What’s New on the Site
Despite a Few Bumps, Disney’s Update of “Beauty & the Beast” is Absolutely Charming – Clint Westbrook reviews the latest in Disney’s renewal of Classic Animated Films reimagined in Live Action.
Button, Button – Pt. 1 – A new short story from Clint Westbrook
What We’ve Been Reading
Clint’s Reading List
Swamp Thing – Brian K. Vaughan
I’m going to take a break from Swamp Thing after this, I swear, but I couldn’t read Moore and Snyder without factoring in BKV. This run is so different from any of the others, focusing not on the big green guy himself but instead the oddly-spawned daughter of Alec and Abigail – Tefe Holland. The girl is vicious, angry, and kind of scary. The Green attempts to recruit her into being their agent of destruction, the weapon to be used against The Red so that they may take over and beat both The Rot and all non-plantlife. While this is far from the best run on the comic, BKV still brings a lot of interesting new ideas to the table. The Green is now portrayed as a metropolis, full of plant entities, and they are mean. We also get new side characters, a former game warden and a young Native American boy, to defend her and help her discover who she will be. You can see the early seeds of the ideas that will come to life in Y: The Last Man in this one and his character work is still on-point. Many write this off as a run that can be skipped but I urge everyone to give it a shot and see what a fully original take on the idea can look like.
Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
This is such an odd book. The graphic novel autobiography is presented in black and white, a nigh-on animation style of artwork, that highlights the Iranian revolution period. Satrapi grew up in it and the novel chronicles her childhood and then her return home as an adult, looking at different takes at different stages in her life. It is a premier work of feminism that I had never read before and made me very excited. The novel is beautifully written and grows up with the character, showing her views on it through the eyes of a child and then through the eyes of a grown woman raised by progressive parents in a violent environment. A beautiful story that is an absolute must-read.
Christopher’s Reading List
Horrorstor: A Novel – Grady Hendrix
If you’ve ever been to an Ikea and pondered the incomprehensible evils that must go on after business hours, than I’ve got a book for you. This horror-comedy novel goes beyond the minimum wage grind of customer service: dealing with out-of-touch management and co-workers who somehow meticulously juggle personal nosiness with professional incompetence, and posits a supernatural evil beyond the day to day monotony. Overall, Horrorstor is a breezy fun time, with recognizable characters that get fleshed out just enough to get you worried when they face their inevitable demise, and dishes out genuinely unsettling moments along with moments of natural levity.
What We’ve Been Watching
Logan’s Run – This 1976 classic science fiction film is such a glorious and fun jumble of ideas. It predicted Tinder, it cast Michael York before he was reduced to merely being Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers franchise, and it manages to be oddly poignant in a society that is in danger of placing increasingly heavy regulations on a population that will soon make sense only to the dead. I first saw this at twelve and after rewatching it I can still say that I adore it, it’s a fun and fantastic little piece with fun miniature work and a gorgeous set, built with care to put that 70’s idea of what the future would look like on a pedestal.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes – Whereas the first film in the Apes franchise was a racial allegory and a criticism of fundamentalist religion, this film is more of an adventure flick. The return of Kim Hunter was a wonderful thing and I’ll gladly take all of the Doctor Zaius that I can get. Cards on the table – this is my favorite film in the franchise. The weird, mutant humans and the crazy, vicious gorilla army led by a zealot are both fun and entertaining, and make the film more of a cheesy sci-fi classic than the brilliant thought-piece the original was.
Alien – This is it, the ultimate body-horror classic. I love The Fly and The Thing as much as anyone else, but this is my absolute favorite. With Ridley Scott releasing another entry in the franchise come May, I wanted to revisit the original again (I find an excuse to do this annually). This is one of my favorite films, riding on the performances of the cast and the absolute eeriness of the creature (odd “jazz hands” moment and all). It’s also pleasant to revisit my first encounter with John Hurt as well, with his recent passing and all. This is a sci-fi/horror classic for the ages and remains, to this day, one of the best American films I’ve ever seen.
Clue – Sometimes you get a film that is just so perfectly executed, odd quirks and all, that it is impossible to imagine it having happened any other way. 1985’s Clue, the only successful adaptation of a board game, is not just fun but absolutely stunning in its hilarity. Snappy dialogue (Wes Anderson, eat your heart out), perfect casting, and excellent comedic timing/pacing all come together to make a film that is exactly the sum of its parts. There have been attempts to remake this and, while I rarely stand against the chance of an excellent film, this is one of the times I have to ask “why?” Somehow the multiple endings of this film, the out-of-place timing, and the oddly ahead of its time use of wanton sexuality (that never manages to feel gratuitous) would feel out of place in a modern film. And this is an 80’s movie that is set in the 50’s with references to the 40’s. The entirety of it is a thing out of time, and it’s perfect on that level.
Binging with Babish – I wouldn’t usually include a random YouTube series on my list but…it’s so damn good. Binging with Babish is a cooking show, quick and painless at around 4-10 minutes per episode, that revolves around creating real versions of food from television and film. The “Moistmaker” from Friends, “Jake’s Perfect Sandwich” from Adventure Time, even 3 of the legendary burgers from Bob’s Burgers get a shine (particularly my absolute favorite, the “Bet it all on Black Garlic” burger). This channel is notable for not talking down to the audience. You don’t know how to make a roux? Too bad, because he gives a quick display but otherwise you don’t need to know. You’re watching this online, you can look it up there as well. The show is fun, brisk, and the host (Andrew Rea) is entertaining as hell. You’ll find cocktails, food, and even some random tips like how to make homemade ice cream without a machine or how to make bread for a specific sandwich. This is a phenomenal little series and will be one of your favorite new cooking shows.
Dave Chappelle: The Age of Spin – Dave Chappelle’s return to the stand-up scene is a long-awaited one. And although I can’t say it’s been entirely worth the wait, it is good to see him back. It’s been nearly a decade since Chappelle’s Show has left the air, and in the first of many Stand-Up Specials coming exclusively to Netflix, Chappelle dissects modern culture through a viewpoint that feels reminiscent of that earlier time for better and for worse. Not to say that the special is bad. Without the weight of expectations, it’s a middle-to-solid special, but it doesn’t feel like he’s yet in his element. I hesitate to join the chorus of fans proclaiming “He’s back”, but I can full-heartedly agree that it’s good to see him back, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.
What We’ve Been Hearing
Missing Richard Simmons – This podcast has been percolating in pop culture recently, and with the finale airing earlier this week I thought I would catch up. It’s a short-run, 6 episode series, following Dan Taberski as he investigates the current whereabouts of Fitness Guru and Celebrity Personality Richard Simmons. If you haven’t heard the rumors, they’re interesting to check out and range from the sad to the bizarre. Initially I resisted the intriguing premise, the concept sounded invasive, and at times it still is, if Simmons simply wants to be left alone, who are we to demand he be thrust back in to the spotlight. However, the first episode put me slightly at ease. Much of the podcast focuses simply on telling Simmons’ story, and the enormous impact on the millions of lives he touched. I did not know much about Simmons beyond the few television appearances I had seen, but who he is goes so much beyond the flamboyant persona, and for that reason alone the podcast may be worth a listen. From there, the story gets a little muddier. The investigation is interesting, but at times it borders on inappropriate. Hell, sometimes it hops that border with a vigor that would put the titular subject to shame. It is a project that is done mostly with good intentions, but every once and a while, the unseemliness seeps through and ultimately leaves the listener wondering if our obsession with celebrity is healthy for any one on either side of the scenario.