Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!
The Boys (TV Series)
In Short: Clockwork Orange Meets Captain America – enjoy the ride!
You might’ve heard about The Boys, the new Amazon series based on the graphic novels by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. You’ve likely heard about the ultra-violent blood scenes and the prolific swearing that would make even Billy Connolly blush. But there’s a lot more going on with these boys.
Jeff and I first read the graphic novels when we picked up the first compendium because the lead character of Wee Hughie looked a lot like Simon Pegg. Turns out it was a homage to the sci-fi figurehead himself.
I’ve always been a fan-girl of Simon Pegg ever since I bought a DVD pack of Spaced at an HMV in London. And while that ginger beard initially drew me to the comic, I loved the premise. In this world, superheroes aren’t as pristine as they seem.
The “supes” in The Boys have drug addictions, sex problems, mummy issues, and power trip their way through superhero emergencies. Having been burned by supes in the past The Boys decide to execute vicious vigilantism.
The Amazon series is quite faithful to the graphic novels and yet it’s created a different, more violent vibe. I guess that’s what happens when you have access to a lot of fake blood and brain squelching special effects.
Apart from scene-stealing Karl Urban with his non-stop swearing as Billy Butcher I revel in the fact that Elizabeth Shue and Jennifer Esposito play powerful women over the age of 50! I love that both characters radiate self-centered perseverance and don’t automatically fall into the boring and commonplace older women role of empathy and caring.
Be warned this series is not for the squeamish or those who are offended by a plethora of swear words or ultraviolence. But if you’re curious I say give it a go.
“That’s where the Boys come in, spank the bastards when they get out of line.” -Billy Butcher
Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Video Game)
TL;DR: An RPG with a fun strategy and an excellent introduction to the Fire Emblem series.
This game is my first experience with the series – while I love JRPGs in general, Fire Emblem is a tactical RPG – meaning the battles are fought Risk-like on a battlefield with various units etc. – something that never hugely appealed to me.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a little different from previous games in the series in that it introduces a school mechanic. Think Hogwarts meets the Persona series: you’re a teacher at the school whose lessons help to improve your student’s stats in battle.
It’s a fun little twist and much to my surprise I found myself really enjoying the strategy elements as a result. There’s also a whole lot of fun to be had getting to know the characters. Further, choosing one of the three titular school houses to align with gives the game a lot of replayability. It’s also given me the incentive to go back and explore previous games in the franchise as I’m having such an enjoyable time with this one.
Gears POP! (Video Game)
TL;DR: Highly recommended for casual gamers, people excited about the new Gears, or anyone with a thumb, a sleepy toddler, and some time to kill.
I’ve always been pretty stubborn about only gaming on my PS4 or Xbox One, but with a 3-month-old and a 2-year-old at home, I’ve learned that the most convenient gaming time I get is when the kids are asleep across me and I’ve only got one free hand.
Enter the recently released Gears POP! for iOS and Android. I’m a newcomer to the Gears series, having just finished Gears of War 4 in anticipation of the 5th installment coming out in September, so the timing was perfect. The game was developed by Vancouver-based The Coalition in conjunction with the Funko POP! team to build excitement around the release of GoW5, and honestly…it’s one of the best mobile titles I’ve played.
It’s a time-based tactical cover-capture game that lets you easily select your squad, load out, then strategically pick apart your opponent. The Funko art style is bright and fun in stark contrast to a typical Gears setting, and the animations are impressive. It’s easy enough to click with one finger without feeling like you’re missing out on gameplay too.
I’m not even a multiplayer guy, but I’ve found myself casually jumping into 1on1 PvP matches and (humbly) destroying my opponents while a newborn naps on my chest. Since its a new game, everyone is pretty green and that helps. 😉 I don’t feel like the leveling system is pressuring me to buy more stuff either, which is nice.
It’s not super violent, it isn’t gory at all, and it runs smooth. Can’t ask for much more in a mobile game.
In Short: If you watch movies or stream TV series and find yourself recognizing an actor but cannot remember the show or movie they were in, it’s the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) to the rescue. Every movie and tv episode for every series is here, along with pics, trailers, cast credits, trivia, and an audience score.
Just this week at the movies we watched the trailer for “Ready or Not” and I thought that it looked like another fun movie with Margot Robbie in the lead. My family challenged me that it was another actress – so IMDb to the rescue. Turns out that the movie stars Samara Weaving, and not Margot Robbie.
In addition to clearing up obscure cast credits, IMDb users also score movies and I’ve found their scores to be much more reliable than critic reviews. 8+ out of 10 is a sure-fire winner, while 7+ is likely good (depending on the movie and the stars in it). Anything below that is best saved for Netflix.
My personal IMDb fix is their “Born Today” feature which lists all the actors in their database born on a certain day, sorted by IMDb’s internal StarMeter and their collection of the latest movie posters.
Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (Book)
TL;DR: I highly recommends this book, and also any book, by the author Gabriel García Márquez if you are looking for some high-quality reading.
This book was very touching and made me think a lot about growing old with my loved one. I smiled, I cried, and I lost sleep reading to all hours in the night. I learned many new words (Gabriel García Márquez has an extensive lexicon), and I saved excerpts to re-read later:
The lesson was not interrupted, but the girl raised her eyes to see who was passing by the window, and that casual glance was the beginning of a cataclysm of love that still had not ended half a century later.
Designer by Aldous Harding (Album)
In short: Aldous Harding is a musician from New Zealand who’s supernatural voice and lyrics lift you up into outerspace.
There was some initial resistance. When I first heard Aldous Harding’s track “The Barrel,” I found it odd. I do like easy-listening, especially at work, and Harding’s music is not always easy to listen to. But it is unique, thought-provoking, and, quite often, hauntingly beautiful.
I like that her songs don’t all sound the same. In fact, some tracks sound like there is a different person singing! Harding’s worldly drawl and vocal range allow her to add a unique feel to each track.
I fell in love with “Imagining My Man” first. She sings with such emotion and the kids in the background are a creative touch
My current favorite is “Weight of the Planets.” Her voice is so full and smooth and the funky beat really makes it stand out.
Some info tidbits from Wikipedia:
- She is a folk singer-songwriter from New Zealand.
- Designer, her third album, came out in 2019 under the label 4AD.
- She is currently based in Cardiff, Wales, where she lives with partner and collaborator Huw Evans AKA H. Hawkline. I gave his stuff a listen too. It was cool and reminded me of an old favorite, Of Montreal.
Harding is an artist first and musicians second. That’s probably what I love most about her work.