Happy 2023!! Maybe this year won’t suck TOO badly! Eh, that’s too much to hope for. Anyway, here’s your staff picks for this new year!
Jason Soto (Host Whatever with Jason Soto, That’s Da Bomb, Yo!, Co-Host Between The Scares, CineGamer, I Have A Weird One, Musically Ignorant & Sporadicast):
I’m picking a video game that I’ve been playing for the past few months now. Fellow Rabbit Hole Podcaster Bear introduced this to me and I’ve been playing both with them and by myself and it’s oddly fun. You are a ghost investigator and you explore a house trying to find where the ghost is hanging out, then you have to figure out what type of ghost it is. You also have to do all of this without getting hunted and killed by the ghost. This is a great game to play with friends over Zoom or just by yourself at midnight if you want to give yourself a scare. Watch us play below!
Lisa Leaheey (Co-host Whatever with Jason Soto, Between The Scares, The SibList, & Sporadicast):
The Mortuary Assistant
I‘m going against my typical pattern this month. I know – hold onto your hats; she’s doing something different! I consider myself to be gamer-lite. I like video games, but I don’t play everything. I’m generally a solo-gamer. When I finally got into World of Warcraft, I had no interest in raids; I just wanted to side-quest my hours away and kill mutant butterflies. But, I do enjoy gaming and watching others play. When it comes down to it, I’m a cozy gamer with a horror side piece. And give me all the puzzles. Aside from the classic NES, I cut my teeth on Myst, American McGee’s Alice, Phantasmagoria, and SimCity. Anyway, my pick this month is a game that I discovered while watching others on Twitch – The Mortuary Assistant. This one is an absolute delight for horror fans who enjoy a slow-burn creep out. The premise is really simple – you play as Rebecca, a young woman who picks up a brand new job embalming the dead at a funeral home. Naturally, there’s a catch – demons abound, and your task is not only to identify them, but to bind them to their vessel of choice. Oh. And make sure to embalm those other bodies in cold storage while you’re at it. The game walks you through the work of embalming, but while you’re at it, those pesky demons pop up and mess with your perceptions. Sometimes they appear as dark figures with glowing eyes. Sometimes they speak through the bodies of the dead. Sometimes they smile at you from behind the body itself. Either way, The Mortuary Assistant is fun to play (and talk back at the screen while you do so), and it’s great fun to watch others play and yelp on Twitch. Give it a try during these dark winter evenings. You’ll be noping your way through the night shift in no time.
Rob Branch (Co-host CineGamer, Top 5 A Thru Z, Whatever with Jason Soto, Lyrical Innuendo, & Sporadicast):
The Pink Panther (1963)
There’s something about watching Peter Sellers paying the iconic character Jacques Clouseau in the Pink Panther series. The man was a legend, pure and simple. He made Jacques Clouseau who he was, a staple of bumbling crime solving wrapped into one package.
The first film in the series derives its name from a pink diamond that has enormous size and value. The diamond is called the “Pink Panther” because the flaw at its center, when viewed closely, is said to resemble a leaping pink panther (although we never truly see this). The phrase reappears in the title of the fourth film The Return of the Pink Panther, in which the theft of the diamond is again the center of the plot. The phrase was used for all the subsequent films in the series, even when the jewel did not figure in the plot. Overall. the diamond itself appears in 6 out of the 11 films. Many of the films’ intros have an animated opening sequence, involving a pink panther, which is why everyone remembers the title.
What is to be loved about the original, and several of the following titles in the series, is the simple fact that they revolve around a French policeman simply trying to solve a crime one after another. His chief sees him as an overzealous man who wants to solve crimes but is to incompetent to tie his own shoes. Yet somehow Jacques Clouseau seems to always find a way to be at the right place at the right time, making the world see him as the greatest French detective ever.
The series itself is one of those that you can watch on a rainy day and just have a good laugh. I recommend starting with the first and going through them all, even the reboots. But stay away from the one titled Inspector Clouseau because it’s a terrible one-off.
