tour de force, a game that takes advantage of all the powerful modes of sensory and emotional manipulation the medium affords to create a gut-wrenching personal journey of acceptance and empowerment.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The podcast to listen to

The SportsAlcohol Podcast, “Top 15 Summer Movies For 1997

The Fifth Element (Photo: Handout/Getty Images)

“It’s somehow equally alarming that it’s already been two decades since the release of Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element and has only been two decades since the release of Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. One film feels like it continues to inform pop culture while the other feels hopelessly archaic, the product of some happily bygone era. That’s the fun of this retrospective podcast episode from SportsAlcohol—it shines a bright, bracing light on the cinematic fare offered to consumers 20 summers ago and easily separates the endeavoring from the enervating.”
Read about the rest of the week’s best podcasts here.

The book to read

Tom Perrotta, Mrs. Fletcher


“Tom Perrotta writes books that are so compulsively readable that you may get to the end of one before it hits you that it wasn’t super satisfying. That’s the case with Mrs. Fletcher, his latest anthropological look at dissatisfied suburban moms and disaffected teenagers. Many of his past books have focused on either one (Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher for moms) or the other (Joe College and Election for the youngsters); by giving both something close to equal time, he ends up not really doing justice to either. The book goes from ‘this is great’ to ‘is that it?’ in record time as an abrupt third act leaves too many strands unresolved or forgotten. Still, Perrotta writes with an undeniable snap, and character details will frequently hit the bull’s-eye.”
Read the rest or our review here.

The show to watch

Mr. Mercedes

“At its best, Mr. Mercedes, Audience Network’s new adaptation of the Stephen King novel, has genuinely honest and insightful moments that get at the culture of abuse and insecurity fostered by contemporary online culture. Nestled within the structure of a serial killer drama is some engaging character study, a deep dive into the psyches of two damaged men, one young and one old, the former sadistic and damaged, the latter spent and flailing.”
Read the rest of our review here.


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