Our top pop culture recommendations for the month of March. Don’t forget to check out our picks for February too. There’s lots of good stuff in there for you!
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game (Board Game)
My pick gives you: a cold, bleak, desolate feeling with a touch of zombies. Enjoy!
Oh, I love a good board game. Throw in some zombies, food rationing, teamwork and a few good weapons and I’m very happy.
Dead of Winter is a board game for 3-5 players. It takes about 2 to 2.5 hours to play it for the first time. After that, it’ll be a solid 1.5 hours of fun gameplay and not so much rulebook consultation.
You and your friends each play a survivor character with a secret objective and a team objective to complete before the zombies take you down. Working together, you have to complete your objectives while searching locations like the school or the police station for valuable items (gasoline, guns and medicine.) And every time you step outside the compound you risk being “exposed”. Exposure to frost bite or a wound will make things uncomfortable for your character, but a zombie bite will take you down and the other survivors nearby.
The gameplay is mostly chance/luck by the roll of the dice, but you also get to make decisions with your teammates that affect the outcome of the game. The best advice I can give you is to watch out: there could be a betrayer among the survivors. Oh and double-tap, always double-tap.
NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories by NOFX with Jeff Alulis (Book)
Long story short: It’s not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the band or just great rock ‘n’ roll biographies in general, this is a must.
I’ve been a fan of the punk rock band NOFX for a long time now — they’ve been around for over 30(!) years and I’ve been there for close to 20 of those. They’re still going strong, but given their DIY attitude and aversion to interviews, it’s been hard to piece together a history of the band until now.
Written on a chapter-by-chapter basis by current and former members of the band, this book details their long and fascinating story in what many might consider disturbing details: drummer Smelly’s battles with heroin addiction, singer Fat Mike’s weird sexual habits, and the band’s well-known enthusiasm for illegal substances all get written about here.
TL;DR: Vulfpeck is an explosion of high-energy, musically flawless funk that keeps delivering tasty hooks bound to make you want to move…or at least bob your head.
Vulfpeck is a quirky, yet slick funk group. The core musicians are almost exclusively instrumental; however, many of their songs feature talented vocalists such as the very soulful R&B singer Antwaun Stanley, who sings on a few of my favorite tracks — 1612 and Wait For The Moment, to name a couple.
The backbone of this band is undoubtedly the bassist, Joe Dart. He is consistently deep in the pocket delivering funky intricate rhythms. One of the funkiest, tastiest contemporary bassists around today that I’ve heard. A standout track for Joe is definitely Dean Town, and one of my all-time faves out of their catalog.
Furthermore, the rest of the band comprises extremely tight funky musicians chock-full of exciting showmanship. Their energy renders the group accessible, yet there are quite a few interesting chord changes and stylistic fusions along with general quirkiness that separates them from the pack. This inventiveness keeps Vulfpeck fresh and intriguing to listen to…over and over again.
In terms of albums, you should definitely listen to The Beautiful Game. It’s amazing.
To sum up: Coco is beautifully animated, culturally immersive, and heartfelt.
Coco was released on DVD in February. Once again, Pixar explores some familiar tropes — loss, family and coming-of-age — but still manages to keep it fresh and heartfelt. The exploration of Mexican culture and mythology is just as immersive as the representation of Polynesian culture in Moana. As you’d expect, Pixar’s animation is unbelievably beautiful, especially with the rich landscape of bright Mexican colors and themes.
It’s hard not to compare Coco with The Book of Life (also amazing) since both films focus on the Day of the Dead holiday, but the interpretation is actually quite different. There were two elements that really resonated with me about Coco. The first was the value of family: how family is a binding force, how we establish traditions, and how our sins can haunt those who come after us. This understanding also applies to our work families and even extends to our society. We are all one family and what we do today will affect generations of tomorrow.
Secondly, with all of the nationalist movements and xenophobia spreading across the world and especially here in the United States, I deeply appreciate Pixar/Disney’s choice to keep making movies that celebrate diversity and other cultures. From Moana to Zootopia and now Coco, it seems that Disney, through entertainment, is helping to show the world the importance of tolerance and kindness — that all cultures should be celebrated and that diversity makes us stronger. Well done, Disney and Pixar. Well done.
RUINER (Video Game)
TL;DR: RUINER is a stylish and fast-paced top-down cyberpunk shooter, with a kick-ass soundtrack to boot. Go get ‘em, puppy!
This game was released in September 2017 by the Polish indie studio Reikon, but has been regularly updated, including the recent “Annihilation Update”.
I have a soft spot for the old-school-style isometric shooters and platformers that only seem to be released by indie studios nowadays. RUINER is a cyberpunk-inspired isometric shooter with a slick art style and a great soundtrack that really enhances the futuristic setting. The overall look pays homage to Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell.
Your character is a cybernetically enhanced individual who can only communicate via nods or shrugs, as well as through a helmet that displays feedback across its faceplate. You are assisted by a seemingly friendly hacker who offers encouragement and direction as the story unfolds. However, nothing is as straightforward as it seems, and unraveling the mystery plays a large part in encouraging the player to progress.
Gameplay utilizes dual stick controls (moving/aiming) which keeps the action fast-paced and fluid. A dash option allows your character to move quickly across the screen, avoiding damage and moving in for the kill. Weapons include guns (lots of them) and melee (bats, swords, pipes, etc.)
Layered over those basic controls is the ability to customize your play style via skill tree. For example: unlocking an ability to trigger a “slow-mo” mode that makes dodging bullets easier or “hacking” your enemies to get them to fight for you.
The game is challenging (on normal or hard), but offers enough checkpoints for you to stop and start when you like without losing progress. RUINER is a great game to fire up and enjoy without having to worry about investing huge chunks of time.
Kaputt by Destroyer (Album)
My pick gives you: an absorbing album dripping with ambiance and smooth, cool 80s style.
This album actually came out in 2011, but it’s a new discovery for me. I love an album that you can really get lost in and this one is ready-made for a heavy daydreaming session. Kaputt is smooth and dreamy, lush and impressionistic. It’s a little bit jazzy, a little bit new wave, and 100% nostalgia. I may have been born in the 90s, but I can still miss the 80s, right? (Cue I Miss New Wave by Matthew Good…there’s a bonus recommendation for you!)