Pete Rangel, Jr (Co-host Top Five A Thru Z& Sporadicast):
Avatar: Way of the Water (2022)
While I was visiting my brother, sis-in-law, niece, and nephews in San Antonio I seen when it came out Avatar: The Way of Water. To me it’s definitely a movie you need to see in IMAX (but I didn’t. Lol!). It’s a worthy good sequel to the original with very good visual effects. Recommend it.
Lackey (Co-Host Musically Ignorant & Sporadicast):
The Stooges-The Stooges/Fun House/Raw Power (Albums 1969-1973)
My staff pick for this month are the first three albums by the Stooges. Led by the legendary Iggy Pop, these records helped define what would eventually turn into the punk ethos. Their 1969 self-titled debut encapsulates the turmoil of the time in songs such as “1969,” “No Fun,” “Not Right,” and Iggy’s signature song “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Fun House opens up their sonic palette adding blues and jazz stylings to songs like the title track and the groove-based “Dirt.” Recorded after some lineup shuffling, Raw Power (1973) tracks such as “Search and Destroy,” “Gimme Danger” and “Shake Appeal” bring their songwriting chops without sacrificing, well, rawness or power. These three albums are seminal must-haves for anyone interested in punk or balls-out garage rock. Also highly recommended is Gimme Danger, Jim Jarmusch’s 2016 Stooges documentary and the gateway that led me to these three extraordinary records.
Marc Armstead (Co-Host Word of (Hell)Mouth & Sporadicast):
The Wicked + The Divine
Written by Kieron Gillen and illustrated by Jamie McKelvie, The Wicked and the Divine takes a unique look at modern day celebrity worship by proposing what if celebrities were actually Gods. Every 90 years 12 people are chosen to embody the reincarnation of deities, this allows them fortune, fame and supernatural powers. The Gods amass a following performing public acts of their powers, the only catch is that they have to die within two years. Another 90 years pass and the cycle starts over again. The story centers around Laurie, a fan of newest cycle of Gods who call themselves the Pantheon. The Pantheon are essentially rock stars with a cult following, with thousands of people wanting to get close to them, Laurie included. Laurie finally gets her chance to meet the Gods and finds out that she could be one as well, Persephone. Now being thrusted into the spotlight she once admired from afar, Laurie now has to contend with her new powers, fame, and an unexpected expiration date. What I love most Wic-Div (as it’s affectionally called by fans of the series) is how it wonderfully blends mythology with Pop Culture. The reincarnated Dionysus is an EDM DJ while Gods Sakhmet and Lucifer are fashioned after Rihanna and David Bowie respectfully. Gillen just didn’t mash these two constructs together without purpose, the love and care in matching the historical deity to his characters are on full display. Gillen also makes it the comic very accessible, you don’t have to have a degree in mythology to understand the Gods, and in my experience, after reading Wic-Div it made me want to find out more about the Mythology behind the Gods I wasnt aware of. Another aspect that I and many others love about the series is the great use of representation. Gillen created one of the most diverse cast of characters I have ever seen in a comic. The characters run the gamut of ethnicities, gender identities, and sexual preferences, and at no point does the story feels weighed down by inclusion; the diversity is organic. The Wicked and the Divine 45 issue run spanned from 2014 to 2019 with paperback trades and hardcover collectors editions easily accessible. If you are a fan of mythology and discourse on pop culture, definitely give it a read.
Bubbawheat (Co-host Lyrical Innuendo & Sporadicast):
It’s a new year but an old suggestion. For my staff picks I like to choose something that I’ve been watching or consuming in the previous month and this December I didn’t really watch any TV or movies worth recommending. But I did get back into a game that I bought just before the pandemic and also around the same time that we bought Animal Crossing, so this ended up getting pushed to the wayside until this month.
I’ve been a long time Pokemon fan even though it took me ages to ever actually play any of the games. I started off by watching the anime when it first started airing in the US but the first game I played was an emulated version of Yellow for Game Boy Color probably in the early 2000’s. After that it wasn’t until Pokemon Go that brought me back as well as my daughter’s interest in the anime. I also went through the entirety of Let’s Go Eevee which was fun. But Shield is an overall better game. The story is generally simplistic but it’s always about collecting and fighting the cute little animals in death matches. I’ve been enjoying the revisit and have collected nearly 300 of the 400 total Pokemon in Shield. My only complaint is that I don’t know anyone else who plays so there are several Pokemon that are locked on the other version of the game that’s cut off. But it’s still been a fun revisit and I’m considering following up with Legends Arceus or Scarlet/Violet. Gotta catch ’em all!
Ryan Luis Rodriguez (Co-host Tales From The Double RR & Sporadicast):
Adventures in Moviegoing (TV-2016)
My recommendation this month is Adventures in Moviegoing, a recurring collection on The Criterion Channel where a notable actor or writer or filmmaker selects nine or ten favorite titles from the Criterion Collection and explains how it’s tied to their love of cinema. The latest episode featuring one of my dream girls Tessa Thompson just dropped and she talks about digging “Tampopo” and “Raising Arizona”, as if I couldn’t love her more.
Heather Baxendale-Walsh (Co-Host Word of (Hell)Mouth & Sporadicast):
My pick this month is Wednesday. The first season is on Netflix, and I recommend sitting and watching immediately. I’ve always adored the Addams family and was skeptical of this new show even though Tim Burton directed the first four episodes and Danny Elfman worked the magically fun and dark score.
I intended to leave it until a few months had passed and then pick it up when a friend said he was sold on it five minutes into episode one. I started it shortly thereafter and couldn’t stop watching, cleaning up in two days.
It is 100% a YA, which I’m generally hesitant with. Most fiction gets teens entirely wrong, turning them into whiny, ignorant brats rather than people who are learning to be independent adults in a world they have yet to explore without their parents.
This is definitely a coming-of-age story and one done well. There are all the elements of teen growing pains…rebellion, sense of loneliness, first love or attraction, misfired attempts at adulting, and moodiness, but all done with absolute affection and respect for the struggle and as played by Jenna Ortega, likable and hilarious.
Wednesday gives you all the elements you love about Addams lore but also provides a sense of Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys nostalgia with the mystery elements. This show is an absolute delight and so much fun, with brilliant performances, exciting set designs, music that comes alive, and characters you become enamored by.
I 100% recommend it as family fun and the second-best show of the year. Easily.
Bear (Host With Strange Aeons: Visual Lovecraft Adaptations & Sporadicast):
Madoka Magica was my very first anime! As far as I know, it was the first show to subvert the genre of traditional magical girl shows like Sailor Moon and PreCure to play with darker themes. Instead of their newfound powers being fun, the show is more about the morality and mortality struggles that arise from it. The manga and continuation movies are also great, and there’s still content being made today!
The show itself is pretty short at twelve episodes, and while it’s heavy, it’s not like constant death or anything. It handles its themes well. I don’t want to add much here about plot because it’s way better to just experience, but this series was the first one where in both canon media and fanworks, there’s a (heavily implied at worst, outright confirmed at best) wlw relationship, and this relationship is actually what moves the plot (although it’s not revealed until the end!).
Anyways! Great show, really great character and set design. If you like it – be sure to watch the movies!
The Vern (Co-Host Tales From The RR & Sporadicast):
Clerks III (2022)
Damn. I was not expecting Clerks III to be as emotional as it was. Say what you will about Kevin Smith but the man really knows how to get his actors to perform drama as well as comedy. I haven’t laughed and cried so much since I saw Jo Jo Rabbit. Many who are expecting the same material as the first two may be upset at the outcome at the end. I however was very impressed and glad that Smith and his cast went the route they did. It showed that they were not going to be influenced by test audiences and focus groups.
The cast members all do a good job but Brian O Halloran and Jeff Anderson are the MVPs of the movie. Kevin Smith does a good job at balancing scenes of humor and scenes of drama pretty well. I fully expect some will be disappointed when they watch this. Others will be surprised and happy to see a director grow and mature with these films and it’s characters.
Nick Jobe (Co-host: Sporaticast):
The Faculty (1998)
Because it’s one of my favorite Body Snatchers adaptations, and it has a great cast.
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